Linn Tukan loudspeaker Page 3

To its credit, however, the little Tukan was clearly doing some good things that I wasn't getting from the Aerial 5. The Linn presented more detail, life, and presence, particularly at lower listening levels. I heard lots of fine detail in recordings, both fine inner detail and transient information. The Tukan sounded more upbeat and visceral than the somewhat staid Aerial 5. Drums had a sharper attack that accentuated the music's rhythm. A good example is Terry Bozzio's fabulous drumming on the 13-minute Zappa instrumental "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution" (Sleep Dirt, Ryko RCD 10527). The Tukans better portrayed Bozzio's fascinating rhythmic punctuation of Zappa's brilliant extended guitar solo. The drumkit's transient attacks just stood out more through the Tukans, perhaps because of their more present rendering.

The downside of the Tukan's lively and detailed sound was a tendency toward etch that could cause long-term fatigue. The midrange and treble were a bit hard and edgy compared with the ultra-smooth Aerial. For example, the string section of the Seattle Symphony on the superb HDCD$r recording of Eugene Istomin playing Mozart's Piano Concertos 21 and 24 (Reference Recordings RR-68CD) was a little wiry and overlaid with a layer of grain through the Tukans.

The two loudspeakers could be made to sound more alike by the choice of digital front-end. The softer, more liquid, and gentler Sonic Frontiers SFCD-1 was clearly better suited to the lively Tukans. Conversely, the forwardish, dynamic, and upbeat Rotel RCD-990 gave the Aerial 5s a little kick out of their reserved reticence. Not that the Rotel is the SFCD-1's equal; I mention this to emphasize that system matching is important with these two loudspeakers. The differences in electronics were subtler than the large differences in sound between the Tukan and the Aerial 5.

The Tukans really excelled in soundstaging. The presentation was wide and deep, with razor-sharp image focus. Further enhancing the soundstaging, the Tukans resolved air and bloom around instrumental outlines that gave the music an organic, less synthetic character. The Tukans' ability to resolve space between tightly focused images was first-rate by any measure. In addition, the entire presentation was huge and beautifully developed. My friend Murray, who isn't an audiophile but plays blues guitar, couldn't believe that two tiny boxes could throw such an enormous sound. It's ironic that Linn, whose design philosophy places a low value of the spatial aspects of reproduced music, would produce a speaker with such spectacular soundstaging.

After putting the Tukans in a variety of odd locations, I came to the conclusion that they are decidedly unfussy about where they sit. Their tonal balance didn't change appreciably when they were placed on a high bookshelf—I heard a well-developed soundstage from a wide range of listening positions—and putting them close to the rear wall warmed up the sound without creating too much of a bass thump. By contrast, the Aerials needed to be well out into the room and precisely positioned to sound their best. The Tukans also worked well with a variety of inexpensive amplifiers, in contrast with the Aerials' need for high power.

Overall, the Tukans were a pleasant surprise. I spent many enjoyable hours with them, and was consistently amazed at what this $800/pair of loudspeakers could do.

I can heartily recommend both the Aerial 5 and Linn Tukan loudspeakers—but for different reasons. Although the two loudspeakers had very different sounds, I found myself enjoying music through both of them.

The Linn Tukans threw a wonderful soundstage from the most unlikely locations; but when positioned optimally, the Tukans produced a stunning soundstage, with transparency, palpability, and pinpoint spatial resolution. The Linn was also very different from the 5 tonally, with a brighter, livelier, more forward rendering. This character heightened the sense of presence and detail, but at the expense of some etch and greater long-term fatigue. Although the Tukan's upper midrange and treble were a little ragged next to the Aerial's, there was something musically engaging about this little speaker. They also work well with an amplifier of moderate power, and are less fussy about location. At $799/pair, the Tukan is a must-audition product, particularly for those listeners for whom space—and placement options—are restricted.

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