"What a refreshingly honest blog about listening to music through hi-fi. So happy to see views based upon the enjoyment of music rather than so-called sound 'quality'." - Peter Comeau, Director of Acoustic Design at Mission / Wharfedale

Monday 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas From An Enthusiast

At last, a long awaited addition to the Linn Brochures collection.  This time it's the "An Enthusiast Explains" edition which features Ivor Tiefenbrun peering around the side of a Keltik loudspeaker.
This brochure is from the time when Linn were essentially in the cut over point between their first gen products (e.g. Isobarik, Kan, Intek etc.) and estabilishing their next generation built around more common drivers across the speaker range and the now well known monolithic, minimalist black box industrial design.

Products featured:

Isobarik (orignal PMS / DMS)
LP12 Lingo
LP12 Valhalla
LP12 Basik

Active crossover for Keltik
Active crossover for Isobarik
Active crossover for Kaber

Find the brochure images here:

Linn Brochures & Ads

Enjoy, and seasons greetings to you all.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Blog Stats

Last week's stats for the blog:


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits4531316255313228741
First Time Visits3829265847263025436
Returning Visits7254852335

Sunday 18 November 2012

HDD Down (And Up)

I have a QNAP TS-209 II running 2 x Seagate Baracuda 1.5TB in RAID 1 (mirrored).

One of the drives failed a few weeks back. As they are about 3 years old I thought I would not be able to find a matching drive. However, found a factory refurbished drive on ebay for a reasonable £100.

It is supposed to be possible to hot-swap a drive in the QNAP and for the RAID 1 to fully rebuild itsself. However, due to where my NAS is located I needed to power the NAS down in order to unplug it from the mains and the network before I could lift it out onto a bench to get good access to the front panel to allow drives to be swapped over.

Now I work in IT, and know that there are many factors that mean things don't always go to plan... or to feature set!

So it was with much trepidation that I opened up the NAS, removed the faulty drive and then slotted in the refurbed drive. Even more trepidation when I plugged it all back in and powered up the NAS. Within the usual couple of minutes the drive was visible again on the network, with file explorer much snappier than it had been in the past few weeks and all files present and correct.

All the indicator lights on the front of the NAS were matching with the sequence in the instruction book that says a RAID 1 config is being rebuilt. We wrote no further files, nor did I use the DS or the Squeezeboxes during this process. In fact, it was allowed to run overnight. I don't know when the RAID rebuild finished, or how long it took, but it was completed sometime in the 7 hour overnight window and that's with 800GB of data (single copy of data = 800GB).

All is now well again, and I can breathe once more.

As its inevitable that hard drives will fail, I went for the dual bay NAS approach, but I still had my doubts about what would happen in the event of a failure. On this occasion it was all good news. This has also cemented my faith in the QNAP NAS - I know many think they are a little on the expensive side, but with this experience I think that is inconsequential compared to the hassle I could've gone through due to hard drive failure.

So a good news IT story. Music was saved!

Monday 5 November 2012

Amusing Blog From Another Viewpoint

Just been enjoying this blog - penned by an Audiophile's wife.  I'm pretty sure its not my wife, either that or many stories have been added or embelished for maximum effect...

Its a good read!


Thursday 20 September 2012

Thursday 13 September 2012

Linn Akurate DS/0 Dynamik vs Akurate DS/1 Dynamik With ADS/1 Upgrade Kit

As Scott Wilkinson would say - its time to geek out!
Apologies for the title, but there isn't really an easy way to describe this. Here is the bullet point version:

Linn produced an Akurate DS - we'll call this the ADS.
It was then available with a new power supply so it was they called the ADS Dynamik.
Linn made the power supply available as an upgrade so now it is possible to have and ADS Dynamik from the factory or an ADS with a retro-fitted Dynamik. Both are called ADS Dynamik and sound the same.

Then Linn launched a significantly improved Akurate DS called the ADS/1 which is in the same chassis but has a new front panel and a slightly different display panel.
The ADS/1 comes with a Dynamik power supply as standard, but we don't mention that in the product name - its just an ADS/1.
So after launching the ADS/1, the orignal ADS is now called the ADS/0 or ADS/0 Dynamik if it is a later version of the ADS/0 or an ADS/0 with a retro fitted power supply.

 OK? Try and keep up!

Linn have now decided that the circuit boards from the ADS/1 can be retro fitted to the ADS/0 and ADS/0 Dynamik.
You can then use old circuit boards to go into a new, fairly basic case to create the Akurate DS Renew or ADSR.
All ADSRs and ADS/0s that are upgraded to ADS/1 spec will have Dyanmik power supplies.
If you take this option of an upgrade to your ADS/0 or ADS/0 Dynamik you will effectively end up with exactly the same spec as and ADS/1, but it'll be inside an ADS/0 case.

What do we call an ADS/0 with ADS/1 circuitry inside? There doesn't seem to be a concensus, but I'm going to call it the ADS/0/1 on this blog.

So that's the history and naming nonsense out of the way. If you're still with me, now I'll write something about the sonic differences, which is waaaaay more interesting and important of course.

