Lumin P1 streaming D/A preamplifier Page 2

The Lumin L1 is expensive for a NAS. However, when it is the only NAS on your network, it links automatically and seamlessly to the Lumin app: Fit-and-forget ease of use, which is especially welcome for those, like me, who have bad network karma.

Listening with Roon
I started my auditioning in "Roon Ready" mode, using Roon to stream audio data from the internal drive in my Nucleus+ server. In this mode, the P1 utilizes Roon's "RAAT" protocol, which stands for Roon Advanced Audio Transport. Still on a prolonged Rachmaninoff kick, I played Vladimir Ashkenazy performing the second Piano Concerto accompanied by Bernard Haitink conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra (16/44.1 ALAC file ripped from CD, Decca 4757550).


The track's elapsed and total playing time appeared within the blue ring on the right of the P1's display, with the elapsed time also shown as the portion of the ring highlighted in bold. Clicking on the small orange button on the Roon screen shows that the P1's volume was being controlled with Leedh. Using the app, I disabled Leedh. Though the volume was the same, a thin gauze screen was now interposed between the music and me. I reactivated Leedh and used it for the rest of my time with the P1.

The orchestra in the Rachmaninoff recording had excellent dynamics and a wide, deep soundstage. Ashenazy's piano had well-defined weight in the left-hand register, even when I changed from the Bowers & Wilkins 804D loudspeakers I reviewed in the January 2022 issue to the GoldenEar BRX standmounts. But to make absolute judgments on the P1's performance, I needed to play something with which I was intimately familiar.


I cued up Antony Michaelson's 2003 performance of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with the Michaelangelo Chamber Orchestra conducted by Robert Bailey (16/44.1 ALAC file ripped from CD, Musical Fidelity Records), which I produced. Engineer Tony Faulkner had done a superb job in the mix of presenting the image of Antony's clarinet in front of the orchestra in London's Henry Wood Hall; the soloist's careful placement was readily audible with the P1 decoding the bits. The clarinet's lower, chalumeau register sounded appropriately warm, and the delicacy of Mozart's orchestral scoring was preserved, with excellent soundstage depth.

Compared with the MBL N31 at the same volume using the MBL's slow-rolloff reconstruction filter, which is similar to the P1's filter, the P1's highs were slightly more forward-sounding.


What about DSD? I have been a fan of UK band Talk Talk since I was belatedly turned on to them by Stereophile's erstwhile assistant editor Stephen Mejias. I have a version of the track "Happiness Is Easy" in my library, ripped from a SACD of the band's 1986 album The Colour of Spring (DSD64 file, EMI 591452). I selected the track in Roon and pressed Play. "DSD 2.822 MHz 1 Bit" appeared on the P1's display.

The drum intro sounded natural on the P1, with well-defined attacks. The reverb surrounding the piano and acoustic guitar interjections was well-resolved, and the children's choir was placed well behind Mark Hollis's plaintive vocal. The sparse double bass and electric bass lines sounded suitably forceful, even on the diminutive KEF LS50s. The P1 does DSD well.


And MQA? Max Richter's post-minimalist reimagining of Vivaldi's Four Seasons caught my ear at a 2019 dealer event, and I subsequently found the MQA-encoded album, with violinist Daniel Hope and the Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin conducted by André de Ridder, on Tidal (24/44.1 MQA, DG). With 24/44.1 MQA, the FLAC file didn't unfold to a higher sample rate, but as decoded and rendered by the P1, the eerie-sounding strings that surrounded the bold solo violin in Winter's first movement were set well back in the soundstage. The lower strings sounded rich. Turning off MQA decoding with the Lumin app brought the midrange forward and reduced soundstage depth. Score one for the P1 and MQA.


Listening with the Lumin app
When you use the Lumin app, the P1 manages the music. The app's control screen allows a multiplicity of options: Switch on or off MQA decoding, Leedh processing, Lumin Streaming (which allows compatibility with Apple AirPlay), and Roon Ready operation. Preset the maximum volume and switch between Normal and Low volume ranges. Specify the desired output—analog, USB, or S/PDIF—and the polarity of each, direct or inverted. Select an input, remembering the last volume set. Specify whether to play CD data with or without deemphasis. And select what music to play: from whatever is connected to the analog inputs; from files stored on the L1 or other local servers; or from Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, other streaming services, or internet radio stations.


With the app (v7.2.0) installed on my iPad mini 2 running iOS 12.5.5, I selected the balanced analog outputs, set the Leedh volume to "79" (out of 100), called up the music library on the L1 NAS, and chose 11 Tracks of Whack, Walter Becker's 1994 solo album (16/44.1 ALAC ripped from CD, Giant 24579-2), which I had played with Roon after the Richter Four Seasons. My favorite track from Whack is "Book of Liars," which has a beautifully even-sounding bass line. To my surprise, the bass guitar had a better sense of drive than when I had played the file from the Nucleus's internal storage with Roon.


I wanted to compare what I had just heard from the L1 with the CD played on my Ayre C-5xeMP and connected to the P1 via an AES3 link—but I couldn't find it in my compulsively alphabetized CD racks! I therefore selected a track I did have to hand on CD: "Friends to Burn" from Jimmy Webb's Suspending Disbelief (16/44.1 ALAC, ripped from CD, Elektra 61506). Recorded and mixed by the incomparable George Massenburg and released in 1993, before the advent of the Loudness War (footnote 3), Suspending Disbelief is a rock album with dynamic light and shade.

