A long, long time ago, in the autumn of 2013, the audio market was stirred-up by a file player, constructed by Pixel Magic Systems Ltd. named Lumin. Almost only hyper-optimistic reviews of the first owners and euphoric assessments from the press appearing all around the globe became a booster for the sales. To keep things short – it was like the Cinderella fairy tale. Make a debut on the most dynamically growing part of the audio market, break the bank and you can spend the rest of your life on some exotic beach living from interest. But Mr. Nelson Choi and Li On had a different idea for their lives, and during the biggest boom decided to change their offerings, introducing four new streamers and a dedicated fileserver. Reactions to this move were, softly speaking, polarized. It is hard to wonder about that, as before there was only one, bestselling player, and now you have a choice of four different ones. But there is reason behind this move. The first model hit the bulls’ eye, but despite its exceptional sound capabilities, it was too expensive for some users and too cheap for the hardcore high-enders. Thus the new portfolio was created to resolve this issue, and when you look at the price list it seems, that the company succeeded with that. So we can choose from the miniaturized, basic model D1 for 9990 zlotys, full-sized T1 for 18900, the classic A1 for 28900 and the top S1 priced at 48900 zlotys. It is clear now, that full coverage of the audio segments was achieved, starting from the reasonably priced Hi-Fi up to the ambitious, but not yet exaggerated High End. As we were able to test the original Lumin (now called A1) and lately we concentrated on the most extremely priced end of the audio spectrum, it seemed more than appropriate to chose for the test the most modest of the line – Lumin D1.
But I would like to immediately let you know, that modesty in case of the D1, does not mean, that the manufacturer resigned from aluminum on the outside or the advanced technological solutions inside, the chassis was only made smaller and thus less costly, as well as the power supply is not as worked out as before.
The one centimeter thick brushed aluminum front panels is adorned only with a display, hidden in a deeply milled window, and the company logo below it. The black and blue display is as bright as water from the Egiptian coral reefs, but it can be dimmed (three levels are available: bright, normal and dim) or completely switched off. There is not much to say about the rest of the chassis – differently to the older brethren it is not made from one slab aluminum, but from more common aluminum plating. There are two plates – the top one, with bent sides allowing for the eight bolts to connect it to the bottom one, which houses a single PCB, and becomes the base for the four solid, aluminum, rubber bottomed feet.
Despite the small area of the back panel there was enough space for analog outputs in RCA and my preferred XLR version and a digital output in the form of a BNC socket. There is of course also an Ethernet port and two USB ports. The power is supplied by a 12V “laptop” type power supply, a respective socket is also to be found there. Besides all those sockets there is the main power switch, a minute reset button and a ground terminal.
I will not tell much about the insides, as this is more for people with a twist for electronics. I will just mention that the heart of the player are two Wolfson WM8741 chips (one for each channel) and the whole circuit is balanced, what can easily be discerned on the pictures, and also warrants the usage of XLR connections with the D1.
Well, what about functionality and daily ergonomics? The reply is short. Just plain fantastic. The Lumin plugged into our local network automatically recognizes all active UPnP servers, and when the user selects the active one, it immediately becomes indexed. But this is not all. The player treats the portable memories plugged into its USB ports the same way, and it does not complain about NTFS and EXT2/3 formatting (what is not a common treat) or large discs. This was confirmed during my two weeks of testing, when I had absolutely no problems with playing from my 2TB WD My Passport. In addition plugging such disk into an USB port allows us not to worry if a UPnP server will be capable of displaying the DSD files to the streamer correctly, not even mentioning correctly streaming them (this is handled splendidly by the free Minim Server), so if you do not want to care about that, and do not change your library too often, this may be considered a final solution.
The dedicated application works only on devices with the bitten apple logo, but the haters of devices with this logo (and I know, there are a lot of them around) will need it only once. It is needed to click through a very clear menu to set a few things and that is it. From the more important things you can enable/disable the digital output, setting the analog output level (normal/low) and decide if you want resampling or just leave the original frequencies untouched. If we want to digress which frequency is better, the Hong Kong engineers allowed us to experiment half of our lives away – we can set anything from the range of 44.1 to 384kHz PCM and 2.8MHz DSD. I would recommend for people with decision making issues not to experiments, because this can go over into a deep cognitive disorder, gained during blind testing. Additionally I have a good information for owners of older, first generation iPads, like myself, that despite the manufacturer mentioning, that their app will run only on V2 and newer devices, still it works swell and you can install it from the App Store.
Before I start to describe the listening results, a small information for people liking to click some keys during listening. It is clear, that using one device for more than one purpose is easier, so I inform you, that you can shuffle playlists, sources and generally navigate everything (with the exception of the settings of the player itself) with desktop applications like Kinsky or Kazoo, which are freely available for example on the Linn web page.
