It was not all that long ago that the word “convenient” didn’t even register with high-end enthusiasts. Ours was not a hobby that was subject to coddling or compromise. The road to sonic redemption was purity, and as proud audiophiles we pledged to bear any burden in the service of great sound. So, we sweated it out, components and wires scattered everywhere. System integration, remote controls, smart apps? Are you serious? When you wanted to hear side two (for those who still understand what a “side two” even is), you had to drag yourself to your aching feet, lift the tonearm, and flip the record, all by your lonesome. But never underestimate the addictive allure of ease and expediency in the age of digital audio. Well, call me lazy but I blame Lindemann Audio. Its trim, handsome one-box solution known as the Musicbook:25 DSD has made me a follower to its “have it your way” brand of versatility. It’s coaxed me into the habit of ordering up music with the ease normally reserved for a drive-thru—in fact, about the only thing this player was missing was the fries.
Lindemann’s top-of-the-line Musicbook:25 DSD is actually one in a selection of four models on the company’s bookshelf. Visually identical and remarkably compact in size, the entry-level MusicBook:10 is Lindemann’s basic analog preamp with headphone output, USB DAC, and Bluetooth connectivity. The Musicbook:15 adds a slot-load CD player. Next up is the MusicBook:20, which withholds the CD player but adds UPnP network streaming capability. A little something for everybody. Finally, there’s the Musicbook:25 DSD under review. It’s optioned out with a laundry list of features that include an integrated analog preamp, which doubles as a very good headphone amp, a slot-load CD transport, a DAC (resolutions of up to 384kHz PCM and DSD256 with native DSD playback), plus integrated network streaming with onboard Tidal and Qobuz. Noteworthy, too, is the recent addition throughout the Musicbook series of DSD128/256 upsampling that applies to all of its digital sources—CD, streamer, USB interface, digital inputs, and Bluetooth.
The Musicbook front panel presents the user with an elegant gloss-black face and crisp OLED display. Font sizes were awfully tiny during initial configuration/set-up mode, but reverted to bright, readable text during normal playback. To the left of the display is a powered USB-A port and on the right a ¼” headphone jack (32–300 ohms). Flush-mounted atop the unit is a standby button and a nifty multi-function aluminum control wheel for fingertip control of CD functions, volume/muting, and input selection.
Befitting the low-profile design—a mere 2.6″ tall—the back panel real estate is cozy yet fully stocked with inputs and outputs, including a pair of analog RCA inputs, preamp outputs (unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR), followed by digital inputs for USB, Ethernet for network connectivity, plus twin optical and coaxial inputs. Dual antenna inputs flesh out the remaining space. The Lindemann app, downloadable for smart devices (iPhone or Android), was visually utilitarian but efficient and smooth in operation. It doesn’t take full advantage of the larger viewing area of an iPad, which is a missed opportunity to re- scale the menus. But operationally it’s far better than the mini-button remote control, which, except for initial setup, can be ignored.
I listened to the Musicbook first by engaging its full preamp capability with volume control and running Esprit balanced XLR interconnects (review forthcoming) directly into a pair of ATC SCM19 active loudspeakers. Operable from the app or remote control, the Musicbook analog volume control has 99 steps, with 1dB increments to 70dB and even finer 0.5dB steps to the 99dB limit. Sonically, the preamp possessed terrific immediacy, excellent transient speed, and tightly controlled and extended bass. All to the good. I then returned the Musicbook volume control to fixed mode and ran interconnects into the input section of Pass Labs’ newest XP-22 preamp (review forthcoming). In both instances transparency was excellent, but the Pass Labs preamp had more low-level resolution and micro-dynamics, and offered greater tonal color and wider contrasts between warm and cool.
