Wednesday, 19 February 2020


LINN Majik DS/2. Black. Excellent Condition. Boxed.

Manufactured by Linn Products of Glasgow, UK
Majik DS/2 Streamer
This is the latest version with Dynamik power supply, atandard analogue outputs and Exakt outputs
All black including fascia centre
Stream from NAS, PC, Tidal, Qobuz etc
Internet radio
Free software updates from Linn to keep it current
Excellent condition. Please see photos which are part of the description
Slimline remote control which has a couple of marks
Mains lead
All original box and packaging

Selling due to upgrade to another Linn

Please search on ebay.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

HIFI WIGWAM SHOW 15 MARCH 2020 @ Kegworth UK - PLAYLIST in Room 120

Its getting close now, so preparations are well underway.

Audiophile Musings will be playing the following ACTIVE system at the show this year in Room 120:

Linn Akurate Exakt DSM Streamer
Linn Akurate Exaktbox6/1 Digital Crossover and Multi-Channel DAC
2x Lejonklou Tundra 2.5 Stereo Power Amps
Graham Audio LS5/9 (modified) Loudspeakers

When listening to this system, you can hear the following tracks which will be on auto shuffle, but we'd rather you chose a track of your preference - JUST ASK!

Artist Track Approx Genre Year
Agnes Obel Fuel To Fire Folk 2013
Alberta Cross City Walls Blues/Rock 2009
Alex Kassian Hidden Tropics Electronic 2019
Autograf Dream (Autografas Deep Dub) Deep house 2015
Black Sabbath Planet Caravan Rock 2000
Bob Moses Far From The Tree (from the 2013 'Far From The Tree' EP) Electronica 2015
Bob Moses Tearing Me Up (RAC Mix) Electro 2016
Bonobo Flicker Electronic 2019
Bugge Wesseltoft & Henrik Schwarz Leave My Head Alone Brain Electronic 2011
Calexico Crumble Folk/Rock 2003
Calexico Pepita Folk/Rock 2003
Calexico Woven Birds Pop/Rock 2003
Calexico Man Made Lake Folk/Rock 2008
Cat Power Blue Folk/Rock 2008
Chris Jones Darlin' Cory Folk 2003
Chris Jones No Sanctuary Here Folk/Rock 2003
Chris Jones & Steve Baker Roadhouses & Automobiles Blues 2003
Chris Jones & Steve Baker Damm Good Run Blues 2005
Chris Rea Looking For A Rainbow Rock 1989
Chris Rea Texas Rock 1989
Christine And The Queens 5 Dollars Pop 2018
Christine And The Queens Damn (What Must A Woman Do) Pop 2018
Craig Armstrong Let's Go Out Tonight (feat. Paul Buchanan) Electronic 1997
Craig Armstrong Weather Storm Electronic 1997
Daft Punk Giorgio by Moroder Electronic 2013
Damien Rice Cannonball Folk/Rock 2003
Damien Rice Cold Water Folk/Rock 2003
Damien Rice Delicate Folk/Rock 2003
Damien Rice Volcano Folk/Rock 2003
Daniel Lanois Shine Rock 2003
Dead Can Dance Agape Folk 2012
Dead Can Dance All In Good Time Folk 2012
Deadmau5 Avaritia Dance 2014
Dean Fraser Big Up/Armageddon Time Jazz/Reggae 1997
Death Cab For Cutie Doors Unlocked And Open Folk/Rock 2011
Devon Allman Time Machine Blues 2013
Dire Straits Six Blade Knife Rock 1978
Dire Straits Fade to Black Rock 1991
Dirty Vegas Days Go By (Acoustic Mix) Pop 2003
Dominique Fils-Aimé Birds (24_88) Soul / Funk / R&B 2018
Dominique Fils-Aimé Strange Fruit (24_88) Soul / Funk / R&B 2018
Doug MacLeod Serious Doin' Woman Blues 2015
Doug MacLeod You Got It Good (And That Ain't Bad) Blues 2015
Eddi Reader Hello In There Folk 1992
Eddi Reader Dear John Folk 1994
Elbow Asleep In The Back Indie 2001
Elbow Mirrorball Indie 2008
Elvis Presley Fever Pop Rock 2015
Erykah Badu Next Lifetime R&B 1998
Eva Cassidy Fields Of Gold Folk/Rock
Felix LaBand Black Shoes Electronic
Ficci & Laura Hahn Ficci - Breathe You In (feat. Laura Hahn) Electronica 2014
Fink Perfect Darkness (Live from Union Chapel, London Oct 5 2011) Folk/Rock 2012
Flash And The Pan Walking In The Rain Pop 1990
Fleetwood Mac Go Your Own Way Rock 2011
Fleetwood Mac The Chain Rock 2011
Funkerman Speed Up (ATFC Remix) Dance 2012
Ganga Don't Wake Me Up Electronic 2006
Ganga Down But Up Electronic 2006
Georges-Emmanuel Lazaridis Grandes Etudes de Paganini Etude III Classical 2007
Hue & Cry Makin' Whoopee Jazz
Hugh Masekela Stimela (The Coal Train) World Blues 2006
I Am Kloot Hold Back the Night Rock 2013
I Am Kloot Let Them All In Rock 2013
Ian Shaw A Good And Simple Man Jazz 2008
It's Immaterial Driving Away From Home (Jims Tune) Pop 2008
Jakatta American Dream (Afterlife Mix) Electronica 2001
James Taylor Gaia Folk/Rock 1997
Jay Fisher Old Man McKeensley Folk/Rock
Jennifer Warnes Big Noise, New York Pop 1992
