|Linn Klimax Twin Stereo Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Stereo Amplifiers|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Sunday, 01 September 2002|
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Music and Movies
As with all of my amplifier reviews, I have my system setup so that my two-channel music reproduction is totally isolated from my theater preamplifier. I accomplish this by connecting my CD source directly into my Mark Levinson No. 32, and outputting this signal through the Linn Klimax Twin. For movies, I output the front main loudspeaker signals from my theater Processor/Preamp into a second input of the Mark Levinson No. 32, assuring that my traditional two-channel music has absolutely zero compromise.
Taking a sonic journey through yesteryear, I loaded Pink Floyd’s masterpiece Wish You Were Here (Columbia). Listening to this work makes me wish I were more appreciative at the time I personally witnessed early '80s Floyd shows. In the synthesized adventure “Welcome To The Machine,” there was incredible transparency and separation between the synthesizers and accompanying guitars and vocals. The Klimax had a relaxed presentation that allowed the music to unfold and breathe without slapping me in the face. The high frequencies of the synthesizers were infinitely detailed and open with a natural surrounding air. The guitars enjoyed this openness and detail, making them remarkably present and natural-sounding. In this cut, the guitars are recorded perfectly out of phase, which creates an effect that makes it sound as if they are emanating from all around, which is mesmerizing when presented perfectly. The combination of this recording, and the Linn’s truly superb high frequencies, made this aspect simply enchanting. Water’s vocals were magnetic with wonderful depth. The Klimax Twin made this piece -- one that I consider to be of average quality at best -- sound outstanding. Putting the pedal to the metal, I loaded Dave Matthews Band’s Crash (RCA), and the song “Too Much,” a cut with powerful dynamics and a combination of heaviness and finesse. The Twin handled high volumes well, considering the substantial load that my Revel Salons impose. I was able to listen as loud as I personally prefer without amplifier fatigue. I listened for dynamic compression and for even the slightest collapse of the stage, symptoms indicating that an amplifier is running out of gas. There were slight signs of lethargy at the most extreme volumes, a clue that owners of hard to drive speakers and a propensity for serious volumes may want to consider a larger amplifier. In this case, if your pocketbook is elastic, I would definitely consider the Twin’s larger brothers, the Klimax Solo monoblocks. At 500 watts per side, the Solo amplifiers can drive any speaker in the world, although there is a sizable increase in price to $19,000 per pair. The bass performance of the Twin was overall rock solid and surprisingly fast. I say "surprising" because you simply don't expect world-class control from such a small package. Amplifiers such as the Pass X350 had more bottom-end, rib-breaking punch, yet the Twin had a more pleasing overall sound. The only criticism that I had was a tad of politeness in the upper bass. Upper low frequencies in some recordings could sound on the lighter side of neutral. However, this was very slight and only obvious in a handful of the tracks I auditioned. In this tune, the high frequencies were implausibly open, natural and with unsurpassed detail, an aspect that I fell in love with. The midrange was clear and detailed, yet never bright or the least bit fatiguing to listen to, even at colossal volumes. There was absolutely no grain detected in the high frequencies.
In Oliver Stone’s heart-wrenching classic "Platoon," I was immediately impressed with the Twin’s clarity, detail and downright enjoyable sound. The information coming from my front main loudspeakers was nothing short of excellent. Days after the Twin’s installation, friends familiar with my A/V system's sound commented on the improvement, a glowing endorsement from completely untainted ears. Effects from bullets flying to whirling helicopter blades were detailed and laid back in depth, more so than I have heard before in my system. This does allows you to exist in the movie rather than merely be drawn to the effects.
This amplifier is designed perfectly to be a home theater component. However, it raises the interesting question of who this amp is right for. In this day and time, most enthusiasts have integrated their audio systems into their theater for the complete A/V experience, or at least they know they will soon do so with the rise of DVD-Audio and SACD.
Why not purchase a five-channel amplifier and make your system more simplistic? The reason to hold out is that this amplifier is without compromise. It is the best-sounding solid-state amplifier that I have heard for music and it provided me with a fantastic theater experience. Is it possible to obtain this from a 5.1 amplifier? Possibly, although you will likely have to shell out a king's ransom. If you find a multi-channel amplifier that matches the Twin’s sonic beauty, you are going to pay a ton. The benefit of having a two-channel amplifier such as the Twin and another separate three-channel amplifier is that you can spend more money on your front two channels to achieve musical perfection and cut back a bit on the remaining three channels.
The Linn Klimax Twin is a very compact amplifier, almost to the point of Inducing disbelief. The unit is only slightly bigger than a large cigar box. This doesn’t come without placement challenge. The speaker cable connections are very compact and arranged such that your cables need to be flexible enough to bend at a one-half-inch radius, leaving the post, in order for the amp to sit on its feet. My Transparent Reference speaker cables have nowhere near the flexibility to allow this to happen. Because of this, I had to place the Twin on stilts to allow the connection. This terminals sit in a pocket created by an overhang, which will not allow the cables to rotate above the unit. Also, the terminals were oriented in a staggered pattern, so that if you forced the cables abruptly to one side, larger-size spades, such as those on my Transparent cables, could short one another. The solution is to purchase cables with the flexibility to accommodate this condition.
Part of the Twins’ cooling system includes a fan, a by-product of its ultra-slim sizing. This fan is minutely audible at very close range. For me, this was not an issue, because the fan only came on when the amplifier heated up after reaching higher volumes. I suppose that if you listened to Deep Purple at concert venue volumes, then opted for a little chamber music, this could present a concern. This is an issue that only the most extreme audiophiles would concern themselves with and a complete non-factor for me and anyone else who is listening to their music rather than its flaws.
The Linn Twin amplifier is my favorite solid-state amplifier that I have heard to date. It is a gem that will make audiophiles salivate without alienating the average enthusiast who doesn’t want to get geeky about their music but still wants every single ounce of information possible.
Overall, the high frequencies of the Twin were the best and most naturally open I have ever heard from an amplifier (including my Sonic Froniers 200-watts-per-channel tube monoblocks) in any price range. The midrange was detailed yet incredibly sweet, reminiscent of tubes without the drawbacks associated. The low frequencies were well controlled and had great quickness. I was very impressed and considered the overall balance to be remarkable, with the exception of the upper low frequency octaves, which I found on the light side of neutral with select pieces. The packaging of this product is the very essence of artistic beauty, unmistakably the best and most elegant that I have fondled.
In a world of incredible hulks, this unit is more like Bruce Lee. Anyone who appreciates modern design will be enchanted by the look of this audio component. At $9,000 for two channels of amplification, this product is not cheap, which makes it perhaps the amplifier for those that can afford a life void of compromise.