Lumin X1: Enabling an Even Simpler Yet Better Sounding System

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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Chicagoland
Yes, the Lumin App provides a 1 to 100 range. At 5 it is whisper quiet, audible basically only in the room or just outside it with the door open. With extremely uncompressed quiet signals, I've occasionally needed 100 to get it really loud. On most material, about 64 will give me 83 - 85 dB at the listening seat, C-weighted slow on the Audio Tools app on my iPhone. On most material, somewhere between 72 and 82 is as loud as I'd ever want to listen. So, yes, there is a lot of granularity to the volume control and with the new Leedh DSP this is the cat's meow in terms of not losing any detail at lower volume settings and in all other ways of judging the sonic quality of a volume control. The Lumin control was already better sounding than the Benchmark HPA/LA4 (the prior champion in my experience) before Leedh and now it's even better.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
583
133
455
68
Chicagoland
I recently discovered how to properly set the MQA settings for my system when using Roon with the Lumin X1. Perhaps this is well known to others, but it seemed "hidden" to me. This configuration applies when the Lumin is outputting a digital signal to an external DAC, as is the case with my current system configuration where my Dutch & Dutch 8c speakers contain the DACs and those DACs do not have MQA capabilities of their own. This means that only the MQA Core Decoder will be active and only the first unfolding is done. However, many commentators suggest that this first unfolding yields 90% of all the benefit of MQA.

Thus, what I've found out is that Room MQA Core decoding should be turned on, the Lumin MQA setting should be Digital Out, and Roon's Device Set Up for the Lumin should be set to Renderer Only. These are not the default settings, by the way. These settings are stated to be correct by Peter Lie, Firmware Lead of Lumin Network Music players in this thread.

I have found that setting things this way does in fact make MQA recordings sound better yet. I now understand more than every why some folks prefer Tidal's MQA versions to the Hi-Res PCM versions on Qobuz. There is a natural ease and clarity to the MQA that is hard to argue with.

Now, I could do full MQA decoding and unfolding by taking the analog signal out of the Lumin X1's balanced analog outputs and feeding the D&D speakers balanced analog audio. To do so, however, would interject a non-MQA A/D and D/A conversion into the signal path. As I understand MQA protocols, the result would no longer meet MQA protocols since the D&D A/D and D/A processes are not MQA devices and the redundant A/D and D/A conversions render the prior MQA decoding somewhat contaminated or time smeared.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
583
133
455
68
Chicagoland
For classical music fans looking for the best sounding classical internet radio stations, the amount of compression the station applies is very important. Many times the amount of compression a given station is applying makes all the difference, far more difference than the actual bit rate of the stream. You can recognize the really "high fidelity" stations by how quiet they sound compared to most others. You want the least compression and therefore the "quietest" stations.

Most recordings, even classical music recordings, have considerable compression applied to the signal during the recording process. To hear the most lifelike sound, you certainly don't want the station applying a lot of additional compression. However, in my experience, one of the ways most internet radio stations, even those specializing in classical music, process their signal is to add extra compression. This is immediately obvious when comparing the sound of a particular recording playing on an internet radio station with the CD version of that program played from Qobuz or Tidal.

Here are a few classical stations I've found to have exceptional sound quality in terms of lack of compression. The sound quality of these stations is exceptional as internet radio stations go despite the fact that none of these send out a signal at a bit rate of more than 128 kbps:

1. New York's WQXR has a very nice-sounding signal, and plays a wide musical variety, not concentrating too much on classical "war horses." It is one of the very "quietest" signals out there in internet radio land. That means it is uncompressed. It would sound even better if they boosted the resolution up from MP-3 128 kbps.

2. The two Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) classical stations Classic and Classic 2. The ABC Jazz channel shares this low compression/quality sound characteristic. Unfortunately, the bitrate of all three is down around 64 kbps. They still sound quite nice, considering.

3. BBC Radio 3 (AirPlay from the BBC Sounds app is the best-sounding BBC Radio 3 stream available outside Britain)

4. WILL (an NPR station out of Champaign/Urbana Illinois, home of my undergrad Alma Mater, University of Illinois). When playing NPR material, it's frequently shocking how much quieter and better WILL sounds than the same program being simulcast on other NPR internet radio stations. The average SPL difference frequently exceeds 15 dB.
 

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