All about the Lumin range of audiophile network players at Totally Wired
Having listened to many of the models in the Lumin range in January, including the mighty X1above, we’ve hit the ground running and now carry a good selection of Lumin components right here. It’s not often we’ve been this impressed with new components but Lumin really is next level and opens up a whole new set of possibilities for you.
If you want to read reviews the Lumin products are as well regarded as it’s possible to be. But there’s a world of difference between reading about and actually listening to a new brand.
The sound quality of Lumin is compelling. In short, even the entry level model the D2, when streaming via Tidal, AirPlay and even Spotify, or playing music you have stored on your network, sounds better than any solution we’ve been able to put together previously regardless of cost. Lumin isn’t about making anything in your system redundant – it’s about enhancement and new ways of listening.
The whole concept of streaming can take a little bit to get your head around and we’ve intentionally held off from many other components as we were unconvinced by the sound quality, the complication and compromise that we saw. Lumin solves all these issues.
The Lumins are best described as Network Players. That is they play either music you have stored or access music via streaming services such as Tidal and Qobuz and Spotify (which will soon be offering a high resolution option). And AirPlay is in the game as well.
A hugely important part of the experience, the free Lumin App is their vision of how to make music browsing and playback intuitive, visual, and tactile. So there are no front panel controls on the Lumins and only a simple display.
What really counts is on the inside – and the sound that comes out. There is a huge amount going on with both the internal workings and the resulting sound and the Lumin site is as good as it gets when it comes to explaining this with comprehensive, easy to understand descriptions and more reviews than any brand I’ve seen – everyone just loves what they hear.
What we can tell you is that Lumin works beautifully with the systems we’re putting together. And is producing a level of sound quality that easily beats anything we’ve been able to do before.
There’s an obvious comparison with NuPrime. But they are quite distinct in what they do and, if anything, are complimentary.
There are three Lumin models that include formidable DAC sections also have a very high quality volume control system and both fully balanced and more conventional RCA outputs. These are the best options for new systems, especially if you keep things simple and connect directly to a power amplifier (or two).
The Lumin D2 (NZ$4500) does for digital what the what a really good turntable does for analogue – and then some. With the D2 you can build a stunningly simple and high performing system that gives you access to more music to enjoy than you could ever imagine. While still not what you might call entry level it’s probably the best value in the entire range. It uses exactly the same software and Ap as it’s more costly siblings, has an almost identical feature and connection set (including fully balanced outputs) while being more compact.
The D2 looks good, is sensibly priced and – thanks to a super-slick app – is a delight to use too…The D2 powers the bass and drums along with real punch, while also rendering the instrumental and vocal lines with a wide-open sense of timbre and texture… In common with some of the higher end network players, it goes further than just delivering a recording, instead getting the listener into the heart of the music… If you want the impression of real live musicians plonked in the room in front of you, the D2 delivers. Andrew Everard- Hi-Fi News and Record Review
We think the D2 is the warmest sounding of the Lumin options – the bass performance is a real stand out. The internal design goes all out with the well regarded Wolfson DACs, by including a pair running in a full balanced design right through to the outputs. This really lifts the performance over more conventional, cheaper single ended designs. Run this baby balanced into a similarly over performing power amplifier and you’ll be astonished by the scale and depth of sound.
Our own personal favourite, the Lumin T2 at NZ$8,000 makes the most of the higher resolution possible with the best Sabre DACs. Again fully balanced, the T2 is all about detail, precision and speed. While it goes every bit as low as the D2, this is balanced by a more agile and articulate bass which really gets you into the individual lines of the performance and peels back layer after layer. While all the Lumin players are minimalist in their aesthetic, the T2 is an obvious step up from the D2 in terms of it’s build and weight – you literally get twice as much.
‘More than any other digital source component I’ve had in my system, the Lumin T2 got out of the way and delivered the music…What was especially impressive was how it reconciled what might seem aural opposites: clarity and warmth, delicacy and strength, speed and colour…Given the rapid changes occurring in digital audio playback, it’s risky to characterise any digital source as a potential endgame purchase. But that’s how I feel about the Lumin T2. I think it will be a long, long time before anyone buying a T2 experiences upgrade fever.‘ Gordon Brockhouse – SoundStage! Network
‘I really did not expect such a bass from the file player! Not only so low, strong and dynamic, but still pretty and energetic... completely unlike classical “file-based” sound. This is a big step forward compared to the T1 version, which I have been using for several years…it is a real sensation.’ Wojciech Pacuła – High Fidelity
Alan Sircom writes – ‘To say I’m impressed by the LUMIN X1 is something of an understatement. I am blown away by its performance. It has a sense of absolute confidence in it’s own performance that is typically the domain of the best in analogue. It puts it in direct competition with products that cost several times as much and take up a lot of shelf space in the process.’
