During the last few months, there was a lot of talk between fellow audiophiles about music streamers, and the name Lumin appeared during those talks many times. The reason for that was easy to determine – the information about this player found on foreign forums and web pages ranged from very positive to enthusiastic. It was compared to the top offerings from other manufacturers, and even against such background, the Hong Kong novelty fared very well. So you should not be surprised, that when we learned, that Moje Audio acquired the rights to distribute the player in Poland, we were first to sign on the list of people interested in testing it. Even more important was to just listen to it – but not casually, rather giving the unit a real test drive in our own system. Thus it did cost me a lot of effort, to wait for the player to reach room temperature after I unpacked it, and shot some pictures, after a Saturday delivery.
Limiting myself to contemplate only the robustness and minimalism of the project, which reminded me of the most advanced Linn player – the Klimax DS, I thought about the pros and cons of such close resemblance. In this case, however, this resemblance was not an easy copying, imitation or, what some “benevolent” people claimed, cloning, but only a starting point for designing something unique. I personally have no problem with such approach from the constructors of Pixel Magic Systems Ltd., as I pointed out some solutions used by the Scots in their products, which did not wake my enthusiasm, and I was very curious to see competition appearing on the market, who would have resolved those issues. I am writing about that in the very beginning, because in the case of Lumin, there is no special ideology attached to it, and the wheel was not invented again. Its creators admit openly, that they studied the best file players/streamers on the market. This analysis resulted in their own project, which should be free from shortcomings found in competitive products. I will try to respond to the question, if they really achieved that, in a moment.
However before I start writing about my impressions from listening, I will write a bit about an aspect, which is more obvious and palpable, namely the external and internal looks. The Audiophile Network Music Player (Lumin’s official name) is made from one big slab of aluminum, where the chambers for the two main and one smaller PCB were cut. The small one controls the display. Similar to the recently tested Alluxity, also here this kind of enclosure demanded the PCBs to be mounted upside down. And so they are – bolted to the upper part of the chassis, while the bottom is just a thick plate with the metal feet with rubber soles being attached to it. The front is cut with a mild curve and slightly tilted back. In the middle there is a nicely readable display, which can be dimmed or even completely switched off – what seems a logical thing to do, as the unit is completely controlled with its own app installed on the iPad or Linn manufactured Kinsky app installed on any tablet or smartphone. I will allow myself a small digression here – the manufacturer, probably due to his inherent shyness, does not talk about full compatibility with the Kinsky app, however it is there. This allows people, who are allergic to Apple products to use this alternative, which is also open to Android phones/tablets. The only limitation (I assume, a temporary one) will be lack of access to the advanced features offered by the streamer, like upsampling settings, etc, but I think, those are not vital and once configured, there is no need to revisit them too often.
The back panel is placed in a recessed position versus the top cover end, what makes is a bit less visible to curious people, but once you manage to see it, there is a lot to be found there. So there are solid, and placed wide apart, golden RCA terminals, balanced XLRs, digital outputs in BNC and HDMI standards, the obvious Ethernet port and a grounding terminal. Now for two more things – one good, and one… well… The first one is a multi-pin socket for an external PSU, based on two oversized toroidal transformers. The power supply has a cable terminated with a solid, bolt-on plug, to be used with the mentioned socket. The other element, which is not so good in my opinion, is the double USB socket, which at first, was only to be used for servicing, but with current upgrades of firmware, those are also capable of reading music from flashpens and USB drives. Unfortunately the unit I got for testing did not recognize any of my USB storages (despite the update of firmware I did), what could indicate, NTFS formatted discs cannot be used.
I already mentioned the PSU, which has a power switch on the front panel, with a blue ring around it, something loved in Asia I think, looks quite solid, but not as much as the main unit. Placing it outside of the main enclosure allows to chose any power cable you desire, as having the top cover of the main unit protrude to the back, would not allow to use more sophisticated power cables due to lack of space. And with this solution, the cable salad does not become visible, while you are still able to use the cables you want.
