(Classik) Sugg. Retail: $2350 (CAN)
Linn Kan III Loudspeakers Sugg. Retail $795 pr (CAN)
Distributor: Aldburn Electronics Ltd., 1455A Crown Street,
North Vancouver, B.C. V7J 1G4
(604) 986-5357 FAX 986-5335
(Reprinted from the 99 Almanac Issue)
Over the past few years Linn has become increasingly system-oriented, this trend accelerated by their strong move into high end home theatre. It was inevitable, therefore, that they would introduce an entry-level high end audio system, and here it is. Very cleverly, the product designers at the Glasgow company have combined a CD player based on the Mimik with an integrated amplifier based on the Magik 1 , and redesigned the Kan speakers to go with this new component. They had already made it possible by the inclusion of the Kudos module to turn the Mimik into a receiver, so this new system should come as no surprise to Linn watchers.
The Classik looks very much like the company’s other products, more specifically, like a Mimik, but its remote control is what tells of its real sophistication. There are inputs for Tuner and Aux, as well as a pair of tape monitors. Bass and Treble controls are offered, too, and the remote will also control a Linn Kudos tuner in addition to the CD player. With the outboard tuner or the built-in CD player, the Classik, allows you to “wake up to your favourite music with clock, alarm and timer features.”
On the rear panel, in addition to the already mentioned inputs and outputs, we find a preamp output pair of RCAs which can be used to drive another system, or to add a subwoofer to the system, something that can also be done using the second pair of speaker outputs. Incidentally, the speaker outputs use a special recessed connector that probably pleases the IEC, but requires matching male connectors, these supplied on cables by Linn. Power output of the Classik is rated at 75 watts per channel into 4 ohms, the impedance of the Kan speakers bottoming out at about 5 ohms (more on this below).
We did our standard tracking tests on the CD section, and these showed the player to have excellent test-bench performance. In the Verany calibrated dropouts, it played cleanly through track 32 (1.25mm), with a few ticks on 33 (1.5mm), while in the narrow gauge dropouts it managed 41 (1.5mm), and in the double dropouts played 49 (2 x 2.4mm), quite unusual in our tests.
CD-CHECK was also nicely traversed, with all but the 5th track played cleanly, 4 having a dropout of 1.125mm.
In our random error disc, the Classik was less successful, playing to the 43-second mark before locking up, while in the partially transparent CD it ticked slightly and had a bit of garble from heavy error concealment on tracks 1 and 2, but managed 3 and 4 cleanly. These results suggest a player that corrects and conceals errors in a continuous signal (like those on the Verany and CD-CHECK discs) better than it does musical information, but still can handle large dropouts up to 2mm. In later listening tests to the system it tracked perfectly, and judging by the transparent-disc results should have little trouble with pinholes and other similar CD manufacturing defects.
In comparison to other CD players under test, the Linn sounded very good, and was the one to most closely approach the sound quality and resolution of the Arcam Alpha 9, which is itself a powerful compliment. Heard in our reference system through the Classik preamp outs, this player had excellent deep bass, a very open midrange, and an essentially easy quality that made things very musical and involving. This character was retained through the amplifier section, attesting to its transparency, which certainly matches that of the Mimik, adding a few watts of power in the process.
The Kans don’t seem to need much of that power to play quite loud, and showed good frequency response for speakers this small, being +/-3 dB from about 70 Hz to 10 kHz in the Pink Noise Sweep (PNS) at top. Their character tends to emphasize the lower midrange somewhat, with a rolloff above 2 kHz that will make them balance quite nicely in smaller rooms. Rear-ported, they will get some useful deep bass reinforcement from bookshelves, walls, or corners. The axial measurements show excellent dispersion, which will ensure uniformity of sound throughout the listening space.
I found the Kans’ sound quality, though detailed and spacious with particularly good depth, a little forward, but some listeners may find this quality endearing. It is possible to buy just the Classik electronics and mate them with other speakers. Some Canadian budget models might prove better values, but, on the other hand, there is no denying the synergy of the all-Linn system, and I’m sure many buyers will not question this. As well, I found that a little judicious use of the excellent Classik tone controls not only redressed this imbalance, but improved deep bass in the process. In fact, I tried the Paradigm Titans (tone controls set to flat) with the Classik, and found myself preferring the greater articulation and better soundstaging of the tweaked Kans.
A key to this might be found in the electrical phase shift through crossover seen in the midrange for each speaker; it is quite a bit greater in the Titan, more than +/-45.o., while the Kan varies somewhat less. I think this greater coherence, that is, sounds from woofer/midrange and tweeter starting and stopping more accurately in time, accounts for the Kans’ better image and soundstage depth. I think the ear can better perceive these micro-details and directional cues when they are more correctly coherent in their arrival at the listening position.
After that mini-essay on acoustics, I should look at the Kan impedance curve. As noted, it has its low point at about 5 ohms, this around 200 Hz, the highest impedance being in the bass near 100 Hz at 19 ohms. These speakers are not only quite sensitive, but an easy load, especially for the Classik, which has plenty of power to drive them.
In general, the more I listened to the full Classik system, the more I liked its clarity, imaging, and outright fidelity, the dynamic range quite surprising for the speaker size, as was bass reach and power. Whether you are seeking entry level high end, or a second smaller-room audio system, you’ll almost certainly find the Linn Classik a compelling option. You can even have it wake you up every morning as the ultimate bedroom system.