I heard an Akurate DS/1 in my system last week - we did ABABA comparison using the following tracks:

Blues Company - Cold Rain
Blues Company - Dark Days
Trentmoller - Evil Dub
Yello - Tangier Blue
Tom Baxter - Skybound

Found that the ADS/1 was much more organic, the treble even sweeter than my ADS/0/D and the imaging much more precise and 3 dimensional. A nice upgrade that should satisfy even analogue fans (maybe). The only thing that detracted was that the bass seems a little shy - I think that might be more control? We only spent about 20 mins so didn't get into speaker repositioning or anything.

So that's great, as far as it goes.  Being a skeptic I still wanted to hear an ADS/0 that had been upgraded to an ADS/1 for myself - just to be sure that the upgrade was as effective as a completely new ADS/1. I had the chance to take my ADS/0 Dynamik to my Linn dealer just a couple of days ago to compare with an ADS/0 Dynamik that has had the ADS/1 upgraded boards.

System: Akurate Kontrol/1 pre-amp, 2 x Majik 4100 Dynamik power amps with active crossover cards and Majik Isobariks loudspeakers (in Rosewood, just in case anyone thinks the veneer affects the sound...), Linn Silver interconnects, 2 x Linn K400 speaker cables, Quadraspire racks.

Tracks used: Robben Ford "Mystic Mile" Eagle Eye Cherry "Shooting Up In Vain"

Happily, my earlier notes about the ADS/0 Dynamik vs ADS/1 apply equally to this comparison. The upgrade is not subtle. The feeling and emotions in vocals come through much stronger, the bass guitar on the Ford track seems to be playing many more intricate moves which previously didn't stand out as being something so subtle and intricate, decay is longer but doesn't blur into other instruments so much. Imaging also gets a boost - left to right images are much more stable in space and there's more front to back depth. The keyboard on the intro to Shooting Up has so much more texture to it.

In summary, its worthwhile and very enjoyable to listen to.

Funny isn't it? I was very happy with my ADS/0 Dynamik, until I heard the upgrade. When you go back from the upgrade the original sounds black & white and 2D compared to the colourful textures and 3D of the upgrade. So its just a matter of time to get the cash together now!

It is very pleasing to see that Linn is making improvements in the ADS - and that they offer this improvement as an upgrade for existing customers - reducing the normal obsolecence in our consumer society.

p.s. I didn't listen to the ADS Renew as I don't intend to buy one, but the dealer suggested that it doesn't sound as good as an ADS/0 Dynamik and not that much better than a Majik DS Dynamik. I have no view on this, just passing along the discussion.

Friday 3 August 2012

Should We Be Isolated?

The observant amongst you will have noted a proliferation of Isoplats under all my Linn gear, on top of Quadraspire Q4 racks (of the non-bamboo variety).

Well HoL were at sunbeam towers again today to deliver another pair of Majik 140s (first pair had a minor fault in the cabinet finish) and they brought an ADS/1 with them for me to compare against the ADS/0/D as a taster for the ADS/0 to ADS/1 upgrade offer.

Maybe I will write about the ADS issue in another post.

But the point I wanted to report here is that we put the ADS/1 on an Isoplat so that it was in exactly the same circumstances as the ADS/0/D.  So we also took the opportunity to try the ADS/1 with and without the Isoplat.  I was expecting to hear virtually no difference.  Wrong.  There is a clear difference.  Just to put this in perspective I would say that it was about 20% of the difference between the 2 DSs.  I have to describe it in terms of preference because I preferrred it with, Trevor preferred it without.

Trevor's view was that the music flowed better and sounded more of a piece without the Isoplat.  I think that removing the Isoplat robbed the music of some of its dynamic range.  We were listening to a laid back blues track (Cold Rain by Blues Company, highly recommended) and for me the dynamic range in the transition between the laid back "feel the pain" passages of the track and the more forthright "I'm angry now" passages were somewhat reduced, removing some of the emotion from the music.

So there you go.  Does it make a difference?  Yes.  Is an Isoplat better or worse under and ADS/1?  Well it seems it depends on who you ask!  Will have to try the same experiment with my own ADS/0 when I get a few minutes to mess about.

Thursday 19 July 2012


Rioja when it should've been a claret.

Is this a major faux-pas?  Would this be the end of a fruitful evening before it had begun?  Would it leave a sour taste in the mouth?  How would my host react?  Would I be invited back?  Did I single-handedly save the Spanish economy?

The answer to one of the above was "no", but can you work out which one?

If your host agrees that a red wine fits into the "that'll do nicely" category then, as a visitor when you're trying your best to follow the protocols of polite society, you can't always get it right, but some things are near enough.  And so it turned out on this particular occasion.  The ingredients weren't 100% what was expected, but the result was entirely acceptable, it would seem.  So claret might have been preferred, but rioja can be equally acceptable, but different.

What is he waffling on about this time?  Isn't this supposed to be about music and hifi?  Well, I'm trying to do that clever journalist thing of making parallels.  Maybe I can pull this off, maybe I shouldn't have given the game away so soon in the post!