Jenny Lewis Pretty Bird Country 2008
Joan Armatrading Love And Affection R&B 1976
Joan As Police Woman Get Direct Rock 2014
Joe Bonamassa Feelin' Good Blues/Rock 2009
John Lee Hooker The Healer (with Carlos Santana & The Santana Band) Blues 1989
John Martyn A Little Strange Folk/Rock 1996
José González Crosses Acoustic 2003
Justin Currie No, Surrender Rock 2008
k.d. Lang Constant Craving Folk 1992
Keb’ Mo’ For What It's Worth Jazz 2004
Ken Haddock One Woman Folk 2019
Kiasmos Looped Electronic 2014
Kiasmos Thrown Electronic 2014
Kiki Dee Amoureuse Folk
Kiki Dee Don't Go Breaking My Heart Folk
La Roux In For The Kill (Skream's Let's Get Ravey Remix) Electronic 2009
London Grammar Wicked Game Pop
London Grammar Hey Now Rock 2013
Lorde Royals Pop 2013
Lyle Lovett North Dakota Alternative Country 1992
Malia & Boris Blank Magnetic Lies Electronic/Jazz 2013
Malia & Boris Blank Tears Run Dry Jazz 2013
Marta Gomez Lucia Jazz/Classical 2009
Mary Gauthier Falling Out Of Love Country 2005
Massive Attack Three Electronic 1994
Michael Jackson Liberian Girl Pop 2001
Millenia Nova Beautiful Electronica 2000
Nick Drake 'Cello Song Folk 1969
Nils Frahm Ode Alternative 2015
Nils Lofgren Black Books Folk/Rock 1997
Nils Lofgren Wonderland Rock 1997
Nitin Sawhney Letting Go Chill 1999
Pete Alderton (She Said That) Evil Was Her Name Blues 2012
Pete Alderton Jesus In A Bottle Blues 2012
Pete Alderton Passing Ships Blues 2012
Peter Gabriel Don't Give Up Folk/Rock 2012
Peyton Falling (EK's Poolside Mix) Electronica 2008
Pitch Black Dub Smoke Electronica 2016
Ray LaMontagne Be Here Now Pop/Rock 2006
Richard Thompson Easy There, Steady Now Folk 1994
Richard Thompson Mingus Eyes Folk 1994
Royksopp Sparks Drum & Bass 2002
Sam Cooke Chain Gang Blues
Sam Cooke Cupid Blues
Sarah McLachlan Ice Folk/Rock 1994
Sarah McLachlan Wait Folk/Rock 1994
Schiller Das Glockenspiel (Schill Out Mix) Electronica 2004
Seal Kiss From A Rose Soul 1995
Seal Love's Divine (Acoustic) Soul 2004
Seal Prayer For The Dying (Acoustic) Soul 2004
Semisonic Closing Time Rock 1998
Semisonic Secret Smile Rock 1998
Son Little Loser Blues Blues 2016
St Germain Dub Experience II Electronic 1995
St Germain Mary L. Electronica 2015
Steely Dan Babylon Sisters Jazz/Rock 2000
Steely Dan Cousin Dupree (24/96) Jazz/Rock 2001
Stephen Fearing Carsten Folk 1989
Stephen Fearing Out To Sea Folk 1989
Stephen Fearing Welfare Wednesday Folk 1989
Swing Out Sister Breakout Pop 2001
Talking Heads Road To Nowhere Pop 2008
T‐Bone Burnett Fear Country Blues 2006
Tchaikovsky 'Dance Of The Reeds' From The Nutcracker Classical 2003
Tears For Fears Mad World Pop 2007
Ten Walls Walking With Elephants Pop 2014
Tep No Me And My Guitar Electronica 2016
The Black Keys Sister Blues/Rock 2011
The Brand New Heavies Boogie (Eric Kupper Mix) Electronic 2004
The Cardigans Erase/Rewind Pop 1998
The Farm All Together Now Pop 1995
The Jeff Healey Band Blue Jean Blues Blues/Rock 1988
The Killers Human Rock 2008
The Wailin' Jennys All The Stars Country 2011
The Wailin' Jennys Swing Low Sail High Country 2011
The XX Reunion Balearic/Downtempo 2012
Thea Gilmore Bad Moon Rising Folk 2003
Thievery Corporation Amerimacka Electronica 2010
Thievery Corporation The Richest Man In Babylon Electronica 2010
Thom Yorke Black Swan Blues 2006
Thom Yorke Traffic Alt. Rock 2019
Thomas Newman Still Dead Soundtrack 2000
Tom Baxter Night Like This Jazz 2007
Tom Baxter Skybound Jazz 2007
Tom Jones Thunderball Soundtrack 2002
Tom Robinson The End Of The Rainbow Folk/Rock 1993
Tunng Jenny Again Folk 2006
U2 Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me Rock 1995
U2 In A Little While (N.O.W Remix) Rock 2003
Underworld Banstyle, Sappys Curry Electronic 1996
Underworld Caliban's Dream (feat. Dockhead Choir, Dame Everlyn Glennie, Only Men Alound, Elizabeth Roberts, Esme Smith, Alex Trimble) Electronic 2012
Was (Not Was) Papa Was A Rolling Stone Pop 1992
Willie Nelson What Is It You Wanted Country 1993
Willy Porter Cool Water Folk 1995
Willy Porter Jesus on the Grille Folk 1995
X-Press 2 Lazy (Original) Dance 2002
Yello Friday Smile Electronic 2009
Yello Kiss In Blue (Feat. Heidi Happy) Electronic 2009
Yello X-Race Electronic 2009
Yello Blue Biscuit (24_48) Electronic 2016
Yello Starlight Scene (24_48) Electronic 2016
Zero 7 Destiny Electronica 2001
Zero 7 Give It Away Electronica 2001

