Review: Lumin S1 - file player and DAC.

BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 11,792
Recently, I started thinking of doing a DAC upgrade in order to get a bit more performance from my main system. While the Auralic Vega I bought a year ago has been outstanding, after reading about the new Berkeley Reference DAC, and others, I wanted to step up. Also, even though I do not have any DSD files, and the Vega could play, DSD, I wanted to make sure when I did start downloading DSD I would be ready.

My previous file player/DAC combination was the Bryston BDP-1 and Auralic Vega DAC. While this combination sounded great, it required cable tweaks to get the best performance from it. On the BDP-1 I had a Shunyata Sigma Digital power cable, and the Vega had a Shunyata Alpha Digital power cable. Both units were connected via a Shunyata Ananconda AES digital cable. These cables greatly improved the overall sound quality, and allowed both pieces of gear to work at their optimum level.

While I liked the idea of having an external DAC that I could upgrade at any point, the extra cost of the DAC power cord, and the interconnect was in the back of my mind. Plus I wondered if those extra cables might actually be a hindrance compared to a one box solution. Anyway, while these thoughts were in the back of my mind, they weren't a driver for immediate action.

In addition to the Polk site, I also read three other sites that are a bit higher-end oriented. On one of the sites, the founder is also an audio dealer, and one brand he carries is Lumin. Lumin is a relatively new Hong Kong company whose initial product was a single box (file player and DAC) designed to play DSD files. According to what I read, it was a success. Now with their second generation they have expanded their product line to a variety price points.

Anyway, on the other site people have been buying these units from the dealer, and just love them. They have done shoot-outs with other DACs and mostly prefer the Lumin. One thing to remember here is that the Lumin is a file player, and a DAC. Basically, it is an SACD/CD player, but instead of reading files on a plastic disc, it reads files from a hard drive.

So, since I was in the market for a new DAC, and was wondering if having multiple boxes and cables could compromise the sound, I decided, after a few beers three weeks ago, to buy the TOL Lumin S1. It arrived a week later, and for the last two weeks it has been in my HT system, more on that in a bit.
Bud - Silicon Valley

Lumin X1
Sony XA-5400ES SACD
Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
Three 20 amp circuits.

Comments

  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 11,792
    Hardware:

    The Lumin S1 consists of two parts; the file player/DAC, and an external power supply. The power supply is actually two supplies; one for the file player and one for the DAC. The main unit is 'carved' from a solid aluminum billet, with the DAC on side, and the file player on the other. They are separated by a aluminum wall. I'm not sure of the weight, but it is hefty. More than the Bryston and Vega combined.

    Outputs are both balanced XLR and RCA. Also, there is a coax digital output if a much better DAC, at a reasonable price, is released in the future.

    The power supply connects to the S1 through a 6 pin umbilical, and has a standard IEC 15 amp connector.

    There is a blue LCD display on the front of the S1 showing song playing, time etc. Most importantly, it can be turned off. The power supply has an unobtrusive blue ring around the power button to indicate power.

    Software:

    There are two components here. One is the Lumin app for an iPad (no Android yet), and the firmware, which will get periodically updated. The app is mandatory as there is no other way to control the S1.

    Packaging:

    While I didn't take any pictures, it is well packaged to survive the trip from Hong Kong. It was triple boxed, and the S1 was inside of some soft protective material, and comes with white gloves. I left them alone.

    File Access:

    The standard methods, such as a NAS, are supported. Plus, like the Bryston, a direct attached USB drive is supported. This is what I use. I just moved the drive from the BDP-1 to the S1.

    Initial Setup:

    This was trivial. I simply attached the output cables (Shunyata Anaconda XLR) to the preamp, the network cable (Cat 7), the USB drive (Toshiba 500GB), the power cable (Shunyata Sigma Digital), turned the PS on, opened the Lumin app, and it discovered the S1. Ta-da, it was ready to go. However, immediately the app said a firmware upgrade was available, and asked if I wanted to install it. Yes, and it installed flawlessly.
    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 11,792
    edited April 2015
    Operation:

    The Lumin arrived on a Saturday via Fed-Ex. After setting it up, I scrolled through the folders displayed in the app, picked a song, hit play, and started listening. My first reaction was this sounds great for a brand new piece of gear. However, as I listened to more classical tracks I realized something was wrong. At certain frequencies, or notes, I was hearing distortion from the left speaker. Once I was sure I was hearing distortion I went ballistic, shut the whole system down, and moved into the HT for the rest of the day and night.

