Sonus Faber Lumina II Amator

Posted 13 March 2024

Sonus Faber’s Lumina II Amator Loudspeaker—Luxury and Beauty for Small Rooms and Budgets

 Written by Doug Schneider

In the last installment of this column, I wrote about the Estelon Aura loudspeaker, which retails for $19,900 a pair (all prices USD). The amplifiers I used to power the Auras ranged from the $2499 Marantz 40n integrated amplifier (reviewed in August 2022) to the $30,000 duo of Simaudio Moon 791 streaming preamplifier (reviewed in November 2023) and 761 power amplifier. This month’s installment takes the “System One” column back to its roots, when it focused on more affordable equipment, with the Sonus Faber Lumina II Amator, a two-way standmount design priced at $1499 a pair. Although much cheaper than the Aura, the Lumina II Amator, too, combines great sound with a striking appearance and more than a hint of luxury.

A higher crossover and a high-style finish

My review pair was identical to any other pair of the Lumina II Amators, except for one special embellishment: it was signed! In July 2023, for his review of the Meitner Audio DS-EQ2 optical phono stage, Jason Thorpe received a sample unit that bore the signature of its designer, Ed Meitner. That generous gesture, in adding a personal touch to what is but a sample of a commercial product, made it feel very special. I asked Livio Cucuzza, Sonus Faber’s chief product designer, if he and his team of builders would do likewise with my review samples. They graciously obliged, signing the back panel of one of the speakers. Sweet.

Sonus Faber

When I received the Lumina II Amators, I had to double-check the price, and then check again, because it’s only $200 per pair more expensive than the model it’s based on, the Lumina II, which was released in 2021. That’s about a 15% price increase. New versions of speaker models are typically priced 30% to 40% higher than the ones they succeed. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find the Lumina II Amator priced at $1700 a pair or more. The Lumina V Amator, released at the same time as the Lumina II Amator, at $3499 a pair, is likewise priced only about 17% more than its predecessor, the $2999 Lumina V. I would have expected it to sell for $4000 a pair. But I doubt anyone would complain.

Intriguingly, the Lumina I standmount, Lumina III floorstanding, and Lumina CI center-channel speakers haven’t been upgraded to Amator status. I asked Cucuzza about that in an email. He wrote back:

We did an experiment using a pair of Lumina IIs and Vs to understand if crossover improvements made in the Homage range development were effective also on existing Lumina drivers. During the listening test, we discovered that not only the precision of staging was impacted by the new phase-alignment system but, most importantly, the perception of the bass and the overall timing. The improvements, to us, were so impactful that we decided to create a special version of the two Luminas to offer our customers a portion of the Homage sound in a very convenient package.

Most significant among the crossover changes Cucuzza mentioned is the higher crossover frequency. In the standard Lumina II, crossover is set at 1800Hz; in the Amator version, at 2600Hz. This changes the dispersion characteristics of the speakers and may also reduce distortion and compression because the tweeter is not forced below its frequency comfort zone. With such disparity in crossover frequency, the Lumina II and Lumina II Amator are bound to sound appreciably different.

Sonus Faber

Another departure from the base model, though a purely cosmetic one, is the baffle. In both the Lumina II and Lumina II Amator, the baffle is a 3/8″ thick panel of layered wood, but the veneer finish applied to the baffle is very different in the two models. The Lumina II is offered in three finishes: piano-black, wenge (an exotic African wood), and walnut. The high-gloss black finish is a one-piece affair and shows no grain. The other two finishes consist of four rectangular sections interposed by contrasting thin maple inlays. A clear satin coat reveals the beautiful wood grain underneath.

In the Lumina II Amator, the baffle veneer is laid out in a sophisticated herringbone pattern with no inlays, as it is in some of the company’s more expensive speakers. The wenge and walnut finishes are still offered in the Amator, but a rich-red finish replaces the piano-black finish of the original Lumina II—that was the finish of my sample pair. A high-gloss clear coating is applied to the three Amator finishes. I’ve never had a pair of the original Lumina IIs, but I do have a pair of Lumina IIIs in the house, in the walnut finish, and have always found them attractive. Still, the red Lumina II Amator looks bolder and more luxurious. The only other cosmetic change between the two models is the little metal Amator badge on the top of the Lumina II Amator’s cabinet.

