LUMIN T2 Network Player Review

Posted on 18th March, 2020

LUMIN T2 Network Player Review

Mark Gusew tunes into a sleek new network music player from an exciting name in digital audio…

LUMÏN Music

T2 Network Player

AUD $5,990 RRP

LUMÏN Music is a Hong Kong-based company that produces cutting edge streamers and servers. Eight years ago, the principal players at Pixel Magic Systems – a company that specialises in the playback of UHD video files – decided to design their own specialist, DSD-capable audiophile product, and thus the company was born…

The $5,990 T2 comes equipped with an internal DAC running up to 384kHz PCM and DSD512, and plays music from a USB drive, network-connected NAS or computer, and streams TIDAL (with MQA decoding), Qobuz, Airplay and TuneIn Internet Radio. It has Spotify Connect and is Roon Ready. With no remote control, you operate it by a slick LUMÏN Music app that's available for Android and iOS devices. Other UPnP software like mConnect will also work but without the full feature set.

The output is via either balanced XLR or unbalanced RCA connections, with a single S/PDIF output via a BNC connector. No additional digital inputs are provided, other than a single USB digital audio. With an inbuilt 32-bit internal digital volume, the T2 happily connects directly to a power amplifier without the need for a preamp.

This new design is said to use LUMÏN X1 technology, trickled down from the company's $20,000 flagship player. The T2 is part of a generational change by the company to refresh its hardware and sonic performance. It's a total redesign of the A1/T1 mainboard and chassis. It has an integrated power supply in the one chassis, rather than the need for an external box and umbilical cable.

Mr Li On, LUMÏN's Product Development Manager, explains that “the T2 is a scaled-down version of the X1. They share the same processor and similar digital and analogue audio circuit design. The main processor is a low power, high speed SoC (System On a Chip) design, with all of the software and firmware developed in house. The analogue output stage is fully balanced, with very carefully selected components chosen for the best sound performance.”

Also new is the pair of ESS ES9028PRO Sabre DAC chips, replacing the T1's Wolfson DAC. This upgrade allows file playback capability of DSD512 and PCM up to 384kHz. Also incorporated is a new clock design and a much faster processor to support the higher sample rate playback. Build is excellent, being heavier than you'd expect, from CNC machined aluminium panels that are joined together without visible screw heads. The front face is machined from a solid piece of aluminium, in a style reminiscent of the original Jupiter 2 from Lost in Space!

One aspect I'm less happy with is the extended cover overhanging the rear of the unit, done so the cables are hidden from sight. It's a pain to insert cables once in an equipment rack, and releasing XLR cables is a nightmare made worse by the low profile height. Perhaps it's just a reviewer's lot in life plugging gear in and out, though the design of some units really does hinder easy access.

The T2 uses a switching power supply, fully enclosed within a metal box with a single output voltage. This feeds the mainboard that contains further regulation and filtering unique to each of the critical areas of the board's topology. Although purists will argue in favour of conventional power supplies, this new generation of switched modes are capable of seriously low noise and reserves of instantaneous current.

Mr On explains, “our use of switching power support for the T2 is mainly a price concern, so we need to make some compromises. We have good experience with the audio-grade switching power supply used previously in the D2. Its performance is excellent for the price point. We further enhanced the switching power supply for the T2. Of course if we put the X1 linear power supply on the T2, it would be even better. But that's likely to increase the T2 price by fifty percent and that's not what we want for T2. The X1, on the other hand, is a price-no-object design, so we use the best components no matter how small the gain.”

I connected the T2 to my Cambridge Audio Edge A integrated amplifier, with the balanced connection from the LUMÏN sounding a touch nicer. Connection to a hard-wired Ethernet connection is mandatory, and I used a portable hard drive with hundreds of albums contained within. I used the new Telos Audio Quantum power cable with excellent results, all playing through Revel F228Be loudspeakers. I installed the LUMÏN app (by Pixel Magic Systems Ltd) on my devices, and the T2 was found on the network immediately. 

