Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Steve's Scottish System

Great to meet Steve last week at his home north of the border.

I went to pick up a pair of Mission 783s which Steve had set up with his system:

DAC XP+  PSX-R, CDXT SE2  PSX-R [IMF on both]
Eastern Electric Minimax DAC+ Missing Link I/C's
X Powers in Mono, with PSX-R
ZP90 + IMF, ML Dark Art
Synology DS212+

They weren't best positioned as Steve had placed them between his new speakers and that meant their bass drivers were pointing towards each other (bass drivers are on the sides of the 783s) which isn't ideal.  Not to worry, it was enough to hear that the 783s were functioning correctly.  They were sounding good on the end of the Cyrus system, despite the compromised positioning with good clear vocals and excellent imaging.  We used a variety of 16 bit and 24 bit tracks streamed through the Minimax DAC.  Once I got them back to my hotel room and positioned correctly they sounded really good - even only using 320 kbps AAC and my tiny Trends TA10.1 travelling integrated Class D amp.

But back to Steve's system and the replacements for the 783s, a rather gorgeous looking pair of Vienna Acoustics Baby Beethoven Grands.  To date, I've only ever seen them (thanks to Cyrus choosing not to play any music at the Manchester show) and read about them on the Cyrus Unofficial forum.  Now I'm a natural skeptic and always find it a bit difficult to completely trust the reviews from people who have just invested a great deal of money in some kit, so a bit of independence is an healthy thing!  Well, as soon as Steve fired them up, it was a moment of shock and awe for me.  These are truly outstanding loudspeakers.  We still had the 783s in the room so I'm sure there's even more to come from the VABBGs, but they are something very special.  My current favourites in the price range come from ProAc, but it would be great to hear a direct comparison. I think the VABBGs would probably win out, in a Cyrus system.  The most outstanding thing about them is what appears to be exceptional transparency - they rival Quad electrostatics in their ability to "disappear" and allow the music to both flow and create a 3D effect across and into the room and out into the virtual distance behind the speakers.  They also have a lovely deep but very well controlled bass - nicely balancing out the sometimes thin sound of the Cyrus electronics.

We listened to a good few tracks and I stayed a good deal longer than I planned as it was very difficult to wrench myself away from Steve's system.

Thanks again for your hospitality Steve, and sit back and enjoy your system - time to expand the music collection to play on it!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The King Is Dead...

.. long live the king (kind of).

No more Linn LP12 means no more playing vinyl discs.  So on sorting them out and valuing them, I really found myself not wanting to part with about 20 of them.  What's the point?  Well its mainly sentimental - there are some that are just too good to part with, in terms of their quality such as the Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs Studio Masters and there is the Sniff n the Tears collection that took some putting together then there are a few that were gifts and therefore have some meaning for me.

So a few weeks of hunting on ebay and missing a few near bargains and missing lots of nowhere near bargains I've ended up with a "new" turntable.  Its a late 80s / early 90s simple deck from Thorens - a TD280 MkII.  Belt drive, lightish alloy platter, two speed via an arm that lifts the belt up and down the pulleys, a lightweight very plastic looking arm and three bouncy feet for isolation.  I put on a new belt (£7.50), and a Goldring Elektra cartridge (it came with an Audio Technica of some sort of unknown origin and condition) and all for the princely sum of £24.  The photos on ebay showed the deck as being very dusty, but as can be seen below, its cleaned up remarkably well and plays tunes nicely.

Result.







Sunday, 23 October 2011

Manchester HiFi Show October 2011



The Manchester show is a regular now and is "supported" by Sevenoaks, so the vendors there are those that are available through those dealers plus a couple of extras such as HiFi+ and What HiFi magazines - the latter publicly announcing their 2011 award winners at the show.  Whilst on that subject, they've actually got a category for streamers now, which is great news for the profile of these sources and they awarded the under £1000 and overall award to the Cambridge Audio NP30, the £1000 to £2500 award to the Cyrus Stream XP and the over £2500 award to the Naim NDX.  Nice spread of prices and manufacturers there, and you can see my thoughts on the Cyrus and the Naim earlier in the blog.  Nice to know that I've bought a streamer that sounds much better than the highest priced award winner.  Bit odd that, given that WHF have reviewed the new Linn Akurate DS/1, but they only did this in a complete Linn system.  They should have some consistency with their product reviews and put each through a number of system combinations to test them in identical conditions.  I guess that's a bit too obvious and probably messes with agreements between mags and manufacturers that are delicate and full of politics...

