It is understandable of course to have measurements be your guide when creating an audio device. The fact though that Lindemann insists on having the human ear as the ultimate judge, after compiling extensive technical data, was something that was quite nice to hear. After all the end goal is what the music sounds like to a human being and not just how well it tests on the bench or in a sound chamber (although those can be quite helpful when used in conjunction with extended listening sessions). Bluebird Music Limited, located in Buffalo New York, is the North American distributor for Lindemann products.
Looking at their web-site it was easy to notice many top shelf audio products such as Chord Electronics, Jadis, Estelon Van Den Hul, Spendor and more. It was not too long ago that a pair of Spendor SP1/2R2 loudspeakers graced my audio system and my decision to sell them gives me second thoughts unto this very day, yes they were that good. The fact that Bluebird Music sold Lindemann Audio gear alongside such noteworthy manufacturers prodded me into doing further research about them while deciding to weed out which product would be next to review. Lindemann has been around for quite a long while now; in fact Lindemann Audiotechnik first came into existence approximately twenty-two years ago when created by its founder Norbert Lindemann back in 1993. Lindemann now sell loudspeakers, USB DAC's, network players/preamplifiers and amplifiers.
Today's review will be of the Musicbook 55, a fully balanced stereo power amplifier, utilizing Class-D technology and based on a multi-patented circuit design the UCD amplifier. Unlike its predecessor the Musicbook 50 ($3195), rated at a solid 80-watts per channel into 8ohms, the Musicbook 55 ($3995) pumps out a whopping 240-watts into that same 8 Ohm load. Of course if you buy two and simply flip a switch placing each into mono operation, the factory claims they put out a very impressive 450-watts into 8 Ohms. It was obviously designed with a "today" look in mind, being quite streamlined and showing no visible screws of any kind, which I found unusual and quite pleasurable. Small, sleek and modern in appearance it will fit quite nicely into a modern housing or apartment concept. With the Musicbook 55 there is no need to take up extra living space with a one hundred pound plus amplifier to drive those low efficient loudspeakers, rooms with tall ceilings or large dimensions. The Musicbook 55 has got all the power you will probably need and yet weights just barely over eight pounds. Outside dimensions are approximately 11.02" x 8.66" x 2.6" (WxDxH). This was smaller in size then even my OPPO Digital Universal Player (used now in my surround sound system), making it easy to fit into my salamander audio rack with plenty of shelf room to spare and you know us audiophiles need plenty of that.
My shelves were so full that it was necessary to buy two audio racks and so the size of the Musicbook 55 was a delight to see. Its rear panel has in IEC outlet, (a power cord with a two-pin grounded plug is included), and an on/off switch as well as a set of inputs for unbalanced RCA or balanced XLR connectors. There are two loudspeaker ports requiring banana terminated cables which the factory recommends being used preferable with hollow safety plugs. Lastly there is a three setting mode switch, for stereo, mono bi-amp'ing and mono bridged operation. The front sports a clean black face and a small led light to monitor the operation of the protection circuit.
The True Test Is In The Listening
As the applause tapered off and the song, "The Barricades of Heaven" began it was obvious that something spectacular was occurring in my room. Much to my delight the Magnepans were now laying out a very large three dimensional stage the likes of which they had not ever shown to me before, until that very moment with the Musicbook 55. It was especially fun to listen throughout the CD as Jackson Browne played his various acoustical guitars as the Musicbook 55 made them sound so alive and realistic. It was as you were listening to an actual three dimensional instrument performing for you within the room. Testing the amplifier a little further out came the Carlos Santana Supernatural [Arista 07822-19080-2] CD where Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton performed together on a song titled, "The Calling". This is an excellent song by the way. Here the Musicbook 55 did them both justices as they "sang" to one another by way of their guitars. The percussion and keyboard background tracks drew one deep into the music's magical spell. Being that everything was so very clear and natural it was easy to inch the volume up to a point quite a bit higher than normal. So much so that I began to worry about doing damage to my ears and so inched it down a few notches just in case. Yes it will play even my power hungry Magnepans quite loudly yet it was not necessary to do so in order to achieve a pleasurable musical performance.
In fact the Musicbook 55 sound was thoroughly enjoyable at even moderate to moderately high levels. Yearning to hear Andrea Bocelli through this new toy out came his Amore CD [Decca Records B60006069-02]. Once hitting play on the CD player it was hard to let go as the combination of the Magnepan 3.6's and the Lindemann Musicbook 55 took my system to such a beautiful place. Again the expanded soundscape gave me a greater sense of involvement with the each performance as it so enveloped me with music and song. On "Besme Mucho" there was a point where at the end of the song his voice tapered off as if seemingly forever. Needless to say the effects of decay was not an issue with this amplifier. It is not always easy to properly describe what one is hearing when doing a review but let me say that music through the 55 was fun. It was very easy to listen with both music and vocals with all sounding quite natural. Not being overly analytical or too romantic it struck a balance in-between that won my heart over.
