The Linn Classik
Here we have a very interesting piece of gear that throws caution to the wind and offers more than just the usual "audiophile" (lack of) features. This review is of something rarely seen in this APC (audiophile politically correct) world of separate tuners, digital disc transports, DACs, pre-amplifiers, amplifiers and $1000 speaker wire. Coming from the same folks who brought us the legendary LP12 turntable and now infamous CD12 compact disc player is their all-in-one Classik. Yes, Linn has once again thrown up the gauntlet and went their own way into making something which everyone can use.
The Linn Classik is basically like a normal consumer receiver with an integrated single disc CD player. Everything from AM/FM tuner to headphone jack and support for two stereo pairs of loudspeakers. Also appearing on the rear of the unit are a single tape loop, another tape input, an auxiliary input plus a pre-amplifier output. In fact there is also an electrical power output to supply power to yet another device! Before i forget, there is also AM and FM antenna inputs with the latter being of the 75 ohm variety. A full function wireless remote control rounds out this extremely flexible package.
Also covered in this review are Linn's smallish Kan loudspeakers. The Kan uses a quite nice 19mm ceramic-domed tweeter for highs while the midrange and bass are reproduced with Linn's own 130mm woven GlassFiber bass/midrange driver. This black loudspeaker comes with a cloth which is stretched in front of the drivers as a grill cover. The unit is a mere 11.75" high, 7.25" wide and 7.25 deep. These were sent to me to show the synergy between Linn products plus to also demonstrate how a normal consumer may use the Linn Classik/Kan as a home music reproduction system.
Come Together, Right Now...
Another great function within the Classik is the ability to set aux input to unity gain. What good is this? Well, i for one have a TV i hooked up to the Classik. This TV has the usual RCA outputs whose signal output varies as i adjust the volume of the TV. If the gain on the Classik was normal, i would need to turn the volume on the TV set waaaay up to hear it. With unity gain it made the sensitivity of the aux input to the appropriate level s that my TV volume setting now was appropriate. This in not your normal little integrated unit mind you, but one with many little features which i never realized i needed... until the Classik showed up at my doorstep.
Other cool features is in the ability to adjust the speed of the muting function to slow, normal or fast. As you change inputs or turn the unit on or off. So let us say you change from CD to tuner. The volume will go down at whatever mute speed you have set, the input will change to the tuner and the volume will ramp up (again at your chosen speed). As for the built in clock, you can choose either the standard 12 or more military 24 hour display mode. There is still more cool stuff such as the ability to see the tuner's signal strength to assist in better aiming your antenna for best signal. Underneath this unimposing, simple looking chassis lies quite an amazing piece of audio apparatus.
If there is one thing that took me a while to get adjusted to, it is using the remote control. Because there were times i used the buttons located on the Classik unit and then would use the remote... It seems that the remote would still be trying to operate whatever i was previously doing BEFORE i used the button on the Classik. Make sense? To better explain this, say i was listening to the radio and used the remote control to change my radio presets. Ok, all is cool. But now what if i wanted to enjoy a CD and used the buttons on the Classik to switch to the CD input and start playing the CD. Ok, all is fine. But now what if i grabbed the remote control and clicked on the number 5 to go to track 5 on the CD. Instead of going to track five on the CD, because i had used the remote for the radio presets the radio would go back to the previous memory preset i was enjoying before i switched the unit to the CD function. So all these features are wonderful as long as you know the Rules of the Remote.
He Come Groovin' Up Slowly
This is a real-world product offering many wonderful audiophile traits without the removal of what many normal people desire. From quiet small-scale jazz from Miles Davis to large-scale heavy-hitting thrash from the likes of Korn and Rage Against the Machine... The Classic seems to always be able to deliver the music without blowing a fuse or becoming harsh and unmusical as lower quality mid-fi products put forth. No, i will not go so far as to say i'm removing my $3k pre-amplifier and $10k SE tube amplifiers in exchange of the Classik, yet i will say it has found a glorious home within my most inhabited room. That is this room right here. Yes, "Computer Central" in my home of multiple phone lines, networking and G-d only knows bandwidth transmission. My only wish would be for a cartridge-loading multiple CD version of the Classik so i could lock and load a six-shooter of my fave music.
He One Mojo Filter
The Kans are very compact speakers at 11.75" high, 7.25" wide and 7.25 deep. The tweeter is not one of those cheap and horrid sounding polycarbonate units as found on many units this size. Instead Linn takes the high road and uses their 19mm ceramic-domed unit which i find quite impressive. In fact it is the same tweeter found in the upper line units! For midrange and bass frequencies Linn chose their 130mm woven GlassFiber bass/midrange driver. The cabinet itself is quite solid and you only get a fabric sock which can be used as a grill cover. The Kan is also of the magnetically shielded variety so that you can place the unit close to TV monitors without adversely effecting their performance.
It was obvious to me that the Kan was tonally balanced to perform best nearest to walls or on a book shelf. This close proximity positioning helps to enhance the lower frequency output of a loudspeaker. With each Kan near the front right and left corners of my room, the lowermost frequencies were impressive for units of this size. The bass was not at the cost of definition. Of course coming in at only $495 in Black/Rosenut, do not expect the world's best in bass. 1812 cannon lovers should seek larger units or add a self-powered subwoofer. In any event, this 130mm driver is quite good indeed in and of itself. The midrange was also quite good giving a nice, easy to listen to presentation. When i used the Kans with some other components on hand, they kept their same inherent characteristic. So it seems there is no huge synergy between the Classik and the Kans. Each component is quite impressive on their own. i saved the best part for last.
The highs on the Kan are very impressive! The rendition of upper frequency heavy instruments such as bells, cymbals and solo electric guitar were very impressive. Smooth and clean my notes say. This cleanliness also keeps the listening fatigue to a minimum as harsh highs bring about a high level of ear fatigue for many people. With the Kans this was not the case. The other obvious advantage is that cleaner and better uppermid/high frequencies lead to enhance imaging and soundscape reproduction. Like all good minimonitors, when positioned properly they can throw a huge acoustic soundscape and the Kans are in this group. My hat is off to Linn for not using the cheap and cheesy polycarbonate or other any other lesser high-frequency driver in the Kan.
He say one and one and one is three
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