Linn LK1 preamplifier & LK280 power amplifier Review System
The following source components were used throughout the listening sessions: a 1975-vintage Revox A77 played my own and others' 15ips master tapes, a Linn Sondek/Ekos/Troika setup sitting on a Sound Organisation table played LPs, and either a Philips LHH1000 or the California Audio Labs Tempest SE were used to play CDs. For the preamp tests, the LK1, my reference Vendetta Research SCP2 phono preamp, and Stereophile's benchmark midpriced preamp, the $1209 PS Audio 4.6 with its M500 power supply, were connected to a Mod Squad Line Drive Deluxe AGT, the latter two with Monster M1000 interconnect, the LK1 with its XLR-phono adaptor lead. The LP player was plugged into each of the preamps in turn, and the levels were matched at 1kHz using a test LP. I also carried out a brief comparison with the Hafler Iris remote-control preamp that I reviewed last month. The Line Drive fed a Krell KSA-50 power amplifier via 1m lengths of AudioQuest LiveWire Lapis interconnect.
The LK1's line section was tested by being set to unity gain—something made easy by the volume control's fine steps—and inserted in one of the Line Drive's tape loops, the combination again feeding the Krell. To determine the sound of the LK280 alone, it was fed from the Line Drive using Linn's phono-XLR adaptor cables. It was compared with both the Krell and with the Adcom GFA-555 power amplifier featured in the Hi-Fi Show listening tests, the latter a bestselling power amplifier to act as a benchmark. Again, levels for the power-amplifier comparisons were equalized at 1kHz.
Finally, the LK1 and LK280 were connected directly using two Linn XLR-XLR cables and used for extensive listening sessions. Although the Linn components were used with a number of loudspeakers, including Thiel CS1.2s, Vandersteen 2Ci's, and the Pioneer TZ-9s reviewed elsewhere in this issue, the bulk of the casual listening and all the formal comparisons were done with Celestion SL700s, these sitting on their dedicated stands (footnote 1). All three power amplifiers were connected to these speakers using single lengths of Linn speaker cable, this a spaced-twin, multistrand-conductor design, though for the preamp testing, the speakers were bi-wired with AudioQuest Clear cable, which gives the tightest deep bass with the Celestions.—John Atkinson
Footnote 1: One of the SL700's 4mm input sockets somehow came adrift as I was starting this review, the result of the frequent plugging and unplugging typical of a reviewer's life. It necessitated the speaker being dismantled almost entirely in order to retighten the retaining nut on the inside and resolder the connection. If any of you think that it doesn't matter how good it can sound, the SL700 still costs too much for such a small speaker, its metal cabinet is astonishingly and expensively well-constructed when seen from the inside!