Sonus Faber Lumina I: the most enticing of all Italian compact speakers

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Today we review the Sonus Faber Lumina I compact speakers, the smallest and most affordable loudspeakers from the Italian manufacturer’s Sonus Faber Lumina range. Marketed at €799 per pair, these speakers are just as well finished as the higher range models, with a very nice black leather finish and a real wood front panel. 

A characteristic detail of many of the Italian manufacturer’s speakers, the tweeter of the Sonus Faber Lumina I is mounted in a lyre-shaped bracket.

LThe Sonus Faber Lumina I is equipped with a 4-½” diameter midrange driver loaded in a bass-reflex enclosure and a silk dome tweeter with proprietary D.A.D. technology. It has an impedance of 4 ohms and a sensitivity of 84 dB and should be ideally paired with an amp capable of delivering between 30 and 100 watts RMS. Considering the specs on paper, this speaker is mainly designed to be placed at a short distance of the listening area in a reasonably sized bedroom or living room. 

Despite their small size, are the musical qualities of these gorgeous compact speakers in line with their beautiful design?

Sonus Faber Lumina I: the brand

Sonus Faber was founded in 1980 by a group of audiophiles who were also passionate about woodworking and wanted to follow in the footsteps of the master luthiers of the region. The use of high-quality materials, a particularly careful design and undeniable musical qualities quickly made the brand famous. Sonus Faber loudspeakers are unmistakable and will never leave you indifferent. 

Sonus Faber has several ranges of speakers in its catalog:

Sonus Faber Lumina range

Sonus Faber Sonetto range

Sonus Faber Olympica Nova range

The Italian manufacturer also offers a range of in-wall speakers, some of which feature a beautiful wood and black leather front panel, such as the Sonus Faber Palladio PW-662 and Sonus Faber Palladio PL-664.

At Sonus Faber, even the in-wall speakers are adorned with wood and leather, like the Sonus Faber Palladio PL-664, a closed 3-way LCR model.

Sonus Faber manufactures all of its loudspeakers in its factory located in the city of Vicenza, not far from Venice. In the early days of the brand, the speaker drivers were mostly made by the Danish manufacturer Scan-Speak, who is renowned for the great linearity of its drivers and for its powerful motorized fabric dome tweeters. However, the drivers are now designed and manufactured by Sonus Faber, including those used in the Sonus Faber Lumina I, which we are reviewing today.

In order to keep the factory on a smaller scale, Sonus Faber entrusts the cabinet work to an exclusive subcontractor in the region, who also designs the specific workshop support for each model. At Sonus Faber, manual work is a tradition and each speaker passes through the hands of about 20 people before leaving the factory.

Sonus Faber Lumina I: packaging & accessories

The Sonus Faber Lumina I come in double cardboard packaging to protect them from the hazards of transport. They are secured with two blocks of polyethylene foam (one on top and one under) and packed in a synthetic fabric cover. A polyethylene foam film is inserted between the front of the speakers and their respective magnetic covers.

Sonus Faber Lumina I: presentation

The Sonus Faber Lumina speaker range is the most affordable out of the Italian manufacturer’s catalog. Despite this, the DNA of the brand is still very present with simple and elegant lines and the use of noble materials (real wood and leather cabinet). Its magnetic cover gives the listener the choice to hide the front of this speaker, which becomes very discreet and almost invisible in a bookcase, or to enjoy its beautiful wood finish once the cover is removed.

Technically, these speakers also benefit from the know-how of Italian engineers who have equipped them with a tweeter with proprietary DAD (Damped Apex Dome) technology that is found on all Sonus Faber speakers. 

The Sonus Faber Lumina I bookshelf speaker is a 2-way bass-reflex model. It is equipped with a 4-½” cone driver and a 1-¼” fabric dome tweeter.

It is very well suited for two purposes: 

  1. Reproducing surround effects in movies in combination with the Sonus Faber Lumina Center I center-channel speaker and the Sonus Faber Lumina III pair of floorstanding speakers.
  2. Listening to music in a reasonably sized bedroom or living room, with or without a subwoofer.

Leather and wood finish

The Sonus Faber Lumina I adopts a simpler and more classic design than the brand’s other compact speakers such as the Sonus Faber Sonetto I or the Sonus Faber Olympica Nova I speakers. 

Like all Sonus Faber speakers, it stands out due to the quality of its design. As soon as it is out of the box, it’s hard not to be in awe of its multi-layered real wood front panel and its cabinet covered in black leather. The Italian brand makes yet another striking statement with a minimalist design that uses bold angles to highlight the quality of the materials.

