Review: Luminous Audio Axiom Preamplifier

Category: Preamps

I recently sold my pre & while I was gathering funds for the new one, decided to get the little Axiom to use in the interim, based mostly on the excellent cables I'd been using for several years from Luminous Audio. I talked with Tim about the specs of my CDP & amp, which he uses to provide the settings for the Axiom, which translates into a smooth volume/level adjustment . I also opted for the cadddock resistors over the holco for the additional $25.00, which brought the price up to $150.00.
I really like the smooth pot, which not only has a nice feel to it but also allows for very small volume adjustments. Hook-up is very simple, with a narrow red band around one of the input/output jacks and there is also a small sticker underneath to indicate which sets of jacks is which.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting much, as this thing was only $150.00 & is so small! I don't have much of a selection of RCA's, as I'd been using XLR's, so used a Luminous Audio Lynx cable that I’d been using on a tuner and a Magwire original, which I'd never used before but wanted to try out. So I have the Axiom & two sets of cables that cost less than the PC I use on the amp. Like I mentioned, I wasn't expecting much but wanted to be able to play the stereo. I sure was in for a surprise & a treat.

I'm not saying everybody should sell their expensive pre & get one of these but if you did you could pocket that extra 3k & not lose any sleep over it. It does a very good job & in fact I've decided to keep it in my system for the time being. I have to rethink spending $3k ($3200.00 in black) for the pre I had set my sights on.

Comparatively, the Axiom has better micro-detail than the Aleph P I had for 3 1/2 years and although audio memory is supposed to be short lived, it would be very difficult to tell these two apart and I suspect it would better many lesser pre’s. The Aleph P was the best pre (Cary was a distant 2nd) I’ve had in my system up to this point, so making comments/comparisons about other pieces I’ve heard in other systems would only be a waste of time.

The Axiom is an honest piece-meaning it will give you what you feed it. In addition to all the store bought CD’s I played, including MFSL, DCC & other assorted audiophile type recordings, I also played some recordings I made during some practice sessions with a band I run sound for. I record these directly off a Crest board & although I use some digital gadgetry, it’s a direct take with no remixing or other additives. It sounded like I was standing back at the board, albeit in a smaller room.

The Axiom gives you all the qualities you would expect from a higher priced unit & although there are trade-offs, namely only one set of inputs, I can live with that. The last time I changed any of my gear (amp, spkrs, CDP) was Nov. 2002, so I’m used to the type of sound, quality, soundstage, etc. my system provides. In fact at that time, I upgraded from one Ayre amp to another and it remains as musical as ever & although I don’t play as loud as OFTEN as I used to, it’s still capable of 110+ SPL’s. Yes, I’ve measured it & don’t wish to go higher. I can also play late at night w/o waking anybody up at very low settings & although I don’t get the prodigious bass (at the low settings) that the spkrs. are capable of, I still get a musical presentation. Putting together a system has been all about keeping it musical. I’ve had analytical, dry, warm & lush and what I have now is the best so far.

I've had the Axiom for 6 weeks & the following are but a small sample of what I've listened to: Steely Dan, Sarah Jahn, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Norah Jones, Elton John, Billy Joel, Miles Davis, PJ Harvey, Blue Mitchell, Tommy Bolin, Jennifer Knapp, Joe Walsh, Savoy Brown, Santana.

If & when I get another pre, it'll have to do something very, very special for me to spend more than $150.00.

Associated gear
Ayre V-5x; Meridian 508.20; VR4 GenIII

Similar products
none-this is my first passive
Interesting review, not to mention, conclusion. Are these only sold factory direct?
Not sure if you have to contact Tim at Luminous directly or can order through one of his dealers, but I would think dealing with Tim directly gives him the opportunity to set the values correctly for your particular gear.
You mentioned only one set of inputs. Have you tried using the preamp with a TT, and if so, how does it perform?

Also, does he have other Luminous preamp gear that has multiple inputs?

In advance, thank you for your response.
Even though I don't have a TT I asked about this and it will work very well if the phono system has enough output. Best to ask Tim at Luminous about your particular set-up.

I also asked about having XLR jack's instead of the RCA's so I could use my current cables & was told the size of the case doesn't allow for anything but the current configuration. I also found out there wouldn’t be any multiple input models anytime soon.
Bringing back an old topic, but I'm actually planning to buy one of these:

iMac > Audinst HUD-mx1 > Luminous Audio Axiom > B&W ST140 power amp > Speakers (currently MB Quart bookshelves)

My question is, how does this differ from a simple attenuator in its place?
IIRC, they are the same. I look at the difference between active & passive like stepping on the gas or the brake.

If you were to connect your source directly to the amp it would play at full volume. With the passive in the way, it is still putting out full voltage (which translates in full volume) but the resistors attenuate the signal via the position of the pot.

I don't know about your source gear but can you adjust the output? If so, maybe you don't even need any type of preamp.
I got one of these off Ebay for $60 in 2011. I use it often and as I have gone through preamps keep coming back to it. It sounds best with my McIntosh MC250, a warmer amp. It is clean and the sound is transparent to me...interesting as it is not "mated" to my system by the manufacturer.

In terms of negatives,it mm at really tell yuoiu what your pieces sound like...It did not work well with my ATI 1850, which is a little bright but has more power my Ohm Walsh 2s like. The only other issue to me was the limited number of inputs which are a hassle given my multiple sources. I would second the initial reviewer in trying it out as a great budget per if you only need one input and don't need balance or tone controls.
Hi Driver:

I saw your comment around buying the Axiom II over the Aleph P.  I was pricing an Axiom II with the Walker upgrade and 3 RCA ins/  and 2 RCA outs and it is now about $900, so, if you could get an Aleph P fro $1,300 in very good shape or an Axiom II with the Walker upgrade, for $900, would you still go Axiom II?  A $3K difference is one thing, but when it is down to a few hundred dollars, maybe no so compelling, but I have not heard the Axiom II, so, I am dependent on others who have.
Thanks for your help, or the help of anyone else that has heard both and can provide an informative opinion.
Hi baddog,

I don't frequent the site nearly as often as I have in the past, hence the delay in responding.  The Aleph P is a great preamp, so you can't go wrong with it but it is on the warmer side of neutral.  The passive is neutral, so it all depends on the rest of your gear.  I have been through so much gear since I first wrote this but those were my impressions at the time.  I might actually try out another Axiom just to see where I'm at in regards to overall tonality, as I found it to "tell the truth, and nothing but the truth".

 As for value, it just depends if you feel the price is justified.

Lastly, if you're going to get an Aleph P, go for the remote version.  There are some subtle differences and I prefered this one, having owned both.
Hello @driver - 
I read with interest you 2004 review of the Luminous Audio Axiom passive preamp.  I had been interested in getting an active solid state linestage but have been attracted by the very affordable prices of some passive pres (e.g., Placette).  Regarding the Axiom, do you know if the XLR connectors that are now available represent a balanced design? or are they simply a convenience for folks that have balanced-type interconnects?  Thanks in advance for your time.
To anyone interested...
I wrote to Tim Stinson at Luminous Audio.  He replied that the design of the XLR equipped  Axiom II is fully balanced.