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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 8
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Positive Feedback Online Photo Essay Linn Does it Again: An Akurate Product Launch Report…
by David W. Robinson

 

(All on-site photographs and image processing by Robinson; product photographs courtesy of Linn)

For those of you longing for more akuracy in fine audio journalism, here’s a photo essay you’ll like, eh? The folks at Linn have been at it with a vengeance, working on some remarkable new surround sound/home theatre components that really look like they’ll be quite smashing!

A group of audiophile journalists (representing Positive Feedback Online, Enjoy The Music, Stereo Times, Stereophile, and Widescreen Review) were invited to view the results of Linn’s engineering at a world premiere launch event of the new Linn Akurate loudspeaker system. The event was held on August 14th at Definitive Audio in Seattle, one of Linn’s top dealers.

 

The product launch featured not only the new Akurate (pronounced "Ak-you-rate") line of loudspeakers, but also included the new Linn Unidisk universal player and the new Kisto audio controller. These were all components that I was very eager to see and hear in action. I’ve had a number of requests from PFO readers requesting impressions on the new Linn components; this was the perfect opportunity for a "first impression."

The new Linn Unidisk universal transport (top) and Kisto controller (bottom): beautiful work indeed!

I got to see the Unidisk and Kisto immediately after my arrival at Definitive. Definitely eye-catching, amigos! Taking their cue from the exceptional look and feel that Linn has been producing since the revolutionary CD-12 hit the scene, the Unidisk/Kisto tandem has exceptional visual appeal. What’s more…and more important… this duo seems capable of handling just about any input/output presently known to audio/video man!

Unidisk/Kisto: "I/O, I/O, it’s off to work we go…"

The view above was all it took; I made a mental note to arrange a PFO review of these lovelies ASAP!

Since the top-secret Akurate launch rooms were not yet ready for the workin’ press, I spent time looking at the static display of the Akurate rear channel speakers.

The Linn Akurate rear channel speakers, front and rear

The Akurate rear channels sported the mid-bass, midrange, tweeter and super-tweet in a new array that I was familiar with from my extended experience with the Linn Komri (see my review at http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue1/komri.htm). The array was not the same as the Komri, being reconfigured for a smaller footprint and having (as it turned out) not quite the extension of the Komri. (No surprise there; the price differential is roughly 4:1!) The porting was also different; interesting, that.

A bit after 4:00 p.m. Linn and Definitive were ready to roll. We were first taken to a room for a listen to a Linn stereo configuration, with the floor-standing Akurate 242.

Brian Morris of Linn demonstrating the Akurate 242 (left).

The Linn "stereo stack" that was used for the stereo demonstration: The Linn CD-12 is on top; the Kontrol preamp is on the second shelf; a pair of Klimax solos are next (driving the L/R Linn 3K arrays), then a Klimax stereo amp for the bass sections. Extremely sweet iron!

The Akurate 242 is a 5-way bass-reflex system, featuring the new Linn 3K Driver Array and two 6.5" sandwich (layered) cone bass drivers. Frequency response in active mode is 40 Hz – 33 kHz (49 Hz in passive mode); efficiency is listed at 87 dB/Watt/meter.

Members of the audio press (left to right: Stereo Times, Widescreen Review and Stereophile) listen to the Linn Akurate system in stereo configuration

Brian Morris, PR Manager for Linn, played a number of CDs for us after a brief talk about the system. It’s tough to listen to a new system in an unknown room, so I can’t be categorical about the sound of the Akurate in this setting. At first, the sound was somewhat congested—but this is only to be expected in any new system. As time went by, and we listened to five or six tracks, the sound seemed to loosen up and bloom.

Steve Rochlin, editor of Enjoy the Music, was sitting next to me, doing his usual thing of punching out prose on the spot…

…but later, as we sat to one side, we both noticed that the sound was improving. By the time we finished the session, I found the Akurate to be very promising… so much so that I made a second mental note to get these speakers to PFO for review together with the Unidisk and Kisto!

The Rochlinmeister takes center stage to check out the Akurates.

At the end of the stereo session, the Linn/Definitive crowd moved us over to the home theater/surround room. There we had a very interesting time, getting to hear from the designer of the Akurate, Philip Hobbs. Philip is quite a brilliant and eclectic fellow, having spent time both in engineering and in audio recording for Linn Records. I remember Brian Morris telling me of the connection between the audio engineering group at Linn Records and the Komri project, and now I saw that the Akurate was a further working out of that connection.

Philip Hobbs and the Linn Akurate 242

Philip spent time explaining the rationale for the Linn 3K Drive Array, pointing out the fact that it had been designed to approach a true "point source" with a multi-driver set as closely as possible. My experience with the Linn Komri indicated that Linn had done a very fine job of exactly that kind of point coherence, and I suspect that the Akurate will partake of the same family of virtues.

Philip started out by describing the work that had been done to produce the Linn 3K Drive Array, pointing out some of the technical problems that had to be overcome, and how the radiation patterns of the design had to be carefully plotted for maximum horizontal and vertical dispersion and linearity of frequency response.