So we come back to the point.  Tom's system.  First off, I could say that Tom is a very brave man.  Some bloke from a hifi forum sees pictures of your system and identifies the view outside the window.  Same bloke spends a good bit of time in that location for work purposes and thinks listening to some music on someone else's system would be a good way to fill in an evening, perhaps strike up a friendship.  So a message goes out and a complete stranger is invited round for a listen.  So kudos to Tom.

We strike up a discussion on the way to Pizza Express to get sustenance to accompany the rioja.  Suprisingly, we discuss the local area, living in the city etc., rather than diving straight into hifi.  Pizzas ordered we headed back through the inevitable July 2012 (oooh, can I use that phrase without being shut down by LOCOG???) showers.  Tom's flat is modestly sized and carries a minimalist theme - white being the dominant hue and one which means that speaker choice can be somewhat limited, unless a spray can is involved.  The listening room has 2 opposing sofas - one for listening from, the other having the speakers either side.  Speakers are probably a touch further apart than they are distant from the listening position, but the practicalities of living have to be factored in of course.

Being a flat, standmounts are the speakers of choice.  We started out with a test.  Not sure if it was the speakers or me that was being tested, but it turns out that I managed to pass the test, if indeed it was me being tested :-)  A Nick Drake track was fired up to have a listen to a pair of white (inevitably) Linn Majik 109 stand mounts.

These are a recent used purchase by Tom, and they've already been "repaired" after Tom noted they weren't all quite what they should be.  So it took about 60 seconds to decide that one of the mid/bass drivers is less than 100% - sounding muffled and un-dynamic compared to the driver in the other box.  They didn't sound as good as my 109s either.  So they left the room and I believe are on their way back to the dealer to have another crack at fixing them.

The system we listened to for the rest of the evening:

Linn Klimax DS/1 in black (I didn't spend too much time gazing at this as desire can be very unbecoming)
Lejonklou Tundra in black
Linn K400 speaker cable (using one pair of the conductors in single wired mode)
Linn Katans (hey, they're white!)

Some of you will know about the Tundra - essentially this amp seems to have arisen from a Linn enthusiast who decided he could do better than Linn in the power amp area.  As you can imagine, this has been extremely controversial.  There are claims that the £2,800 power amp is equal to or better than Linn's own Klimax Chakra Twin (approx £8,000).  There are counter claims that it's not comparible to the KCT.  And there are lots of claims from people who have never listened to it, to the KCT or to neither.  Hey-ho: as in many hobbies, some people seem to be able to make decisions or pronouncements without the appropriate experience.

Down to the nitty-gritty.  And in some ways there's lots of that - nitty-gritty detail that is.  But none of it is grating nor excessive.  It took me a while to dial into the characteristics of the system.  The main reason for that is the need to re-adjust to a pair of standmounts. My main system and my second system both feature floorstanding speakers and there's no way that the Katans are up to the kind of bass that a floorstander can produce, so it takes a good 30 minutes or so to dial-out that aspect as it tends to be overwhelmingly obvious at first, masking other aspects.  Once you start to put that to one side and start to focus on what the system is actually doing, then you can settle into listening to and enjoying the music (or not of course).

2 glasses of rioja in (it was going down reasonably well with my host too) and time to relax with the music.  We listened to Blues Company, Nick Drake, Hurts, Yello and some other bits and pieces.  Once you get over the lack of really deep bass you can notice that the bass actually goes deeper than you would expect for such small speakers and is definitely tuneful - toe-tapping being involuntary but constantly present.  But moving on to other parts of the spectrum I heard some great vocals - male and female - easily picked out and emotionally charged.  Treble is not the best I've heard - sweeter than my Linn Keilidhs, but not as sweet and smooth as you get from either of Linn's current 2K and 3K higher frequency arrays.

Then you get back to the details, the layers, the tiny tiny details that I've not heard before - slightly more sustain on a cymbal, an extra bit of fizz from a distorted electric guitar string, a high frequency ping that's now a bell, not just a ping.  And this is laid out in front of you across the room - precisely located left to right, but a little 2 dimensional compared to the very best.  Close your eyes and the imaging is still a little shallow and the gaps between instruments feel unrealistically spaced out - we discuss this for a while and agree that the speakers are probably a little to far apart - but needs must when you can't have a fully dedicated listening room.

Is the system musical?  Absolutely.  It's easy to listen to (don't confuse that with an easy listen - its not bland, its not over polite, it just doesn't shove the music down your throat nor does it grate with excessive and synthetic amount of detail), cultured, sweet and drives a rhythm beautifully.

Would I want to live with this system?  Well, it wouldn't be my first choice - I still missed that low bass and the way it can help music (e.g. Yello's Drive/Driven) to fill out into a room and envelope the listener.  But if I had to have a system for a flat, then yes, it would provide many hours of listening fun and I'm sure Tom's enjoying just that.  So perhaps the rioja didn't have quite the depth of a good claret, but it did go down well, much like the music we enjoyed.

We were distracted a little by discussions on classic cars (another shared passion - but very differently focussed), working life, the system at Tom's other house and his plans there, The Australian Pink Floyd and other stuff.  But hey, life isn't just about hifi is it?   Shame we didn't find time to compare Tom's Klimax Renew DS against the KDS/1, but I suspect that the KDS/1 won't be around next time, we'll see what time brings.

