Lumin X1: Enabling an Even Simpler Yet Better Sounding System

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
402
38
175
67
Chicagoland
#1
I have replaced the Lumin U1 Mini + Sbooster Power Supply with the two-chassis top-of-the-line Lumin X1. Not that there was anything "wrong" with the U1 Mini with Sbooster Power Suppy. The X1 just takes the performance to a yet higher level and adds an extremely competent DAC to the streaming package.

As it has turned out, the swapping of the X1 for the prior U1 Mini has also replaced both my Benchmark DAC3 HGC and Benchmark HPA4. This has allowed my current system to get even simpler than the one I recently described in my Gradient 1.4 thread.

How's that, you ask? After about 1,000 hours of break in, I tried comparing the sound of the Lumin X1's analog balanced outputs with the Lumin App's volume control defeated fed into the Benchmark HPA4 and then to my Benchmark AHB2 amps to the sound with the Lumin X1's digital volume control activated directly feeding the AHB2 amps. To my great surprise (given how highly I thought of the Benchmark's relay controlled analog volume control) it did not take long at all to convince me beyond a doubt that actually the sound is yet cleaner, more three dimensional, and with a substantially larger, more wrap-around stage and greater image focus when the Lumin X1 volume control is used so that the Lumin's balanced analog output directly feeds the balanced analog inputs of the Benchmark AHB2 amps. The Benchmark HPA4 was actually getting in the way of the best sonics. I would not have believed it if I hadn't heard it. It's not even a very subtle difference. I note that on the Lumin Forum, the lead designer has stated that Lumin's reference set up for the X1 has it directly feed Lumin amps.

So my basic electronics chain in the audio room is Lumin X1 to Benchmark AHB2 amps, to Gradient 1.4 speakers. The X1 pulls disc-sourced content from my networked computer, and natively supports Qobuz, Tidal, Spotify, and Tune-In Radio. An Apple iPad acts as the remote control for the X1's Lumin App and the source for AirPlay (aka Lumin Streaming) sources such as other streaming sources (e.g., Sirius/XM, Jazz Radio) and internet radio streams which aren't part of Tune-In Radio. That's it.

Set Up


I treated all the non-soldered electrical connections of the components and connecting cables with the JENA Electrical Contact Enhancement Fluid recommended by P.I. Audio.

I did not try the X1 with its stock power cord. I do, however, use the DC cable between the X1 power supply chassis and the X1's main chassis. From the beginning I used the Triode Wire Labs Digital American power cord I'd been using lately. That power cord, like the others in the system, is plugged into one of two P.I. Audio UberBUSSes. I use one Uber for the analog components—the two Benchmark AHB2 amps—and the other Uber for the digital components—the X1 and my TP Link router. Each UberBUSS, in turn is plugged into a dedicated 20-amp circuit where the outlets are the same hand-customized Pass & Seymour 5362A receptacles P.I. Audio used in my UberBUSSes.

Since the X1 power supply is quite light-weight, I use four of the rubber version of the 2-inch Low Density (LD) Equipment Vibration Protectors (EVPs) from A/V RoomService placed at the center of the edge of each side of the chassis. For the main chassis I use four of the rubber 2" Medium Density (MD) EVPs, one centered along each edge of the chassis.

Comparative listening experiments convinced me that, while both the X1 main and power supply chassis seem quite dead in my finger-tap test, the system sounded a bit better with the top of each chassis damped a bit. Thus I placed the same thick Music Direct catalog atop it to damp that chassis cover and a suitably sized thick paperback book atop the power supply chassis so as to damp as much as possible of its chassis top. With this damping, the sound is a bit more focused in all dimensions without causing any decrease in the size of the presentation.

As the remote control for the Lumin X1 I'm using an iPad 6th edition (9.5" screen, not the Pro or Air models,WiFi only, 32 gig). Since this iPad is totally dedicated to controlling the Lumin, I took off all unneeded apps and installed only the apps I use for streaming. Plus, via the Settings menu, I turned off all unneeded functions (a boatload—it takes a while to search all the menus and submenus to find all the settings which can be adjusted to turn off unneeded functionality) just to keep the iPad processor as "unbusy" as possible. This iPad controller works wonderfully and seems totally stable with all internet radio and other functions.

Part of the rock-solid stability of the streaming I'm experiencing is also related to installing the $25 TP-Link Wireless N300 2T2R Access Point as a means of providing the Lumin with a wired ethernet internet connection. None of the Lumin streamers are inherently WiFi capable.

