Totem Model 1 Signature Review – A Giant Amongst Small Speakers

The Totem Model 1 Signature

My desire to try out the Totem Model 1 Signature has not been with a view to changing from the wonderful Majik 140 but simply to see if there is an alternative brand that can offer a synergistic match to my Linn electronics at a price point between the Majik and Akurate ranges.

I am aware that the upgrade path with the Majik range would be to go “activ” before taking the jump to Akurate level but there is a substantial financial investment required to do this. Also, space for the extra amplification is required. Purchasing a set of speakers slightly more expensive than the Majik’s may yield a better interim sonic return on your money.

And so, after Phil at Totem UK kindly offered to loan me a pair of the Model 1’s, I had them set up next to the 140’s and was ready to see when these diminutive boxes could do.

The Model 1S is a two way standmount design with a heavily modified Dynaudio Bass Driver and Seas metal dome tweeter. Two pairs of fabulous WBT binding posts adorn the rear of each speaker which naturally allow either single wire (with links), bi-wire or bi-amp configuration. For the time I had the speakers I bi-wired them.

The Dynaudio Bass Driver

The loaned pair of speakers were finished in a fantastic Cherry veneer. The cabinets are made in a traditional woodworking method utilising lock mitred joints and this is reflected in the way the cabinet feels: solid as a rock.

The insides of the cabinet walls are also veneered and then lined with a material called borosilicate. According to Totem this is vastly superior to the traditional use of foam which can not only degrade over time but can also store electromagnetic energy influencing the performance of the drivers. I am no scientist but this to my mind does make sense and something I had not considered before.

I used the only pair of speaker stands I own which were collecting dust in the garage namely the Custom design RS300. I used them filled and would recommend the heavier more inert the support for these speakers the better.

As recommended by Totem I set the speakers up firing straight ahead. I never felt it necessary to experiment with toe in.

The Model 1’s have a soundstage that has to be heard to be believed

The system with which I exclusively used the Model 1’s is as follows:

Linn DS

Lector CD7

Linn Majik Kontrol Pre-amplifier

Akurate 2200 Power Amplifier

Cabling was all Linn

To start I played one of my favourite James Taylor tracks: Gaia from the Hourglass album. The first thing that struck me was the sheer enormity and solidity of the soundstage. James Taylor’s voice was locked dead centre in cavernous acoustic space with backing singers spread to the sides and beyond the speakers. Each instrument was clearly delineated and easy to follow. Not in a surgical, clinical fashion – the presentation was organic and rich with a slight hint of forwardness that made gave life to the recording.

Linn use the 2K driver configuration in the 140’s to aid dispersion of the higher frequencies but the simple set up the Model 1’s created a presentation that was wider, cleaner and more focussed than I have ever heard through the Linn’s.

With regards to high frequency rendition and again competing with Linn’s tweeter/super tweeter approach the 1’s seemed to be more extended although not quite as smooth. Certainly not aggressive though. There was a lot more detail at this level which made the high frequencies more obvious.

There was a leanness to the bass as you would expect but after a while I didn’t feel like I was missing out on the message of the music as the bass produced seemed deep enough with acoustic bass certainly easier to follow than with the Linn. The rest of the presentation was so involving and natural that after a while I didn’t give it a second thought. It wasn’t until plugged the Linn’s back in that I appreciated what was missing.

The Seas Treble Unit

I have now spent many a happy hour playing track after track discovering what these incredible little speakers can do. Each track would throw up a new level of detail or nuance that would put a smile on my face. Listening to the likes of Eva Cassidy can be unnerving with her voice and acoustic guitar palpable between the speakers.

If your music collection is predominantly made up of any of the following or similar then I can confidently say that, subject to your electronics being up to the job, these speakers are for you:

Diana Krall, Norah Jones, James Taylor, Dougie McLean, Lucy Kaplansky, Keb Mo, Eva Cassidy, Alison Krauss, Gretchen Peters, Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach.

If you live on a musical diet of Metallica, AC/DC, Mahler or Wagner the Model 1’s will simply not give you the bottom end authority to do justice to the types of music synonymous with these artists/composers.

