I could be crucified by purists here, but it would be lying if I denied that the first thing I think of when anyone mentions Sonus Faber is “style and luxury”. And these aren’t attributes only describing its looks necessarily.
The Italian loudspeaker specialist has carved out a sonic signature for itself that is stylish and luxurious too but it’s so inextricably linked to its design and finishes that it’s hard to separate the visual from the sound. They’ve produced some legendary speakers inspired by the greatest classical musicians and their price tags have aligned with royalty as well. That’s what makes the Lumina range so intriguing; it aims to bring most of the Sonus Faber visual and aural spectacle several notches down the pecking order for everyone to enjoy.
Not just a box
Usually easily identifiable by their lute shape and stringy grilles resembling an instrument, Sonus Faber speakers are dramatic even before they start playing any music. The Lumina range though is conventionally shaped, though not conventional looking by any standards. Our samples of the Lumina III, which is the largest speaker in the range, were beautifully draped in faux leather on the sides and back while the multi-layered wood front baffle was impeccably finished in Wengue wood with maple inlay strips to break the monotony of the grain. What’s important to note too, is that even this entry-level Sonus Faber range is now made in Italy, using all the handcrafted skills of their finest artisans and engineers. Thankfully, it’s not just the aesthetics that are in line with more expensive models. Known for its ultra-smooth midrange and grain-free highs, the “voice of Sonus Faber” is what makes their speakers appeal to the large fan base and the Lumina III borrows the same tweeter and driver materials, allowing it to achieve a large percentage of the magic at a fraction of the price. The 1.14in Damped Apex Dome (DAD) soft-dome tweeter is the same one used in more expensive Sonus lines and the 5.9in midrange and twin 5.9in bass drivers too are custom designs that utilize their well-known ultra-free compression baskets for an open sounding signature. Like all Sonus Faber drivers, these too are made from a blend of cellulose pulp and natural fibers, again, keeping the promise of “the voice of Sonus”. Interestingly, the Lumina III also has a bottom-firing port that is integrated into the plinth so placing it around the room and close to the wall is easily possible without affecting the bass response a lot. The cabinet itself isn’t heavy but rigid enough for an entry-level MDF enclosure and the front baffle is decoupled from the backbox visco-elastically. Decoupling from the floor happens via spikes that also come with protective end caps if you happen to place them on a hardwood floor. Since the port fires through the plinth and downwards, it is actually quite critical to be using these spikes regardless of what surface you’re placing the Lumina III on. The additional couple of inches of elevation that the spikes provide allows the port to breathe more freely and aids in deeper bass extension.
Voice of Gods
Bi-wired to our resident AVM 30th Anniversary monoblock amplifiers with a digital chain comprising of a Roon Nucleus, Limetree Bridge and Soul Note DAC, the Sonus Faber Lumina III was in decent hands as far as electronics are concerned. So it had to roll up its sleeves and show us what it’s bringing to the party. Spiked and aimed at an audience of one, they began to unravel slowly but surely. The natural materials used in the driver construction means that they will require a fair amount of break-in period before they start singing at their best. And sing their best they do. In typical Sonus fashion, the high-frequency response is smooth and flatters voices and adds the necessary air to the music. Dheemi dheemi from A.R.Rahman’s 1947 Earth soundtrack shows off the strengths of this speaker. Clarity and openness in the highs with a light-footed electronic bass highlight the inherent quality of the drive units, which is of a high order. It’s easy to achieve a strong centre image with a slight toe-in of the speakers and it projects a wide enough soundstage to be enjoyed by more than just the sweet-spot holder. Electronic and acoustic music seems to be best suited to this floorstander, Vamp by Trentemoller making a strong case for dual smaller-sized woofers instead of one large unit. The speed and control exhibited by the twin 5.9in bass units is impressive, both in terms of excursion and extension. It’s easy to push the volume control northwards since the Lumina III shows no sign of distress and the small drivers handle large excursions supremely well. But, it also has an Achilles heel in the mid-bass region, especially noticeable on acoustic percussion instruments. Joe Bonamassa’s Radiator 101 sounds expansive for a speaker its size but the kick drum also sounds a bit hollow, lacking weight and heft. Switch to drum loops on John Mayer’s Still Feel Like Your Man and the low-end starts behaving again, like it has been knuckle rapped. The pattern continues on recording after recording, which could be because of the lighter weight or underdamped nature of the enclosure that causes the honkiness, but it can be tamed with careful positioning and maybe an amplifier with high power and high damping factor. It’s nominal impedance is rated at 4ohms anyway, suggesting that you’re better off with a heavy solid-state amp rather than a genteel single-ended triode. What is in sync with the rest of the Sonus Faber range is its ability to floor you with its honey-coated smoothness in the mids and highs, allowing for hours of listening without any fatigue. Their boxy design compared to larger Sonus siblings means that it isn’t completely invisible and based on the kind of recording, it’s possible to hear the “box” sometimes, but it’s only in a specific frequency band that it loses its grip on the illusion. More often than not, its pace and eagerness to get your feet tapping puts a smile on your face and a spring on your resting foot.
The Lumina III is a new and unexplored marketplace for the luxury speaker maker but it seems to have successfully retained just the right amount of its traditional craftsmanship while adding a dose of verve and attack for a new generation of music lovers whose taste in music is more modern too. Feed it EDM, dance or pop music and the Lumina III absolutely sings across its frequency range with great coherence, especially between the tweeter and the midrange. It needs great partnering equipment to tame its slightly unpredictable bass character that flatters electronic music and falters with acoustic. Approach with caution and you will be rewarded with tight, fast bass and a silken HF landscape that will swallow hours from your day.