Review: Lumen White White Flame Speaker

Category: Speakers

About 3 years ago I set out to buy new speakers. What I wanted were speakers that were full-range (or nearly so), tonally accurate, balanced across the frequency range, and possessing that all-so-difficult to define property of musicality. Additionally, the speakers had to be reasonably sized (no 300 pound behemoths!), and had to work within the confines of an apartment-sized listening room (11' width x 22' length x 8' height). To find these dream speakers I visited most of the high-end audio shops in New York City, went to audio shows, and graciously accepted invitations to the homes of other audiophiles to listen to their treasures.

Because I was interested in the sound, and not the technology, all designs were fair game. However, it quickly became clear that horns were out of the running. While they are certainly dynamic, their tonal colorations are, to my ear, completely unacceptable. I also listened to ‘stats and magnetic panels. Like most people, I was captivated by their openness and lack of cabinet colorations. However, the deal breaker was their physical size, their requirement for enormous breathing room, and their inability to reproduce lower frequencies. (While I am most certainly not a bass junky, I listen to a lot of jazz and I wasn't willing to have the double-bass effectively removed from the band.) Thus, I had narrowed my choices to traditional dynamic drivers.

Unfortunately, most of the speakers I heard had sonic properties that were quite disappointing, and this included many big-name brands with hefty price tags. What I found particularly discouraging was that as detail retrieval increased, so did harshness. In fact, some of the most detailed speakers I heard (e.g., B&W Nautilus, Watt Puppies) were so shrill that they actually hurt my ears. At the other extreme was the Sonus faber Amati Homage which has a warm, luxurious midrange, but which lacks detail and is woefully inadequate in the lower frequencies. It was rather surprised at how deficient these speakers were, especially considering their price tags. So my quest continued.

In May of 2001 I was at the Stereophile-sponsored Home Entertainment show in New York City. By chance I wandered into a room in which sat two magnificent speakers. They had 5 drivers, and cabinets of beautiful light maple which, in profile, tapered to the back. (As I learned later, the cabinets are quite unusual in that they have virtually no internal bracing. Instead, internal resonances are channeled out of the speaker through a rear port.) They were unlike anything I had previously seen but it was not their appearance which most attracted me, it was their sound. These two speakers were producing what was probably the most beautiful music I had ever heard (outside of live performances, of course). They captivated me in a way that no speakers ever had before. Upon inquiring, I learned that what I was listening to were the White Lights, manufactured in Austria by Lumen White. Unfortunately, their $40K MSRP was a bit out of my range. And so my search continued.

Fast forward to this past November. While reading the latest Stereophile I saw that the White Lights had a new baby brother, the White Flames. The only differences between the two were that the White Flames were a bit smaller, and used 5 inch woofers, rather than 7. And of course, they were quite a bit cheaper. Maybe my dreams would come true after all!

A few phone calls later I learned that the Lumen Whites were being carried by a dealer I knew (and from whom I had previously purchased equipment), John Fairchild of Satellite to the Stars (Long Island, NY). John arranged for the distributor, Bruce Fetherling of Acoustic Dreams (based in Fairfield, Illinois) to bring a pair to my home for me to demo.

Bruce spent nearly three hours optimizing the position of the speakers in my room, which has a number of asymmetries. (While I am no stranger to high-end dealers, never before had one devoted this much time and effort .) Within minutes, I knew that my speaker search had finally come to an end, as the White Flames were exactly what I had been looking for. These speakers have a warm, rich midrange, delicate and detailed highs, and about the tightest, quickest, richest bass I have ever heard from any speaker, at any price (except for the White Lights). They throw a wide and deep soundstage and have fewer cabinet colorations than any box I had heard to date. They are tonally quite accurate which is most obvious with human voices. Despite their high level of detail, they are not at all analytical (unlike say, a Thiel). And unlike many speakers in which the drivers sound like the separate entities that they are, in the White Flames the drivers merge into a seamless whole that is truly more than the sum of its parts. As a result, they draw you in to the music in a way that few speakers can. I whole-heartedly and enthusiastically recommend these speakers.

Associated gear
Ayre D1 CD(player
Kora Eclipse preamp (re-tubed)
VAC Renaissance amplifier
Linn Sondek turntable
Naim Prefix phonostage, with Naim Supercap power supply
Naim Aro tone arm, with Lyra Helikon SL cartridge
Stealth cable interconnects and speaker wire
A very good review and an interesting story. I have heard about the lumen white but not known anyone has heard them. You conveyed their image very well. The price is about 24,000 us, is that correct? What speakers did you replace? Do they need any burn in time? Thanks for the information and enjoy them. Diligence is usually paid out in the end.
I don't suppose I'll actually be hearing these speakers anytime that I can forsee, but they certainly do seem like an interesting and unique design. (One thing: I probably wouldn't be so quick to necessarily blame what you heard in some of those other auditions on the speakers alone, though your candor is appreciated.) Thanks for the nicely written account of your search, and enjoy them in good health for a long time to come.