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Lumin U2 Mini English ver.

Link do zapowiedzi (en): LUMIN U2 Mini

Opinion 1

Almost four years ago, in October 2018, we reviewed the Lumin U1 Mini. At the time its price was 9590 PLN. Interesting enough, you needed to pay the same amount for it even this year, what is a very good testament for the manufacturer, and for the local distributor, as lockdown-covid issues, logistic problems, chip shortages, etc., made us expect pricing “updates” each and every time we go something new for testing. I am mentioning this on purpose in the very beginning, as we all know, that the prices are increasing, not only in the audio market, but everywhere, so we need to forget about cheap prices. So when we heard some rumors about the Hong Kongese manufacturer updating its catalog and replacing the U1 with is newer version U2, we were wondering, how painful for the wallet this upgrade will be. Yet, when the first units of the U2 Mini arrived in our country, it turned out that we did not have to fear too much, as instead of the expected tooth extraction, Lumin keeps things low-key and asks for their newest quite modest and acceptable 10 990 PLN.

In terms of exterior looks, the U2 Mini got significantly nicer, and that not only in the anodized black version, which, at least for me it was always better looking, but also in the naturally silver (raw aluminum). This is the result of a change in the way the front is finished, which is now velvety satin, like the P1, instead of brushed. This not only improved esthetics but also made cleaning easier (it does not collect fingerprints that much). However the general shape and size remained unchanged. The fascia is made from a thick slab of aluminum and has a small, three row blue-black display in the middle (with three levels of brightness and possibility to turn it off completely), just above the discreetly printed company logo. The chassis is made from a solid, bent aluminum sheet, which is put on the base of the device like a glove. On the back, under the characteristic “roof” things look very similar to the previous model, however a keen eye can see something different. However before we talk about that, let us go over the items that remained the same, the signal interfaces. So looking from the left we have the outputs – AES/EBU, coaxial BNC and RCA, optical, then two USB (which can be used to connect hard drives to it) and an Ethernet port. The item that is different, is maybe not a novelty, but a modification that improves ergonomics a lot, namely the power socket is turned 180 degrees. What makes it easier? Quite a lot. It turns out, that while the U1 Mini did not follow the path chosen by the Scottish Linn, and allowed to use other plugs than only the flat ones, so you could fit the Furutech FI-28R in there, but the 48 or 50 turned out to be too big. And now, with the introduced change, we have the fuse chamber increasing the spacing between the roof and the socket itself, so we can place there even bigger plugs, without needing to worry about scratching them. A small, but very useful change.
Another small thing is something, you cannot see at first glance, the material that covers the aluminum, anti-vibration feet. In the U1 it was corrugated rubber, now the manufacturer decided to use a kind of soft felt or cloth, what prevents any kind of eventual scratches or micro-damage of the surface you placing the unit on, but on the other hand, we are losing the self-braking abilities. So in places where the U1 stood as if it was glued to the surface, the U2 starts slipping like Katarina Witt in Calgary. Of course I am allowing myself a delicate hyperbole, but for example the Furutech FP-3TS762 did not impress the U1 at all, while turning the U2 by about 90 degrees. A quick inquiry showed also, that the fact, the U2 is about half a kilogram lighter than its predecessor, might have an influence on that too. Fortunately, I am placing a steel doorstop Livarno, weighing 1270g on top of the transport (a budget substitute for the Thixar Eliminator), so for me this is a non-issue, however I need to mention it for everybody, who is not using such a ballast.

Inside you can notice not only the change of the color of the PCB from deep blue to black, but also a completely new layout. In the previous model, the section with the processor was placed on the main PCB, it was just covered with a big aluminum radiator. In the current model the processor itself was upgraded to a more powerful version and placed on a separate PCB, placed above the main board and covered with a heat sink appropriate for the size of the cooled chip. Changes were also done to the main clock section – now it uses four separate master-clocks. So while the U1 Mini was not capable to resample beyond DSD128, the U2 is able to natively play DSD512, provided it is paired with a DAC capable of handling such frequencies and we are able to find such files for playing. The transport is also fully compatible with MQA. The big chip visible on the mainboard is the FPGA Altera Cyclone IV was not changed from the previous version, however its code was updated to match the new architecture and capabilities of the new platform. Now to explain the issue of lower weight. According to manufacturer, the enclosure was re-designed and the feet, I mentioned earlier, were sourced from a different provider.

