Reviews

Review: Sonus Faber Lumina V – Musical design speakers from Italy

Review: Sonus Faber Lumina V – Musical design speakers from Italy are reproducers who focus on cohesion and comprehensive presentation without letting go of the sense of detail
5/5 - (1 vote)

The Lumina family of Sonus Faber stands in the shadow of the majestic masterpieces that roll out of the studios of Sonus Faber. Perhaps unjustly, because these accessible Italians are pretty refined. And handsome.

Italian Sonus Faber is known for its handmade, luxurious speakers that uniquely marry Italian design influences with traditional artisan materials. Their graceful top models often attract a lot of attention at shows. Inspired by traditional instrument-building techniques and romantic names such as Il Cremonese and Aida, these dream objects are easy to seduce. Therefore, the marriage between the brand from the Veneto region and Maserati is no coincidence. You can now find Sonus Faber’s speakers in many of their performance cars.

But the brand also has accessible speakers that, according to their designers, offer much of the refined sound experience of those large flagships. We’re talking about the elegant Lumina line that we’ll look at here in the form of the three-way Lumina V. It’s a family of reproducers that carries much of that Italian DNA. You can see that immediately. Although the Luminas look a bit more conventional than the more expensive Sonus Fabers, they are also immediately recognizable as a product of Arcugnano.

WhatThree-way floorstander
Sensitivity89dB SPL (2.83V/1m)
Impedance4 ohms
Dimensions104.9 x 28 x 37.3 cm
Weight22.5 kg
Price2,899 euros per pair

Stereo and surround

The Lumina V we are testing here is the largest floorstander in this loudspeaker family. Four other models are available: the slimmer Lumina III and two bookshelf speakers (the Lumina I and II). The Lumina C1 is a dedicated center channel speaker in a surround setup. Those who want to build a home cinema with these speakers will also find the necessary subwoofers at Sonus Faber. The Gravis I and II, in particular, are subs that work well with the Luminas regarding finish and reproduction. They may have been designed to match the more expensive Sorrento line in terms of veneers, but the walnut version of the Gravis I and II is certainly so beautiful that you would like to park it in your living room with the Luminas.

Despite its status as the top model in the Lumina line, the V is not overly large. It is just under 105 cm high with a modest width of 28 cm. We found it to be anything but large or unwieldy (although at 22 kg, it is anything but a featherweight). If you’re looking for something even slimmer, the Lumina III has a more streamlined appearance. But this is a case where even the largest floorstander still has a slender appearance – with many competitors, that topper is quite broad and plump.

Wink upwards

Sonus Faber’s love of luxury is also unmistakable in this entry-level line. For example, the speakers’ cabinet is covered in a (synthetic) leather-like material, with a separate front or baffle that seems to float in front of the cabinet. That gives the Lumina V a distinctive look. They are reproducers with a more than subtly different design compared to many rivals. Incidentally, that leather-like finish must be seen in real life. It’s not, as you might think with that material, very flashy or showy but very understated. Think of a friendly, sleek cockpit finish in a more expensive car rather than a leather look that belongs to more showy handbags.

The floating front panel on the Lumina V is also really something you’d expect from Sonus Faber – as are the available color options. That front can be completely matte black, but you can also get the Lumina speaker with a panel with a wenge or walnut finish. With these two, the front is broken up with some light horizontal lines. That is immediately a nod to the luxurious Olympica Nova line, which shows off a horizontally running line motif all over the cabinet.

Sober approach

The Lumina V is more angular and sober than its big brothers. A conscious choice, say the designers, to emphasize the essentials. Yet there are small design elements here and there that attract attention. For example, the tweeter with its waveguide makes the radiation in the horizontal plane smoother and more comprehensive. This is a thoroughbred DAD tweeter, a technique specific to Sonus Faber in which the top of the soft dome is damped in a targeted way to improve the behavior in the highest frequencies. A significant advantage is that those highest frequencies disappear less quickly if you sit diagonally before the speaker. We also noticed that overall appearance when walking around the test room.

Up close, we also saw the coarser structure of the cone in the midrange driver. And, of course, the SF logo is in the middle. Internally, the tweeter and this driver are housed in a separate internal cabinet that should promote integration between the two (by reducing standing waves, among other things). This construction should mainly ensure that the crucial mid-frequencies continue to sound natural. It is no coincidence that those frequencies are precisely what Sonus Faber traditionally attaches great importance to.

There is no bass port to be found on the back. It’s at the bottom. This simplifies the placement of the Lumina Vs. In our test, they were far from a wall, but closer should be possible. Their appearance also allows them to be placed straight, although it may be beneficial to experiment with a light toe-in.

Close to the skin

For this review, we went to the offices of Fine Sounds, the company behind Sonus Faber and McIntosh. Unsurprisingly, the electronics that powered the Lumina V were almost all American in origin. The only exception: the streamer. A dedicated high-end network player is still missing from McIntosh’s range, so a HiFi Rose RS150 was opted for. Also beautiful, of course.

But before diving deep into streaming, let’s start by listening to a few CDs. We do this via a McIntosh MCD600 CD/SACD player connected to an MA252 integrated amplifier. Quite a unique device that marries a tube pre-amplifier with a solid-state amplifier, good for 100 Watts of power (with 8 Ohm speakers). More than enough for those few Lumina Vs, we think.