The construction of the array minimizes ringing and other anomalies through careful design, superior materials, and very precise execution. I asked Philip particularly about this; he confirmed that both testing and listening indicated an extremely good result. The close placement of the midrange (top), tweeter (middle), and super-tweet (bottom) over the top of the mid-bass unit was possible due to the use of some extremely powerful magnets, allowing the miniaturization of the magnet assembly on the back side of the drivers.

The Linn 3K Driver Array

There are several members of the Akurate multi-channel speaker family. In addition to the floor-standing 242, there is the Akurate 225 center channel speaker, the Akurate 212 rear channel speaker, and the Akurate 221 bass extension/subwoofer speaker (with dedicated 500 Watt Linn amplifier and servo control). They are intended to operate synergistically as a matched system, for maximum seamlessness of performance in either audio or video applications… something they did immensely well, as I was shortly to find out.

The Linn Akurate 221 bass extension speaker

The Akurate 225 center channel speaker, showing the mounting system beneath the projection screen at Definitive Audio.

As he showed us the various speakers, Philip explained the logic of the model numbers in the Akurate line. The first number, "2", indicated that this was the second iteration of the Linn Driver Array that had first been released in the reference Komri speaker. The second and third number (e.g., "42") stated the cabinet volume in liters of the Akurate speaker in question. Thus, the Akurate 221 bass extension speaker was in the second series, and has a cabinet volume of 21 liters; the Akurate 225 center channel has a cabinet volume of 25 liters. There is method to the madness!

(Speaking of bass, the Akurate 221 bass extension speaker/subwoofer…depending on what side of the pond you reside…reaches all the way down to an astonishing 10 Hz in external bass output. Amazing! And it felt like it, too, when we got to screen our video selection.)

After Philip’s illuminating talk, we got to see the Unidisk/Kisto combination in action with DVD video. In addition to the Linn sources already mentioned, a stack of three Linn stereo amps were used to power the Akurate system. A section of The Matrix was screened for us… and yoicks!! It was really first rate! I know this DVD well, and have watched it at home on my 65" Toshiba HDTV. I’m afraid that the Unidisk/Kisto/Linn amps/Akurate sadly kicked the honk out of my current system.

Mental note number three: get the whole bloody system in for my first home theater review!!!

The all-too-brief video sequence (the general public was due in any time now for the Linn/Definitive event…we had to hurry!) was followed by several cuts from reference SACDs in multi-channel mode. This was my first chance to hear SACD surround from the Linn Unidisk; I was all ears.

Some Beck! This is an exceptional SACD, both for the music and for the quality of the audio production. In surround mode, the Linn Unidisk/Kisto/Akurate system created a wonderful sense of envelopment. This is not a "concert hall ambience" sort of recording… we heard that later… but there is a dreamy, yearning magic in the work that Beck did, and the surround SACD was absolutely lovely. This was magic.

No surprise here! Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, sounding better in multi-channel than I’ve ever heard it before. "Time" is one of my favorite Floyd tunes; it was delicious via the Linn playback. This is definitely a recording that sounds "better in six than in two." And the Linn system handled it effortlessly, seamlessly… no discontinuities between center and left/right front, no clumsy rear effects, no tubby bass.

Then came a particular recent favorite of mine: the Linn Records SACD of Mackerras and the Scottish Symphony doing a wonderful performance of Mozart’s Requiem… in an inspired six channel recording! The sense of hall space and reverberant decay was marvelous, and gave us a sense of what classic recordings in multi-channel DSD could do for our jaded sensibilities. What I was enjoying is the sort of experience that could lead to a real re-birth of classical music in the home… who wouldn’t want this?!

Indeed, if there are any of you who are questioning whether or not multi-channel is worthwhile…well, let’s just say that properly done, it really can move us from "soundstage" to "soundfield," and reconnect us emotionally and spiritually with the music again.

Believe me, you want what I was experiencing in the Linn/Definitive Audio multi-channel demonstration room.

The Linn Unidisk is certainly a very promising sounding player; I look forward to an extended review of its capabilities in the near future. Linn has promised a review sample by October, so I should be able to report my long-term impressions by November/December.

The Kisto looks utterly remarkable as a controller, and it seemed to synergize quite well with the Linn amp stack. (Forgive me, but I don’t remember which Linn amps were used in this stack.)

And the Akurate speaker system was clear, coherent, seamless, and very involving for me as a listener, whether in video or in audio multi-channel modes.

Overall, my first, all-too-limited initial impression of the Linn Akurate was very favorable…you can bet that I’ll be looking forward to following this complete system up for our readers at PFO!

We had a great time at the Linn world launch of their Akurate speaker line. Many thanks to the good folks at Linn and Definitive Audio for making this a product launch to remember, and for the good time we all had. And kudos to the brilliant minds, hearts and ears at Linn who keep pushing the envelope of real engineering in audio…it’s a pleasure to see such superiority and excellence from Linn, year in and year out!

I’ll be evaluating the Linn multi-channel system soon…stay tuned!

Retail:
Linn Akurate 242: US $9,495/pair baseline; some wood finishes are more.
Linn Akurate 225: US $3,750 each baseline.
Linn Akurate 212: US $5,750/pair baseline.
Linn Akurate 221: US $3,595 baseline

For more information on the technicals of the Linn Akurate line, visit http://www.linn.co.uk/akurate_preview/specification.asp

For more information about Linn, point your browser at http://www.linn.co.uk

 

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