Linn Majik 140 Review

My Majik 140’s in Maple

You may, by now, have read my somewhat glowing review of the new Akurate DS and what it has brought to my life as an avid music collector and fan. The other part of my system that is to me an integral part of getting the sound quality so right is the speakers: the Majik 140’s.
As you may have read in my previous blog, to me, after one’s source loudspeakers are the most important part of system building. With amps and pre-amps you will get a slightly different flavour of sound but with ‘speakers unless they are working well in your lounge or, if lucky enough to have one, your listening room then you are set up to fail each and very time.
Hi-fi magazines are full of photographs of ‘speakers placed in total free space in rooms of pristine white. Strangely they show no trailing cables from any associated amplifier but I guess this would ruin the marketing man’s vision of the perfect set up.
Hifi magazines also perpetuate this vision by with their advice on positioning – when they say speakers need to be two to three feet away from a wall to sound of their best how many audiophiles out their have lounges that can accommodate speakers in such a way without creating a hazard in the middle of their lounge. If the average lounge (especially in modern houses) was say 12 feet wide and the speakers were three feet into the lounge. With a 2 ½ to 3 ft deep sofa opposite would mean at least half the width of a room would be taken up with a pair of speakers and a sofa. This is not even remotely practical.
I have owned many pairs of speakers over the years and to give an example of what I have owned purely in the last five I have detailed these below:
· Living Voice OBX R2
· Living Voice OBX RW
· Harbeth Super HL5
· Harbeth Compact 7’s
· Sonus Faber Minima Vintage
· Sonus Faber Cremona
· Gamut L3
· Proac Response D2

As you can see, by audiophile standard I have owned some incredibly well reviewed and well respected loudspeakers of all shapes, sizes, styles and voicing. Associated amplification has always been appropriate to the speakers themselves – valve amplifiers always used with the Living Voice for example – and so I firmly believe that I have always got the electronics right.

Flush Mounted Drivers with Metal Grills
If you want a quick conclusion I will give it to you now and save you a read then it is my firm assertion that the Linn Majik 140’s are, in my room and with the type of music I like to listen to the best speakers I have owned. The may not sound the best – that title belongs to the Living Voice RW’s who had to me everything one could wish for a in a loudspeaker – imaging, vitality, tone, colour, rhythm etc. So why am I not writing about these and why was it necessary to o through a truckload of other speakers to get to where I am today.
A few reasons. Firstly as a design they are quite top heavy and a nudge near the top of the cabinet would have them rocking back and forth. I fixed this by fitting a set of superspikes to each with I then blu-tac’d to a granite chopping board. This gave them the stability they needed but did rob the sound of a great deal of warmth.
The other reason is that they sounded of their best with valve amplification. I have a four year old daughter who at the time was learning to get around the lounge. I was constantly petrified that she would touch exposed valves or valve cage and suffer some serious injury. When the hi-fi was on I could never relax if she was in the same room.
So, amazing as the Living Voices were, they were simply too impractical for my room and home life and so they had to go along with the valve amplifiers I had at the time.
After this I went through a stream of loudspeakers looking to replicate some of the Living Voice magic. The Sonus Faber Cremonas were too big, the Vintage too small; the wife never liked BBC Monitor look of the Harbeth’s but I have also covered their sonic shortcomings elsewhere; I never really liked the sound of the Pro-ac’s or the Gamut despite their exalted reputations.
And so to the Majik 140’s. When I first heard them at the House of Linn demonstration I was totally stunned that an entry level loudspeaker could sound so open and detailed without sounding sterile.

The 140’s specs are as follows:

  • Type 4-way floorstanding loudspeaker
  • Overall sizes incl. supplied stand: (H) 975 mm x (W) 250 mm x (D) 335 mm
  • Weight (with supplied stand) 21.3 kg
  • Cabinet volume 40 litres
  • Impedance (passive) 4 Ω
  • Impedance (Aktiv bass) 8 Ω
  • Impedance (Aktiv midrange) 8 Ω
  • Impedance (Aktiv tweeter) 7 Ω
  • Impedance (Aktiv super-tweeter) 7 Ω
  • Efficiency 88 dB for 1 watt at 1 metre (1 kHz)
  • Frequency response (Passive) 55 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Frequency response (Aktiv) 55 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Crossover options Passive or fully Aktiv
  • Connection options Single, bi-, tri- or quad- wire / amp; four-way Aktiv
  • Binding posts can accept 4mm banana plugs, bare wire and spades
The 2k Driver array with Tweeter above Super-Tweeter

When I got a pair at home these first impressions were reinforced and I have come, over the last few months to appreciate their incredible sense of purpose when producing the musical signal. Whilst they may not image as well as the Living Voices, produce vocals as well as the Harbeth’s or sound as sumptuous with classical music as the Sonus Fabers they get 90% there with all the categories to me.