Both models are made in Italy and built around an MDF-based cabinet that measures 12″H × 7.1″W × 10.3″D and, apart from the baffle, is clad in black faux-leather fabric. The biwire-capable binding posts are the same on both models. The drivers are also the same for both models: a 1.14″ Damped Apex Dome (DAD) tweeter and a 5.9″ paper-cone midrange-woofer, which is coupled with what Sonus Faber calls a Stealth Reflex port to augment bass output. The port is cleverly implemented through a ribbed plastic base about 3/4″ high with a wide flared opening at the front.

Sonus Faber

Despite the differing crossovers, the specifications for the two models are all the same. Both are claimed to reproduce bass to 55Hz and highs to 24kHz. The sensitivity and nominal impedance are said to be 86dB (2.83V/m) and 4 ohms, which are slightly below average, so you’ll need a fairly powerful amplifier. Sonus Faber recommends amps rated from 30Wpc to 150Wpc for both models (speaker impedance unspecified). The two amps I used in this audition proved amply sufficient to drive the Lumina II Amators. These amplifiers are both rated at 100Wpc into 4 ohms. Anything approaching 150Wpc would be overkill.

TV-room system and sound

I’ve been reviewing speakers for more than 25 years. Until recently, I would set up each review sample in my reference room for the entirety of the audition. My listening area occupies the front half of this room, which at 16′ × 36′ works well for large, powerful speakers. But it is too large, I’ve long recognized, for small ones. It’s not the tidiest room in my house either; it’s a cluttered workspace. In the last few years, I have therefore been auditioning some speakers in smaller, more suitable rooms.

For my “System One” reviews, I’ve been auditioning components in my living room, which measures about 14′ × 18′. This is where I ended my audition of the Lumina II Amators, but I began in the family room, where our TV is set up. This room is irregularly shaped and fairly large, about 13′ × 22′. We sit along one of the long walls opposite the TV, some ten feet away. Thanks to its size and seating arrangement, this screening room makes for a fine listening room for small speakers positioned on either side of the TV. Of course, this setup reflects a likely real-life application of the Lumina II Amators as part of a home-theater system.

Sonus Faber

I set the speakers on 24″ Monolith stands about 6″ from either side of the TV cabinet, their baffles just forward of the front of the cabinet, their backs about 18? from the wall behind, where the two Axiom Audio M22 speakers I use for TV viewing are mounted. Driving the Lumina II Amators was the Emotiva BasX TA1 integrated amplifier ($599) that I normally use with the M22s. Rated at100Wpc into 4 ohms (60Wpc into 8 ohms), the TA1 had enough power for the Amators. A pair of Nordost Red Dawn speaker cables that I’ve had for about 20 years (now discontinued) connected the TA1 to the speakers.

Before I began listening to music, I let the Lumina II Amators play the soundtrack for a few episodes from the popular TV series Succession. What I heard—actually, what I didn’t hear—was telling: there were no weird cupped-hands colorations or tonal anomalies. Dialogs sounded natural and clear, slightly clearer than with the M22s in this room. Nicholas Britell’s opening theme, extending down to about 60Hz, maybe a touch lower, sounded affectingly deep and powerful. The Amators’ bass here was not nearly as deep as that from large floorstanders, but it was deep enough to sound punchy. It never sounded thin. Treble, I noticed, was somewhat heightened but not enough to characterize the Lumina II Amator as bright.

Fleetwood Mac

I then tried another likely use of the Lumina II Amators: YouTube concert videos. I played The Tragically Hip, Don Henley, Tracy Chapman, Fleetwood Mac, a homespun European group (whose name I forget) performing an interesting version of Mac’s “The Chain,” and others. My listening impressions from Succession were corroborated: I heard a reasonably deep and punchy bass, a notably clear- and natural-sounding midband, and a sonorous, but not strident, treble. But I also noticed something else: a very focused and cohesive sound. It was impossible to sense the handoff between the midrange-woofer and tweeter. Each speaker seemed to be issuing its sound from a single driver, not two, the mark of good driver integration.