Ah, one more thing. On the wave of increasing popularity of streaming services there were questions about the compatibility of the Lumin with some of them. Of course the ones that were meant were those streaming lossless quality 16 bit/44.1 kHz, WIMP or TIDAL. I do not know about WIMP, but in my correspondence with Mr. Li On from Pixel Magic, he promised, that full compatibility with TIDAL of the device and the application will be available within the coming month. This should mean, that during the Munich Hi-End show, everything should work just fine.
Well, I hope that it is clear from what I wrote above, that the insides of the streamer remained almost the same, and the savings were made on the chassis and power supply. Of course there will be people complaining, that in the A1 we had two PCBs, and here we have one, but let them rest. If I would be looking for an upgrade, then I would replace the laptop PSU with something more in-line with the line power supply as included with the more expensive Lumins and would think about changing the feet for something from the Franc Audio Accessories or Stillpoints line. Feel free to experiment yourselves. But let us stop bragging and start talking about how the “budget” Lumin sounds.
As I was lucky enough to receive the tested unit after it spent a few weeks in another test, I just needed to set some functions to my taste and allow the Hong Kong guest to fit into my system.
As I know the first Lumin, I was very curious, how much of the old Lumin remained in this smaller unit, how much the constructors were able to hide from the accountants. This is the reason, that I started big, and instead of simple songs with tambourine, piccolo flute and a gentleman, with a voice that seemed to be a result of driving a very uncomfortable bicycle, and took “The Theory of Everything” Ayreon. In addition, I did not use the standard two-disc monumental opus of Arjen Anthony Lucassen, but I put on the playlist the four disc edition – with bonus items, like the instrumental versions of the music. Thinking, that things that do not kill me make me stronger, after such session I would have a clear answer, if the sound offered by the smallest from the Lumin family is not a bit wearisome or irritating. Some of you may be amazed, that I took this bloated-up prog-rock nightmare in the most extended version, but just like I wrote before, I wanted a good endurance test, with monotone and not very coherent material, that would intensify and point out any encountered anomalies. I needed something, that you are not able to remember after listening, because if this would be something I like to listen to, then even if the D1 would not play something, or distort something, still my memory would amend the missing items. And here? No way. So let us listen.
The truly baroque amount of ornaments, multithreaded, complicated melodic lines and the obvious mannerisms, known to me from previous pieces like “The Human Equation” or “01011001” were fully readable and understandable. You could hear the truly masterful craftsmanship and the amount of work put into making this gigantic musical tale a whole. The effect is maybe not overwhelming, but the Lumin did not torment over the visible bloated form but it concentrated on trying to extract the core of it, the leading thought, that must have accompanied the author during the creative process. The gradation of the planes was similar to the more expensive brethren in terms of precision, but not fully there. It lacked just a tad of clarity in the last rows, what could be leveled by appropriate placing of the device. In my case, I got the best result using the Franc Audio Accessories Wood Block Slim Platform, which delicately accented contours while not thinning the sound spectrum. In fact, this session of a few hours of music passed quite nicely and I could put a strong B+ for the fidelity and being true to the original. I did not feel any weariness or was not bored by the sound, but I was aware, that this is just the introduction to what the “Big Four” from Hong Kong can do, as I am dealing with the cheapest product here.
The complete opposite and a certain musical detox was the minimalist and simplified in form “Pavane for a Dead Princess” Steve Kuhn Trio. Light, free and completely unconstrained playing was the true raison d’etre for the Lumin. Most probably, the device was tested by its constructors using similar kind of music, because you could feel the authentic joy of making music together, feeling and the chemistry between the musicians. This wasn’t something artificial, played of sheets. There were no solos, placed in between at force, not at all. Just a few standards played for the enjoyment of the musicians themselves, and you the listeners, but this was just by coincidence. The tested streamer concentrated mostly on timbre, structure and intensity of the individual phrases, not on their contours. Also the reproduction of the sizes of the virtual sources was quite convincing, what allowed to really get the most out of the presented music, and only the biggest growlers would be able to search for any shortcomings and not allow the music to carry them on. It is also worth mentioning, that with this kind of music you could clearly hear the advantage of XLRs over the RCA connection. There was no cliff between them, and you should not worry if you do not have XLRs in your system, but the juiciness, palpability and visibility of the structure of the sounds were more suggestive with the balanced connection.
Finally I could not deny myself the pleasure of some heavier music, and for this I used the “Submission For Liberty” 4 ARM and “13” Black Sabbath. On one hand the rough, insane Thrash from Australia, on the other the true dinosaurs of hard rock, well, with some addition of heavy metal, albeit in a more noble and dense way. Usually this kind of material creates some confusion, or even panic, with less resistant listeners, and additionally quite ruthlessly exposes the shortcomings of tested devices, most prominently amplifiers and loudspeakers. But this kind of music can also be deadly for the sound sources, so I try to listen to a few heavy pieces. But this time I did not have to be shy about that. Both albums played from the first and last note, and I did not need to think about the playlist for about two hours. Regardless if I heard the phrases from “My Father’s Eyes” with a wall of guitar riffs, with an offensive vocal, going sometimes almost over to growling and the drums pinning with the base rhythm, or the slowly moving forward, like a hell’s roller, “Dear Father”, the D1 always kept the right pace and never ever softened the power of the attack. Ruthlessly and unexpectedly bravely, for such a small device, it moved forward leaving only burning ashes and a scent of sulfur in the air. Well, I maybe got a bit carried away with my metaphors, but fans of the heavier sounds, searching for a sound source, that will not remove the power from their library of music, should really look in the direction of the smallest Lumin.