Now we have discussed the exterior and the interior of the tested device, we can turn our attention to the sound of our hero. This is important, as looking at the small external changes, and the more in-depth ones to the insides, we can think about two possibilities – either the manufacturer provided the old sound in a new enclosure, or a completely new version of that, what he made his customers acquainted to. The Lumin integrated streamers have a name for being above average musical and dense, while the transports, which have no analog section, the U1 and U1 Mini, sounded and still sound much more resolved and transparent, allowing the DACs connected to them to shape the final sound. So moving from the U1 Mini I used for the last few years, I was very curious what the Hong Kong team will offer this time and … spoiling the surprise a little bit, and destroying the suspense buildup like in Hitchcock movies, I will claim that the U2 Mini is a completely new approach and a completely new generation of digital transports in the Lumin catalog. On one hand we have a completely obvious, strictly native musicality, while on the other, resolution and air on the stage representing a shockingly higher level. The scale of the progress can be shown best, that when the first notes of the “Tomba Sonora” by Stemmeklang and Kristin Bolstad played, I was almost certain I forgot to unplug the dCS Apex from system after testing, as I did not expect the amount of information and extension of the stage depth by the U2. Being blunt, this is not the price level to expect such things from, rather that of the twice as expensive Auralic Aries G2.1. The reverberation aura and the decay of the individual sounds turned out to be a class on its own, and the progress was similar to the change from my Acrolink 7N-A2070 Leggenda, which are absolutely not bad at all, to the ultra high-end Hemingway Z-core Σ.
I made equally euphoric notes during listening to the very disturbing soundtrack “She Will” by Clint Mansell, where the wall behind the loudspeakers disintegrated and time, which was running in a neck-breaking tempo till that moment, just lost any meaning. Interestingly the progress pertained also to the definition of the virtual sources, which became not just more contoured and delineated with a thicker line, but more real and palpable. Maybe this is a small difference on paper, but when listening, this turns out to be fundamental and defines the perception. Because suddenly we stop thinking, if what we hear is closer of further from our expectation of how it should sound, as that what reaches our ears is fully in-line with the master known from the real world.
Changing the repertoire to the progressive-stoner “Moonsoon” of the Polish band Galileous and then for the even bigger sounding album “Przeklęty” from Radogost, it became clear, that such complications are just the daily bread for our tested transport, which was able to reproduce the hits of the double kickdrum, destructive blasts and the primate aggression of the guitar riffs. And this without even a trace of softening by lowering the tonal balance and withdrawing the treble, as well as without any sharpening by thinning the sound and upping analytics. This makes us get exactly what was written in the source material – without any interpretation and variations, or any dominating “brand” signature. If someone is counting on sorcery and magic, especially with less good made recordings, then I am sorry, this is the wrong address. I would even say more – the U1 was a little more humanitarian in that aspect, as due to the lesser resolution, it did turn a blind eye to some technical shortcomings, which the U2 does not hide at all. But please understand me well here, the U2 Mini does not brand or dazzle with those recording errors, or the shortcomings in the performers abilities for that matter, but we hear them better and clearer with the U2 and we come to the conclusion ourselves, that some of the recording staff did not care about what they did. And that is it.
But if we would like to spare ourselves from some nasty surprises, then we can always stay in the area of jazz and classical music, because “We Get Requests” by Oscar Peterson Trio, where the “Maharaja of the piano” is accompanied by Ray Brown on the bass and Ed Thigpen on the drums as well as “Holst: The Planets – World Premiere Recording of Asteroids” performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle do not carry any of such anomalies. However the ability of the tested transport to reproduce the very dramatic differences of volume between the quietest and loudest parts on the Holst album and micro dynamics on the Peterson disc is absolutely overwhelming. Although the scale of those things is visibly lower than moving from the Mephisto to the Apex in Jacek’s system, but the game is exactly about such nuances. Please turn your attention to the length and wealth of reverberation of Thigpens cymbals – they are not “dull” or single dimensioned – with the Lumin you could perfectly hear their complexity and natura, slow decay, if they are not mechanically silenced when a certain phrase calls for that.