Like I indicated earlier, the inside of the player is divided into two main chambers and a third, smaller one containing the logic for the display. The first ‘big’ PCB houses the initial part of the player, with the digital interfaces (based on chips coming from Realtek, Silicon Image and Alter) and the processor of the player, hidden under a heat sink. The second PCB contains the digital-to-analog converter, based on Wolfson Microelectronics WM8741 chips capable of processing PCM and DSD signals natively. And now we come to the moment, where your blood pressure should rise – namely the manufacturers of Lumin claim, that this player is capable of handling DSD files natively, without converting them to PCM, although this option is available for the users too. Unfortunately first tests were not promising – many attempts with the Twonky UPnP server (installed on WD Live as well as on a computer), JRiver and PS Audio did not allow the player to recognize the files properly (it did not see DSD files at all), thus also playback of those files was not possible. Only after the recommended by Pixel Magic Systems Ltd. server MinimServer was installed the problem was solved, and DSD 64 (2.8224 Mbit/s) were played by Lumin without a glitch. Unfortunately the need to install the server on a laptop attached to my network (the WD NAS does not allow third party software to be installed, at least officially) and visibly lower performance of the MinimServer compared to the Twonky installed on the WD Live made me return to the original configuration. I just decided to ignore the DSD part of my library, what turned out to be the simplest thing ever, as using Twonky, the dedicated Lumin application and its Linn counterpart did not see any DSD files. Fortunately DXD files 24 bits/352.8 kHz were also happily played by the Lumin and they were properly handled by both servers. I have to admit, that this situation bugged me a bit, because the setup of the player and otherwise problem-free operation was a big asset of the player, if not for this minor ‘glitch’ I would be able to recommend it even to people, who know nothing about PC audio, as with an automated NAS, like the RIP-NAS, the product of Pixel Magic Systems Ltd. could be a replacement for a traditional CD player. Of course as soon as an appropriate patch will be issued (either for the Lumin firmware or for the UPnP server), which will would allow playing DSD without problems, we are ready to re-test the setup and report corrections. But for now you have to take into account, that the setup may be a tad more difficult, a bit like a child illness. On the other hand I had absolutely no problems in sorting by tags, speed and smoothness of navigation around my 1 TB large library posed absolutely no problems.
Now we have the technical-operational part done, we can concentrate on the most important aspect – music, which is played beautifully by the Lumin. I am sorry to everybody who counted on building up tension, atmosphere and then an unexpected culmination, but from the first minute of the Chinese streamer (Hing Kong is largely autonomous, but still a part of China) everything is clear. This is a typical love/hate situation. There is no way of getting used to it, no marriage of convenience. This, for now only product of Pixel Magic Systems Ltd., although there are plans of introducing a bit more modest product, enchants with musicality, smoothness and naturalness. What is important, we can start praising the player already with 16 bit/44.1 kHz material, so the ordinary CD quality. The combination of calmness, sophistication and homogeneity with incredible resolution reminds me of the ‘idea’ for music proposed by Mr. Kazuo Kiuchi in the Reimyo line of products. It sufficed to play the “Pavane For a Dead Princess” Steve Kuhn Trio to be engulfed with the sound of a lifelike sized piano, to sway with the slow contrabass lines and become intrigued with the colors of the cymbals. There was an absolute absence of any kind of nervousness, no tendency to become hyper-detailed, to impress with details extracted from the music. All this resulted in the feeling, that time does not matter anymore, that we do not have to deal with things now, and we can postpone everything for the future. Distant future. I do not know when I listened to “Komeda” by Leszek Możdżer, to the soundtrack of “Finding Neverland” of Jan A.P. Kaczmarek; so I begun thinking that either I’ll move to Tuscany or Catalonia, where ‘mañana’ is a normal thing, or I change the repertoire to finally get to work. But how to do that, when one of the most difficult instruments to reproduce, the piano, played from the Lumin sounds like somebody would demolish the walls in the apartments surrounding mine and placed in this space a Stainway, Bösendorfer or Yamaha. Clear contours, right size and most of all the juiciness and palpability showed, that the creators of Lumin did their homework well.
Trying to find the right motivation I took the pathetic and recorded with true Hollywood-like swing soundtrack of the “Space Battleship Yamato” by Naoki Sato & Yasushi Miyagawa. Contemporary symphonic music, mixed tempos, violent dynamic jumps turned out to be as difficult for the Lumin, as an afternoon walk for a triathlon runner. No stress, no compression and absolutely masterful readability without falling into hyper-detail in the further planes, even in the most spectacular moments. Overall the sound was incredibly coherent, homogenous and most of all natural. Without excessive use of contours and micro-details the emphasis was placed on showing a given album as a finished concept, and not as different details and sounds just glued together.
Reaching for the high res recordings of Nirvana (“Nevermind” Remastered 24bit/96kHz) and Dream Theater (“Dream Theater” 24bit/96kHz) I did not count on enlightening and qualitative ecstasy, but even with such a rough and progressive material the tested played could reach the source of emotion, presenting it in appropriately shaped way. The almost thrash beginning of the Dream Theater disc “The Enemy Inside” had appropriate drive and harshness, and only later the keyboard and vocals introduced a melodic line. The lowest octaves were maybe not as contoured and immediate as in the belt driven CEC CD3N, but I could not find any flaw in its differentiation or reach. The bass lines of BADBADNOTGOOD from the album “BBNG2” (24bit/96kHz) shook the walls of my apartment and cleaned the membranes of my Gauder from dust quite efficiently.
