Lumen White Whiteflame loudspeaker

Rarely has the debut of a new loudspeaker company and its inaugural model created as big a buzz as did Lumen White and their Whitelight speaker at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show. Driven by Vaic tube amplifiers in one of the larger corner rooms at the Alexis Park Hotel, the big Whitelights had a look and a sound that attracted continuous crowds. Of the questions among audio cognoscenti that I overheard at the end of each day, two of the most common were "Hey, did you hear those Lumen Whites?" and "What? Can you speak louder?"

Sleek, curvaceous, and finished in cool blonde maple, the $38,000/pair Whitelights sounded as naturally alluring in that room as they looked; I found myself stopping in often to listen, usually dragging others in with me. The music had an unusually natural, nonmechanical quality that immediately put me at ease. It was like listening to a singer whose technical chops are so well-developed you're never aware of them—Mel Tormé, for instance, or Perry Como. (You think it's easy to relax like that in front of people and sing? Try it some time. Skip the singing, and Perry will still out-relax you.) The big Lumen Whites were like that. Granted, part of it may have been due to the amplifiers, or the combination of amp and speaker, but I suspect the speakers were responsible for most of the magic.

Whatever it was, the sound—even under show conditions—was special, and almost everyone whose ears I trust heard it. Each time I stopped in, I asked if Lumen White had found an American distributor. I figured that someone was going to get the first pair of Whitelights to review in America, and it might as well be me.

Unfortunately, its smooth, tapered lines make the Whitelight look smaller than it really is, which is too big for my medium-sized listening room. I had to wait for the scaled-down edition, the $24,000/pair Whiteflame, which looks bigger than it really is, and so fit easily in my room.

International Design
According to the company, Lumen White speakers are designed by the "Anglo-Italian Lumen White Research Group," founded in 1997, with administrative offices in London. The speakers are produced under license in Bad Blumau, Austria, by Musiclink Mechantronic. Well-damped MDF may be the norm for loudspeaker cabinets worldwide (never mind Rockport Technologies' sandwich of fiberglass and epoxy resin), but not for Lumen White. Their design features a proprietary 1"-thick wooden laminate (some dare call it "plywood") and no internal damping whatsoever. The Whiteflame is thus relatively light for its size. Research into dynamic airflow, pressure, and wave propagation led to the cabinet's wavelike shape, which comes to an extreme taper at the rear to form the narrow, almost cabinet-length vertical slit of a port.

Five concave, ceramic, inverted-dome Accuton drivers, made in Germany by Thiele and Partner (the name is not used to market the line in the US, to avoid confusion with Thiel Audio), are fitted to the front baffle: three 5" woofers in a proprietary "jetvalve" vent configuration, one 3.5" midrange in its own proprietary "biconcave" sealed enclosure, and a 1" tweeter. (A 1" pure-diamond tweeter is available as a $6000/pair option, and extends the frequency response to a claimed 100kHz.) The diaphragms of these highly regarded drivers are made of corundum, an aluminum oxide that is supposed to be the hardest known natural substance, after diamond. A patented electrochemical process is said to produce extremely rigid, lightweight, and well-damped cones. The result is said to be drivers that are "fast" and extremely linear, with uniform energy distribution, wide bandwidth, and breakup modes well above their intended ranges—almost everything you could possibly ask for in a driver.

In keeping with Lumen White's simple-is-better design philosophy, the three-way system's crossover network (at 180Hz and 4kHz) uses a total of seven components. The internal cabling is Synergistic Research single wire, and is "active shield-ready" via a small mini-jack just below the WBT five-way binding posts. The result is a loudspeaker that is claimed to be time- and phase-coherent, "resonant coherent," and sensitive (91dB), with a nominal impedance of 6 ohms and a frequency response of 30Hz-35kHz (no ±dB is specified, making that frequency range a basically meaningless spec). The Whiteflame is also claimed to have exceptionally low noise and outstanding ambience retrieval, as well as "fast" transient response, spectral "purity," and freedom from compression.

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