Linn products always seem expensive for what you get. There are various reasons for this, including the fact that they use switched-mode power supplies that make its products relatively light, and that Linn builds them from the ground up in Scotland. But, a hidden significant factor is the scale of research and development that goes on in Linn’s Waterfoot facility; few audio companies employ an R&D team on Linn’s scale. It’s maybe why even in 2015, Linn still commands poweful loyalty from its fan base. Linn products tend not to look bling in a very bling world: a lot of Linn’s line-up reflects the dour Presbyterian aesthetic of their Glasgow surroundings. This is not the case with the range topping Klimax components, but even though they are made in Glasgow, they use Californian aluminium, and it seems that geography makes itself felt even when the designer is looking at the rain!
What goes on inside is another story, one that is beautiful in its logic and elegance, and helps explain those price tags. Linn is one of the few companies in the network streaming game that makes decent software: control apps that do what you want, when you want, even if you are new to them. Setting up the Majik DSM was merely a matter of connecting it to the mains and the network. The hardest bit was finding the power switch: it turned out to be underneath the front panel, because apparently rear panel power switches are now banned, thanks to our friends in Brussels.
Control software is a big problem with many network streaming systems. In some cases, the hardware company doesn’t even write an app, so a third party one has to be used. This often causes problems with interfacing, and even with those that do make their own apps the nature of the media server on the NAS drive can get in the way of a seamless experience. These issues are rarely insurmountable, but to have a system that works well and can be easily set up out of the box is a pleasant surprise, and arguably one worth paying for.
The Majik DSM is the least expensive ‘serious’ model in Linn’s latest range of electronics, a range that eschews the preamplifier in its traditional sense. Linn no longer makes an analogue preamp, but rather includes analogue and digital inputs in its DS and DSM network streamers. The Majik DSM is ‘serious’ because it incorporates connections for Exakt Link, Linn’s most extreme variant on active operation yet, whereby the signal remains digital right up to the speaker. The theory is that analogue signals are easily degraded and the longer you can keep a signal digital the more of it will get through to the final output. You can also manipulate digital signals in a lossless fashion, which is where Linn’s Space Optimisation software comes in.
Space Optimisation is Linn’s solution to the unpredictable nature of room acoustics. You only have to put a transistor radio in a bathroom to realise that room acoustics play a major part in the final sound that we hear. However, despite many, many attempts to counteract them with room treatments and equalisation systems, there have been few successes. The majority of DSP solutions (which would appear to be the way forward) seem to screw up the overall sound so much that the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. Most use a microphone to measure the linearity of speakers within the room, but Linn’s Space Optimisation uses the shape and size of the room as defined by tape measure. It relies on the installer measuring the room, noting the features such as doors and windows within that room, and entering those parameters into Linn’s Konfig software. This takes into account the nature of the wall construction and the amount of glazing and door area to come up with the likely room modes, the frequencies that will be amplified or possibly attenuated by the physical nature of the space.