Audio systems are mostly built by informed experimentation. Assembling components from different manufacturers, sitting them on something suitable and hooking everything up with well-chosen cabling. Structuring the whole installation from the ground up often comes with experience and a couple of costly mistakes. There are and have been many companies who have sought to avoid this by supplying an entire system, but it is rare to find one that has complete competence in every discipline.
For the past year I have been living with a pair of Lindemann products; the 825 DAC/CD player and the BL-10 loudspeakers. The Munich based company also makes an extensive range of products, and I had grown increasingly intrigued how they would perform in a full Lindemann system. So we contacted the company and were sent an 885 integrated amplifier and a set of its Kind Of Blue cables. The only thing I didn’t have was their mains distribution block, so I used them with both a Crystal and a Quantum QB8 distribution block, and even through my dedicated mains spur, thereby also bypassing the mains blocks altogether.
Lindemann forged an enviable reputation for its SACD players but with the latest 825, designer and founder Norbert Lindemann has dropped this compatibility and renamed it as a High Definition player. The best way to think of the 825 is as a H-Res DACwith a CD reader included. The CD drawer is a thin all-metal design that utilises a DVD drive, servo optimised to operate as a CD reader. To the rear are RCA and Toslink digital outputs, a Toslink digital input, a pair of RCA S/PDIF inputs and an asynchronous USB input. Outputs are a choice of both single ended and balanced. The DAC section operates at 24-bit 192 kHz while the USB is happy to receive data in the standard formats of 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 196kHz. This is truly a high-resolution compatible device and a well- built machine with a separate power supply that punches way above its price point.
The 885 integrated amp is a true dual- mono construction as there are actually two full amplifiers in the case, with the mains socket being the only shared component. Each amplifier has a 500-watt transformer to itself and both channels are configured in a fully symmetrical design with asymmetrical input signal being converted and controlled by a symmetrical volume control. Lindemann claims that this technique, commonly found in recording studios, offers improved dynamic abilities that they believe is critical when dealing with high-resolution recordings. The circuit design itself that is based on a single- ended push-pull amplifier idea that dates back to the early days of the valve amplifier.
Components have been specially chosen to greatly minimise the lengths of the signal path. It is a fully balanced Class AB design that incorporates a noiseless fan. I never noticed it getting particularly warm and never heard the fan noise at all. There are a couple of pairs of balanced inputs and three sets of single- ended while output connections comprise a single balanced pair. These are selected through the large rotary knob on the front that scrolls through the inputs or of course via the excellent remote control. Power output is 135 watts into 8 and 250 watts into 4 ohms. Throughout my time with the 885, I was constantly impressed at just how hard this thing could really ‘drive’ a loudspeaker, a subjective observation not found in the pure specification figures.
I have heard no stand mount speakers that have come close to the BL-10 at their size and price point (I haven’t heard them all though) and I have spent many a happy hour exploring music through them. This tiny design is the only stand-mount of the three-model Birdland range and comes supplied with a unique support. They say the best designs are the simplest and the low-mass folding system that comes with BL-10 fully substantiates that claim. These are made from twin thin stainless steel rod elements that are fixed at a central axis point so the whole thing can swing open, like the legs of an ironing board. The top elements are then hard-attached to a stainless steel plate affixed to the speaker, bringing the BL-10 to just the right height. The base has four outrigger cups that are used in conjunction with Lindeman’s very simple, but effective hardwood block coupled by a small ceramic ball that separates the two. This appears to give a degree of resonance control and a firm footing for the stand but this is not a heavy, rigid design that holds the speaker absolutely rock solid.
The cabinet is surprisingly small at eight litres, but has obviously come in for special attention and Lindemann have gone with a multi-layer, constrained– layer composite construction that is formed by a 32mm layer of cork, between layers of 95mm Finnish Birch providing a kind of floating, sandwich effect. The cabinet certainly seems very inert. The outside surface is actually high-grade linoleum and it is the latter that gives the BL-10 such a different and slightly industrial look and I would imagine, extra stiffness. Available in many attractive colour finishes; it is also very easy to clean and certainly makes a change from the exotic wood or lacquered finish one might usually expect to see. The aim of the cabinet design was one of the Holy Grails of speaker designers, an absence of stored energy. This avoids the cabinet singing its own delayed song and in this design, it has been massively successful.
The drivers are German-sourced Ceramic designs. The bass/mid driver is a 165mm model, built by Accuton to Lindemann specifications and protected by a fixed metal grill. This unit was designed by Norbert Lindemann to have a full 30% extra cone mass than the equivalent Accuton model of the same size in an effort to achieve much better bass extension and power than one would normally associate with an eight litre cabinet. In the right system, the quantities of bass and the pure low-frequency extension that spring from this very small, rear ported design is a constant surprise and helps the speaker’s tonal balance and sense of scale enormously.
Eton supply the 25mm tweeter, a ceramic-coated, magnesium-domed unit, while the crossover and the Nextgen binding posts are both cryogenically treated. Internally the cabling is unsurprisingly Lindemann Kind Of Blue, offering the possibility of continuum of construction from the mains to the speaker if you want to take that route and I would advise that, given the opportunity, you seriously consider it. The ‘upside down’ configuration, with the tweeter being mounted below the bass/mid driver is chosen for purely musical presentation reasons that stem from the crossover design itself.
Even after a year of using the BL-10s regularly I am still surprised at the 83dB efficiency figure. It obviously needs factoring in when thinking about an amplifier less powerful than the 885, but I have used the speaker very successfully with Vitus’ magnificent 025 25 watt Class A design on many occasions with no problem whatsoever.
