Linn Linto phono preamplifier Page 3

The Linn was also superlative in its re-creation of bass. It had remarkable extension and definition. If you believe the bass region is the foundation upon which musical cathedrals are built, then the Linto is your meat. I've never heard Ron Carter's tone possess more heft and character than it did when I played Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage (Blue Note ST-46339) through the Linto. He isn't playing a really mellow-sounding instrument on the album—with some phono sections, I would have wondered whether this perception was colored by the preamp's limitations or whether I was hearing the sound of the instrument itself—but the Linto defined the notes so cleanly and so well that I believed my ears. And when Carter bore down hard, or drummer Anthony Williams attacked the bass drum, the Linn had the guts to reproduce it without softening the transient force.

Was the Linn as good as it gets? Not quite. Audio Research's PH3 (reviewed in Vol.19 No.9) has a greater degree of harmonic richness overall—although I'm not sure it matches the Linn's bass extension or definition. And the Sutherland PH-2000 (reviewed in Vol.20 No.12), despite its higher noise level is wicked-good, permitting me to see so far into the music that, to paraphrase Carlyle, I could see musicality itself. But the Linto belongs in any discussion of superior phono sections, ceding little to any single competitor. Factor in its price and it rockets to the top as a special value.

Two lovers
Naturally, I compared the Linn and the AcousTech. Those of you who like a bloody knockdown, drag-out fight will be disappointed to learn that they really did sound remarkably alike. But those of you who believe in choices, even at relatively modest price-points, will be delighted to learn that the differences were mainly of degree.

The AcousTech was quiet enough to satisfy most analog lovers, but did exhibit more steady-state roar than the Linn. The difference was small, but for those sensitive to such things, perhaps significant. I was not bothered by it.

The Linn threw a wider soundstage, which I liked. The AcousTech's soundstage was tighter and more focused. This was very noticeable on "In Your Mind," where the Linn had musicians placed to the outsides of my speakers. On the other hand, the way they were bunched together with the AcousTech gave the performers a palpability that was very convincing. It was really just a matter of degree; different ears will prefer one over the other.

The two were tightly matched tonally, but the AcousTech had a slightly richer, warmer lower midrange, especially noticeable on massed male vocals, such as on the Karajan Aïda with the Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Decca/Speaker's Corner reissue SXL 2167/8/9, 3 LPs). With the PH-1, the moody atmosphere seemed particularly ripe, and the men's voices had a texture and opulence that the Linto just missed creating.

There certainly were other differences, but most of them were too close to call. I don't doubt that everyone comparing the two will have a favorite; I just couldn't for the life of me predict which might appeal more to another pair of ears.

As for myself? I'm probably going to buy the Linn, but when I listen to that Verdi, I start to waver. I'll probably go back and forth a few more times before I decide for sure.

People get ready
Both the Linn Linto phono preamplifier and the AcousTech Electronics PH-1 phono preamplifier personify what the High End is all about. Both offer superior engineering in the service of music reproduction, and both provide sound quality that would have been inconceivable at any price a scant five years ago.

No one could call them cheap, but you can spend a lot more than either one costs and not achieve better sound quality. Of course, there are more expensive units out there that do offer better sound, but you'd have to spend considerably more to obtain a musically significant improvement.

I like 'em both, and recommend both without reservation. Technology serving art is what the High End is all about. If you're looking to improve the sound of your record-playing system, you should listen to these two units first. It could be a while before you'll need to look any further.

4540 Southside Blvd., Suite 402
Jacksonville, FL 32216
(888) 671-LINN (US only)