Since I don't have an ethernet connection available in my audio room, the TP Link device is set up in Client Mode to feed the Lumin. In Client Mode the TP-Link doesn't broadcast or extend your router's Wi-Fi. It just receives your router's Wi-Fi signal and provides a wired ethernet connection to devices which are not inherently Wi-Fi capable from its RJ-45 ethernet port on the back of the TP-Link device. After determining a strong Wi-Fi reception spot near my equipment rack, I placed the TP-Link in that spot on the floor next to my equipment rack. From there the TP-Link grabs the WiFi signal from my Xfinity Advanced Gateway and feeds it via a few feet of flat white CAT7 cable to the ethernet connection of the Lumin. The set up of the TP Link is super simple once you see it demonstrated on video (ignore the overly complex user manual!) and takes at most five minutes. I isolate the TP Link from floor-borne vibration by supporting it off the floor with a single carefully placed LD Equipment Vibration Protector (EVP) from A/V RoomService.

While some may object that this TP Link device only works on the 2.4 GHz WiFi band and not the speedier 5 GHz band, this device has been tested by and it seems totally comfortable streaming even DSD 512 material to a Lumin device. Remember that the Lumin is the only device served by the TP-Link set up in Client Mode. And since I'm dealing only with at most 192/24 PCM, I'm sure the TP Link's bandwidth is adequate. If it were not, I would not have the rock-solid stability of connection I now have.

The TP Link uses a 9-volt wall wart switch mode power transformer. The cable on that transformer is not quite long enough to reach my UberBUSS from the good WiFi reception spot where I placed the TP Link without running the power cord in a visible manner. I thus purchased and installed an aftermarket 9-volt iPower power supply from iFi, one having both a much longer cord and claiming to be much quieter in terms of electrical noise.

I have a two-meter Apple charging cord and 12-volt Apple charger that can reach from a wall outlet to my listening seat so that I can always keep the iPad at full charge while continuously streaming music via AirPlay (aka Lumin Streaming) to the Lumin. When not in hand-held use, the dedicated iPad sits on a little stand on the floor near the wall just beyond the carpeted area of the room, just a few feet from and in line of sight of the TP-Link and Lumin. This keeps the charging cord from being a trip hazard when entering the room and keeps the Wi-Fi connection from the iPad to the TP-Link and Lumin strong.

Sometimes I leave the charging cord connected while listening and handling the iPad; other times I disconnect it first. I think I hear a slight sonic improvement favoring the unplugged condition, so for serious listening I sometimes unplug the iPad. However, the sonic difference, if real, is very slight. Running the Speed Test by Ookla on the iPad, the iPad tests at about 500 mbps download, 40 mbps upload from either its stand position or from the listening chair via my Comcast Gigabit internet service. Thus, the iPad is not a bottleneck in the streaming path in any way since its 5 GHz connection download speed exceeds the 2.4 GHz 300 mbps capability of the TP-Link.

As to how I stream my local networked music files from my computer to the Lumin X1, please see this post and this post from my discussion of the Lumin U1 Mini.


[Continued below]
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
402
38
175
67
Chicagoland
#2
The Lumin App

While I previously discussed the Lumin App in my Lumin U1 Mini Digital Transport + Sbooster Power Supply thread, I'm taking this opportunity to update that discussion to my current thoughts about it in the context of my new simplified system

Most high-end streamers are not known for ease of use or reliable functioning. Those who use general purpose computers for audio streaming have no idea how good they have it in terms of reliable, non-flaky functionality. I have found that out myself with my new headphone listening system built around my Dell all-in-one desktop computer, discussed here. I'm sure the sonics of the streamer of such a system can be bettered, but in terms of rock-solid reliability, using a "real computer" to tune to and stream directly from music streaming websites—much less connecting to local music files—holds no surprises or glitches to annoy you.

However, Lumin units and the Lumin control app have garnered much online praise both for sonics and for reliable, non-glitchy operation, as well as the top-notch GUI. Lumin has also proved to be one of the most responsive companies to fixing any glitches users discover, releasing periodic fixes as well as software/firmware enhancements. These are automatically installed as released.

In short, the Lumin App is a joy to work with. This is despite the issues noted in the next subsections. Now, by "the Lumin App," I'm lumping in not only the app itself, but also the software and firmware behind it, everything necessary to provide the interface between the user and the streamed files and programs.

With the Lumin App, I don't have to worry if my next command will shut down the interface, grind away forever, do something totally unexpected, give me an error message, or even just be slow (as in several seconds or more) to be recognized and acted upon. There are no hesitations, no glitches. Everything works as you would expect, quickly and in a way which produces confidence, ease, and enjoyment.

In this way it is far, far superior to my experience of Lightning DS operating the Auralic Aries G2. While the interfaces are similarly good looking and informative, there the similarity ends. Functionally, the Lumin and Auralic aren't even playing in the same league.


