Linnies... these are a special breed of music lover who enjoy many things Linn. Those of you familiar with my April 2000 review of Linn's Classik all-in-one pre-amplifier/amplifier/tuner/CD player miracle unit and the small Kan loudspeakers, you know how highly enjoyable i found music with that dynamic duo. This new mating of the larger-sized Katan monitor loudspeakers and the Sizmik 10.25 self-powered subwoofer should prove to be an interesting match. This pairing by Linn is said to provide a fine solution for those looking for all frequencies from acoustic bass to percussion cymbals. The Linn Classik was also employed for this review as well, making this a triple header... so to speak. During this review i'll also revisit the Classik, since just over a year has passed and i have grown ever more familiar with the unit. But first let's get to the loudspeakers and then venture on to the Classic shall we.
Slow Torture? Pain and Pleasure? You Decide.
The Katan monitor loudspeakers ($945 in Black, $995 in Cherry, Maple or White) were supplied with their matching stands for this review ($225 in black or silver). First it should be noted that the Katans require a long break in period. Not the usual 100 hours... or even 300 hours. How does 400 hours grab you? Well, it seems to take about 400 hours for these babies to really start to sound their best. Start to sound their best? Yes! After about another 200 hours (600 hours total) i felt they were finally settling in. This is the equivalent of slow torture for a reviewer as 400 hours means: At seven hours a day of constant playing it will take almost two months! Maybe this explains why it took me longer than expected to review this product. As for the Sizmik 10.25 subwoofer, fortunately that seems to settle in after only the usual 100 hours.
The Katan is a two-way bass reflex (rear port) loudspeaker. Linn's claimed frequency response of 75Hz to 20kHz (+/-3dB) seems accurate. The drive units are a 19mm soft-dome tweeter and 160mm bass/midrange unit. Single-ended tube amps need not apply as the impedance of 8 ohms is good, yet with a sensitivity of 85dB/W/m at 1KHz my usual small 8-watt tube amplifiers were homeless here. Linn states that a minimum of 30 watts is best and the more watts you can deliver, all the better. Fact is, in some parts of the world they regularly will mate $4,000 100-watt "Class A" amplifiers behemoths to the likes of this just under $1,000 monitor loudspeaker!
While working many years ago in a high-end store, i first discovered how well small loudspeakers really sound when mated to super he-man amplifiers. During Threshold's heyday, i was able to enjoy their super big $12,000 monoblocks with a small pair of minimonitors. WOW! There is something to be said about this unique way of system configuration. While the horn or Lowther guys like to use low-powered single-ended tube amplifiers, using powerful quality amplification with loudspeakers such as the Katans could spell a newly found enjoyment in music.
As for the Sizmik ($1,700 in Black, $1,750 in Cherry and Maple), first i would like to thank Linn for updating their original owner's manual. The original i have here leaves much to be desired. It is bad enough that users need to make heads or tales of the cryptic coding the single LED (that allows you to know what various adjustments you are making). The new owner's manual, fortunately, provides users a better description to decipher the hieroglyphics. Ok, enough whining by me here as the Sizmik is truly a wonderful unit once set-up and adjusted properly. The Sizmik's 10" long-throw paper coned driver is mated to a 500-watt (1,000-watt peak) "Class V" amplifier. While the amplification runs cool, when pushing the unit hard to loud SPL levels, a small fan will kick on to assist with cooling duties. Fortunately, the fan is rarely heard and is also located at the rear of the unit to further suppress fan noise.
Crossover adjustments are too many to really describe here other than to say you have many choices. Please see the specifications at the bottom of this review for all the details. i will say that the adjustments are made through using a single LED (hieroglyphic) to tell you what you are adjusting and at what level it is at by using few buttons in a certain sequence. The amplifier with it's inputs, outputs and adjustments (plus fan port) are all located on the rear of the Sizmik. Here is a unit that really demands for you to read the owner's manual. Color me sick and demented as i find enjoyment in reading owner's manuals. It is good to read them before using a unit, then a few weeks later after becoming more familiar with the device.