To conclude these are truly world class speakers that seem to defy the laws of physics. The bass they can produce has to be heard to be believed. But, to me, it is in terms of sound staging, reproduction of acoustic instruments and vocals (especially female) where they score most highly. They are also thoroughly engaging connecting you to the message and emotion of the music being reproduced. Many times I would find myself listening through track after track happily discovering new details.

Traditional driver configuration

So where is the downside? Well, the speakers retail at around £2,200 which is around 30% higher than the Linn Majik 140’s. Not an insignificant outlay for a compact pair of speakers.

The market for compact standmount speakers is also jam packed with alternatives from the likes of Proac, Harbeth, Dynaudio, Kudos, Sonus Faber and Monitor Audio to name but a few.

I have owned or extensively listened to speakers from all of the above brands and whilst the Totems are top of the pile when it comes to cost I believe their sonic performance justifies the outlay. Something that cannot be said for many other brands. When you add in the quality of the construction and the material’s used (which gives peace of mid from a long term performance perspective) then I think that they are worth the asking price.

I would urge you to try and get to listen to a pair. If not to buy at least to get to hear what is possible to achieve with a properly engineered mini monitor. You may want to leave your credit card at home because one listen could be enough to make you want to buy a pair right there and then. To me they are that good.

Link to Totem website: http://totemacoustic.com/en/hi-fi/compact/model-1-signature/

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Linn Davaar – My Thoughts

Screenshot of Davaar on my Macbook Pro

Sounds like a character from Star Trek but it is in fact the latest version of Kinsky Desktop control point on my Mac. I finally got round to downloading it and have been listening to lots of different types of music since.

So what are the differences? Well operationally none as far as I can see. It certainly looks prettier than the last Cara version but in terms of ergonomics it would appear to be very similar.

As far as sound quality is concerned there are some subtle differences. To me the soundstage appears a little more holographic with instruments placed wider and deeper. Also music is presented cleaner and more, I am sorry, accurately without losing the organic qualities of Cara.

As I say though differences are subtle and nothing earth shattering. Just a small evolutionary step from Cara that seems to me well worth downloading. At least it is free and would appear to be reversible if one doesn’t take to it.

I would be really interested in the the thoughts of those that have “upgraded”.

Incidentally the Will Young album is the wife’s. Some other dodgy ones in there but that one is definitely not mine.

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!

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.

VPI Classic Turntable Review – A legend is born?

My VPI Classic with Denon DL304 Cartridge

Of all the elements of my system the one that has changed the least over the years has been the turntable. Whereas there have been numerous CD Players, Amplifiers and Speakers I have owned perhaps 3 or 4 different turntables though my hi-fi love affair.

There are a couple of reasons for this. I think that one of the main things with it is, to my ears, analogue always sounds “right” no matter the vinyl source. Yes the further up the chain you go you get better bass, more detail and all the other stereotypical adjectives but the basic foundations of all the analogue replay systems I have heard have been consistently solid. Never have been able to say the same for CD for example.

This is why turntables from 40 years ago are still going strong and provided superb replay in high end systems today.

The other reason is software. My total musical collection has been split 70/30 in favour of CD.

I came to the VPI Classic from an AA Challenger. I loved the industrial look for the Challenger and it’s huge soundstage and bass reproduction. What I didn’t like was the fact that it did have some speed stability issues that I just couldn’t resolve.

The walnut is a great finish – it is also available in black

To my mind speed stability in any turntable is fundamental and the foundation upon which all other aspects can exist. Most high end companies do get this right but there are some that don’t. Any variation in speed when playing a record back is going to be immediately noticeable and irritating. It makes me want to immediately switch off and put a CD on.

There are no such issues with the Classic. When you unbox the turntable and the platter from their respective boxes it is like creating something carved from solid rock so well made are the main components. The uni-pivot tonearm is a masterpiece of design and purpose. If someone were to break into the house I think the tonearm would be the first thing I would reach for. One whack over the head with it would put anyone down!

The uni-pivot tonearm is a sight to behold in the flesh

Simple to set up – you do need a very large solid surface to take the weight and size – and once cartridge alignment and levelling are out of the way you are ready to go.

