Sonus Faber’s reputation is founded on making premium speakers with beautiful cabinets and strong sound quality. Its traditional home is at the top end of the market, but over the years it has expanded downwards to more affordable levels. The Lumina 1 are just about the most economical way to get one of the brand’s stereo speakers.
They’re part of the Italian company’s new entry-level Lumina range, which also includes the Lumina III floorstanders at £1999 ($2199, AU$3995) and Lumina Center at £649 ($699, AU$1295).
The Lumina 1's boxes are tiny – about the size of a shoebox – but that hasn’t stopped Sonus Faber from making them look special for the money. The plywood front panel is lovely with its real wood veneer (available in either walnut or wenge) and maple inlays.
The chrome detailing around the drive units could be considered a little glitzy, but we are certainly fans of the real leather wrap around the sides and top of the MDF cabinet. The back panel is simply painted black, and that’s fine with us.
We’re less happy with the moulded plastic base, though. While it is relatively sturdy and serves a useful purpose by forming the front-firing reflex port, it also feels a little cheap. Still, overall there is little else to complain about here, with the Lumina 1 looking and feeling far more luxurious than most alternatives at this price.
These speakers are a two-way design with a small 12cm paper cone mid/bass unit coupled to a larger-than-average (29mm) silk dome tweeter. It’s the same high-frequency unit used in the company’s more premium Sonetto range, and in this installation covers frequencies over 2kHz.
In electrical terms, these are relatively demanding speakers. The combination of low sensitivity – 84dB/W/m – and a nominal impedance of 4 ohms means that they’ll take a bit of driving. If you’re planning on going the hi-fi separates route, something the standard of the Rega Elex-R amplifier is a good pace to start, partnered with a similarly capable source, such as the Cyrus CDi CD player or Cambridge Audio Azur 851N streamer. Naim’s Uniti Atom one-box system also makes for a good match.
In the manual, Sonus Faber suggests placing these speakers at least a metre away from the wall behind them. However, in our test room they sound most balanced a lot closer – around 20cm away. Any further out and they start to sound insubstantial at low frequencies and a little thin overall.
It just goes to show that positioning advice should always be used as the starting point rather than the destination. We agree with the manual that the speakers should be angled directly at the listening position; they sound more direct and detailed when used in this way.
Once up and running, these little boxes are surprisingly confident performers. Their presentation is bolder and more full-bodied than their size suggests. Even so, don’t expect miracles, as something this small will never be able to deliver seismic lows or convey large-scale dynamics with a full dose of authority. Larger, cheaper speakers, such as Bowers & Wilkins’ 606 S2, are clearly superior in those respects.
Type 2-way bookshelf loudspeaker
Crossover frequency 2kHz
Frequency response 65Hz to 24kHz
Impedance 4 ohms
Dimensions (hwd) 28 x 15 x 21cm
Weight 4.4kg (each)
But that doesn’t stop the Lumina 1 from having plenty of appeal. Those drive units are beautifully integrated. We listen to Laurie Anderson’s Homeland set, and the speakers do a great job with her distinctive voice. There’s plenty of detail, nuance and natural warmth here, as well as a pleasing degree of solidity. These standmounters focus on the humanness of Anderson’s performance rather than just tick the boxes regarding the technicalities of sound reproduction.
My Right Eye demonstrates the Lumina 1's surprising ability at low frequencies. While certainly limited in terms of depth, these speakers sound impressively punchy with the bass they do produce. Low-end notes are taut, articulate and fuller than we would have expected.
At the other end of the frequency spectrum, we like the way the Lumina 1 deal with treble. The high frequencies are sweet and refined but have enough in the way of bite when to music demands. While this isn’t the most open-sounding of tweeters, its character blends well with that of the mid/bass.
Things could be better rhythmically, though. The Lumina prefer a more relaxed approach to musical replay and don’t render the drive or momentum in the music with any great determination. They still manage to entertain, but that’s because of their midrange finesse and easy-going nature.
Smaller scale classical or jazz pieces work well with them – rhythmical precision aside, that is. Listen to Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis or Found Songs by Ólafur Arnalds and the standmounters sounds right at home. Their smooth tonal balance, credible detail levels and innate sense of calm works well with music such as this. We like their lack of overt aggression; it makes for a relaxing musical experience.
Of course, playing something larger scale such as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony shows up limitations compared to larger rivals. But there’s still plenty in the way of insight and dynamic interplay to keep us entertained.
If you’re looking for small, unfussy-sounding speakers that ooze luxury then the Lumina 1 are well worth searching out. They aren't the last word in performance at this level, but on balance that’s a trade-off many people may be happy to make for something that looks so elegant.
- Sound 4
- Compatibility 4
- Build 5
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