The unit arrived just as new V12 firmware was released, so an update to the latest was a no-brainer. This adds multi-room support and is compatible with Linn's SongCast, enabling players from different brands the ability to play together in a single ecosystem. I proceeded to insert my TIDAL log-in details, but with Spotify Connect, there was no need to log-in as it uses the native Spotify app. With Roon support, the LUMÏN is a versatile player with a useful variety of software operating options.

SOUND QUALITY

The LUMÏN T2 is notable for its superb resolution, impressive dynamics and a deep and wide three-dimensional soundstage. Tonally it's pretty neutral, with a well lit upper midband and treble, and a solid bass that's usefully extended. Overall, for the price, this proved to be a real class act.

All that midband detail is quite a thing to hear. Feel by Robbie Williams showed eerily realistic opening piano work, the notes having wonderfully natural reverb tails. His vocal work here really pushes his voice to the limits of its range, with those famous expressions and inflections that set his style apart. The T2 resolved all of this so well. Nothing is hidden, blurred or occluded – rather, it's laid out plainly for all to hear in a natural, organic way. The midrange is well lit, but it doesn't dominate the proceedings and simply makes the LUMÏN sound fresh and expressive. You're left basking in all that resolution, rather than trying to pick out details from behind the haze.

Adele's Hello was also enhanced by this 'cut glass' midband – the piano that accompanies her in the opening passage is well recorded and sounds full and natural, with excellent reproduction of the long notes and their decay in the recording space. Her voice is somewhat compressed in sections of the track, but that's the T2 telling you what's going on in the mastering – not something you can say about many network streamers at this price. 

The track also showed this player's dynamic alacrity. It has a great way of imparting large swings in volume comfortably and without any stress. This makes for an entertaining yet controlled sound, one that sounds authoritative and in command. Despite this, the LUMÏN has quite a forgiving nature. Through some audio systems I've heard, Adele becomes too much to handle, with her voice becoming shrill in the upper registers and generally annoying and unpleasant. But I found whether you personally like her voice or not, there's no denying that the track is impressive when played through a balanced yet dynamic front end such as this.

This streamer's fundamental rightness means that it doesn't favour one genre of music over another. For example, Kraftwerk's Showroom Dummies saw its speed and grip shine though, while folk duo Dawn and Hawkes singing Silver Line was a pleasure to hear, their voices separated neatly and the guitar work sounding full and believable. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Beneath a Moonless Sky came over as suitably expansive, with a sense of scale befitting this great piece of music. Reggae's Nostalgia 77's Simmerdown was authentically like a single take in a dark crowded club, with the drummer keeping immaculate time.

The T2's resolution lets you really drill down into a recording. For example, I compared Randy Crawford's Same Old Story (Same Old Song) on both Tidal and Spotify. The LUMÏN's software allowed easy swapping between the two, and I preferred the sound that Spotify delivered. It had more swagger and drive, with a smoother upper midrange. 

Indeed, it's so insightful that even when compared to a more expensive reference of mine – Cary Audio DMS 600 Network Player (reviewed here) costing an additional $4,000 – the T2 more than held its own. It matches the Cary's spatial qualities, balance and dynamics, but has slightly quieter, darker backgrounds. I suspect this is partly explained by the difference in digital converter chips; the Cary runs a pair of AKM4497EQ DACs which have a more organic character, but are less grippy and detailed.

THE VERDICT

The LUMÏN T2 is one of the best sounding streamers at its price then and is also easy to use, stable in operation and superbly built. Effectively a scaled-down version of the flagship X1, you get an awful lot for your money – and as such comes warmly recommended.

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Mark Gusew's avatar

Mark Gusew

Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early ’80s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now splits his time between professional reviewing and AV consultancy.

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Posted in: Hi-Fi Sources Streaming
Tags: lumin  audio magic 

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