Once plugged into the amazing MC phonostage in the Linn Kontrol preamp (a total revelation for me by the way) and you put a record on the platter the musical presentation matches the build quality and looks. Every piece of music has a granite, iron fist drive to it. It is not a fast sounding deck. It reminds me of a huge American 18 wheeler in overdrive. It just keeps going and going and going……..

I put Dire Straits’s Communique album on. Electric guitars leapt from the speakers and then the drums thundered in the first track suddenly powering way in my lounge. Mark Knopfler’s voice was dead centre and more intelligible than I have ever heard it. He doesn’t have the best voice in the world and can sound a little odd with the processing applied to his voice. Not here though. I listened to the whole album and then put it on again. Honestly, it was that good.

Since that first listen it has never let me down sounding wonderful whatever the material.

So why is it that I yearn to try an LP12? Part of it is getting the Linn bug, I think. Anyway whatever, a fascinating comparison that would be………

Stunning design and build quality – the Classic is set to be a classic

All photographs taken with the Leica X1.

A Linn System at Home – Reality Check?

The real test of any system – to state the obvious – is how well it works at home. I dread to think of the amount of kit I have brought home from the dealers demo room only to realise that it simply does not synergise with the acoustics in my lounge.

It can be an expensive and painful experience to keep box swapping until the right combination of factors work well in your room.

Getting the speakers right and working well in one’s room is essential I believe and along with the best source one can afford a good pair of speakers is a major building block for enjoying music in the home. If a pair of speakers are not working well in a room everything up the chain will not be able to give of it’s best.

The first part of system to arrive – purely coincidently – was the speakers and I was able to set these up with the outgoing system before it was sold and sent to new owners.

It was with some trepidation that I hooked them up. The reason for this was that the previous pair of speakers were the second best speakers I have ever owned – the Harbeth Super HL5’s.

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Harbeth Super HL5 – worthy of their reputation as a BBC Monitor

They are well deserving of their reputation and quality and on vocals I have still to hear anything better – even the Linn. They are, though, far from perfect.

If my tastes we limited to purely Acoustic/Vocal/Small scale classical and jazz music then I have not heard a better speaker other than some Living Voice RW’s that I used to own. I could very happily settle down with the Harbeth’s for as long as they would last and need nothing more.

Whilst I have a huge collection of this type of music I also enjoy occasionally rocking out to the likes of AC DC , Metallica or Maiden. This to me is where the Harbeth’s started to come unstuck. They certainly don’t like to be played loud. In fact, Alan Shaw owner and designer of Harbeth speakers, specifically states that music should not be played “loud” through the Harbeths and to avoid this so that the driver’s are not damaged. I also think that at volume the thin wall design of the speaker also starts to add too much to the sound and it does get a little messy. Experimenting with rock/heavy metal and they do start to lose it a little.

They are also not the prettiest speaker to look at which never sat well with the boss of the house although she patiently put up with them for around 18 months.

The other weak point of the Harbeth’s is soundstaging. They present the music as a whole and the holographic imaging that some speakers seem to excel at is missing. To me this was a good thing. The problem with speakers that image supremely in my opinion is that it is both a blessing and a curse. On the right recording, sat in precisely the right spot and with the light’s dimmed these types of speakers present a soundstage that you could reach out and touch.

Unfortunately not every recording is of such a high quality and it is not always possible to occupy the sweet spot.

Anyway, with the Harbeth’s out of the way the Majik 140’s were carefully unpacked and positioned either side of the fireplace. They are finished as well as any speaker I have had and the veneer would seem to be of an excellent quality.

Each driver is covered by it’s own individual metal grill which is fitted flush with the cabinet. This gives a great balance between aesthetics and protection. I have always enjoyed the look of a speaker with the grills off but have been constantly paranoid about little fingers shoved into the drivers. No such worries here.

The Linn Majik 140’s in place at home

So how do they sound? Straight out of the box, pretty darned fine.

It took Trevor from HOL around an hour and a half to get the DS set up in my home. It seemed a simple process to get software sorted and various bits of equipment talking to each other and Trveor took his time to ensure that everything was working as it should.

