|Linn Unidisk 1.1 Universal Disc Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Saturday, 01 October 2005|
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The world of ultra-high-end audio has had to adjust their business model quite a bit over the last decade. With technology developing in new and exciting ways, equipment manufacturers clamored to produce real-world digital products that would support the new emerging software formats when, historically, high-end audio was an industry based around excellence more in analog (preamps, amps, speakers, turntables) products. While most of the high-end equipment manufacturers steered clear of machines that supported future and uncertain formats, Linn Products, a company known for taking bold and adventurous steps in the name of uncompromised sound, took new audio formats for music and movies as a challenge. Not surprising, considering that Linn produced and sold, very successfully I might add, one of the world’s best and most expensive dedicated CD player at $20,000.
Linn’s solution to the ever-growing need for a universal high-end player, which can unite all aspects of optical disc playback, is the Unidisk 1.1 universal player, priced at $10,995.
At the heart of the Unidisk 1.1 is the Silverdisk Engine, the digital brains of the Unidisk product line, which gives the player universal disc recognition. This includes CD, CD-R, CD-RW, Video CD, SVCD, DVD-Video and DVD-Audio, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, SACD, DTS CDs, and even copy-protected MP3, MPEG2 and JPEG discs. The Linn Silverdisk Engine turns off the circuitry not required for that particular format, maintaining a clean signal path for each decoding scheme, all in the digital domain. The analog section shares no common component of the digital side, keeping both signal paths unadulterated. This is where most universal players get into trouble. CD performance on these units tends to be the last in the food chain in my experience.
The Unidisk 1.1 does not have bass management or a proprietary digital link to connect to the intended Linn Kisto System Controller. Linn obviously chose to stay in the analog realm, where they excel. In many ways, I have to agree with the decision. There is also the fact that the Unidisk 1.1 was designed as an interlocking pair and it probably didn’t make engineering sense to have bass management on both products. I will get into greater specifics of that topic in my upcoming review of the Linn Kisto.
The 10-and-three-quarter-pound Unidisk 1.1 is a similar size to other components in the Linn line. At three-and-one-eighth inches in height, 15 inches in width, and 14-and-a-half inches deep, this sleek package fits easily into any rack. Close inspection reveals an elegant-looking, beautifully finished chassis that comes in black or, like the review sample, in silver. The uncluttered front panel is dominated by a large rectangular blue display that automatically dims when the lights are lowered, a very cool feature. The display is bracketed by three buttons in a triangular array on the left and right side of the display. The buttons on the left are for tray open and close, skip forward and reverse. The buttons to the right are for play, fast forward and reverse. Above the display is the thin disk tray that operates with silent jewel precision. The fit and finish is superb and the unit is solid-feeling and sturdy on its feet.
The back panel has an array of audio and video connection options, as well as the power switch, which I never turned off except to get into the set-up options. Along with a SCART video connector, there are both interlaced and progressive component video outputs, as well as RGBHV for older video displays, such as my Sony CRT projector.
I offer a heads-up here, as these connections are BNC, not RCA. This required that I use a BNC to RCA adapter for the component connection to my Anthem AVM30. I would prefer to use the correct video cable, but time dictated otherwise.
The remaining connections are the requisite DVI/HDCP video connector, two sets of S-Video and composite connections, two RCA remote connections for communication between other Linn components, bi-directional RS232 ports, a Toslink and S/PDIF connection that are assignable and defeatable, a stereo pair of balanced and unbalanced connections, and RCA multi-channel line outputs for SACD, DVD-Audio and video.
The OSD for the Unidisk 1.1 is very straightforward and easy to navigate. What might be unclear are the settings necessary in order for the Unidisk 1.1 to provide the correct signal to the rest of your gear. The Unidisk 1.1 is extremely flexible. The general set-up will let you set the OSD language, the aspect ratio you want, the output signal in either interlace, progressive or HDCP, and even what type of connection to use for and interlaced signal, either RGB or YPrPb. The audio set-up determines the parameters for the S/PDIF output, channel set-up in either two-channel or 5.1, and even a setting called Midnight Movie to reduce the gain for those times when you might disturb the rest of the house with explosions and such. Progressive scan set-up will let you set the color resolution, and if you have a plasma or LCD display, dither is utilized to adjust light and color. If all of this seems a bit confusing, don’t worry. The dealer will do the set-up for you as part of joining the Linn club.