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.