Lumin D1 Network Player


Lumin D1



 Somewhere over the past year, I have become more and more frustrated with playing music directly from a computer. When the stars are well placed, which means the musical compatibility of the computer, operating system, hard drives and DACs, not to mention data cables and power cables, computer music playback can bring impressive results. But to get such a combination, sometimes you have to go through the thorns.

While my Dell/JRiver 20/Cambridge 851D desktop system (the last component was recently replaced by a TEAC UD-H01 USB DAC) is capable of great sound, I am not at all happy with the constant electronic noise that comes with music playback on the Dell. Nor am I a fan of the JRiver Media Center software, despite its ability to deliver great sound on a properly configured system. To be completely honest, sometimes Media Center seems illogical to me in terms of everyday use. Yes, the software architecture is extremely flexible and gives users enough space to manage the setup of computer-based systems (or Baetis music servers), but sometimes I find myself thinking that such systems are difficult to handle.

Please note that I am not in any way criticizing the sound quality of Media Center, which for me is a reference. Rather, I think that this software is suitable only for those users who do not have the task of customizing their music playback and storage system to their needs. If you're a fairly advanced computer user, familiar with system setup and protocol setup, and don't mind having to tweak Media Center all the time, then this review probably won't be of much interest to you. Of course, among the impressive number of contributors to our magazine, there are quite a few such advanced users (and it may well turn out that all my skills will turn out to be unsuitable for comprehending the mysteries of computer audio).

On the other hand, skipped or jumbled music tracks (a problem I've encountered with many WAV and FLAC files saved over the years), a lost album art, various format compatibility issues, plus the distortion inherent in electronic playback, all of which will take some getting used to. transition from classic playback media, but the new generation of music servers gives us a ray of hope. Again, I am not blaming you-know-who for the above problems; I honestly don't know who to blame for this. I'm just listing some of the annoying features I've encountered in this new universe, the bugs that make me stay away from the new format.


However, when the need arises and the question is about downloaded and converted files, I want simplicity, similar to the plug-and-play scheme. Everything I've seen in reviews of products like the Lumin, Aurender and Sony (HAP-Z1ES) suggests that music lovers with a huge collection of digital files (my music library currently contains over 2 TB) will no longer have to sacrifice sound quality and musicality for ease of use. In reality, everything is not quite so, I will reveal the details below.

Despite the growing popularity of this product segment in the high-end firmament, perceived by some as the most advanced - and in my opinion also the most bizarre (more on this later) - many companies that were at the forefront of high-end are clearly not going to participate in it. . Firms like Musical Fidelity, Parasound, Pass Labs, Rogue, Audio Research and a host of others fall into this category. And there is one good reason for their concern. As a reputable manufacturer recently told me, the decision not to invest in "silicon" (slang for computer-based playback systems) involves potentially high initial R&D and manufacturing costs (up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions) and the fact

And yet, the number of firms willing to take on risk is increasing day by day. Companies like Aurender, Melco, Baetis, Bryston and Lumin - whose D1 server is the subject of this review - have changed how audiophiles store and listen to their favorite digital recordings, and they don't seem to be slowing down. It's safe to say that the synergy of Wi-fi, Bluetooth, and external hard drive storage technologies, combined with the key benefits of software encryption and playback, have taken digital audio to previously unseen heights (not to mention the constant advancement of external DAC technologies).

Long road to Jericho

All of which brings me to the subject of today's review: Lumin Music's mini D1 digital server. With dimensions of about 3/5 of similar audio components and with a small weight of 2 kg (excluding the supplied external power supply), the D1 is extremely attractive and well-made. Leaving aside the expensive CNC-machined aircraft-grade aluminum chassis we've seen in the top models S1, A1 (both with built-in DAC) and U1 (exactly the same as the A1 but without built-in DAC), the curved body of aluminum on the D1, the thicker aluminum bezel and the build quality that inspires confidence do not interfere with the elegance and give users a sense of solidity. Like the S1 and A1 models, the D1 has a high quality DAC, Wolfson WM8741 DAC - one chip per channel,

 

To bring the D1 into its $2,000 price bracket, Lumin has wisely ditched the costly, CNC-machined aluminum unibody found on higher-end models, dual-wired architecture, separate internal shielding wall, multiple output options (including HDMI), built-in a power supply unit based on a massive toroidal transformer and circuits for connecting various DACs operating in differential mode. But the basic software of the D1 and the topology of the circuits are exactly the same as those of the reference models. And just like that, D1 can offer different playback options. The latter include seamless playback of DSD and PCM files, as well as widespread formats like FLAC, WAV, Apple Lossless, AIFF, AAC (in an M4A container), MP3 and radio streaming. Tidal, TuneIn, Qobuz clients are built directly into the Lumin app. Other internet broadcasts can be played through Lumin by enabling the Airplay protocol.

