I've heard the Ninka, and I think that it's a very nice speaker. It is without the wooly bass and is much more transparent than the model it replaced. I can't think of any other similarly priced speakers that I would prefer, but a used pair of 5140s would be even better for the money.
The Ninka's haven't gotten very favorable reviews. I have heard them Aktiv and liked them. Used Aktiv 5140's would be the best bet if it fits your budget.
People either love Linn speakers or not -- there's very little in between. People who place high value on pace, rhythm, and timing(PRaT) tend to love these speakers, while people who value things such as three-dimensional imaging and soundstage will not. Linn speakers also will not disappear in a room as well as many others, and they can be picky in working with non-Linn electronics.
So how the Ninkas compare to others in their price category will largely be determined by how you value these various aspects of sound reproduction. If PRaT is very high on your list the Ninkas may be one of the best bargains in audio, but if you're looking for a more transparent, three-dimentional soundstage look elsewhere. One speaker I would definitely audition if I were looking at the Ninkas would be Meadowlark's new Swift, which are also small floorstanders but only cost $1000/pr.
I don't know why Linn speakers aren't reviewed more, but knowing Linn(I used to work for a Linn dealer) they probably don't push as hard as other manufacturers for reviews. They don't appear to put much emphasis on marketing in general, more relying on their dealer network and word of mouth.
I have heard the Ninka's on an all Linn system and was surprised by the muddiness of sound (was playing Bela Fleck and the Flecktones - Outbound). Many of the instruments got lost or couldn't hear them. They were much better, though, than the Vienna Acoustics Beethovens on the same system with the same CD (wooly and very thumpy). It may have been the way the speakers were setup, etc.
The fit and finish is amazing on the Linn speakers.
I would look at the JMLabs Cobalt 816's, Acoustic Energy AE 309,s, and possibly the new Monitor Audio Silver S8. All bring something different to the table.
I helped a friend buy a pair of used Ninkas for use with a Linn Classik and have listened to them quite a bit. They're very easy to listen to and absolutely beautiful to look at. She's thrilled.
I'd agree completely with Soix's observations about where the Linns fall on the issue of PRaT vs. imaging and soundstage. Given that the speakers I can afford require some compromise, my personal preference is on the side of transparency and imaging. I've got Proacs and like them better than the Ninkas but that perference doesn't tell you anything about whether you'd like them.
A few months ago a friend and I spent a couple of days shopping for speakers for him. We listened to Linn, Vienna Acoustic, Sonus Faber, Monitor Audio, Dynaudio, B&W, Roark, Martin Logan, and probably some others I can't remember. It soon became clear that his preference was for the 'Linn' sound. Listening to my Proacs at home the second evening he remarked that my speakers sounded 'thin' to him. I tried not to be offended because after all the audiotioning I did understand what he was saying. I like my speakers 'thin' and he likes them 'thick.'
I have to agree with Botrytis about the muddiness of the Ninkas. A real disappointment. That being said, I have by and large been less than overwhelmed with Linn equipment. Linn and B&W are, in my opinionated but pretty experienced view, two of the most overrated names in audio.
bishopwill I dont disagree but name me a brand that isnt overrated or overvauled for that matter. I think the point in audio is getting the sound you are listening for a price you can live with it.
It's worth the trouble to biwire them. The stock cables that came with them weren't quite long enough for the permanent installation (and my friend thought they were ugly) and she didn't want to spend very much for wire. I bought some bulk Canare StarQuad wire from Markertek, Linn connectors for the amp end from a Linn dealer and some decent locking bananas and soldered up a pair. Total cost was about $65 for a 12' pair and even with the relatively inexpensive cable the Ninkas were quite a bit more open and transparent.
These are definately more open sounding than the keilidhs, however contrary to their instruction manual they don't take to kindly to close to wall placement. If you like b&w you probably won't like these. Stands are a necessity.
Psychicanimal, you're right. How could I forget dear old Bozo...er...Bose. But I wasn't thinking of dimestore brands at the time.
Deven8, your point is well taken. I have long argued that we should listen a lot and buy what we like that we can afford.
Alas, very many in the high end have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the notion that Really Good Equipment has to cost a lot of money and be Hand Built. They should only be available in Small Numbers and priced so high that only Serious Audiophiles can own them.
Anything sold for a modest price or produced in large quantities is, by advertising-taught definition, mid-fi at best. Then there are the matters of conspicuous consumption, pride of ownership, and needs for ego gratification. All these conspire with clever marketers to create an environment in which people will pay $50,000 for speakers shown to contain $500 worth of components.
Someone posted to a thread the other day an anecdote about walking into a Salon with $5,000 to spend on a system and being told that with that much money he could buy one component. And we wonder why we remain a niche market.
Sorry for getting a bit off-thread. These opinions, like all of mine, are worth precisely what you paid for them.
I admit to being a bit of a Linnie (Linnie's Anonymous, anyone?), but I also have never thought much of their speakers. The best one I've heard is the 5140, which is open and dynamic and punchier than the typical Linn speaker. I would add that their best gear, LP12 excepted, is the less expensive stuff. To me the only overrated aspect of Linn is the Komri-tri-amped with Klouts/Klimax. The Classik, on the other hand, is amazingly good for the price, and I love my little Majik. Their gear is generally very musical, bullet-proof, upgradable and not bad to look at either. I have a lot of brands ahead of them on my overrated list!
Well I came to Linn very lately, coming from Triangle, YBA, Acoustic Energy, Reference 3a Supreme II (list price was more than $10000) .... and to my surprise, after listening to the Ninkas for about 2 or 3 weeks, I dumbed my mutli thousand dollars speakers for a pair of Ninka. I have had Linn amplifiers, a Linn LP12 and I can assure you the Ninka was the most musical speaker among the one I had in the recent pasts. Only Triangle comes very close, but with different electronics. I must say that I got sick and tired of looking for the best amp-speaker match, the best pre amp, the best cables match ... Linn offers a no brainer: for a given budget you get a very musical system. And the more you spend, the more transparent the system becomes, the better is the soundstage .... but Linn never sacrifices musicality for soundstage or other sound "artifacts" .... my 2 cents.
...I owned Keilidhs (Ninka predecessor) previously and took them active and thought it vastly improved the performance. Much better control and dynamics, down low especially, but the speaker never satisfied me entirely in the bass department. I listened to the updated Ninkas and thought that were an improvement, but not enough to warrant the upgrade.
I really like the bang-for-buck of the active configuration and I like the "Linn Sound", so I opted for a used set of 5140s and I run them active. MUCH better. And for the money, I think the 5140s used (1700$ or so) offer a better value than new (well, that's goes for most all audio) Ninkas (or Espeks for that matter).
Maybe not the end of the rainbow in soundstaging, but they are very engaging and musical, and I can't get enough of the music these things produce!
here is the deal with Linn, they are polite speakers so using proper amplification is important. I bought a used pair of Ninkas on here last year and I am very happy with them-keep in mind I am driving them with a near 5K Thule amp. Also, I use very good cables. I heard a Ninka set up once with a simaudio amp and Nordost cables and it was great. So, what you feed the speakers matters. IMOP they are among the most acurate and musical speakers around with the right equipment. As a contrast you could try a pair of Focals with their berrylium tweeter, very dynamic. FYI the cables I am using are from Purist Audio design and they work well in my set-up. Hope this helps.