For an impromptu experiment
, I asked one of my co-workers to help with something. He has no idea about expensive audio. It was a ploy. He enjoys music and that's that. So here he was sitting in a comfy chair, one-minute parts of Queen's "I Want To Break Free" spinning in two setups. In the first, D/A conversion was by D1, in the second with the HA160. He had no idea what might be going on. Needless to say, after just a few switches back and forth, he bluntly proclaimed that the first setup was superior: more lively, more saturated, with better bass and a more open sound. Afterwards, the only thing left to do was to congratulate the man. He quite accurately described a €2’500 difference.

After those shenanigans, the time came to roll speakers. KEF's LS50 were first. The H160 really adores them. Nonetheless, the D1’s character was able to pierce through their less transparent less airy connection. The same findings repeated. A bit of quality colour served the LS50 well and additional positive changes took place with resolution and smoothness. Good things happened overall. The naturally saturated Perla by Xavian had its bass quantity decreased a bit yet also made more punchy. Those speakers don't really need that, the H160 alone served them well. But again, I viewed it as a slight improvement. Details bloomed a bit in the areas where the Czech boxes are very mellow. In addition, they gained a bit of sparkle and weight whilst smoothness and overall refinement stayed on the same very impressive level. Most importantly, things became more coherent and engaging. Better definition and a more three-dimensional soundstage made the outcome more attractive and realistic. I enjoyed those changes a lot.

The final thing worth checking out was seeing how the Lumin D1 would fare against far costlier rivals. Trilogy Audio Systems’ monos and preamplifier were on. This time it was more appropriate to use D/A conversion of a much higher class than the Hegel. The obvious speaker choice here was the Gradient 6.0 as the most transparent boxes from amongst the available flock, with the LampizatOr Level 7 handling DAC duty. The reasoning behind such a pick was self-explanatory. It's highly unlikely, almost impossible in fact, that a happy Trilogy set owner won't have a separate DAC of very high quality nearby. It was hard to predict for me how the Lumin would acquit itself among these very musical saturated English devices. On one end it might be a middling mix. The D1 is an analogue-sounding product after all. Therefore too much warm goodness could quickly turn into a bloated overly cuddly experience. On the other side, Lumin's well-pronounced high frequencies married with congenial effortlessness might result in a rather nice outcome. Those were some of the  things worth getting familiar with. First impressions were promising. In the very beginning, just after turning the Level 7 power switch on, it appeared as a source performing in a fuzzy, subdued and plainly inferior fashion. Nearly €10’000 worth of fuzziness? Ouch.

That state of things lingered for 40 minutes or so. Afterwards, the brawl started evening out. The more time passed, the more the Łukasz Fikus deck took control. After two hours, it outshone its competitor severely. The main difference in the very beginning was the volume of sound and the momentum that went with it. The D1 was bigger, more lively and open. That's why it performed better at that time. Its airier more impressive sound on top of everything else did the trick. But the deeper one goes into the forest, the darker the road in front of us becomes. That's we in Poland used to say. As time passed, the D1 showed that its powerful low end had boosted upper regions. By comparison to the Level 7, it was more round and massive but not as tight and well controlled. Again it was quality versus quantity. Other differences were notable in the vocal region. The Polish machine had vocals in front of me in a very neat subtle way. The D1 showed them even more closely. But here the devil was in the details. The Level 7 handled singer size in superior fashion and at very realistic height. The D1 added some centimetres which might be effective and often is. Yet we strive for truth more than anything else and the LampizatOr sounded more truthful.