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April 2003
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
"Hey Gregory, is that a haggis in your trousers
or did someone finally get a subwoofer?"
Linn Sizmik 12.45 Subwoofer

Review By Ian White
Click here to e-mail reviewer

Linn Sizmik 12.45 Subwoofer  When I was fourteen years old, my Father informed the family that we were moving to England. While the collective response was something out of the vocabulary of the great Italian linguist, Vincent Barbarino, any doubts were put aside the day the moving van showed up. The transition from the colonies to the land of Sid, Scary, and Seaman (have official team jersey, willing to stand in the cheap seats with the Hooligans) was not a smooth one. Needless to say, one can only eat so many bangers and mash, fish and chips, and really, really bad pizza. Okay, so Seashell Fish and Chips does wonderful things with Halibut. 

If not for the brilliance of Monty Python, I would have murdered the entire cast of Coronation Street. 

Oh stop your weeping Sally!

One afternoon the four rebels pressed the taskmasters for some vacation time outside of London and instead of going someplace inspiring like Oxford, we ended up in Scotland.

Scotland? Someone missed a turn on the M1.

If someone told me that I would end up in dreary Scotland, the really hilly country where it rains all the time, where they make warm yet itchy sweaters, where two teams battle each season for football supremacy, where men wear kilts and women carry sheep on their backs (okay so I made that part up) and love every second… I wouldn't believe you.

At the time, I was shamefully ignorant of Scotland's most important exports - Scotch and turntables, but that is what unauthorized high school parties are for and why I'm building a bunker around my equipment room as soon as the kids are old enough to spell "Single Malt".

I have only lost 17 Sondek auctions on eBay so far this year.

While Linn is internationally renown for its classic turntable, still considered one of the best ever made, it has achieved a degree of success with some of its loudspeakers, CD players, and most recently, its subwoofers.

Linn makes subwoofers?

Sure do. Bloody good ones if you ask me. 

Sean Connery owns one. Okay, I made that up as well, but I'm sure Mr. Connery could get one if he wanted to. So, the big question still remains... why does anyone need a subwoofer?

While that might seem like an idiotic question to the converted (isn't ironic how subwoofers are now in vogue), the fact remains that many consumers do not understand what a subwoofer is for and that its value is far greater than recreating the rumble of an explosion while watching a movie. When I assembled my first high-end system, I made a foolish judgment call that I was forced to reevaluate less than a month later. After reading all of the available publications, I decided that "clarity," "imaging," and "tonal accuracy" were the pathway to audio nirvana, even though I really wanted "emotion," "dynamic ability," and "tonal accuracy". 

Have you ever listened to Pink Floyd or The Who through a really clinical sounding system?

I would prefer being forced to eat spotted dick than suffer through that horror.

While my NHT monitors sounded great with jazz, blues, and some pop, they were less than convincing while listening to rock simply because they had no bass. AC/DC sounded as if Angus Young had only downed four beers instead of his customary twenty. Hmmm... what is the word that I am looking for?

Music lacked foundation. 

Unsatisfied with my system, I ventured back to the dealer and blindly followed the "Aunt Corey" madness. After having the filters made, I added two subwoofers and the appropriate amplification and things started to make sense. For three weeks, I was in high-end audio heaven. Then, I made a startling observation. Music lacked coherency. Nothing seemed to be perfectly in sync. Needless to say, I switched to full-range floor standing loudspeakers and never looked back. That was of course, until I got married. Marriage often (okay, almost every single day) requires a certain level of compromise, and my first act of benevolence was to sell a pair of enormous electrostatic loudspeakers and replace them with a pair of Spendor SP2/3 monitors. The Spendors are marvelous speakers, but somewhat deficient in the bass and slow in comparison to most ribbon and electrostatic speakers.

On the home theater front, I use a growing collection of Meadowlark Audio floor standing loudspeakers, which have never left me feeling deprived in the low end. No, they do not rattle the dishes in the adjacent dining room, but the Meadowlarks make using a subwoofer a "luxury" as opposed to a necessity.

Well, I may have spoken too soon.

