Linn Klimax DS fits in the standard Klimax chassis from 2007 (very early Klimax cases need some internal surgery to fit), and the solid aluminium chassis with internal chambering to physically separate digital, analogue, logic, and power supply is still a very good way of making a digital device.Linn retained the chassis, and designed the latest DS/3 architecture to be an almost direct replacement for the existing internals of the predecessor. From a manufacturing standing, that means no retooling or reworking the casework, which given the sophistication of the case is no bad thing. It also allows existing Klimax users to upgrade without losing out.
Linn retains a loyal following, for good reason. And the Klimax demonstrates a major part of that good reason. If you are the owner of an existing Klimax, you don’t end up consigning that expensive streamer to trade-in or eBay hell. Instead, if you want, your existing Klimax gets the full DS/3 treatment, and you get your old Klimax DS/2 back in a basic ‘Renew DS’ box. And now it’s time to call on the hackneyed car analogy, because that’s like driving your one or two generation old Mercedes S-Class into the showroom, asking the salesperson if they could turn your old S-Class into a new S-Class, then give you back the original drivetrain, electronics, safety features, and interior of that older S-Class, in a new C-Class body. What you do with your Renew DS is up to you: an initial comparison is obvious, but then you could use it to extend your system to another room, adding amp and speakers along the way, you could hand it down to a family member or friend (+500 brownie points guaranteed), or you will get very good money for it if you choose to sell it on. Whatever you choose to do, Linn’s ‘leave no Klimaxer behind’ plan seems eminently sensible to me.
Because this was a very hush-hush review, with strict embargos and non-disclosure agreements that explained in graphic detail what would happen to my technical area if I even breathed a word about this product before the middle of September, I listened to the DS/3 in a top-spec Linn system in Scotland, and I used a Klimax DS/2 as comparison. This, however, is a decent place to start because the DS/2 is already among the best digital streamers out there, and many DS/2s will be used in this system context. I had expected the comparison process to be a protracted, nuanced affair, trying to define subtle differences between products that really weren’t that different. So, out came ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ from Dusty Springfield’s justly famous Dusty In Memphis album [Phillips], which sounded extremely good on the DS/2. Two bars into the same track on the DS/3 and it sounded like she was singing with a band, where the DS/2 now sounded like she was singing to a backing track. It was as if a group of better and better-rehearsed musicians had turned up. In truth, it took longer to acclimate myself to the conditions than it did to parse the differences between the DS/2 and DS/3.In the context of a system you know, if you already have a Linn Klimax DS or DS/2 the amount of time you will need to audition the DS/3 before realising you have to buy a DS/3 is about twice as long as it will take you to read this sentence.Naturally, this hot Linn-on-Linn comparison action came with several Studio Master albums from the Linn Label. Perhaps the most significant was the Largo from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 [Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Linn Records]. This is a wonderful piece of music, played beautifully at the best of times, and on the DS/2, listening was a therapeutic experience, as it felt as if your heart rate and blood pressure calmed in the listening. But the new DS/3 took this to new levels. It felt like Beethoven was working on you at a synaptic level. This felt like a serotonin burst... I probably wasn’t smarter or a nicer person for the playing of this track, but I felt a burning desire to work some differential calculus while rescuing a kitten. ‘Get Lucky’ from Random Access Memories by Daft Punk [Columbia] sounded like ‘Get Lucky’ on the DS/2, but on the DS/3, it sounded like ‘Get Lucky’ on cocaine, in gold lamé hot pants, and with glitter sprinkles.