After a true revolution and almost overthrowing the high-end streamer market, the brand Lumin, created by Pixel Magis Systems Ltd, or rather the people behind it, do not think about retirement, vacation in tropics or stay satisfied with their success. In contrary – instead of patiently waiting for the market to be saturated with their current models, they feed interest by introducing intriguing novelties. It is worth mentioning that instead of pumping the marketing bubble and, based on positive reviews, increase the prices, they still think about “normal” people, which just want to enter the world of digital audio, in a nice and easy way – in terms of finance and ergonomics. This thesis is confirmed by the D1, which we tested not so long ago, but also by the server L1, dedicated to the Asian file players. But supplementing a catalog of products and looking into the future are two absolutely different things. This is the reason that Mr. Nelson Choi and Li On played va banque once more, and putting their hard gained reputation at stake, they showed a streamer with a built-in amplifier section, called M1. If you are interested, how this expedition of Lumin into territories to date unknown to them, amplification, please read on.
The exterior of the device – both the design and the used chassis look very similar to that, what was part of the success of the T1 model. Although due to increased functionality, the amplifier section, and internal power supply, the enclosure is bigger in all dimensions, but if you compare it with the other Lumin 1:1 we really can talk about unification. A solid slab of aluminum on the front, and the high quality body, made also from aluminum plates, is quite minimalistic, yet elegant. The centrally placed green-blue display is flanked on the left by the power button and a volume knob on the right. The brightness of the display is adjustable, and it displays all the most important parameters of the played material, but taking into account, that we do need to have a tablet or a smartphone handy, we can do without it. The back plate is equally, or rather surprisingly, ascetic is the back plate, because besides the single loudspeaker terminals and a power socket, the users have only two USB ports and an Ethernet port at their disposal. And that is it. No other inputs or outputs, either analog or digital. So we are forced to play using the Ethernet port, or at least to connect the unit to our home network to allow for appropriate management.
Talking about handling. There is no remote control, similar to the older brethren, so we need to control the stream-amplifier from a tablet or smartphone. Although the situation from the premiere of the first Lumin bettered, because we can feed the tested device with files from a NAS or an USB disc plugged directly into the back of the chassis using an Android app, still if we want to fully explore the potential of the M1, including streaming services like Tidal HiFi, then we are bound to use recent models with a half-eaten apple logo. I do not like this kind of situation too much, as I do not like to be treated as a second category consumer, and to be forced to use devices from one brand only. I wrote about the app and the working replacements (Kinsky, Bubble) while reviewing the D1, and as I did not notice any functional or visual differences, I will just mention that everything works stable and as it should.
The internals of the M1 are surprisingly simple when looked at, and much more complicated electronically, than one could expect. In general it is based on two TI TAS5558 chips working with two TAS5624A in the output stage, which are responsible for the conversion of the signals into PWM. The TAS5624A chip is just a TAS5614A D-class amp enhanced with MOS-FETs using fixed voltage amplification. To make things a bit more complicated, someone at Lumin decided, that when using the TAS5558 it will be best to lock it to 176.4kHz sampling frequency. This allows to use only one quartz oscillator with a frequency of 12.288MHz instead of two different ones, and allows for compatibility with PCM and DSD signals. Long story short – regardless of what signal is fed into the Lumin it will be re-sampled to 24 bits/176.4KHz, and the filters programmed into the FPGA Altera Cyclone IV will take care of the rest. So it was more than logical to remove the option of sample frequency selection, as known from the standalone streamers, from the menu. Of course we do have volume control, in the digital domain, as the analog signal appears only at the output filters – just before the loudspeaker terminals.
Taking into account the very compact size and high levels of integration, in this device, instead of an external power supply, we have a switching unit built into the main chassis. However having in mind the sound as well as psychological well-being of the listeners, this PSU is placed inside a rectangular, shielding box.
One more item. M1 is not equipped with any kind of wireless connection, so if we cannot pull an Ethernet cable to the location of the unit, then we need to purchase a WiFi router to act as an access point.
Plugging the tested device into the home LAN, communicate it with the UPnP servers working in it (I warmly recommend the free MinimServer for that role) and indexing the available files is absolutely intuitive with the M1, and when we have an account at Tidal, for example, then we just need to provide our login and password to happily listen to the streaming service offering within seconds. I mention this seamless setup on purpose, as it is not so usual with technologically advance machinery, frankly speaking this is not the standard, and sometimes we should consider to use the setup services provided by the audio salon where we purchased our piece of equipment. And here it was enough to unpack the all-in-one unit, plug in the power and the Ethernet cable, loudspeaker cables – hopefully connected to some speakers – and we could start listening to music. And please believe me, this listening is very pleasant. Similar to its older brethren the M1 sounds in a very unconstrained way, far from any attempt to daze the listener from the first reproduced notes. It emphasizes the coherence of the sound to dazzling with details, cutting edges and pinching with aliquots. This is just not that school of sound. It does not need to prove anything to anyone, something like Eric Clapton on the album “Eric Clapton & Friends”, who plays what he wants and likes to play, and not what he has to, because someone else told him to. There is a kind of intrinsic calmness to that sound, which flows over to the listener within minutes, and things planned to be done within the coming hour move automatically to “next day”. We sitdown, listen to, or better absorb the music, and things are fine. Isn’t this what all is about?
