Completely produced in Italy and aimed squarely at a younger audience, the new Lumina III loudspeakers (and the Lumina line in general) look to entice a new audience to the voice of Sonus faber. A brand, until now, many may have considered well out of their reach.
Sonus faber Lumina III Wenge Pair
Sonus faber Lumina III Loudspeaker
- Simple yet beautiful design and finish.
- Detailed imaging.
- Sweet sounding midrange and highs.
- Bass might be a little on the lean side.
- Designed and manufactured in Italy.
When the announcement came that Sonus faber was releasing a new speaker line several months back, the result took me a little by surprise. I was initially expecting something big, expensive, and exclusive to be unveiled. Yet when the news embargo lifted, it was something completely different. A new entry-level series called Lumina. Initially consisting of a two-way bookshelf (Lumina I), a center channel speaker (Lumina CI), and a compact tower (Lumina III) this line would slot in just below the Sonetto becoming the new first rung in the Sonus faber ladder. Upon further reflection, the strategy makes sense. The Italian brand has more than enough higher-echelon products to tempt well-heeled, discerning music lovers.
Having a suitable entry point to entice buyers who might otherwise consider Sonus faber as out of their reach, better completes the product portfolio. The only question is, could the design team in Arcugnano, create an affordable speaker line that, critically for Sonus faber, still sounded and felt special? To find out I requested a pair of Lumina III towers to put through their paces in my home.
3-way Bass Reflex compact floor-standing loudspeaker with down-firing port
Single 1.14-inch Soft DAD (Damped Apex Dome) Tweeter
Single 5.9-inch Driver with Paper/Natural fiber blend cone.
Dual 5.9-inch Drivers with Pulp Paper cones.
Frequency Response (Manufacturer):
40Hz – 24 kHz
89 dB SPL (2.83V/1m)
350 Hz, 3.5 kHz
Suggested Amplifier Power:
50 – 250 Watts
Dimensions (H x W x D):
38.9” x 9” x 10.9”
35.1 lbs (each)
Black, Wenge Veneer, Walnut Veneer with Black Leather Wrap.
Sonus faber, lumina, Italian, loudspeaker,floor-standing speaker, Floor-standing Speaker Reviews, reviews 2021
Compared to Sonus faber speakers that normally come to mind, the Lumina line, in general, has been distilled to the most essential elements that define the brand’s look and sound. For the Lumina III that means no overly complex engineering, no long straight lines playing off against elegant, curved shapes to entertain the eye and any surface embellishments have been dialed back considerably. So, yes, we have a basic rectangular box speaker on a plinth as a base but, being a Sonus faber, it’s the most stylish looking rectangular box I have ever laid eyes on.
Sonus faber Lumina III, Surface Close Up
Sonus faber Lumina III, Port
The front baffle is a handsomely finished multi-layered wood sheet. My review sample had the darker Wenge veneer with maple inlay pinstripes. The rest of the speaker body (except for the back) is tightly enrobed in a satin black leather. Unique to the touch and very Italian in detail. Under the base of the speaker plinth is a large, down-firing port. According to Sonus faber, this port orientation should allow the Lumina III a greater margin of placement flexibility while still ensuring a solid bass response from the speaker. It also means that you will need to use the included spikes (with or without the floor saver disks) to give the port enough breathing room to do its thing.
Sonus faber Lumina III, DAD Tweeter
From the driver side of the equation, we are met with some familiar players. The tweeter is a 29mm version of the Damped Apex Dome (DAD) tweeter seen in many of Sonus faber’s loudspeakers. For those unfamiliar with the technology, it is essentially a soft dome tweeter with a little truss running over it that gently tamps down the dome at its apex. The company claims that this reduces distortion and anti-phase behavior of the tweeter allowing for an improved extended response. The 6-inch midrange driver is the same one as found in the step-up Sonetto line, complete with the trademark SF phase plug and natural fiber cone. The twin 6-inch woofers are said to have been custom designed for the Lumina and feature pulp paper cones. The crossover points are 3.5 kHz between tweeter and midrange and 350 Hz from midrange to woofers.