The Lumin App, by drawing all my streaming sources (local files, internet streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, & Qobuz, plus millions of internet radio stations and other sites like YouTube) together so seamlessly, makes even direct access to streams via my desktop computer seem rather primitive. Not that the Lumin is any more reliable than computer surfing, but the Lumin is easier since all the sources are there for the choosing in one coherent interface that a computer desktop or even drop-down lists of favorites within a browser cannot match.

Tune-In Radio

I'm not entirely thrilled with Lumin's choice of Tune-In Radio as the native internet radio aggregation service supported by the App. Tune-In Radio does not have access to nearly the number or international diversity of stations as the V-Tuner app built into the Auralic Aries G2.

In addition, Tune-In Radio, at least as implemented in the Lumin App, does not display what most radio stations are playing at the moment (artist, song). I'm quite surprised by this since via Auralic's implementation of V-Tuner, most stations do display all that information. For me, this is by far the most serious problem I've found with the Lumin App.

There is a viable partial workaround for these Tune-In Radio problems, however. Like the Auralic Aries G2, the Lumin streamers are AirPlay compatible. But unlike the Auralic, enabling the AirPlay function only very slightly impairs the sonics heard via the X1's native streams. Thus, even I tend to keep the AirPlay function (which Lumin confusingly calls "Lumin Streaming") active all the time.

With AirPlay active all the time, it's simple just to use the iPad to find and favorite (either within the Safari browser or as an icon on the iPad desktop) streams missing from Tune-In Radio, such as YouTube, Jazz Radio, Sirius/XM, and the Internet Concert Archive, to name just a few. There are also a few sources whose apps give access to better streams than those available via Tune In; examples include BBC Radio 3 and Radio Paradise.

In addition, I also have made the V-Tuner station list a Safari browser favorite, giving me easy access to many stations missing from Tune-In as well as some higher quality streams for stations included in both services (such as the FLAC stream of The Jazz Groove). I also have made favorites of the best streams of some of my most listened-to stations, such as Chicago's WFMT, Boston's WCRB, New York's WQXR, Minneapolis' Jazz88.FM, Rochester's WXXI, the Bay Area's KCSM, as well as various SomaFM streams.

This workaround only provides artist and track information when streaming from individual station Websites, however. For most stations, the only way to get "what's playing right now" information via the Tune-In Radio app is to use the Tune-in app, click on the "More" drop-down link once you are streaming the station from the app, then click on the station website icon. That process will open a new window on the iPad which is the station's home page and that home page, or a link accessible from it, will frequently show the "now playing" information. That's cumbersome at best.

This lack of attention to internet radio streaming is perhaps understandable. My quibbles about Tune-In Radio probably are not very important to most other users of Lumin streamers. I realize that most users of high-end streamers are much less concerned with limited quality streams like internet radio than I am. They want their streamers to natively handle Tidal and Qobuz, be a Roon endpoint, be fully compatible with other high-end music server software, and be able to handle local files including way-upsampled DSD files. The Lumin is all that. Auralic's use of V-Tuner and the information that company's Lightning DS app provides for internet radio stations is indeed unusual, but that was one of the reasons I found the Aries G2 so attractive since internet radio is a big interest of mine.

Lack of Parametric Digital EQ

This is not so much an issue as a wish list item. It would be wonderful if the Lumin App contained parametric digital equalization functions the way Auralic's Lightning DS now does. Since I now can use the Lumin for all my music listening, if the Lumin had parametric digital EQ, I would not need a separate audio box electronic equalizer like the DSPeaker Anti-Mode X4.

However, comments made by Lumin's lead designer clearly indicate that such EQ is not soon, if ever, coming to the Lumin ecosystem. The Lumin designers believe that the stellar sonics of the Lumin app and equipment stem in no small part from the lack of heavy duty digital processing in the Lumin App and Minim Server its designed to operate with. Adding digital equalization within the Lumin app, they believe, would cause sonic degradation. They don't want that and neither do I.

So that means that in the context of my simple system, I am "stuck" using speakers like the Gradient 1.4 which, in my room and for my tastes, don't really need any electronic EQ help.


[Continued below]
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
402
38
175
67
Chicagoland
#3
Volume Control Issues

In short, there are no such issues if you are using a line amp or preamplifier between the Lumin X1 and your amplifier.

In my simple system, however, I've dispensed with any volume control box between the Lumin X1 and my Benchmark amps, relishing in the greater purity and transparency to source I'm getting that way, even compared to running the sound through the Benchmark HPA4's relay-controlled analog volume control.

Dangerously High Volume

If you are dispensing with a preamp volume control as I am there is one major potential issue:

BE VERY CAREFUL TO SET THE LUMIN APP VOLUME CONTROL TO OFF OR VERY LOW BEFORE YOU BEGIN STREAMING ANY PROGRAM!!!