Monday, 10 February 2020

Belfast Show - March 2020

Last year upcoming audio dealer Kantata Audio had their first foray into delivering a hifi show, a useful addition to the Northern Ireland scene.  Based in the Crowne Plaza in Belfast, it seems to have been well recieved, see the review below:

On March 28th March 2020 Kantata are following up the 2019 successiwth a bigger show and wider range of exhibiting brands. Audioquest, Auralic, Lejonklou, Hegel and Amphion will be represented amongst others.  Perhaps the main draw will be Kudos speakers being driven by an active Exposure set up.

More details here:

Friday, 24 January 2020

THE Enthusiast's Hifi Show - The Alternative To The Commercial Shows - 15th March 2020

The time of the year that many in the Hifi communities look forward to is almost upon us.

How about a Hifi Show that offers:

- Over 45 systems to listen to
- Every one of them unique
- No manufacturer rooms
- No dealer rooms
- Only room upon room of enthusiasts playing their own systems
- Where you're encouraged to choose the music or bring your own
- Where you can chat Hifi and music without being sold to

Well, that's exactly what The Wam Show is all about.

This year it's at Kegworth again - a reasonably central location which has decent sized rooms along with pretty solid floors and walls.

Kegworth Hotel and Conference Centre
Packington Hill
DE74 2DF
15th March 2020 from 10am

More details are at the show's website:

Audiophile Musings will be there again this year.  We'll be playing a Linn Akurate Exakt Katalyst active system with Lejonklou power amplification.  Speakers will be Graham Audio LS5/9 (modified) and this will be the first public playing of them on the end of a Linn Exakt system.

See you there!

Previous reports:

2015 Part 1
2015 Part 2

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Speaker Cables Upgraded

I know there are those who thing a bit of wire 'twixt amp and speaker is just that - a bit of wire, and that nothing other than something is enough.

But I've heard enough cables to know that, within a system context, they can make a difference.  This doesn't mean all cables make an appreciable difference in all systems.  Nor does it mean that all systems benefit from changing cables.

Plus, there seems to be no direct relationship between the price of a cable, and its performance in a particular system.  So the best approach is to try a few - if you like what you hear, keep them. If you don't like what you hear don't keep them. If you think there is no difference in what you hear, keep the cheapest one.

And that about sums up my views on cables.  I don't rant about them making no difference. I don't swear blind that they can make a seismic change in a system. I don't extrapolate the experience in one system to all systems. Just try it and make up your own mind.

