Sonus faber Lumina I: The Audiophile Bella Donna
Italians make beautiful things. Maserati, Gaggia, Brioni, Beretta, and Sophia Loren. Loudspeaker manufacturer Sonus faber is the shiny beacon atop the Il Duomo and for good reason; they make the most beautiful loudspeakers in the world. They also make some of the most expensive loudspeakers in the world which isn’t so great for the rest of us who can only dream of owning a pair of Electa Amator III. In the words of my good friend, Leo Taormina, “i tempi stanno cambiando.” Meet the Sonus faber Lumina I.
Sonus faber has been manufacturing loudspeakers in Italy for almost four decades (2023 will be its 40th anniversary), and the luxury brand started by the late-Franco Serblin has preserved its reputation for manufacturing the world’s most beautiful loudspeakers with great skill. Sonus faber’s loudspeakers are aspirational products for many audiophiles for both their visual appeal and acoustic capabilities.
I have long held the belief that audio components reflect the culture of the people behind them; Italians care deeply about design, beauty, craftsmanship, and creating products that make you feel something. It doesn’t matter if you are cooking, eating, shooting, driving, or listening to your favorite music — Italians believe that there is a story behind everything and that a product has to evoke something in your soul to have value.
Italian high-end audio equipment is the possibly the greatest embodiment of that ethos; brands like Audio Analogue, Opera, Gold Note, Unison Research, and Sonus faber not only offer excellent sound quality, but the products are beautiful to look at and touch.
I grew up on the edge of Toronto’s Italian neighborhood; my great-great aunt’s fish store was called “Grupstein’s Pesceria.” My parents owned the largest pizza chain in Canada and I spent more time with Leo and Vince Taormina in their barbershop eating hot veals with extra sauce and drinking espresso than I did sitting at my parent’s table listening to Walter Cronkite.
Most of the people I grew up with were the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors or Sicilian immigrants. I played football in the Italian soccer league in Toronto and learned how to curse in Italian and Portuguese. I tossed out my apple juice and drank Brio Chinotto with my lunch in Hebrew School.
My first trip to Italy with Doug Schneider (Soundstage Network) and Steve Rochlin (EnjoytheMusic) was to the Top Audio/Video Show which was held in Milan. We sweated like pigs walking around Milan in September and stayed up late during the Jewish High Holidays listening to music and stories with Ken Kessler and the late-Ken Ishiwata of Marantz and Rotel.
It’s fair to say I like Italian things.
One of the most unique design aspects of early Sonus faber designs was the use of leather on the front baffle; a detail the Lumina I forgo for a leather-wrapped enclosure instead that looks especially striking with the Wenge-finished (real wood veneer) multilayer front baffle.
The Lumina collection are available in Walnut, Piano Black, and Wenge – the magnetic grille covers should be left in the box for both sonic and aesthetic reasons. There are two sets of binding posts on the rear panel for bi-wiring or bi-amping.
The range uses Sonus faber’s DAD (Damped Apex Dome) tweeter – the same used in the company’s more expensive Sonetto series – featuring a Kurtmueller hand-coated soft-silk 2.9 cm diaphragm.
The Lumina I utilize a brand new 4.72” paper cone midrange/woofer manufactured from cellulose pulp that is blended with other natural materials.
The Lumina I buck the recent trend of “oversized” bookshelf loudspeakers (11”H x 5.8”W x 8.4”D) like the Klipsch RP-600M, Wharfedale EVO 4.2, and Q Acoustics 3030i; something that might make them more appealing to those who don’t want the added expense of dedicated stands and would prefer to place them on a credenza or actual bookshelf.
The front reflex port was a smart choice as it allows the Lumina I to be positioned closer to the wall behind it; not that this loudspeaker is capable of overloading too many listening spaces with its bass response; the Lumina I are rated at 65 Hz – 24,000 Hz (84 dB, 4 ohms).
The low sensitivity rating might raise a few eyebrows; it certainly encouraged me to try the Lumina I with a wide range of amplifiers including the Naim Uniti Atom, NAD C 316BEE, Cambridge Audio AXA35, Croft Phono Integrated, and Cambridge Audio Edge A.
During my recent review of the Rotel A14MKII Integrated Amplifier, I started to think hard about a suitable long-term loudspeaker for this excellent amplifier. It has more than enough power and the right tonal balance for the Sonus Faber Lumina I.
The A14MKII comes with both an internal DAC and MM phono stage making it a no-brainer for a system designed around a smaller room or home office; or even a bedroom system.
The brand new Pro-Ject Debut Pro makes logical sense here. It’s a great sounding table below $1,000 and the pre-installed Sumiko cartridge works really well with the Rotel’s phono preamp.
You can upgrade the sound of the Debut Pro with the Sumiko Wellfleet cartridge and the additional funds are worth the investment.
That just leaves us short one component. A digital music streamer.
The Lumina I have a warmer tonal balance with a very smooth sounding tweeter.
Vocals can really shine through the Sonus faber Lumina I, but you need to find the right balance with your amp and sources. I would not go with anything too laid back on the amplification side. The woofer benefits from some control if you want to maximize its limited low-end performance.
I think you’re pretty safe going with either the Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra or the Cambridge Audio CXN V2.
Cables from QED and AudioQuest.
The Sweet Veal with Extra Sauce and Hot Peppers
Don’t trust anyone who can’t find some form of joy from a proper veal sandwich made by a loving Italian grandmother in a cast-iron pan that survived both Mussolini and a husband with a roving eye. One of Toronto’s best and most affordable sandwiches in a city where house prices are well into the seven figures and dinner for two can run over $100 without wine.
It can be a messy meal and it is not advisable to consume more than one unless you want to end up at Mt. Sinai on University Avenue crying out for “Mama” when everything starts to go black. And we know how that last order of greasy onion rings in Montclair turned out for Tony.
Total: $4,347 – $4,797
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