Lumin Network Music Player
Input: Ethernet, 2x USB Type A (for USB storage devices)
Output: HDMI, Coax S/PDIF, 1 pair RCA unbalanced, 1 pair XLR balanced
Dimensions (H x W x D): 60mm (H) x 350mm (W), 345mm (D) Power Supply: 100mm (W), 295mm (D), 55mm (H)
Weight: 8kg, PS: 2kg
Availability: Through Authorized Dealers or Direct
US Distributor's Website: www.sourcesystemsltd.com
The Lumin Network Player is the first and currently the only product from Lumin which is a trademark of Pixel Magic Systems Ltd. The latter's core business "...is to develop innovative technologies for the home theater video processing/scaling products and high definition TV related products with advanced software programming and design." I learned from an interview with Lumin on Positive Feedback Online (see interview) that the Lumin player essentially came about because the guys at Pixel Magic Systems are audiophiles and they couldn't find a DSD-capable network player. So they built their own.
I've seen a few other examples of a hi-fi product popping up out of a non-hi-fi company and the Murata Super Tweeter comes to mind as one good example of an audiophile employee leveraging the company's technology to feed their passion for audio. In the case of Murata that technology is ceramics and in the case of Pixel Magic that technology is video processing including creating "...a world-first by developing a Linux-based video processor under the successful 'Crystalio' brand".
The Lumin UPnP Network Player is a Linux-based player and DAC with a digital volume control all wrapped up in a gorgeously smooth machined 17+ pound slab of solid aluminum. The only thing on the Lumin's gently curved face is a recessed display that illuminates the track title, artist, file format, sample rate, bit depth, track number/total tracks in current playlist, and the total track duration inside a circle whose perimeter shows the elapsed time (nice). All control of the Lumin player is accomplished through a remote app. Lumin offers their own iPad app which is free but you can also use any number of third party apps including JRemote, Kinsky, PlugPlayer, and the Creation 5 Media app. I stuck with the Lumin app since it works really well.
The Lumin player supports the DSF (DSD), DIFF (DSD), FLAC, Apple Lossless (ALAC), WAV, AIFF, MP3, AAC (in M4A container) file formats as well as gapless playback.
Around back is the business end with all inputs including Ethernet, USB Type-A for FAT32, NTFS and EXT2/3 formatted USB storage devices (since firmware rev. 4.00 Oct 25, 2013). Outputs include HDMI audio out, Coax S/PDIF (BNC), and pairs of RCAs and XLRs. I'm not really sure how much use those digital outputs will have seeing as the Lumin's appeal appears to me to be the fact that it also has its own DAC but you can send both PCM and DSD (DoP) out via S/PDIF. The HDMI output allows DSD bitstreaming to a compatible DAC or processor.
One criticism regarding the Lumin's physical design is that it hampers regular switching of inputs and outputs (that I'd imagine only really happen in reviewer-ville), because the connections sit under and overhang (just like the Linn Klimax which the Lumin bears more than a passing resemblance to) making connecting and disconnecting difficult especially with locking connectors. Normal people would more than likely never be bothered by this or at most just once.
As you can see, the Lumin's inside is separated into two main compartments; one houses the networking components, while the other the DAC and analog components. Power gets its own carved out aluminum tunnel. The Lumin houses two Wolfson WM8741 DAC chips, 1 chip per channel, and you'll also spot a pair of Lundahl LL7401 output transformers. The networking side was developed by Lumin so it is not an off-the-shelf board which is a good thing, imo. According to Source Systems, Ltd. the Authorized US Lumin Distributor, "The heart of the system uses a MIPS core CPU and 4GB of single level cell (SLC) flash memory and 2GB of RAM. Lumin heavily modifies Linux for use as the embedded operating system. A custom high speed FPGA processor is included and is programmed by the factory. During operation, all processes are stored in RAM. For Internet isolation and for use as an audiophile component, Lumin adds a pulse electronics LAN discrete transformer. To locally cache large playlists and enable gapless playback, flash storage and on board memory provide for an almost instantaneous response time for album, artist and title search. Each output channel is fully balanced and the analog output stage benefits greatly from dual Lundahl LL7401 isolation transformers and L49860 audio op-amps."
The dual-toroidal power supply sits in its own aluminum enclosure and connects to the player via an attached umbilical cord. On a whole the Lumin is one of the best-built devices to have come through here.
After you connect the Lumin player to your network, it goes about discovering your UPnP NAS devices. I had the Lumin catalog my Synology DS212 NAS since Lumin recommends either Synology or QNAP NAS devices and my Synology houses my AIFF library along with DSD titles. Lumin also "strongly" recommends running the free MinimServer UPnP server software, in part because it supports DSD playback, so I installed it on the Synology NAS which was a few step process detailed on the MinimServer website (see installation instructions). Once MinimServer was installed and I had the Lumin app up and running on my iPad, "MinimServer [DiskStation]" showed up in the connected devices (along with my WD MyBook NAS). I selected the Synology and then hit Options>Update Library and within a few minutes all of my music along with its cover art showed up in the Lumin app ready to play (according to Lumin this first library scan updates at "approximately 250 albums per minute").
The one issue worth noting with MinimServer is it does not automatically rescan your library so when you add new music to it, you have to manually refresh your library so it shows up in the Lumin app. This is accomplished through the MinimumWatch app that you load on your computer. Once you refresh your library, you then need to refresh the Lumin app. While this isn't a big deal nor is it time consuming and it performs these processes in the background so your listening is not interrupted, in an ideal world this would all be done automatically on a regularly scheduled basis.