I also bought a Majik Kontrol pre amp and Akurate (old style) 2200 Power amp from House of Linn and Trevor also installed these. The Majik 140’s were bi-wired with Linn cable and finally with all the bit’s and pieces talking to each other the full blown system all Linn system was ready to be put through it’s paces.

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Linn Majik Kontrol Pre-Amp

Could it live up to what I heard at the House of Linn dem room?

Not having the old DS at home and bearing in mind that the demo and aural memory a fixed at HOL’s main room any comparison does have caveats, however, the one thing that I am convinced of is that the new DS is significantly better than the old.

Without being able to do this direct A/B comparison I felt the best test for the new bit of equipment would be to compare it to my AMR CD-777 CD Player – the last survivor from my former system.

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AMR CD-777 – a briliant silver disc spinner in it’s own right

Switching between the two was interesting. First of all the bottom line is that the DS is better. I guess it should be. As a stand alone unit the RRP is over twice that of the AMR CD Player. Even having said this it is easy to hear the superiority of the DS over conventional CD. There is less mush to the presentation. Music pours forth in a much cleaner, more open and overall more real way. You can almost sense that you are being brought closer to the original venue whether it is a stadium stage or studio.

All in all the system lived up to my expectations and as the weeks and months have gone on and I have finally ripped all of my CD’s to the network drive I continue to appreciate the system. It has allowed me to delve deeper into my music collection and a quick and convenient way at the same time as providing musical satisfaction way beyond what I could have hoped for.

The reality check? Only that in an effort to simplify the storage of my music I just happened to stumble upon the best system I have ever had in my home!

So, what’s next? At some point in the future (near, hopefully) I want to change my current VPI Classic to an LP12. Will provide an update as and when this proves possible…….

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Linn Akurate DS Review – My Future in Audio at Home

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Linn. The mere name when mentioned amongst audiophiles usually brings about two reactions: devotion or hatred. Occasionally, those who hate the brand have a grudging respect for the longevity of the Scottish hi-fi manufacturer in such a fickle audiophile marketplace. Many brands have come and gone or been swallowed up by large conglomerates. This, though, is where any positives from them abruptly end.

A quick scan of internet hi-fi forums (naturally outside of Linn’s own) reveal a strength of negative feeling usually reserved for genocidal superpowers. Linn Products are generally perceived as overpriced, overhyped and underwhelming. It is never clear whether any of Linn’s detractors have actually listened to the equipment. I suspect in many cases they haven’t.

I took the decision to go and have a listen to a Linn system after coming to something of a crossroads in my audiophile journey.

After 20 years of swapping boxes in out of my system in an effort to get to closer to the music to coin a well worn phrase I was left with a great valve based system that produced a much heat as all the radiators in the house put together (and probably cost as much to run), needed an hour or so of warm up time and regularly required me rugby tackling my 3 year old daughter to stop her from removing the exposed valves when cold or causing severe burns when the amplifier was switched on.

With the valve based system the means always seemed to justify the ends and in terms of sound quality I was more than satisfied. From a system journey perspective I have owned valve amplifiers for at least the last 10 years and could never have imagined going back to solid state. Also, the upgrade bug hadn’t hit for a while which was always a good sign from a financial, spousal and mental health perspective.

Despite this I have for a while followed with interest the hard disk based audio solutions that seemed to be becoming the format of choice for many audiophile manufacturers. A couple of years ago a friend of mine took the plunge and got rid of his CD player and went totally computer based for his audio. I told him he was mad and that CD was here to stay for the foreseeable future and after a very brief flirtation with a Logitech Squeezebox felt that, despite the flaws inherent in the little silver discs, hard disk audio still had a long way to go to compete with CD. Again I had these pre-conceived ideas based on what I had experienced in my system.
Despite invitations I didn’t (and haven’t, yet) heard his system.

Other than the impracticalities of my system I also found that my house was getting filled with CD’s. My study was overflowing with to the point where I had completely run out of storage. There were pools of CD’s around my hi-fi rack, boxes of them gathering dust on top of cupboards, some in the car, some in the kids bedrooms. The straw that broke the camels back was when I was trying to find a couple of albums to play when I had friends round. I was keen to show of this singer (can’t remember the name now) and in my determination to find it I must have spent half an hour going through shelf after shelf and box after box in an effort to locate the two evasive slim line jewel cases.