Sonus faber Lumina III, Speaker Terminals
On the back of the Sonus faber Lumina III, there are two pairs of nickel-plated speaker terminals allowing for both bi-amp and bi-wire configurations.
The final thing that interested me about the Lumina line, in general, is that where most companies will perform the manufacturing of their entry-level speakers in China, Sonus faber has fully designed and manufactures the Lumina line completely in Italy. Not that producing a quality speaker in China isn’t possible, it most certainly is, but there must be a certain level of both pride for Sonus faber and appeal to the consumer that a fully Italian product is being created and appreciated, especially at this price level. In an email exchange that I had with Sonus faber brand ambassador, Paolo Tezzon there were two main points he made that hit home with me. When asked about the inspiration for the Lumina line he explained, “We were really aiming to reach a new audience which may never have considered purchasing a Sonus faber speaker. Of course, we were particularly thinking about the younger generations.” I then asked how they could effectively produce an affordable speaker completely in Italy without costing a fortune? He answered “First of all when you consider the level of quality control we would require and the cost of shipping goods, as well as the rejection rate you may encounter, it isn’t really that much cheaper to manufacture products in Asia rather than doing it right here at home. Also, during the past few years, we’ve built up a lot of experience in this area – just think about the Sonetto collection – it’s meant that our skilled workers have had to achieve a higher output with tighter quality standards than any OEM manufacturer could hope to provide. Last, but not least, there has been significant engineering work done that made the Luminas extremely easy to produce.” I can certainly confirm that the Lumina III is a solidly put-together pair of speakers. The cabinets seemed rigid and quite inert when knuckle-rapped all over. Fit and finish are typical of Sonus faber speakers, which is to say superb.
Sonus faber Lumina III Listening Setup
The Sonus faber Lumina III was set up in my studio listening space, away from the front wall, approximately 9 feet apart with the main listening position being 10 feet away from the center point between the speakers. The Luminas required barely any toe-in (about 5-degrees) to get the imaging snapped into focus while preventing the treble from becoming overly prominent. As my studio has a Pergo-style laminate floor, I used the carpet spikes with the floor protection disks underneath them to allow enough room for the down-firing port to breathe.
The equipment used in this review consisted of my KAB modified Technics SL1200 MK 6, a Technics SL1500C along with an Audio-Technica OC9XML MC cartridge, and a Shure M97xe with a JICO SAS stylus, respectively. The rest of my audio chain consisted of the Pass Labs XP-25 phono preamplifier, Benchmark Media HPA4 preamplifier, AHB2 power amplifier, and DAC3 B along with a DIY Raspberry Pi4 based ROON endpoint. I also swapped in the Anthem STR preamplifier and power amplifier to experiment with using room correction with the Lumina III. Interconnect and speaker cables were from both Blue Jeans Cables and Benchmark.
As soon as I started playing music on the Sonus faber Lumina III I immediately said to myself, “ah yes there is that lush midrange and airy treble that I was waiting for.” It’s something that I have come to expect from Sonus faber speakers in general. They have a talent for extracting wonderful results from voices and instruments living in those middle and upper domains of hearing range. This was the case with the Olympica Nova I that I previously reviewed and so it is the same with the Lumina III. Neutral is not the word that I would use to describe any Sonus faber speakers that I have come across. Appealing, enticing, and lush are more apt descriptors to my mind. Sonus fabers all tend to embellish a little, but they do so in a way that, at least to me, sweetens the sound just enough without getting overly exaggerated. They flatter the music; that’s their calling card.
