LUMIN AMP AMPLIFIER REVIEW


The evaluations take most of my time these days and although I've cut down my travels considerably to fully concentrate on the reviewing, I still cannot test everything that is submitted to me. Although I do consider what I do as the best job in the world,  people usually don't have a full grasp of how much time it takes to prepare everything around the review.

Like with all things in life it all comes down to the choices, being open-minded and of course finding a proper balance...

I've already reviewed LUMIN X1 and T2 audiophile network players and profoundly appreciated them for being a true up-to-date audiophile digital hubs, standing out of ordinary by no small margin. 


When Angus Leung, who's in charge of LUMIN's global sales and marketing asked me about the LUMIN Amp review, my first reaction was: "Hmmm. Amplifier coming from the most highly prolific digital manufacturer!?". 

But... After Leung presented me all of the design insights and quite a few uncommon solutions I've willingly obliged and we scheduled the review. 


In early September just a week after I've received the LUMIN Amp, Angus Leung has personally visited me to present the Amp in detail. We took the needed time easily found the needed synergy around the amplifier. It was great having Leung over as we discovered to cherish many things on a similar plane. Leung also brought the WestminsterLab cables along, but that's a story of another review. 


As you can read on this is certainly no just another, or ordinary solid-state amplifier and I'm glad I've taken the evaluation offer...

HIGHLIGHTS


Let us first look at some of the LUMIN Amp highlights...
  • Multi-Stage transistors amplifier
  • Dual Mono power supply and amplifier design
  • Fully discrete voltage and current gain stages
  • DC-coupled signal path
  • Class AB operation
  • High input impedance and sensitivity for direct DAC drive
  • Intelligent bias and thermal management
  • Stereo / Dual Mono / Bridged operation
  • CNC single billet aluminum construction
  • 600VA custom toroidal transformer
  • Built-in overload, overheat and DC protection

LUMIN AMP


A lot is going on under the hood and despite the highly optimized electronic circuits, the LUMIN Amp is a highly complex power amplifier with the most highly thought out innards...


Engineering the Amplifier

The development of the amplifier was driven by the ambition to create an amplifier with all the attributes to bring the best out of the high definition content that is easily available on the market, and with the good looks to match with the modern household & lifestyle.

Approaches

When designing the amplifier, not only it have to excel in the audio performance but it also has to be able to blend into the modern household. The looks match perfectly with the LUMIN player, and with the minimalistic design and a compact dimension, it certainly proves that high-end audio does not mean having many big boxes and sacrificing the interior design of your room. A great amount of effort has been put into the design and engineering of the internal components and the engineering of the thermal management, adding great performance into a designer box without any compromise.


Dual Mono

There are many advantages to have a dual-mono amplifier in the audio systems - lower output impedance, completely isolated channels for infinite channel separation and a separate power supply for undisrupted performance. That is exactly the reason why the LUMIN amp is a complete dual-mono configuration. Two identical boards with their protection circuitry and dedicated separate power supply operate seamlessly, the only components they are sharing are the core of the transformer and also the AC outlet.


Full discreet amplifying circuitry

The circuitry design of the LUMIN amp is fully balanced, from the input buffer all the way to the voltage game stage. Unlike many amplifiers on the market, this takes the full advantages of the CMRR of the balanced signal, reducing noise and improving over dynamics of the audio system. The voltage gain and current gain consist of a total of three stages and are composed of discrete transistors and resistors for optimal performance. To further reduce unwanted coloration and distortion, LUMIN amp is fully DC coupled, meaning there is not a single capacitor within the signal path.


Intelligent Bias

Bias is one of the most important tuning of a class AB amplifier. The bias correlates with the crossover point of the P and N channel transistors and crucial calibration is needed to achieve undetectable crossover distortion. The LUMIN amp has a proprietary bias design that eliminates the crossover distortion but also strikes the balance between the classical Class-A sound and thermal efficiency. This proprietary bias system ( VARI-bias ) monitors and varies the bias depends on the music load, input and also the thermal condition of the overall system.