D.A.D. tweeter

The Sonus Faber Lumina I features a 1-¼” D.A.D. (Damped Apex Dome) tweeter. It is surmounted by a narrow arch with a conical tip resting on the dome apex. This provides local damping of the tweeter apex to avoid any risk of phase inversion, which is common in this area. In a standard soft dome tweeter, this phase inversion at the top of the dome causes early attenuation of high frequencies.

A small cone with a rounded end is positioned at the top of the tweeter dome to eliminate phase inversion in this area of the tweeter.du tweeter afin d’éliminer les phénomènes d’inversion de phase dans cette zone de la membrane.

The DAD tweeter of the Sonus faber Lumina I features a powerful motor and ensures a precise and efficient reproduction of the high frequency range. Another asset of this silk dome transducer is its excellent linearity.

4-½” midbass driver

The cone of the Sonus Faber Lumina I’s midbass driver is a combination of composite materials and paper. This 4-½” driver, designed specifically for this range of speakers, features a half-roll surround and a large motor. It ensures a long excursion and excellent power handling. 

The driver is loaded in a bass-reflex enclosure, with a very discreet front-firing laminar port integrated into the base of the speaker, which facilitates its placement in a living room. 

The Sonus Faber Lumina I is a true bookshelf speaker that can easily be placed on a shelf between books.

Optimized crossover filter

Sonus Faber has carefully tuned the crossover-filter of the Sonus Faber Lumina I to achieve a linear impedance. This makes the speaker easier to power and eliminates the risk of coloration from the associated amplifier. The two pairs of nickel-plated screw terminals are compatible with banana plugs and allow for bi-wiring or bi-amplification.

The Sonus Faber Lumina I has a frequency response from 65Hz to 24kHz. Its rather low sensitivity rating (84 dB/2.83 V/1 m) is partly compensated by its 4 ohms impedance but requires a powerful amp and/or a solid power supply if you want to listen to music at high volume.

About 50 watts per channel are enough for the Sonus Faber Lumina I to express itself with conviction in a reasonably sized room.

Sonus Faber Lumina I: key specs

Design

  • 2-way speaker
  • Bass-reflex enclosure with front-firing laminar port located at the base of the speaker
  • Natural wood and black leather finish
  • Bi-amp compatible terminals

Drivers

  • 4-½” midbass driver witch cellulose pulp and natural fiber cone
  • 1-¼” coated silk dome D.A.D. (Damped Apex Dome) tweeter

Measurements

  • Recommended amplification power: 30 to 100W RMS
  • Frequency response: 65Hz to 24kHz
  • Sensitivity: 84 dB /2.83 V/m
  • Impedance: 4 ohms
  • Optimized amplitude and phase response filter
  • Cut-off frequency: 2000Hz

General

  • Dimensions (hxwxd): 280 x 148 x 213mm
  • Weight: 4.4kg (each)

Sonus Faber Lumina I: testing conditions

For this test of the Sonus Faber Lumina I compact speakers, we set them up on a pair of NorStone Stylum 2 speaker stands, spaced about 5 feet apart from each other and each placed about 5 feet from the listening area. We then connected them to the Lyngdorf TDAI-1120 WiFi/Bluetooth amp using a pair of NorStone Arran MC speaker wires. This allowed us to take advantage of our Qobuz Studio subscription to listen to music in CD quality and Hi-Res.

We were able to test the Sonus Faber Lumina I speakers with the excellent Lyngdorf TDAI-1120 WiFi/Bluetooth amp.pli Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Lyngdorf TDAI-1120.

We also had the opportunity to combine these speakers with the Rel Acoustics T-Zero subwoofer during several listening sessions. 

The small Rel Acoustics T-Zero subwoofer has proven to be a great partner for the Sonus Faber Lumina I compact speakers.

Sonus Faber Lumina I: listening impressions

Summertime (Album Version) – Aaron Neville (Nature Boy: The Standards Album – 2003)

The soundstage was very spacious and the music had room to breathe from the opening of the track. The first notes of the piano on the right benefited from a long sustain, the guitar on the left unfolded very smoothly while the soft strokes on the cymbal on the right set the tempo before the percussion and the drums came in, joined by the bass and the brass instruments.

The singer’s voice was clear and perfectly articulated. It unfolded effortlessly from the center of the soundstage. The vibrato and the numerous nuances in the voice inflections were rendered with great realism.

The respect of the timing is optimal, with a tweeter which holds the tempo perfectly, and is luminous, incisive and precise without ever losing its softness. The bass is energetic and very well controlled. If not deep, it is perfectly timed and nuanced.

