On my office wall I have a pin that I acquired in the Linn room at the 1984 summer CES in Chicago that reads, “Where’s the Tune?” At the time, Linn was an analog champion, heroically fighting back against the CD onslaught with its iconic LP12 turntable. Fast-forward to 2016: Although the LP12 is still on Linn’s roster, the manufacturer has morphed from an all-analog advocate into a thoroughly modern hi-fi firm that has 50 employees in its R&D division and 25 engineers dedicated solely to software development.
One of Linn’s most flexible offerings is the Linn Majik DSM network music player. It combines the capabilities of the Majik DS network device with an integrated preamp and a power amplifier. The Majik DSM can be used as a one-piece standalone music center to pair with any speakers, or it can be combined with other Linn products to create different setups with increasing price and performance levels.
During the review period, I spent time using the Majik DSM as a source component as well as a standalone integrated amplifier connected to a pair of Linn Majik 140 loudspeakers, and finally, combined with the recently launched Majik Exaktbox-I. This new one-box upgrade takes the simple Majik-DSM-plus-Majik-140-speaker system to its highest performance using Linn’s Exakt technology. To call the Linn Majik DSM a “flexible” component would be an understatement on the same order as calling the Beatles just another rock band.
The Tech Tour
We’ll begin our tour with the Majik DSM component. It combines music streamer functions with a preamplifier and power amplifier—just add speakers and an Internet connection (or NAS) and you’re ready to rock ’n’ roll. Input options include four HDMI, three line-level analog, one dedicated moving-magnet phono, three coaxial SPDIF digital, three TosLink digital, and one Ethernet connection. Output options include an HDMI, TosLink digital, SPDIF digital, two analog, and a set of high-level speaker. The Majik DSM also has Linn Exakt Link connectors.
The Majik DSM’s front panel looks very much like that of the Linn DS streamer. Controls include a centrally located front panel display flanked on either side by three buttons. On the left side you’ll find the mute and volume up and volume down buttons, along with a 3.5mm stereo headphone output jack. On the right side there’s a sleep button, and forward and back source-select buttons, as well as a 3.5mm auxiliary analog input connection.
Unlike many manufacturers whose product pages include a virtual parts list of what’s inside the chassis, Linn emphasizes its engineering methodologies rather than individual parts. However, the company is very happy to talk in detail about its key technologies and have both videos and in-depth detail on Exakt and Space Optimization on its website. Given the length of this review, I’m going to truncate the technical section and suggest you check out Linn’s own extensive “Linn Docs” pages on the company’s own site for additional info arranged in Linn’s own unique way. This site is geared towards those who already own products. For a lighter touch and introduction, I recommend Linn’s main website.
The Majik 140 Loudspeaker is a ported, four-way, bass-reflex design with 16mm silk-dome tweeter, 30mm PU dome midrange, and 160mm doped-paper upper-bass and 160mm sandwich-cone lower-bass drivers. The Majik 140 uses something Linn calls its “2K driver array,” which houses the two high-frequency drive units in a separate cast-alloy chassis that sits in front of the speaker’s forward-firing port. The 140 can be single-wired up to quad-wired (or amplified). The review samples were finished in cherry and the overall build-quality was excellent.
The Majik Exaktbox-I is a one-box upgrade containing power amplifiers and the Exakt electronics, which turn the simple Majik System into an Exakt System. In a system using a Majik Exaktbox-I, the eight separate channels of 100-watt Chakra amplification are used to directly drive the individual drivers in a loudspeaker, and the original lossy analog crossover in the loudspeaker is bypassed, with the Exaktbox-I performing the crossover digitally.
By combining this lossless digital crossover with sophisticated modeling of the characteristics of every drive unit in the speaker, Exakt is able to eliminate both magnitude and phase distortion, which should vastly increase the chances of every note reaching your ears free from such sonic concerns.
Most current-production Linn loudspeakers can be connected to the Exaktbox-I, as can quite a few non-Linn speakers, including the B&W 802 Diamond (in either tri- or quad-amp configurations). Along with its eight channels of amplification via high-level, four-way binding posts, the Majik Exaktbox-I also has two Exakt Link connectors and eight RCA analog outputs. Once connected to the Linn Majik DSM via the Linn Exakt Link, the Majik Exaktbox-I becomes an extension of the DSM with all its control functions thereby integrated.