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I'm not very surprised. Linn is moving in its own direction. It's latest "Exakt" technology is a fully integrated system that just won't work with other components.
If you are not familiar with Exakt, it employs a DSM streaming unit (that also has preamp functionality) to stream content from a NAS drive to the speakers via Cat 5/6/7 ethernet cable. Each speaker (or the stands) contain active crossovers, built in DACs, and built in Chakra (switch mode power supply) amps.
What's interesting about the Exakt system (which I still haven't heard) is that it keeps everything in a lossless digital signal right up until the last possible second.
The active crossover works in the digital domain, slicing the incoming stream into four separate digital signals, by frequency. Each frequency band is then passed to a separate DAC (each speaker has 4 built in DACs in the Akurate systems and I think 6 in the Klimax system), and finally, each analog signal is passed to a separate Chakra amp (again, 4 or 6 amps per speaker).
The system also is software controllable (DSP) by a laptop to tailor it to your listening room. Supposedly, reviewers say the system is good enough to get a system to sound identical whether the speakers are placed in the middle of the room or against a wall. The software is upgradeable.
The benefits of this seem pretty apparent, and the reviews I've read are excellent. The downside, of course, is that it greatly limits your options for mixing and matching brands and upgrading piece by piece along the way.
I believe there are 3 Exakt systems:
Akurate DSM + Akubarik floorstander speakers = $41,000
Akurate DSM + Akudorik stand mount speakers = ??
Klimax DSM + Klimax 350 speakers = $80,000
Linn is a lot like Apple. They are not afraid to abandon technology or give tradition the boot if they have a reason for it. (E.g., people freaked out when Apple got rid of floppy drives, and then optical drives.) And they prefer a walled garden approach, where they control the whole chain from soup to nuts to make sure it doesn't get screwed up by a third party. Coincidentally (maybe), they also both mill components out of solid billets of aluminum.
This sort of system is no fun for audiophile hobbyists, and unattainably expensive for the large majority of people. However, it also makes a hell of a lot of sense and my guess is that this concept will trickle down and be picked up by other brands (although there aren't that many high-end companies that have the resources and tech to pull this off. What other companies make high end speakers, amps and DACs?
Interesting additional information I just read about. Linn sells the Akurate Exaktbox, which allows you to add Exakt technology to older Linn speakers and even third party speakers, since the crossover points are programmable. (http://small.linncdn.com/product-catalogue/documents/Linn_Akurate_Exaktbox_Product_Information.pdf)
Apparently, they have achieved very good results with B&W 802Ds. Seehttp://forums.linn.co.uk/bb/showthread.php?tid=29808
Infection - that contributes nothing to this thread. Put price to the side for the moment (because, let's face it, 99% of the general population would think most of the equipment discussed on this forum is incredibly over-priced).
The issue is that one of the largest high-end audio gear companies is moving in a pretty bold direction and has come up with a technology that could have a substantial impact on the future direction of audio.
I'm interested to hear what people think of Linn's strategy in pursuing its Exakt technology and ditching pure analog stand alone pre-amps.
There's no pain. I'm just disappointed because I realized that the Linn Exakt system has never been discussed (as far as I can tell) on this forum, and typed out a very long response to stir up a discussion. And then all I got was your post.
I know that people on here don't really like Linn, but this is an interesting topic whether you like Linn or not (in my opinion).
That's just my general impression. I think most people prefer smaller, boutique companies and think that Linn is over-priced and over-marketed. Which, to some extent, is true.
A good indicator of the lack of interest in Linn is the fact that Linn's Exakt technology - which is a fairly big development - was announced back in 2013 but has never been discussed on this forum to the best of my knowledge.
I don't believe it is a matter of people innately disliking Linn. It is most probably people have found better sound quality and value with other products. It's an open marketplace with much competition. In my own experience some of the best sounding products are via the "smaller boutique" companies. I think most listeners appreciate new technology but ultimately it comes down to "how does it sound" rather than promises and hype. If the Linn approach/ direction is superior sounding people will take note.
Mateored, thanks for your detailed replies & insight into Linn systems. I have very little experience with Linn myself. It is interesting that they are following the approach taken by Meridian (Boothroyd-Stuart Meridian) which also likes the "walled garden" approach & has been practicing that forever. They are DSP all the way & I believe their latest speakers are also active. Hmmm....very interesting that another British company is following in Meridian's footsteps. Is it just coincidence or is it influence thru proximity??
By chance I went to a Linn demonstration evening in a local Pub. Unfortunately my quack says I can't drink at the moment. What do Doctors know? It did mean I could listen to what the Linn Rep was saying, not through a haze of beer. I have always admired Linn, but am not sure about the way they are going. That seems to be to centre their systems round DSM's or digital streaming modules, with bolt on Pre amps, DACs, internet radio etc, as the system requires. This then can feed into an active or passive version of their speakers, as required.
The effort and technology involved has to be admired. Each speaker driver is individually level matched and adjusted to minimal DB differences.
I listened to a Majik passive system with Standmounts and an active Exact system with floor standing Speakers. Prices were not outrageous by modern standards and were designed to be incorporated into a multiroom WiFi system. Cutting edge technology and simple user interface then, all very impressive. Unfortunately and I hate to admit it as I am British, it all sounded dire. Typical of a poor solid state gritty, edgy sound, no tonal colour, completely flat soundstage with no depth at all, a shame really.
Just for comparison, I just bought a Bel Canto c5i integrated amp. It has no pre-amp. Line level and phono inputs are converted to digital and it uses recent Class D Icepower amp technology. It is very small, very ergonomic, and sound absolute top notch.
So maybe Linn is on to something, trying to keep up with the times and technology and deliver good sound to the masses accordingly.
I doubt "audiophiles" have anything to do with it. That's a very small and crowded target market these days.