Linn Classik CD receiver Page 3
Just to make sure, I ran the third sample continuously for a week, trying different CDs, including some that had skipped on the other two units. The Classik tracked all of them perfectly. I was duly impressed, but nonetheless devised a torture test: I put the Classik in repeat mode and ran it for two days, with a comforter draped over the unit. From that point on, CD playability was never an issue: the Classik rolled along like Ol' Man River.
The low-level resolution of the Classik's CD section went a long way toward leveling the playing field, a point driven home for me by listening sessions through its headphone jack with a pair of Grado RS-1s. I was struck by how well the Classik conveyed the spatial dimension of source materials, which I've often found to be a shortcoming of some otherwise engaging CD players.
I've grown accustomed to some very nice amps, preamps, and digital front-ends in the past year, but when I drove my Joseph RM7si's with the Linn, I didn't feel as if I'd experienced a major drop-off in quality. At first, remembering how much pleasure I'd derived from the basic NAD L40 plus PSB Alpha Mini-Monitor system that I reviewed in June 2000, I fixated on the $1450 price difference—did it not give me pause? Aye, but I cried "Eureka!" when I cranked up the Josephs with the Classik. While the NAD L40's tiny power supply finally gave up the ghost and clipped, the Classik's power reserves were more than equal to driving the 8 ohm/86dB RM7si's to room-filling volume without clipping.
In revisiting some of my favorite demo discs of the past two years, I was impressed by the ease and authority with which the Classik handled any kind of music I tossed its way. In listening to nylon-string guitarist Ralph Towner's rich, ambient-sounding duets with bassist Gary Peacock on A Closer View (ECM 1602), and Jimmy Garrison's resounding bass in a trio format with multi-reed virtuoso Joe Farrell and drummer Elvin Jones on "Yesterdays" (The Complete Blue Note Elvin Jones Sessions, Mosaic 195), I was really taken by the level of rhythm and pacing—as good as I've heard. Acoustic bass had real snap and drive, with terrific focus and physical impact. The amp was working the Josephs hard, the speaker ports pumping out air like a choo-choo train—I could feel it across the room.
And I was absolutely captivated by Martha Argerich's commanding 1982 live analog recordings of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto 3 and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto 1 (Philips 446 673-2). Argerich is a sure-'nuff sorceress, and the Classik fleshed out large-scale soundstage distinctions between her piano and the orchestra while carefully preserving small inner details, all the while delineating her immense dynamic range, the epic ebb and flow of her rhythmic pulse.
I found little to gripe about during my long-term evaluation of the Classik. In combo with a decent power cord, some better speaker cables, and a good pair of loudspeakers, for $3000-$4000 you have a serious, no-compromise high-end system. The drive and headroom of the Classik's amplifier section compared more than favorably with the robust performance of my reference Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista pre/power combo. Where the Classik fell short in comparison was in terms of absolute resolution: air and transparency, soundstaging depth, and extreme low-level details. But hey, we're talking about a pre/power combo that lists for four times the total price of the Classik itself. You gets what you pays for.
You wanna nit-pick? With its numerous tiny buttons the remote took some getting used to and could be a touch less complicated to operate, as could some of the programming functions. And the Classik's essentially dry, neutral character might not be to your taste if you prefer a more lush and juicy midrange and more forward bass. By the same token, there was an ease and natural quality to the sound: nothing zippy or edgy about its top end, which was smooth and extended. And the Classik's refined tone controls should give most users enough flexibility to fine-tune the frequency response of different speakers to their acoustic spaces.
Should you buy the Classik to use as your main system, I don't think you'll find it wanting for power unless you're looking to really rock the rafters. Still, its rhythm and pacing were hefty enough to please my alter ego, Vlad The Impaler.
The Linn Classik is no stylized compromise meant to help you make do until you can afford something more whoopdedoo, but a triumph of form and function—an eminently expressive, cost-effective high-end instrument designed to connect its owner to the spirit of music with a degree of intimacy and impact she may never have experienced before.