They handle all types of music with equal aplomb from folk music, classical, rock, heavy metal. Nothing fazes them. Stick some ACDC on and they can be played ear splittingly loud filling room superbly. Drums sound real and have that typical ‘DC insistent rhythm. Guitars bite and “crunch” as they should. Vocals are placed dead centre. Majik?

Alternatively, play a Beethoven String Quartet and they will demonstrate a wonderful delicacy allowing enough space and aural clues as to the space in which instruments are playing that you can get lost in the ebb and flow of the music.
The fact they do this in a fairly compact structure with a world class fit and finish and are also unfussy with regards placement make them a speaker that should be on anyone’s shortlist. Oh, and the fact that they do all this for less than a quarter of the price of the RW’s and a third of the price of the Cremona’s is truly remarkable and makes them, in audiophile terms, a bargain.

Looking Up
There are two caveats to what I have said to this:
· I have only listened to them Linn amplification (Akurate 2200) and a Luxman SQ-38 (the amp I had before the Linn)
· Read my Audiophile Insanity Blog. If what you have is working for you then stick with it. If not and you are looking for a change then I urge you to stick these on your shortlist.

Thanks for reading!!!!

One Last Picture of the 140’s

Oh and one final thing. In case anyone is wondering I have nothing at all to do with Linn or House of Linn. I have paid over my hard earned cash to by all the equipment mentioned and have received nothing in return from either organisation. Up until last year Linn, as a brand, would have been last on my list to listen to. I am now converted to Linn as such that as a brand they should certainly be at or near the top of your list for audition……

All photographs taken with a Fuji X100 – Review to Follow!

Leica M9 Review – First Impressions and Musings

Okay this thing of beauty has been unboxed and now sits in my hands ready for shooting. Well almost but not quite. First things first – the battery needs a good charge.

Okay, battery charged and rewind. After removing the bottom plate and inserting battery and memory card it is now time for lift off. And to switch the thing on.

The very first impression then? It was actually, is the M9 on? Testing, testing….. one two three….There were no whirrs of machinery, flashing of lights or other indications that it was powered up.

I have to admit that the first 5 minutes with the camera were frustrating to say the least. You see I rarely read manuals.  Most of the electronic equipment I have ever played with has been reasonably intuitive to muddle through and have fun discovering the various elements of operation. Reading the instruction manual is always a last resort to discover access to some hidden menu.

Not so this camera. What confused me is that there are two menus. One under “Menu” (obviously) and one under “Set” (not so obviously). It took me a while and then even then it wasn’t that clear in the manual about how to set compression etc. Maybe I was having an off day……

Up until the M9 acquisition I had a pretty impressive set up: a Canon 5DMkII and a handful of Zeiss glass – 21mm 2.8, 35mm 2.0 and 50mm 1.4. It is hard not to love the image quality, sharpness and colour rendition of the Canon and Zeiss combination. I will be honest and say that it was a set up that I could have continued with for years without feeling I was being short changed in any way.

Most of the performance was thanks to the amazing Zeiss lenses and the world class images they help produce with the aid of the 5D’s full frame sensor.

The main issue I had with it was that it was all so damn heavy and cumbersome to carry around in the Billingham bag I had for it all.

Side by side comparison of the 5D Mk2 and M9

Most of the photography that I love to do – landscape – is done whilst I am on vacation with my young family. I have, over the past five years, struggled to lug the 5D, tripod and lenses along with vacation luggage for a family of five across the “pond” to the USA where we spend most of our holiday time.

So, I came to the conclusion that I needed to downsize.  After researching for a few months I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t want to compromise on the quality I was getting from my current set up the Leica M9 would be the best and most flexible way to go. Coincidently it would be the most expensive way go too. Doesn’t that always seem to be the way?

Back to back it is easy to see just how much more bulk there is in the 5D and Zeiss lens

On paper the Leica is comprehensively trounced by the Canon. More mega pixels, bigger LCD, higher resolution LCD, more FPS, more flexibility, better low light capability, live view, cheaper.…………the list goes on.

But after a while using the Leica you came to appreciate it’s simplicity and realise that actually some of the pro’s of the Canon can start to be slowly pulled apart:

More Megapixels? Well surely the 18 of the Leica are enough? There is a school of thought that says 6 is enough. There are also apparently imaging issues with the way light hit’s the sensor above 18MP –  a coincidence?

Bigger LCD? 2.5” seems enough for me. Better than I had on my M6.

Higher resolution LCD? At first glance the LCD on the M9 is appalling. Then in use you realise that it is good enough. In any case shouldn’t you be just getting on with the job of taking pictures and not constantly referring back to the LCD? Also I have found with high resolution LCD’s they can lull you into a false sense of security. They can make an image look too good. I have downloaded images confident in the fact that they were perfectly in focus only to find that although they looked like they were reality was something totally different.