    On Sunday, I calmed down, and after troubleshooting, determined it was a issue with the left speaker. At that point I moved the Lumin into the HT system. On Friday night there was some type of power anomaly that caused both amps to shut off. Since each amp is on its own circuit I knew there was no way both breakers simultaneously tripped. After power cycling each amp, everything seemed okay, so I went to bed. Then on Saturday I discovered the problem.

    This actually worked out for the better, since it turned out the Lumin had a nasty firmware bug. Over the first week of use there were three times when a song started that after a second or so the Lumin would sent a burst of white noise that seemed louder than the music. If this had happened in the main system when it was turned up for rock I am sure it would have fried a tweeter. I contacted Lumin support via email describing the problem. The problem was random so I couldn't describe how to reproduce it, and the Lumin engineer couldn't reproduce it either. I started a thread on another forum, and some said they had experienced it, and others didn't. After a couple of days of back and forth emails, the engineer sent me a test version of firmware. I installed it last Tuesday, and so far there have been no issues.

    Sound:

    At the end of the day, this is what matters, and this is a big step up over the Bryston/Vega combo. Although the previous file player was no slouch, and I could easily live with it, the S1 is, for lack of a better word, much smoother and warmer. While the S1 soundstage appears pretty much the same as the BDP/Vega, it is more embracing. The detail of the Vega is there, but an edge is gone. For example, listening to jazz when the drummer brushes a cymbal you can easily visualize the brush smoothly moving across it. You are there with the band. This is a good thing when Norah Jones or Diana Krall is playing.

    The music background is quieter so that the music just exists in the air in front of you. I feel as if I can reach out and touch the singer. This really became apparent last night as it got later, and the living room ambient noise level dropped, and allowed every note in a song to be heard. Of course, like the reduced noise from Shunyata power cord upgrades, you aren't aware the background noise even exists until it is missing.

    When the S1 was in the HT I noticed it appeared to be sounding better as it got more time on it, and now in the main system I am reaping the benefits of that burn-in time. The main system is uber detailed, and well recorded music shines. The S1 seems to be making every CD file appear better. Of course, garbage is garbage, but the smoothness and warmth of the S1 helps all files. Also, this is with PCM files. I've read reviews that say DSD is much better on the S1. Since I have no DSD files I can't comment, but once I get some I will find out.

    The best criteria I use for evaluating gear is does it make me laugh. For whatever reason, when something works exceptionally well I find myself just laughing with pleasure at the sound, and last night this happened a few times. Of course, the rest of the system enables the S1 to sound so good.

    The 6 Moons review at the bottom gives a better idea of the sound.
    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 11,792
    Music:

    I have played all of my genres; string quartets, female jazz singers, and rock, both old and new. It all is perfect on each type. These are all PCM files, either ALAC or FLAC, both CD quality and high-res.

    Cost:

    List is $12k, however I got a nice discount. When you add up the cost of the BDP-1, Vega, two Shunyata power cords, and the interconnect cable, it is basically an even trade. However, now I have one less component on the rack, and a better power cord to move into the HT. All in all, a very good purchase.

    Dislikes:

    The chassis has an overhang on the top that hides the connections from view, but makes it harder to connect anything without pulling the S1 out.

    There isn't an iPhone app. The mPod app on the iPhone for the Bryston, while buggy, was ideal. I much prefer using the iPhone for a remote than my iPad Mini Retina.

    It turns out that the unobtrusive blue ring of light around the power supply button is annoying in a darkened room when it is in front of you. However, the Sigma Digital power cord is long enough to let me place the PS on a marble end table near the left of the rack, and the umbilical easily reaches the S1. Out of sight, and out of mind.

    Gear:

    If it wasn't for the gear the Lumin would not sound so awesome. I have spent a sizable amount of dinero assembling a very accurate, detailed, and quiet system. The Lumin fits into this environment like it was designed for it.

    Pass XP-20 pre, X600.5 amps
    Sony XA5400ES SACD
    Lumin S1
    Magico S5 speakers

    Shunyata Triton/Typhon for source
    Shunyata Cyclops (2) for amps
    Shunyata Z Anaconda XLR analog ICs
    Shunyata Z Anaconda speaker cables
    Shunyata Z Anaconda, Z Python, Z Cobra, and Sigma Digital power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3, 4 shelf solid maple rack, three 20 amp circuits.

    I feel a little sorry for the SACD/CD player. It has been months since it has been turned on. I probably should move it into the HT.

    Conclusion:

    If you are seriously thinking of going digital I highly recommend the S1, or one of it's less expensive siblings. I would expect them to also perform well.