High current power supply

There is a total of 2 transformers and 13 sets of power supply and regulators within the LUMIN amp. These transformers and regulators are designed to work together and hence the main transformer of the LUMIN amp is a full custom design. The 13 sets of power supply provide isolated power for the different stages of the circuit, left and right channel. It provides clean and stable power and output no matter what music you throw at it.


CNC Chassis

To achieve the perfect finish, the chassis of the Lumin Amp is machined from a single piece of aluminum. Just like most Lumin players, there are no joints and screws to disrupt the lines and design of the unit. The chassis also acts as a passive heatsink for the transistors of the unit. This stable platform gives not only the looks, thermal performance but also solid protection for the delicate electronics houses inside away from the EMI noise in the atmosphere.


Sum up 

The Lumin amp was developed from the ground up to be a perfect companion not only when it is used with other Lumin players, but it also performs exceptionally with other sources and preamps. The versatility of the function with the different operation modes and also the thoughts that put into this amplifier is unprecedented in the amplifier market in this price range.

OPERATIONAL


LUMIN Amp was designed from the ground up to work seamlessly and straightforwardly. The minimalistic front panel host only the on/off button, that emanates a pleasing dim blue light when it operates. 


The back panel offers logical placement of the inputs and outputs as well as the IEC power inlet. On the far left and right you'll find the XLR and RCA inputs with enough space around them to host very thick cables. Like it! Next to them are speakers binding post and the middle is reserved for power connections. On top of the IEC inlet, there are two selectors. The top switch lets you select the single-ended or balanced input and below the stereo/bridge selector. When used as a dual-channel power amplifier the stereo option is selected and if LUMIN Amps are used as monoblocks the selector needs to be switched to bridge position.  


If something goes wrong the front light will instantly turn into the red and blink. This is most likely in the case of overloading. During my evaluation, I've managed to push the amplifier only once into the projection mode by driving the power hog inefficient speakers with a concert like levels.


I appreciated the clean and spacious back panel with more than enough space to connect various cables without a hassle. Such luxury is not always a case yet with LUMIN Amp it shows that all the time and proper measures were taken from the very beginning. 


The day to day operation was a no brainer with LUMIN Amp and I've really enjoyed the music rather than needed to constantly evoke my critical observation "logical board" :). This is the compliment that any amplifier designer should be striven for...

THE MUSIC

Despite being "overplayed" by many, Paco de Lucía, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin - Friday Night In San Francisco is still among my favorite live guitar albums. The comprehensive blend of guitar mastery and fire cracking dynamics makes this track an easy reference for any amplifier evaluation. The casual listener might not get the full scope of how much energy must be moved to replay this album. Even at the entry-level of satisfying impact. Making it a true stand out takes much more than ordinary amp's inner heart. 

I've clearly remembering standing up and checking the heat on the LUMIN Amp chassis after playing the "Mediterranean Sundance/Rio Ancho" at a constant exposure of over 90dB throughout the whole duration of the eleven and half minutes. Yes, the LUMIN AMP can get quite warm when pushed constantly for an extended time, but the heat sort of reflects the actual sonic delivery. Trust me; not all amps that get hot can stand the heat of the moment!  

Beyond The Missouri Sky by Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny belongs to my desert discs collection. Yes, the Haden's bass is a bit oversaturated (intendedly), but the pure music intake is of such occurrence, that. Metheny/Haden timeless interplay is magical and every note seems to be in sonorous harmony and with perfect place and timing. 

There is so much to abstract from this record and as it's the album I simply cannot get pestered by countless replays. Knowing it so well, I can easily distinguish any unwanted anomalies. 

Beyond The Missouri Sky's harmonic richness is off charts and the amplifiers that are not voiced properly can too quickly escape the proper balancing act. 

LUMIN Amp has shown how thoroughly the Amp's inner core was tuned. The ability to detect all the smallest nuances of sonic detailing without truncating the needed velocity of acoustic anchor points, as well as diminishing the spectral harmonicity is certainly worthy of more than just pointing out. It's stellar!