More FPS? I don’t shoot sports or anything particularly fast moving.

More flexibility? Yes. But only if you want to start digging through menus or setting up custom profiles (none of which I can remember once set). I want to take pictures not play with a computer with a lens strapped to the front.

Live view? Only really useful if you have the time to fiddle with it and a tripod. I have a tripod but time is precious. I have also found that the stability of holding the camera to your eye far exceeds that of live view performance unless, as stated previously, you are using a tripod.

Cheaper? Err. Yes, the 5D is cheaper.

The Leica 35mm Summarit 2.5 and Zeiss 35mm 2.0 – good things come in small packages

Another lens size comparison this time without the Leica’s lens hood on

But when it all comes down to it the bottom line is could this camera achieve the brief that I had set it in that I wanted a light, unobtrusive camera that was easy to carry around with a couple of lenses and have a world class imaging?

If there were such thing as a M9 wish list I would put on it automatic sensor cleaning and some weather sealing. That’s it. Keep everything else simple. I wouldn’t want anything else that would detract from the straightforward userbility of the M9.

The short answer is a resounding yes but check out my next blog where I will go into some more detail on using the M9 and upload some images for you to check out and see what you think….

All images taken with the Fuji Finepix X100

Leica M9 Review – An Introduction

The Stunning M9 and 50mm Summicron

There have been many, many reviews written about this camera and a cursory search of the web will bring up dozens of opinions, photos and occasional criticism.

So here is another thrown into the mix. Following the recent trend for real world reviews I will not be delving deep into technical aspects, 100% crops, pixel peeping.

It will be a straightforward honest and practical review of the latest digital rangefinder from Leica.

The first thing that struck me about the Leica M9 was the packaging. You have to get through that before you can actually get your hands on the camera inside. It is beautifully manufactured and put together with each element of the contents under different layers that you slowly lift away until you reveal the box the camera body sits in.

There is a true pride of ownership in just this part of the process. A foregone conclusion you would think when spending nearly £5,000 on a camera body but I have purchased a few high value items over time from pens (Mont Blanc) to watches (Rolex and Omega) to hifi (Linn) and nothing is as well presented as a Leica product.

As an aside the Leica X1 is an even better experience in some ways with the outer box gently falling open to reveal a camera “cabinet” box in which the X1 and all the accessories sit.

Unless you have handled a camera from Leica’s M range, nothing prepares you for the sheer pleasure in touching and handling and M camera and the M9 is no disappointment. The feel, the weight, the solid metal body all go into making it a pleasurable experience simply to hold a camera such as this. It makes the 5D MkII I have feel like a toy in my hands by comparison.

The Rear of the Camera – obviously!!

It may seem like a sad state of affairs but the first time I took the camera out of the box and it’s plastic packing I just sat there staring at it in my hands as though I were cradling a new baby. I then gave myself a mental slap in the face. It is a camera. It takes pictures. Don’t be so ridiculous.

And then went back to caressing the metal and, like a new father, eyes welling up, imagining the possibilities, the days we would spend together watching my baby M9 grow into the camera I had always wanted….okay maybe I made that bit up but the camera is, honestly, a sight and tactile experience to behold.

Anyway, first things first is to charge the battery fully before use (Leica’s advice and good advice for any Lithium battery) and then wait patiently whilst it has a good charge and then it is on with the 50mm Summicron and away we go picture taking.

Simple uncluttered top

Over the next week or so I will be giving you my first impressions with this supposed king of picture takers in the 35mm category. There are a number of people trading in their DSLR’s and lenses for this camera. I have a 5D MkII with lenses from Canon and Zeiss. Will I feel then same? Time will tell.

Stay tuned.

PS All images of the Leica M9 taken with the Fuji X100.

Arriving at the Airport……..A Tale of Perpetual Disappointment……

For reasons that I have been unable to comprehend, I always get the feeling when I come out of an airport that there will be someone there to meet and greet me. I scan the eyes of the people waiting there to see if there is anyone I recognise but it is always to no avail. From the drivers who are meeting their guests with pieces of card or paper with names typed, written or literally scrawled, to the parents and grandparents eagerly surveying the faces themselves for long missed children and grand children.

The opening scenes of Love Actually (if you haven’t seen it – do) really struck a chord with me. All that expectation, relief, hope, hugs, kisses, screams of joy and laughter – it was a stark reminder of what I was missing.

I think that, subconsciously, I get caught up in the collective expectation on the other side of the arrival doors and the people leaving baggage claim with me. We invariably arrive at our destination tired, bedraggled, agitated, irritated and hungry.