But enough of the praises and admirations. So instead of another portion of back-pats there is now time for a more or less weighted summary, although a very subjective one, as usual. So while the changes to the previous version are minor on the exterior, making it look better and improving ergonomics, with maybe one small caveat – the feet, then in terms of sound we have progress by not one, but at least two steps. I am not claiming that the Lumin U2 Mini is the best digital transport humanity has seen and heard, but I can easily claim, that up to the price point of about 11 thousand PLN, or even twice as much, he can easily compete with the products of the competitors.
And when we are talking about me, although I am fighting hard to stop any modifications to my private system, this time I was absolutely destined to lose and unconditionally surrender. In short – the test unit supplied by the Wroclaw based Audio Atelier moves on, but I placed an order for a private one, while at the same time I am searching where I put the boxes for the U1, which was defending itself fiercely to date. It must be clearly said, that the U2 Mini is much better than its predecessor, and the U1 was good to start with, and the price difference is negligible. So if you can have a better source for practically the same price as the previous model, then it would be a shame not to profit from this bargain.

Marcin Olszewski

System used in this test:
– CD/DAC: Ayon CD-35 (Preamp + Signature) + Finite Elemente Cerabase compact
– Network player: Lumin U1 Mini + I-O Data Soundgenic HDL-RA4TB
– Digital source selector: Audio Authority 1177
– Turntable: Kuzma Stabi S + Kuzma Stogi + Dynavector DV-10X5
– Phonostage: Tellurium Q Iridium MM/MC Phono Pre Amp
– Power amplifier: Bryston 4B³ + Graphite Audio IC-35 Isolation Cones
– Loudspeakers: Dynaudio Contour 30 + Brass Spike Receptacle Acoustic Revive SPU-8 + Base Audio Quartz platforms
– IC RCA: Tellurium Q Silver Diamond
– IC XLR: Organic Audio; Vermöuth Audio Reference; Acrolink 7N-A2070 Leggenda
– Digital IC: Fadel art DigiLitz; Harmonic Technology Cyberlink Copper; Apogee Wyde Eye; Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 200
– USB cables: Wireworld Starlight; Goldenote Firenze Silver; Fidata HFU2; Vermöuth Audio Reference
– Speaker cables: Signal Projects Hydra; Vermöuth Audio Reference Loudspeaker Cable + SHUBI Custom Acoustic Stands MMS-1
– Power cables: Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R; Organic Audio Power + Furutech CF-080 Damping Ring; Acoustic Zen Gargantua II; Furutech Nanoflux Power NCF
– Power distribution board: Furutech e-TP60ER + Furutech FP-3TS762 / Fi-50 NCF(R) /FI-50M NCF(R)
– Wall power socket: Furutech FT-SWS(R)
– Anti-vibration platform: Franc Audio Accessories Wood Block Slim Platform
– Switch: Silent Angel Bonn N8 + Silent Angel S28 + Silent Angel Forester F1 + Luna Cables Gris DC
– Ethernet cables: Neyton CAT7+; Audiomica Anort Consequence + Artoc Ultra Reference + Arago Excellence; Furutech LAN-8 NCF
– Table: Solid Tech Radius Duo 3
– Acoustic panels: Vicoustic Flat Panels VMT

Opinion 2

You might be surprised, but I think, that the passing time is, in a way, salvation for us audiophiles. I mean of course the well known rule, that if you stay put, in fact you are moving backwards, as the progress of technology comes ahead of you. This is the karma of being on the market for a long time for each and every kind of enterprise, so it should not be surprising, that even the most worked out products receive their successors. And it does not matter if we are talking about cars, military products, or things that most interest us – audio. Everybody does not want to put on a side track, so they are constantly working to improve their portfolio. And an example of that approach we can see today. This is the successor of the obviously cult streamer Lumin U1 Mini, which was recently introduced to market and supplied to us by the Wroclaw based distributor Audio Atelier, the Lumin U2 Mini. So are you surprised, that something perceived as brilliant is going to be replaced? Unfortunately, like I mentioned before, this is how things are. A standard, which we will review today to check, if it really means progress, or only a side branch.