The LUMIN Amp ability to handle the Om - Kirikuki quirkinesses was shocking to say at least. The "Lips" is a sonic chameleon that literary clutches the amplifier's guts and demands no slouch control. When not in the needed lock and grip the "Lips'" avant-garde portraying falls apart, projecting a chaotic reflection of what should be a pleasing aural kaleidoscope. And this is what differentiates the mediocre amps from true standouts, worthy of high-end audio designation. 

LUMIN Amp stepped out of ordinary operation and let the music breath and expands freely; both harmonically and space-wise, easily painting the sonic canvas with distinct and elevated quality. 

It's quite something how LUMIN Amp can provide from such a  subtle control from a relatively small footprint. This was immediately manifested with the Anna Netrebko, Claudio Abbado, Nicola Ulivieri, Andrea Concetti, Giuseppe Verdi Symphony Chorus of Milan, Mahler Chamber Orchestra - Sempre libera

The "Lucia di Lammermoor: Act 2. Ardon gli incensi..." the amazing reciprocation between Netrebko voice and glass harmonica calls out for the amp with non-ordinary high-land crystal water like purity that can resonate on both parts. This is where the harmonic density becomes utterly challenged and many, even more, expensive amps can struggle in this regard. 

LUMIN Amp has freed both vocal and glass harmonica to expand unreservedly. One of the kind resonating tonal etching was again presented with an unexpected level of timber complexity that not only allowed a step-up level of sonic contour but also let the collision drama to unfold at the inspiring scale.

A short and mesmerizingly sweet "Calasone (Intavolatura di Liuto, Book 2)" from Francesca Torelli - Piccinini: Intavolature Di Liuto E Chitarrone - Volume secondo is another study of subtleness. The tone pureness and atmospheric details reveal so much underlying magnificence that when replayed correctly can provide an inspiring mirroring of this exquisite recording. With this particular song, the LUMIN Amp has expertly established a very intimate connection within the very roots of an emotional nucleus, thus forming an instantly binding interactive experience. I really cannot say that for a lot of amplifiers around the Amp's given price. 

There is no escape to ardent massiveness and grander momentums of Bruckner: Symphony 8 / Strauss: Metamorphosen with Staatskapelle Dresden orchestra under the baton of Giuseppe Sinopoli. It's all about exquisitely imperious and lyrical storytelling on all fronts. 

The sudden shifts of delicate and thunderous passages can at once bring most of the power amplifier amps on their knees. Especially when the orchestra's drive starts to build up at around 5.00 and dynamically evaporates at 5.13. Here a lot of amplifiers simply fail to portray the dynamic illusion of the full-scale orchestra. There are no short cuts with this hefty task in action... I was genuinely surprised by the LUMIN Amp's energetic magnitude that could even stand the enormous force of multiple brass instruments. At this passage, many amps fail to regain the full metallic grittiness. Like in the real world, the tin instruments need to resonate and bite with the grip to feel authentic. 

Similar to most of the amplifiers this album certainly pushed LUMIN Amp on the very edge of performing ability, but despite being thrust to its very limits, the LUMIN's amplifier didn't collapse. Quite a feat. 

The LUMIN Amp's dual-mono construction is certainly a big reason behind the high spirited performance and capacity o layering complex relief like sonic structures.  

It would surely be interesting to observe how a pair of bridged LUMIN Amps would handle this utmost demanding task compared to the sole performance.

LUMIN Amp stereo power amplifier capability to deliver highly evocative music performance across all genres is more than worthwhile to explore by anyone in search of a potent and high-performing solid-state amp.

THE CONCLUSION


Like with LUMIN X1, LUMIN T2 audiophile network players the LUMIN Amp clearly follows the highly distinguished path of this very prolific and pin-point oriented high-end audio manufacturer. 

Impressively stylish chassis, milled from a single block of aluminum is most certainly one of the factors closely connected with the LUMIN Amp high-performing act. It acts both as heatsink and resonance and micro-vibrations damper. Only in recent years, high-end audio companies are taking seriously the importance of proper material implementation as well as how the construction design deals with the hubris of unwanted electromechanical noise. LUMIN team did a splendid job with the enclosure design and this was evident with minuscule reaction to the various aftermarket audiophile feet. 