I also connected a USB drive just to test it out and everything worked as expected. The drive shows up as "LUMIN USB Music Server" and once you select it the Lumin goes about its business of reading the drive's contents. Once this is done, you browse and play just as you would with NAS-based music.
There are a number of parameters you can set in the Lumin app, too many to list here (see Lumin's App Page for more info), but one that may be of special interest is the ability to up or down sample PCM data for each sample rate as well as convert PCM to DSD on the fly. Of course you can also set things to run natively which is how I chose to run. You can also adjust the front panel display's brightness, turn the digital output on/off, invert phase (manually), along with a host of other user-defined playback behaviors and settings.
I will also add up front that I had no issues playing back all manner of PCM resolutions and formats up to DXD (24/352) and DSD without a hitch or hiccup. DSF metadata was also properly displayed including album cover art. Many of the network players that use the popular StreamUnlimited Stream700 streaming client are limited to certain FLAC compression levels (4-8), PCM resolutions up to 24/192, some do not support Apple's file formats, and at present none of them support DSD. From a purely data processing perspective, the Lumin appears to be lighting the way (I know but I couldn't help myself).
Lumin Talks the Talk
There's nothing worse than being overdressed. It typically means your trying too hard to show you can do something well that you really can't. The Lumin Network Player, however, appears to have been designed from the inside out. I spent many hours over many days and weeks just listening to the Lumin and I really have nothing I can find to complain about. It is at once detailed, delicate, smooth, without edge or etch, and it throws out a nice physical sound image that is very easy to fall into. Overall I'd put the Lumin on the dry side of the spectrum so I preferred pairing it with the Leben CS-300XS over the Pass INT-30A. With the Leben, music had more of the burnished glow that I find emotionally engaging.
I found the Lumin app to be easy to figure out, very responsive, and a pleasure to use. I'm not really a fan of creating and saving Playlists but you can do so easily within the Lumin app if you so desire. Tapping and holding your finger over an album cover or track brings up the options to Play Now, Play Next, Play Later (adds selection to the bottom of the playlist), and Play and Replace which clears the playlist. In this same window there's artist/album info along with an "I" info button. Tapping on these "I" buttons brings up another window with associated album or artist data provided by LAST.FM. While this information is not exhaustive, it does offer useful information for most of the music you're likely to play unless you play a lot of unlikely music in which case you probably know more about it than LAST.FM does.
Within this same window you can also tap on the Artist name which will bring up all music by this artist in the Artist view mode. Other views include Album, Song, Genre, and Year. There's also a search feature that will search within these views. One slight oddity is the search results are returned within the context of everything else. So you do not get just a list of what you searched for, rather you get what you searched for highlighted along with everything else. That said, I found that working with the Lumin app was more akin to playing and soon into my playtime the app receded into the background allowing the music to stay in the foreground.
The Lumin played all of my music without issue up to and including 64x DSD. The Lumin does not support 128x DSD which I find to be a nonissue since I don't have one album's worth of music in that format and I don't expect we'll be seeing much in the near future. Regardless of format, the Lumin offered up a very musical and enjoyable presentation. Of course better sounding recordings sounded better but overall I did not find that the Lumin limited my listening based on a recording's sound quality. The Lumin's upper registers are sweet and soft which is a good thing in my book and help account for its recording quality agnosticism. All of the various sonic minutiae were well represented and well balanced making for a natural, if a touch sterile-sounding sound picture when coupled with the Pass INT-30A. Again, I've heard more lush presentations, more spit and golden-hued body from sax, more spit and gravel from Tom Waits, but this strikes me as a matter of preference and system synergy as opposed to objective performance.
I mostly used the Lumin player with its volume control maxed, preferring the volume controls of my integrated amps. For day-to-day use I would not recommend relying on the Lumin's volume control. I found that it did not offer as seamless a presentation as the Pass or Leben especially at lower volumes where music began to sound a bit more sonically bleached. The volume slider in the Lumin app was also the only aspect of its performance that stuttered. From the Lumin webite, "The app volume control digitally adjusts the output from LUMIN. This is not necessarily the highest quality method and therefore we recommend that you use your amplifier's remote control for this purpose."
While not the most taxing of recordings to reproduce, I listened to the entirety of Ali Akbar Khan's Indian Architexture (DSD download from Acoustic Sounds) and it was a heavenly experience. Nearly two hours of some of the most meditative and sensuous sarod sounds your likely to encounter and they're recorded so well you may as well have been there. Every nuance, every subtle twinge and twang of Ali Akbar Khan's mastery was delivered in its entirety. A lovely, moving experience.
A Network Player that Plays Well
I was nothing but impressed with the Lumin Network Player and it strikes me as a well-conceived and very well executed product. Not only does it sound wonderful but the Lumin app is a pleasure to use and everything worked without incident with PCM, DXD, and 64x DSD sources. To state the obvious, the Lumin negates the need for a computer in your playback chain and that seems to be a common and understandable goal. Couple this with an elegant minimal industrial design and excellent build quality, and you've got yourself one very good reason to explore your music library ad infinitum.
Also on hand and in use during the Lumin Network Music Player review; Moon MiND Network Music Streamer, Bluesound Vault