Linn Audio's System Recommendations
During all our testing and listening, we have developed some ideas about what works well as a complete system, for use with our speakers. We have located, and extensively tested, a number of components that we feel well complement the quality of our speaker systems, and enhance the musicality of the overall performance. We also look to find components that perform as well as anything on the market, regardless of price, but at more reasonable cost levels; the same philosophy that applies to our speakers.
To begin with, we highly recommend bi-amping for the best overall performance, and the amps we name are recommended with this setup in mind.
The following are the components that we can in good conscience specify to our customers, and the buyers of our speaker systems.
For our "Reference Granite" speaker system, the best suggestion is for bi-amping, with a solid-state amp on the low end, and a single-ended triode tube type amp on the high end. Also may be substituted for the tube amp, is a relatively low powered solid-state amp, but one that is exceptionally clean and sonicaly pure, with a good low distortion figure. The two solid state amps which we offer (as seen on our "Amplifiers" page) are the best we
know of for this purpose, and which may be obtained at relatively reasonable prices.
For a tube type amp of a single-ended triode design, the best we know of at a reasonable price is the "Hyperion HT-88" monobolock, single-ended triode tube amp. Though it uses a pentode type tube on the output, it is really wired for triode use. It retails for $3,500 for a stereo pair. We are now a dealer for this product as well, so you may purchase directly from us, if you prefer.
It was reviewed positively in Stereophile magazine; the January 2009 issue. You can read this review by going to www.stereophile.com, and also by visiting the Hyperion site at: www.hyperionsound.com
The best overall performer in this category, which may also be had for a reasonable price, is the Sony SCD-XA5400es. It has the advantage of playing Both SACD recordings, as well as regular CDs, and reputedly, the latter with similar performance to the former, a good trick to do. It has only stereo output for analog, but 5.1 channel operation may be obtained through an HDMI cable.
We have extensively auditioned this unit, and found it to be as good or better than CD players costing many times as much. We consider it to be a very good value, at a retail price of $1,495; and it may be had discounted for as little as $1,200. We bought ours on ebay at this price, so you can check there. It was also reviewed positively in Stereophile in the May 2009 issue. Check the above link to see this review, and also see Sony's website at: www.sony.com
Cables and Interconnects
We have also extensively tested these necessary devices, in all price categories, and have determined that you need really good ones, to get the best sound out of your system, but you don't necessarily have to pay an exorbitant price. Our best recommendation in this category is our own product, which may also be seen on our "Amplifiers" page.
Turntables and Phono Cartridges
We don't yet have any recommendation in this category, since we mostly lean to digital here, but when we are able to find and test units, and also obtain some really high quality vinyl recordings, we will put our findings here.
In short, we don't like preamps! One of our major philosophies in our speaker design, as well as all other devices of the system, is that the fewer passive or active components in the signal path, the better. As we like to say: "the best sounding pre-amp is a piece of wire!" All components, even of the best quality, add coloration to the sound, and especially active ones, such as transistors and tubes. You must have these devices for power amplification, but all modern source devices have pre-amp analog stages built into them, and don't really require additional pre-amplifying components. If you use our own amps, they have built in volume controls, so you can hook up your source components directly to the amps. Our current CD player has a built-in remote volume control, so we have
it all in this regard, without resorting to a pre-amp of any kind. You do, however, need a stand alone pre-amp for your phono cartridge, (a plain box with no controls) and these may be had from many sources. The output of these may be plugged directly into your amps, as above, still without the use of a separate active pre-amp
However, you do have the problem of equally controlling the volume of both amplifiers, when bi-amping the system, and it’s very convenient to have a master volume control for this purpose. Also switching between sources is easier with a pre-amp device, rather than just plugging and unplugging cables.
The answer to these dilemmas is a so-called "passive pre-amp" which is just a box with a volume control, a source selection switch, and inputs and outputs on the back, giving you all the benefits of an active pre-amp, but utilizing only passive components. The best of these use a "stepped attenuator" type of volume control, which simply switches in various values of fixed metal-film resistors to control the volume, rather than a carbon-film slider; the system commonly used in standard (cheap) volume controls, and which are not sonicaly pure.
A passive preamp may be employed with the use of the Reference system. It’s very high efficiency, when either bi or mono amped, means that you do not need much “drive” to power these speakers to high levels of sound. A high sensitivity speaker will allow you to use a passive preamp, because you don’t need as much gain as you do with low sensitivity speakers. Thus, you might spare yourself the expense of a regular preamp, which, unless it’s very expensive, is likely to limit the system’s transparency.
A good one that we know of in this category is from the "Goldpoint" company, and their products may be seen at www.goldpt.com
The Goldpoint does not currently have a passive preamp with a remote control, however, and we know of no one who currently makes one, at least with a stepped attenuator design. This is one deficit in the system, but we will keep our eyes open for one, if it becomes available. Anyone who knows of one, now or in the future, please let
So that's all we have for recommendations for now, but we will be adding more in the future as we continue our research and testing.