Anyway, back to the show.  First off, its £7 for an adult.  That might seem a bit strange to pay to go into what is effectively a big shop, but I did feel as though I'd had a good day's entertainment (maybe this says more about me than the show!) and I think it probably helps to ensure that the attendees are at least interested and not just going along for a freebie.  The show was well organised with plenty of signs and staff on hand to help out.  Only the food queue over lunchtime was a bit slow, but at least the food wasn't rip-off prices, given that it was in a large hotel.  I thought the Renaissance Hotel itsself feels a bit tired and ready for a good spruce up.  I wouldn't like to have had a hangover and had to deal with the geometric pattern on the carpet in the Kef room.  Speaking of which, I think many of the exhibitors had enjoyed themselves somewhat on Saturday night, stories of being up until 3am and 4am were quite common this morning!

There were some good bargains available if you were in the mood to buy and you were after what was discounted. Castle Knight speakers at half price, 30% off a Rotel RCX 1500 AV receiver, £60 off a Panasonic blu-ray and up to 15% off everything else.

In the main foyer, there was a stall and lots of boxes of bargains and a good spread of Naim's latest products - not playing music, but they did have 2 rooms elsewhere in the show that were playing something, but more of that later.  There were then a couple of large rooms with various manufacturers spread around the periphery - these included Cyrus who had a whole corner to themselves, but were only playing music quietly, the room being unsuitable for demos - what a disappointment, as they weren't playing music anywhere else in the show - I like Cyrus kit, but this was not good - we don't want to look at the kit (you can do that in a magazine), we want to hear it.  Sonos and Simple Audio were in these larger rooms too - pointless.  These rooms are suitable for accessorise such as HiFi Racks and Chord cables who were in there, but not for serious manufacturers - get somewhere to play your gear guys!

In a central lounge area you could get snacks and drinks and Pioneer were demoing a couple of iPod boom boxes.  Over lunchtime a cellist played for a while and very good she was too.  Off this room were 2 large dem rooms - Samsung and Pioneer, with Samsung operating a theatre style with timed "shows".  KEF were running a similar approach, as were What HiFi who had brought a portable room for their demos.  Above that were 3 floors of bedrooms of various sizes that had been stripped of most of their furniture with the en-suite rooms acting as store rooms.


So that's the set up.  After the initial disappointment of a quick look around the Cyrus stand (and looking at all their identical boxes - what's the point?  Let's hear them!  OK, I'll leave that one now, honest) I stepped into the first KEF demo of the afternoon.  They are celebrating their 50th anniversary so they had some of their "iconic" products of the past such as the K1 Slimline104 and the 105.4 dotted around the room.  Using a Denon CD spinner that I didn't get the details of, Electocompaniet Classic 4.9 pre and Electrocompaniet Nemo monoblock power amps, KEF demonstrated their new flagship £20k Blade speakers.  Simply put, this system sounded stunning.  The imaging width, accuracy and depth is the best I've heard anywhere (including Quad electrostatics), the music flows and everything seemed joined up - no harshness, no flabby bass, no swamping of voices, just very, very good.  Anyone got approx £45k to part with?  Getting a bit more back to reality KEF followed this up with a quick play of the new R series - starting with the £1500 R500 floorstanders and then the £1000 R300 standmounts.  These were powered by what looked to me like an Electrocompaniet ECC-1 CD player and an ECI 5MkII integrated.  The floorstanders were OK, but the standmounters were punching well above their weight playing some Maroon 5.

Electocompaniet In The KEF Room (hangover and this carpet do not make a good combo)

KEF Blade (R500 and R300 in the background)

After this I wandered around the dems going on in the 3 floors of bedrooms.  Here are some snapshots:

Neat were playing their new £650 micro speaker the Iota - it was very musical and, in traditional Neat style, produced more bass than you'd think from so small a box, but perhaps they've gone too far this time as despite this, they're still compomised.  You'd have to be very short on space to go with this one.  Shame the didn't have their XL10s to listen to.

Yamaha were playing their award winning soundbar and that's a pretty good special effect they've got going on there - could be one for the dining room tv as its sound is compomised but its position in the room doesn't lend itsself to positioning between a decent pair of speakers.