Both the Katans and the Sizmik seem to be extremely well made and the wood finishes are top notch! It is good to see such high quality at this relatively low price level. As for the stands, they are also very attractive and sand fillable. Spikes are included as well for those who desire a solid floor support yet have carpeting in their listening room. Before i forget, Linn offers the Katan monitor in various configurations. For the record, the set here were of the passive standard wire variety. Bi-wiring, bi-amplification and Aktiv options are available. To make the change to any configuration you only need to change the crossover board on the back of the unit by removing the connector holding collars and then remove both link boards. The you simply select the link board for the configuration option you desire and reinstall the board. Speaking of wiring, the Katans only accepts banana plugs so loudspeaker cables with spades need not apply.
Lastly, since i used the amplifier output in the Classik for the Katans and the pre-amplifier outputs from the Classik for the Sizmik, i was perplexed that the Sizmik only included one RCA cable instead of the usual right/left stereo cable. Fortunately i had on hand a proper stereo RCA cable for signal duties from the Classik to the Sizmik. There are many variable in hooking up to, and through, the Sizmik with numerous crossover input/output variations. Linn wisely has the owner's manual available on the internet as well, so please see their website for exact configuration possibilities.
Muzik With Classik Join Katan and
As i said before, the Katan is a no go with my beloved low power single-ended tube gear so the Classik was yet again put to good use. In fact the Classik generally resides here in my computer room and is one of the most used audio devices in my home. Installing the Katans with the supplied stands was easy enough and away i went... without the Sizmik at first.
After the long break in period i felt the Katans were a bit restrained dynamically. The good news is that no matter how hard they were pushed, how loud the volume levels went, the Katan seemed to never become harsh or distorted. Over the years my ears have been subjected to far too many "bargain" monitor loudspeakers that are bright enough to drive me out of a room in a matter of a few minutes. Linn wisely choose to use a lovely high-quality soft-dome tweeter in the katan. The midrange/bass unit offers a full sound. It does not give you "fake" deep bass by augmenting the 60Hz to 120 Hz region as some less accurate yet loved loudspeaker do (hints of the LS 3/5 perhaps). By designing a loudspeaker to have a peak in the 60Hz to 120Hz zone, it seems to provide a false sensation of deep bass. Linn wisely avoided this in favor of accuracy.
With the Katans stand-mounted and about 1/3rd into my computer listening room, the imaging was incredible! Both width and depth was well rendered as the music dictates. In fact the Q-Sound enhanced Roger Waters Amused To Death album was a revelation! There i sat typing away answering e-mail as the music danced all around the room. Yes, there were times the music was so awe inspiring as to have me close my laptop and just enjoy the music.
Still, i was perplexed as there was a lacking in the bass region below 100 Hz or so while the dynamics were still a bit constrained as compared to live music... or my 104 dB/W/m Avantgarde Duos (and priced at well over $10,000). An e-mail to Linn suggested a larger amplifier and also the addition of the Sizmik subwoofer may be in order if i desired compete audio frequency reproduction. Passing on the amplifier (which i may take them up on shortly), i went for just adding the Sizmik 10.25 self-powered subwoofer.
Once the Sizmik arrived and had been adjusted for my listening room, i was truly impressed with the accuracy of the Sizmik. Again it seems Linn goes for accuracy over ZING and POW audio fireworks. Sadly, there are too many subwoofers on the market that will go loud, yet produce inaccurate bass. With both the Katan and Sizmik hooked into the Classik, the music was very naturally reproduced without going bright in the high or flubby bass. What was heard here is a sound so enjoyable as to make my job working in the computer room that much harder as the music plays.
From Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue to Pink Floyd's The Wall... and beyond. In fact there were times this duo was played at louder than sane levels with hardcore bands like Godsmack and Prodigy. Never once did this combination flab, frump, or overly distort during the most challenging times when the music demands high volume levels of both drive and clarity. Too many times do so called $100,000 "audiophile" systems fall flat on their face when trying to reproduce "real" music as enjoyed by "real" people. i know, perish the thought that anything other than Approved By Stuffy Shirt Ego-Ridden Magazine "audiophile" self proclaimed "Experts" enjoy music on a "proper" hi-fi that is not 100% certifiable audiophile music. If loving enjoyable music is wrong, i don't wanna be right. But i digress...
Miles' trumpet on Kind of Blue was reproduced with the great horn sound, yet never going over the edge with unforgiving highs. Acoustic bass was fast, clean and well depicted tonally. The Sizmik 10.25 is an amazing subwoofer and, in my humble opinion, is worth every Baht, Bolivare, Deutsche Mark, Dinar, Dollar, Drachmae, Euro, Forint, Franc, Guilders, Koruny, Kroner, Kwacha, Lira, Lei, Leva, Markkaa, Pesetas, Peso, Pound Sterling, Punt, Rand, Real, Ringgits, Riyals, Rubles, Rupee, Shekel, Shilling, Won, Yen and Zlotych (with apologies to monetary denominations i may have left out). After years of hearing many self-powered subs, Linn truly has a winner here!