The unobtrusive zen-like refined lines are both modern and timelessly stylish in its simplicity. There is something substantially beautiful about the LUMIN Amp's Bauhaus like shape. Nothing seems to be left to chance and this results in a very distinctive aura. Amp is instantly recognizable at the very first eye glance. It has a distinguished standalone quality and it can as easily fit in the high-end audio rack without screaming for the attention. It's not exactly to finalize such a design, yet LUMIN Amp got it!  

LUMIN Amp is not just another solid-state amplifier. The LUMIN  took a different path than usual in achieving remarkable sonic potency. Instead of chasing the complexity for the sake of complexity, they've taken a very unconventional path. The path of refined simplicity, where the less is more!  I'm sure most of you are familiar with the famous Einstein quote: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." This is rarely pursued up to the objective plane, but LUMIN really did their homework in this regard. 


By removing the parts from the circuits LUMIN has pursued a painstaking and uberly time-consuming quest for refinement. This brought many challenges, but the end results speak for itself. By limiting the frequency response to 40.000 Hz they've been able to considerably reduce the number of electronic parts in the circuits, thus providing more direct, faster sound without sacrificing the resolution. In the era where specs are an epitome on the audiophile throne, LUMIN made quite a bold move and succeded. 


The level of LUMIN Amp immediacy, dynamic control and the absence of self imprint belongs to the league of its own. Especially at this price. By eliminating the electronic components LUMIN team has managed to optimize the sound and narrowing the frequency spectrum to where they've felt it's of essential spectrum's influence.  While still beyond the listening spectra, the step by step optimization allowed the impressive reduction of parts count.  And as state above, the sonic result is the harmonically rich transmission of highly articulated sonics. 

LUMIN Amp is a 21st-century high-end audio audiophile and music lover's amplifier. At it's given price point, no everything was pushed to the extremes so that no corners would be cut. 

The LUMIN Amp has not only proven to be a great match with the LUMIN's own audiophile network players. During my extended listenings, it has manifested a very broad synergy with several preamplifiers. The cherry on the top of the cake was LUMIN Amp's ability to be directly driven by the DACs. This puts the LUMIN Amp among very few amps in which input impedance allows such a purist partnering. 

This high-performing amp steps boldly into quite dense and competitive territory with more than enough assets to seriously challenge what's out there at the given price range and some above...

For what it represents sonically I'm happily granting LUMIN Amp the Mono and Stereo Highly Recommended Product award! I surely didn't expect such a matured and highly refined amplifier from the company that is so particularly oriented in the digital audio realms! There are the underlying intriguing insights related to this subject matter that will further unfold in the future here at Mono and Stereo, so do stay tuned!

Matej Isak

THE PRICE


- 13.500 USD

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION


OPERATING MODE: (selectable)
Stereo, Dual Mono or Bridged mode
INPUT: (selectable)
1 x XLR pair (pin 2 hot), 1 x RCA pair
POWER:
160W per channel into 8Ω
320W per channel into 4Ω
640W into 8Ω (Bridged)
POWER SUPPLY:
Available in 220–240V AC and 110–120V AC versions ~ 50/60Hz
POWER CONSUMPTION:
Standby <0 .5w="" p="">
Idle 40W
Max 700W
FREQUENCY RESPONSE:
20hz - 40000hz ± 0.1db
SIGNAL TO NOISE RATIO:
103db, unweighted
INPUT IMPEDANCE:
200kΩ Balanced (XLR)
100kΩ Unbalanced (RCA)
OUTPUT IMPEDANCE:
0.1Ω
INPUT SENSITIVITY:
1.16Vrms
GAIN:
+26dB (Stereo, Dual Mono)
+32dB (Bridged)
PROTECTION:
DC, overload and overheating protection
FINISHES:
Black anodized brushed aluminium or Raw brushed aluminium
CONSTRUCTION:
CNC-machined from a single billet for front, top and sides. Thick 8mm walls, rear panel and base plate
DIMENSIONS:
350mm (W), 374mm (D), 104mm (H)
WEIGHT:
19kg

CONTACT


Pixel Magic Systems Ltd.
Unit 603-607
IC Development Centre
No. 6 Science Park West
Hong Kong Science Park
Hong Kong