Naim had 2 rooms up and running, both of which I found particularly pointless.  Why is this?  Because they were using their own speakers - the Ovator S-400 in both cases.  One room had the SuperUniti, the other a high end combination of their lower-end range (if that makes any sense!) - the ND5 XS streamer, NAC 152 XS pre-amp, NAP 155 XS power amp and Flatcap XS power supply (not sure what it was powering).  The XS system was making better noises than the SuperUniti, but with those speakers, noises is all I can say they were making.  I really like Naim electronics (see Pro-Ac comments later), but with the Ovator speakers the sound is hard, lacking in depth or warmth, very two dimensional and completely uninvolving. Do they make the cabinets out of plastic and the drivers out of cardboard from cereal boxes? I know this is just a very personal opinion, but there weren't many punters staying more than a minute or two in either room.  Shame.

REL had 2 rooms too.  One with 4 subwoofers supporting an AV system of some sort (it was dark in there!).  One subwoofer was on the centre channel, two on the main speakers and one on the rears.  We watched clips from Bolt and for a cinema system this was particularly impressive - lots of very well controlled and steered explosions, rumbles and bangs.  Good stuff.  In their other room a ST reference sub was supporting Audio Research kit feeding Sonus Fabers.  For me the bass was a bit OTT, but I'm pretty sure it could be wound back a bit and make for a really good way to underpin stand mounts.  Having said that, with the huge stands under the Fabers, you might as well have floorstanders and do without the sub...

Audio Research, Sonus Fabers in the REL Room (ST Sub not shown!)
Focal were playing the £8k Diablo Utopia.  Vitus Audio products were powering the Diablos with the SIA-025 integrated amp (£14k) and the SCD 010 CD player (£18k with a top loading sliding door and a puck to put on top of the CD it takes nearly as long to change a disc on this as it does on a Mitchell Orbe turntable) and the unpriced Andromeda speaker cables - these getting my personal award for most interesting / extreme cables in the show.  Initially I found this system to be detailed and with excellent imaging and timing it was all good.  But this was with unfamiliar music.  After a couple more tracks (yes, up to 10 minutes in the same room at this point) I requested some Yello and they put on the Junior B track from the Eye album.  This is where it went a bit wrong.  What's happened to the bottom octave of the disc?  I know standmounters can play this track - I've heard it happen with Neats and Wilson Benesch examples.  Ho-hum.

Focals and Andromeda Cable

Pro-Ac seemed to be pleased with their offering, just playing the music and attracting folks who wanted to hang around in the room and listen. They had the approx £6k Response D40 speakers playing using nothing more exotic than a Naim CD5i and Nait XS.  Take note Naim - here we have a set of speakers that can show off your electronics.  This was the only room I went back to later in the day to listen to some more music, because, KEF top end system aside, this was the best sounding system there today. Well done Pro-Ac.
Pro-Ac Response D40 (spooky!)

More good sounds were coming from what I think was probably the lowest cost system on dem other than those Sonos one box systems and B&W Zeppelins etc.  Marantz had the CD6004 and the 6004 amp driving Castle Knight 1s (normally £300 but available at £150 at the show today).  So a £700 system and this was playing musically too.  They were busy, but I hope they sold some kit today as they proved that you don't have to spend a fortune to get it right you can make more music than some multi-£k systems.

Marantz 6004s with Castle Knight 3
B&W were playing their new £2k stand mount using some classy looking Classe electronics.  Meh.  Wilson Benesch Arcs any day.

Mitchell were playing the Orbe with an SME IV and a Benz L2 and very polite it sounded too.  Maybe the Sweet Baby James album isn't meant to have any dynamics.

Rega had the RP3 turntable spinning and, given it was only playing through the Rega Brio electronics and their curiously small foorstanders it was doing a decent job.  Very detailed and with great female vocals, only a rather strange mix of not very deep yet a bit boomy bass was letting the side down.  Not bad for the price though, and the best sounding vinyl I heard today, not that there was much about to listen too.  Rega launched their Apollo-R top loader CD player which looks pretty funky, but didn't hear it playing.