The D1 supports sampling rates from 44.1 kHz to 384 kHz for PCM files (16 and 32-bit stereo only) and 2.8 MHz (1 bit) for DSD playback. Digital inputs include a 100Base-T Ethernet connector, as well as inputs for USB drives and flash devices. The external connected USB hard drive must contain a single partition with the FAT32, NTFS or EXT2/3 file system. Users can choose from XLR and RCA analog outputs, as well as high-tech BNC and S/PDIF digital outputs that support 44.1kHz-192kHz PCM and 16- and 24-bit DSD (DoP - DSD-over-PCM) 2.8 MHz, again 1-bit.


So far so good, right?

Now for the bad news: those who have spent long hours transferring recordings from their favorite CDs using the WMA codec (I am also one of them) are extremely unlucky. The Lumin server family does not support WMA. But don't blame Lumin. According to Lumin Pixel Magic Systems parent company employee On Li, “LUMIN does not support the WMA format. WMA files require a license from Microsoft to play, but they do not respond to our request." Here is your answer! Obviously Microsoft's interest in supporting WMA on a lot of music server platforms does not include Lumin (to be completely honest with Microsoft, companies like Cambridge Audio, JRiver and Sony do support the WMA codec, which means they managed to obtain the necessary licenses and permits from Big M).

For the end user, this means that in order to use D1, you will have to re-transfer records from a bunch of CDs in a format supported by Lumin. These include lossless DSD: DSF (DSD), DIFF (DSD), DoP (DSD); Lossless PCM: FLAC, Apple Lossless (ALAC), WAV and AIFF; or compressed (lossy) audio: MP3, AAC (in M4A container). For simplicity's sake, I chose iTunes as my CD migration program, and for a collection of about 500 CDs, it took two months to convert to ALAC or AIFF. I was also able to successfully process several CDs using Media Center (I haven't researched other well-respected packages like dbPowerAmp, but I will in the future). Backing up recordings from 500 disks that I placed on a Dell internal drive, on an external drive, Western Digital required nothing more than connecting WD to Dell via USB, opening the Dell Control Panel program, and dragging the iTunes music folder onto the WD icon. The backup took about an hour or less.


Lumin D1


By the way, if you suggested that by the time I turned to iTunes services, my level of frustration had crossed the Rubicon, then there is some truth in this. Just think for a minute. Imagine how some of your files, as promised in the review from Lumin, are played "without problems", while the rest are not, and all this for no apparent reason. It's fair to say that before I sorted out what worked with the D1 and what didn't, I repeatedly reverted to the idea of ​​declaring the product defective, putting it back in its packaging, and returning it to Mark Gurvey, kindly representative of Source Systems, Ltd. , Lumin's US distributor. But I'm glad I didn't, the path from disappointment to sonic bliss can hardly be called easy, and certainly not carefree.

Finally, Lumin emphasizes in the text on its website that it “uses the Linn UPnP AV extension and plans to share the Lumin application with other systems that also use this extension. However, as of today, when using systems other than Lumin, we cannot guarantee performance. The Lumin app does not allow you to control all UPnP devices."


Installation details

Installing the product was easy. After removing the D1 (as well as the external power supply and white cotton gloves) from its sturdy carton, I placed it on top of the Salamander Corsica 237 equipment rack, plugged in the power supply (the alternative Sbooster power supply provided by Mark turned out to be much better afterwards) and turned on the D1. I then downloaded the Lumin app to my iPad and opened a very helpful basic instruction file on a networked computer that was kindly forwarded to me by Mark (which is hosted on the Lumin website). I then connected my external hard drive, Western Digital 2TB (no NAS support) to the back of the D1 using the included USB cable. After that, I connected D1 to a free port on the NETGEAR Wi-Fi router using, again, the supplied Ethernet cable.

Plugged in and running (after fixing all format compatibility issues), playback through the D1 went smoothly. Thanks to the intuitive iPad app, playback is stress-free, system setup and operation was intuitive and easy thanks to the same app. Choosing which digital filter to use, phase inversion, DSD or PCM streaming plus the ability to output a 24-bit signal (either 176.4 or 192kHz) were all possible even when playing back records ported from the redbook CD specification. Occasionally, the D1 would not recognize a connected WD drive that went into power save mode after a period of inactivity and then started up again. When this happened, I simply unplugged the USB cable from the WD drive and plugged it back in.


For the reason that I wanted to evaluate the sound quality of the D1 as a networked digital player and as a digital transport, I used both its balanced analog and digital outputs. Using Silnote Audio's excellent Poseidon Signature interconnect cables (XLR), I connected the D1 balanced output to one of the balanced inputs on my main Parasound JC-2 preamp. I connected the D1 digital output from a separate connector on the BNC/SPDIF device (located on the back next to the Ethernet connector) to my main Cambridge 851D DAC using Audio Sensibility's Statement SE Silver S/PDIF digital cable (with a BNC to RCA adapter).