Living-room system and sound

Next, I moved the Lumina II Amators into my living-room system. There, they were about 8′ apart, tweeter center to tweeter center, and about 18″ from the wall behind. I set the toe-in to a generous 15 degrees to reduce the effect of the adjacent side wall. In this setup, the excellent Marantz 40n integrated amplifier was powering the speakers, and with 100Wpc (70Wpc into 8 ohms), did so with ease. I almost never had the volume past level 45 on its 0–100 scale. Had I gone over 60, I would surely have blown these speakers. (This prompted me to write to Marantz and suggest that they update their software to allow setting a maximum volume lower than 80, the lowest max you can currently set.)

Sonus Faber

I experimented with two sets of speaker cables. Mostly, I used the QED XT25 single-wire speaker cables I normally use for systems in my living room. When I bought them, these cables were under $100 a pair for a 2m length. I also tried a pair of the Australian-made, oddly named Osborn Datalink biwire speaker cables, which are about $230 in the US (350 Australian dollars) for a 3m pair. I thought biwiring the Lumina II Amators was worth a try. (In a biwired setup, a pair of speaker wires connects each output terminal of the amplifier to the corresponding two input terminals of the corresponding speaker.) The Osborn cables are darker in color and much thicker than the QED cables, which may have been what initially skewed my impression of the level of bass I heard with them. In our mind’s eye, bass seems to be dark and heavy. When I switched back and forth between the two sets of cables, however, I couldn’t hear any change in the bass. So, shockingly, dark, heavy cables don’t (necessarily) mean more bass. Neither does biwiring, evidently. My advice: get decent speaker cables, but don’t fret over whether or not to biwire your speakers.

Sonus Faber

In the living-room setup, I listened to music only, beginning with side 1 of my ’70s-era LP of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (Warner Bros. BSK 3010) on a Pro-Ject Audio Systems X1 turntable connected to the 40n’s phono input. I was mostly interested to hear how the drums and bass guitar sounded on “Dreams,” but discovered much more in other tracks.

Here too, the bass was surprisingly deep, a little deeper, in fact, than in the family room setup. Still, some of the weight of the kick drum and bass guitar was missing. A good sub would certainly help. The Amators’ midrange, as before, was remarkably clear. Stevie Nicks’s voice on “Dreams” can get buried in the mix if the midrange isn’t clear enough. With the Lumina II Amators, Nicks’s voice was presented distinctly apart from its accompaniment without sounding unnecessarily or unnaturally prominent. Treble emphasis wasn’t obvious on this track, but it was on “Second Hand News,” in which Lindsey Buckingham’s acoustic guitar plays an important part, and on “Never Going Back Again,” which has only Buckingham’s vocals and acoustic guitar. In these two tracks, pronounced treble made the guitar sound livelier than I’m used to. It was not overly bright, but I wouldn’t want it emphasized any more.

Sonus Faber

Throughout this recording, the Lumina II Amators’ spacious soundstage and distinct imaging never failed to astound me. On “Dreams,” for instance, the drums were depicted across a broad soundstage, each punchy drumhead sounding from its own unambiguous position. On “Songbird,” which closes side 1, the Lumina II Amators, despite their limited bass extension, conveyed a strong sense of the acoustic space of the University of California’s Zellerbach Auditorium, which is where Christine McVie’s piano and vocals were recorded.

I continued my audition with digital tracks, streamed from Tidal via the HEOS streaming platform of the Marantz 40n, which also has an excellent built-in digital-to-analog converter. I began with Van Morrison’s Poetic Champions Compose (16/44.1 FLAC, Mercury Records / Tidal). On the opening track, “Spanish Steps,” which showcases Morrison’s saxophone with no vocals, I marveled at how clear the sax sound was and how it popped out from the mix. Treble was well balanced in this track, neither bright nor bland. It sounded just right again, in the next track, “The Mystery.” Here, I also liked how robust Morrison’s voice sounded and how sharply it was embodied on the soundstage. But it was track 3, “Slipstream,” that really took me aback with its solid spread of soundstage—between, around, and behind the speakers. Sometimes, to perceive the full extent of a soundstage, its depth in particular, a certain degree of constructive imagination is called for. Not on this track. The Lumina II Amators presented a soundstage with spectacular dimensionality, leaving no room, and posing no need, for imagination.

