this a boombox I see before me?
Not long ago, a dealer invited me to see his most ambitious
whole-house music/theater installation. The house had umpteen zillion zones and you could
listen to a whole laundry list of sources from any room in the place. As he unlocked the
kitchen door, he was explaining just how versatile the system was -- and it cost
"only" $450,000, too.
As he waved me into the kitchen, I couldnt help but
notice that an obviously much -used Sony boombox had pride of place on the breakfast bar.
When he saw what I was looking at, my dealer-friend blushed bright crimson and let me in
on a little known secret -- this wasnt the first time hed seen this happen.
After spending unbelievable amounts of money on integrated home entertainment systems, a
surprising number of people end up listening to table radios.
Its not that the fancy installations cant put
music in the kitchen -- the one I was being shown had radio and TV capabilities and over
2,000 CDs permanently installed in mega-changers. It even gave you separate volume control
over the breakfast bar, food prep, and family dining areas of the kitchen. But the Sony
was on the counter because it was just simpler to use.
So it got used. And thousands of dollars worth of
prewiring, IR control, and in-wall speakers did not.
It's a gift to be simple
When youre considering functional simplicity, you
cant get much simpler than a Linn Classik. Its plain black (also available in green,
white, silver and blue), textured chassis contains a high quality line-level preamplifier,
a 75Wpc power amp, a ripping good AM/FM tuner section, and a single disc CD player. It
even comes packaged with a nicely terminated 8ft set of speaker cables. While its front
panel controls are kept to a minimal eleven keys, its remote can control all of its
functions and program a wide range of user options as well. And did I mention that
its a clock, too? The price is $1995.
Old school audiophiles may sneer at the very idea that
concepts such as convenience and simplicity have any place in the hobby, but they can just
keep jumping up and crossing the room every time they want to change the volume. Im
a modern kind of a guy and I reveled in the Linns controllability.
Come in Rangoon!
Lets start with its tuner. Not only does it have the
usual manual tuning, scan, and preset options, it lets you set its muting threshold to
reject weak or unusable signals (and since its range is from 1 (receive all signals) to 50
(receive strongest signals only), you can really tweak it to your location). After a few
minutes of experimentation, I found that the Classik gave me about five times the number
of clear stations I had been able to receive up here in NW CT with the other tuners I have
used. No wonder it gives you 50 presets -- you get a ton of usable signals! And once it
grabs a station, it keeps it. This alone has greatly increased the amount of music
Ive been listening to.
The CD engine is fairly straightforward. Linns CD
players are well respected and, while they wont say much about the Classiks CD
technology, they do allow it "uses Linns high accuracy pickup and decoding
technology." It delivers extremely smooth, exactingly precise, music from the best
recorded discs available. I also found it shared a characteristic with Linns
flagship CD-12 CD player -- less well recorded discs sounded better than I thought they
ought to. Like a fine Islay malt, the Classik seemed to take the edge off of the digital
The Classiks line level preamplifier has a single
auxiliary input, two tape loops, and a preamplifier out. It also sports antenna
connections and two pairs of speaker terminals, allowing you to bi-wire or drive two pairs
The preamplifier allows the user to adjust bass and treble.
Im not generally a huge fan of these broadband tone controls, but Linn seems to have
done some serious research into making them useful. They wont correct for bad room
sound -- no EQ can -- but they may allow some flexibility with speaker placement. I also
approved of the Classiks balance control, which offered a truly useful range of
adjustability for those who simply must sit off center while listening to music.
Other useful areas of control included the alarm (you can
actually set two different "days," which means you could program in both weekday
and weekend wakeup times). You can also adjust the clock settings (12 or 24 hour clock),
unity gain (useful for integrating the Classik into a home theater system), alarm mode,
amp settings, and amp memory. Theres one other setting you can adjust with the
Classik and thats the Mute Speed -- when you switch sources, it quickly ramps down
the volume, and then ramps it back up to where it had been. Its a thoughtful touch
that I began to appreciate once I noticed it. Its a lot easier on the nerves than
jump starting from source to source.
Power to the people
The big question I had with the Classik was whether or not
the amplifier section was up to being challenged, or if it just wanted to cruise along
unruffled. Paired with Linn Tukans ( full review to come) or B&W DM 302s, the Classik
really delivered the goods. It had robust, full-bodied sound that neither stinted the bass
nor overemphasized the top end. It was just good, balanced, extremely natural sound, that
was as convincing playing the delicate and moody Had Miles Met Maurice (Dorian
DOR-93198) as it was reproducing the telecaster honk of Kenny Neal's What You Got
(Telarc Blues CD 83467).
So I ambushed the Classik with my Dynaudio Microns -- a
wall mounted loudspeaker with an 85dB sensitivity. Like most high-end Dynaudio speakers,
however, the Microns like to be pushed. If you want to get them to open up and bloom,
youve got to feed em high current and crank it up. The Classik was totally
cool with that. I had to drive it a lot harder than with either the Linn or the B&W
speakers, but it kept the sound liquid and unforced and it never got hot. It just kept on
cruising, seemingly with power to spare.
And the Microns? I never heard them sound better. They had
space and air galore -- qualities that not every amp theyve met has brought out in
Everything should be made as simple as possible,
but not simpler
The question is, how can Linn pack all of that into such a
tiny box? High density surface mount electronics and years of experience in microprocessor
control and software development, I reckon. All I can tell you is that the Classik
outperformed my expectation on almost every level.
Let me reiterate that thought. The Linn was fun to use.
Because it was nearly transparent in operation and because it did everything it does so
well, I listened to music early in the morning and late at night. When I was too lazy to
choose the next CD, it was simplicity itself to sort through the late night radio stations
to find one that interested me -- and because the Classiks tuner actually pulled in
more stations than I had previously been able to get, I had a larger selection to choose
from. I even used its alarm function to keep my afternoon naps down to a reasonable length
(although an alarm clock that can be turned off with a remote control is just too easy to
circumvent for the truly dedicated sloth).
If youre looking to simplify your life or your audio
system, I strongly recommend Linns amazing Classik.
Price: $1995 USD (available in black, green, white, silver and blue)
Linn Products Ltd.
4540 Southside Blvd.
Jacksonville, FL 32216
Fax: (904) 645-7275