Jay Rein, the president at Bluebird Music Limited, was kind enough to send over a Lindemann Musicbook 15 USB audio music player along with the Musicbook 55. This unit is a D/A-converter-preamp with a high-resolution USB-interface and CD player retailing for $4995 ($4495 for the DAC only version). Talking to Jay over the phone he explained that the unit would complement the Musicbook 55 in size and styling. He was right as its dimensions where almost exactly the same and its silver casing and black faceplate were almost a twin to the 55. While we both agreed this would not be a review of both pieces I felt it would be amiss not to at least briefly touch on their combination. It made sense to me that someone looking at the Musicbook 55 would quite probably lean towards the Musicbook 15 as a companion one to the other. Replaying the same Andre Bocelli CD the soundscape expanding just a bit further allowing me an even deeper look into the musical track making my smile that much wider then even before with the Musicbook 55 alone. Jay you were right these are indeed two products that work well together complimenting each other in looks, style and sonic similarity.
Here, Mr. Bocelli's voice took on a slightly deeper fuller even more natural tone bringing it just a little closer to sounding true to real life. Going into all the wonders of this little player from Lindemann would take-up a full separate review as the Musicbook 15 is packed full of features. Therefore let me just briefly touch on some of its merits here today. It can be connected to your computer as it is equipped with a high-resolution USB interface. You may insert it directly into your existing complete home audio system or use it alone with a set of powered loudspeakers. The unit is equipped with both balanced and unbalanced outputs while its remote control is sleek, stylish, comfortable to hold and beautiful. The IR remote comes with a lithium-ion battery that you recharge by way of a factory supplied USB cable that I found unusual and quite welcomed. In fact hopefully there will be many other manufactures that will take note and start doing the same. Through further listening sessions it became obvious that music and vocals sounded more natural and lacking those nasty digital artifacts that tend to annoy one during long extended sessions of CD playback. There was no way that my own CD player was going back into play after hearing both the Musicbook 55 and Musicbook 15 work so well together in combination, so these further notes are about the two of them playing together in unison.
My Great Overtures CD [Digital Stereo HCT-2-8816] has a performance of "The Magic Flute" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Alfred Scholz. Here we discover an excellent layering of instruments on a once again expansive soundscape held back by only the boundaries of my very own room. Quick was a word that immediately came to mind to describe when describing these Musicbook products while listening to the various works of Mozart, Rossini, Von Weber, Beethoven, Verdi, Von Suppe, Strauss and Wagner. Lightning fast and enjoyable they were. Then there was its sensitive side as discovered on Yo-Yo Ma & Friends Songs of Joy & Peace CD [Sony Classical 88697-24414-2]. The display of a detailed texturing of the cello in "Dona NobisPacem" (Give Us Peace) made one sit up and take notice. As for vocals, James Taylor voice was reproduced in top form on "Here Comes the Sun". He has always been a favorite singer of mine and this Lindemann duo brought me quite close to the front of the stage and nearer the performance. While not being fully equal to the great tube amplifiers in getting that "you are there" moment, it got quite close. Close and at a relatively bargain price I might add. There are amplifiers that will bring you closer to live but the cost might set you back considerably more than most would prefer to spend. This after all is an amplifier that is small in footprint, modern in design, powerful, natural sounding and with a good sense of immediacy while throwing a large detailed soundscape. That is an awful lot to ask for something at this price point and the folks at Lindemann have done an excellent job here with the Musicbook 55 / Musicbook 15 combination.
Given all the above and stating my enjoyment of tube amplifiers the Musicbook 55 floored me with its massive soundscape, precise and natural images. This was an amplifier that could easily find a permanent place in my home as it did so much so very right. Relatively small in size, powerful in watts and beautiful to hear. Lindemann has a winner with the Musicbook 55 and this coming from a self-professed "tube guy"! But wait; let us enhance the experience by now mating it to its sibling the Musicbook 15 and what we have is a duo that continually presented me with over-the-top musical events. This was a very difficult pair to part with as it did things to involve me in the music that made listening for hours on end such a pleasurable experience. On top of all this there is a beauty in the outward appearance of each that many are sure to seek. With their small footprints and unobtrusive looks they can be tucked neatly away to be heard and not seen. Not being the type to dominate a room with their massive physical size, they instead allowed the music to take over my listening room and not the physical gear. It is after all the love of music we seek and the Musicbook 55 / Musicbook 15 combo brought this listener that much closer to that ultimate goal. Bravo Lindemann.
The Listening Environment
North American Distributor