Linn Knekt Kivor hard-disk multizone music system Page 4

Overall, I couldn't help wistfully remembering the time I had spent with Linn's $20,000 Sondek CD12 player. The Oktal is undoubtedly a good-sounding DAC, and will work fine in its intended multiroom application. But for the ultimate high-end experience from the Tunboks, a two-channel DAC based on the CD12 for the master room would be the icing on the cake.

I had a few. Even though the Kivor had been first shown at the Hi-Fi Show in London in September 2000, it was still a work in progress nine months later, when I finally got my hands on a sample. And even though all the socketry was in place, neither the AES/EBU input on the Tunboks nor the pair of analog inputs on the Oktal was implemented.

The only way I could get the Oktal to recognize an S/PDIF input was to unplug the RJ-45 jack, which is hardly elegant. While the specification sheet for the Oktal claimed the unit would accept sample rates from 32kHz to 96kHz, I couldn't get it to lock on to a datastream with a 96kHz sample rate. However, it did do so with 88.2kHz- and 32kHz-sampled data.

Despite my complaints about MP3 quality, I do have a collection of MP3 versions of music that I could get hold of in no other form. In theory, it should be possible to port those files from my PC to the Tunboks via its USB or Ethernet jacks. In practice—at least for now—the only way I could get those files into the Tunboks was to burn them as uncompressed WAV files on to CD-Rs, then rip them with the Tunboks, subjecting them to a second round of MP3 encoding. Hardly elegant, and potentially further degrading the sound quality. This problem will affect most Kivor owners.

A problem that affects only a few like me, however, is that I also have a largish collection of 24-bit WAV files sampled at 88.2kHz and 96kHz. These are stored on CD-Rs: while I can fit only about 20 minutes of music on each disc, data blanks are so cheap that the only real inconvenience is the physical storage space needed. The Kivor appeared to offer the solution—except, again, there is not yet a turnkey way of porting the hi-rez WAV files to the Tunboks' drives.

Though the XiVA Palm program for the Tunboks (v.01.04.03) worked flawlessly, Linn's PC control software (v.01.01, build 0032) was occasionally a tad flaky. As the information box said, "We are still writing the code as you use this program. Therefore you are likely to find faults with this application as it is incomplete! Nonetheless, we use this application ourselves and are, therefore, just as keen as you that it works." Can't argue with such honesty.

The Kivor's price seems high until you consider that, in its basic form, the system costs the same as Linn's single-disc CD12 player. Linn's marketing for the Knekt Kivor is aimed straight at the custom-installation market—at September's CEDIA Expo, for example, they were showing how the Tunboks, Intersekt, and Oktal interfaced with industry-standard AMX and Crestron remote multiroom controllers—but for the high-end audiophile market, the Kivor is a portent for the future. In his "As We See It" in October (p.3), Jon Iverson enthused about the change in his music-listening habits brought about by Apple's iTunes MP3 jukebox program. Echoing my friend Ed, Jon wrote that "iTunes changed my view literally overnight about the importance of access versus quality."

Linn's Knekt Kivor system offers access and quality.

8787 Perimeter Park Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32216
(904) 645-5242

MikeMaine's picture

Or you can buy a Mac

CuteStudio's picture

... that you can run the SeeDeClip4 multiuser music server on a regular, noisy PC in the spare room and access and/or control the music using any modern gadget like a Chromebook, tablet, iPad etc.

This makes the choice of client easy - there's lots of cheap alternatives and an iPad can be hooked up to Toslink using an Apple TV or Airport Express etc.

The free version does a lot more than you'd think, it's a complete home audio solution.

JonGreen's picture

A little late to the table(!), but thanks for an excellent, well-balanced review.

I was the systems architect of the Imerge SoundServer, which was rebadged (with some enhancements) as Linn's Kivor. I also designed the XiVA-Link communications protocol, and worked with Linn's Alan Clark (designer of the iconic Sondek CD12) on the S/PDIF hardware and drivers: Alan did most of the hardware work; I assisted in some of the FPGA firmware, and write the drivers.

I can confirm the accuracy of just about everything reported here. During 2000, both SoundServer and Kivor were going through a series of rapid evolutions. Towards the end of 2001, the products were settling down.

I'm a little surprised that they were reported as being MP3-only, though. One of the key selling points for audiophiles was that both products were able to rip and play uncompressed audio. This is why SoundServer (and, I believe, Kivor) came with up to 1.1 TB of storage - a massive amount at the time - configured as eleven 100 GB drives. It ran hot and heavy (and, yes, a bit noisy), but had enough elbow room to accommodate a lot of raw audio.

It was true that we only had one genre allocated to a track or album. This was partly because of the limited information we received from Gracenote. I always felt that having more than one genre per item in the database would be a good thing, but I was over-ruled. Apart from anything else, it would have made genre-based searches substantially slower, for a bunch of technical reasons it's not worth going into here. I think that if we'd done it today, we'd have used a noSQL database such as MongoDB or Couchbase, so we could have had the flexibility to enhance with additional fields such as user-assigned genres or arbitrary tags.

Anyway, thanks again. Great memories, revisiting that part of my career!