To use the Lumin X1's digital volume control, you must turn that volume control on in the settings. If you do not turn it on, the volume will automatically be set at 100 and when you start streaming you are likely to drive your amps and/or speakers into instant overload, potentially burning out speaker drivers or damaging your amplifier.

Even after you turn on the X1's digital volume control, you have to make very sure before you stream anything in a given session that the volume control is set to zero or a very low number. It is easily possible for the volume control to have ended up at a level from the prior session which will startle you when you start a new listening session, even if the volume is not set high enough to actually damage anything. It is also possible that the volume setting could have inadvertently been greatly increased since your last session due to "user error."

AirPlay Source Volume

Even in my simple system, there is no volume control issue for any source which is native to the Lumin X1, other than the care mentioned above. That includes all your music files on your local network-connected computer drive, Tidal, Qobuz, and Tune-In Radio internet radio favorites.

No, even in my simple system, the volume control issue only arises for sources where AirPlay from my iPad (aka Lumin Streaming) is involved. And, as it turns out, it's not really an issue with AirPlay, either. But since it took me several days to figure out the best way to handle controlling the volume with such sources, I thought I'd cover that method here.

The problem is that if you try to use the iPad's internal volume control to control the volume your hear through your system, you have a choice of dead silence or a minimum volume which corresponds roughly to 35 on the Lumin App's zero-to-100 scale. While 35 is not going to blow you out of the room, it is not by any means a late-night volume—too high, in other words to use if you want to avoid disturbing sleeping family members. It's also high enough to perhaps startle you if the system goes from silence to that volume instantly.

The solution is to exclusively use the Lumin App's built-in zero-to-100 volume control to control the volume even of AirPlay sources. To do this, open the Control Center of the iPad you are using as your remote control sliding one finger down from the upper right corner of the iPad screen. Pull down the iPad's volume bar all the way until you see the mute symbol—a speaker driver with a line through it—displayed. Then close the iPad's Control center.

As it turns out, even with the iPad's volume muted like that, the Lumin App's volume control will now operate with AirPlay sources just as it does with native sources, allowing zero to be full mute and the zero-to-10-or-so range to be whisper-to-low volume settings.

To implement AirPlay sources most conveniently, you'll also want to allow your iPad to display both the Lumin App and your AirPlay souce on the iPad screen simultaneously. To do this, on your iPad, go to Settings>Home Screen & Dock>Multitasking. Turn on Allow Multiple Apps if that function is not on already

I suggest having the Lumin App open on the left side of the screen with your AirPlay source open on the right side of the iPad screen. To do this, first move the apps you want to stream via AirPlay to the iPad's dock area of the screen. The dock is the shaded bar at the bottom of the screen.

Individual apps should be moved to the dock, not folders of apps. To move an app, you hold down on it until it starts to wiggle, then drag it to the dock and release it, then cancel the wiggling by swiping or pressing the Home button.

To use Split View on the iPad screen:
  • Open the Lumin app.
  • Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal the Dock.
  • On the Dock, touch and hold the AirPlay app that you want to use, then drag it off the dock to the right edge of the screen.
  • To adjust the amount of screen space occupied by the Lumin App and the AirPlay app, drag the vertical line app divider toward the right of the screen. I suggest having the Lumin App occupy the left two thirds of the screen and the AirPlay app occupy the right one third of the screen.
Every time you want to stream a new source via AirPlay, you follow that procedure of moving the new AirPlay app's icon from the Dock to the right side of the screen. Every time you start that new AirPlay stream, the Lumin App's volume control will automatically return to zero so you can then turn up the sound gradually to your desired level. This works like a charm.

I have included screenshots of the iPad screen using AirPlay sources to give you a better feel for how this looks and works.

[Concluded below]

IMG_7168.jpg IMG_7169.jpg IMG_7170.jpg IMG_7171.jpg IMG_7172.jpg
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
402
38
175
67
Chicagoland
#4
Sound Quality

As implemented in my system set up as described above, the Lumin X1, like the Lumin U1 Mini I had before it, sounds wonderful indeed, only more so!

The Auralic Aries G2 had more energy in the lower registers, from midbass up through lower midrange. It tended to sound darker and weightier.

But the Lumin products certainly have adequate weight in the lower registers to sound totally natural. Their deep bass is fully the equal of the Auralic's and the entire bass range through lower midrange area sounds better defined and differentiated and just plain clearer than the Auralic's.

The Lumins have a bit more energy than the Auralic in the heart of, the midrange where vocals live. This doesn't add unnatural forwardness or projection. It just seems to make vocals sound a bit more "alive" or present. The highs are at about the same level as those of the Auralic, but seem yet more filligreed.