The 'musings system, in the last 15 years or so, has relied upon various flavours of Linn's heavy gauge multi-channel speaker cables.  So that's K400 for bi-amp / bi-active scenarios, K600 for tri-amp / tri-active scenarios and 2x K400 for quad-active for the Majik 140s.  And its just got on with its job and although I tried a number of different cables in the system over that period, the K stuff just seemed even handed and decent enough VFM.  For other systems I've found vanDamme blue in 2.5mm and 4mm gives great VFM and is even handed in the same way that the K cables behave.

A few years ago, local Naimist R tried out some SuperLumina cable against his existing NACA 5 (a cable I never liked in my system, but a great favourite for many years amongst Naimists).  In his Naim / Kudos Super 20 system it was a revelation - the whole thing sounded much more grown up. Lots of the over edgy presentation went away and the music flowed better. In Naim terms it was like upgrading an XPS to a 555DR power supply - so pretty significant. This was supported by hearing the same comparison in a dealer's place with a variety of speakers.  In every combination the SuperLumina was a step up from whatever cables were in place at or below the same kind of price.

So it had to be tried in the 'musings system and it brought similar benefit, but here its worth bearing in mind that one run of SuperLumina was only replacing 1/3 of the cables in use in a tri-active system. As is often the case with the PMC Twenty.26, after trying the cable across all the drivers, one at a time, it was the mid-range that benefited most from the cable improvement.  This closely followed by the treble and last the bass.  All sounded better with SL over K400/600.

Unfortunately its pretty expensive, and once in a system it tends to stay there as buyers are unlikely to have any reason to move on, so used examples are both infrequently available and snapped up very quickly. So this would have to be a gradual process, which was probably a good thing so the spend could be spread over time too.  The first length I purchased was negotiated in with the PMC purchase, the second pair obtained about 9 months later was secondhand and a few weeks ago the third pair entered the system, being "ex-dem" from a dealer.  It has been, therefore, a 20 month process to gradually replace 3x K lengths with 3x SL.  To make upgrades of this magnitude in an active system isn't something I can afford to do in one big lump, one of the downsides of the more complex approach.  The good thing though, is that feeling of getting a couple more improvements along the way...

Here's a picture of the full stack of cables behind the left hand speaker, for those who like that kind of thing :)

So now the system is

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

NAIM SBL Loudspeakers: From SNAXO Active to Linn Exakt: Guest Contributor

Here's something a little different.  The first ever "guest contributor" post on AudiophileMusings.  Below is Clive Gidney's experience of working with SpeakerFilters on development of Linn Exakt filters for the Naim SBL loudspeakers.

Full disclosure: the lead designer at SpeakerFilters is also the "editor at large" of AudiophileMusings.  Note the article below is entirely Clive's own words without any edits.  Enjoy, and thank you Clive for your contribution.