As you probably noticed, during the review of the D1 I did not really concentrate on, and frankly speaking, I did not give a damn, about the glorified “density” of the files that were streamed to the unit. This ignorance was not coming from my laziness, or from being defiant, but because devices made by Pixel Magic clearly show differences in mastering, but with one “but”. The played material must be “concise” enough, that this mentioned density goes in pair with quality. I would not like to mention here any titles, to not start a war between the lovers of certain formats, but some “audiophile” editions cannot be helped by any 384kHz PCM, or 2.8MHz DSD, because they cannot be helped. You just cannot turn s**t into parfume.
Against current trends, to introduce bigger and bigger devices on the market, if not in terms of size, then in terms of wagons of money to be paid for them, the guys from Pixel Magic Systems Ltd. really thought things through, and while they created the S1 for the most discerning people around, they also had some ordinary music lovers and audiophiles in mind, who just wanted to have a solid, aesthetic product in their system, that would also sound good, or even better and was priced in a way, you could afford. The Lumin D1 fulfils almost all of those criteria. The only exception is the sound quality, as for the price level it is not good, not even very good, but it is exceptional, and taking into account the possible upgrades, the price performance ratio should go up a few notches more. This is the reason, that all the critical remarks in this test should regarded from the point of view of the more expensive Lumin models, or even more, taking into account the drastic price difference between the tested Lumin and the devices that we hosted in our listening room lately. I cannot deny that – ultra High End does not only condition, but it also distorts the proper, common sensual approach to the surrounding world. The Lumin D1 is a representative of the Hi-Fi segment being close to the ground. It is a solid, well made streamer, that is so reasonably priced, that if we want to enter the world of music files without problems, just listening to music not having to care in what format it is, then we just need to spend some time with it. Please believe me. Or better not, please do not believe me and listen for yourself. This will surely not be a waste of time.
Distributor: Moje Audio
Price: 9 990 PLN
– UPnP AV;Gapless Playback; On-device Playlist
– Supported Audio File Formats:
DSD: DSF (DSD), DIFF (DSD), DoP (DSD)
PCM: FLAC, Apple Lossless (ALAC), WAV, AIFF
Compressed (lossy) Audio: MP3, AAC (in M4A container)
– Supported Audio Sample Rates, Bit Depths, Number of Channels: PCM, 44.1khz-384kHz, 16-32bit, Stereo; DSD, 2.8MHz, 1bit, Stereo
– Inputs: Ethernet Network 100Base-T; USB storage, flash drive, USB hard disk (Single-partition FAT32, NTFS and EXT2/3 only)
Analog Audio: XLR (4Vsms), RCA (2Vrms)
Digital Audio: BNC SPDIF: PCM 44.1khz-192kHz, 16-24bit; DSD (DoP, DSD over PCM) 2.8MHz, 1bit
– Dimentions (WxDxH): 240mm x 244mm x 60mm
– Weight: 2 kg
System used in this test:
– CD/DAC: Ayon CD-1sx
– Digital source selector: Audio Authority 1177
– Network Music Player: Olive O2M; Dell Inspiron 1764 + JRiver Media Center
– Preamplifier: Abyssound ASP-1000
– Power amplifier: Abyssound ASX-1000
– Speakers: Gauder Akustik Arcona 80 + spike extenders
– IC RCA: Antipodes Audio Katipo; Siltech Classic Anniversary 770i
– IC XLR: LessLoss Anchorwave; Organic Audio; Amare Musica
– Digital IC: Fadel art DigiLitz; Harmonic Technology Cyberlink Copper; Apogee Wyde Eye; Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 200
– USB Cable: Wireworld Starlight; Goldenote Firenze Silver
– Speaker Cables: Organic Audio; Signal Projects Hydra
– Power Cables: Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R; Organic Audio Power; Acoustic Zen Gargantua II; Ardento Power
– Power distribution board: GigaWatt PF-2 + Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R
– Wall Socket: Furutech FT-SWS(R)
– Antivibration platform: Franc Audio Accessories Wood Block Slim Platform
– Ethernet cables: Neyton CAT7+
– Accessories: Sevenrods Dust-caps; Furutech CF-080 Damping Ring; HighEndNovum PMR Premium; Albat Revolution Loudspeaker Chips