One of the most consistent messages that came out of CES 2014 was the importance of DSD support. Never mind that the actual number of albums on DSD that have any real commercial appeal could be counted on the fingers of one knee, or that the more cynical among us suspect that this is driven by the hi-fi industry looking for another format, DSD suddenly matters.
For many streamer and DAC manufacturers, this represents a technical headache that they will be currently deciding whether or not to resolve. For other companies though, this is the sort of news that might have them reaching for the champagne. Lumin is a new arrival in the field of network audio, but the A-1 (recently titled as such, when the company launched other models in the range at CES) launched last year finds itself looking like a very interesting proposition. As well as supporting PCM as WAV, FLAC, ALAC and AIFF at sampling rates up to 24/384 (which the more observant among you will note was the must have feature of CES 2013), the A-1 is also compatible with DSD 64 but not DSD 128.
The Lumin A-1 converts all incoming material to DSD. However, you have the option of turning automatic DSD conversion off so as to compare DSD to conventional PCM decoding, which can be controlled via the control app.
The hardware that Lumin uses to perform this is a mixture of the conventional and more unusual. The pair of Wolfson WM8741 DACs operating in dual mono is far from uncommon, but Lumin’s decision to partner the Wolfson DACs with an output stage built around a pair of Lundahl output transformers is rather less conventional. The A-1 is fully balanced and can output via either XLR or RCA connections, and these transformers are in the circuit for both connections. As well as analogue outputs, the A-1 is fitted with a BNC digital output and an HDMI connection, which allows for DSD to be transferred to a suitably equipped external DAC if you wish. The final connection is a screw-in umbilical connector for the external power supply that also has an on-off button.