Perhaps at least partially because of the overall tonal balance difference, the Lumins tend to sound clearer and yet lower in distortion than the Auralic. The Lumins also have quite superior depth of field behind the speaker plane, both in terms of rearward extension and specificity of image placement in depth. Its soundfield is more sculpted and carved in space with more three-dimensional images in a more three-dimensional space. The Lumin has superior focus of centered images. Centered images do come out a bit more forward in the stage than with the Auralic, but not unnaturally or unpleasingly so. The sense of space captured by the X1 is on steroids even compared to that of the U1 Mini I had before. The depth behind the speaker plane, the height, and the projection in front of the speakers and indeed the sense of envelopment around the listening position is quite superior and often enthralling.

The Lumin also has what I feel to be a more "human" or more "analog" sound. There is a naturalness to the way music is reproduced which seems the opposite of "digital" reproduction. You can ease into the sound in a very comfortable way. At the same time, rhythms are infectious, dynamics are unrestrained, and PRaT factors are present at a very high level indeed. Musicians playing well together sound more like real people than just a collection of instruments playing a tune. Again, here the X1 takes these characteristics radically farther than the U1 Mini did.

Neither the Lumin X1 main chassis nor its external power supply chassis produce any audible mechanical noise. And signal-to-noise ratio seems stellar, with extraordinarily black backgrounds, superior to those of the Auralic Aries G2 or any other streaming source I've experienced.

I generally preferred the sound of the U1 Mini with its resampling feature turned off. I feel the same way about the X1, but with the X1 resampling/upsampling produces less of the tonal lightening/brightening than with other implementations I've experienced. On 44.1/16 material, it's almost an equal trade off of a bit more space with resampling versus a bit more tonal weight/density and a bit more image focus with native resolution. With 44.1/16 material, the best-sounding resampling setting is frequently the DSD 128 option. With higher resolution material (MQA or PCM), to my ears, native resolution is the way to go.

The X1 is the first streamer I've owned which makes a strong case for the sonic merit of MQA files as implemented on Tidal. For my prior low opinion of MQA, see my discussion here, here, and here.

My opinion changed for the better with my Lumin U1 Mini + Sbooster experience where I said:

Tidal MQA Masters sound better through the Lumin than they did via the Auralic Aries G2. Perhaps this is because the Lumin does "real" MQA first unfolding. The Auralic is not MQA certified, but has proprietary circuitry which Auralic states does the necessary decoding. The Lumin's first unfolding also sounds superior to MQA decoding as done by my Oppo UDP-205 via its balanced analog outputs, and it supposedly does full MQA unfolding, not just the first unfold.
With the Lumin I hear none of the dynamic truncation or odd removal of stick sound on cymbals which I heard via the Auralic or Oppo when decoding MQA material. Via the Lumin, the sound of decoded MQA files on Tidal is fully competitive with that of Qobuz's Hi-Res PCM files. This is not the case with the Auralic or Oppo. Via the Lumin, the Qobuz high-res files have the edge in terms of musical detail reproduction, but the Tidal MQA files frequently are superior in terms of analog-like ease of reproduction and clarity of individual musical lines.


Now, with the Lumin X1, I am able to do full unfolding of MQA files. In contrast to the way the Oppo decoded these files out of its balanced analog outputs, now I hear why some have been so enthusiastic about the sound of MQA. The X1 does an even better job with MQA than did the U1 Mini. While I would not go so far as to say that MQA files on Tidal sound superior to high-resolution PCM files of the same material on Qobuz, I would say that the sound is often now about equally appealing, even if different and probably not as true to the master recording.

The MQA files on Tidal often sound more open, clearer, more relaxed, and "analog," while the high-res PCM files on Qobuz usually sound more naturally detailed and have superior moment-to-moment dynamic shadings as well as greater macro dynamic swings. I'm pretty sure that the high-resolution PCM is giving me a more accurate picture of what is actually captured on the master recording. But the MQA can make the PCM sound a bit ruthlessly revealing or overly analytical by comparison. The MQA version usually sounds so warm and comfy, so inviting, so to speak, with the raw edges smoothed away, and the dynamics smoothed out just enough to have a more home-listening-friendly sound.

While I generally prefer the high-res PCM files on Qobuz to the MQA on Tidal, I can hear why some listeners might think the MQA version superior. Certainly I am glad that via the Lumin X1 I have such great-sounding choices!

Below is a picture of my newly simplified Lumin X1 > Benchmark AHB2 electronics and Salamander Archetype rack.

IMG_7157.jpg
 
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BlueFox

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Nov 8, 2013
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#6
I really love my X1, especially with the hard drive directly attached to it. As a retired software engineer, my technical philosophy is, ‘Simplicity succeeds. Complexity fails.’
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
402
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67
Chicagoland
#7
Three additional thoughts about using the Lumin X1. These all have to do with using an iPad as the controller.

