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Sonus faber Lumina I: The Audiophile Bella Donna

The Sonus faber Lumina 1 bookshelf loudspeakers make beautiful music combined with the Rotel A14MKII Integrated Amplifier.

Sonus faber Lumina I Bookshelf Speaker

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.

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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. 

We recently visited with Sonus faber and Maserati in Italy and took the new Grecale SUV for a spin in the Italian countryside and spent the day at the Sonus faber factory.

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.

20141030-bitondos590-10
Bitondo’s on Clinton Street, Toronto, Ontario (I grew up in kitchen)

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.

Brio Bottles

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. 

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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.

Sonus faber Lumina I Bookshelf Speaker Pair
Lumina I Loudspeaker (Walnut)

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-600MWharfedale 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 AtomNAD C 316BEECambridge Audio AXA35, Croft Phono Integrated, and Cambridge Audio Edge A

Rotel A14MKII Integrated Amplifier Front Silver
Rotel A14MKII Integrated Amplifier

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.

Pro-ject Debut Pro Turntable Front
Pro-ject Debut Pro Turntable

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. 

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Pro-ject Stream Box S2 Ultra
Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra

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.

Sweet Veal with Hot Sauce Sandwich

Total: $4,347 – $4,797

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Robert Karlsson

    November 14, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Naim Uniti Atom all the way with these. Style and style, plus the Naim PRaT to liven things up. Throw in a REL T7x, Tellurium Q Black II wires and a AQ Vodka eArc HDMI for the TV. $5600 list for all…

    Tv sound, all the streaming and super looks. Done and done, with style!

    • Ian White

      November 14, 2021 at 4:26 pm

      100% agree.

      The REL T5x would work just as well for less. Especially if you have a smaller room.

      Ian

  2. Nevio

    January 31, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    I was thinking to replace my current Focal’s with these speakers. Wondering what your thoughts would be if I integrated them into the following system:
    – Project Audio MAIA DS2 integrated amp and the DS2 cd player,
    – Project Audio Carbon Esprit (with Nagaoka MP150) and a
    – REL Tzero
    – I stream an iPad using bluetooth to the amp

    PS – Bitondo’s was fantastic and a Toronto classic.

    • Ian White

      January 31, 2022 at 6:56 pm

      Nevio,

      I have not been in years. I must return. Toronto is totally dead to me if it’s gone.

      The Lumina I need power to really open up. I’ve not heard the Pro-Ject amp so I can’t really say how it would sound. I do own a Pro-Ject phono stage and Nagaoka MP-110 so thumbs up there. I have reviewed their CD players and liked them a lot.

      REL subwoofer would work really well with it.

      Rotel would be a better option with them to be honest. I’m sure about the price difference.

      Ian White

  3. Bernard Sine

    May 2, 2022 at 7:06 pm

    Hi Ian,

    I am considering a system built around the Sonus Faber Lumina 1’s…smallish 9.5 x 12 sitting room/den. Would the NAD C316 BEE V2 or say a C328 have enough grunt for these? Or should I be looking at more juice? Maybe a Rega Brio or AudioLab 6000A? Would like to keep amp under $1500 CDN. Source will be a turntable…either a mid-range Rega, ProJect or Technics, then a streamer down the road. Your thoughts?

  4. ORT

    September 5, 2022 at 2:30 pm

    “Silence, foul (fowl?) Temptress!”

    “Oh, let me have a little of the peril?”

    Good looking speakers, especially so with the walnut front.

    ORT The Chaste

    • Ian White

      September 5, 2022 at 2:43 pm

      ORT,

      The Wenge finish is nice, but the lighter color shows up better.

      The midrange is really quite something.

      Iano Loren

  5. Howard Crane

    September 7, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    Mr. White could have written an interesting article without demeaning the beliefs and religious practices of his own people. Does he think that bragging about eating non kosher food while ignoring attendance at holiday celebrations that are specifically commanded in the Bible impresses anyone? He should be proud of his heritage and represent his relatives who survived and did not survive the Holocaust with dignity and appreciation rather than brag about his own personal hedonism.

    • Ian White

      September 8, 2022 at 2:41 am

      Howard,

      I’m an Orthodox Jew who is kosher and sends his kids to Yeshiva. I’m active in 3 organizations that promote Holocaust awareness and the former Director of Marketing for Jewish Federation. I spend countless hours raising money for my own shul, volunteer at Jewish organizations, and pray 3 times a day.

      You might want to read the article more carefully and realize that I’m a very proud and observant Jew who did not grow up that way.

      Other than that…you pegged me correctly.

      Aharon Weisshaus

      • Ian White

        September 8, 2022 at 2:51 am

        Howard,

        A little story going back to 1998 when I was just starting out in the world of high-end audio journalism. I was covering the Top Audio A/V Show in Milan for another publication and knew going over that Rosh Hashanah was happening that week. I wasn’t totally comfortable being away from family over the High Holidays, but I had made a commitment to cover the show and I went. While in Milan, I made the point of finding a Shul near the Il Duomo so that I could daven during Rosh Hashanah. It was over an hour by train from our hotel in the suburbs, but I never missed a service even with the show going on.

        Mr. “I’m a self-hating Jew” even made Ken Kessler and Steve Rochlin come into the city with me so that we could all do the proper mitzvot away from our families.

        One night at the show, we were fortunate to have dinner with the late-Ken Ishiwata of Marantz/Rotel and Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note. When Ken saw me wearing a kippah, he wished me a “Shana Tova” in his broken English. I’m a lone wolf in this industry when it comes to being an observant Jew and very vocal supporter of Israel.

        Go find some other self-hating idiot to insult.

        Ian White

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