The process of comprehending the variety of controls on the iPad seemed challenging at first, but very quickly became intuitive. Like most other server/digital player apps I've used, Lumin's iPad app takes full advantage of the touch screen capabilities of the latter. Playing individual tracks or entire albums requires only a simple click on the icon of the selected album. Double-clicking opens individual tracks for each album. Clicking on the desired track causes it to play almost instantly. Alternatively, a long press on the selected album brings up a menu of five icons that provide access to additional playback options: Play Now, Play Next, Play Later, Play and Replace and Clear Selection. "Play Now" function, which I suspect will be the most used by users, instructs D1 to play the marked album from beginning to end. The rest of the options do exactly what their names say. Playlists are created in a similar way.


Lumin D1

 

For those who like to dig into the settings, the Lumin app provides countless playback functions. It is possible to upsample or downsample, convert PCM to DSD, and even convert from DSD to PCM. IMHO, my best achievement in terms of sound results was the upsampling of files from 16 bit / 44.1 kHz to 24 bit / 176 kHz. The music sounded more relaxing, fuller and more atmospheric, according to my ears. Your reaction, of course, may differ. The point of the above is that whatever your preferences are, the Lumin app will most likely accommodate them.

The Lumin app is so well thought out that the folks at Pixel Magic Systems have licensed it to no one but Esoteric themselves. Esoteric's N-05 network audio player was the first product from the company to use the application in question and promises to expand the list of products involved in the future. According to Mark, even big manufacturers like Linn assume their customers will use the Lumin app.

Silky smooth sound

Plugged in and running (albeit not completely "warmed up", for which distributors recommend 400 hours of playback), the D1 sounded distinctively solid, voluminous and transparent. The transfer of images was at its best, although the very deep signs of the recording did not materialize to the full extent, at least in the initial stages of running. The sound front of the signal was transmitted without sharpness and jumps, although the attenuation sounded a little truncated in duration. However, first impressions were promising.

After several months of constant work, the miniature D1 really blossomed. The tonality of the instruments became neutral and refined. Compared to the sound out of the box, the run-in D1 sounded a little more relaxed and collected. The creation of the sound stage, especially the width and height, but also the depth, took place in a manner more suited to a precise analog device than a digital one. On the best recordings, both in pure digital form and on discs derived from old analog recordings, the D1 captures that inexpressible sense of spatial ambience, which again is usually associated with analog playback rather than digital.


On Boz Scaggs' longtime favorite of 2004's superb release Speak Low (Decca B0012026-02), the middle-aged rocker-turned-pop/jazz artist (his former raucous tenor now sounds like a gruff baritone) caresses every note. His ability to change his voice (although he constantly swallows consonants) ranging from airy hesitancy to gritty, strident insistence imbues each track with a deep source of emotional content. Boz's delightful performance of the jazz standard "I Wish I Knew" pulsates with musical energy, snare drums and percussion cymbals literally electrify the surrounding space with the lightness and airiness of higher octaves. The D1 provides more than just the semblance of relaxing simplicity and fluidity you would expect from similar devices on another base, but which you do not always get from a figure. And listen closely as D1 renders Bose's excellent expression when he sings at whisper level the phrase "Someone like you could love me" at the end of "I Wish I Knew". Wow!

The overall tonal neutrality of the D1 is also striking. Listen to something like Eighth Blackbird's excellent 2016 release "Hand Eye" (Cedille), a disc that showcases a wide range of inkjet, woodwind and percussion instruments in a sequence of eye-catching whimsical work, and you'll appreciate how little Lumin almost never brings its own tonal signature to music. Robert Honstein's playful 'Conduit', a jazzy, cheerful three-part watercolor that at times sounds like an infectious mix of Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt and vintage westerns, pulsates and dances with restless flutes, hypnotic the repetition of various percussion instruments (including one that sounds like a repeating pattern of wooden blocks),


Lumin D1


One critic described the aftermath of the Conduit as the sonic equivalent of "listening" to interactive digital fine art from Siegelbaum + Coelho, and I agree with that description with all my heart. The D1's ability to unravel the overlapping rhythmic and tonal signatures that pulsate asynchronously in final musical mixes into what otherwise seemed like an unintelligible sonic cacophony.

No matter how the D1 worked solo or in combination with the wonderful Cambridge 851D DAC, it never showed its bad side. Take Claudio Abbado's 1996 recording of Karlheinz Stockhausen's masterpiece "Gruppen" (Stockhausen: Gruppen - Deutsche Grammophon 447 761-2). Composed between 1955 and 1957, Gruppen is considered one of the most complex orchestral works ever conceived. Composed for three separate orchestras or groups (which means "gruppen" in German), the score calls for the physical separation of each group around the perimeter of the horseshoe figure. One orchestra is located where the circumference of an imaginary horseshoe is located, the other two occupy the ends of the horseshoe.

