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SERVER/LAN SWITCH

Lumin
L2

Manufacturer: PIXEL MAGIC SYSTEMS Ltd.
Price (in Poland): PLN 19,490

Contact: Pixel Magic Systems Ltd., Unit 603-605
IC Development Centre, No. 6 Science Park West
Hong Kong Science Park ⸜ HONG KONG


www.LUMINMUSIC.com

» MADE IN CHINA

Provided for test by: AUDIO ATELIER


Review

tekst WOJCIECH PACUŁA
zdjęcia „High Fidelity”

No 237

February 1, 2024

In 2013, LUMÏN broke into the pantheon of global audio file player manufacturers by offering DSD file playback. Its first player simply named Lumïn was a challenge to the competition. We test the company's latest product, the L2 model, which is a server and LAN switch in one.

"AHA!" - I THOUGHT as soon as I read the news that, based in Hong Kong, Lumin had unveiled its latest product (the name is stylized as 'Lümin' in the company materials). And - no, it wasn't another audio player or transport, but a device that the company didn't offer before: a NAS drive and a LAN switch in one (NAS = Network Attached Storage, LAN = Local Area Network).

While Lumin had a device called the L1 in its product line for years, it was just a NAS drive and took the form of an oblong unit, similar to the company's power supplies. Swapping the unattractive chassis for the nice, mechanically refined one used, for example, in the T3 player I use, where there is also a display, and then adding a LAN switch to that was therefore a good idea. And that's where my "aha!" came from.

L2

The L2 IS A DEVICE that combines two functions. A seemingly simple solution, but rarely encountered; truth be told, this is the first time I've seen it in an audiophile device. The Lumin has a sturdy chassis made of aluminum plates, measuring 300 x 60 x 244 mm (W x H x D), with a thick, sloping front panel and a display with a blue filter applied on it. The sockets are placed at the rear under a protruding top panel, intended - by its creators - to protect cables from damage, and invented by Linn, the company that inspired Lumin for the first years.

All of the company's devices share a similar visual design, which has hardly changed since the launch of its first player in 2013. These are undersized products in aluminum housings with an alphanumeric display on the front panel, over which a blue filter has been applied.

SERWER • The manufacturer says of the new product: "Music Library & Network Switch", and elaborates as follows:

An advanced dual-drive music server that requires zero configuration and includes a 4-port audiophile LAN switch.

Lumin L2, → www.LUMINMUSIC.com, accessed 3.01.2024.

As usual, the name needs clarification. Well, it is, in fact, a NAS drive with server software, written by Lumin engineers. However, since in the computer world devices of this type are called servers, this is how it is most often called. But... The audio world, bewildered by the divergent naming, in order to emphasize the specialization of the devices in terms of audio files, gave them their own name: "music library".

And that's also the basic function of L2 - it's supposed to be the place where we keep audio files. In the age of streaming, this may seem like a quirk, but still many of the files available on Tidal or even Qobuz, not to mention Spotify, are different from those that leave the studio. Separate mastering is required for each music service, with different requirements, including different compression levels. Buying the same files from one of the online stores or directly from the publisher is much more likely to get the ones with the lowest compression.

The Lumin server is a dual-drive device, based on solid-state drives (SSDs). We can install in it two drives of 2TB each or two of 4TB each; we are testing the former version. Let me remind you that the - now obsolete - L1 offered a capacity of 2TB for SSD or 5TB for HDD; SSD = Solid-State Drive, HDD = Hard Disk Drive. Lumin, as we said, was programmed by Lumin engineers and supports DSD files such as DSF and DIFF, as well as PCM: FLAC, Apple Lossless (ALAC), WAV, AIFF, as well as MP3.

The device is also a LAN switch. Thus, on the rear panel you will find four Ethernet sockets - two RJ45 type and two optical SFP; SFP = Small Form-factor Pluggable.

| SFP

SMALL FORM-FACTOR PLUGGABLE is a small transmitter/receiver that allows you to expand the functionality of your devices. The signal in it can be transmitted optically and electrically. It is also known as a mini-gigabit (Mini-GBIC) interface converter. It can be connected directly to the physical port of a network device. It can also realize electrical and optical signal conversion to allow bigger distance between a transmitter and receiver.

SFP has been used in audiophile systems for some time, as it galvanically isolates the Ethernet-connected system and audio devices, thus eliminating high-frequency interference. One of the first companies to use it on a large scale was Japan's Melco. Lumin first applied it to its X1 file transport (test → HERE).

Since the T3 player we use from this company does not have an SFP slot, in order to connect it via fiber optics you need to get a converter module, for example from Audiophile Digital Optical Technology.

