A New (for me) Audiophile Label


About a month ago I was contacted by Caleb Nei, who's in charge of media relations for Sono Luminus.  I thought I was familiar with all the audiophile labels currently producing albums, but I was wrong.  Sono Luminus was created in 1995 by Sandy Lerner and Len Bosak, who were also founders of Cisco Systems. Their recording philosophy is based on simplicity - recording using natural ambient acoustics with little or no pre or post-processing.

After ten years of doing projects for various labels, Lerner and Bosak decided to start their own masthead and Sono Luminus was born. Besides recording and releasing their own material Sono Luminus also offers downloads of many recordings that were originally released on the Dorian label, who were known for their high fidelity and extensive Baroque back catalog.


Sono Luminus sent me a sampling of their current releases. They all share a similar sonic signature, most likely because they were all recorded at Sono Luminus' studio in Boyce, Virginia and mastered by Daniel Shores. Six of the eight albums were produced by Dan Merceruio and also engineered by Daniel Shores. On the other two Shores and Merceruio served as the editing engineers.  In 2012 Sono Luminus received seven Grammy nominations including "Classical Producer of the Year" for Dan Merceruio and "Best Engineered Classical Album" for Daniel Shores.

As a brief introduction to the Sono Luminus catalog, here are capsule reviews of the eight of Sono Luminus latest releases:



Nine Notes that Shook the World -DSL-92169

Artists: Ronn McFarlane & Mindy Rosenfeld

Genre: Acoustic/Folk/Traditional

Blu-Ray and CD combo pack

Although listed as acoustic folk traditional, the music here is more closely related to Baroque chamber music than old-timey or Americana. The album includes both a CD and a Blu-Ray disc. And yes, the Blu-Ray is the alpha delivery media here.



American Anthem: The Music of Samuel Barber & Howard Hanson - DSL-92166

Artist: Ying Quartet

Genre: Ensembles and Orchestras

Blu-Ray and CD combo pack

The Ying Quartet are augmented by Adam Neiman on piano and Randall Scarlata baritone on this album of modern classical chamber music. With a total time of 74:02 you get a lot of music on these discs. The Sono Luminus studio's reverberance characteristics are very much in evidence here. Depending on your tastes you will either like the large soundstage and fairly reverberant room or not.



Rupa-khandha - DSL-92150

Artist: Los Angeles Percussion Quartet

Genre: Chamber

Blu-Ray & CD combo pack

Nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Surround Sound Album" and "Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble" Rupa-khandha is certainly a sonic blockbuster full of interesting musical textures and tonal colors created by the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet.


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Piano Phantoms - DSL-92168

Artist: Michael Lewin

Genre: Instrumental

CD only


This solo piano recording features a big piano sound from a Steinway model D concert grand that on my system extends across the entire soundstage.  The program material is as lush as the sonics, with lots of show-stopping classical pieces.



Entendre - DSL-92171

Artist: duoW

Genre: Classical Instrumental

Blu-Ray and CD combo pack

Violinist Arianna Warsaw-Fan joins cellist Meta Weiss to make duoW. For their premiere release they've chosen Duets by Kodaly, Ravel, Halversen, and Servais. Their playing is impeccable. As to how much you like the reverberant characteristics of the Sono Luminus studio with a string duo is a matter of taste. Some may find the room sounds too empty and reverberant.



Sprung RhythmSL-92170

Artist: Inscape

Genre: Ensembles and Orchestras

Blu-Ray and CD combo pack

Inscape are a modern chamber orchestra that specializes in concerts that "engage audiences and provide a compelling way to explore standard and non standard works." Founded in 2004 by Richard Scerbo, and based in the Washington metropolitan area, their style is eclectic and very modern. All the pieces on the album are from young, modern composers. The Blu-Ray includes 5.1 DTS HD, 7.1 DTS HD and 2.0 PCM 192/24 files.



Mosh Pit - DSL-92167

Artist: ZOFO duet

Genre: Instrumental, Blu-Ray & CD

Blu-Ray and CD combo pack

Piano for four hands is what this duo of Keisuke Nakagoshi and Eva-Maria Zimmermann specialize in. On their second Sono Luminus release the music has a decidedly Latin flavor, with Gershwin's "Cuban Overture," Conlon NanCarrow's "Sonatina," and John Corigliano's "Gazebo Dances<" among the selections. Once more Sono Luminus studio's big piano sound is in evidence.



ZIA - DSL-92164

Artist: Del Sol String Quartet

Genre: Chamber

CD only

This "concept album" from the ZIA quartet focuses on classical works from contemporary modern composers that have strong third-world musical influences. Gabriel Lena Frank's "Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout was composed in 2001, while Lou Harrison's "String Quartet Set" was written in 1979. Both accessable and vivacious, ZIA delivers a wide range of musical ideas and directions.



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