Where so many manufacturers have fallen victim to designing a speaker line around a tweeter first, with each smaller model having progressively less bass as a result, Penaudio’s Sami Penttila does it old school, developing each model to be a unique entity.
The result is a small speaker that is optimized for a smaller room, yet not lacking in resolution or quality. The latest Lumi is a perfect example of his design expertise. At $2,995 per pair, they are an approachable entry to the Penaudio speaker lineup.
Our listening begins as the speaker is intended in a 10 x 13-foot room, yet with high quality electronics – in this case the lovely Pass INT-25 integrated. This 25-watt per channel, class A amplifier has more than enough drive and detail to make the Lumis do their thing. Incidentally, Lumi means snow in the Finnish language, and if you happen to follow Sami on Facebook or Instagram, you know there is plenty of snow where he hails from.
Even if you’ve never been to Finland, if you’ve grown up with snow, you know the quieting effect that fresh snow brings to your environment. It’s an interesting type of quiet, and I maintain that some of the world’s finest speakers come from the Nordic Region because of this quiet. You need to know what quiet sounds like before you can proceed from there.
What better tribute to these speakers born of quiet than something delicate? Having known Penttila for many years, I know he loves to rock, but pulling George Winston’s December out of my record stack, and playing the classic, quiet, first run vinyl, is fantastic. Winston’s piano floats from the small Penaudios, with every note intact. Both attack and decay are just right, with the piano sounding much bigger than you might think a small pair of monitors would be capable of delivering. On one level, that’s why Penaudio speakers, big and small have the dynamics to handle more aggressive music too. This is their strength.
As Winston’s piano is so relaxing and inviting, one more classic is in order – Liz Story’s Solid Colors. This record was originally recorded to two-track tape at 30 i.p.s. with no dolby, and Story’s Steinway is captured at it’s best. Almost 40 years later, this is still a great go to record. No matter what kind of music you love and spend most of your time with, piano and violin are two of the greatest torture tests of any speaker. The complex dynamics and tonal shadings will not hide and you can rest assured if things sound good here, you won’t be disappointed with the rest of your favorite music.
The small 180 x 300 x 325 mm cabinet (about 7 x 12 x 12 inches) only weighs 7.5kg (about 17 pounds) is easy to manouver, and place in your room for excellent effect. With any small, high-performance speaker, heavy stands, with careful attention paid to speaker/stand interface will allow optimum performance. A pair of 24-inch, filled, Sound Anchor stands works perfectly, and to confirm this, a pair of light weight, flimsy stands are tried later. This is not recommended, as bass response and speed will suffer.
You can approach the Lumi two ways, further out in your room, closer to the listening chair for a nearfield effect, or closer into the corners of your room, taking advantage of room gain to achieve a deeper bass response. Both work well, but provide a completely different experience, both of which are engaging. With careful tweaking, you can achieve an excellent balance of bass extension, while keeping most of the imaging capability that the Lumis offer in a corner placement setup.
Further out in the room, with a smaller “listening triangle,” and the speakers about five feet from rear and side walls, while about five feet apart and from the listening position is completely immersive, as if sitting in a giant pair of headphones. Those craving more bass response can of course, add a subwoofer or two. As they were in for review, I tried a pair of REL TZero Mk.III subs with excellent effect. We will talk about that more in a future “Shhhh” column in TONE, but for now, we’ll concentrate on the Lumi’s alone.
Playing with others
Most listening was done with the Pass INT-25, but these speakers were not out of their element with the combination of the Nagra Classic Preamplifier and Classic Amp, which is 100 watts per channel. Much like the Cenya Signatures, Lumi is very tube friendly too. With an 86db/1-watt sensitivity rating, we suggest at least about 50 watts per channel, if you go the tube route. Our Conrad-Johnson CAV-45S2 works incredibly well with the Lumis, and while the Pass amp offers slightly more bass grip and extension, the C-J is the master of creating a huge sonic image.
Fantastic results were also achieved with the Octave V110SE, PrimaLuna EVO400s, the McIntosh MC275 and of course the BAT REX gear we have in for review, though that is probably well outside the scope of what would be used as source components for a pair of Lumis. Yet, sonically they are up to task – this is a highly resolving speaker.
The SEAS connection
Bias admitted, I still prefer the slightly less resolving but more organic feel of a soft dome tweeter, and Penaudio speakers have always taken advantage of some of SEAS’ finest drivers and made them their own. The Lumi is no different. Using one of their newest Excel tweeters, the Lumi combines it with a 5.7 inch (145mm) Excel woofer made to spec for Penaudio. The match is perfect, with the pair offering a lot of musicality.
Playing some bass heavy tracks from Prince, the Lumis can’t quite go all the way down, but the texture and fundamental tonality is there. That small woofer does an excellent job when capturing Rhonda Smith’s quick, plucky bass lines on the Emancipation disc, as well as her stint with Jeff Beck on the Emotion and Commotion record. Again, if you listen to more of this style of music, consider opting for a pair of small subs, or at least corner placement.
What really makes the Lumis shine is the incredible stereo image they can paint in a small room – always the highlight of a well-designed small monitor. That said, don’t count the Lumi’s out as part of a killer desktop system either. Mounted on a pair of great desktop speaker stands from ISO Acoustics, and powered by the Naim Uniti Atom proves to be a ton of fun, albeit a bit spendy for a desktop system. However, if you edit video, these could be the perfect tool for you.
Regardless of the setup, the Penaudio Lumi speakers are a sheer joy to live with. As someone who’s used Penaudio on and off as a reference speaker for the last 16 years, I had to purchase the Lumis for inclusion in our standing arsenal of compact reference speakers.
Maybe the other word for the Lumis should be rakkaus. #toneaudioapproved. - Jeff Dorgay
Digital Source T+A 2500R
Analog Source Chord Huei, Technics SL-1200, Denon 103 (with alum. Cap)
Cable Cardas Clear, Tellurium Q Blue 2
Amplification Conrad-Johnson CAV-45S2, Pass INT-25
Original article: The Penaudio Lumi Speakers
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