Linn Classik CD receiver Page 2

The Linn's back panel, with its Aux, Tape In/Record Out, and Preamp Out connections, offers a welcome wink and nod to those of us who still archive extensive collections of cassette tapes. On the far right are more love-me/love-my-dog details: two sets of speaker outputs employing Linn/Deltron connectors, which, in accordance with EU requirements, don't expose any bare metal surfaces. "These are plastic with a brass post in the center that holds the core of the cable very tightly," Brian Morris explains. Obviously, if you purchase this unit from a Linn dealer, they can attach Linn/Deltron plugs to any manner of speaker cable, and the additional set of speaker outs allows you to biwire.

Still, it's bothersome to be denied the use of one's reference cables. For testing purposes with my Joseph Audio RM7si loudspeakers, I stepped up from the 16-gauge cables that come standard with the Classik and employed Linn's better K20 cables, with Linn Knekt loudspeaker plugs on the speaker end, and the basic Linn/Deltron male/female connectors on the amplifier end. The Linn Knekt plug is like a straight, hollow banana (I first used them on the AudioQuest Granite speaker cables during my Vandersteen 2CE Signature evaluation in the October issue). As the Knekts are pressure-gripped, I was able to push them straight into the speaker terminal holes. Finally, on the left corner of the back chassis is your basic IEC inlet; above that, an auxiliary-switched mains output, which allows you to use the Classik's programming/clock functions to control external electrical devices, such as house lighting or even a coffee maker.

Steady As She Goes

The $19,000/pair Linn Klimax monoblock reviewed by Jonathan Scull in February 1999 features a switch-mode power supply, as does the Linto phono preamplifier reviewed by Wes Phillips in June 1998. However, despite its diminutive size, the Classik has a traditional AC transformer. This was a source of considerable interest to me: for all its density of components, the Classik was always warm to the touch. According to Brian Morris, "the internal heatsink is connected to the casework, and heat is dissipated through the casework and the chassis uniformly, so there are no hot spots or cold spots. You'll find the product warm, uniformly, throughout."

At first I ran the Classik as a nearfield system on my computer desk, then as part of a practice system on a cart behind my drum set. In both applications I employed Linn's now-discontinued Tukan speakers—a small, warm-sounding two-way whose performance, like many such bookshelf designs, is optimized by proximity to a back wall, which beefs up the bass and sweetens the highs. But when I moved the Classik into my main listening space, the Tukans lost some of their transient snap and dynamic range as I situated them farther into the room. In any event, it seemed appropriate to judge the Classik's performance based on its ability to drive my reference speakers of late: the floorstanding, full-range Celestion A3s and the Joseph RM7si's. In neither case did I biwire them, but the differences in speed, resolution, and immediacy were dramatic in stepping up to the better speaker cables, the Linn K20s.

To keep the playing field level, I used the same Synergistic Research Designer's Reference2 AC Master Coupler interconnects I've used in all of my recent preamp and integrated amp reviews. Reviewing the tuner section initially proved problematic, as the only antenna I could use in my apartment was some humble rabbit ears. EVentually I got hold of a Magnum Dynalab Model SR 100 Silver Ribbon indoor antenna, which enabled me at last to overcome some of the terrible multipath interference endemic to this area of Northern Manhattan (a few blocks to the northeast of the George Washington Bridge). The Classik tuner section features a mute threshold adjustment that allows you to reject weak signals when in scan/search mode, with a range of "1" (receive all signals) to "50" (receive only the strongest signals). The Silver Ribbon's leads were not as long as the rabbit ears', so on some stations, even as I observed a drop in optimal signal strength, the degree of resolution increased dramatically. With a few of the stronger stations I was able to enjoy very good stereo separation and imaging, freedom from crosstalk, a very musical depiction of dynamics, a warm and open midrange, a lack of top-end sibilance, and no apparent honkiness in human voices.

As for the Classik's CD section, once I'd overcome an initial performance glitch, I found it to possess a very clear, deep midrange, with remarkable bass extension and a smooth, open top end—very detailed without being edgy or italicized. In fact, on some CDs it might've been a tad laid-back. It was here that I found the Classik's subtle tone controls—yes, tone controls—to be quite musically useful; I found that one or two steps up in treble generally sweetened the portrayal of source material and opened up the soundstage in a natural manner. I used the Bass control less often, save for low-volume listening late at night, and on older recordings such as Marvin Gaye's The Master: 1961-1984 (Motown Master Series 31453 0492 2), when I was able to bring the impact of James Jamerson's Fender Precision Bass more to the fore without adding tubby overhang or obtruding on neighboring frequencies.

Ah, but that initial glitch...The damnedest thing: Apparently, my first Classik sample was from an early production run. Shortly after I received it, it began routinely mistracking, like a tonearm on Lithium with someone jumping up and down on springy floorboards: as the "tonearm" went airborne, the signal cut out; the "arm" then slowly parachuted down to alight back in the track—only to repeat this glitch some minutes later. I tried cleaning discs, playing them in other transports, and switching power cords, and finally concluded that the problem was not with the CDs. I shipped that first Classik back—and then experienced the same problem with the second sample.