So thank you to Tom for such an enjoyable listening session and for being so welcoming and easy to spend time with.  We're hoping to do a Katan vs M109 session sometime in the near future.  I'll get a claret for that one, perhaps there'll be a parallel with the difference in the speakers?  Or would that just be me trying a bit too hard?

Sunday 8 July 2012

Actively Listening. Was it Majik?

Majik.  Not my favourite name in the Linn range.  Sounds a bit twee, childlike maybe.  Klimax sounds too much like an adult oriented konversation.  Akurate works well as a name.

Anyway, a rose is still a rose etc. ...

Recent discussions with TWKMS (those who know my system), including me, has led to the general conclusion that the 18 year old Linn Keilidhs are probably the bit that's holding it back.  I tend to agree - although their ability to reveal upgrades in the front end and amplification over those years has always astonished me.  I kept wondering when they'd run out of ability.  I'm sure if I added a Klimax DS and a Klimax Kontrol they'd go on improving.  But there's been a niggling doubt and much conversation about their ability to really be delivering what my existing front end is capable of, never mind further upgrades.

Linn Keilidh

I subscribe to the "rubbish in, rubbish out" school of thought that leads to the inevitable conclusion that a good deal should be invested in the "source" of a system.  Hence the departure of my LP12 in order to fund an upgrade from Squeezebox Touch / Cyrus DAC-X to the current Linn Akurate DS/0 Dynamik.  However, if you spend £10k on a source and £100 on a set of speakers, I reckon you're not getting the best sound for your investment.  Perhaps it should be more like 40% source, 30% amps, 40% speakers?  So having now got a much better source and set of amps, I think the speakers need to be next.  But they need to be good enough to reflect any later upgrades to source and amps.

So off to my friendly local Linn dealer to listen to some loudspeaker options.  Having heard my brother's Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grands recently on an all Linn system, I found them to be superb with acoustic, atmospheric music and great with vocals - imaging superbly, especially when we tried them with Cyrus power amps.  But put on some Yello (I listen to a lot of acoustic music, but I listen to a lot of Yello too) and it all fell a bit flat.  Not exciting enough to listen to, for me.

Here's what we had set up to trial the Linn speakers at the dealership:

My Linn Akurate DS/0/Dynamik
Linn Akurate Kontrol/1
Linn Akurate 2200/D amp for super tweeter
Linn Majik 6100/D amp for the other drivers
Linn Silver interconnects
2 x Linn K400 speaker cables
Quadraspire shelving

So apart from the AK/1 rather than my AK/0/D the system was as my own current system at home.  The room is in a large Victorian(?) terrace - ceilings about 11 feet high, very solid walls, about 13ft by 16ft at a guess, with the speakers firing across the shorter distance, and standing just inside each end of the bay - about 2ft 6ins away from the back wall of the bay.

We tried the following Linn speakers, both driven by the above amplification combination in fully active mode

Majik 140s first

then Majik Isobariks

Its difficult to A-B them as it takes about 20 minutes to swap the speakers over, get them level and to swap all the aktiv cards between the amps. None of the aktiv cards are common.

All FLAC ripped CDs were used, so all at 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. Tracks:

Blues Company - Dark Day; Cold Rain
Yello - Tangier Blue; Till Tomorrow
Eagle Eye Cherry - Shooting Up In Vain
Kiki Dee - Amoureuse (live)
Tom Baxter - Night Like This


Both are way more detailed and easy to listen to than my Keilidhs -they manage to deliver a much more detailed treble with really clear, sharp edges, but without any hint of harshness or edginess
They both have good drive and deliver the rhythm well.
The 140 superficially seems to have more bass, but actually, the Isos go deeper and deliver a better definition of a tune and instrument pitch in the bass, whereas the 140s are loosing control - this is relative and the 140 is still a great listen.  We heard a couple of the tracks where the 140s deliver a bass tune, but the 'bariks deliver a more clearly defined tune and on some tracks there are 2 instruments playing in the bass that sound like one on the 140s.
Initially I was sat back on the sofa, but the sofa is backed up to the wall.  Sitting forward on the edge of the sofa markedly improved the bass definition, narrowing the gap between the two speakers.  At home my sofa is about 4ft from the back wall, so sitting forward was more realistic in terms of recreating my listening position, but takes you nearer to the speakers and I was already sitting closer to the speakers than I do at home.
The 'bariks deliver a very different mid-range when compared to the 140s and the Majik 109s I have at home - male vocals are better defined but recessed further back in the mix. Its a strange effect - I wouldn't say it was wrong, but it didn't feel right to me either.
The 140s produce a much more precise image (instruments are easier to pin-point) and the speakers themselves "disappear" as a point source better than the 'bariks. Not sure if that is due to the extra width of the 'bariks front baffle compared to the 140s?

Overall, I think the 'bariks are the better speaker, particularly the way they deliver bass. But they really are quite different in their presentation compared to the 140s, which came as a suprise - I wasn't expecting such a different presentation, given the common components in the "2k array".  I was expecting the 'bariks to be a more refined and defined version of the 140s.