The tested Lumin streamer does not differ from its predecessor (visible on the first six photos in gallery) it terms of size, and is a small device with the front made from a thick slab of aluminum. In that fascia we can only find a medium sized, multifunctional display, but readable enough, so it really informs the user about the current status of the player, the current signal and the piece played. No superfluous buttons or knobs, just one recessed window. Regarding the back panel you have the 180 degree inverted power socket, integrated with the power switch and fuse, which allows usage of big plugs, and a series of terminals mirroring the previous model: LAN, 2xUSB, Opical, Coax, AES/EBU and grounding. So what else, besides the inverted power socket, separates the two devices? Well mostly the insides, so you will not notice unless you remove the chassis, and usage of anodized aluminum instead of the brushed version previously. And what about the supported file formats? I can assure you, those are all included, but if you want more detail, what can be fed to the Lumin U2 Mini, please have a look at the table below the test.

So as we arrived at the main aspect of our encounter, there is probably a large group of Lumin U1 Mini users, who wonder, what could be improved in it? The first version was very well balanced in terms of timbre, had very good control over the lowest registers and everything was supported by very neat, as it did not pierce the ears, well reverberating treble. You could say this was something for most music lovers, where you did not need to worry about any kind of configuration issue. And if so, what was the sense in introducing the U2 Mini? Yes, people like new things, but was the effort put into that by the engineers not just a step to the side? And do you know what? It was not! It was worth it, completely!
With the U2 the music gained in absolutely all aspects, in the whole sound spectrum, from the bass through the midrange up to the treble. And the key words are – energy of the sound and better resolution. This translated into the improvement of pacing and, in the good meaning of the word, the expected aggression of the events on stage. It served me things, artefacts that were included in the recorded material, but somehow hidden in the background to date. I have always heard them, but I treated them as something secondary, only signaled in the distance, while in jazz contemplative music from the RGG brand “Mysterious Monuments on the Moon” it turned out, that without them, that project was crippled. True, until we hear a certain material in full bloom, we do not approach it so brutally, but after getting acquainted with the full spectrum of knowledge about it, we understand, how much we were losing. So what exactly was happening in this case? Well, the new version of Lumin showed the work of every musician much more precisely. Starting with the drummer – the delicate touches of the drums were shown much more pleasantly, as were the stronger hits, interrupted by the endlessly reverberating cymbals, through the pianist – the strings hit with the hammers, the fluent sound of the longer passings had a larger wealth of information, the aggressiveness of the surprising chords was greater, to the contrabass player, each and every one of them played the same thing as before, but differently. But this “differently” was not only desired, but for me much closer to the truth about music, as it was much more palpable for me.
This situation translated into other, also heavier, musical genres. Was it the live recording Metallica “S&M” or electronics from Yello “Toy”, the most important aspects of the new “U” device, increased resolution and added energy, were translated into better showing of the smallest musical nuances. But what is most important, the I never observed the sound approaching the border of good taste uncontrollably. The people from Lumin, and only they know how, were able to ramp up the phenomenality of the presentation in such a way, that when the most spectacular sonic peaks are plucked from the background, they were not placed in front of anything else, but only their being was stronger accented. This is important, as for example on the mentioned “Toy” lack of control of the ease of placing the stronger notes in the ether would result in the enamel on your teeth cracking and crumbling. But this is only one side of the coin. I am hinting at rock with the help of a symphonic orchestra. In this case, the overall vitality and timing allowed us to brilliantly catch the work of a group of bassists or violinists from a stadium filled with concert levels of decibels. In a lesser presentations such sections are only blurred blobs, while now they are still grouped, but individual instruments. And the U2 was able to show it cleared than its predecessor. This does not seem much, but I assure you, we get a completely changed, and at that much better, point of view on the listened material.

