Linn Klimax 500 Solo monoblock power amplifier Page 3

Each Klimax runs on two power supplies. A small auxiliary supply remains energized whenever power is applied. It supplies the discrete, elegantly inset blue front-panel LED and a circuit that detects audio input signals. The signal detector is "very sensitive," but holds about a second before powering up to be certain the signal is real and not noise. The Klimax remains in drive, as it were, for 10 minutes after the end of signal, then reverts to standby mode. The tube rush from a high-gain MC phono stage might trigger the sensor, so if you want your Klimax to idle down between sets, watch the noise! (Muting the preamplifier or turning down the volume does the trick.)

The Klimax has both unbalanced single-ended RCA inputs and balanced XLRs. Selection is made via a switch on the back panel; green LEDs indicate condition, but good luck bending over (oufff!) and peering under the overhanging case top to see it! Oy gevalt! I thought I'd popped a tweeter, but it was just my knee. Both signals are echoed out the single-ended line-out RCA, permitting a daisy-chain of multiple Klimaxes. (There's a thought.) By the way, the selector switch doesn't directly pass the audio signal, but rather sends a control signal to a "distortionless" solid-state switch.

The standard speaker outputs are a pair of Neutrik Speakon 4 connectors. These bayonet-lock to make a convenient and secure contact point, and two plus and two minus terminals per fitting make possible two speaker cables per connector. All connections are identical and wired directly to the amplifier output. Linn positions the Klimax as a "universal" amplifier solution for stereo or multichannel, so it's also available with standard binding posts. But fire-hose speaker cables will find the cockpit cramped. These amps were from the first production run, and came with Neutriks. As a result, we wired up with a 6' length of the supplied Linn cable terminated at the speaker end with bare wire! That was a first Chez 10, I can tell you.

When power is first applied, the front panel's blue LED flashes for a few seconds, then dims with the Klimax in standby mode. When signal is applied, the LED brightens as the output is enabled. The amp makes a barely perceptible electronic burp as it powers up. If a Klimax gets nervous, it shuts down completely for a few seconds and flashes its LED. As K-10 learned. "It's winking at me, Jon-a-ten!" There's no partial current-limiting with a Klimax; the amplifier either does what's required of it or shuts down.

Just what does a Klimax sound like?
Let's do a little word association. Klimax. [Jack Benny voice: "Now cut that out!"] Here's what pops into my mind: ease, power, transparency, speed, focus, air, tonal color, liquidity, control, and awesome, awesome bass. What about you?

Let's start in the midbass. Until I heard the Linns, the absolute champion for transparency and control in this critical area was the YBA Passion monoblock, costing a somewhat similar $16k/pair. The Passion was extraordinary in that regard, but, true to its overall character, also a touch removed from the pointy end of the music. The Klimax has the same virtuoso transparency in the midbass, but it's much more exuberant about it. It revels, glories in its ability to linearize this part of the frequency range and kick it out tight as a drum.

In my experience, when a component reproduces the midbass without bloat—tight, controlled, transparent, fast, pitch-differentiated, powerful—then the rest of the frequency range has a good chance of making it out alive. If the midbass is in control, deep bass will be easier to perceive and there'll be less masking in the midrange and above. If the midbass is linear and unperturbed, as it were, everything just sounds better. That was certainly the case with the Klimax.

Deep bass was entirely awesome. These little amps, roughly the size of a stacked pair of double-LP Vox Boxes, actually sounded more tight, powerful, and dynamic than the giant Forsell Statement that loomed over them. The Klimax actually went deeper than anything else we've ever had here. Astonishing. Nor was it a one-trick pony. Transitioning from the deepest regions to the upper midbass was linear, tight, and dynamic, creating a firm and unflusterable foundation on which all else was built.

As the upper midbass enjoyed this same level of energy and transparency, the lower midrange (and above) coupled to it freely and was somehow liberated by that transparency below, I'm wont to say. As a result, it developed a beautiful and unruffled palette of tonal colors. Ah, that midrange—yummy, luscious, never ever over the top, but never thinned out or lean: a sophisticated mélange of texture and control, color and focus. It really had just the right balance, in my view.

Moving on up through the treble and upper treble, the amp sounded equally linear and attractive—revealing, open, fast, illuminated, sweet and extended. What a concept. Damn, the Klimax just nailed it, making the most of the Utopias' lightweight, high-efficiency drivers.

Imaging and especially focus were superb. Roundness—that 3-D sense leading to enhanced palpability—was always spot on. We enjoyed vast tracts of spacious air, all charged with the recorded acoustic(s). Pace, timing, and tempo were beautifully defined by a leading-edge energy that always pulled me right along. The effortlessness of the power delivery was altogether impressive and commanding—never sluggish or weighted down by its own brawn, as it were. In fact, the Klimax exulted in cogging along at 30W and then, without changing down, without complaint or hesitation, instantly revving up a broad-shouldered power delivery for Big Musical Moments or tracking small details of dynamic shading that breathed life into reproduced music. It was awesome.

Dynamics were explosive in the micro and macro senses, but were never "special-effects" coarse—more like the sound of music, if you see what I mean. If you do feel like scaring the horses, find a copy of Leftfield's Leftism (Hard Hands/Columbia CK 67231), a recording brought to my beady-eyed attention by Linn's head of public relations and man-about-the-US, Brian Morris. I have this new ritual: I plant visitors in the Ribbon Chair, give 'em the look, crank the volume, cue up Leftism's "Afro-Left," and press Play. The expression on their faces is always priceless. The music is fast-paced, ultradynamic, all-enveloping, purely pistonic, and hugely impressive. The powerful, driving, thonky bass line was incredibly tight and controlled through the Klimaxes—I couldn't stop bopping around in the Ribbon Chair. The slam, pace, and speed were hugely entertaining, the focus extraordinary. The force and shock of the dynamics licking out of the Utopias at max volume was beyond anything I'd ever experienced before.

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Waterfoot, Glasgow G76 0EP
Scotland, UK
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