The first thing that comes up is ‘The Bridge’ by Sting, an excellent album to get into. The former The Police frontman is 71 years old, which you hardly notice in his voice – he still sounds relatively youthful. You notice it in the themes he touches on this album and yet in the more careful, intimate singing style. The Luminas convey things very beautifully, including the slight fragility in the voice. In particular, in the narrative ‘The Bells of Saint Thomas,’ written when the singer was staying in Antwerp, we experience very close, far distant.

We also have the same very strongly when we play Carla Bruni’s ‘Little French Songs.’ Also, ‘J’arrive à toi’ is casual and intimate, like The Bridge. Bruni’s seductive voice is in the spotlight in its full lushness, which the Lumina Vs clearly like to do. Exciting (and possibly tiring) you with bright detail is out of the question. And yet there is a depth and a nice width in the sound image where more minor musical details are given a particular place, like the sliding of the fingers over the strings of an acoustic guitar, which is explicitly played out in this song.

In ‘Mon Raymond’, the chanteuse shifts up a gear, making it more playful. That is an excellent opportunity for the Sonus Faber speakers to demonstrate that they are also rhythmically vital. When the drums kick in, nothing sinks in or becomes monolithic; it’s just an instrument that starts playing on stage. Music is served as a whole, yet you can fish out individual players from the whole, such as the muted trumpet that only sounds very explicitly towards the end of the flanger guitar effect delivered very subtly.

Relax in the tension field

We remain fans of what the English formation Boxwood & Brass started on ‘Beethoven Transformed, vol.1’. It is a small orchestra with woodwind and brass instruments in what does not sound like an immense space but a stage with a certain depth. Delivered by the McIntosh and the Lumina V’s, it exudes a certain tranquility from the first tones of ‘Septet for strings & woodwinds in E Flat major, Op.20’. The horns at 1. Adagio is brought very greasy, as it should be. There are many points where a lesser or more analytical loudspeaker would show a hard edge or dash of artificiality, such as when blowing with force on those balloons. After that, the clarinets seduce with a very fluid character. Some works on this CD are also surprisingly dynamic, in which very soft tones alternate with fierce, louder blowing sounds. That contrast is part of the composition; of course, how the Lumina interprets that tension field well is admirable. If we turn the volume up on the second track, the Sonus Faber remains consistent musically without getting out of balance.

We stay with Beethoven for ‘Triple Concerto; Symphony No.7’ by Deutsche Grammophon. Violin superstars Yo-Yo Ma and Anne-Sophie Mutter provide an intriguing interplay with the Spanish West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Here you can enjoy the finesse of virtuoso soloists who play together with a full orchestra. Here again, that is surprising, where catchy details (such as the violoncello) are subtly presented without stepping out of the picture. After all, this can create distance for some loudspeakers that do focus on it, because instruments almost seem to be separate from the overall picture. But that’s not the case here. The softer, more musical approach allows those moments of solo work, like in a concert, to stand beautifully separately on stage. The moments when conductor Barenboim crawls behind the piano have a very authentic, faster feel, inviting you to move your fingers over the keys. Virtual then.

Streaming, we listen to entirely different musical feeds. The re-release of Bettie Serveert’s ‘Palomino’, in which the Lumina V’s also prove to work with this soft rock. In ‘Honey’ on the album of the same name, there is also a soft but powerful aspect to Samia’s voice. Sonus Fibers did make us reach for female voices more; they do that very well. ‘Gold Junkie’ and ‘Lilies’ by Melanie De Biasio are also reviewed. Her voice is natural and centrally positioned, and the piano plays with the necessary gravitas and presence, especially with Lilies. This De Biasio album exudes a very personal, late-night-in-the-town feel, especially on tracks like Lilies, a very sparse and almost hesitant composition.

Refinement in the layer

The bass performance is higher than you can expect from a floorstander like the Lumina V. For example, the beat that propels ‘Home’ on Orbital’s latest album is relatively tight and defined. What is again striking here is how Anna B Savage’s singing is very loose and relaxed in the room. And despite the brand image of mainly sounding refined, ‘Eating Hooks’ by Moderat is presented compellingly with drive. Deep, beech basses that dominate are not Sonus Faber’s thing, but you can expect a more detailed bass foundation that connects seamlessly with the upper middle.

This also gives room for a presentation that is broad and deep. There was already a solid live feeling with Melanie De Biasio, which is the case even with this tight nightclub techno from Berlin. With ‘Chevaliers de Sangreal’, a track on ‘Hans Zimmer – Live from Prague’, we happily end the long listening session. We enjoy a very convincingly wide soundstage, where the increasingly thin, exciting violin of Rusanda Panfili takes an excellent solo position. There is also a whole orchestra present, but it forms a great synergy with Panfili. For example, the bells reverberate very convincingly further in the room. And maybe that’s what makes those Sonus Faber’s unique: you can zoom in on a particular player or a riff on an instrument without losing the feeling that you’re being swept up in the majesty of the overall impression.

Conclusion

The Lumina V’s are beautiful floorstanders who borrow a lot from their luxurious, expensive big brothers. They are reproducers who focus on cohesion and comprehensive presentation without letting go of the sense of detail. However, they don’t go as far as the highly refined high-end Sonus Fibers, making the Lumina V a forgiving, all-purpose speaker. They can therefore handle casual streaming from Spotify without any problems. But these Italian-style icons deserve to be fed with music of high quality.

Pros

  • A successful mix of soft detail and integration
  • Touch of coloring that is very ear-friendly
  • Beautiful finish and clear identity
  • Not difficult to install

Negatives

  • A better amplifier can’t hurt
  • No ultimate detail viewers