On 13th March, I attended the Hospital Club in Covent Garden for a Linn launch event to showcase the latest evolutions of the Linn DS players – for there were several.

New and improved DS

The first big announcement was that Linn is launching a new Klimax DS, Akurate DS, Majik DS and Majik DSM, which they believe will delivering higher performance than earlier iterations.

New clocking architecture and improved audio circuitry layouts have led to a reduction of components, shorter signal paths and reduced jitter.

Exakt Ready

Linn is now also including Exakt links on these new Linn DS players, thereby future-proofing systems and permitting subsequent upgrade to Exakt specifications at any time in the future.

Upgrades

If you already own a Klimax DS or Akurate DS, Linn also announced that you can now upgrade to the new and improved version with the offer of a Renew DS for another room.AKDS_Blk_front_300dpi
Space Optimisation

The last point is the really interesting one: from now on, every Linn DS player will now have capability to optimise the performance of the music system in any room, with any speakers.

Space Optimisation apparently works by removing the unwanted distorting effects of the specific listening environment, leaving the way open to revealing the true sound of the music. The idea is that listeners can design their rooms the way they want to and experience a performance that’s optimised uniquely for them.

The most interesting aspects of this launch are two-fold: first, this technology is not only available at the flagship level, but second was the desire not to preclude the choice of non-Linn speakers from the technology. The demos were conducted with B&W speakers and the software is being made available for an ever- increasing number of brands.Klimax_DS_ExaktLink_Rear

We were treated to an incremental journey through the different new technologies and I don’t propose dwelling too long on this as we were not in representative listening surroundings and the programme of music was selected for us but I think impressions especially of the Space Optimisation software might be useful.

I have always been slightly suspicious of room correction programs and was expecting no great surprise when it became clear what was being launched but the effect of this product was better than I expected.

Adapted from the optimisation technology developed in Linn’s Exakt systems, this technology builds an acoustic model of the complete listening environment based on the choice of loudspeaker, the placement of the speakers and the unique characteristics of the listening room, and this is regardless of the speaker manufacturer and type.

Using this model, performance is optimised, aiming to reveal the true sound of the music and offering a high degree of personalization to the listener.

Linn has recognized that every speaker is unique, even within the same model. The characteristics of the enclosure, drive units, ports and layout all influence the sound that is heard.

The Space Optimisation software models the speakers based on all of these elements, to understand how the sound from the speakers interacts with the room. As a result, whichever speaker a customer chooses to use, their Linn DS player should be able to optimise the sound to match that speaker and the listening room.

Custom Environment

Every room affects the sound of a music system. As sound waves reflect off the walls, ceiling and floor, they interact, leading to peaks of increased energy at specific low frequencies. These peaks sound artificially loud, and because their increased energy takes longer to decay, they mask the music that follows.Klimax 06

Space Optimisation is designed to let Linn DS players optimise the sound for a room by identifying these peaks and reducing their energy to reveal the music that would otherwise be hidden. The furnishing and construction of a room also affect the sound. Hard surfaces like glass or concrete reflect more sound energy back into the room than absorbent surfaces like curtains or partition walls. Space Optimisation provides fine-grained control to optimise the system for a room’s unique characteristics.

Placement

The physical placement of speakers has a profound effect on what is heard. This is why Linn dealers establish the ideal position through careful listening – the Tune Dem method. Space Optimisation enables a Linn DS to emulate the sound of the ideal speaker position from the preferred, practical location.

The claim is that now Linn DS owners can place their speakers wherever they choose and still enjoy great performance.

So the sum of these ideas is that the speaker placement optimisation software can permit a more domestically acceptable positioning of speakers, where the ideal position is not achievable.

To configure the speaker optimisation software for the listening room in question, the dealer will first identify the optimum place for the speakers in the room using the Tune Dem approach. The customer (or more probably the customer’s spouse) will then indicate the domestically acceptable position for the speakers in the room. The dealer can then input this information into the software and the optimisation can then be applied to the signal by the Exakt engine in each speaker.

We were given a demonstration – first music was played through a properly positioned system with the B&W speakers several feet out from the rear wall. Then the speakers were pushed back hard up to the rear wall to allow us to hear what we expected to hear – overpowering bass and swamped midrange. Then the Space Optimization was turned on.

Most of the sound quality from the proper positioning returned and the imaging was considerably improved, but I would not be able to be completely indifferent to placement using this software – having the speakers in the correct position in the room was still clearly better, but the Space Optimisation is still an impressive piece of work and should yield immeasurably better results than not having it if ideal placement would only come at the cost of domestic strife. And it is worth noting, that even the most expensive Linn DS will be much cheaper than a decade of alimony!MajikDSM_Blk_Front_Top_RGB_300DPI

Conclusion

Putting the positioning issue to one side, it is worth noting that the Space Optimization had a considerable effect even if not mucking about with speaker position.

On a quick listen, I felt that the bass perhaps sounded slightly thin, but on listening deeper, it was the boom that was missing – the bass was actually well articulated.  Because the excess bass was no longer decaying more slowly than the rest of the music, the mid-range was much clearer and felt more natural at least to these ears.

A quick demo at a press launch is not the basis on which to form strong opinions but I preferred the music I heard with the Space Optimisation on. However, before dropping several thousand pounds on a bit of kit, this is clearly something that a prospective buyer would have to explore more thoroughly in their own listening room with their own choice of music. But I think Linn might be onto something here.

We were hosted by Angus Lawrie and several of his colleagues.

Peter Stanton-Ife

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