Lumen White Whiteflame loudspeaker Page 2

Some turntable designs use heavily damped platters and plinths to squelch resonances. Others take the opposite approach, using light, rigid materials to quickly evacuate and dissipate energy rather than control it. Both strategies seem to work, and the latter is clearly the Lumen White approach to speaker design. The company claims that the elimination of damping, a hard and rigid cabinet, and careful attention to airflow and energy evacuation, enhance the retrieval of micro-information, result in pitch-black backgrounds, and improve the overall naturalness of the sound. Are these claims for real? From what I experienced at CES 2001, with no foreknowledge of Lumen White, it certainly seemed so.

Most speaker designs aim to tame resonances by using heavily braced MDF cabinets and internal damping materials. Rockport Technologies goes to fanatical, cost-no-object lengths in that direction for their speakers, and actually succeeds in damping virtually all cabinet resonances by using fiberglass shells sandwiched with epoxy. The resulting measurements and music proved, to my satisfaction, that the strategy works. Can a bold design that takes the opposite tack achieve equally impressive measurements and sound?

So Much for Claims
Whatever you think of the sound, there's no denying the Whiteflame's graceful good looks. Bruce Featherling of Acoustic Dreams, Lumen White's importer, set up the Whiteflames in my listening room, paying particular attention to the distance from the ports to the front wall. Too close to the wall and there was a bit of bass boom; too far away and the bass was a bust. Featherling feared the boom, but his final approved spots sounded bass-shy to me, so I planned to move the Whiteflames to their previous locations, closer to the wall.

But just as Featherling was about to get into his truck, he suddenly turned, hightailed it back into the room, and asked if he could move the speakers back. I told him that that was exactly what I was about to do. In their final final positions, the rears of the deep speakers were approximately 4' from the front wall, moderately toed-in; their front baffles were about 6' apart, elevated slightly on the supplied spikes.

Given how much time I'd spent listening to the big Whitelights at various hi-fi shows around the world, I didn't think I was going to be in for any great surprises with the slightly scaled-down Whiteflames, and I wasn't. Everything I'd admired under show conditions about the Whitelight's natural, unforced sound and ultra-high resolution of low-level detail heard was repeated in my listening room, but enhanced by the controlled home listening environment.

The first thing I noticed was the Whiteflame's relaxed presentation. By "relaxed" I don't mean soft or forgiving, because the Lumen White was anything but. As with the big, heavily damped Rockport Antares I reviewed in August, the Whiteflame's overall delivery had a nonmechanical quality right out of box, but especially in the bass. If the goal was to allow musical rhythms to flow with unforced ease, then that goal was met. Though no match for the Rockport in terms of bass weight and solidity (few speakers I've heard at home are), the small Lumen White was still impressive in that regard, and the undamped design achieved the same unboxy, nonmechanical sensation, while its rhythmic talents were nothing short of breathtaking.

The bass in my room was subjectively smooth and strong down to the claimed 30Hz region, with a quality and definition that made it equally adept at acoustic and amplified electric bass. The Whiteflame isn't a speaker you'll be buying for bass extension as much as for bass suppleness and its integration into the total acoustic picture. Subjectively at least, the design proved to my satisfaction that an undamped box can provide excellent extension, control, pitch definition, and—especially—speed without boxy colorations. Credit the cabinet design and, especially, the use of three relatively small, extremely stiff drivers.

Once I got above the bass/midbass area, I heard the Whiteflame's three greatest strengths: resolution, resolution, and resolution, from the midrange all the way up. The Whiteflame's greatest strengths were electrostatic-like resolution of low-level detail, its transient speed, and its overall transparency and clarity—strengths not hung out to dry by flabby, slow, mechanical bass. The low end kept up with the midrange/tweeter array to create an impressively seamless, effortless picture—but only after I'd replaced the solid-state Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 300 power amplifier with the tubed Music Reference RM-200.

Lumen White
Acoustic Dreams
RR 5, Box 429
Fairfield, IL 62837
(618) 847-7813