Stockhausen's use of a dislocation in the form of a horseshoe provides the maximum sound differentiation of various musical fragments of individual groups, but at the same time allows a separate cluster to be in the field of view of the other two groups. All three orchestras play their "individual" parts at the same time as other groups, while each orchestral part or module often uses a rhythmic pattern and time signature that is different from the other two. The net effect is to change the listener's perception of musical time. In the parallel musical universe of Stockhausen, individual notes and a musical cluster mean not so much as an integral musical impulse, sonority, tonal density and scale.



D1 never lost his temper on this most challenging piece of work today. The sound of the viola is different from the cello, just as bells are different from the marimba. It is easy to distinguish cowbell against the background of tom-tom and easily identify periodically connected African slotted wooden drums. Despite the ever-changing time landscape, the D1 maintains a good sense of forward momentum and dynamic grip all the time. This is truly noteworthy performance for the price.

The sense of composure and cohesion persisted throughout the review, whether I was using the D1's built-in DAC or feeding it to a Cambridge 851D. And sometimes I caught myself thinking that I could hardly distinguish between these two configurations. They both shone when recreating a vast sound field, and each delivered a stable and accurate image. With the D1 on its own, the difference was in the excellent speed of sound, which was most likely a steeper rise time, and also (most likely) a slightly lighter tonal balance. When working with the Cambridge DAC, it seemed that he was able to create a more convincing and more accurate sound picture than with the built-in DAC. But as soon as I decided to give preference to one of these configurations, another DAC immediately reminded me,

We take the Sbooster power supply

Toward the end of this review, Mark sent me a new power supply from Sbooster to try out. He claimed that with him the sound of D1 will reach a new qualitative level. And hell, he was right. When connected to a tiny D1, two features of the sound were sharply manifested.

 

The first feature is that the sound has become more relaxed. By "relaxed" I don't mean softening the sound front. Instead, Sbooster enabled the D1 to reproduce the front and decay in a more natural, flowing and convincing way. Consistency, connectivity, and instrumental warmth have increased markedly. In other words, it became easier for me to immerse myself and dissolve in the musical performance. The second feature - the depth of the sound stage and the clarity of sound images have improved significantly. Without the Sbooster, the D1 reproduced atmospheric images that seemed to float on the air, but without a strong sense of scene depth. Under the leadership of Sbooster, the instruments and voices have added in solidity and volume. The depth of the sound stage has increased so much that I could distinguish the arrangement of instruments and voices in the recording studio.



Like many audiophiles, the results of my interactions with third-party add-on vendors can be described as unpredictable. With some things you guess, Ginko Cloud (platform for vibration isolation) and ceramic Cable Elevators (supports for laying cables) come to mind, the rest of the experiments ended as quickly as they began (for example, a green felt CD marker). Obviously, Sbooster belongs to the first camp. It upped the sound of the factory D1 to a reverse level and should therefore be considered a must buy.


Lumin D1



Collecting thoughts together

Like many audiophiles, I'm still addicted to traditional two-channel audio playback (meaning a clever turntable/tonearm/cartridge combination with a high quality external phono stage or expensive reel to reel tape recorders) and I never thought the day would come when I would unequivocally state that in many ways digital reproduction now challenges its analogue counterpart. For me personally, that day has come! Lumin's tiny D1 network music player (with external Sbooster power supply) made me rethink the possibilities of digital audio and what music lovers can expect (and at a price many music lovers can actually afford).

Lumin has combined the traditional strengths of digital (low noise, linearity, and no background noise) with many of the defining qualities of analog sound (softness, coherence, musicality, atmosphere, and transparency) in a way I've never experienced before. Whether used solo or paired with an external DAC (like my main Cambridge 851D), the tiny Lumin (when connected via Sbooster) sublimely combines detail with musical warmth, micro-dynamic finesse with macro-dynamic punch, and inherent digital noiselessness with the sheer fluidity of analog. sound, volume and naturalness. The result is absolutely breathtaking.


If you've been trying to be on the safe side by waiting for a full-fledged digital music server market to take shape, then there's no need to wait any longer. With the D1 model, Lumin makes it possible for many music lovers to enter this area. Yes, each buyer has their own individual preferences, but all things considered, the tiny Lumin is a highly recommended purchase, especially when combined with an affordable power supply from Sbooster. They are both now my main digital components!

Price

Network music player D1 by Lumin D1 - 2000 USD
External power supply Sbooster - 375 USD




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1 Comments

  1. Very well written article. It was an awesome article to read. about listen to free music Complete rich content and fully informative. I totally Loved it.

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