First, as to the iPad itself. I started out with the basic iPad 6th Generation 32 GB version, Wi-Fi only. That works just fine. However, when playing sources from AirPlay (Lumin Streaming), a bit of sonic improvement can be had using a more expensive iPad with a more powerful, faster processor.

My wife wanted a new iPad, so I gave her the iPad 6th Generation and bought a new iPad Air 3d Generation with a 64 GB drive, Wi-Fi only. I would have gone with the iPad Pro, but I wanted one with the Lightning connector so it would be compatible with all the iPad/iPhone connecting cables I have around, and the Pro has a USB-C connector instead.

In any event, once the new iPad Air had been connected and constantly streaming music for a few days and thus warmed up/broken in, I noticed a distinct improvement in the sonic quality of streaming source via AirPlay. Macro and micro dynamics, background blackness, and all spatial aspects seem improved. The sound seems cleaner and lower in distortion, with a bit more solid bass and extended treble as well.

Now this may not be of much interest to those who care not for internet radio or other "low res" sources, which are the only sources you need to stream via AirPlay since the Lumin natively streams your music files and higher res sources like Qobuz and Tidal. But with Spotify, other lower-res streaming apps, and internet radio sources, every little bit of sound quality gained certainly helps, and this change definitely helps. The cost increment is about $200 between the basic iPad and the iPad Air.

In addition, the more powerful processor seems to allow the Lumin App to work even faster and more smoothly. Not a big difference here, but noticeable. Even the basic iPad running the Lumin App works plenty fast, much faster than the Lightning DS app which Auralic uses, for example.

Second, watch out for sonic reflections from the surface of the iPad when you are using it. At least in my system where I have the speakers aimed straight at my ears at the listening position, the presence of the iPad sitting in my lap--its natural position for surfing programs--causes reflections off the glass of the iPad which interfere with my perception of proper imaging and staging, particularly with images toward the center of the stage. This is not only noticeable, but it is rather obviously seriously detrimental to best sound. After tuning in a program, I recommend putting the iPad aside on the floor beside your chair so that you cannot see it. I usually set mine on the carpet leaning against the side of my plush Drexel listening chair.

I imagine that this reflective effect would be yet more serious for those who choose to use the larger iPad Pro as a controller. Take heed.

Thus, don't judge the sonic quality of your system while holding the iPad anywhere where you can see it. The effect seems worst to me in my room with my system when the iPad is flat on my lap. But experimenting with the iPad position reveals that it's presence is detrimentally audible no matter the angle or position of it as long as I can see it. I suppose this shouldn't be surprising. The iPad is basically uncovered glass and hard metal, both highly reflective materials. While smaller than an uncovered window, its proximity to your ears makes its detrimental sonic effects at least as obvious as a bare window glass. The angle subtended by the iPad glass or metal is probably about the same as a large window several feet away since the iPad is at most two feet from your ears when you are holding it.

Third, unplugging the iPad from AC power results in a slight additional uptick in sound quality, primarily in terms of enlarging the soundspace. Thus, for serious AirPlay listening, I usually unplug the iPad from AC power and use it via its internal battery power.

I do not usually plug my iPad into one of my P. I. Audio Group UberBUSS power purifier devices. Since I only hear a slight difference between the AirPlay audio quality when the iPad is plugged into an ordinary wall outlet versus when the iPad is playing via its internal battery, I don't think plugging it into the UberBUSS is worthwhile. I plug it straight into one of the "normal" outlets in my audio room, not even one of the dedicated audio outlets, since the outlet I use for the iPad is close enough to the listening seat to allow a two-meter cord to reach from the wall outlet to my listening seat.

If I obtained a three-meter cord, that would probably reach from one of my UberBUSSes to my listening seat. However, in my experience, battery power is as pure or purer sounding sounding than any AC power, at least when you are not sucking a lot of current from the battery as you might for driving speakers or even headphones. For AirPlay, battery power should be fine.

By the way, the battery percentage drained during AirPlay seems to be at most one or two percent per hour of play. Thus the iPad will play for many hours before needing to be plugged in to recharge.
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
402
38
175
67
Chicagoland
#8
I'm cross posting this here from my discussion of the Gradient 1.4 speakers since it applies just as much to the sound of the Lumin X1 as to the Gradients:

With the volume-control of the Lumin X1 directly feeding the Benchmark AHB2 amps, the subjectively best gain structuring in this system seems to be to use the Lumin at its Normal output level (which for the X1 is nominally 6 volts max) and the Benchmark amps at their low gain setting (switches on the rear in the middle position which is specified to have a sensitivity of 9.8 volts for rated output. This setting gives the best combination of lowest apparent distortion, low-level detail, and macro dynamics/jump factor with the Gradient 1.4 speakers. This setting (rather than the medium gain setting of the amps with its 4.0 volt sensitivity) usually ends up setting the Lumin app's built-in volume control in the top third of its range. While theoretically this combination of settings will not allow the X1 to drive the Benchmark AHB2 amps to their full rated power, full rated power is unneeded for these speakers. I have flip-flopped back and forth on these gain structuring settings over time, but my latest
clean power treatment (the P.I. Audio Group UberBUSSes plus BUSS Depot) have solidified my choice here. It is no longer even a close call.

