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
I wish my LP12 were so well appointed. Nice system.
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.
Gajgmusic and Zaikesman:

Thank you both for your kind comments. To answer some of the questions: The MSRP is $24,000 U.S., and they were already broken in when I got them. The speakers I had immediately before the Lumenwhites were the Von Schweikert VR-5 HSEs.


Larry, that was a well written and thoughtful review. Thank you for contributing to Audiogon's member reviews.
I'd like to make a suggestion. I can see you are a discriminating listener, and you have wisely chosen tubes as your source equipment. I, too, owned both your Kora preamp and VAC Ren.(the 30/30). They are good pieces, but I would venture that they are now the weak links in your system.

I auditioned an Audio Valve Eklipse from Victor of Fanfare in NYC while I still had the Kora. Though it is not a recognized brand, this German linestage surpassed the Kora by a wide margin, and the build quality is typical German overbuild. Needless to say, I replaced the Kora in a heartbeat. Replacing the stock tubes with vintage Telefunken's only increased the gap. You mentioned your appreciation for rich midrange without harshness and loss of detail. That description fits the Audio Valve to a 'Tee'. The Kora is quite lean by comparison.

I loved my VAC until I gave a serious audition to Audio Research. I never realized how colored and unbalanced the VAC was until I heard the ARC VT100 mkII. I have since graduated to the VT200. Of course, ARC has created new models, but their tradition and sonic signature continue.

Both the Audio Valve and ARC are very reasonably priced, especially in relation to the cost of your speakers. You may want to audition both brands, if you are daring enough.

Thanks very much for your comments. I am in complete agreement that my preamp and amp are now the weak points of my system and am actively looking for replacements. While I had heard of Audio Valve I know very little about them. I will now try to arrange a demo, based on your recommendation. I am also considering an Audio Note M5 preamp, as well as the deHavilland linestage.

As for amps, I would like to demo some SETs to see how well they work with the Lumens. Because of the less-than-optimal impedance of the Lumens, I feel that a low-power SET will not adequately control the woofers. Thus, I am looking at higher output models inlcuding deHavilland Aries G845, the Art Audio Jota, and the Wavelength Cardinal X1. If I win the lottery, I will buy a Wavac. :)

Thanks again for your input.


I just came across this lesss-than-complimentary review of the Eklipse:

I no longer pay much attention to reviews. In my earlier days, I did rely on reviews from all of the commonly recognized publications, and too often found myself in complete disagreement with the author. Whether the review was based on honest viewpoints or motivated by some hidden agenda (which is too often the case), I often wondered how i heard things so differently from the reviewer.

That's why auditioning is the only way to make a decision. I only suggested the models I mentioned because you and I had a common background with the Kora and VAC, as well as possibly common tastes in music and the way it should be heard. I am very partial to Audio Research because of the reputation of the company, their build quality, and of course, the company's way of voicing its products.

Best of luck. I wish I could hear the Lumens myself.
FYI Audio Valve is no longer imported by Victor Goldstein/Fanfare International. There is a new importer, whose info you can view on the Audio Valve website:

I feel that the Eklipse is one of the best sounding linestages for under $5k. It has gobs of resolution and remarkable high end and deep bass response, but it is sweet and mellow - not an ounce of grain or fatigue at all. It's also dead quiet, yet it has quite a bit of gain and a low output impedance which enables it to drive virtually any amplifier without complications. It also has balanced outputs and a remote.
Sounds great, Hackmaster/Symphony Sound, but from the looks of your ad you might be/have been a dealer, and if so should say it up front.

Your point about reviews is well-taken, and one I agree with. The Eklipse is still on my list.

Larry, thanks for the thoughtful review of the Lumen Whites.
As far as amplifiers for these speakers, the Ayon (formerly VAIC Audio) line of SET amplifiers are a perfect match. Althought they are SET, these amps use large VAIC Valve driver tubes and high-capacity transformers to reach the requirements of the Lumen Whites. I believe Acoustic Dreams also distributes them.
Final question for larry: how does your impression of the Lumen Whites compare with that of Michael Fremer in the Stereophile review?