Audio: Listen to this article.
Over a decade ago I installed what was then called the Lumin Network Music Player in my system. Today that same component, since renamed the Lumin A1, remains in my reference two channel audio system. The A1 still receives firmware updates, new features, and fixes along with all other Lumin components. Take a second to let that sink in. When I installed the A1 Tidal was still a Norwegian service named WiMP, Neil Young wouldn’t launch the Pono Kickstarter campaign for another year, and Roon was still called Sooloos and owned by Meridian. A decade can seem like a lifetime in digital audio.
Most importantly, the A1 isn’t some vintage component that I keep around for digital nostalgia. Its build quality is still among the best, it’s sound quality is as good today as it was in 2013 when I said, “The sound quality is exquisitely analog,” and its feature set is as current as anything released today. It takes experience, vision, and dedication to customers in order to continue innovating and bring everyone along for the ride, whether they purchase in the 2010s or 2020s.
Why the focus on a ten year old product? Because good companies and product longevity matter to me. In addition, it lays the foundation for using the Lumin L2 Music Library and Network Switch with something old and something new. I used the L2 with, among other things, the former flagship Lumin A1 and the new entry level Lumin D3 network players. I figured the L2 could be a component that improves the audio life of those who’ve been on the bandwagon for a long time, and those just jumping on. I also threw a dCS Rossini APEX into the L2 mix for good measure and to check interoperability. Yes, this is my life. It’s a tough job but someone has to listen to great music through great components, and send smoke signals to the others :~)
The Lumin L2 - Yes, Even You Need one
If the Lumin L2 would’ve been released at the same time as the A1, my younger and foolishly more confident self would’ve written it off as a solution looking for a problem. I’m sure I would’ve said something along the lines of, just get a NAS and call it a day. Over ten years of maturity, experience, and a half-dozen NAS units later, I’m thrilled to see the Lumin L2 Music Library and Network Switch.
Let’s cover the “what” before the “why.” The Lumin L2 is billed as, “An advanced dual-drive music server requiring zero setup configuration and containing a 4-port audiophile-grade network switch.” After spending months with the L2, I can confidently say that Lumin hasn’t oversold the L2’s capabilities.
The L2 is a music library storage server with either four or eight terabytes, depending on the configuration purchased. Given that the unit holds two internal SSDs, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the storage capacity increased, but that’s my own speculation, not communication from Lumin (official or off the record). Note: Lumin provides detailed instructions for consumer installation of SSDs at home as well (link).
The network switch part of the L2 is one that will potentially ruffle certain audiophile feathers, but hear me out on this one. Networking is not a strong suit of most audiophiles, and most don’t want it to be in their wheelhouses either. Network problems are the biggest headache for HiFi industry support professionals. One way to reduce potential network issues is to use the Lumin L2 as both a storage server and network switch. By connecting the L2 to one’s standard switch or router, and the remaining HiFi components to the L2, traffic between the L2 and audio gear never leaves this “closed Lumin loop.” It’s essentially a direct connection between the server and streamer, and both the server and streamer remain network accessible (they both retain real IP addresses handed out by one’s router).
To bolster my point about the need for the L2’s switch, I ask all the networking professionals reading this to think about all the screwed up networks they’ve seen at peoples’ houses over the years. Then multiply the misconfigurations, mis-cabled, and downright bizarre stuff by 10, and you’ll arrive at the situation in which many audiophile’s have placed themselves. The L2 is the right horse for the audiophile course.
In addition to the simplicity of connection and zero configuration, the L2 switch features two optical SFP ports and two gigabit copper Ethernet ports. This is really nice and far beyond what 99% of audio companies are thinking about, let alone implementing. I’ll detail how I connected the L2 a bit further below.
The L2 is accessible over one’s network or via direct USB 3 connection to one’s computer. At first I thought, who would connect this to their computer, but then I remembered, it’s all the audiophiles with terrible network connections between their computers and their HiFi components. Or, those who are just more comfortable with a USB connection. Who am I to judge? Live and let listen.
Technically the L2 runs a UPnP / DLNA server supporting OpenHome, SMB over the network, and NTFS disk formatting on the internal drives. If connecting via USB from a Mac, use a tool such as SYSGeeker NTFS for Mac or Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software, as Macs can’t write to an NTFS formatted drive natively.
Why do you or I need the Lumin L2? The Lumin L2 arrives already configured for optimal performance, is supported via personal interaction with Lumin engineers, and is incapable of being screwed up. That’s important to most audiophiles, and should be important to all audiophiles, even those who are tech savvy. If one values time, the Lumin L2 is capable of giving you back your life to enjoy music rather than mess with off the shelf commodity storage solutions.
I know this because I have direct and indirect experience with all types of music storage. To put it bluntly, NAS units can really suck. I’ve been through too many of them, outgrown a few, had four succumb to obsolescence, and my current QNAP has been replaced twice. Add to that, the QNAP I performed surgery on to recover a friend’s 20,000 albums, many other dead NAS units of friends and colleagues, and my six month, ongoing / unresolved open support ticket for drive errors on my TVS-872XT, and one can get a picture of what it’s like to use such a solution.