What HiFi were tracing 33 years of their existence.  They get a lot of grief from more "serious" hifi fans, but we need to recognise that they have decent circulation numbers and they know their readership - make is sharp and short.  At least they're managing to maintain an interest in the industry for the more people than any other mag.  They were running a scheduled 20 minute show which had a great premise but mixed results.  Talking about how hifi had evolved over the 33 years they played a genuine pre-recorded cassetted tape of REM.  It sounded bright, harsh, flat and lacking in bass.  This was followed up by a 24 bit 96kHz track streamed through the Pioneer award winning AV reciever and we got detailed bright, harsh and lacking in bass.  Yuk, I hope this isn't the sound they're looking for when reviewing!  Lets hope the audience don't take this as the way streamed music should sound.  The next demo was much more successful - comparing the grainy, indistinct looking and mushy sounding VHS of the original Star Wars with the latest re-mastered version of the same movie on blu-ray - the up to date disc being massively better, particularly on the 103" £85k Panasonic plasma they were showing it on.  Also good was an action clip using the 3D function on the Panasonic DMP-BDT210 player which was pretty amazing for such a low cost machine.  I'm still not convinced about 3D - there are a couple of things I don't enjoy - one being the stuttering in the picture (rather like earlier LCD displays, before they started refreshing them at 100Hz and higher), the other being that the 3D looks a lot like layers of 2D to me - rather like watching lots of cardboard cut-outs moving around each other.  At the moment a really good 2D display or projector works better for me.

PMC were making a reasonable fist of things with their twenty.24 speakers (£3k) but not really £3k worth of goodness - something about the bass sounded a bit behind the rest of the music.  Lots of very expensive Bryston kit as sources and pre-amp / power amplification.  The whole lot was probably up at £20k and you'd want a lot more wow factor for that kind of cash.

So top "prizes" to KEF and Pro-Ac, wooden spoons to Cyrus (for not playing any music - doh!) and Naim for their continuingly disappointing speakers, masking the excellence of their electronics.

As for the show, would I go again?  Possibly, in maybe 5 years or so when things have changed again.  I think this kind of show has its place, but there were so many rooms which did nothing for me and so few that sounded good, a lot of gear has come in for bad press here.  May be I'm being unfair, but lets be honest - although a hotel room is not the best room in which to show off your kit, they're probably reasonably close to the kind of compromises most of us have to live with in our own homes.  So these rooms are exactly the circumstances in which hifi should be working well if its to work well at home.

Next time I might try Whittlebury for the National show - from the pictures and write-ups it looks less busy and has a less mainstream range of kit to explore.  Maybe.



Friday, 30 September 2011

More On Simple Audio

The Simple Audio web site is now up and running with some product details.

It looks like a good solution - streamer / DAC devices and streamer / DAC / integrated amplifier options.

However, the site is a bit light on where your music is going to be stored - it doesn't mention NAS nor PC hard drives.  It does seem to need software to be running on a PC in the system at all times.  If this can be installed on a NAS to avoid running a PC constantly, that would be good.  If not, the need to run a PC (or Mac) isn't really a good option.

Here's the opening quote on their web site:
Simple Audio Roomplayers are the first affordable sound systems to combine HD sound and Powerline Communications technology. Now you can listen to all your digital music at the highest resolution.

 Given that I've been listening to 24 bit hi-res audio in multiple rooms when required (and with different music in each room when that's required) over powerline Ethernet for about 10-11 months now, using Squeezebox Touches and just a NAS (no PC constantly powered up), I think this is perhaps a little unfair on others in the industry.  I do think, however, that if Simple Audio are delivering the end to end solution that can be up and running in an hour or so by a customer, or in minutes if installed by a dealer, then that will simplify this technology for many customers who just don't want to or are not able to get their heads around what's required - then this can only be a good thing for the industry.



 Good luck Simple Audio, your approach and your profile in the industry I can see only being good for quality streamed music going mainstream.

More Great News

The high def bandwagon is gathering speed.  HDTRACKS.COM have signed up Deutsche Gramophon.  Not only gathering speed, but this is one of the most respected labels for recording quality and is clearly a big tick of approval for high def downloading.

Watch out for an avalanche of von Karajan coming to Naim and Linn streaming devices everywhere!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Temporary Main System

We're in the middle of re-decorating our lounge and have hit some supply issues which means a few weeks with no progress.

Given that the main Linn / Meridian / Cyrus / Linn Aktiv Keilidhs system is all dismantled and take about 3-4 hours to carefully re-commission, this gave me a bit a problem with no music in this room.

So a bit of lateral thinking and I'm now listening to my Squeezebox Touch through an hastily unboxed 8 Power and into a pair of Mission 771e speakers that were in their box in the garage.  With some Linn K20 and a pair of Chord Calypsos stringing it together I was back in action in 20 minutes.

Marvellous.  Sounding pretty good too. (Click images to enlarge)




Sunday, 4 September 2011

Akurate Is The Way Forward

And so the Linn is gone. To be replaced by a Linn.