    Lumin S1
    http://www.luminmusic.com/lumin-s1.html

    6 Moons review
    http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews2/lumin/1.html


    l5h08t6y4mz1.jpg

    4s8mh2l4sme9.jpg

    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,052
    Eventually you're going to hit that ledge on the deep end and get out of that pool, right?

    Congrats on a nice product. Wish you were a neighbor right about now.
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 11,792
    I think I am getting water logged, and it is time to get out of the pool. I really can't see any need for anything major in the future, but I will be getting my Shunyata Triton upgraded to the Triton 2 in the near future. Then that should be it.
    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,559
    edited April 2015
    BlueFox wrote: »
    I really can't see any need for anything major in the future, ....

    Sure. Whatever you say. :)

    Great review. I was not aware of the Lumin brand until you mentioned it.
    BlueFox wrote: »
    List is $12k, however I got a nice discount.

    No wonder you were so quick to toss out the DirectStream DAC, you had your sights much further upstream. B)
    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 11,792
    Well, if the DirectStream DAC didn't break the second day I had it then it might still be here. :)
    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,052
    So, the big question is - will you have me over this summer? My wife probably won't approve, but I want to hear your rig.
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 11,792
    LOL. Sure. However, the best listening time is after 11 PM on a week night, and after a few beers. I am always ready for an excuse to take a day off, and that would be a great reason. However, my little house is maxed out with stuff, so I would need to clear off a couch for you to sleep on.

    yuummpa8y1gq.jpg

    3iwvdlp5ty7s.jpg
    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 31,211
    Nice Fox, very nice. I suppose this means a Vega is coming up for a Karma ? In with 39.
    HT SYSTEM-
    Sony 850c 4k
    Pioneer elite vhx 21
    Sony 4k BRP
    SVS SB-2000
    Polk Sig. 20's
    Polk FX500 surrounds

    Cables-
    Acoustic zen Satori speaker cables
    Acoustic zen Matrix 2 IC's
    Wireworld eclipse 7 ic's
    Audio metallurgy ga-o digital cable

    Kitchen

    Sonos zp90
    Grant Fidelity tube dac
    B&k 1430
    Tad 803 speakers
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,559
    I expect that the cat has dibs on the Vega.
    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 11,792
    No, the Vega is in the home HT. It bumped out the Bryston BDA-2, which had bumped out the BDA-1. It's a vicious cycle. :)
    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 11,792
    Ken, thanks for merging the separate posts into one thread.
    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • vc69vc69 Posts: 2,501
    Thanks for the thoughts, BlueFox.
    -Kevin
    HT: Philips 52PFL7432D 52" LCD 1080p / Onkyo TX-SR 606 / Oppo BDP-83 SE / Comcast cable. (all HDMI)B&W 801 - Front, Polk CS350 LS - Center, Polk LS90 - Rear
    2 Channel:
    Oppo BDP-83 SE
    Squeezebox Touch
    Muscial Fidelity M1 DAC
    VTL 2.5
    McIntosh 2205 (refurbed)
    B&W 801's
    Transparent IC's
  • KennethSwaugerKennethSwauger Moderator Posts: 6,846
    No problem, glad to help.
    "They thought we were too loud, but shoot, I had four army blankets folded over my amp, and the volume level was on 2. I'm used to playin' on 10!" S.R.V.
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 11,792
    As I get more accustomed to my S1 I have felt that there was a little edginess on some CD files. At that point I had been playing back all files in their native format. Out of curiosity, I changed all formats from Native to DSD, and playback seems a bit smoother now. The detail is still there, but now is more relaxed. Not that anything is missing in the sound, it just seems a little less sharp on some highs. However, it is more on the subtle side versus a night/day difference.
    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 11,792
    Interestingly I just repositioned the power supply umbilical, and it seems to have mitigated/eliminated the edginess. I need to evaluate this some more. I emailed RAL about getting them to make an umbilical.
    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • Very nice review.
    What you need to do to clear space is find a new home for the
    CD/SACD player. :)
    Studio 2 equipment;
    Yamaha a-s2100 Amp, CD-2100 CD player, T-S500 tuner
    Loudspeakers: Harbeth p3esr, Polk RT7
    Cables: Aural Harmony Sonnet Interconnect II, WireWorld Equinox 7 speaker,
    Black Cat silverstar 75 ohm digital, Signal Digital Power Cord, PS Audio Perfect Wave AC-3,
    Pangea SE14, Voltz supplied interconnects
    Optional: Arcam DV88 DVD/CD (HDCD) player, Polk SDS-400 speakers
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