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Trying to find the right CD was proving to be impossible!

In the end I gave up and returned to the lounge disappointed and empty handed. They turned up in a pile of CD’s behind the study door a couple of days later.

There must be a better to solution that would satisfy my audiophile needs. And what better place to start than a company who if the market is to be believed stopped manufacturing CD players ion the basis that there hard disk audio solution sounded significantly batter,. Enter, stage left, Linn.

First thing to do was to find a local dealer where I could go and listen. Where I live is generally bereft of any dealers selling high end equipment and the closest I could find was around 25 miles away from where I live. Not round the corner but close enough to bundle the wife and two kids in the car and make the journey to see what all the fuss was about. Why take two ears when you can take 8 and also set you friendly dealer the challenge of two children to keep entertained and an inquisitive wife who won’t fall for the usual audiophile flannel that she thinks I would. As if!

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House of Linn are based in a small town north of Manchester. Their business is based out of a large semi-detached Victorian house and each of the rooms downstairs and on the first floor is a separate dedicated listening room. Each room contains a different level of the Linn System hierarchy. From Majik to Akurate to Klimax they are able to demonstrate each system in it’s own tailor made environment pretty much as you would experience it at home.

There are none of the usual soulless listening rooms that you would usually come across at regular dealers. With a coffee in hand and the FLAC files I had brought loaded up onto their laptop we sat on the huge sofa in the main listening room ready to listen. In front of us sat a pair of Majik 140 floorstanding speakers. Electronics consisted of a Majik DS and 1200 power amplifier. A simple two box system that took up no room at all. I could see my wife’s eyes light up.

Whilst I (and she) would never say she was an audiophile she does enjoy music played through a good system and has a good ear for what sounds right and always a great leveller when, in the past, enthusiasm for a product has gotten the better of me.

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The fascia of the DS is uncluttered and simple to operate although a third party piece of software such as ChorusDS, Plugplayer or Songbook are essential to get the most of your DS.

Trevor sat between my wife and I and went through the simplicity of the control software on their iPad. He brought up the Album search screen and before long Alison Krauss with singing Down to the River to Pray from her live album with Union Station.

So far so good. The sound was very clean and detailed with a good soundstage. The warmth that comes with the valve based system was missing but so was the mush that I had forgotten was there. It lacked a little emotion but it was music I could easily live with in the long term. It didn’t reach out and throttle you like some systems (Naim being one I heard recently) and neither did it’s presentation draw attention to itself in any one area. We listened to a half dozen more tracks, chatting along the way about how the DS system works from a technical perspective in the home.
Trevor then suggested I try the Akurate DS. In his opinion, good as the Majik is, many of his customers upgrade before long to the Akurate. I was a little sceptical and thought at the time it was the typical dealer ploy of trying to squeeze more money out of a customer. The number of times I have gone with a budget of £2,000 only to be shown all the products in a shop at £3,000………and then walked out.

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The rear of the unit features balanced and unbalanced connections.

Trevor swapped over the necessary boxes and we were ready to go. We cued up the Alison Krauss track again. Whilst we did this Trevor was explaining some of the other attributes of their iPad and how this works. When the music started again this time my wife and I were both stopped in our tracks.

The difference between the Majik and the Akurate is, to my ears, night and day. More detail, more soundstage, width, height and depth. There is also some added warmth and a presentation more akin to analogue.

It really felt as though you were listening into that concert in the auditorium in Kentucky. The vocals were much better projected and the separation of voices when guys of Union Station came in with their harmonic backing was spookily real.

Track after track revealed the same improvements. Hearing into a recording was much easier. Suffice to say I was sold on the idea and what seemed anathema to me to store music as a file on a hard drive was now clear to me as the future of music storage.

We left with smiles on our faces discussing not if we could afford to upgrade the system but how we were going to do it………………………….

And do it we did. Before the order went in we discovered that a new improved version of the Akurate DS was to be released. Waiting time would be a little longer but we were assured that the wait would be more than worth it for the improvements over the old unit.

Next up, listening to the Linn System at home with the new DS………