When the Sizmik 12.45 subwoofer arrived, I was late for school so I quickly unpacked it, hooked it up to my B&K surround sound receiver and made one adjustment mandated by the manual when connecting the Sizmik to a surround receiver. Almost eight hours later I returned home and almost hemorrhaged when I felt bass through the ceiling above my head. I raced up the stairs and lunged at my wife who was raising the volume even higher.

"What the hell are you doing?" I screamed.

"Having Fun. Ever heard of it?" she replied.

"Well, stop having fun because I have to adjust it and move it around," I replied as I yanked the remote from her hand and lowered the volume.

I discovered that eating Mac & Cheese alone could be fun. 



Okay, Time For The Boring Technical Stuff...

While $3,000 is a lot of money for a subwoofer, the reality is that a number of manufacturers such as Revel, B&W, REL, and Audio Physic offer reference level subwoofers for even more shekels so Linn is not out of touch with its potential customers. Enjoy the Music.com™ head honcho, Steven "Thomas Magnum" Rochlin and former Listener boss Art Dudley waxed poetically about the virtues of the Sizmik's smaller sibling, so I was really curious to see if the purported progress in subwoofer design was little more than excess air. Okay, bad joke. (Editors note: just because I drive a "P.I." Ferrari does not make me Magnum... He played one on TV, I live it :-)     Ok Higgins, prepare the car  ).

The Sizmik 12.45 is a "pitch" accurate bass reinforcement loudspeaker that uses a single 12" paper cone long-throw bass driver. A mesh grille protects the driver and it is most certainly dog and childproof. The Sizmik uses a compact "Class V" 500-watt modular power amplifier that can be easily serviced if necessary by removing a couple of screws and pulled out of the enclosure. The enclosure is a 47 liter, heavily braced MDF cabinet that utilizes a separate enclosure for the amplifier. The available finishes include Black Ash, American Cherry (which was supplied for the review), and Maple. The overall fit and finish of the Sizmik deserves high marks. The cherry veneer grew slightly darker as time went on, and it was hard not to admire the quality of the finish. Linn spared no expense building the Sizmik and it clearly shows. Do not unpack the Sizmik and underestimate the weight because the subwoofer appears small. The Sizmik 12.45 is 17.7 x 16.5 x 17.1 (HxWxD in inches) but a whopping 61 pounds. Good luck lifting this without bending your knees.

Linn quotes the frequency response of the Sizmik as being 9Hz to 220Hz and what I heard and felt would certainly confirm rather impressive low-end response. That being said, I have auditioned a REL Storm III and Strata III in my home and they did seem to reach further down than the Linn with very comparable specifications. However, lower doesn't always mean better and the smaller Sizmik proved to be more adept with both music and movies. The Sizmik has a rather comprehensive series of adjustable settings, which I will detail at the end of the review. When I first read through the Sizmik's manual, I was concerned that the subwoofer would overpower my 25' x 13' x 10' living room but after lowering the gain and adjusting both the internal and external high-pass filters, I was able to dial in the Sizmik for both music and film. When listening to music, I noticed significant improvements in coherency and integration when I inverted phase on specific recordings.

 

From a set-up perspective (which was helped enormously by Linn's inclusion of a great interconnect that allows users to move the Sizmik around the room), I started with the Sizmik four feet from the right corner and two feet out into the room. The results were rather promising and I almost left the Sizmik in that position for the duration. Two weeks later, I moved the Sizmik and placed it along the long wall at the midway point and one foot from the wall. Not bad, but not as taut with bass drum and collisions. Do not try the Sizmik directly in the corners of the room and let it rip. The sound will be very muddy and quickly overload the room. 



Hey Vic Wooten... I Think You Missed A Note!

When I was truly satisfied with the set-up of the Sizmik 12.45, I went through my growing collection of DVDs and focused on music videos to get a feel for the Sizmik's capabilities. Why Americans waste their money on tripe like the Dixie Chicks is beyond me, especially when there are so many other worthwhile country and western and bluegrass artists such as Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and Tom Russell. Bela and Victor Wooten recorded a wonderful concert last year called Live at the Quick [CVD 5408] and it is one of my weekly repeats. I suspected that the Sizmik would excel with this type of recording and it made me a proud papa. 