ALONG WITH LAN ports, the L2 also offers a USB 3.0 Micro Type B Slave input for connecting a PC. This is used to transfer files directly from a PC. Next to it, you can see two USB 3.0 inputs which, as the manufacturer says, are "reserved for future use," perhaps for external USB drives. There is also a "standby" button on the rear panel, a power switch and a terminal for artificial ground, unfortunately not a very convenient one. The display cannot be turned off. In truth, I would have preferred to see higher-end LAN jacks, such as those offered by Neutrik.

Power is provided by a switching power supply developed by Lumin's parent company, Pixel Magic Systems, for advanced industrial products. Importantly, the L2 needs no configuration and is ready for operation as soon as it is connected to the power supply and LAN. The device is available in black or silver.

SOUND

HOW WE LISTENED • Lumin's L2 stood on the top carbon shelf of the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition Mk II rack on its feet. They are made of sheets of aluminum lined with felt. Therefore, as with the D3 player, I placed Acoustic Revive RKI-5005 anti-vibration pads under them to keep them from slipping. The files were played through a Lumin T3 player.

During the test, for comparison, I used a SYNOLOGY DiskStation DS410j NAS (UPnP) with four HDDs, 2 TB each, and a SILENT ANGEL N16 LPS LAN switch with its two modules in series, powered by a TIGLON TPL-2000A cable; files were transferred via a TIGLON TPL-2000L LAN cable; more on this → HERE |PL|; the router was powered by a JCAT Optimo 3 Duo power supply. The L2 was powered using the X-DC350M2R Improved cable.

» Recordings used in the test ⸜a selection

⸜ DIANA KRALL, This Dream of You, Verve Records B0032519-02, FLAC 24/44,1 (2020).
⸜ DUSTY SPRINGFIELD, The Look of Love w: BURT BACHARACH, Casino Royale, soundtrack, RCA Victor/?, FLAC 16/44,1 – rip z CD, (1967/?).
⸜ MUDDY WATERS, Folk Singer, Chess/Classic Records HDAD 2008, FLAC 24/192, rip z DVD-Audio (1964/2005).
⸜ ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER, Caverna Magica, CBS/Edel Records 0166672CTT, FLAC 16/44,1 (1982/2006).
⸜ ARNE DOMNÉRUS, Jazz at the Pawnshop 30th Anniversary, Proprius PRSACD 7879, dsf – rip z SACD (1977/2006).
⸜ DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET, Time Out, Columbia Records/SME Records RGS 4535, dsf – rip z SACD (single layer) (1959/2000).
⸜ DIRE STRAITS, Brothers in Arms Vertigo 9871498, „20th Anniversary Edition”, dsf – rip z SACD (1995/2005).

» The recordings featured in the test (and more) can be found on the HIGH FIDELITY playlist on the TIDAL streaming service → HERE; the files used in the test differ in format and resolution from those available on Tidal.

»«

NAS • The L2 connected to the LAN via an external switch turned out to be a device that played music in an orderly and clean manner (by "played music," "sound", etc., I mean the changes made by the L2 to the sound). My Synology server was much more sluggish in comparison, and its sound muddled. But it also, so it seemed to me, showed the timbres more nicely.

All the songs played in succession, whether it's ˻ 1 ˺ But Beautiful DIANY KRALL, ˻ 7 ˺ The Look of Love version by DUSTY SPRINGFIELD, from the film score of the movie Casino Royale, or MUDDY WATERS from the album Folk Singer, each time the way the soundstage was arranged, the precision in rendering the slam, dynamics, speed, etc., of the of instruments were above average, Not only much better than from Synology, but also most NAS drives I've dealt with.

However, I had a problem with the timbre. That is - everything was in place, and yet it lacked a bit of fill, some deeper layer that makes the presentation multidimensional. After some time, when I got used to this presentation, I realized that this was a bit of „me” problem. After all, the L2 as a NAS drive is a very resolving device and what I took for saturation with the Synology was, the way I see it, a blur.

Lumin presents everything with a great timing, which is why recordings are so clean and precise with it. When you forget about the artifactual - as it turns out - warmth, you start to hear more, not just clearer, music played more fully, not just more accurately. These would seem to be cosmetic changes, but in fact they are adjustments at an absolutely fundamental level. This is the level on which everything else is built.

As a result, both the murmuring in front of the "cave" from ˻ 1 ˺ the title track that begins the ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER’S Caverna Magica, as well as the noise of the Pawnshop club room recorded with the music on ARNE DOMNÉRUS's Jazz at the Pawnshop, all were with L2 very clear, accurate and exceptionally well-defined. Yes - definition is the hallmark of the NAS section in this unit.