Some may have noticed that Linn have just brought out a new Akurate and Klimax DS pairing.  This means that the price of the original Akurate second hand has dropped considerably.

Which means, by selling the Cyrus DAC-X and adding the cash from the sale of the Sondek, I now have a loverly black Akurate DS with the later Dynamik power supply sitting in the system and it's absolute bliss.

When its been around a few weeks I write something about the sound, the control experience etc. etc.


Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Linn Streaming Evening, Chris Brooks Audio

Late summer and Chris Brooks Audio in Warrington has a streaming open evening (A Mid-Summer Night's Stream, but we'll forgive that one!) to launch the new Linn Akurate DS/1 and Klimax DS/1.  The local debut of the new Isobarik speaker was quite and interesting addition.

Chris did lots of talking about the technologies and why they were so much better than CD etc. etc.  As is often the case with this kind of evening, there was a bit too much talking rather than letting the music do that by itsself, but I guess us punters need to pay for our glass of wine / orange juice!  It was a very warm evening which gave the guys in the shop a bit of a problem as the main upstairs listening room was rather stuffy with 10 or so bods and some heat producing hifi gear.  Windows open to cool the room was just too noisy so it was a constant swing between noise then heat then noise then heat.  A shame, but a bit beyond the control of the shop.

In the upstairs room, the comparisons were performed - and very well too, it must be said.  Constantly swapping between different streaming devices could've been a problem as the iThingy control devices could've easily suffered from user error and be pointing to the wrong source at the wrong time. The system was an interesting mix of amps (all from Linn of course), and I can't remember if the speakers were being driven actively or bi-amped.  I think the Isobariks were being driven by the power section of a Majik DSi (that's a Majik DS and integrated amp all in one mid-sized case) and an Akurate amp of some description - probably a 4200.

Firstly, impressions of the new Majik Isobarik speakers.  They're about £3,500, so that makes them low mid-range in Linn terms and top of the Majik speaker range.  The shop had only had them for a few days so they might not've been run-in properly, I wasn't convinced that the Majik DSi amp would be really grunty enough for a speaker of this size and quality and I would imagine that the shop guys would need to experiment some more to get the best positioning for them.  There was a Linn guy on hand from the factory, so they had a reasonable chance of being about right.  I found them extremely dry but really rather superb on the detail front.  Bass, for an Isobarik, is not as deep and extended as I imagined it would be, but as expected from Linn, timing felt very accurate and enjoyable.  They were great for hearing the differences in the sources - but they didn't really give that sense of excitement that I look for in a system - just a bit to restrained.  Amps?  Not run-in? Or is that just the way they are?  Perhaps we'll see them in the press soon and find out what the "experts" think.


So to the sources.  All the following were demonstrated through this system:

Majik DSi (no recent changes to this, save the addition of the Dynamik power supply about 12 months ago) - the standalone streamer version of this (without the integrated amp section) is £1,900

Akurate DS/1 - the new version @ £4,500


Klimax DS/1 - also a new version @ £10,000 (top centre in this mouth-watering stack of music playing technology drool-fest)



How was the sound?  Well the Majik was very impressive as a starting point - lots of detail, good timing, clear vocals, good imaging.  Bringing in the Akruate was a big step up, much larger than any of the audience were expecting - the imaging filled the room, timing was stunningly better, separation of the instruments very clear and the pace of the music seemed to pick up somewhat.  Those in the audience with a Majik DS were either reaching for their cheque book, or looking a bit glum.  Then comes the Klimax.  If you look at the pictures of the Klimax circuit board vs that of the Akurate that can be found on the internet then there doesn't seem to be that much difference until just before the final analogue output stages.  Of course, the box is significantly different too.  However, it is clearly different to listen to.  I remember from the first generation of DS products that there was a big difference from Majik to Akurate, then a smaller difference from Akurate to Klimax, meaning that the Akurate was the price / performance sweet spot.  Now though, when you listen to the new Akurate DS/1, you're probably going to think "good grief, how can the Klimax be better than this?".  But it is, and significantly so.  The step from Majik to Akurate described above is delivered again in the next step.  Very, very impressive.

So those with Majiks and Akurates where then concerned that they were going to be disappointed when they got home, and those who have yet to go streaming were thinking that they would have to save up for the Klimax, or give up now if that was unlikely to be attainable.  However, Chris had another trick up his sleeve.

