In recent years Linn amplifiers are either loved or hated by the hifi community it seems. Some feel that the sound is generally too dry and soulless; others feel it is tight and revealing. I bought my system on audition and on the whole like the clear transparent sound that comes from my Majik preamp and Majik 2100 amplifier.
It was with some curiosity that I went a few months ago to an audition by the Sound Organisation of York, long established Linn and Naim dealers. The guy from Linn was there and showed us what all the fuss was about – a long strip of circuit board studied with components – in the middle was a little transformer – this lot handles all the power required for the power amplifier. There was a brief introduction into switch mode power supplies.
If I have got it right what seems to happen is this. Traditionally, a large heavy transformer reduces the mains down to tens of volts which are then rectified, smoothed and regulated. Instead of this, the mains is now rectified and smoothed, then chopped up to produce a radio frequency wave with then passes through the relatively tiny transformer, can be smoothed by smaller capacitors, and after regulation and filtering goes on to power the amplifier. Linn have for a while claimed that this method produces good sounding amplifiers, and also maintain that they are not affected by the type of mains cable leading to the equipment.
The advantages of switch mode power supplies, beyond the sonic ones, are that supplies can be smaller, lighter, efficient, use less copper and steel, and therefore score points with the green lobby. Well the shop audition convinced me to part with necessary £450 (which includes fitting and testing in the shop – while you wait – it seems to be a straightforward job.). When I got it home I immediately noticed a difference. But I will fast forward a few days: it did change in character as it burnt in. In fact the treble became what is perhaps best described as a bit more feathery, gentle a times, lighter. Compared with the previous power supply – well you can’t really compare – it was like a different amplifier. Not did it just seem to have more clout – fuller bass and more startling transients, it changed the sound of the whole system. Perhaps Linn critics who use the word “dry” should revisit the sound. The character still is not warm, sleepy and mellow to my ears, but certainly more gentle and kinder to poor recordings. They have less tendency to shriek. The mid-ranges are undoubtedly sweeter too. Vocals in particular sound superb. I lived with a valve hifi system for many years – I would go as far as to say that it is almost as if Linn have sprinkled a little bit of that endearing valve magic dust on their trademark sound. Interestingly the Majik 2100 Dynamik is still dependent upon which mains lead is used with it, although the one that came with the original unit still gives the best all round performance. When manufacturers upgrade a product, in some ways they are on a hiding to nothing. If the resulting improvement is minimal they will be accused of money spinning. If the improvement is significant they will be asked why they did not get it right in the first place. If I have a grudge, then I am in the second camp.
Linn is a trademark of Linn Products Ltd Glasgow Road Waterfoot Eaglesham Glasgow G76 0EQ More details of the Dynamik can be found on Linn’s website at http://www.linn.co.uk/dynamik
More information about The Sound Organisation York can be found at http://www.soundorg.co.uk/
© Geraldine Coates November 2012