LAN SWITCH - However, when I connected the LAN cable of the player not to an external switch, after all, a very good one, but directly to the tested device, which thus began to work as a NAS drive and LAN switch, it turned out that though not exactly, I was a little right, in that I was missing a filling, or richness, if you will.

The difference was clear from the outset, but the conviction grew with time until there was no going back. From there, formulating a conclusion of this form was already simple: a) L2 works best as a NAS/LAN system and b) is really very, very good at what it does. I would say that he is extremely accurate, but this word does not connote well to everyone and is understood as "average," "mediocre," etc. For me, on the other hand, "accurate" is an extremely high-value term because it means something that I can, without any "buts," rely on.

| Software

THIS IS A GOOD TIME to mention the L2's performance. I've listened to dozens, maybe even a hundred tracks with it in different formats and different resolutions, and never did it freeze or even "think about it". Yes, the transition from FLAC to DSF (DSD) took a tad longer than playing the same type of files in succession. However, the delay was minimal, and the songs played without clipping the beginning, without any problems. This may seem insignificant, but in the daily use of NAS drives it is crucial. So it seems that the server program written by the Lumin crew is really stable and "trouble-free".

THE ACUURACY I was talking about a moment ago in case of the Lumin means that recordings are wonderfully differentiated, primarily by minute differences in dynamics, sound attack, in tone. The L2 working as a NAS and switch to what I already had in a situation where it only worked as a network disk, adds a much more refined approach to these elements.

Seemingly of little importance it actually changed my perception of music. Previously, I appreciated what Lumin was doing, and I also felt respect for the people behind it. My heart, so to speak, however, remained cold. I could live with such a sound and use the Lumin like a tool in testing, however, I have an undeniable feeling that I would not listen to music with it for pleasure. I would have to think for a long time before I would play an album with it.

Disconnecting the LAN cable between Lumin T3 player and the external switch and connecting it to the L2 changed this perspective by 180⁰. Now a proper richness/fill was added to the resolution. What's more, it even seemed that the speed of signal buildup was even greater in this configuration, and the dynamics more strongly felt. This was also the case with ˻ 5 ˺ Take Five by DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET, and I heard the same with ˻ 6 ˺ Ride Across The River, a track from the SACD ripped from the 20th anniversary release of DIRE STRAITS' Brothers in Arms.

It was also interesting to note that the sound in the full L2 configuration seemed louder than when the Lumin worked only as a NAS drive. Now the sound had a high dynamic range, but it was also three-dimensional. The Lumin is a very resolving device, as if the digital noise was low, so was the time blur of the signal. Therefore, the details were in very good proportion with the overall picture. And yet, one also had to appreciate that, compared to the Synology drive, the tested device is two steps ahead when it comes to the ability to extract small information from the signal.

Summary

LUMIN L2 IS A DEVICE that solves many of the problems of setting up an audio file-based system. This alone made me think that this is something for me as soon as I read about it. However, if it didn’t play the music well and in a the way I like it, I would have had to think twice before deciding. Fortunately, it does, but with the L2 working as a system, not just as a LAN switch or NAS drive.

Together they create a very resolving, accurate device that clearly shows the differences between file types. But it is also music-friendly. There is no room for euphony or warming in its sound (to reiterate: I mean changes made in the sound). Instead, there is credibility, reliability and simply "fun" coming from listening to the music stored on the hard drive. And it is still, in my opinion, the best way to hear the files as close as possible to what the mastering engineers hear in the studio.

The L2 is thus both a functional and musically very pleasant device. My "aha!" thus found its solution, and I added a new device to „High Fidelity” reference system.

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Transmission protocol: UPnP AV
Supported file formats:
- DSD: DSF, DIFF, DoP
- PCM: FLAC, Apple Lossless (ALAC), WAV, AIFF
- Lossy: MP3, AAC (in M4A container)

Ports: 2 x Ethernet Network 1000Base-T, 2 x SFP, USB B 3.0 micro (PC), 2 x USB A 3.0
Dimensions (W x H x D): x 350 x 350 x 60.5 mm
Weight: 6 kg

THIS TEST HAS BEEN DESIGNED ACCORDING TO THE GUIDELINES adopted by the Association of International Audiophile Publications, an international audio press association concerned with ethical and professional standards in our industry, of which HIGH FIDELITY is a founding member. More about the association and its constituent titles → HERE.

www.AIAP-online.org

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Reference system 2022



1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|

Cables

Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|

Anti-vibration

Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

Isolators:
  • PRO AUDIO BONO Ceramic 7SN |REVIEW|
  • FRANC AUDIO ACCESSORIES Ceramic Classic
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Analogue

Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:
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  • PATHE WINGS

Headphones

Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC