Sonus faber makes some of the best looking, most sumptuous loudspeaker cabinets money can buy. That’s not exactly a controversial statement; the lute-shaped, curved cabinets and rich finishes synonymous with the Italian brand are the stuff of legend within the audio world, to the point where even those who don’t like the sound they make and decry high-end audio as a waste of money admit – albeit sometimes grudgingly – that Sonus faber speakers look good. The problem is that what makes them look so ‘good’ is also in no small part what makes them ‘high-end’; hand-finished loudspeaker cabinets that owe as much to ‘marquetry’ as they do to ‘marketing’ do not come cheap. The question then is what happens when you want to make an entry-level loudspeaker? How do you produce something that still ticks the ‘aesthetics’ while still sounding good? In fact, there are two ways; build it cheaply abroad (Sonus faber tried that with the older Principa range) or build a simpler design in Italy... which is when we get to Lumina.
Lumina is Sonus faber’s current stand-alone entry-level line, replacing predecessors like Principa and Chameleon. Like these two starter series, Lumina comprises just three models; the £799 Lumina I two-way stand-mount loudspeaker, the £649 Lumina C1 centre channel loudspeaker and the Lumina III, which comes in at £1,995 per pair. Normally, we don’t make a big deal about price in the main part of the review (in part because Hi-Fi+ strives to be a truly international magazine, and in part because when you start discussing a cable that costs as much as a fairly good saloon car, you run the risk of falling into “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” territory). However, in this case it’s worth making an exception because Sonus faber is really trying to balance country of origin and performance, and that price is a key part of the plan. Granted there will be those who demand the moon on a stick; wanting the hand-crafted finish of top Sonus faber speakers, made by Italian artisans, for less than the cost of the Lumina III, but by the same token, I’d like a new Porsche for £500... but it probably isn’t going to happen. So, what you have instead is a very nicely-finished and good-looking loudspeaker, with great lines but in the more traditional rectangular box design. In this case a nicely finished black floorstanding box with a contrasting flat front baffle finished in one of three elegant designs.
The flagship of the range, Lumina III is a three-way floorstanding, reflex-ported design, with the port venting to the base of the cabinet. It uses the company’s signature drivers throughout, drawing inspiration from units in higher-end models in the Sonus faber line-up, such as the 29mm high definition DAD tweeter and the 150mm paper midrange unit in the company’s own low compression basket. They might not be identical to the tweeter and midrange in the Sonnetto III design, but they are very similar in basic architecture. It’s a differnt story with the twin 150mm bass units; these are conventional paper cone designs with a dust-cap rather than the continuous aluminium cones in the more up-scale design. However, they are made specifically for the task and also use the aforementioned basket system to help make the bass more sonically close to the midrange unit. Lumina III also retains the use of Sonus faber’s patented ‘Paracross’ crossover technology, which includes impedance compensation at low frequencies as well as optimised amplitude/phase response for improved midrange and treble speed, coherence and air. The crossover frequencies are at 350Hz and 3.5kHz; this leaves much of the all-important midrange virtually free from mechanical intrusion from the crossover network or other drivers. This is all trickle-down technology from considerably more expensive Sonus faber designs. The loudspeakers are bi-wirable.