Sonus Faber

I next played two new singles that will likely appear on forthcoming albums. The first was “Punta Cana,” (16/44.1 FLAC, Sony Music Latin / Tidal) by Marc Anthony, in which he ventures into a Dominican style of dance music called bachata. Having been to the Punta Cana resort area of the Dominican Republic many times, I was familiar with this style. But Anthony has his own take on it, using his powerful voice in a vocals-centric arrangement sprinkled with sprightly percussion.

On “Punta Cana,” the Lumina II Amators showed off their midrange clarity abundantly as well as their ability to play quite loud, projecting Antony’s voice tangibly into the room. I was once again impressed by how punchy the bass percussion was with these small speakers. The treble percussion, however, was on the verge of being sharp, particularly when I turned the volume up. I attribute that sharpness to both the speakers and the recording. Anthony’s recordings all tend to have a tipped-up treble balance; it’s what gives them that lively Latin vibe. This heightened treble then got pushed higher still by the treble-happy Lumina II Amators.

Sonus Faber

The second single I listened to was Billy Joel’s “Turn the Lights Back On” (16/44.1 FLAC, Columbia Records / Tidal), which is in the style of his 1970s-era Piano Man days. I do like this song, I just wish it had simpler instrumentation, or none at all, to allow Joel’s voice and piano to take the stage fully. In this track, it was not an accentuated treble that caught my attention; it was the sound of the piano: it was fleshed out enough to sound natural and had a satisfying lower end. The Lumina II Amator’s distinctive voicing serves most music genres very well.


The series name Lumina, I assumed, was meant to connote “light.” Many words related to light, in several languages, are rooted in the Latin luminare (literally, giver or admitter of light). In one of my emails to Cucuzza, I asked about that to confirm. The connection to light, it turns out, is not all there is to this name; it is also an acronym derived from the words LUxury, MInimalist, and NAtural. The Amator part is more straightforward: it’s Italian for lover. A rather attractive one, at that. The Lumina II Amator must be one of the best-looking minimonitors I’ve seen. To many, the appeal of this lover will arise not only from how it looks but also from how it sings.

Sonus Faber

The Amator’s bass is surprisingly deep for its size, its midrange is clear and well balanced, and its treble is prominent, making most recordings sound lively. Just remember that an inherently bright recording will sound even brighter. It would therefore be a good idea to first listen to these speakers with your own music before you buy. If you do audition the Lumina II Amator, make sure to bring along a recording you know to allow a spacious soundstage to be generated. You’ll be surprised how well a pair of these small speakers convey an acoustic space and depict sonic images.

Given its fabulous appearance, good build quality, and made-in-Italy allure, the Lumina II Amator’s price seems reasonable, especially being so close to the previous version. Sonus Faber could easily have hiked the price of this new version by hundreds more without risking being accused of price gouging. The Lumina II Amator might be one of Sonus Faber’s entry-level speakers, but from its look and sound, you wouldn’t know it.

. . . Doug Schneider

Associated Equipment

  • Speakers: Axiom Audio M22 (in-wall version).
  • Turntable: Pro-Ject Audio Systems X1 with Pick it S2 cartridge and Connect it E cable.
  • CD player: Pro-Ject Audio Systems CD Box S3.
  • Integrated amplifiers: Marantz 40n, Emotiva BasX TA1.
  • Speaker cables: QED XT25, Nordost Red Dawn.
  • Power cord: Shunyata Research Venom HC.
  • Power distributor: Shunyata Research PS8.
  • Acoustical treatments: BXI Sound Absorber panels (20), Tönnen Sound panels (2).
  • Speaker stands: Monoprice Monolith 24″.