Reviewer: Joël Chevassus
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Esoteric K-03, Lumin S1, Apple iMac Lion/Audirvana, Trends UD-10.1, MacBook Lion with HiFace USB bridge
Amp/preamp: Coincident Technology Statement Line preamplifier, SPL Volume2, Luxman M-800a x 2 (bridged), Trends TA-10.2, Red Dragon S500 x 2 [bridged, on loan]
Speakers: Vivid  Audio Giya G1
Cables: Skywire Audio 2020 digital cable, Naturelle Audio interconnects Live 8 MK2, Grimm Audio TPM interconnects, High Fidelity CT1-Enhanced speaker cables, DIY NOS copper speaker wires
Power Cords: DIY, Triode Wire Labs 10+
Stands & room treatments: Music Tools Alicia furniture, DAAD 4 bass traps, Microsorber room insulation, PYT panels
Review components retail: 1.5 meter power cord €3’400 each; 3 meter speaker cable €6’200/pr; XLR 1.2 meter interconnect €5’300/pr; XLR 1.8 meter interconnect €7’400/pr; S/PDIF cable €2’600; 1 meter USB cable €2’600

Context. After my introduction of Esprit Audio cables using their entry-level offering—more exactly, the second tier from the bottom up—which we published in December 2014, designer and owner Richard Cesari now asked whether I'd be interested in testing his high-end stuff. It would be more in line with my current system. His Lumina cable loom is by far the most expensive cable set which I’ve accepted on assignment thus far. When a total cable loom costs more than a beautiful car, it is usually very difficult to conclude that the cables are worth the expense. But having a fine pair of expensive speakers with matching electronics already, the interesting question to my mind was plain: what further sonic achievements might be obtained by a very expensive set of wires? Okay, perhaps it is really a very bad idea to neglect wires and underestimate their contribution to the final result when plugged into an upscale audio system. I have owned a few silly-expensive pairs and must confess that my interest in cables has seriously decreased over the time that my personal setup has improved. It's been a solid while now since I’ve thought that, when one’s system has reached a high level of realism and resolution, further improvements from pricey cables become quite insignificant. Plus, our own ears become the ultimate boundary to further sonic improvement detection, our minds more and more focused on the music and no longer after the chase of sound quality's subtle variations. Feel free to disagree but at least that's more or less my point of view on very expensive leashes. For those of you who believe that cables don't make a difference, consider this admission a short-lived victory. I have always been able to distinguish sonic differences between different cables. It’s simply that I believe these differences to be less obvious or significant now than when I was younger. Go figure. 

On the other hand, high-end audio systems are somewhat crazy achievements. To maximize the madness of our audio journey, what better ticket than insanely priced wires? Considering that my digital front end is based on a Lumin network player, why not go all-out on a no-holds-barred Lumina proposal from France? If you have read my previous Red Dragon review, you might think Joël to be crazy and a guy who just picks his assignments based on brand or product name. Admittedly I’m most certainly crazy in the sense that I like to consider the full extent of all options, be they for the good or bad. With such a preamble, you might brace yourself for a journey to the audio asylum of heavenly lunatics or deep-fried hell hounds. The final destination shall depend on my personal listening experiences with today’s Lumina loom. Because cables reviews are undoubtedly less inspiring examples of hifi writings, I asked Richard Cesari to provide me with a complete set of three power cords, two pairs of speaker wires for biwiring, two pairs of interconnects of different lengths, one S/PDIF and one USB digital cable to swap a full loom. As it turned out, Richard had all of it in stock since he produced a lot of Lumina lengths for his participation at the last Munich High End show in the Ayon Audio booth.

Shipping flagship cables from stock isn’t exactly common after receiving a review solicitation. Typically loaners of specific lengths have to be fabricated first. Two months ago, someone else asked me to review a solitary USB cable. As we all know, the audio market is open to anyone. Personally, I feel more confident when dealing with someone who can afford to loan me for a certain period of time a complete set of cables than buying from someone who seems hardly capable of replacing just one defective cable or insuring any decent after-sale services. On that note, Richard Cesari is anything but a newcomer in the audio cable business. He is a serious industry member, not an audio prophet in the wilderness of empty pockets. Once cables exceed easy accessory expenses, I prefer to deal with reliable partners. And Lumina cables are guaranteed for life. But no further introductions on Cesari are required. Details on his career and tech background were covered already in my previous review on his Esprit Beta range.

Today’s review consumed a lot of my time and many A/B comparisons. It's far too easy to write that such stuff is very expensive even when it sounds excellent. It's also child’s play to say that these were the best cables I ever heard when nothing in our wire world is entirely universal or unconditionally versatile. Defaulting to the obvious or to exaggerations makes for a tough task if one wants to provide truly useful information to the reader. Here cable reviews in general are more challenging. It’s difficult to make complete sense of wire differences when, to begin with, many refuse to spend any serious time on the subject at all. Given the unpredictable interactions inherent in many cables motivated me to loan the full review set to my friend Thierry Nkaoua of Audiophile Magazine. He'd add observations in the context of two more very different systems than mine. After all, assessment from one playback chain to another may vary slightly or radically. That’s often the case with electronics but even more obvious with cables. Many a combination just won't help highlight the properties of review cables in any clear and tangible manner. Unfortunately I didn't see another practical path to assess this expensive cable loom. Thus don’t expect either another overly enthusiastic or jaded cynical review. Both approaches are booby prizes. I’m definitely getting far too old to worry about the opinion of others when I have opportunity to form my own. I have no spare time for child’s play except for my own two daughters, time for whom is far too limited to begin with. To end this introduction whilst still playing with words, let me mention the new Super Lumina cables launched by Naim Audio of the UK. Richard Cesari discovered this new brand during the last Munich show though in his own words, they looked to him more infra than super Lumina. Either way, is adding more confusion to the already confusing cable sector a good thing? Was this really necessary? Regardless, stay tuned for an exhaustive and hopefully pragmatic investigation into this expensive French high-end cable loom.