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  1. davehg
    Lumin D2: Hi end streamer for the rest of us
    Written by davehg
    Published Feb 28, 2019
    Pros - Features, sound fidelity, Roon compatibility, price
    Cons - Only one digital output (using high fidelity but less common BNC connector), zero digital inputs except USB storage and Ethernet.
    I've enjoyed digital audio for quite some time, ditching my high end CD transport in 2005 for a Mac Mini based music server feeding a high end DAC, and later adding a highly modified Squeezebox SB3 with a custom linear power supply.

    This setup "served" me well until I tired of having a computer system in my listening room. I pivoted to the Sony HAPZ1ES, a one box music server that also opened up the world of hi rez files to me. This setup served me well until it became clear that Sony would not support high rez music streaming services - they could tolerate supporting Spotify but not a service like Tidal or Qobuz which might arguably compete with their hi rez downloads.

    The moment I tried Tidal (and later Qobuz) was the moment I realized that devices like the Sony would become high end bricks - very useful for the 300 or so albums I owned but useless for the modern age. I went looking for a music streamer, and quickly fell down the rabbit hole.

    Music streamers are all over the board in terms of features and price, as the market has exploded for these devices. High price doesn't always equate to more features, and my desire to find a "one size box that does all" and avoid a computer in my system proved to be challenging. At the low end were boxes like Sonos, Auralic Mini, and BlueSound, which supported many features but simply lacked the high end fidelity chops to be considered as seriously replacements to the wonderful sounding Sony or my now 14 year old DAC. At the other end were devices like Aurender, which seem to have the goods sonically, but which were priced very high and didn't support MQA or stored files or even have an integrated DAC (at least not at the price points I was looking at).

    Audiophiles are odd cheapskates. They can spend thousands on an amp but balk at paying a few hundred for cables. They can skimp on a tube amp but spent a small fortune on rolling vintage tubes. For me, it’s network streamers without a DAC. I can justify the higher price of a premium DAC but $3-4k for streamer-only box box that doesnt do MQA and is not even Roon compatible makes me grumpy. And most of these high end devices are supported by a proprietary app whose features and quality seemed to vary widely, from barely functional to not quite ready for the big leagues.

    Then something fascinating happened in my journey - I discovered Roon. That changed EVERYTHING.

    Without going into too much detail on Roon, think of it like an operating system for music that is hardware agnostic. It can run on any computer (Linux, Apple, Android, Windows) and work with any hardware that is roon capable. That includes over 40 DACs, streamers, receivers, Sonos, Apple Airplay capable devices etc. One app, that brings together all of your stored music together with all of your music services including Tidal and now Qobuz, in one search interface. It lets you simultaneously stream different music files to all your roon compatible devices. So missus can listen to her music on the Sonos in the office while I rock out to my headphone system in our living room and my kids groove to their music on their laptops in their room.

    All I needed for high end nirvana was a Roon capable endpoint, which is a fancy name for a music streamer and DAC. Hence my search and hence the review of the Lumin D2.

    Like the Sony, the Lumin is a one-box music streamer. Unlike the Sony, Lumin supports Roon, streams Tidal and Qobuz directly if you don't use Roon, and accesses your music stored on a network drive or attached hard hard drive. You don't need Roon to use the Lumin but if you don't use Roon, you'd be missing out on a key benefit of the Lumin.

    Like most high end devices, the Lumin sports single ended and balanced outputs - important for headphone users like me who have invested in a fully balanced amp and balanced cables for their headphones, and want the benefits of a balanced source. The integrated DACs in the Lumin are well known for rendering analog like sound and support up to DSD 128.

    I couldn't find many reviews of the Lumin D2 in popular magazines or blogs - odd, because other Lumin products were reviewed and the earlier Lumin D1 had a strong following. I almost passed on it as I couldn't find a Lumin dealer nearby. But a few reviews convinced me to roll the dice, especially after a mixed experience with another music streamer which worked great but didn't better the sound of my 14 year old Squeezebox system or my Sony HAPZ1ES.

    I found a good deal on a demo unit and bought it sound unheard and crossed my fingers.

    After a few weeks, I'm quite the fan. The Lumin has a warm analog like sound that comes closer to the tone of my wonderful Musical Fidelity TriVista tube DAC but lets me hear much deeper into the music. I am noticing significantly more texture, more space, and more "groove" on most files. Part of this may be because I can now experience hi rez 24/192 files from Qobuz or MQA files from Tidal. However, redbook files (the standard CD format) sound much much better, and I think Roon and Lumin's synergy has something to do with this.