This track's verses feature a relentless bass riff played by Leland Sklar. With the track sourced from the L1 and selected with the Lumin app, the bass line had a touch more of a certain chugging quality and the same improved sense of drive I heard with the Walter Becker track. With the same track on CD, with the Ayre's digital output fed to the Lumin's AES3 input, the chugging was very slightly better defined, and, if I had to swear to it on the first issue of Stereophile, there was a little more space around Russ Kunkel's drums. A close-run thing, but overall, playback via AES3 edged slightly ahead when it came to presenting the music's sense of timing.


Finally, I switched to the P1's balanced analog inputs fed from the Ayre's analog outputs. The presentation was a tad lighter, but the sound of Sklar's bass guitar had excellent definition. Used as an analog-in/analog-out line preamplifier, the P1 did an excellent job of preserving the sonic character of the Ayre player.

I very much enjoyed my time with Lumin's P1. Not only is it a superb-sounding D/A processor, but its transparent-sounding analog inputs and full video functionality are a welcome bonus. The Lumin app proved to be an excellent means of controlling the P1. And while I remain puzzled why the presentation with files sourced from the L1 UPnP server had more drive than with the same music played with Roon, I can recommend the L1 as a useful companion to the P1.

Footnote 3: The Waves L1, the first digital brickwall limiter with look-ahead, was introduced in 1994.—Jim Austin
Pixel Magic Systems Ltd.
US distributor: Source Systems Ltd.
San Clemente, CA 92672-6000
(949) 369-7729

rwwear's picture

Rather expensive but at least it has HDMI inputs unlike most other modern DACs.

Kursun's picture

I am disillusioned by some of the fancy and expensive equipment Stereophile reviews.
A $12.000 phono preamp with only 3 db overload margin...
A $10.000 streaming preamplifier with only 1.2 kOhm input impedance (really?)...
These are all very serious design flaws.

C'mon, your readers surely deserve better equipment, without getting ripped!

Jack L's picture


Any publishers need advertising sponsors to keep their journals running so the readers can read them. They are running a business not a charity.

So they would not & could not turn down any vendors' new components for review. This is their business 'law'.

Stereophile is a much better journal as it got a technical dept to provide its readers the bench measurement data vs the specs provided by the equipment manufacturers.

Yes, you are right: 1,240 - 1,260 ohm is rediculously way too low for any decently designed audio inputs. No wonder the Chinese manufacturer does not publish it. Who would spend 10 grands to buy such lousy design & built cheap in China ????????????

Jack L

Jim Austin's picture

So they would not & could not turn down any vendors' new components for review. This is their business 'law'.

We routinely choose not to review components offered to us for review, by advertisers and nonadvertisers alike. (There's no difference.) This should be obvious when you consider that far more components are released than that Stereophile reviews.

Jim Austin, Editor

Jack L's picture


I see. I stand corrected.

Jack L

TJ's picture

Thanks John, beautifully engineered beyond a doubt, and I always look forward to your intriguing analyses of the sound quality. But on the topic of SQ, what about digital room correction? That's becoming a core component of a modern, transparent audio system. In comparison, a network streaming DAC with DSP takes SQ to a new level, eg the miniDSP SHD with Dirac 3 and much else at almost a tenth of the price. A paradigm change?

Glotz's picture

JA's measurements, but not his ears... huh.

Sounds like there is no trust.

His review is important; these comments above are not.

I would really love for JA to review the latest Wadax Network Streamer and its 'wave-shaping' controls for getting closer to a more perfect analog waveform. I think it might address some of his consternation regarding the AES3 and network streaming comparisons he brought up in the review.

rex's picture

Peter Wklie, Project Manger at Lumin, who seems to have the job or answering all enquiries about Lumin
on AudioShark: answered Why their might be sonic benefits of the L1 over the Nucleus.

He writes:
"Unlike a typical NAS, the L1 eliminates all non-essential network services, so there is less network traffic that is unrelated to music transfer, and the L1 itself will not be affected by background detection of network file (and other) services by computers. Since digital audio is heavily affected by timing jitter, I have always wondered whether this aspect of L1 can result in audio improvement, however minimal it may be."

I have both the L1 and the Nucleus with ssd drives and I do hear an improvement of the L1, wether playing files or streaming from Roon. However it's minor and not as easy as to detect the bump in quality as compared to playing anything from a computer.

The fact that Mr. Atkinson can hear a difference is no surprise.

bradchaus1960's picture

you dont suppose you are actually tossing yourself when you listen to this thing or writing the review, and waiting for the advertising contract to be signed?

John Atkinson's picture
bradchaus1960 wrote:
you dont suppose you are actually tossing yourself when you listen to this thing or writing the review...


bradchaus1960 wrote:
...and waiting for the advertising contract to be signed?

Sigh. Although I have the title of Technical Editor, I am a freelance contractor and have no connection with Stereophile's advertising department and no insider knowledge of which companies advertise. And even when I was the magazine's editor, there was no connection between advertising and editorial content. See this essay I wrote in 1996: Editor Jim Austin practices the same policy.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile