Sonus faber Lumina I

The Lumina I is a speaker you can choose to buy with confidence. Sonus faber accurately articulate the story behind the Lumina range with their videos and site information and I’ve found the actual speakers deliver everything they suggest and more. Genuinely made in Italy in Sonus faber’s own Vincenza factory, the Lumina I’s take the best of their heritage and technology to give you a completely modern compact speaker that is engaging, exciting and enduring.

There is a certain purity in a small two way speaker system that can bring out the best in designers. Sonus faber are masters of the format and have achieved something both unique and remarkable with the new Lumina I

While Sonus faber’s own description of the Lumina invokes the core tenets of minimalism – less is more – I see them to be a contemporary expression of Modernism – ‘a global movement in society and culture that from the early decades of the twentieth century sought a new alignment with the experience and values of modern industrial life.’

The aesthetics of the Lumina could fit as happily in the organic warmth of any Frank Loyd Wright house as in the disciplined and ordered simplicity of a van der Roe design. And the same applies to the sound.

The unboxing of any new Sonus faber model is an event in itself and no less so with the Lumina I, regardless of the fact that these are by far the most affordable model in the entire range – they are still hand made in Italy and everything about them is a class act. There is an absolute devotion to design in these speakers – the negative detailing of the ply front baffle, the subtle inlays across the front face veneer, the wrap of leather around the body of the cabinet, and the clever stand section with a recessed front firing slot port. All of these elements set the Lumina I apart from any other compact speaker and that’s before we look at the actual drivers or consider how each design choice contributes to the performance.

The Lumina is unashamedly pitched to a younger generation who aren’t traditional audiophiles – the Lumina will be one of a few possessions that can easily move as life changes and be part of a simple system untethered from a physical music collection but that taps into the unlimited resources of streaming services. The Lumina will therefore be expected to sound great with a wide range of genres and in many varied environments.

Following this logic the Lumina should also work well with electronics of a similar conception. But just to start things off to first listen to the Lumina I we took a quick step back in time to a trade-in NuForce DDA-100 (the original over achieving low cost all digital amplifier) .

Even from new it was obvious that the Lumina I is going to be a favourite. On a shelf in my office where I’ve tried many small systems. In this simple setting the Lumina I speakers immediately sparkled and brought the music to life in a way I’ve never previously heard. The lucidity is matched by bass of surprising depth but also quality.

With all small speakers, bass performance is always a talking point. Placement can be a big factor (stands or shelves) but also within any compact design there are series of interacting factors. Cabinet volume, efficiency, porting, the size and throw of the bass driver, linearity and distortion. It’s a real art to come up with a solution.

Technical details

Sonus faber’s approach for the Lumina I is to have a lower than normal efficiency and impedance balanced by extremely high quality drivers and an unusual porting scheme.

Sonus faber employ what they have called the ‘Stealth Reflex’. In Sonus faber’s own words It allows a reduction of acoustic volumes dimensions, it provides greater extension in low frequencies response and reduction of distortions, it also eliminates spurious wind noises, typical of traditional reflex systems. The Lumina has it’s own version of this with an internal downwards firing slot at the back of the cabinet running into the polymer base and emerging in a recessed frontal slot – which you could easily think was another example of negative detailing. 

The bass driver itself is small, and has a very light paper pulp cone – the low total mass means it can move fast and enables a seamless transition to the higher frequencies. So the Lumina I pulls off the trick of having both extended, but also very fast and controlled bass, from a very compact cabinet and driver. 

The qualities of the bass are actually a lot more important than the quantity and when you just have the single driver for both bass and midrange this is doubly so. As with all Sonus faber speakers the sound of the Lumina’s is centred on the voice – that critical area in the midrange where our hearing is the most receptive. The handling of vocals and acoustic instruments is exceptional – and this is in comparison to a long line of previous Sonus faber compact speakers. By going small with the bass midrange driver there is a very real improvement in detail and a lightness. There is quite a contrast between the Lumina and Minima Amator II we recently reviewed.

The Minima is part of the Heritage collection and is all about an exceptionally lush, rich presentation – it’s a lot warmer and softer. In comparison the Lumina paints a bright and breezy picture and despite being smaller seems to cover a broader range of frequencies.

Both models share the Sonus faber sweet sounding DAD silk dome tweeter (Damped Apex Dome) which goes some way to explaining the detail and air that the Lumina exhibits – if anything I’m finding the smaller Lumina to be more revealing and more in tune with my personal listening tastes. 

Over the first two days I found more and more to like – in a smaller room the balance of the Lumina is superb and easily the best I’ve heard in this setting. The little NuForce’s 50 watts proved more than enough to fill the room and although the specification suggests the Lumina I might require more the reality is that they have an ease about them which makes a modest amp sound better than it might otherwise. Using Tidal music streaming as a source I was able to explore many different genres. With other new speakers I’ve always felt the need to factor in a run in period before taking them seriously. With the Lumina I’s, the immediately obvious qualities were all positive. Each track or album played just seemed to deliver a little more of what I was already enjoying. But I had a feeling the little Sonus fabers could do more…

The ply used in the Lumina echos the plinth of the new Well Tempered turntables so it seems fitting to team the diminutive Lumina with the new Simplex 2, as both are introductory models in their respective ranges. The qualities of the Luminas very much match what I’d found with the Simplex.

Analogue agility

The agility with which the Lumina I makes music is something special. The midrange projects out of the speakers and drives the narrative along. This is very much a case of smaller being better – the small bass driver works just as quickly as the tweeter so you are very much listening to a finely tuned system rather than a collection of parts.

So rather than a retro record playing experience the Lumina-Simplex combination breathes new life into analogue – it’s all sweetness and light. Records are opened up with a deft touch. It is sound that provides a foil for digital being more organic and engaging, and in keeping with the tactile nature of vinyl replay. The sweetness of the highs means there’s never an inclination towards sibilance and surface noise. 

This all reminds me about why I like small speakers so much. By not worrying too much about how loud they can go or compromising the design just to give the impression of bass, Sonus faber get the things that really matter right.

Even on a shelf the Lumina I project music to fill the room with balance and poise. The sound carries and retains the character and coherence even far from an apparently ideal listening position. This is because of, not in spite of, the size – the smaller a speaker system becomes, the closer it approaches an ideal of being a point source which makes for more realistic imaging and sound staging. In non-technical terms this simply means what you hear sounds just like being in a room where the artist or group are playing. Close your eyes and it’s just like being there. Move around and the sound retains this quality.

Always remember – a loudspeaker is a completely analogue device. To design or judge a speaker system by just numbers is to miss the point of what they can do for us. A speaker such as the Lumina I is capable of transmitting subtleties in a way that is completely organic. That’s why Sonus faber place such importance on the materials used as they add to the character of the presentation in ways that sounds natural to us – as we relax, we can hear and appreciate more than if we are expected to treat listening as an analytical exercise.

Of course you’ll also understand that much of what the Simplex 2 and the replay of records reveal about the capabilities of the Sonus fabers is simply due to this being a better and more costly source, especially when combined with appropriate electronics.

Following this logic you will hear exactly the same response from higher quality digital sources. And this has proved to be our experience. Once you get above a certain level there is a convergence between the two formats. You could say the best digital sounds like analogue yet analogue has been forced to improve many aspects of it’s performance in order to counter the things digital can do well – ie. a complete lack of surface noise, technically flat response and much less susceptibility to acoustic feedback.

In both formats we can hear more layers being revealed and the transparency and openness of the Lumina I’s make this so much more obvious and engaging. At no time did we ever feel that the Lumina was built to a price or arbitrary performance level. Sonus faber have really thrown everything they can into this speaker and it’s a combination of small size and the inclusion of their best technology that allow the Lumina to do what it does so well.

This does of course confound conventional reviewers – if you try to evaluate the Lumina I’s by conventional standards and focus in either specification or comparison with differently sized systems you tend to miss the qualities that actually make a small speaker like this so appealing. How they look is important because it’s intended that you live with the Lumina I’s for many years – the level of quality in construction is such that they genuinely will last a lifetime. And it’s quite probable that over that period you will have access to not only improved formats but also better electronics which will deliver more. So when you do make these changes the Lumina’s are more than up to the challenge. I’ve thrown some very serious front end components at them and unlike every other speaker around this price level (and a great many beyond) there are things the Lumina I can do that I’ve not heard in any other setting. And with every improvement made their performance and the amount of music they reveal takes another step up. 

The Lumina does have a definite character relative to other Sonus faber models but  also carries the essential DNA of the brand – the ‘voice’ – a seamless and organic rendition of all that happens in the midrange. While not analytical in the conventional sense, they are revealing and detailed and what little resonance there may be in the cabinet and components is set up to actually contribute to the end result. By way of comparison most other speaker designers try to engineer this out but also take the life out of the sound. The Lumina lives up to it’s name with a lucid rendition that suits a far broader range of tastes than just the classical and acoustic genres that used to be associated with the Sonus faber brand. And this is why I like them so much. They are just fun to be around.


These are the modern Sonus fabers for a new generation of music enthusiasts that have access to an unlimited range of genres. The compact size and sharp aesthetics allow them to simultaneously be discrete or a design statement. The electronics you choose to match them with need not be costly or intrusive – indeed you’ll probably try (and benefit from) a simple and streamlined approach in keeping with the intent of the Lumina’s. Yet the inherent qualities of the speaker will allow you to enjoy any improvements you make in the future. 

The Lumina I is a speaker you can choose to buy with confidence. Sonus faber accurately articulate the story behind the Lumina range with their videos and site information and I’ve found the actual speakers deliver everything they suggest and more. Genuinely made in Italy in Sonus faber’s own Vincenza factory, the Lumina I’s take the best of their heritage and technology to give you a completely modern compact speaker that is engaging, exciting and enduring.

Sonus faber Lumina I – NZ$ 1900 the pair including GST and delivery

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