At the beginning of the year, having been running a pair of SBLs with a pair of 250s sort of bi amped (one for left channel only & one for right - just because I had 2 x 250s & hadn't got round to swapping them for a pair of 135s) I decided that it was time to do the proper thing & go active. 
 So SNAXO  & Supercap added and this gave a significant improvement in detail, soundstage, PRaT & all the things that SBLs are famous for... But I was still left with the feeling that they are a bit forward & a bit bass light. In fact a non audiophile friend described them as "a bit shouty".  And yes - I'd done all the set up things, as close to a solid brick wall as the skirting board would allow, re-sealed the bass loading box etc.
Then a couple of months ago I was at Brian & Trevor's in Manchester for a musical evening  listening to a Linn/Kudos Exakt active system thinking this system sounds amazing (although I would have liked to hear it with Naim power amps) but the transparency that the Exakt technology brought, which performs the crossover in the digital domain, was breath-taking. In the interval I remarking to one of the other attendees how great Exakt was & that I wished it was available for SBLs! And he said "I write Exakt filters for speakers that Linn doesn't support" OMG!! That person was Neil Hallworth of
So we embarked on the Exakt SBLs project.
Step 1 was to physically measure the SBL cabinets, the position of the drive unit centres, the front baffle slope etc. These numbers were then plugged into Linn's system to enable Linn's Space Optimisation to be enabled. That is available now for free for anyone using a Linn DS or DSM with SBLs via Konfig! 
Step 2 involved Neil calling at my house to take some electrical measurements of the drive units to measure their impedance.
Step 3 Neil then took these measurements together with some information on the crossover frequencies & slopes obtained from Naim to work some digital magic to create a first cut of the digital Exakt crossover filters. In fact he sent me three versions with different crossover slopes, 2nd order, 3rd order & 4th order. It was very quickly apparent that the 3rd order (which is what Naim used) was the best. The 2nd order sounded congested in the mid-range while the 4th order sounded as though there was a hole in it. He then sent me a 3rd order v2 without telling me what he'd done. When I tried it, it was clear that this was an improvement over v1 with better definition & spatial separation. The sound stage was more clearly defined & I was in heaven. The slightly bright & comparatively bass light presentation was gone without losing any of the strengths of musicality & PRaT that SBLs are renowned for. Neil assured me that there would be more to come in step 4 but I was so impressed that my SNAXO & Supercap were already up for sale!
Step 4 Neil called again to fine tune the filters. Firstly we agreed that in taming the brightness, they had lost a little of their sparkle. Now apparently, the sound waves emanating from all drive units have an interaction with the speaker cabinet front baffle and to compensate for this, within the Exakt crossover Neil had created a 0.8 dB treble filter. Now I'd been advised by John Jackson (ex Naim Senior Test & Service Engineer & currently Witch Hat Lead R&D Engineer) that the SBL cut away foam grill was designed to overcome the treble baffle interaction issue. So Neil removed the filter, updated the Exaktbox & sparkle was back. Hi hats shimmered, room acoustics were tangible, the space around instruments & performers improved. 
Next we played with the actual crossover frequency. With v1 the bass/mid roll off & treble roll on were at the same point 2.4khz which we'd got from one Naim source. In v2 the bass/mid was rolled off at 2.3khz & the treble rolled on at 2.5khz (from a different Naim source) So we tried widening the gap by 50hz either way - not as good. Leaving the bass/mid where it was but bringing the treble back again - immediate improvement!
Adding baffle filters for the bass/mid drivers for both the length & width of the cabinet added further improvements and the subtlety  of the changes that could clearly be heard was mind blowing;  -0.5 dB - too much, - 0.25 dB, not enough so we settled on - 0.4 dB. Adding a 1.5 dB lift in the bass from 0-60 hz - too much, 1.2 dB - still too much, 1.0 dB - bingo! In all we went through 17 variations fine tuning the Exakt crossovers in just over two hours. Imagine trying to do that with resistors & capacitors in the analogue domain!
The end result? Absolutely stunning. If you thought going from passive to active with a SNAXO was a big step... from SNAXO to Exakt is like having seven league boots on! Really, it's that good. 
Oh, the cost?  Well  I'm going to make a few assumptions. If you're already active with SBLs, then presumably you've got a good front end - LP12 around Akurate spec, a Naim NDX minimum, maybe NDS, or a Linn Akurate DS/DSM Katalyst, Naim 82/Supercap or more likely 52/Supercap, SNAXO / Supercap.
Hardware. You keep whatever power amps you're using - in my case a pair of olive Nap 250s which will retain your signature sound. Ideally you'll need a Linn Akurate System Hub which becomes your pre amp - £2700 new or about £1600 pre owned, & a Linn Akurate Exaktbox Katalyst which is where the majik happens (see what I did there) - £5000 new or I picked one up pre owned with 4 years warranty for £3200; And, you'll need a set of  Exakt filters from  which are just £295. These  can be tested for a free 2 week  trial period before purchase. Total cost  about £5400 pre owned or ~£8000 going new
But you can recoup say £1500 on your NDX, or £2000 on your Akurate DS, £2000 on your 82 /Supercap & £1500 on your SNAXO /Supercap = £5/5500 so approx. cost  neutral going pre owned :) And if you've got a 52 or an NDS you might even have some cash left over :)

A huge shout out for Neil of for all the work designing & refining the filters. 


Sunday, 26 May 2019

Inside Linn's Majik Exaktbox-i (pre-Katalyst)

As usual with Linn's Exaktboxes and power amplifiers, I recently lifted the lid on the Majik Exaktbox-i used for Exakt filter designing, to dim down the excessively bright blue LED behind the front panel.  That involves removing the sleeve and then the front panel in order to paint the LED with a Sharpie and then to fit it with a "lightdim" disk.

Whilst I was in there I took some pictures so we can see what the equipment looks like inside:

Plenty of ventilation on the underside

General overview - note that the power supply section (down the centre) is not branded "Dynamik" in the normal way, even though it is a Dynamik power supply

One half of the power amp sections

Speaker terminals

Ribbon cable attachments

The Exakt processing board sits over the top of one half of the power amp boards

Exakt Processors

Ribbon cables and dual cooling fans

Channels 5 to 8 power amp board id

Exakt processing board id

Good view of one of the centralised heatsinks

Exakt processor board close up

Dual cooling fans and central status LED - this is the one I've painted with a Sharpie and then covered with a lightdim

From the front of the left hand side power amp only board

From the front of the right hand power amp board (channels 1 to 4) and the Exakt board above

Saturday, 11 May 2019

4 Lots of Kudos in One Night - Passive and Active

Kudos' Titan 808 has been around a few years now, and has given a great account of itsself at multiple shows 'musings has attended in the UK and Germany.
Most recently with the rather good Naim SNAXO active system at the Chester Hifi show earlier in the month.  I also chose a Linn Exakt driven pair when presenting a "MyTunes" playlist evening at Manchester dealer brianandtrevors, where they were augmented by a pair of REL No 25 subwoofers.