Where they differed some, at least from my experience with the Nova I and, to an extent with the similar-sized ELAC Uni-Fi 2.0 towers is in the bass to lower midrange region. The Luminas did have bass punch to them, but it was very condensed if that makes any sense. The Lumina III felt like they were a little lean and missing some drive in that area between the bass and the lower midrange. So, things like cellos and acoustic bass felt and sounded like they had some impact lower down, but then thinned out and lacked some body as the notes got higher. Also, the Lumina III’s lower bass extension dropped off quickly in my room. The smaller Olympica Nova I sounded like they had a little lower extension and better bass balance when I had them in the same room. And frankly, for the price they should. For what it’s worth, the same sized ELAC Uni-Fi 2.0 had a lower and more balanced bass extension as well, but everything else about its sound is to a totally different voicing. I would call the ELACs more neutral and relaxed by comparison, others could easily say it sounds dull when heard back-to-back to the Luminas. When I moved the Lumina III upstairs to our living room for a short time, they were positioned much closer to a front wall, and subsequently that lower midrange “leanness” was much less noticeable. Conversely the bass punch I noticed downstairs, while still there, did not get overly pronounced being nearer to the wall either. This just reiterates how much your room will affect the resulting bass response of any speaker. Placement is still key.
When I brought the Lumina III back downstairs, I hooked them up to the Anthem STR preamp and power amp combination and used ARC Genesis room correction from 20 Hz to 400 Hz to see about sorting out the bass in my studio. This equipment pairing did the trick, the bass was now more balanced and extended and that leanness had vanished. This made for a completely lovely and compelling-sounding pair of speakers to my ears. While this doesn’t mean that you’ll need room correction to properly enjoy the Lumina III in your room, for my room it helped me unlock what they were thoroughly capable of. I, therefore, used it for the bulk of my listening impressions.
The following are a few notable musical selections that I felt showed off the Lumina IIIs during our time together:
Richard Thompson, Semi-Detached Mock Tudor
Richard Thompson, Semi-Detached Mock Tudor, Beeswing Records, 2000, 16/44.1 FLAC via Qobuz.
Richard Thompson has always been a tragically underrated guitar player in my book but that hasn’t stopped him from churning out consistently good music over the years. Thankfully, more of his excellent live material like this album, once only available from bootleggers, is finally being released by his own label. Thompson’s guitar solo on “Two-Faced Love” is exceptionally aggressive, yet detailed and melodic with the combined distortion and ring of each note coming through on the Lumina III.
The drummer’s riding cymbal sounded metallic with just the right sheen being rendered. The saxophone had a deep and detailed sounding grunt to it that was lacking when I had listened to the speakers earlier without room correction. Thompson’s voice on “Sibella” is dimensional and the feeling of each lyric comes through clearly with him placed dead center between the Luminas. The kick drum has good dimension and impact, especially when corrected.
Live at the Blue Note Tokyo
Ai Kuwabara with Steve Gadd and Will Lee, Live at the Blue Note Tokyo, Universal Music, 24/48 FLAC via Qobuz.
A tight little jazz trio of great musicians recorded live in a great-sounding space. The Lumina III really shines with this material giving me an excellent sense of the venue’s acoustics. The speakers throw up a large image that extends well beyond the speaker boundaries. On “Black Orfeus Medley” Ms. Kuwabara’s piano playing rings sweetly with a great sense of the decay of each note.
Will Lee’s electric bass lines are tight and punchy sounding with excellent pitch definition and loads of details coming from the string plucks. Steve Gadd’s drum work is sublime, and the Luminas rendered it with nice impact and tone on the kick drum and great definition on the rest of the drum skins in general. Cymbals again sparkled on these speakers but not to the point that it ever sounded annoying.
Jacintha, Autumn Leave
Jacintha, Autumn Leaves (The Songs of Johnny Mercer), Groove Note, 2000, 16/44.1 FLAC via Qobuz.
The Lumina III’s do a great job conveying the warmth and expressiveness of Jacintha’s close-mic’d vocals on these classic torch songs. “Skylark” fills the room with all the details of her smokey vocals, the Luminas picking up all the subtle breaths in between the lyrics. The accompanying electric guitar sounds positively liquid in tone during a solo. It’s obvious that the Sonus faber Lumina III really likes piano as it just shines playing on the track “Autumn Leaves.”
