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Bringing the Lumin into focus and considering pure DSD mother files, I was amazed by the fact that streaming DSD would so distinctly outclass spinning disc playback. Perhaps the primary reason is the niche status of SACD and the limited technical development for its playback compared to CD. Another possible reason is the extra DST unzip-on-the-fly process generating more jitter. The only sure thing is that reason and rationale are far from clear. You'll simply have to trust me when I state categorically that my Lumin loaner's DSD streaming trounced all renowned SACD players I still might have tried.

On Channel Classics' Mahler’s Fourth, the second movement “In gemächlicher Bewegung, ohne Hast” was far more organic in streaming mode. The solo violin was both carnal and liquid and showed off astounding phrasing whilst preserving the music’s ghostly character. I think most of the stunningly realistic nature of DSD streaming was due to the fact that various instruments were focused with such incredible precision. There no longer was the customary twin-layer effect of 'some performers in the back, the rest upfront'. There was outstanding seamlessness and continuity of staging. I would say that DSD streaming of genuine DSD-recorded files was so different from typical 24/96 or 24/192 PCM that comparison to the familiar Redbook standard no longer was a simple question of being softer, wider and more resolved. It was fundamentally different and far more realistic. It appeared to me as a new kind of threshold in sound reproduction. Of course the DSD recordings of Ivan Fischer’s works are sterling examples of accuracy and the Grimm Audio DAC used by Channel Classics on the recording side must be credited in some way for these stunning results.

If the Lumin parted the high heavens with high-resolution DSD, it remained a top dog for Redbook. It in fact gifted me with the best sound I've yet experienced from any digital source. For CD it outclassed my Esoteric, my Jadis transport, the Aurender S10, any of my iMac/Macbook-based solutions and all the Vortexbox-based products I reviewed. In this more common territory of Redbook material, the Lumin played CD rips with the utmost clarity which didn't mean hyper-detailed via a boost in the upper or mid treble. The tonal balance of my Chinese loaner was close to perfection instead. The Lumin also delivered a liquid sound exempt from any harshness which wasn't always the case for the Aurender S10 or Linn streamers I heard in the past. It offered a fantastic level of detail with tone to die for. Despite its apparent neutrality, the Lumin was never anything but involving and lively.

Listening to the Concerto Italiano conducted by Rinaldo Alessandrini in “Tuma Partite, Sonate e Sinfonie”, I was amazed by the effortlessly luxuriant string sounds. Generally this recording seems to be a bit forward and despite the overall quality not completely natural and quite exaggerated. With the Lumin its naturalness instantly returned. Violin attacks were fast and precise but with an overall feeling of quietness and pace which was previously missing. The full-bodied instruments seemed to breathe correctly and the soundstage was more extended in width and depth. On voices too the Lumin remained a most pleasing source. Listening to Canadian jazz singer Sophie Milman on Make someone happy, the naturalness of her powerful voice was impressive. Once more the Lumin managed the synthesis of micro detail by highlighting the smallest vocal inflections within overall spatial coherence and a stunningly seamless background. Against the Canadian girl's genuine qualities and especially her clear phrasing and effortless voice, the Lumin provided a very relaxed realistic backdrop.

Conclusion. This Chinese newcomer is set to radically alter the current hierarchy of dedicated audio computer solutions. It's the first if its kind that had me seriously contemplate to permanently switch to virtual media without any compromise in sound quality. The Lumin outclassed the very best CD/SACD transports where it could have safely stopped and grinned. But it pushed onwards and up by opening the doors to what for me was the most exciting audio experience I've yet had: DSD streaming? To complete the picture, the Chinese streamer also offers a very convenient iPad UPnP app that found itself highly appreciated by many diehard Linn users.

In short, this DSD streamer outclassed anything I've heard at home or beyond. Whilst I dislike such expressions, it proved to be a keen Linn killer. About 10 listeners who heard my loaner sold off their Linn streamers to buy the new kid in town. A few prerequisites like configuring a NAS with Minimserver are mandatory and will call for minimal IT skills from the installer or user. It's no harder than any other streamer setup except perhaps the Squeezebox which remains the king of easy. Beyond its outstanding sound quality, the Lumin also gets the most elevated marks for user-friendliness, aesthetics, versatility and evolutionary capacities – not bad for the maiden release from a rising Hong Kong company I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more of in the near future! My experience with it became such a personal enjoyment that it proved impossible not to convert my loaner into my new digital reference. Considering the nearly unbelievable price/performance ratio, I give it a most enthusiastic award!
Publisher's note: Joël's "nearly unbelievable price/performance ratio" was based on an introductory price of $3.980. With final retail set at €5.980 i.e. not even remotely close, we must state that some of the luster has since been rubbed off.

Lumin Music website