But there's more to Kudos than their well received top of the range T-808.  There are entry level "X" models, mid-range "Super" models and 4 different interpretations of the Titan formula.  So what's the rest of the range like?  To find out, 'musings returned to brianandtrevors for an evening of Kudos discovery.  The evening followed a fairly typical approach for a joint dealer / manufacturer evening - gradually stepping up the range, but perhaps with a little twist tonight.  To allow the comparison of the speakers, a pretty much "no compromise" system was put together from Scottish manufacturer Linn:

A largely Klimax level LP12 - Radikal PSU (in the Akurate casework), Ekos SE2, Kandid and a booplinth.  Onboard was a Urika 2 phono stage which fed an Exakt signal to a Linn Klimax DSM acting as pre-amp and streamer.
Initially the KDSM ran with its internal Katalyst equipped stereo DAC to a Linn Klimax Twin/D stereo power amp.
I/C cables were Linn silvers, with Chord Music making sure there were no compromises on the speaker cable side.

That's quite some front end to feed into the first speaker we heard tonight - the diminutive little Kudos X2 compact floorstander.  Bear in mind that, at £1600, it was being fed by a system that included speaker cables that come in at (assuming they were 3m in length) 4x the price of the speakers.
It has to be said that these little speakers probably weren't designed for use in a room the size of tonight's dem room.  Before they were played, Kudos' Dave White introduced himself and the company philosophy - keep things simple and use the best quality components and cabinets that can be achieved at a price point.  Drivers all come from SEAS, modified or created to Kudos's own requirements.  So until the top of the range, simplicity means 2-way designs, uncluttered crossovers and quality cabinet veneers.  So the little boxes played and did a pretty good job.  Yes, there was a looseness in the bass, which goes surprisingly low, there was some vagueness in the treble but the music was flowing, feet tapping, even the room joining in with some modes didn't detract from enjoying what was going on.  It would be great to listen to these in a smaller room, where I'm sure they'd work pretty well.  We listened to a few tracks from the streamer then moved on with a 3x price jump to the middle of the range Super 20 speakers.

This is another 2-way floorstander, but around 850mm high and sporting significantly higher quality components.  Again the finish is superb with matched veneers on the baffles. Well, this was a significant step-up in the musical presentation to match the price change.  The SEAS tweeter in the S20 is several steps up from the X2 in terms of detail, definition, believability and control. Similar improvements come from the mid-bass driver. Curiously the initial impression was of a speaker producing less bass output than the baby floorstanders, but in reality its just hugely better controlled and keyed into the hooks and rhythms of the tune.  The treble presentation, whilst far more refined, is just a little to forward in the mix for my personal taste, but there's no doubt the others in the group of 12 were enjoying what they were hearing.

The next step up was 2x on the price-o-meter and takes us into Titan territory.  We didn't hear the 505 standmount tonight, going straight to the first of the floorstanders, the 606.  This is similar in height to the Super 20, but the cabinent is very differently constructed.  Dave introduced the isobaric mid-bass driver and the thin-walled inner cabinet which is surrounded by heavy MDF side panels that are connected to the inner panels with damping material.  The tweeter too is from SEAS's upper end Krescendo family, amended to Kudos spec - the tweeter alone costs more to Kudos than all the drivers put together in a pair of X2s.  They're very substantially built speakers, needing a trolley to move them around, even though they're still under a metre high.  And how was this?  Well, it wasn't all a complete step up from the Super 20.  Bass a little deeper, treble that much more clear and definitive in the way it starts and stops, vocals carrying more emotion, along with tighter imaging, most if it was good.  But for me the Super 20 won out on the bass lines keeping pace with the rest of the music, and providing that foot-tapping drive.  So not a complete success for me.  After a short break to refresh glasses, along came the "twist" of the demo.  The Kudos Super and Titan ranges have a little trick up their sleeves - they have a clever but simple connection panel on the rear that means they can be converted to work in active mode - that is, effectively removing the internal passive crossovers to allow power amplifiers to be connected directly to each drive unit with the splitting of the frequencies delivered by an active crossover in front of the power amps.  This works with Naim analogue active crossovers and with Devialet and Linn digital crossovers.