Ok, so the Sizmik 10.25 will not reproduce 20Hz at 110 dB levels in-room, but how much content is really down there? Not much unless you only listen to car audio electronica "bass" music or big pipe organ performances non-stop. From around 35Hz on up the Sizmik brings a smile to my face and keeps my toes a-tappin'. Due to the flexibilities of the Sizmik, it mated well with various loudspeakers in my humble abode including the KEF 104/2, the Royal Reference 3A MM De Cappo, Audio Note Level 2/SPX and, of course, the Linn Katans.
Harmonically, this combination of Katan and Sizmik 10.25 was a winner. Alas, the constrained dynamics were there, yet at this price level it was hard to fault given that all other parameters were so well rendered. Sometimes you have to pick your balles and satify your personal preferences. This is a more British "polite and proper" system over the American "Balls and Brash". The longer i listen to the Linn system, the more i love it. This means it is livable long term over the in-your-face wow factor that becomes fatiguing and dissatisfying in months... or weeks.
Before i end this review, allow me to revisit the Linn Classik as previously reviewed by myself almost a year ago. To my delight the Classik seems to continually provide hundreds and hundreds of hours in musical pleasure. With CD replay, the Classik has great inner resolution with vast dynamics and soundstage capabilities. Even with top-notch loudspeakers the Classik reveals itself as a true contender for being better than one would expect... given the price for this all-in-one unit (under $2,000 USD). How much would a separate good remote control pre-amplifier, amplifier, tuner and CD player set you back financially? Odds are you would reach $3,500 or more to get close to the Classik's quality. For those looking for a simple system i almost want to beg you to please try the Classik. The more i listen, the more i fall in love with it.
Ok, so i can hear those out there saying "Steve is a Linnie." Ya know what, you may very well be right! After all, look at the legendary status of the Linn LP12 turntable. Ok, so i enjoy my VOYD turntable, yet Linn has indeed earned a longstanding following... and for good reason! The build quality and reliability are excellent from all the pieces personally seen at both shows and that have been in various reviewer's systems. Linn seems to go for the more polite and proper sound over wham-bam thank-you ma'am that sounds amazing at first, yet grows fatiguing in a short period of time (and also leads to audiophillia nervosa and upgrade-itus). Color me a very satisfied man with the enjoyment of music through this Linn Katan and Sizmik 10.25 pairing. Of course in the end what really matters is that you... Enjoy the Music.
We are delighted Enjoy the Music.com enjoyed the Katan/Sizmik combo with the Linn Classik. The Linn Katan and Linn Sizmik are designed to offer a compact high performance 2.1 loudspeaker system when used together. The Katan loudspeaker is a small, accurate and versatile loudspeaker and can be run either passive or active via its unique amplifier link connectors. The Sizmik offers Linn Class V amplification technology and easy tuning options across all parameters to seamlessly blend into a variety of systems. A ‘Class V’ amplifier combines three key new Linn technologies - fast Switch Mode Power Supplies, high density linear power amplifiers and digitally controlled signal processing. Occupying less than six square inches of circuit board area, the high density power amplifier circuitry uses a balanced bridge configuration to deliver true audiophile performance. Class V operation exploits the fast, dynamic response of the Linn Switch Mode Power Supply by modulating its output to provide over 1000 Watts of accurate bass power while always minimizing power dissipation. The Class V system combines all the audio performance of a high bandwidth linear power amplifier with superior efficiency and compactness, cool running hum and buzz free performance and immunity to mains interference with no quality, EMC or noise compromises.
Type: two-way bass reflex loudspeaker
Weight: 6 kg. each
Price: $945 in Black, $995 in Cherry, Maple or White
Price for Stands: $225 in black or silver
Sizmik 10.25 Subwoofer
Drive Unit: 10" paper coned, long throw, high motor force bass driver
Type: Pitch precise bass reinforcement loudspeaker with integral active amplification and
equalization circuitry for stand-alone use.
Price: $1,700 in Black, $1,750 in Cherry and Maple.
Linn Products Limited