This was the first time I had seen or used the Kind Of Blue cable set, but I think Miles himself would be pretty happy at the way they sound as he was certainly a “tone and texture man”. They are made from very high purity copper that has received no surface treatment and Lindemann do not like the sound of silver-plating so it’s about as “raw” as you will find. There is no screening and there are no ferrous components in any of the cabling. In fact the connectors that you will find throughout are low-mass hollow designs fabricated from copper alloys and those at the end of the power cords are un- plated copper. The construction of each cable is twisted-pairs of conductors. As ever with all Lindemann products, there is nothing superfluous or remotely gimmicky in their design.
I love simple systems. A classic ‘the fewer boxes – the better’ approach really appeals to me and the Lindemann 800 system is about as straightforward as it comes. But, as ever, system installation needs meticulous care and attention to draw the best out of the components and allow them to fulfil their potential. So, I tried the CD player and amplifier on two support systems. The first was the bamboo Atacama Eco. Here I supported each component on four Stillpoints Ultra Minis. If I had more of the Lindemann wood and ceramic devices I would have used those, but the Minis did a great job and provided a much tidier and sharper focussed sound with cleaner dynamics and better musical structure. The speakers have their own specific footings so positioning is likely to be the biggest consideration here. But, as the stands attach to them and the whole package is so light anyway, it shouldn’t take you long to find the ideal spot. I used a modicum of toe-in myself and sat them a couple of feet from the rear wall.
The second support system offers a dramatic lift in performance but an eye-watering price hike. The Stillpoints ESS rack is where all their technologies come together and the various levels of resonance control start to pile upon each other to offer the electronics a chance to reach entirely new levels of musical expression and communication, proving once again that a system constructed from the foundations up brings musical rewards and enlightenment that those that have not received this level of attention never attain.
The first few days of listening were really to ensure that the system had warmed through and settled down as the opening hours had left me slightly disappointed with the strangely flat dynamics. Pushing the volume onward and upwards did address this although in fairness nothing specifically unpleasant reared its head. This is always the case though, and a few days of hard running began to see the system rouse from its slumbers and the amplifier starting to use its undoubted muscle to good effect. I am never surprised at the way that systems come out of their shell after a lot of running, but always intrigued to see what emerges. As the presentation leaned out, the bandwidth grew and the picture gained depth and quite a lot of articulation. Instruments began to find their own space and freedom and I was starting to hear all the great things that the CD player and speakers
are capable of. The balanced interconnects that had been supplied interested me but I wished I had asked for a set of single-ended cables too. Every now and then a comparison between the two offers me the chance to confirm what I have felt for years, that I almost always prefer the single-ended option. Now I found that the remarkably unflustered and relaxed view of the music that I had come to admire about the BL-10 was back. The musicianship just flows at whatever rate the tempo decides and as the layers of detail increase the little BL-10 just shrugs its tiny shoulders and lets it pour into the room with a balance and body that never stops surprising.
The 825 CD player generates a huge amount of coherent musical information and this flows as well as the best single-box players I have heard and this includes some very expensive designs. It is also, given the quality of its DAC, extremely versatile. The BL-10 speakers, though very small, are quite stunningly good. Slot the 885 in the middle with the Kind Of Blue cables and you have a real powerhouse of a driving amplifier that exerts just enough grip over the music without sounding too contrived or artificial. There is very little to criticise but, as I have heard the player and speakers so often with other amplification and cabling, I have to say that the Lindemann amplifier is certainly tonally darker than I was expecting. Musically integrated and full of colour and texture but I do find it, when used with their cabling, to be slightly soft through the treble and the bass. This is an observation rather than a criticism. Single-ended operation had gone some way to improving this though. I was also a little underwhelmed with the amp’s low-level performance and often felt that I had to drive harder to encourage it to really sing dynamically. The BL-10 has such a lively and animated midband performance but it seemed a little more restrained and less eloquent than I am accustomed to. This could well be yet another aspect of the long-term run-in possibilities of both the 885 and the cables as I have known some components to take months before really blossoming.
The fact remains though that this is an economically structured and beautifully balanced system that works wonderfully well as a whole. It is fast and detailed but with a great sense of unstrained musical eloquence. Both the CD/DAC and the BL-10s are truly superb products and very competitively priced, given the performance they are capable of. I have heard many, many far more expensive alternatives not shine so musically bright. They set the performance bar incredibly high and although the 885 amplifier puts in a solid shift and has no obvious musical limitations, I do wonder if it is at quite the same level as its illustrious partners.
The bottom line is Lindemann’s products should be very seriously considered as I have heard first hand, over many months, how musically rewarding they can be. I know they are capable of providing an exceptional musical experience, but there is only one-way to find out for yourself.
825 High Definition Disc Player
Formats Supported: CD, CD-R, CD-RW, Hybrid-SACD HDCD.
Frequency Response: 1Hz-22kHz (-3dB)
Bit Resolution: 16/24 bit.
Sample Rate: 44.1-192kHz.
885 Integrated Amplifier
Power output: 135 W/Channel @ 8 ohms. 250 W/Channel @ 4 ohms
Minimum Speaker Impedance: 2 ohms.
Frequency Response: 1 Hz- 200 kHz.
Efficiency: 83 dB
Impedance: 8 ohm nominal.
Drivers: 1 x 165mm ceramic. 1 x 25mm magnesium
Finishes available: 12 variations of linoleum.
Price: £6,350 per pair
Kind Of Blue Cables: (as supplied)
· Power cords 1.5 m – £320.
· Signal: 0.75 m (XLR) – £410
· Speaker Cables: 3.5 pair – £850
Lindemann Audiotechnik GmbH.
Audio Emotion Ltd.
Tel: +44 (0)1333 425999