    That unique feature of Roon? Among Roon's many charms is the ability to take 16bit 44khz files and upsample them in Roon to DSD 64 resolution. This includes not just my stored files but Tidal and Qobuz streamed files too. The Lumin then receives them as DSD files and renders them as such with its internal DAC. There is a higher level of analog ease with these upsampled Redbook files that I don't hear with the Sony or the TriVista (which still sounds nice but is suddenly less revealing. I’ll still keep it for the office). The TriVista can’t play 24/96 or 24/192, let alone MQA. Roon can upsample those up to DSD for good measure, and the Lumin plays them as DSD files, or as native high Rez, with MQA. Phew!

    I would certainly expect this out of a $4k or more device like the Aurender streamer or some high end DAC like the Auralic G2 Vega, but I am pleasantly surprised to hear this level of sound quality from a $2300 device that includes both the streamer and the DAC (less in my case as I saved by buying a demo). I am looking at my $2k Sony with new regret, though I had 4 nice years with it. The Lumin when fed by Roon outperforms the Sony on Redbook and easily matches it on DSD and high rez files, PLUS it streams Tidal and Qobuz PLUS it supports Roon. It out-sounds the E.One stream, the Moon Mind, and comes as close as I can recall hearing to the Chord Qutest - which itself is just a DAC, and which was the favorite of my audition of DAC only devices.

    I've read where the Lumin's fidelity can be brought up a few more notches by adding a Linear Power Supply (a quick and easy plug and play effort) for another few hundred dollars. Maybe I'll try this, as a similar upgrade years ago radically improved the Squeezebox. But I am enjoying the sound so much I am not tempted to rush out and try this.

    Would the Lumin sound as fantastic without Roon? I haven't been tested to try it using its native app, because not using Roon is like taking several steps backwards. Roon itself requires another investment, both for the software license and adding a server to run it. I dug deep and bought the Roon Nucleus Server, which you can effectively duplicate using DIY kits for half of what Roon asks, but the Nucleus works out of the box and took me 5 min of setup time vs. several hours to source and put together a fanless server.

    For me, Roon fufills a wish I had with the Sony - an app that updates regularly and supports a myriad of music services and includes helpful features and isn't obsolete when the manufacturer decides the useful life of the device is over or not supporting services that conflict with its corporate business objectives.

    The Lumin D2 is the missing hardware link - one box that does streaming and digital decoding, at a price and with fidelity that is not obscene. It just works, and it sounds marvelous doing so, certainly with MQA and high rez files but more important, with Redbook files too. I've not found a similar device that is this well built, fully featured, and well thought out, a list that includes the Bel Canto E.One Stream, Chord's Qutest, Moon Audio, and several others I've since forgotten about. Do yourself a favor and track one down, or roll the dice like me and take the plunge.

    What I listened to:

    Muddy Waters - Good Morning Little Schoolgirl (MQA)
    Bob Dylan - House of the Rising Sun
    Passenger - 27
    Justin Bieber - Love Yourself
    Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (MQA)
    Groove Armada - Hands of Time
    JJ Cale - Troubador
    1. View previous replies...
    2. davehg
      I’ve had the chance to add an Sbooster linear power supply.

      I’m a big fan of the upgrade

      -it adds a very firm bass foundation. Drums have more weight and impact, and bass guitar has more body, better soundstage and instrument separation. I can more clearly delineate the finer details of instruments. Guitars seem to leap a bit more from the background. Midrange is wonderful. Vocals have more body and feel more rounded.

      - It has more energy and dynamics.
      davehg, Jun 21, 2019
    3. Bonnielover
      Hi Dave,
      So I gather a primary benefit of the Roon server is to upsample 44kHz files to DSD64. Otherwise, If you had a small digital library, say, less than 50GB and less than 5,000 tracks, would you still need the Nucleus? Why not go right to the D2 with Roon software? Are there other sonic advantages?
      Thank you.
      Bonnielover, Jul 2, 2019
    4. davehg
      You need a Roon server - that is how Roon works. You can use a regular PC or a dedicated Nucleus device - same thing. I wanted a dedicated device and not a standard PC, as it may produce a slight sonic benefit and i don’t need to boot up and hassle with a PC. But you can just use a standard PC or laptop to run Roon. Nucleus is a set and forget, always on fanless Roon server. Roon also upsamples to DSD128 which the D2 will process, not just DSD64.
      davehg, Jul 3, 2019