Without the Sizmik, I always thought that Victor Wooten's bass playing sounded first-rate through my Meadowlarks, but something happened when I introduced the Sizmik. For starters, the tautness of the bass improved enormously. Secondly, bass notes were tonally dead-on. As Victor Wooten alternated between bass guitars, you could easily discern the different sonic signatures of the various makes. Most importantly, the bass never overpowered the rest of music. While critics gushed all over Saving Private Ryan, I was far more impressed with the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers [HBO Video 99205] and consider it a reference level DVD. The DTS soundtrack has an enormous amount of low-level information and I was almost afraid to abuse the Sizmik with all of the explosions and gunfire but what kind of reviewer would I be if I didn't try to bring down the house. If the story wasn't enough to pull you in and take you on an emotional rollercoaster, the sound effects are downright frightening. Even without the Sizmik, the surround sound was intense and engaging. When I added the 12.45, my living room turned into the Battle of the Bulge. While no system could accurately reproduce the concussion of a mortar round, or earth-shattering rumble of a German Leopard tank, the Sizmik scared the living hell out of me. The Sizmik does such a good job of disappearing that when it kicks in unexpectedly, it really catches your attention. I watched the rest of the series with my security blanket very close by.

Much to the dismay of my wife, I disconnected the Sizmik and took it upstairs to contend with my two-channel system. My Spendor SP2/3s bristled with fear when I plopped the Sizmik in-between the two speakers and dialed it with a healthy dose of punk, classic rock, and jazz.

Over a period of around four weeks, I did serious damage to the foundation of my house with a barrage of Green Day, Tori Amos, Bela Fleck, Daniel Lanois, and Grant Green and it was simply appalling at how much music I have been missing over the past two years. Audiophiles often dismiss the use of subwoofers because they are difficult to properly integrate with another pair of speakers, but I never experienced that at all with the Sizmik. Yes, it took experimentation, but the sweat and lifting were certainly worth the effort. When I inserted the Sizmik 12.45 back into the home theater system, my wife grabbed the remote from my hand and informed me that she was hiding the shipping container so that I couldn't send it back.

G-d bless the Scots. Send me the bill Cappy.

 

Specifications

Drive Unit: 12-inch paper coned, long throw bass driver 

Type: Pitch precise bass reinforcement loudspeaker with integral active amplification and equalization circuitry for stand-alone use. 

Function: Active bass loudspeaker. 500 Watt built in amplifier. Adjustable roll-off for seamless system integration. 47 liter. 9Hz @ 220Hz frequency response. 

Construction: 38mm and 19mm MDF cabinet horizontally braced. Balanced veneers. Power amplifier module contained in separate cavity. 

Control Interface: Signal sensing auto switch on/off for energy conservation and local remote control. 

Protection: Fully protected against overload, over temperature, full short and overdrive protection. 

Output Power: 500 Watts RMS, 1,000 Watts Peak 

Stand-by Power Consumption: 6 Watts 

Connectors: 
Line level audio in and loop out RCA phono 
Line level high pass output RCA phono 
High level 4.0mm input connectors 

Size: 420mm x 450mm x 435mm (WxHxD, including feet) 

Finishes: Black Ash, American Cherry, and Maple 

Adjustments: 
-4 step internal low pass frequency @ 50, 
80, 120Hz and flat 
-9 step internal high pass frequency from 
9 @ 220Hz 
-9 step external high pass frequency from 
9 @ 220Hz 
-Gain adjustable 35dB in 1dB steps 
-3 step bass equalization 
-Absolute phase can be normal or inverted 
-4 step time out after signal loss @ 5, 
10, 20 seconds or on continuously 

Weight 60.8 pounds

Price: $3,000

 

Company Information

Linn Products Limited 
Floors Road, Waterfoot 
Glasgow, G76 0EP 
Scotland 

Voice: +44 0141 307 7777 
Fax: +44 0141 644 4262
Website: www.linn.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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