My initial concerns about the true current efficiency of the Lumin were gone as quickly I they came. This because it handled my Gauder, which cannot be named easy to drive even when we would have lots of good will, and the mighty Dynaudio Excite X44 surprisingly well. Maybe this was not such a absolute and full control as with the Accuphase E-470 or Musical Fidelity M6 500i, but pardon me. At this price and with this functionality considering this a shortcoming would be a big mistake. Although the contours of the virtual sources were more like drawn with an HB pencil rather than with the hard H5, but nothing was flowing together, and there was also no talking about falling into any impressionist indeterminacy. Starting with the soft-rock climates like “The Long Run” Eagles to the thrash albm “Dystopia” Megadeth I did not detect absolutely any issues with selectivity. To detect the gradation of the individual planes classical repertoire is better. So I used specialties like the chamber “TARTINI secondo natura” or the monumental “Rhapsodies” with the amplified Lumin to listen not only to the first plane but also to things happening in the background, and there were quite a few. The timbre of the instruments was reproduced very suggestively, their native tissue and truly analogue juiciness supported by the gold plated treble.
The longer I listened to the M1 the more I had the impression, that this is an ideal product for practically every music lover. Not only that each and every time, with all kinds of repertoire, it tries to concentrate on the assets of the reproduced material more than on the shortcomings, but it nicely enchants the listener, so that it is very hard to get away from listening. Looking at this manner of sounding with a cold and unbiased eye, we deal here with a “made” sound, but how well it is made. This is not common sweetening, but it is also quite far away from laboratory neutrality and transparency. The question is if it does matter, as due this way of sounding we can reach to recordings we keep on our server for sentimental reasons only, as each time we tried to play them caused a headache. This time another attempt may be successful, the presented sound may be flat and two-dimensional, but still acceptable.
So we finally come to a characteristic of the Lumin, that we tend to notice after having listened to it for a longer time, namely the delicate, yet present, averaging. Fortunately this process is not based on leveling down, the player keeps the high, in most cases absolutely acceptable level of ambitious HiFi, but those who want to compare 15 editions of the same album, and split the hair in four, should try somewhere else. Also the comparisons between bit depths and sampling frequencies do not make much sense, as everything will be coming down to the common denominator of 24 bits and 176.4 kHz at the end. So instead of looking at the digits, and being biased by them, it is much better to concentrate on music.
The Lumin M1 is a very well made device which can be the heart of an ambitious and satisfactory, in terms of sound, HiFi system. It is however worth remembering, that this heart is very hermetic, and will allow you to chose only the speakers and cables. But that what for some (audiophiles) may be a curse, for others (music lovers) is the salvation. If you want maximum integration, and for yourself – looking deeply in your eyes in the mirror – you think that files and servers is the way to go, then the purchasing of the M1 may be the end of your searches, and you should not hesitate for even a moment. You will love the Lumin with your whole heart, truly and boundlessly.
Distributor: Moje Audio
Price: 11 900 PLN
– UPnP AV;Gapless Playback; On-device Playlist
– Speaker load: >= 4 Ω
– Power output: 2x60W / 8 Ω, 2x100W / 4 Ω
– Inputs: Ethernet 1000Base-T, USB storage, flash drive, USB hard disk (Single-partition FAT32, NTFS and EXT2/3 only)
– Supported Audio File Formats:
PCM: 16 – 32bit/44.1kHz – 384kHz FLAC, Apple Lossless (ALAC), WAV, AIFF
DSD: 1bit/2.8MHz – 5.6MHz DSF, DIFF, DoP
Compressed (lossy) Audio MP3, AAC
– Supported control devices: All models of Apple iPad (v2 or later). iOS 5.0 or later required. Full Retina Display support.
– App features: gHigh-resolution artwork. Artwork caching. AirPlay compatibility. Multiple-tag handling. ‘Composer’ tag support. Find & Filter. Tag browsing. Native Tidal and Qobuz support.
– Power Supply: 100-240V AC
– Dimentions (WxDxH): 361mm x 323mm x 58mm
– Weight: 4,5 kg
System used in this test:
– CD/DAC: Ayon CD-1sx
– Digital source selector: Audio Authority 1177
– Network Music Player: Bluesound NODE2
– Integrated ampliier: Electrocompaniet ECI5; Accuphase E-470
– Speakers: Gauder Akustik Arcona 80 + spike extenders; Audiovector SR3 Signature; Dynaudio Excite X44
– IC RCA: Antipodes Audio Katipo
– 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; 聖Hijiri Nagomi
– Power distribution board: GigaWatt PF-2 + Furutech FP-3TS762 / Fi-50 NCF(R) /FI-50M NCF(R)
– 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; Albat Revolution Loudspeaker Chips