The tone, the ring, and decay of those notes in the air are just so nicely rendered by these speakers. The muted trumpet that appears in a few spots sounds impressively good with a nice bite to its sound. Acoustic bass lines are thick and solid, contrasting nicely with all the delicate and detailed brushwork on the drums. The Lumina’s allowing both to be fully appreciated.
Measurements by Carlo Lo Raso, Technical Analysis by Carlo Lo Raso and David A. Rich.
Bench tests were performed with a Cross Spectrum Labs calibrated UMIK-1 USB microphone connected to my Surface 3 PRO tablet and using Room EQ Wizard acoustic measurement software. On and off-axis measurements were taken with the mic at 1-meter from the center point of the tweeter. Unlike measurements taken outdoors or in an anechoic chamber that measure a speaker in isolation (and assess straight-line engineering), in-room measurements give a sense of how a speaker behaves in the actual environment that it’s used. Both types of measurements are valuable, I just find in-room measurements interesting as they help shed light on what I am hearing and why. That and I don’t own an anechoic chamber!
Impedance measurements were taken using the Dayton Audio DATS v3 loudspeaker tester and software.
This in-room measurement of the Sonus faber Lumina III is an 18-point spatial average. A 9-point measurement was made for the right speaker and then repeated for the left speaker. Averaging both speakers is an approach that others have been using and publishing. Using data from both speakers reduces the modal response of the room by averaging the differences in the response of the two speakers from room asymmetries. The technique cannot eliminate them however and, as such, the response below 300Hz remains room dominated. The results show a bit of a boost in response between 350 Hz and 1 kHz. After this, the response remains consistent up until 7 kHz where we see another small boost from there to 12 kHz. Below 350 Hz, we see a bit of a trough in the response to 150 Hz. This may account for the “leanness” that I experienced in my listening notes. The dip at 160 Hz is a floor bounce (the distance from the woofer to the floor and back to the speaker) which appears in all my speaker measurements in this room. In this case, it becomes part of the trough in the upper bass response. The bass seems to have a significant peak at 110 Hz (room mode) after which the bass response declines steadily.
David Rich notes: At 100hz the speaker looks to pick up a room mode that reinforces the bass and then another one that reduces it. The cement walls and floor in Carlo’s basement studio does a really good job of keeping the bass in the room and not transmitting it across dry wall. The speakers rolloff frequency is consistent with the performance of two 5.9-inch woofers in a small box. In my estimation Sonus faber has traded some of the additional bass of the third woofer, if this were a 2.5-way system, for better performance in all other aspects of the speaker in the 3-way system they designed.
This graph shows an averaged in-room response of the Sonus faber Lumina III, performed in the same manner, but using Anthem’s ARC Genesis to correct room issues from 400 Hz and below. Everything above 400 Hz is untouched. We see that the trough from 150 Hz to 350 Hz has been filled along with the peaking at 110 Hz being dealt with. The speakers even gained a touch of additional extension in the low end to boot.
David Rich notes: The use of Anthem ARC has given Carlo almost an additional 15Hz worth of extension, but we are not able to show the potential distortion increase that results with the electrical bass push.
To better appreciate the difference here are the previous two plots superimposed over one another.
This is a plot of the NRC listening window for the Lumina III scaled from 300 Hz on up which is averaged from the following measurements: 0-degree on-axis, +-15 vertical, and +-15 horizontal. In this portion of the frequency range that is dominated by the speaker (response below 300 Hz tends to be dominated by the room and can vary greatly), we see a nicely controlled and uniform response up to 7 kHz after which the treble starts a 5 dB incline up to 20kHz, and likely beyond.
Above are the horizontal radiation curves of the Lumina III from 0 to 30 degrees, scaled from 500 Hz on up. Looking at the angles most closely related to the direct response we see smooth curves with no obvious resonances at the 1/6 octave smoothing used here. The tweeter is at a significantly higher level, on-axis.