Ultimately, I felt that the Lindemann’s greatest asset would be its strength as a source player. This proved to be the case. The Musicbook continues a journey that has steadily brought top-notch digital performance down from the mountaintop, and made it easily accessible to a wider audience. My immediate impression was one of superior overall musicality, from transient speed and naturalism to macro/micro resolution. Ambient and dimensional cues, though not as fully articulated or dimensionally complex as those of my reference Lumin S1 media player, were nonetheless solid. In my view the Musicbook:25 DSD has largely banished the colorations that tend to squeeze and flatten orchestral soundspace into an IHOP short stack. Gone too is the smear of orchestral images, the blurred string sections, the indistinct upstage boundaries, and the glazed and glassy presence and treble range. As I listened to the Rutter Requiem I noted that the staging of the chorus was reproduced with excellent uniformity across the soundstage. It conveyed the collective weight from the mass of voices without losing sight of the specifics—the individual tonality of each vocal artist. Further, although its character casts a slightly cooler, drier cast over the musical proceedings, it didn’t send the customary digital “chill” down my spine that I’ve come to expect from mid-priced components.
There was nothing haphazard to the Lindemann’s approach to bass reproduction either. It captured acoustic bass players like Reynaud Garcia-Fons and Edgar Meyer with timbral density, accompanied by full-blooded harmonics and dark wood resonances. The transients from each note were distinctive. Solo piano exhibited rich soundboard reverberation and decay. Dynamics were lively in both micro and macro aspects—enough to elicit a gasp of surprise when Lew Soloff’s trumpet solo during “Autumn Leaves” cut loose and caught me unaware.
To my ear, the most significant sonic qualities of the Musicbook:25 DSD were not so much its bold, sweeping macro aspects, which it addressed with unalloyed brio, but the smaller micro gestures and timing cues that might seem incidental to a performance that more persuasively depict the live event. The cliché that it’s the little things that make the difference has never been truer as digital has matured. When I listen to James Taylor sing “Long Ago and Far Away,” it’s still the soft piano of Carole King and the wispy harmonies of Joni Mitchell that my ear immediately keys on. Earlier generations of DACs might have smudged and smeared these elements, but the Lindemann articulates low-level cues with clarity and naturalism. These are not trivialities either; rather they are the clues that define space and time in a recording, and if only for a brief instant create the illusion of having witnessed the musical moment. Detail retrieval is equally strong. Again during Mud Slide Slim JT introduces a high-pitched cymbal during the final verse of the very short track “Soldiers.” This subtle percussion cue can easily be missed, but the Lindemann captured the fine-grain sustain and decay of that lightly struck cymbal.
Though the compact disc has largely become a legacy format, there are many listeners, yours truly included, who own a substantial collection of physical media including LPs and CD/SACDs, which remain a compelling option even in light of the convenience of network streaming. In that light the CD transport aboard the Lindemann performed with excellence. I was particularly intrigued listening to a pair of Peter, Paul & Mary discs, their eponymous debut album and their third effort, In the Wind. Remastered to hybrid CD/SACD by Steve Hoffman on the Audio Fidelity label, these three-track analog recordings are antiques in some respects, but tracks like “All My Trials” and “500 Miles” have some heavenly moments of raw intimacy and inspiring strength. The trio’s harmonies are a paradigm of precision, their voices cohering as if each singer were hard-wired to the other’s soul. One listener pointed out that during “All My Trials” even their vibratos were synchronized. Lindemann’s DSD upsampling demonstrated a light touch with this classic material, imparting a gentle naturalism with voices and acoustic guitars, a lack of artifice that created a “you are there in the studio” impression. While it doesn’t quite match the finer textures and air from the SACD-equipped dCS Puccini, the Lindemann does rival it in low-level detail and ambience retrieval.
How do the Musicbook CD player and music server compare? In my view the server gets the nod by a small margin. As I listened to high-resolution tracks like Diana Krall’s “Isn’t It Romantic” from Turn Up The Quiet, the dominant factor was the liquidity of reproduction and the “elbow room” air that joined instruments in space. Images had a firm sense of stability and a more open feel; soundstages were conveyed with greater continuousness.
Has Lindemann made being an audiophile a little too easy? A few years ago I might’ve thought so. But this irresistible digital giant-killer’s combination of performance and versatility make it hard to dismiss—even for an audio diehard like me. Though it may not be much larger than a summer bestseller, the Musicbook:25 DSD speaks volumes.
Specs & Pricing
Inputs: Analog, two RCA; digital, two coax, two optical
Outputs: One balanced XLR, one unbalanced RCA
Dimensions: 11″ x 8.7″ x 2.6″
Weight: 7.7 lbs.
SOURCE SYSTEMS, LTD.
San Clemente, CA 92672
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