I would be happy with either.
The 140s also look better to my eyes!

Thanks to the gents at HoL for the session.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Latest Main System Photos Published

After 9 months of changes, I've finally found the system I'm going to settle on for a good while now.  So new photos (in the recently revamped listening room) are now up on the Images page.

You'll need to scroll down to the end of the page for these latest piccies.  Here's a taster:

Friday 18 May 2012

Tiny Amp Packs A Significant Punch

I have a Trends Audio TA-10.1 integrated stereo amp for travelling.  It's about 10 watts per channel, has one input, a power switch and a volume control.  Using "T-class" amplification its tiny (4 x 5 x 2 inches), doesn't get warm and looks rather underwhelming.

I normally plug my iPod into it, then it powers a small pair of Tangent Evo speakers - making longer stays in hotels for business purposes just a little bit more tolerable.

However, last Autumn I happened to be in Scotland and needed to pick up a pair of Mission 783 speakers one day, stay in the hotel overnight and then deliver them the next day.  Being very large, its not possible to hide a pair of these in the car boot, so it was no good leaving them in the car overnight.  Borrowing the hotel's large luggage trolley I transported them up to my room.  So there was the Trends amp and the little Evos and this huge pair of 783s.  Well, you can't let an opportunity like go by can you.....?

Inside the Glasgow Hilton on an unusual night (click to enlarge)
How did it get on?  Very very well - far better than you'd have any right to expect.  Bearing in mind that the speakers were not on spikes and there's a great big bed in the middle of the room, it did a decent job.  Clearly you're not going to get party volume levels, but pretty much everything was there - there's  touch of stridency in the treble at higher volumes, and bass could do with a fair bit more slam, but these could just as easily be the compressed 320 kbps AAC files on the iPod as the amp itsself (definitely not limitations of the speakers though - having heard them with some higher end Cyrus kit).

Not the most convenient hotel system of course, but just a bit of experimental fun.  As for the TA-10.1, it's quite and achievement - would be ideal for a bedroom, study or kitchen system, or anywhere with limited space.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Heard The New Naim NDS Today

Naim are touring their NDS at the moment in the UK.

Heard this playing at Acoustica in Chester. System as follows:

252 pre-amp with Supercap power supply
NAP300 power amp with its dedicated power supply
NAC speaker cable
Naim Ovator S-600 speakers

Streamers (all include an on-board DAC):
NDX (£3k)
NDX with 555PS power supply (£9k)
NDS with 555PS power supply (£11k)

First, I really do not like Naim speakers, so this needs to be borne in mind. Having said that, today was the first time (in 4 attempts) that the S-600s actually were tolerable. They have this strange "cardboard" quality to some sounds such as snare and fingers rapping on a guitar body. They also harden up quite quickly, which doesn't complement the immdediacy of the Naim electronics at all.

We heard the NDX stand alone (just OK), the NDX with the 555PS (note that the PS is about 50% more expensive than the streamer) which works very well, and then the NDS with 555PS which was clearly the better sounding streamer, but not such a big improvement as adding the power supply to the NDX.

Within the constraints of the speakers (I know, this is very much a personal thing), each step brought greater clarity, more depth, improved image width etc. etc. But, joy of joys, apart from the stand alone NDX, there was none of that Naim shoutyness that, IMHO, is very tiring and somewhat irritating. Until they played XTC's Making Plans For Nigel on the NDX / 555PS, which was just about excrutiatingly painful.

Would love to hear the electronics with some of the larger B&W speakers in the shop. Maybe we can drop back in again soon when the Naim guy's gone home!

Is the NDS / 555PS a Linn Klimax DS rival? Difficult to say as I've only heard them in the context of their own make systems. But I suspect it will be, as anything that can make a pair of Naim speakers sound tolerable is a major achievement in my book.

Linn vs Naim Mid-range Streamer

Had the opportunity to spend some time comparing Linn and Naim streamers last weekend.

Friend's system as follows:
Naim CDX2 (latest version) with XPS2 power supply
Naim 282 pre-amp with Supercap power supply
Naim NAP250 power amp
NAC speaker cable
Wilson Benesch The Arc stand mounts with their dedicated stands

We have a difference of opinion on how a system should sound - to me the above seems to interpret the music rather than let it out, and it has that Naim immediacy that borders on shouty. It is much better than it was previously when it used to have a first iteration of CDX2 and a NAP180 amp.

So in came a Naim NDX streamer, using the existing XPS2 power supply. We used my Windows 7 Dell laptop, a 2.5" portable drive, FLAC in 16/44.1 and 24/96, an unmanaged network switch and Asset UPnP. Control was via the buttons and screen on the front of the NDS - really simple to use and gets you up and running quickly. I thought it was much simpler to set up than a Linn DS. It took us about 3 minutes to decide that the CD player was a non-event compared to the streamer. The difference is quite astounding - the streamer is much more organic and precise - it has an hint of analogue about it. The control it brings to the music really makes the CD player sound quite nasty, cluttered and over zealous. Job done. This streamer and power supply combination lists at about £6.5k. You can pick up ex-dems and secondhand and get this down to just under £5k. Not many about though, although I suspect more NDXs will start to surface now the NDS is on its way.

