The Installation and Use manual is recommended reading in any event. At the very least, one should read the Quick Start Guide in order to avoid any unforeseen issues. Quickly walking through the setup involved: Connect a properly wired (as mentioned above) phono cable to the input (if required, use the supplied RCA-to-XLR adapter); connect the Lino C 2.0 output cables (I tried and used both RCA and XLR); then connect the power adapter. At this point, the Lino C 2.0 is ready to operate when indicating power is on via the light of two green LEDs on the bottom of the unit.
I listened to the Lino C with five different tonearms and eight different cartridges—listed in the Associated Equipment sidebar. Using the available final gain setting, I was able to get satisfactory output levels from all of them. While the two cartridges with higher internal impedances (the Hana SL and special low-output Van den Hul Colibri) are not the typical type of cartridge used with the Lino C 2.0, both worked well with the +12dB final gain setting. The other six cartridges (Atlas, Atlas SL, Etna, Etna SL, Titan-i, and Hana ML) worked with the default final gain setting of +6dB or 0dB). For reference, I asked Dr. Rob Robinson from Channel D to provide a couple of examples for relative gain of this current-mode phonostage. The examples below should give some additional idea of the unit’s gain levels relative to cartridge internal impedance:
1. For a cartridge with a 1-ohm internal impedance, the gain with the Lino C set to its maximum setting is 85dB. So, by using the gain adjustment switches, 85, 79, and 73dB settings are available. If the cartridge has an internal impedance lower than 1 ohm, the gain will be greater. This dovetails with lower-impedance cartridges having lower output voltages, and needing higher gain.
2. For a cartridge with 5-ohms internal impedance, the gain with the Lino C set to maximum is 74dB. So, by using the gain adjustment switches, 74, 68, and 62dB settings are available. If the cartridge has a higher internal impedance than 5 ohms, the gain will be lower. This dovetails with higher impedance cartridges having higher output voltage, and needing lower gain.
The Lino C 2.0 is very linear and coherent sounding. It doesn’t overtly editorialize the musical spectrum at the expense of realistic-sounding vinyl playback. This current-mode phonostage is sure-footed and solidly grounded (non-fidgety) in reproduction. There is a slightly damped quality (possibly due to the near-zero-ohm load impedance of this type of current-mode design, which delivers sound without the loss of power output due to the excessive shunt-resistance-loading of voltage-mode phonostages) that allows the music to flow with little to no aggressiveness from any of the cartridges used on any of the music played through the device. In this price range, that’s a welcomed trait. The sound created from Lino C 2.0 has an ever-so-slight tonal shift towards the warm side of neutral. Nonetheless, the result is completely non-fatiguing, summoning up a sense of serenity around musical playback. The resulting soundstage is reproduced with excellent width and depth, instrument location, performance interplay, and musical timbre, when those features are well recorded on albums.
An example of this non-editorialized sound can be heard with the playback of the Janaki String Trio’s performance of the Penderecki String Trio on its Debut album from Yarlung Records. This performance should be immediate sounding, within a clearly defined space, and demonstrate dynamic transitions from delicate-to-macro performed effortlessly by these skilled musicians. With the Lino C 2.0, the space of the recording venue is evident, as is much of the dynamic contrast of the musical score. I observed clean, well-proportioned transients with quick string plucks that were attention-grabbing.The timbre of the instruments also sounded excellent. The performer’s control of string vibrato and command of his instrument was a delight when the trio was played back through the Lino C 2.0.
Continuing with unamplified music and going back further in time, listen to the skill of the Julliard String Quartet playing Schubert’s string quartet “Death and the Maiden.” The LP is on the RCA Living Stereo label (LSC-2378)—a gift from TAS music writer Mark Lehman. This performance has a sonically different balance, feel, and perspective than the Janaki String Trio mentioned above, as it should since literally nothing (performance, composer, recording venue, instruments, equipment, etc.) is the same. The Shubert performance is less immediate but no less involving; the perspective is a touch farther away, revealing a little more of the recording space. The delicate musical interplay from instrument to instrument comes together nearly ideal through the Lino C 2.0. Precision and control are captured beautifully along with a sense of the tension and emotion the performance evokes. In fact, each time I spun the album, I ended up playing through all three movements to sustain the enjoyment this music delivers—that is the mark of a good phonostage.