|Linn Klimax Kontrol Stereo Preamplifier|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers Stereo Preamps|
|Written by Ed Masterson|
|Sunday, 01 June 2003|
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While perhaps not a downside if you are deep in the pocket, the Kontrol is largely expensive. It is a product that will find itself beyond the reach of most working mortals. However, it still sells at nearly half the price of the Mark Levinson No.32, a preamplifier that Bryan Southard picked for his reference system.
Another personal nitpick would be the size of the equipment. Although some may firmly prefer the Kontrol’s diminutive size, it would be easier to work with if it were a little bigger. Due to the inherent space limitations, the connectors are tightly spaced, making connections slightly more difficult than usual. Also, due to the small size, the display is hard to read from further back than 10 feet or so. In practice, I really only used the display for the volume level reading and that was visible up to around 18 feet.
Another area to consider is the gain in the Kontrol. With my passive output stage on the Muse Model II DAC, I found myself running out of gain. Many other preamplifiers that I have worked with have had more gain than the Kontrol. In most cases, this will not be an issue, due to the fact that most CD players and DACs have an output level closer to two volts rather than one volt with the Muse.
The Linn Klimax Kontrol is quite simply one of the very best pieces of audio equipment that I have ever had the opportunity to audition. The Kontrol is the first solid-state preamplifier that I have auditioned in my system that clearly exceeded the performance of the best tube preamplifiers that I have heard. The Kontrol made my other reference preamplifiers sound veiled in comparison. In this price range, there are only a few players. The Audio Research’s REF II, Conrad Johnson ART and the Mark Levinson No.32 are some that come to mind.
I have extensively heard the No.32 in Southard’s system and it has never failed to blow me away. However, the Linn Kontrol performed at such a high level in my system that I have no doubt that they would compete head-to-head at all levels.
Linn refers to the products in its Klimax series as uncompromised designs, and I must concur. With its elegant looks, flexibility in set-up, build quality that is amongst the best I have ever seen from any product and ultimate sonic performance, the $10,000 price tag seems altogether reasonable. I only wish that I could figure out a way to keep it. Perhaps I could sell my car and walk to work?