We brought in my Akurate DS/0 Dynamik and silver cables (yes, the 282 pre-amp has a couple of phono inputs on the back!) into the Naim system to conduct a direct comparison. We used the same data source as used for the NDX and used Kinsky on the laptop for control. How did it compare? Well its a tricky one really. I really wouldn't like to say which was better, but there certainly were some differences. For me the Linn brings more detail, separates the instruments better, times the music more naturally (more involuntary foot tapping) and is very musical. To counter this the Naim sounds more analogue, a bit more fluid and gives an open, more airy soundstage - almost like the room in which the recording took place was bigger. I know the current ADS/1 lists at £4.5k, but mine set me back just under half that amount.

So you pay your money (lots more for the Naim) and make your choice. I really would be happy living with either in the Naim system, but if you add VFM into the mix, the Linn wins out significantly.

Oh, and if you take the PSX2 out of the system, the NDX is a real disappointment compared to the ADS/0 Dynamik, but still outperforms the CDX2.

If we can find a suitable cable, I'll try and report back on the same comparison in my Linn system...
Scores (a bit simplistic, but there you go - all I'm trying to do is indicate relative performance rather than absolute performance):
Naim NDX / XPS2 = 90%
Linn Akurate DS/0 Dynamik 89%
Naim NDX = 75%
Naim CDX2 / XPS2 = 65%

Monday 9 April 2012

Inside an Active Linn AV5125

Some photos of the inside of the AV5125 five channel amplifier with 2 x stereo active cards installed - 1 x stereo treble and 1 x stereo bass (in this case, the cards are for Keilidh speakers, but the cards are in the same format for all AV5125s. There is room for one more mono card for the 5th channel, but its not installed in this case.

AV5125 Rear Panel - showing 5 channels of inputs (1 input and output per channel to facilitate bi-amping or active) and speaker terminals (2 speaker outputs per channel to ease bi-wiring),  4 slots in the upper right hand half would have tabs sticking out indicating the type of card installed, should active cards be in place inside the amp.

AV5125 Front Panel

AV5125 With 2 x Active Stereo Cards Installed

AV5125 with 2 x Active Stereo Cards Installed - just to the right the vertical white plastic pillars of the 5th mono card installation point can be seen

AV5125 Internals Overview.  Front panel at the base of this picture.

Sunday 8 April 2012

Cyrus Power vs Linn Power - Decision Time

Finally I get around to writing about the comparison with Cyrus amps.

If you look at my system pictures in the images tab you'll currently see 4 x 8 Powers with 4 x PSX-Rs powering my tri-active Linn Keilidhs and bi-active Linn Centrik (with a pair of SmartPowers driving bi-active Tukans at the rear).

A quick re-cap:

- My system had been static for about 7 years
- I went through a few Squeezebox / DAC combinations before deciding to go for a Linn Akurate DS/0 Dynamik, selling my DAC-X and Linn LP12 to fund the DS
- I was using 6 x Rotel RB850 power amps to drive my active Linn speakers
- The listening room was being thoroughly re-decorated

So during the re-decoration I started collecting power amps to compare once the room was back in action, realising that the Rotels are now the weak point in the system.  My brother has Cyrus kit which has some merits (punchy, fast, excellent imaging, good bass depth) and obviously with Linn in the system I had to give those a try too.

Over the 3 - 4 months of listening room re-decoration I found 4 Cyrus 8 Powers, 3 PSX-Rs (I had one I had been using with the DAC-X to make a total of 4), 2 SmartPowers and the Linn C5100 / AV5125 listed earlier.  FYI, the C5100 is 5 x mono 50W amps in one box and the AV5125 is 5 x mono 125W amps in one box.  The Keilidhs need 6 channels of amplification and the Centrik needs 2 channels so its 2 Linn boxes or 8 Cyrus 8 Power / PSX-R boxes.

Wiring up all the Cyrus amps wasn't the fastest operation - 8 mains power cables (connected into 2 x Clearer Audio Copper Alpha distribution blocks), 10 interconnects and 14 speaker connections took a while, and the spaghetti behind the rack was a real challenge.  The 4 PSX-Rs with their 4 8 Powers on top all lined up on the lower shelf of the Quadraspire QAV rack looked pretty impressive (although many would complain about so many boxes).  Mrs Sunbeamgls is very tolerant!

Comparisons first with memories (3-4 months old remember) of the Rotel power amps.  The Cyrus amps sounded clearer, faster, imaging better and altogether more lively.  Bass wasn't really deeper, but it had more control.  In all the right hi-fi ways, it was a better sound.  But as local Naim enthusiast Richard pointed out, it wasn't really all the way it should be.  I left the system like this for a week - to allow it to settle in and to make sure there weren't any issues waiting for the system to warm up etc.  Still, I wasn't happy with the sound - I just didn't want to sit and listen to the music for very long - I wasn't captivated by the music.