We were surprised by the ease with which these very small speakers delivered this piece that unfolded throughout our living room. We even turned up the volume without the speaker ever becoming muddy or unpleasant to listen to.
By activating the Rel T-Zero subwoofer, the increased energy and depth in the lows really added to the overall sound, which gained in intensity, substance and amplitude

On The Rel Acoustics T-Zero subwoofer brings an appreciable extension in the lows which gives more body and substance to the sound. We can never insist too much about the quality of a 2.1 hi-fi system…

I Can’t Stand The Rain – Sara K. (Hell or High Water – 2006)

The bluesy guitar and the hoarse voice of the folk singer swept us away from the first bars of this cover of Ann Peebles’ song. Once again, the spaciousness and the amplitude of the sound stage along with the sensation of depth it provided won us over instantly. 

The voice of the artist was reproduced with a lot of substance, sometimes with softness, sometimes with intensity. The guitars which answer each other on the left and on the right were realistically rendered. The plucking of the strings and their vibrations sounded authentic, the overall presentation had a very nice presence.

Fever – Balthazar (Fever – 2019)

The bass as a metronome from the first seconds, the electronic sounds, the xylophone interrupted by the choirs before the drums then the voice of the singer come in: the compact Sonus Faber Lumina I delivered with ease this eclectic musical composition which gradually took life in front of us. 

The singer’s deep and husky voice was a delight. The choirs spread out in height and width, the strings hit high notes with a beautiful clarity while the percussion and the drums joyfully hammered out the tempo. Of course, the lows lacked depth but in the frequency range covered by the 4-½” driver, it remained lively and extremely well structured. So much so that it never became frustrating, even if adding the Rel Acoustics T-Zero subwoofer allowed us to appreciate this track even more.

Sonus Faber Lumina I compared to the Dali Menuet and Davis Acoustics Courbet N°3 loudspeakers

Dali Menuet (€1,100 per pair)

The size of the drivers is more or less the same as on the Menuet, which also has a low sensitivity rating and nominal impedance. On paper, the Scandinavian loudspeaker goes down a little bit lower, which results in a little bit more density. 

Both models deliver a remarkably spacious sound and show precision and softness in the high frequency register with realistic timbres. 

On the very subjective topic of design, the Sonus Faber Lumina I is by far the most appealing in our opinion. The combination of wood and leather is a real success and the finishing is beyond reproach. Finally, the front-firing port of the little Italian speaker will be a definitive plus for those who wish to install it on a bookshelf.

Davis Acoustics Courbet N°3 (€1,800 per pair)

The Courbet N°3 is a little bit bigger than the Sonus Faber Lumina I and features a 5” midbass driver. Its very rigid Kevlar cone and its slightly larger enclosure volume give it more authority in the lows. With its smooth high frequencies, the French speaker benefits from a very lively midrange that is well embodied with a certain sense of nuance. The sound stage is wide, the spatialization of voices and instruments remains precise at all times. 

The lows of the Sonus Faber Lumina I are less substantial than that of the Courbet, and its midrange isn’t quite as rich yet remains very pleasant. However, it is almost equal in terms of airiness and spatialization of the sound stage.

Finally, in terms of design, although the lacquered finish of the French model is particularly pleasant, it contrasts with the warmth of the wood and leather of the Italian model, more sensual in this respect.

Sonus Faber Lumina I: conclusion

With the Sonus Faber Lumina I, the Italian manufacturer manages to offer music lovers everything that has made its speakers so successful over the years for a reasonable price. The accuracy of the timbres, the energy deployed in a balanced way over the whole frequency range, the spatialization and the airiness of the sound stage are all there. And so is the emotion.

This compact speaker is very well designed and never tries to appear bigger than it is at the risk of delivering an approximate or messy sound. On the contrary, it makes the most of its intrinsic qualities in order to serve the music with a lot of accuracy and a beautiful energy.

Although these speakers are intended for close-up listening in a reasonably sized room, they proved to be at ease in our living room of more than 30m².

It is recommended to pair the speakers with a stereo amplifier or WiFi/Bluetooth receiver rated at 50 watts or more into 4 ohms to achieve the best performance. Adding a subwoofer, even one with a modestly sized driver like the Rel Acoustics T-Zero, will add substance and provide even greater amplitude to the sound stage.

What we liked

  • The esthetics and the very elegant finish
  • The compactness of the speaker and the discreet front-firing port
  • The speaker’s energy and vitality
  • The accuracy of the timbres

We would have liked

  • A little bit more breadth in the lows

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