But regardless of the fact, if the Lumin was fed with SD or HD material, one of its characteristics was always visible, permanent and at the same time a little bit frightening. This nicely looking, absolutely digital source, had absolutely no ‘digital manners’, no ‘digital coldness’ nor ‘post-upsampling rash’, usually present in form of a combination of sweetness with spiciness/sharpening. It just played the music in a way, as if the constructors implemented inside an advanced ‘vinyl mode’ protocol. Even Metallica on “The Ecstasy of Gold” from the compilation disc “We all Love Ennio Morricone” sounded like it theoretically shouldn’t. Juicy, with feeling and drive, which usually are limited to the real vinyl disc, or a live event. Of course, this last thing is something unachievable at home, but Lumin is for sure going in the right direction.
The visual resemblance to the Linn Klimax immediately rises the question, which one of the streamers is better? Well, apart from the quite drastic difference in price, with its better ergonomics and functionality, I would be clearly in favor of the Lumin. Although I did not have the opportunity to make a head-to-head comparison while testing, but I listened to the Klimax in many different configurations and every time, the sound could be identified as coming from a digital source, one that favors the technical above the emotional side of the played back music. There are no digital stigmata with the Lumin. Its resolution is not synonymous to over-sharpening, cold hyper-detail or ear-cutting edges, all of which are not present in live music. It is similar in grading and dynamic jumps – those are evident and immediate, but their attack has something like a natural, although sometimes barely noticeable, softness, rounding. Being on a concert we do not hear, and usually not see, the edges of the guitar pick, and (surprisingly) this is not irritating or disappointing.
I would not like to fall too much in the pathos, but I must gladly say, that the Hong Kong made streamer is far away from the computer symbolic associated usually with ‘file players’ and a kind of fashion of using popular OEM solutions (like StreamUnlimited). Only after you listen to the Lumin plugged into your own system, you can really live through the thing, called high resolution. High, means here close to what you can hear live, in a studio, concert hall or listening to natural sounds. Not better, not improved, because improving nature is not always favorable. Lumin made me re-define my own understanding of resolution. And I hope it will do the same to you. I really wish you that.
Text and photographs: Marcin Olszewski
Distributor: Moje Audio
– 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
– Input: Ethernet Network 100Base-T
Analog Audio: XLR balanced, 4Vrms, pin 2 Hot; RCA unblanced, 2Vrms
Digital Audio:BNC SPDIF:PCM 44.1khz-192kHz, 16-24bit; HDMI: PCM 44.1khz-192kHz, 16-24bit, DSD 2.8MHz, 1bit
Lumin (solid aluminum chassis): 350mm (W), 345mm (D), 60mm (H), 8kg
Dual-toroidal PSU:100mm (W), 295mm (D), 55mm (H), 2kg
Power Consumption: Operation: 20W; Standby: 15W
System used in this test:
– CD / DAC: Ayon 1sc, CEC CD3N
– Digital source selector: Audio Authority 1177
– Stream player: Olive O2M; laptop Dell Inspiron 1764 + JRiver Media Center
– Integrated Amplifiers: Electrocompaniet ECI 5
– Preamplifier: iFi iTube; Alluxity Pre-amp One
– Power amplifier: Alluxity Power-amp One
– Speakers: Gauder Akustik Arcona 80 + spike extenders
– IC RCA: Antipodes Audio Katipo; Harmonix CI-230 Mark-II; Harmonix HS101-Improved; Neyton Neurnberg NF
– IC XLR LessLoss Anchorwave; Organic Audio; Argento Serenity „Signature” XLR
– Digital IC: Fadel Art DigiLitz, Harmonic Technology Cyberlink Copper; Apogee Wyde Eye, Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 200
– USB Cables Wireworld Starlight; Goldenote Firenze Silver
– Speaker Cables: Organic Audio; Neyton Hamburg LS; Signal Projects Hydra
– Power Cables: Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R; Organic Audio Power; GigaWatt LC-1mk2
– Power distribution board: GigaWatt PF-2 + cable LC-2mk2; Amare Musica Silver Passive Power Station
– Table: Rogoz Audio 4SM3
– Ethernet cables: Neyton CAT7 +
– Accessories: Sevenrods Dust-caps; Furutech CF-080 Damping Ring; HighEndNovum PMR Premium; Albat Revolution Loudspeaker Chips