Finishing the review, I need to share with you my opinion, if the new incarnation of the Lumin Mini – called now U2 – is worth you moving to it. From our experience we know, that a novelty does not necessarily mean evident progress, sometimes it is just a shift of priorities, and this not something you would opt for with a sound source. But in this case things are absolutely clear, the improvement of quality of the reproduced sound is significant. And wide – let me remind you of the most important aspects: better resolution and pacing, so when you are looking for nice timbre, good control of the bottom range and vivid reproduction of the treble, then the tested Lumin U2 Mini has a big chance of reigning the hearts of most music lovers, and also many of the discerning audiophiles. What can I use to support my opinion? I will not start repeating all the assets again, just please look back at the description above, it makes clear, that we deal here with a device that you might even buy without listening, or at least, get acquainted with personally. You will not regret it, as it is absolutely worth it.

Jacek Pazio

System used in this test:
– transport: CEC TL 0 3.0
– streamer: Melco N1A/2EX + switch Silent Angel Bonn N8
– DAC: dCS Vivaldi DAC 2.0
– Master clock: Mutec REF 10 SE-120
– reclocker: Mutec MC-3+USB
– Shunyata Research Omega Clock
– Shunyata Sigma V2 NR
– Preamplifier: Gryphon Audio Pandora
– Power amplifier: Gryphon Audio APEX Stereo
– Loudspeakers: Gauder Akustik Berlina RC-11 Black Edition
– Speaker Cables: Synergistic Research Galileo SX SC
IC RCA: Hijiri Million „Kiwami”, Vermouth Audio Reference
IC XLR: Tellurium Q Silver Diamond, Hijiri Milion „Kiwami”, Siltech Classic Legend 880i
Digital IC: Hijiri HDG-X Milion
Power cables: Hijiri Takumi Maestro, Furutech Project-V1, Furutech NanoFlux NCF, Furutech DPS-4.1 + FI-E50 NCF(R)/ FI-50(R), Hijiri Nagomi, Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord, Acrolink 8N-PC8100 Performante
– Accessories: Harmonix TU 505EX MK II, Stillpoints ULTRA SS, Stillpoints ULTRA MINI, antivibration platform by SOLID TECH, Harmonix AC Enacom Improved for 100-240V, Harmonix Room Tuning Mini Disk RFA-80i
– Power distribution board: POWER BASE HIGH END
– Acoustic treatments by Artnovion
Analog stage:
Drive: Clearaudio Concept
Cartridge: Essence MC
Step-up: Thrax Trajan
Phonostage: Sensor 2 mk II

Polish distributor: Audio Atelier
Manufacturer: Pixel Magic Systems Ltd.
Price: 10 990 PLN

Network playback: Up to DSD512; Up to 768kHz, 16–32-bit, Stereo MQA Decoding
Upsampling rates & bit depths: DSD256 upsampling option for all files; PCM 384kHz upsampling option for all files
Input: Ethernet RJ45 network 1000Base-T; Shared USB ports can also be used for storage, flash drive, USB hard disk
Digital Output Stage:
2 x USB: Native DSD512; PCM 44.1–768kHz/16–32-bit
Optical, Coax RCA, Coax BNC, AES/EBU: DSD64 (DoP64, DSD over PCM); PCM 44.1kHz–192kHz/16–24-bit
Streaming Protocols: UPnP AV, Roon Ready, TIDAL Connect, Spotify Connect, Flac lossless Radio stations, Apple AirPlay, Gapless Playback, On-Device Playlist
Supported Audio File Formats:
– Lossless: DSF (DSD), DIFF (DSD), DoP (DSD); PCM : FLAC, Apple Lossless (ALAC), WAV, AIFF;
– Lossy: MP3, MQA
Size (W x D x H): 300 x 244 x 60 mm
Weight: 2,5 kg

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