The Lumin brand was launched in 2012 by Hong Kong-based Pixel Magic Systems Ltd., a manufacturer of commercial grade receivers and set top box systems for broadcasters. While the birth certificate says Asian, though, the pedigree of Lumin products is German. You know, the country that's home to precision high-end audio brands like Burmester, MBL, and T+A, to name a few.
Prior to receiving the Lumin X1 for review, I had heard a couple of other Lumin network players at various regional audio shows and requested a review sample of one of their players. What I received for evaluation was not just any model, though, but rather the company's latest flagship: the Lumin X1 ($13,990). Lumin says they looked at the merits of their S1 and U1 players and then attempted to improve on every aspect of those designs.
By coincidence, the office of Lumin's United States Distributor, Mark Gurvey, happens to be located just a few miles from my home, so I made plans to meet him there to pick up the X1 player rather than having it shipped. While speaking with Mark, I learned that the Lumin X1 was purpose-built to serve as a standalone network player, unlike some of the other models in Lumin's lineup of network players. While the Lumin X1 certainly can be added to an existing system, all that is really needed is to add an amplifier (and speakers, of course). To that end, Mark shared that the company had also just introduced the Lumin Amp (also $13,990), and asked if I would also take the Lumin Amp to partner with the Lumin X1 and let him know what I thought of the combination. I agreed and made my way home with both. Not wanting to introduce more than one piece of new kit at a time, I left the Lumin Amp in the box until the last two weeks of the review period. By then I had become very familiar with the sound of the Lumin X1 connected to my reference system.
Just looking at the specifications of the Lumin X1, you quickly get the idea that this network streamer is making a case to not only compete with (and maybe beat?) the most elite streamers available today, but also those likely to come over the next several years. First, Lumin keeps power outside the streamer's chassis with a dual toroidal external AC-to-DC power supply. The external power supply is also available as an upgrade for Lumin S1, A1, U1, and T1 owners with its connection cable included.
Inside the X1 streamer's chassis, there's a dual-core processor that delivers native DSD512 and PCM768 playback at 32-bit resolution. Such capability should set up the device to be relevant for many years to come. The X1 also features dual ES9038Pro Sabre DACs with 140 dB dynamic range and a dual mono Lundahl transformer output stage. In addition, the X1 features dual-mono operation throughout and 32-bit precision volume control, PCM and DSD upsampling from the app, a FEMTO clock system with FPGA (field-programmable gate array) chipset distribution, and dual network capability. Networking options include built-in optical network support in addition to traditional hardwired Ethernet network connectivity. For PCM files, the X1 can play back FLAC, Apple Lossless (ALAC), WAV, AIFF, MQA, MP3, and AAC formats. There are no user-selectable digital filters available.
The X1 is intentionally a streamer/renderer/DAC, plain and simple, meaning there is no built-in music storage or CD ripping capability. This design decision by Lumin is to prevent the additional RF noise and vibration that is generated by these devices. The centrally located LCD display shows basic information, such as track name and length, artist name, file format, sample rate, and bit depth. The custom-designed Lumin app used to control the X1 includes features such as volume control, high resolution album artwork, album track lists, artwork caching, multiple tag handling, saving and restoring playlists, and automatic internet links to artists/album/songs. The visually rich app is compatible with iPad and iPhone (Generation 2 or above recommended), and Android tablets (4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and up). Support for Android phones is in development.
Unboxing the Lumin X1 player, I took a moment to admire its beautiful design. The Lumin X1 isn't your typical rectangular box, instead sporting a curved front face with recessed LCD display. The X1 measures 13.8 inches wide by 13.6 inches deep by 2.4 inches high and weighs 17.6 pounds. Also included in the box is the accompanying external dual toroidal power supply (4.2 inches wide by 13.2 inches deep by 2.4 inches high and weighing 8.8 pounds), a proprietary 8-pin DC umbilical cable to connect the power supply to the X1, a 110-120 volt power cable to connect the power supply to the wall outlet, and a generic RJ45 ethernet cable. Both the network player and matching external power supply casework is CNC machined from solid billets of aluminum, providing a seamless, high-end look.
The X1 is available in either a black anodized brushed aluminum or a raw brushed aluminum. The review sample I received was the raw brushed aluminum option. It is truly a gorgeous piece of kit. The finish catches available room lighting, causing the front faceplate and top to gleam, creating a truly opulent look.
Because the X1 was new in the box, Lumin recommended that I break the unit in for 400 hours. Lumin's opinion is that the unit performs at about 40 percent of its full potential straight out of the box. I know there are differing opinions on the topic of burn-in, but as a reviewer I bow to the manufacturer's recommendation on the subject (if they have one) to remove any questions of missed performance potential.
One design aspect of the streamer I should mention is that the back panel is recessed a couple of inches into the casework to hide the connection end of all cables. This design makes cable connections difficult, though, due to the lack of visibility. To work through that issue, I placed the X1 on its front edge on top of a piece of foam to provide greater visibility to the rear panel connectors. Following Lumin's advice, I flipped the power switch on the back of the power supply and left the X1 powered up for about 22 hours a day for the next three weeks.
With burn-in complete, it was time to connect everything up. As mentioned above, the Lumin X1 offers two wired options for network connectivity: a regular Gigabit RJ45 LAN port and a special optical network port. Each can be pre-wired independently but not used simultaneously. If the user elects to use the optical network connection, with its industry standard SFP Gigabit port, this provides complete isolation from network digital noise. However, it does require some additional accessories, such as an optical switch, that weren't provided.
One of Lumin's primary design goals with the X1 was to prevent or at least minimize the introduction of network digital noise wherever possible. This approach means there is no wireless connection option included. (You can still use your WiFi-connected mobile device as a remote, of course, but those commands are sent to the X1 via its wired network connections). Lumin opted to forego convenience in order to achieve the best possible playback sound quality. So, I opted to connect the Lumin to my network from the RJ45 LAN port to my router using an Audioquest Vodka Ethernet cable. I have a Synology NAS with my music library hard-wired to the router that served as another source. I also connected a 128 GB flash drive loaded with high-resolution music files as an additional source. Alternatively, a USB hard drive could be connected to the USB input.
Using WireWorld Silver Eclipse balanced interconnects, I then connected the X1 to my reference Classé Delta series amplifier. The Lumin X1 also provides RCA (unbalanced) output connecters. And if you prefer to use an external DAC, there is an available BNC Digital output on the back panel, but not an AES/EBU Digital output option. But given the terrific results obtained using the DACs built into this streamer, I really doubt very many people would opt for an external DAC in the first place.
After downloading the custom Lumin app to my iPad Pro, I set up the Lumin X1 to connect to my LAN as well as my subscriptions to Tidal and Qobuz. The X1 is also Roon Ready, so I accessed my Roon core from the app to browse my digital music library for playback. The Lumin X1 also supports Spotify Connect and the free TuneIn Internet Radio app. TuneIn offers over 100,000 radio stations and four million podcasts from around the world. You simply save stations to your Tune-In library and they appear in the Lumin app.
In addition, the Lumin X1 can automatically perform both Core Decoding and Hardware Rendering of MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) encoded music files (up to 384 kHz/24-bit). I found the Lumin app user interface to be well laid out and intuitive for basic operations, a bit reminiscent of the Roon interface. However, there is a lot of capability included, so to get new users up to speed more quickly with its numerous features and layered menus, Lumin also provides an online user guide for their app.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...