I cannot stress enough how clean, resolving, dynamic, and three dimensional this system sounds without the Benchmark HPA4 in the signal path. Details of individual instruments in an ensemble previously unheard even through top-flight planar magnetic headphones like the Audeze LCD-4 or speakers like the Janszen Valentina Actives are clearly and effortlessly revealed without any unnatural etching or brightness and while still allowing the musicians' ensemble work (i.e., their playing together) to be undiminished at the same time. I've heard nothing like it from any other system. That's the main reason I no longer need or want headphones in this system--the speakers playing in this room are more resolving than all but the best electrostatic headphones and no headphone presentation I've heard gives this kind of "out there" yet still enveloping presentation.
 

AMR / iFi audio

Industry Expert
Aug 21, 2019
79
22
10
39
UK
ifi-audio.com
#11
I totally agree about the greatness of the Gradient 1.4 speakers! For my detailed remarks about them, see my Gradient 1.4 thread.
Thanks, will go there.Their Six model, some time ago known as 6.0, was very impressive as well. One quality concentric driver plus a passive membrane on the back and all this inside of nice ply cabinet worked nicely. And not crazy expensive.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
402
38
175
67
Chicagoland
#12
Another holiday, another iPad upgrade, another sonic improvement . . . .

This time I've gone from the iPad Air 3rd Generation to the iPad Pro 11-inch 63 GB Wi-Fi-only model with the most advanced processor Apple puts in an iPad. Yes, I needed new USB-C cabling and I threw in a new Apple 30-watt wall-wart charger.

I'll reiterate what I said above in post #7 of this thread:

I started out with the basic iPad 6th Generation 32 GB version, Wi-Fi only. That works just fine. However, when playing sources from AirPlay (Lumin Streaming), a bit of sonic improvement can be had using a more expensive iPad with a more powerful, faster processor.

I now have given the iPad 6th Generation to another relative and the iPad Air 3d Generation with a 64 GB drive, Wi-Fi only, to my wife for her use.

This time, immediately after connecting the new iPad Pro, I noticed another distinct improvement in the sonic quality of streaming source via AirPlay. Macro and micro dynamics, background blackness, and all spatial aspects seem improved. The sound seems cleaner and lower in distortion, with a bit more solid bass and extended treble as well. More of the same sort of improvements I noticed when replacing the iPad with the iPad Air, in other words. These improvements have only increased as the iPad Pro has warmed up/broken in.

Again, this may not be of much interest to those who care not for internet radio or other "low res" sources, which are the only sources you need to stream via AirPlay since the Lumin natively streams your music files and higher res sources like Qobuz and Tidal. But with Spotify, other lower-res streaming apps, and internet radio sources, every little bit of sound quality gained certainly helps, and this change definitely helps. The cost increment is about $300 between the iPad Air and the iPad Pro.

Yet again, in addition, the more powerful processor seems to allow the Lumin App to work even faster and more smoothly. Not a big difference here, but noticeable. Even the basic iPad running the Lumin App works plenty fast, much faster than the Lightning DS app which Auralic uses, for example.

I should also reiterate that the improvements I've heard in moving from the basic iPad to iPad Air and now the iPad Pro are all in the context of iPads which have each been stripped down or hot-rodded, if you will, to be purely dedicated to acting as the remote control and streaming source for the Lumin X1. Every unnecessary app which I've been able to remove has been removed. This 64 GB iPad Pro, when connected to iTunes, still shows 51.71 GB of available space. Then, all unneeded functions have been disabled. I attempt to put as little load on the processor and internal power supply as possible. The screen is kept at or near minimum brightness, the wallpaper is a simple deep black (I took a no-flash photo with the iPad camera in contact with the carpet in a darkened windowless closet and used that black photo for the wallpaper). I also keep the power to the iPad as clean as possible. For critical listening, I disconnect it from the AC power cable which keeps it at full charge, allowing the iPad to run on battery power. No AC power is as clean as battery power.