Above are the horizontal radiation curves from 45 to 90 degrees, scaled from 500 Hz on up. Again, we continue to see generally smooth response curves with no obvious resonances and the expected rate of extended off-axis decline.
David Rich notes: The directionality at the transition between the midrange driver and the tweeter is surprisingly well controlled with almost no non-monotonic behavior. It is most prominent at 2.5 kHz near the crossover. We saw no physical waveguide on the tweeter. The midrange–tweeter crossover is a high 3.7 kHz (see curve below). At that frequency the tweeter may already have become directional to allow the match.
Moving to the vertical radiation pattern for positive angles for the Sonus faber Lumina III, we see the plots for 0 to +20 degrees, scaled from 1 kHz on up. We were forced to limit the low end to 1 kHz as a result of windowing out reflections, but the listening window is all that is needed below 1 kHz for a speaker with a high midrange- tweeter crossover. These show little change outside of a 4 kHz dip as we move beyond 5-degrees indicating a high order crossover preventing the midrange and tweeter from producing much interaction.
In the vertical radiation pattern for negative angles for the Lumina III, we see the plots for 0 to -20 degrees, scaled from 1 kHz on up. Here, the crossover area between the midrange and tweeter shows little change outside of a 3 kHz dip as we move beyond 10-degrees. The change at 20 degrees is significantly more pronounced than in the positive angles.
David Rich notes: Note the transition between the midrange to the tweeter is wide at negative angles. 15 -20 degrees negative shows a significant energy loss at 15 and 20 degrees but only your dog and other floor-dwelling listeners will be concerned.
Here we have the Impedance sweep for the Sonus faber Lumina III. Results show much of the speaker’s operating range takes place between 5 to 10 ohms with the 120 Hz to 150 Hz and 350 Hz to 750 Hz regions just dipping below 4 ohms.
David Rich notes: The port tuning is low for the small woofer with the minimum motion point at 45 Hz. The in-room roll-off of the speaker (above) is significantly higher than 45 Hz.
The Sonus faber Lumina III is an approachable Italian speaker with a beautiful appearance and a ton of personality. Definitely worth a listen!
- Simple yet beautiful design
- Lush midrange and treble. Flatters most music well.
- Excellent imaging.
- Made in Italy.
- An affordable Sonus faber for the rest of us
- A little more balanced bass response, although this is room-dependent.
The Sonus faber Lumina III is a delightful and important speaker in many respects. It is a purebred Italian product that is much more attainable for music lovers that like what they hear from Sonus faber’s pricier offerings. It’s designed to be the hook that reels you into the brand and it succeeds on several counts. Although simple in form, it is solidly engineered, being both beautiful to look at and touch. To the ears, it extends that richly toned midrange and treble, “The Voice of Sonus faber” that the company is known for, to the mainstream. Perhaps, even more importantly, it demonstrates that Sonus faber’s at-home manufacturing can compete with the best in the world. Not just at making grand speaker artwork for the well-heeled but also at just engineering a damn good, approachable speaker with more than just a twist of style.
They are Made in Italy from the top of the line to the bottom. That is more than just a little thing to be proud of. Personally, I would have liked to hear a more balanced and extended tuning of the speaker’s bass region in my listening. But a lot of that is at the mercy of the room. My standard listening area doesn’t do speakers too many favors in that respect. Get the Lumina III closer to a wall, in a more traditional room layout and the leanness I noticed in the upper bass to lower midrange region fills in fairly well. At almost $2200.00 for the pair, the Lumina III’s have some stiff competition from the likes of the Focal Chora 826, Paradigm Premier 800F, and several others. If nothing else though, the Sonus faber Lumina III is unique enough in both look and sound that they should certainly be on your shortlist to sample if you are looking for a compact tower speaker. It has a great deal of character to go along with that pretty face. And honestly, who doesn’t know an Italian without a little bit of charm?
The author would like to thank David A. Rich for his valuable assistance.