22 April, 2010

Linn Majik (and Linn Kolektor)

Review: Linn Majik (and Linn Kolektor)

I just couldn't resist a good integrated amp, which more often than not even trumps expensive separates in coherence. If you read my integrated amp overview you shall know how devoted I am to the best of these, and the best are mostly British.

Most recently I jumped on a Linn Majik, old version, with built in MM phono section.Given my reasonable familiarity with these older black Linn boxes I was still surprised by its performance. Since I am mainly a phono user, a comparison with the Kloektor is in order.

I had previously owned the Linn Kolektor twice, and once used it with the companion LK60. The Kolektor is a very good, under-rated full function preamp, with SMS power supply, remote capability and MM phono section (almost nothing inside the box, given the surface mount components). Its refined sound is a pleasure. Though it is bested by many tube preamps, it is very good for a ss preamp and I prefer it to many expensive ss products. One fault of it is that the overload margin of the line input is low (rated at 2mV), Still, it's a fine achievement and I regard the preamp to be quite a bit more outstanding than the amp. Some audiophiles have prejudice against SMS power supply and surface mount components. I am not sure why. As implemented by Linn, they are usually refined sounding compared to their earlier incarnations using traditional components.

This early Majik has a large Irish toroidal transformer and a circuit board populated by surface mount components. The board is very different from the later Kolektor. This is the setup used:

Analogue: Technics SL-1200 MkII with Benz Micro Silver or Denon DL-102 (mono)
Digital: Meridian 596
Speakers: Magnepan MMG

The volume marking of Linn is a little alarming, initializing at 30 and maxing out at 60. Driving the MMG, I used it around 50. But no fear, although rated at a humble 33 wpc into 8 ohms, it is actually subjectively more powerful. On most material it is unfazed, unraveling just a bit only in certain orchestral climaxes. Most impressive is its rhythmic flair and prodigious bass quality, which surpass my BAT/McIntosh setup. That's amazing for a 33 wpc amp! The phono section is very clean, its output slightly low using the tape out. Higher output MMs would fare better, though my 2 mV Benz Silver did reasonably.

The sound of this integrated, as an amp and as a phonoamp I'd rate better than the next-up separates, Kolektor/LK60, It's more lively and rhythmic. This might be one aspect in which a SMS supply yields to traditional supply. The compromise is a little less smoothness when pressed. Here I remember old time Linnies frequently prefer their older products for their better PRAT. That's certainly true for the LP12, and it may be true of their other products as well. Horses for courses.

With its remote facility, this is now a favorite.

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