The process of going through all the menus and disabling every unneeded function I could find is time consuming and takes much more than an hour to do. However, once you think you've got everything the way you want it, there is a way to make the process much easier the next time around if you want to avoid having to do it again. Using iTunes, make an encrypted back up of your hot-rodded iPad and save it to your computer or the cloud. If you replace the iPad with a new one, first update the software of the new iPad to the latest version (new ones never seem to have the latest iOS version), then choose to restore the new iPad from the backup of the prior one you made rather than set up your new iPad as a new machine. The restore from back up process takes only a few minutes since there is not much to restore with a hot-rodded machine. This restore from encrypted back-up process should preserve all the settings you chose and eliminate all unneeded apps.
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
402
38
175
67
Chicagoland
#14
Yes, you can run the Lumin's iOS app on an iPhone, but it is far more cumbersome than using it on an iPad due to the lack of screen space. Unless you've used the Lumin App on an iPad, you don't really know what you've got--or what you're missing by using the Lumin app on an iPhone!
 

BlueFox

Member Sponsor
Nov 8, 2013
1,325
94
120
#15
I use both the iPhone and the iPad, although mainly on the iPhone when I am running a playlist on random shuffle.
 

AMR / iFi audio

Industry Expert
Aug 21, 2019
79
22
10
39
UK
ifi-audio.com
#16
Yes, you can run the Lumin's iOS app on an iPhone, but it is far more cumbersome than using it on an iPad due to the lack of screen space. Unless you've used the Lumin App on an iPad, you don't really know what you've got--or what you're missing by using the Lumin app on an iPhone!
To some people (me included) an iPhone's advantage is its size. It of course displays less content and in this regard is more difficult to use versus an iPad, there's no question about it, but as a smaller device it sits comfier in hand a'la a TV remote, which is something I personally like. Well, enough to give away some of that screen space, but that's just one man's bias :D
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
402
38
175
67
Chicagoland
#17
Adding a bit more detail to what I said in post #12 above, it seems especially important from a sonic standpoint when streaming internet radio stations to the Lumin X1 from your iPad to disable all the wireless methods of communication other than Wi-Fi. Turn off Bluetooth and Cellular data, in other words.

Also, and it seems most importantly, disable the cloud back-up of any content or functions of the iPad. Make sure none of the apps you are using are set up to use iCloud or any other cloud service. This includes Safari, Google, Chrome, Drive, Dropbox, etc. and the Lumin software itself. Delete all your iCloud backed up content and turn off/disable iCloud itself. Also turn off the Find My iPad function. Since this iPad should stay in your home, you won't need that function to find it. Anyway, the GPS resolution of Find My iPad is not sufficient to identify a particular area of your house if you misplace it.

Apparently the sonics for streaming from your iPad are better if all your apps are running locally on the iPad and the iPad is communicating with the Lumin only through your home's Wi-Fi network.

None of these steps seem to make a significant difference in the quality of sound heard from the Lumin performing its native functions such as streaming music files from your local computer network, or playing from Tidal, Qobuz, or Tune-In radio stations. What DOES make a significant difference and improvement in the sonics of these functions is disabling Lumin Streaming (Apple AirPlay), Roon Ready, and Spotify Connect. While the sonic improvements from turning off these functions are not nearly as large with the Lumin X1 as they were on my Auralic Aries G2, the improvements are still definitely audible and, I think, significant. Turning these functions off adds additional clarity and focus, in particular, although gains in the spatial presentation, bass impact, and high frequency smoothness are also noticeable.

While I frequently use AirPlay/Lumin Streaming, I'm just anal enough about sound quality to disable it when I want to use the Lumin's native functions. it is simple and quick enough to change the settings to disable or enable that function. This takes only a few seconds for the few touches and swipes necessary to turn Lumin Streaming on or off. However, when turning Lumin Streaming on, I also have to check to make sure via the iPad's Control Center that the iPad is set up for AirPlay to the Lumin (this usually gets turned off automatically when you turn off Lumin Streaming via the Lumin's own settings) and that the iPad's own volume control is set to minimum to avoid any startling blasts of sound when I first tune to an internet radio source via the iPad. (See post #3 above for a full discussion of volume control caution when using the Lumin to directly feed power amps as I do.)

In addition, for best sound from the Lumin's native functions I recommend turning of the Re-Sampling settings unless you are actually using the Lumin's upsampling/resampling features. With Re-Sampling set to Custom, first set all resampling choices to Native and then turn off Re-Sampling. I generally do not find Re-Sampling to improve the sound I hear from most program material via the Lumin X1. The sonics are changed, yes, definitely, but I do not generally regard those changes as improvements--you may disagree. In general, upsampling/resamping trades off an increased feeling of general openness/spaciousness against less specific/focused imaging and less bass and more treble--a more lightweight tonal balance, in other words. The LAST thing that most digital sources need in most high-end systems is less bass and more treble.
 

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