So in come the Linn amps.  Fewer mains cables of course, but just as many of the other connections.  Initial impressions spotted some immediate differences.  I would characterise the overall change in sound as a huge amount more subtlety about the presentation of the music.  Its not something that hits you in the face as being entirely obvious, but its clearly very different to the Cyrus amps.  Bass notes are deeper, more controlled and exist in their own space.  One of the tracks I used suddenly had not just a kick drum, but a kick drum with a bass guitar layered over the top, which is playing a tune - the Cyrus amps just didn't resolve this as 2 instruments, hence not playing the bass line as a tune either.  Cymbals became stand alone instruments with sudden clarity of shimmer vs sparkle and its possible to distinguish how hard they are being struck. There's more - the Cyrus amps initially sound more exciting, but direct comparison with the Linns shows that the leading edges of the instruments are quiet edgy and grainy - they happen faster, but there's a roughness - the Linns again displaying some subtlety in leading edges that allow the music to flow more convincingly.  Its a weird mix of instruments being distinctly separate but the music flowing as an whole - difficult to describe but that's the best way I can put it.

So the Linn's win it for me.  All of this kit is secondhand with the AV5125 being around 8 years old, the C5100 about 5 years old and the 8 Powers and PSX-Rs being between 4 years and 6 months old.  If we consider the new price of the equivalent current models, the Cyrus ensemble comes in at around £6.5k and the Linns at £5k.

I'm almost disappointed!  I kind of like the idea of mixing and matching components, but it seems, in this case, that there could be some synergy happening.   Certainly not disappointed with the music I'm getting - its truly involving.  Since then the AV5125 has replaced the SmartPowers to drive the rear speakers and a current Majik 5100 Dynamik has taken up duties powering the bass drivers in the Keilidhs.  A Linn Akurate 2200 Dynamik is driving the Keilidh tweeters and the C5100 is driving the Centrik speaker.  Another advantage of the Linn amps is that the active crossover cards can be housed inside the amps, removing the need for the Linn Tunebox crossover boxes that are required when running non-Linn amplifiers.  So the crossover boxes have gone and for the front speakers I've gone from 4 Rotels and 2 crossovers down to 3 Linn amps - with Cyrus amps it would have been 10 boxes!  Fewer connections and interconnect cables are probably helping the sound too.

Oh, and one more thing - when watching a movie, because the Cyrus amps are driving only a limited number of drivers and they switch themselves off after 5 mins of inactivity, they were switching themselves on and off rather annoyingly - clicking as they powered up and down to the point of distraction.  Not acceptable!. Of course, it is possible to have the Cyrus amps constantly powered up, but that's not too convenient either.  The Linns are more patient - waiting for 15 minutes before powering down, so they work out just fine, staying active for the full length of a movie.

The Rotels are leaving the building...

Monday 2 April 2012

PiFi Show - Scalford Hall, March 2012

Here are some piccies from the event - will write some wordS at some point, but suffice to say that this is quite some experience and demonstrates the huge variety of kit in this hobby, and the even wider variety of solutions and different approaches to sound that folk aim for.  What fun.

freefallrob and radical D.N.A - Heybrook TT2 / RB300 / Goldring Eroica LO LX phonostage / Cambridge Audio CA640P /  EPOS M12 speakers

Serious Listening
glowingtones - icon audio triode / croft pre-amp / SBT / MF V-DAC
glowingtones Klipsch RF82
John - Open Baffles DIY
SpeedySteve's Home Brew Horns

Shanling CD / Icon Audio EL84s and some T-Amps

Saturday 17 March 2012

LINN Brochures

Linn have given permission to scan and post their old brochures, so over the next few weeks I'll scan and post all of the ones I have - they'll be on the Linn Brochures Page tabbed above.

Enjoy the nostalgia.  I'll probably include the price lists, just to make us all feel bad!

Monday 27 February 2012

Where Are You All?

Here's a summary of the location of Audiophile Musings readership over the last week:

36.60%United KingdomUnited Kingdom Flag

9.80%GermanyGermany Flag

7.60%United StatesUnited States Flag

7.00%NetherlandsNetherlands Flag

6.40%AustraliaAustralia Flag

3.60%LuxembourgLuxembourg Flag

2.80%PolandPoland Flag

2.60%ItalyItaly Flag

1.80%FranceFrance Flag

1.60%HungaryHungary Flag

1.40%BelgiumBelgium Flag

1.20%EuropeEurope Flag

1.20%GreeceGreece Flag

1.20%SpainSpain Flag

1.00%TurkeyTurkey Flag

1.00%SwitzerlandSwitzerland Flag

1.00%CanadaCanada Flag

1.00%DenmarkDenmark Flag

1.00%FinlandFinland Flag

0.80%MalaysiaMalaysia Flag


Just FYI, here are the stats for Audiophile Musings in the last week.  A bit of an improvement on the first month which racked up a total of 63 page views in the whole month!


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits1526272216262415622
First Time Visits1425222214252114320
Returning Visits1150213132

Saturday 25 February 2012

Naim Take Streaming Waaaay Up Market

Naim are going whole heartedly for the world of streaming.  Not content with their recently launched entry level (ahem) £2k ND5 XS nor the £3k NDX they've just announced the top of the range NDS at £6250.  Gulp.  But you can't even plug it in for that as you'll need to add at least one of their range of power supplies to get it up and running.  So if you thought Linn's £11k Klimax DS was expensive, just wait until you work out what an NDS and 2 of Naim's top end power supplies adds up to.  The lowest price power supply is £2900, but you can drive the NDS with 2 of the top end NAPS555 which means a whopping £10k.  A streamer from Naim could now set you back over £16k.  Better be good.

