“The most intense, exciting, or important point of something; the culmination” – since 1973, Linn have been perfecting home audio. The Linn Klimax range represents the sum of their efforts.
The History of Linn has been well documented over here on the Audio Affair Blog, but in the interests of setting the scene, and telling the story, let’s once again remind us of where the Linn Legacy began.
In 1973, one Ivor Tiefenbrun got married and presumably purchased his Hi-Fi setup as some form of post-marital ritual. The specifics of that system have now been lost in time; what is well known, however, is that Ivor was displeased by aspects of his system.
Through simple home experiments, Ivor found that his turntable was being affected by acoustic coupling (feedback) between his loudspeakers and the turntable deck itself. It was a revelation that was to kickstart one of the most famous Hi-Fi brands in the world.
At the time, Ivor Tiefenbrun was working for his father, Jack Tiefenbrun’s engineering company, Castle Precision. With the engineering facilities and expertise of his fellow colleagues, Ivor set about designing a turntable which would be immune to acoustic feedback and would make use of a totally isolated suspension.
This turntable became the famous Linn LP12 Sondek, a true ‘hall of fame’ component, and one which has been in production constantly ever since. Its unique modular construction has allowed the basic design to benefit from engineering advances and upgrades ever since. More on that later, however…
Linn is Born
The LP12 Sondek was the product which launched a company; perhaps predictably, Ivor Tiefenbrun’s obsession with audio fidelity led to further developments in Hi-Fi components. The mid-1970s saw Linn launch their first loudspeaker system – the Isobarik – shortly followed by the Aktiv loudspeaker system. A very advanced concept for its time.
A Linn philosophy, which still courts controversy to this day in various camps, is that the ‘source’ component is the most important part of the Hi-Fi chain. For most Hi-Fi enthusiasts, the loudspeakers had always been hailed as the most important component, however, Linn (not for the first or last time) flew in the face of conventional wisdom with their praise of the source component.
Linn proves they’re more than just a Turntable manufacturer.
In 1985, Linn introduced the LK1 pre-amplifier, a revolutionary design, for its day. Unlike most pre-amplifiers of its time (and indeed even today) the signal chain of the LK1 was controlled entirely without moving parts. All switching, volume control etc was carried out under microprocessor control.
As would be the case for decades to follow, Linn had chosen a radical, future thinking approach to a problem no-one else had really noticed. It’s undeniable, however, that Linn’s design approach with the LK1 completely negated the detrimental effects and long-term reliability caused by dirty contacts and switch-gear.
The same year, Linn launched the partnering LK2 power amplifier, creating a perfect pre-power combination. More significantly, it meant that it was, for the first time, possible to purchase an entire system comprising of Linn designed components. From the stylus to the loudspeaker, one could embrace the Linn philosophy entirely.
The Digital Era Arrives
By the 1990s the Compact Disc had truly arrived; its impact was huge and heralded the dawn of the digital consumer era. Vinyl was thought largely dead; surely of great concern to a company which then only possessed a single, analogue source component (the Linn LP12). Linn’s first entry into the CD player market was not only significant but could be argued, essential to the well-being of the company.
Linn’s first CD player should really be considered to be two units: The Karik CD Transport, and the Numerik D/A converter. At a time when mass produced CD players were rife, Linn continued their engineering ethos with high-quality power supplies, premium burr-brown converters, and impeccable build quality. Upon listening to a Karik/Numerik combination, one period review in ‘Stereophile’ stated that “There was a gentleness and analog-like ease that was somehow different from other digital products I’ve heard“.
If one product was to signal the oncoming era of Linn’s Klimax range, this blogger would point the finger at the Linn Sondek CD12. A CD player so massively engineered (machined from solid aluminium billet), so unconventional (the player’s functions were controlled by an optical sensor detecting ‘nudges’ on the drive door) and so exotically priced (the first US review unit was held at customs until its $20,000 value could be confirmed), it was to signal the emergence of Linn’s super range – the Klimax.
The Klimax Kometh
In 2007, Linn Launched a product which not only birthed a range named after it but was also to change Linn as a company forever. That product was the Linn Klimax DS, arguably the world’s first, high end, digital music streamer.
If a high-end, niche, Hi-Fi company launching a digital music streamer in 2007 seemed daring, what was to happen in 2009 was outright audacious. Linn travelled internationally, demonstrating the Klimax DS against the world’s top CD players – including Linn’s own CD12. This led one commenter at the time to ask Ivor’s Son, Gilad, “If the Klimax DS sounds so much better than CD, and if streaming digital audio is the future, then why would I buy a Linn CD player?”
In 2009, Linn answered that question by discontinuing sales of CD players altogether. It was a hugely daring move, but one which sent a clear message: the future of digital audio playback is streaming.
Linn Klimax Today
Klimax today, represents Linn’s very highest and most elite range of components. Built without compromise and up to a standard, not down to a price. We recently looked at the very latest Klimax specification LP12 turntable, and the most recent versions of the product which begat the Klimax range, the Klimax DS and the new Kilmax DSM.
Linn’s confidence in their Klimax DSM and their other streaming players is compounded by their decision, in 2015, to discontinue all stand-alone preamplifiers. The Klimax DSM includes balanced analogue inputs which will accept the balanced, line-level output of the LP12 Klimax. With all other media sources provided by the Klimax DSM, and volume control handled natively – it’s a fair argument that a traditional pre-amplifier is indeed redundant.
If the pre-amplifier has been placed on the metaphorical chopping block, a bold person might suggest Linn’s power amplifiers *might* be next. Linn has incorporated their ‘Exakt’ processing into their range of digital music players. Exakt Link is a method of active time alignment which promises to synchronise the harmonic content of every note. This is achieved via Exakt Link connection to compatible active speakers (more on those in a moment).
For those interested in Linn’s outstanding power-amplification, Linn offers the Klimax Solo and the Klimax Twin. Both power amplifiers use the same Klimax engineering principles and chassis design – the chassis machined from billet aluminium, with separate ‘rooms’ for power and signal circuits. Both amplifiers feature Linn’s high efficiency ‘Dynamik’ power supply.
The Klimax solo is a monoblock amplifier rated at 500w – it’s the absolute peak of Linn’s power amplification range, utilising discrete, bipolar output devices. The Klimax Twin is a stereo power amplifier rated at 200w per channel and employing Linn’s ‘Chakra’ output technology.
Finally, come Linn’s flagship loudspeakers, the Klimax 350. The Klimax 350 utilises the 3k Driver array: three drivers mounted securely and tightly in a diecast enclosure. Mounting the mid, tweeter and super-tweeter thusly, creates a single point source of extremely wide dispersion. Both the passive and active versions feature integrated, active, servo driven bass drivers for deep, powerful, distortion-free low-end.
As is Linn’s philosophy, the passive Klimax 350 can be upgraded at a later date to the full, Klimax 350 Exakt specification. Here, the speakers receive a direct, digital link from an Exakt specification device. Utilising Exakt link and Linn’s Space Optimisation technology, the promise is one of extremely low distortion and a perfect reproduction of the original source – tailored exactly for your listening room.
Whatever the future holds for Linn, it’s clear that the Klimax range will always be bold, always be daring, always at the cutting edge of technology and always represent the very pinnacle of style and quality. Have we come to expect anything else of Linn?