Linn Karik/Numerik CD player RH October 1994 page 3

Finally, the SPS Numerik presented the music on a blacker background—the music existed in dead quiet, rather than being superimposed on a slightly gray canvas.

Although I preferred the PCM63-fitted Numerik to one with the 1702 DAC, I heard none of the objectionable characteristics when the PCM1702 was combined with the SPS. The treble was pure and clean again, and the midrange was restored to its former liquidity. Linn has really hit on something with the switching power supply. I'm forced to agree with their claim that the new supply "transforms" the sound of the Numerik.

Next, I auditioned the Karik's D/A stage and compared it to the SPS Numerik, and against what is perhaps the best-sounding Crystal CS4328 DAC-based processor: the Meridian 563.

The sound of the Karik was much different from that of the Numerik—it had many of the sonic characteristics associated with the Crystal 1-bit DAC. First, the Karik conveyed significantly less rhythmic energy than the Numerik. Dynamics were muted, particularly in the bass, and especially on bass guitar: notes blended into one another rather than sounding separate. (This is caused by the lack of attack on the notes' leading edges; the DAC rounds off the peaks and compresses dynamics.) Similarly, low-frequency extension, weight, and slam were reduced in the Karik compared to the Numerik. This isn't a criticism of the Karik in particular; I've heard these limitations in almost all processors and CD players using the Crystal DAC.

The Karik's treble was fairly clean, but not to the standards of the Numerik. Although somewhat set-back in the presentation, the treble had a hard quality and a trace of grain. The mids were similarly laid-back, producing a sound that was easygoing, but not musically riveting. The soundstage was somewhat thick, rather than open and transparent.

When the Karik was compared to the superb Meridian 563, I found the same characteristics that I heard when compared to the Numerik. The 563's treble was smoother, the bass more dynamic, and the soundstage was much more transparent. The Meridian also resolved more musical information than did the Karik.

Overall, the Karik fitted with the D/A board was competent, but not outstanding. The Numerik (and the Meridian 563) were significantly more musical. Further, I can think of many other digital front ends I'd rather own for the Karik's $3395 asking price. What the Karik offers, however, is a superb transport and a terrific match for the excellent Numerik processor, along with an easy upgrade path to a truly first-class digital front end.

If you own a Karik with the D/A board, I strongly recommend stepping up to the new Numerik, particularly considering the fact that the Numerik now comes standard with the switching power supply. The sonic improvement is well worth the upgrade cost—several times over.

Conclusion: The new Linn Numerik digital processor, now fitted with the PCM1702 DAC and a switching power supply, is a huge improvement over what was already an outstanding product. The improvement in soundstage transparency, depth, spatial resolution, and clarity catapulted the Numerik into a different league. Consequently, the Numerik easily retains its Class A rating in Stereophile's "Recommended Components."

Owners of older Numeriks must decide not only whether to upgrade, but also whether to change DACs, install the switching power supply, or both. From my auditioning, I recommend against retrofitting the PCM1702 DACs without a careful audition first. Although the newer DAC had better bass and more detail, I found the original Numerik to sound smoother and more musical.

There is, however, absolutely no question that the switching power supply offers a vast improvement. In fact, I was shocked at how completely it redefined the Numerik's musical presentation. The increase in transparency and soundstage depth was far greater than I would have thought possible from changing the power supply. Moreover, the 1702 DACs seemed to sound better with the SPS—it's a must-have upgrade for all Numerik owners.

Linn has a long tradition of making upgradeable products; eg, today's fully loaded LP12 turntable is based on the same platform as the first LP12 of 20 years ago. That tradition continues—surprisingly—into the digital age with the greatly improved Numerik digital processor.—Robert Harley