We always travel as light as possible and have a small collection of suitcases dragged off the carousel. But we also have two car seats, camera bag, and assorted hand luggage and rucksacks. All those years of filtering out what we don’t need in the cases has mysteriously meant that we take twice as much onto the plane with us. Strange.

I then rummage around my pockets for my wallet so that I can access some dollars or my credit card so that I can get one of the luggage trolleys. How they can charge $4.00 to use one of these is beyond me. Once loaded up with it’s misshapen cargo, I inevitably wrestle with my cart that only want to travel diagonally and not straight lines.

And so our rag tag family of five trudge glumly towards the signs saying car rental. We should be holiday happy and expectant but we leave that to the others behind us and find the shuttle bus to the car rental companies offsite location where we unload all our stuff off the cart and onto the bus to go through the whole process again once we get to the car rental place. What joy!

But does this put us off travelling? Of course not – the means certainly justify the end.

And so, with all the love in arrivals, does anyone offer to help? Nope. Understandably they are caught up in their own little worlds of reconciliation……… Maybe one day it will be me!!

Linn System – The Photographs

For those interested here are some photographs of the Linn System.

Enjoy.

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Akurate DS

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Majik Kontrol

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Akurate 2200

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Full Linn System

The system is still giving me huge amounts of pleasure. Being able to simply select songs on my iPad and then sit back and enjoy them with the best sound quality is incredibly satisfying and rewarding.

All photos taken with the Leica X1.

Thanks for looking.

Perfect Playlist #1 – Being a Parent

I have always loved songwriters who use their children or children in general for inspiration. Being a Father to three I am constantly touched by the thoughts and sentiments of songwriters. The fact that some go on the call their kids Moon Unit, Fifi Trixibell or Apple is an entirely different matter!

The playlist runs the gamut of emotions from grief to elation. Do some investigating and enjoy.

1. Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton suffered the worst nightmare of any parent: the loss of their child. Clapton’s son, Conor, plunged to his death from the window in an apartment block and this song was his way of dealing with the devastating grief.

2. Danny’s Song – Kenny Loggins

A wonderfully uplifting song from brilliant songwriter Kenny Loggins. It tells the tale of meeting his wife and how their world was made complete when their first child came along.

3. The Things We’ve Handed Down – Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn is a brilliant songwriter. Looking a little deeper than Walking In Memphis you can find some gems. We have all wondered, prior to the birth of our child, what traits they have inherited from Mum or Dad. This song encapsulates those feelings and thoughts beautifully.

4. This Is Home – Lucy Kaplansky

Lucy tells the story of the adoption of her baby from an orphanage in China better than I could here. This song was her way of telling the story. The lyrics a moving especially when she sings of her adopted baby to be lying, alone, in an orphanage “getting used to being left behind”. A simple but powerful song.

5. Over There – John Gorka

Lyrically a brilliant song about how being in a family with his wife and two children keeps him grounded. “And the little but that I give up/It’s all coming back a hundredfold/It’s not lost if it goes to love/It rounds you out so you can roll”.

6. Father and Son – Cat Stevens

A fantastic song about a father who wants the best for his child and the son who wants to make it in his own way….

7. Teach Your Children – Crosby Stills and Nash

A great song about looking to the future and wanting the best for your children and that how it was done before might not be the best way. Second part of the songs speaks directly to children of parents fears and hang ups.

8. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) – John Lennon

Lennons stunning , brilliantly written song to his son Sean.

9. Sarah Maria – James Taylor

Sarah Maria was James’ first child with Carly Simon and this a sweet song about his little girl.

10. Taking You Home – Don Henley

As one half of the main writing partnership in the Eagles you can expect great quality. Henley’s solo albums have a more of a personal touch to them which makes for a more in depth listen.

Sometimes the joy of parenthood comes when you least expect it and this is true of Don Henley. This is his song relating his feelings when he first saw his newborn and wanted to simply take her “home”.

11. Speaking With The Angel – Cry Cry Cry

Lucy Kaplansky sings here on a collaborative album she did with Richard Shindell and Dar Williams. The album is made up of songs by their favourite artists. This is their brilliant version of Ron Sexsmith’s song.

Well, that’s it. I hope you do seek out and enjoy this music and it speaks to you in the way it does me.

Perfect Playlists – Philosophy

I am going to begin a series of Blogs of what I consider to be perfect playlists around certain themes.

Each will contain 10 to 12 songs and will contain music from familiar and unfamiliar artists. I have tried to focus more on those artists and songs that are a little less known – there is a wonderfully rich vein of music that simply goes umissed.

I will provide some commentary on each song where appropriate. I have always been a sucker for a good lyric and so the songs chosen will hopefully draw you into the songwriters world……

I hope that you find them interesting and they lead you to discover some new artists and music. Please feel free to make comments and suggestions to add to the playlists to makethem even more “perfect”.

The first of these will be on the emotions of being a parent and will follow shortly……