If the hardware issues alone are too much for many audiophiles, don’t even delve into the software side of things. It all works great. Until it doesn’t. For the most part I can figure out the issues and recover from anything thrown my way, but sometimes I really don’t want to mess with anything. I want to listen to music. It’s times like those that make the L2 an undeniable godsend.
In My System
When the L2 arrived I connected one of its optical SFP ports to my network via single mode fiber, one of its copper Ethernet ports to my Lumin A1, and the other copper port to the new Lumin D3. Both A1 and D3 were connected to my Constellation Audio preamp > Constellation Audio mono amps > Wilson Audio Alexia V loudspeakers, via Transparent cable. If I still had the Lumin X1 I reviewed previously, I would’ve connected it to the remaining optical SFP port on the L2, which would have made the network connection optical from the X1 all the way to the far side of my router, where a single six foot copper cable separates my network from the optical fiber coming into my house.
Someday I may stop complaining about UPnP, but until that day arrives, I’ll continue calling it the most nonstandard standard that delivers as many problems as it does pleasure. Fortunately Lumin has an answer for those seeking a UPnP-based environment that’s trouble-free. Using the L2 with the D3 and A1 really makes the UPnP experience seems like something other than UPnP. It feels like a custom protocol more akin to Roon Ready in that everything just works. This is a real feat, and a gigantic benefit of going with an all-Lumin system with the L2 as its base.
I played everything I wanted and some tracks I didn’t really want to but felt I had to for testing purposes. The L2 > D3 and A1 was flawless, with the exception of one Multi-Room use case that was quickly resolved by Lumin support. Gapless, DSD, high resolution, queue management, library updating and scanning, etc… were all a piece of cake.
Given my love of JPLAY for iOS as my UPnP control point of choice, I used it for much of my listening through the Lumin players. I pointed JPLAY at the L2 server and the A1 or D3 players. Again, it was flawless. Music delivery from the L2, down six feet of Ethernet cable to the D3, and music delivered from Tidal, down a thousand miles of fiber cable were both fantastic. In fact, I was extremely impressed by the responsiveness and speed while using this combination. It was like my iPad sensed my finger was about to press play, and it got a jump on me by starting music a split second early, making it seem like playback was instantaneous. The “closed-loop” network and fast SSDs don’t hurt either.
After testing and listening with the Lumin players for weeks, it was time to try my reference DAC, the dCS Rossini APEX. Don’t get me wrong, both Lumin players are really good. I think the price to performance ratio on the new D3 is fantastic and it will make many people very happy listeners. But, I had a Rossini APEX warmed up in the bullpen, waiting to come in to close out the game. As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, the Rossini APEX was my Lee Smith, coming into the game in the ninth inning to throw flames and strike out the side.
Sound from the Lumin L2 to the dCS Rossin APEX was, as it should be, amazing. What surprised me most was the dead silence and black background while playing music. This wasn’t something for which I listened, as I was just trying to kick back and enjoy the music. It was one of those things that was immediate once I hit play.
With the Lumin L2 delivering nothing but music, leaving any upstream electrical issues behind via optical isolation, my Rossini APEX was elevated to another level. I must have listened to Aoife O’Donovan’s entire catalog four or five times over the ensuing two days. The album Aoife plays Nebraska was recorded live in Brooklyn at Aoife's home, and sounded like she was literally playing right in front of me. There is a special under-produced feel to this album, in addition to fantastic music, that when heard through a revealing system can really place O’Donovan in the room.
Another Aoife O’Donovan album that I purchased from Bandcamp and placed on the Lumin L2’s SSDs is Age of Apathy Solo Sessions, recorded live at The Audio Temple at Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. It’s another barebones recording that really shines and reveals a three dimensional image when played on components as capable as the L2 > Rossini APEX combo. The dead silence and black backgrounds were ever-present on this album as well, leading me to keep listening until 1:00 am this morning. This transparency made it so easy to listen at low volume while my family slept, yet still hear every single detail as if the level was turned to 11.
L2 Wrap Up
The Lumin L2 music library and network switch is the component you didn’t know you needed (if you’re a geek) and the component you’ve been waiting for if you’re more of a music listener than a digital mechanic. I’m a geek and I not only see the benefits of the L2, but I love them. I could just sit down and listen to music without a NAS issue, a network issue, or some other item popping up that would impede my listening enjoyment.
Listening to music in an all-Lumin system from L2 through to the A1 and D3 was flawless and sounded really great. Gapless high resolution, multi-room playback, and zero configuration to get it all going was just sweet. Bringing in the dCS Rossini APEX for a reference level experience and to reveal any shortcomings in the L2 as a server / switch, resulted in “nothing but net” sonically. The sound quality was stellar, placing my favorite musicians holographically in the center of my room, without any distractions to be heard.
I recommend the Lumin L2 for every audiophile who values doing business with a great company, likes direct user support, zero configuration setup, rock solid stability, components that work and are nearly impossible to break, and of course sound quality commensurate with incredibly revealing audio components. The Lumin L2 easily makes the CASH List.