Life After Linn

Consonance Mini Droplet CDP3.1

A few months ago I started with an itch that I knew I would just have to eventually scratch. Excellent though the Linn system was I missed the presentation that previous valve based systems had given me.

Also, whilst the Linn DS was a fantastic source, when I compared it to a “valved” Lector CD player that I had, I felt that on a good percentage of CD’s the music was put over in a slightly more organic way. One other aspect that pushed me over the edge were the once or twice a week system crashes that occurred which would only be resolved by a reset of the system – ostensibly switching off and then back on again!

The bottom line was I realised that a valve based system would be the one to satisfy my musical and hifi requirements.

So how would I facilitate this sea-change? I had backed myself into an audiophile corner in a way and felt that an all or nothing approach would be required as a mix and match system with some of the Linn components wouldn’t be all that practical. Certainly a valve CD player with Linn solid state amps didn’t seem right and I doubted it would provide the answers I was looking for.

After 20 years of buying hi-fi I have to confess to a certain amount of cynicism when it comes to dealers. There are very few hi-fi dealers in my opinion that actually talk any sense or understand the equipment they sell or the needs of the customer. This is a sad fact of faceless high street chains.

There are probably 3 or 4 dealers that I have come across that I would trust and respect. On of them is Jim Burke of audiolincs.com in Grantham.

The Consonance Cyber 10 Integrated Signature

In all of my dealings with Jim he has been nothing but a gentlemen – open and honest. His knowledge of the equipment he sells is exemplary. Co-incidentally we have very similar tastes in music and so when I have described the presentation that I was hoping to achieve he was able to very quickly recommend three components that would give me what I was looking for – or should that be hearing for?

So a few conversations later, Jim and I had pieced together a system of and Opera Consonance Droplet 3.1 CD Player, a Cyber 10 Integrated Amplifier and Reference 3A Dulcet speakers. Luckily I still had in the garage a pair of Custom Design Reference 300 stands on which to put the speakers on. Coincidentally they were also the stands that Jim recommends to get the best out of the Dulcet’s.

Over the next few weeks the Linn gear disappeared to new owners and the huge heavy boxes began appearing at my front door. Not something that SWMBO relishes.

Finally, I had unboxed everything and had it in situ and ready to go. In Jim’s opinion the CD Player, amplifier and speakers would be able to compete with equipment several times their price and he was confident that, wonderful as the Linn system was, the new trio would be able to exceed the performance of the Linn gear.

Whilst I have not had an opportunity to test each piece in a different scenarios what I can say is that as a system the three components gel perfectly producing easily some of the best music I have had at home.

The Consonance Cyber 10 Integrated Signature

To cut a long story short the new system simply sounds right. The Dulcet’s don’t go as low or loud as the Linn 140’s, they don’t produce the same cavernous soundstage as the Totem Model One’s but what they do which is to stop me continually evaluating what I am listening to. For example with the Model One’s the soundstage was so eerily huge I ended up listening and thinking wow I can hear the acoustic guitar solo on the opposite side of the room well outside the cabinet boundaries. Isn’t that amazing. And then forgetting about the song as a whole and the message and emotion conveyed.

I found myself just listening to music. It is just there filling the room. Natural, flowing, unforced. If I was to ask myself after listening to a song how wide the soundstage was or deep the bass was I couldn’t tell you. All I could say would be that I was totally captivated by the performance.

When listening back and being much more analytical you realise that all the audiophile building blocks are there. Wide soundstage, realistic timbre, great rhythm etc. It is just that no one area sticks out as being more impressive than another.

All the elements come together to create an emotionally captivating performance.

The amplifier belies it’s 11 WPC power output by sounding like a much bigger beast but still with the delicacy that valves are renowned for and the Droplet 3.1 simply looks stunning. Better in the flesh and than in the photographs. I suspect the rock solid build quality and filterless dac all play their part.

So all in all this is one hell of a system. The incredible thing is that all this can be had for less than half the price of the Linn system. Now I am not going to start knocking that system. It too, is superb. But for my ears the valves edge it. And by some margin.

Before you upgrade or if you are starting afresh with a reasonable budget give Jim a call and get a demonstration. I am sure you will be astounded at what this little set up can do.

Reference 3A Dulcet

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