Bear in mind that I have a Meridian CD player and chose this over and above players from Linn and Naim - albeit about 10 years ago.  I've never really been convinced about Linn's CD players - they've always been somewhat underwhelming.  However, Chris rolled out a Linn CD12 - no longer in production now, but a £12k machine in its day.  Lets cut to the chase - the Majik DSi completely wiped the floor with this CD player.  Period.  I hope there was no one there who'd bought one of these...  This made the Majik DS or DSi owners and those who can't aspire to anything further up the range much happier!

Elsewhere in the shop, the back room downstairs was running a Klimax DS/1, Klimax Control, and indeterminate Klimax power amp and a pair of 350A speakers.  Outside the dem room, this system was attracting the most attention.  It was sounding very detailed and bass was stonkingly deep but extremely well controlled.  But for me, there was something missing.  Its a bit difficult to put into words, but I would describe it as a coolness - and I don't mean a lack of warmth, I mean a lack of emotion in the music - for me this makes it a bit pointless as its the emotional content that's most important.  Technically very very impressive, but overall just not something I wanted to sit down and listen to attentively.  It doesn't help on evenings like this that folk like to chatter when there's music playing, so its not a truly fair position to take, and I won't write off this system on the basis of this event.

Fortunately, no-one was interested in the downstairs front room, given that there was lots of loverly Klimatic Kit to listen to in the bacK.  Here in the front room I discovered something rather wonderful - the opportunity to listen to a complete "as good as it gets within the Akurate range" fully active system, all on my own, with no interruptions from chatter.  Akurate DS/1, Akurate Kontrol, 3 x Akurate 4200 power amps and fully active Akurate 242 loudspeakers.  Once the guys got this powered up for me, initial impressions weren't all that good - good, but not stunning.  A quick look down the back of the source / control components an "ah!" and off went my attentive shop assistant.  Approx 30 seconds later, he returned to the room clutching a pair of Linn silver analogue interconnects.  Off went the system, out came the balanced XLR leads from DS to pre-amp and in went the unbalanced Linn sliver interconnects.  Once powered up again, this change was absolutely stunning.  I've read lots about balanced connections outperforming unbalanced - this is the conventional wisdom.  However,  I would suggest its a matter of the combination of kit in use and the cables in use too.  This was not a subtle change, in this system, the unbalanced Linn interconnects were clearly superior.  Never assume without listening!  At last I was hearing something truly great.  Track after track (16 bit CD rips and 24/96 high res) had me glued to the music, often staggered by the scale and depth of the soundstage, shaking my head at the resolution of female vocals and actually gasping at the lowest of low notes, slamming out in a controlled way, or rumbling - deeply underpinning the rest of the music.  I spent a good hour browsing through the tracks available on the shop's NAS via an iPad - this is a great interface and very intuitive to use.  This system is the top end of Linn's mid-range range.  But that's not mid-range in traditional hifi terms, its a Linn perspective.  This system is knocking on the door of £30,000 without cabling, so its truly in the aspirational class for most of us.  However, I'd have no hesitation in recommending this system as a must listen to anyone fortunate enough to be able to consider spending that kind of cash on music.

It gets me thinking though...how long will it be before you can pick up this system for under £5k on ebay?  I'd give it 5 years or so.  Hopefully the DS tech will still be relevant then!

There was no LP12 vs DS comparison at this event, I'm sure that would be an interesting one, but a top end LP12 is North of £10k now, and I doubt it would get close to the Akurate DS/1, never mind the new Klimax DS.

P.S.  There's a lot of debate in the bloggosphere and the forumosphere (?!) about what Linn's doing for owners of the existing Klimax DS (now known as the DS/0).  If you take your Klimax DS/0 to your Linn dealer they'll upgrade it to a DS/1.  I'm not sure how much this costs, but the key thing here is that they don't just throw out the old DS/0 innards.  In fact, they re-box them into a case that's somewhat simpler and more cost effective than that of the Klimax - they call it the Renew DS.  The idea is that it gives customers and "almost" Klimax DS/0 to use in a second system in their homes.  Some customers think this is a great idea, others seem to think Linn are exploiting them by charging them for a Renew box to put their old innards into.  For me, this sounds like a great solution - you get a lower cost Klimax DS/1 through the upgrade and then you get a brilliant DS player for another room, meaning that the old electronics don't go on the scrapheap.  Its optional.  What's not to like - it would be good if other hifi manufacturers could follow this lead - re-boxing older kit when an upgrade is applied to the main system, great idea.