You can read our take on the X1 here. We’ve just found the X1 to be jaw droppingly good and struggle to find any shortfalls.
For anyone with a NuPrime DAC or integrated amplifier, (or other quality DAC) there’s a Lumin component that’s going to transform your listening experience.
The Lumin U1 Mini NZ$4000 is the component to head for if you already have a DAC that you’re happy with. There’s no obsolescence – the U1 Mini brings you into the world of streaming and the Lumin sound will make your entire system light up. Although it looks like a simplified version of the D2 there is rather more going on in there and the performance lift it gives takes you straight into the territory of the T2 and even more costly U1.
Adding the Lumin U1 Mini to your present DAC is a very safe way to get into high performance streaming. It will also take you places you may not have expected. The better the quality of your present DAC, the greater the improvement you’ll experience with the U1 Mini.
One of our client’s writes of his experience with the Lumin U1 Mini –
‘It’s working brilliantly and I’m so glad you suggested trying streaming…I think one of its main points is delivery of the full value of source files… Now I’m getting full sampling value, which makes for sharper detail, improved subtlety of tonal effects (differences between instruments as well as between groups playing the same work are more marked), and a more deftly shaped sound stage. Precision and detail are startlingly improved and naturalness is paramount.’
Our own experience with the U1 Mini has been revelatory. We’ve documented our findings with many other brands of components and cables over the years and while we often found worthwhile improvements in performance it’s seldom that they are of either the magnitude or consistency that the U1 Mini has delivered.
In simple terms it sounds much better and does so across every type of music we’ve listened to.
What are we actually listening to? As someone with a large existing music collection – vinyl, CD’s and downloads, I’ve often questioned the logic behind streaming services. Lumin has changed this for us.
Tidal and Qobuz solve the quality issue – both offer CD or better quality, and between the two – Tidal being US based, and Qobuz having a more European focus, there is no need to consider either digitising LPs or ripping CDs as almost all titles you could ever want to listen to will be there. Or soon will be.
Spotify have also announced they will soon upgrade the quality of their service. Being a long time Mac user, AirPlay was the first way we used the Lumin. The results from this were the best I’ve heard, but it’s also become obvious that there are some limitations – while it’s excellent to get you up and running and also as a fallback option if there are any network or access issues, the step up in quality with either Tidal or Qobuz is obvious.
Tune In provides the best quality internet radio you’ll ever hear and is part of the Lumin app. It’s free and covers both New Zealand and the world.
We have retained our Nativ Vita touchscreen server as I do have a library of niche and high resolution music on its internal SSD. The Lumin seamlessly accesses everything on it via our network and it’s immediately obvious that anything we play has a lot more going on than when we had the Vita connected directly to the DAC. You can just as easily connect a SSD via USB into the back of the U1 Mini or access anything on your computer via your home network.
Initially I thought the U1 Mini was just the same as the D2 but without an internal DAC section. Same box, similar connections, same price. A classic rookie mistake. The U1 Mini is essentially the best bits of the NZ$11,000 U1 Reference series transport with an internal power supply (the U1 is a two box unit with an external power supply). Which is in turn derived directly from the flagship model S1. Again, read the reviews – there’s a pedigree here that stands above anything else we’ve dealt with before.
So what’s the difference between a network transport like the U1 Mini and a network player – the D2, T2 or X1?. It’s simply all in the DAC – the transport doesn’t have one so has to go into a digital input (the U1 mini puts out USB, Optical Coax, BNC and AES-EBU) but the Network Players have a hierarchy of ever more sophisticated internal DACs, and have both analogue and digital outputs.
Which ever way you choose to go with Lumin you are assured of a massive upgrade. And it just keeps getting better. The Lumin components all have a significant warm up period from new – while they sound great initially, over the first 200-500 hours the improvement is a real eye opener. Lumin themselves suggest that a brand new X1 just out of the box is only operating at about 40% of it’s potential.
Lumin also have a sold track record of providing free performance enhancing firmware upgrades for their players and also continually improve their Apps on both the Android and Apple platforms. While Network connected players are at the cutting edge of development and change, Lumin’s demonstrable commitment to both future proofing and building to the highest standard possible right now will ensure you’ll enjoy many years with your chosen player.