I'm really keen to see what kind of reviews this gets and how much existing owners of Naim's top end CD players make of it.  I feel another one of those times rather like the CD vs Vinyl debates of 20 years ago coming to several forums near you soon.  Only this time its bit-perfect digital versus spinny-roundy error prone and noise inducing digital.

Get yer hair-shirts out for this one.  If you'd invested £16k+ in a CD player, are you duty bound to believe that a £12k+ network streamer can't possibly be as good?!?

What Hifi News Page


Monday 13 February 2012

New System Photos Published

The new system configuration is now settled into the newly decorated listening room.

Pictures posted on the Images Page - scroll down to near the bottom for the latest.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Meanwhile, In The World of Multi-Channel

I run a pre-pro in my system (a combined pre-amplifier and surround processor that needs to be connected to multiple power amps rather than having built-in power amps) as I like the idea of one decent quality system rather than splitting funds between AV and music systems (although if I had a big enough house and I'd won the lottery, that's exactly what I'd do).

Unfortunately, there's a restricted choice of such products out in the market.  I've used a Meridian Pro-Logic pre-pro for about 11 years and have recently moved to a Linn AV5103.  However, Linn are out of that market and Meridian are only producing products in the stratosphere.

So that leaves Rotel (good value), Arcam (apparently a great product, but not exactly budget) and other esoterics such as Parasound.  Now Bryston has a new product called the SP-3, launching at the Bristol Show later this month.  It won't be a bargain, but its good to see some more choice.  I look forward to trying to find a review!

Slew Of New Cyrus Products and Price Cuts

Cyrus have launched some (what they call) budget products to move themselves back down into a market they've gradually vacated over the past 3 years or so.  They think that under £800 per component is the budget market...

So we're probably off into alphabet soup product naming again.  From what I can gather from the pretty good sources I've checked on, these seem to be the highlights:

CD Transport reduced in price to £600
New 6a Integrated Amp 40 wpc £800
New 8a Integrated Amp 70 wpc £1200
New 6 DAC  which is the 6a integrated but with a DAC £700
New 8 DAC which is the 8a integrated but with a DAC £1200
New Qx DAC with 192kHz upsampling DAC £1400
Some new integrated CD players too
PSX-R power supply down to £500 (hurrah!)

Most interesting for me would be the Qx DAC, but initial information indicates that its special because it upsamples to 192kHz.  Unfortuately the old DAC X+ did that too, so I'm hoping the QX isn't just a re-badging exercise as that box is a bit long in the tooth now and it would be better to see Cyrus pushing hard against the likes of Naim's DAC and the new ARCAM FMJ33 DAC.

Looks like we'll have to wait until the Bristol show for the full details.

Monday 30 January 2012

LINN AV5125 vs C5100

Still haven't got the decorating finished so this isn't in my active Keilidh system, but when the AV5125 arrived over the weekend I had to get it out to give it a test.

AV5125 = 5 channels of 125W per channel into 8 ohms.  Older design with a standard power supply - can be upgraded using a Dynamik power supply, but this one is standard
C5100 = 5 channels of 100W per channel into 4 ohms.  Reasonably recent (but not current) design based on Linn's Chakra circuit design.  Very similar to the current Majik 5100 power amp, but without the current Dynamik power supply.

The end game is to use 8 channels of AV5125 and C5100 to power my tri-active Keilidhs and bi-active Centrik and compare them against my current many box collection of Cyrus amps.  Then decide which to keep - Cyrus or Linn.

So for testing purposes (to make sure the AV5125 was fit and well) I rigged up the Akurate DS/0 Dynamik with volume control into a couple of channels of the 5125 into the second system's Mission 773e floorstanders.

All is well with all five channels of the 5125.  But the temptation to compare against the C5100 was too much, so it came out of its box too.

The differences (as revealed through the Mission speakers which will be a limiting factor to some extent) are reasonably subtle.  I expected the 5125 to be much weightier than the 5100 and initially this seemed to be the case.  But a little longer listening shows that actually, the 5125 is putting a "bloom" around everything from the bottom up to and including male vocals.  Switching to the C5100 gave just as much depth, but the bloom or muddiness was gone.  Another benefit of the C5100 was the resolution of cymbals.  Using the track "Death Will Be My Bride" by Brendan Perry - I know, I live a cheerful life! - there is a very complex cymbal sequence in the last 90 seconds or so of the track.  The 5125 sounded like it was very detailed in this section, but switching to the 5100 shows just as much detail but by far more control - a lot of splashiness disappears.

So, the 5100 is sounding better through the Missions.  Its not a massive difference and most of it is in the treble so I'll be putting it on the tweeters in the active system.

Will report back on the Cyrus vs Linn amps in a few weeks when the room's all back together.

Saturday 21 January 2012