So the Klimax DSM changed its role from digital to analogue converter, to one feeding a still digital Exakt feed to a Linn Klimax Exaktbox/1.  The Exaktbox does the digital to analogue conversion, along with some clever stuff such as phase correction of the drive units (and no crossover phase distortion), time aligning the drive units and adjusting the speakers' output to counteract room modes that normally causes "boominess".  Because each drive unit now needs its own power amplifier channel, an additional Klimax Twin was pressed into action, along with more Chord Music speaker cables.  Now the Titans are singing. This is a massive step up in performance for these speakers, much as we've experienced before when hooking the Super 20s up to an Exakt system back at 'musings base.  The reservations with the 606 in passive mode are almost gone - there's still a little reticence in the bass lines, but its very minor now and allows the other elements to shine through.  The live Eva Cassidy track we started with on the X2s is now in a huge venue, the soundstage goes back a long way beyond the speakers, Eva's voice is full of emotion, inflections and phrasing details. Nice.  We listen to a good few tracks from the streamer. Interesting set of feet on the 606s tonight, seem to tackle some of the shrillness I've heard from these speakers when sitting on standard spikes. Other than understanding they have some Sorbothane de-coupling, there wasn't time to discuss further tonight.

Another break follows, and the final set up of the evening is rolled into the room whilst more wine, coffee and juice is sorted out for the audience of a dozen or so listeners.  In the break we swap system information, who's interested in what and why Kudos is of interest.  Most have Linn front ends of some sort - vinyl and streaming, there's a few Naim front ends (streaming and CD) mostly Linn amplification but also Naim and a few others.  From a speaker comparison perspective, Linn, PMC, Kudos and others are in use.

Back to listening and we're now at the top of the Kudos range with the Titan 808.  Unlike last time in this room, the 808 was not supported by the big REL subs.  They had to fend for themselves.  It turns out that they're quite capable of looking after themselves thanks very much, and I ended up enjoying them more on their own.  The sense of scale of the Eva Cassidy venue is stunning on the 808 and they punch hard and fast.  Unlike the 505, 606 and 707 which have slightly (intentionally) leaky isobaric chambers, the lowest bass driver, in its separate box, is a more conventional sealed isobaric.  The 808 is a 3 way design but described as 2.5 way by Kudos by which I think they mean the lowest bass driver augments the lower end of the mid-bass rather than delivering a completely separate set of frequencies.  So this top-end speaker needs 6x power amp channels and as such another Klimax Twin and pair of Chord Music cables were helping out in this final system configuration.  The same tweeter is featured across the Titan range yet it somehow seems clearer and smoother in this configuration, but its the clarity, transparency and realism of the mid-bass combined with the sheer kick and tightness of the lower bass that stand out here.  We listen to lots of tracks and the LP12 is pressed into action for a few songs, including an album by one of my current favourites, Bob Moses from Canada.  There was some boominess with this system, Linn's SPACE optimisation wasn't in use until later in the evening, after the formal presentation has been completed.

What did we learn?  Well, in passive form, mostly spending more gets a better result, but not always in all areas.  But once Exakt was deployed, the whole experience was a huge improvement in performance and consistency. And, yet again, the 808 produced a great result - personally I think they performed better than with the REL subs in this room - not quite so jaw-dropping in terms of sheer power and impact, but more musically satisfying.  The X2's are good for their price and did a reasonable job of filling the big room.  But then again there's no real substitute for box volume, driver quality, cabinet construction and, most importantly, a high quality front-end active system. It would've been nice to hear the Super 20 moving from passive to active, but you can't fit everything into one evening.  I do wonder about those in the audience who might've been contemplating the 606 - were they satisfied, or do they now spend a longer time saving for the 808?  But then again, there's the 707 in between, and that's definitely worth a listen. I won't be changing my Twenty.26s for the 606s as they didn't do absolutely everything comprehensively better.  Perhaps the 707s?  Will have to leave it until another time to find out.

Thanks once again to Brian, Trevor, Dave and the other attendees for another enjoyable and instructive evening.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Linn's Akurate Exakt DSM / System Hub - Adding Surround Functionality

Linn's Akurate Exakt DSM (AEDSM - the main source in the 'Musings system) has always had lots of HDMI inputs and an output, since it was launched in 2014.  Later versions and the otherwise identical re-branded System Hub has an updated HDMI board to support later protocols.  If I remember correctly, the update was introduced in 2016, but there must have been some forward thinking going on back then...

At the end of 2018 it became apparent that a surround sound upgrade was available to be retro-fitted to the AEDSM  / Akurate System Hub (ASH), for Exakt systems.  I would say "announced by Linn" but that would be overstating the case as the stealth marketing continues...

To add the new surround board, the later HDMI (2.0) board is needed - we'll see why in the pictures below.  So back in 2016 the board was designed with the ability to add a surround module which wasn't mentioned at the time.  So later AEDSM / ASH products can have the surround module added to the HDMI board already installed, earlier AEDSM products need an update to the HDMI board before the surround can be added.

