Clever continues throughout the X1. It has dual Ethernet ports. One is a regular RJ45 LAN and one is an optical network connection. This means you can hook a local NAS direct to the Lumin for optimal performance, all the while retaining the functionality of the full Ethernet connectivity and streaming and control point opportunities that brings. You could even use a tablet computer hardwired into the network a little like a giant Custom Install handset if you like. The optical network connection (SFP or small form pluggable) links the Lumin to fibre channel devices and also tends to be less noisy compared to conventional wired Ethernet networks.
The X1 has a small but significant ace up its sleeve, in that it has both USB and BNC S/PDIF digital outputs, with the USB supporting native DSD512. This makes the Lumin great to talk to DACs if you don’t like the onboard converter, but also means recording is possible.
Finally, on the hardware side, we move to the X1’s power supply block. This is an external CNC milled solid billet of aluminium, housing a dual-toroidal transformer, with a low noise linear regulator, power supply taps for digital and analogue circuitry, and a nine-pin connect for attaching to the head unit of the X1. Or it can be used as an upgrade for one of Lumin’s other streamers. OK, so adding the X1’s power supply to an S1 does not bring it up to X1 standards, but it’s a good upgrade, all the same.
There are some network streaming DACs that can work as a DAC in the absence of a network, but this isn’t one of them. It has to be connected to a network, and to stream music to the Lumin, you will need to have a basic understanding of UPnP networking, or use devices that have UPnP preinstalled. Which made it handy that the Melco N1 was in the loop for this month’s review roster. The two positively purred in one another’s company. The Lumin happily pulled music off the Melco’s UPnP server connected locally, and the Lumin dragged in Tidal and the like from its second Ethernet connection to the outside world. If you are thinking of streaming music from a home computer, remember to load up something like MinimServer on that computer first.
If you aren’t a black belt in networking and aren’t using something like the Melco, help might be needed when the Lumin flashes up ‘Network Error’ on its blue fluro display. Chances are, the problem is incredibly easy to resolve and will take seconds to fix, but not if you are the kind who doesn’t see the joke in “where’s the ‘any’ key?”
All this is by way of introduction to what is, very probably, the nicest sounding network streamer out there at the moment. Or if not the best, then close to the best, and free from the best’s addiction to box collecting. The big guns with multiple boxes can match or even better what the X1 can do on a good day, but you are talking of possibly as much as an eightfold increase in price and a fourfold increase in lost shelf space. All for maybe a mild improvement in absolute terms.