Linn Majik 140 loudspeaker Page 2
The Majik 140's reproduction of the low end was superb: every bass instrument was reproduced with depth, forcefulness, speed, and no trace of coloration. I analyzed in detail Chuck Israels' solo in "Our Love Is Here to Stay," from Bill Evans's Live at Shelly's Manne Hole (CD, JVC JVCXR-0036-3). His double bass was warm and woody, with no overhang, and with a sense of drama in its lower register. Moreover, there was nary a trace of timbral change as Israels traversed the instrument's entire range.
The Majik 140's high dynamic range capability and realistic bass made it an excellent speaker for loud rock music. In preparation for an upcoming performance with my new R&B band, Souled Out, I've been woodshedding the repertoire of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and cranked up the Linns to analyze his original arrangement of "Bad Luck," from The Very Best of (CD, Philadelphia International/Epic/Legacy 881697 272 88 2). The tuneful interaction of the opening bass line with the drum groove was stunning in its rhythmic coherenceI was unable to sit still. Cranking the volume further still for the title track of Hole's Celebrity Skin (CD, Geffen DGCD-2 25364), I marveled at the clarity of Melissa Auf der Maur's powerful bass line, which is easily lost in the mix through other speakers. And that infectious melodic hook in the chorus gave me chills through the Majiks.
A phrase that kept appearing in my notes was dynamic envelope, which was best realized with recordings of large orchestras. In David Chesky's Piano Concerto, with pianist Love Derwinger and Rossen Gergov conducting the Norrlands Opera Symphony Orchestra (SACD/CD, Chesky SACD326, CD layer), the opening forceful piano passage, followed by the rich, dense transients, gave me the sense of a live orchestra playing in my living room.
The Majik 140 embodied the traditional Linn attributes in spades. With every jazz recording I played, the sense of pacing of the rhythm section was spot on, with perfectly tight phrasing and toe-tapping transients through all instruments' frequency ranges. A word that kept popping up in my notes was coherencethe sense of musicians playing together in a room and listening carefully to each other. In Radio I-Ching's rendition of Captain Beefheart's "Abba Zabba," from their The Fire Keeps Burning (CD, Resonant Music 004), I could easily hear how Don Fiorino's growling lap-steel guitar was in near-telepathic communication with Andy Haas's plunging bass line (actually played on an electronically altered soprano sax).
But the recording with which I best heard all of the Majik 140's strengths was John Zorn's Orphée, from his Mysterium (CD, Tzadik TZ8018). Although this musical polyglot is best known for his forays into free jazz, Jewish chamber music, Japanese hard-core, and film music, Orphée is my favorite work of his written in a traditional chamber-music format. The Linns unraveled every subtle detail of Tara Helen O'Connor's airy flute, Stephen Gosling's shimmering celeste, and every metallic transient of David Shively's percussion battery, particularly his mallet instruments and his rich, clear, resonant bass drum.
Linn requested that I also listen to the Majik 140 using their Majik DS-I networked D/A integrated amplifier, which Art Dudley reviewed in the March 2011 Stereophile. The request reminded me of a conversation I had over 20 years ago with the very astute Leonard Belleza, of New York City's Lyric Hi-Fi. As we talked about Linn's Sondek LP12 turntable, he told me that "Linn components are designed to sound their best when mated with other Linn components." I approached the Linn-Linn pairing with some enthusiasm.
Using a test pressing of my jazz quartet Attention Screen's new album, Takes Flight at Yamaha (CD, Stereophile STPH021-2), I compared the Majik DS-I's amplifier section against my far more expensive combo of Audio Valve Eclipse line stage ($5699) and Audio Research Reference 110 power amp ($10,995)a comparison even more lopsided when you take into account the fact that a significant portion of the DS-I's price ($4200) is accounted for by functions and features other than amplification. Overall, the DS-I let the strengths of the Majik 140 speaker shine through. Most important, the speaker's timbral neutrality was retained, and its superb reproduction of transients were left intact. Moreover, the DS-I let the 140's full dynamic envelope shine, while nicely controlling the speaker's bass.
There were some shortcomings compared with my more expensive tube rig, however. In "Sleeping Metronomes Lie," my piano introduction sounded natural, but was a bit more veiled, with a touch of tension and brittleness, in the more highly modulated passages that came later. The Yamaha AvantGrand N3 electronic piano I was playing also sounded a bit less "woody" and more mechanical. In "The Deer and Buffalo God Churches," Don Fiorino's acoustic 11-string guitar was delicate and harmonically right, but not as airy as when played through my reference amplification rig.
As far as the midrange and high frequencies were concerned, the Majiks 140 and 109 sounded virtually identical. Of course, the larger 140 had much deeper bass, as well as superior high-level dynamics. Moreover, the 140 sounded more "relaxed" than the 109, as if it wasn't working as hard to make music.
The Epos M16i's reproduction of the midrange and resolution of detail were very close to the Majik 140's. Although the Epos's highs were as extended as the larger Linn's, the latter's highs were purer, especially with vocal sibilants. The M16i's bass was natural and very clean; I'd say that its bass extension and high-level dynamic capability were somewhere between those of the two Linns.
I was thrilled with my experience of the Linn Majik 140. It was everything I'd hoped it would be: a speaker that retains all the strengths of Linn's remarkable Majik 109 bookshelf model, but with deeper bass extension, superior dynamic range capability, and a greater sense of ease. My conclusions are summed up in two lines lifted from my listening notes: "No compromises in a $2995/pair speaker." "It doesn't get much better than this for the money."