But surround capability has been available for some time in Exakt right?  Well kind of - if you have a disk player or movie / tv streamer that can decode the signal and then send a multi-channel digital output for the AEDSM to translate that into Exakt and send it to multiple Exaktboxes or Exakt equipped speakers.  So the major change here is that it is possible to connect multiple sources to the AEDSM / ASH where the processing will be carried out inside the DSM, not in the source component.  Also, in previous Exakt surround implementations, as in stereo Exakt, an Exaktbox channel and a power amp channel is needed for every drive unit in every speaker.  Now it is possible to set up an Exaktbox to supply a full range signal to centre, rears and sub, whilst the main left and right channels continue with the normal approach to Exakt.  So that massively reduces the cost of going Exakt surround for those who already have Exakt main front left and right solutions.  For example, in a Linn Akurate system using a 225 centre channel, Akubariks as rears and a sub, and additional 13 channels of Exakt and power amplification is required.  And those Exakt channels would have to be across 2 full Exaktboxes and one Exaktbox sub.  Now those additional centre, rear and sub channels can be driven out of one Exaktbox and 3 amp channels (plus the sub amp).

This will be first of 2 (or possibly 3) parts - in the next I'll get to setting up the system, but for now, this is about the boards that are fitted into an early DSM to get surround up and running.  The pictures below show before and after:

Original HDMI board - The front of the DSM is at the top of the picture: 

It's not easy to spot in this picture, but there are 2x main board layers - HDMI is on the upper board - the lower board contains the pre-amp and Exakt boards.  This upper board ends where you can see the 2x light blue ribbon cables upper left

The Newer HDMI (2.0) Board.  Main interest here is the new long multi-pin connector in the centre of the board:

Surround Module Still in Anti-Static Bag.  It's quite a small unit:

Surround Module Underside:

Note the board copyright on the lower edge in this picture - its not a Linn designed board - it looks like a product of Momentum Data Systems based in California, US. No surprise that it would be an outsourced supplier - Linn won't want all the expense and complication of testing and managing the licencing of this kind of functionality - it changes far too frequently to make sense at Linn production volumes:  Looks like it may be a 4 year old design already.

Surround Module Installed into the Multi-pin Connector on the HDMI Board:

 Next post in this short series will consider connecting up the Exakt system implications.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Hegel At The Heart of 2 System Awards At Chester Show 2019

Hegel DAC equipped integrated amps were at the heart of 2 systems receiving audiophilemusings awards at the 2019 Chester Show:

Hegel, Auralic, Dynaudio

A relative newcomer to the hifi scene in the UK, Hegel have very quickly forged a good reputation for their integrated amplifiers.  I've heard the all-in-one doing a great job with Amphion speakers in the past, but today was the first chance to properly listen to their main integrated amplifier products.  And it proved be something worth waiting for.
Here an Auralic streamer was being used purely as a streamer, passing a digital signal to the DAC onboard the £9.5k Hegel 590 integrated amplifier.  Chord Epic Twin cables fed a pair of Dynaudio Contour 20 standmounts.

We listened to a good few tracks in this room too.  At around £15k this is not pocket money kit, but compared to the £400k in the barn, its an absolute bargain.  I'd much rather spend my time enjoying this system which delivered musicality in spades. The medium sized standmounts made the best of the source they were being fed - flowing and smooth whilst delivering strong dynamics and a suprisingly deep sound.  Vocals were perhaps a little recessed in the mix, but this is a very minor point and I'd much rather this than the upfront and brash presentations that some systems have, masquerading as "exciting".  We would've gone back for more but there wasn't time today.  Great stuff and another case of Auralic appearing in an award winning system, but I suspect the Hegel to be the star turn here.

Hegel, Kudos, Innuos

A thank you to the Innuos room host here as we turned up a couple of minutes after official closing time but he happily powered the system up again to give us a 10 minute listen.  Very helpful. 

I understand earlier in the day that Zen Mk3 vs Zenith Mk3 server comparisons had been demoed.  We just listened to some tracks using the Zenith as the source.  Having just enjoyed the slam and scale of the Naim / ATC SCM50 system, I was a little afraid that the smallest of the Kudos Titans, the 505, might seem a little undernourished, especially driven by Hegel's more modest £3.2k integrated amp with DAC, the 190.  But there was no need to be concerned.  Perched forward on the edge of the sofa moved us out of the worst of the room mode and directly into the music.  Insightful, tuneful, detailed, driving, emotional vocals all present and correct.  But the weight behind these chunky standmounts were the surprise here, a more substantial sound then when last heard with the Linn Selekt at Bristol.  If only we'd got to this room a little sooner, we could've enjoyed a lot more music in here.