Linn's Klimax DS

When I saw Linn's Klimax DS at CEDIA, I was impressed by the company's claim that it sounded "better than a CD12," the marque's (now discontinued) flagship CD player for many years. Quite a claim, I thought, but I wasn't able to make it to a nearby hotel and actually hear the DS in action.

So I did the next best thing and called Linn's founder and once-again managing director Ivor Tiefenbrun to fill in the missing details. It turned out there were many, starting with my complete misunderstanding of what a "digital player" was. My first question: "What disc formats does it play?"

"It doesn't play any disc formats," Tiefenbrun said. "It is a completely solid-state product with no rotating parts, no moving bits, no laser diodes, servos, or noisy electric motors. Let me take a minute to go back to our roots here. Linn didn't invent the turntable, we simply understood that there was more information on an LP record than people were capable of accessing, so we applied our understanding of engineering to extracting it. People said, 'All a turntable does is go around and around,' to which we replied, 'Yes, and all a speaker does is go in and out.'

"So we built a turntable that sounded better and people bought it because they could hear the difference. What we've done with the Klimax DS is achieve a new understanding of what is possible with digital. The product has incomparable resolution and dynamic range—somewhere in the vicinity of 145dB. However, the only way all of that silence and range is possible is to chuck out all of that stuff masking the signal inside the source. We decided a few years ago to get out of the business of making and selling hard drives and concentrate on retrieving digital signals and converting them to balanced two-channel analog."

"But, Ivor," I said, "wouldn't that mean the digital source is further upstream of the Klimax?"

"Only if you think of your music as being on the discs themselves. The music is really encoded in the PCM data stream on the disc. Getting that off isn't the difficult part, converting it to high-quality analog is the real source stage of a digital system. What we recommend is that people install their digital music onto a NAS drive, which means it is backed up and they only have to rip their CD sources once. A 3TB NAS drive will store about 6000 CDs as FLAC files. We like FLAC because it is open, flexible, and appears future-proof.

"It's like an intelligent DAC, with no internal storage of its own—well, it has a buffer. It will handle sampling rates up to 192kHz at 24 bits and it has upsampling that can convert to 384kHz or 352.8kHz. All that means, really, is that people can download their digital data at any resolution and hear its true potential.

"It doesn't sound better because it’s a new technology or it uses new materials any more than the LP12 did—it sounds better because we bring a new understanding to what is actually possible with digital and use our engineering skills to actually deliver that."

And the price? "I'm certain it will cost less than $20,000 in the US."

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