Linn Sizmik 12.45 Subwoofer 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Subwoofers
Written by Bryan Southard   
Sunday, 01 February 2004

Reviewers at literally fight over who gets the next Linn product for evaluation. The reason is simple: they manufacture ultra-high-quality, cutting-edge A/V components at the very top of the industry’s price scale. Linn Products is located on the serene outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland, where they develop, design and, even to this day, manufacture virtually all of their products in-house. Linn feels that this is the only reliable way to control the quality of the finished goods and ensure that their customers receive the very highest-level ownership experience possible.

It all started some 30-odd years back when, in the vision of their founder, the LP12 record playback system was born. This was during a time when few knew or had the vision to see the benefit in perfecting the source component. Previously, manufacturers focused on other areas that they felt were more influential to good sound, like amps and preamps. We all know our systems only sound as good as our source and the marketing behind that is mainly the work of Linn.

The Linn Sizmik 12.45 is a 12-inch powered subwoofer designed to complement higher-performance music and video systems. It physically measures 16.5 inches in height, 17.7 inches in width, 17.1 inches in depth and weighs a solid 61 pounds. It reproduces frequencies from an impressive nine Hz to 220 Hz and is available in black, cherry, maple and white finishes at a retail price of $2,995.

Finding the right subwoofer for your system can be a daunting task. If you step back a few feet, they all look pretty much the same. Take a closer look and the differences are vast. The Sizmik cabinet is constructed from dense MDF plywood, which is heavily braced and feels notably solid. The cabinet has a separate cavity to house its internal 500-watt RMS (1000-watt peak) internal amplifier. For connections, the Sizmik has stereo line-level audio in and looped outputs, RCA line-level high-pass outputs, RCA phono high level four mm inputs and a removable power cord.

To minimize power consumption when idle, the Sizmik defaults to a standby mode after several minutes and returns to power mode when it senses an audio signal. There is a simple, single-digit LED display on the rear that displays the operating mode being modified. There’s a small button that, when pressed, toggles between the modes and an up-and-down button for adjustment. Adjustment features include the following: External high-pass frequency adjustment from nine to 220 Hz, in nine different intervals, Internal high-pass frequency adjustable in nine increments between two and 44 Hz, internal low-pass frequency adjustment in three increments (50, 80 and 120 Hz), as well as a “no filtering” mode. Additionally, the Sizmik has two different gain modes, coarse and fine, allowing you to achieve a finite volume level. It has a phase mode, allowing either in-phase or inverted-phase adjustments. The Sizmik also has bass equalization, allowing for either +3 or +6 adjustment.

Overall, the Sizmik has an impressive amount of connections and adjustments. My only complaint is that the phase control was limited to either in-phase or 180 degrees out. I prefer variable phase adjustment. Also missing from the Sizmik’s list of features is room correction. Some subwoofer manufacturers like Revel, Sunfire and Velodyne are now offering a room correction feature to their subs priced at or below the price point of the Linn sub. This is very intriguing, as this feature can virtually eliminate the torture of trying to get a sub to perform and integrate well in your room. In my case, the Sizmik sub was professionally set up and performed at its very best, along with my full-range Revel Salon loudspeakers.

Music and Movies
Let’s face it, a good subwoofer can be most fun as a drum, bass guitar and explosion machine designed to revive John Bonham from the dead to recreating the havoc on the beaches of Normandy to experiencing a hairpin turn in an Indy cart. With this kind of fun (some might call it abuse) in mind, I set out to see what this Linn sub could do.

The violent and somewhat disturbing recreation of the United States’ entry into Vietnam, “We Were Soldiers” (Paramount), served up plenty of low frequencies to energize a sub. Although it’s a film full of fake Hollywood heroism, this movie takes you to dark places and emotionally grabs you in the gut. In Chapter Eight, one of my favorite scenes, as American soldiers are advancing up the ridge, you get the booms of 105-millimeter artillery landing all around, helicopters flying low and the dramatic soundtrack for the surround system to delineate. This is where subs struggle most, due to the massive air movements that they are required to perform. The Sizmik performed exceptionally in this test and provided rock solid, deep bass. I felt complete separation without congestion or dynamic compression of any discernable level. As the F4 Phantoms blasted napalm across the hillside, I could feel and hear the effects at a grand scale. By this, I mean that it truly sounded like a gigantic explosion rather than a smaller explosion amped up and processed to sound large. The Sizmik handled this and simultaneous low frequency better than I have heard before to date. Because I have main speakers that handle lower frequency with precision, I am hypersensitive to any smearing or cancellation due to the introduction of poor quality bass from a sub. This example proved that the Sizmik was a worthy match to even the quickest of loudspeakers.

The next movie I tested, we step back a few years to a war that your grandfather might have fought in, “The Thin Red Line” (20th Century Fox). Not to thrive on the morbid world of war or give the impression that I am limited to blood and guts, but this is a sub review and bombs are a sub’s best friend. In Chapter Nine, where the Americans press up the ridge, I found a great mixture of bombs dropping and a dynamic soundtrack full of bass. This is an area where subs can fall apart. It is very difficult for the speaker and internal amplifiers to control, delineate and maintain the agility to keep separate demands apart. The Sizmik did the best job that I have heard in my reference system. Information was precise and cohesively blended, along with the information provided from my main loudspeakers. I played with the volume, trying to find the point where the Sizmik began to fall apart and it simply didn’t happen. The only things that fell apart were loosely attached fixtures in my room.

A big part of my current A/V repertoire consists of concert DVDs. Years back, there were few to choose from, but today they are popping up faster than I can keep track, as groups find new ways to earn money and fans find tantalizing new avenues to experience their favorite groups live. It’s a natural. Music discs are great, but the video music experience touches more senses and delivers the closest feeling to being there. A favorite rock show of mine is Godsmack’s Live DVD (Image Entertainment). This is an excellent, high-energy show that sports some of the best quality video I’ve seen in a concert disc. It treats you to a fantastic onstage experience, as well as such shallow effects as beautiful girls flashing their goods. I selected DTS processing, my favorite for this particular DVD, and rocked to the opening track “Awake.” This disc has tremendously low information that can be a challenge to blend properly. I have struggled in the past as the information can overload the music and, more importantly, the room. I preferred the Sizmik a couple notches lower than what I found correct for most movies, providing a more even balance in my room. The Linn sub controlled the bass very well and, more importantly, matched the quickness of the drivers in my Revel Salons – no easy feat, as the Salons are very quick and remarkably agile at recreating low frequencies themselves. The Sizmik sub quickly established itself as a sub that could dance with the very best, at any cost.

AC/DC’s Live at Donington (Epic) is one of my more recent discoveries and a great concert of the past. This show took place on the grounds of Donington Castle in August of 1991, before a huge and exuberant crowd. It consists of classics from the Bon Scott days, as well as faves from Back in Black and more. During the cut “Hells Bells,” my system was abundantly powerful without the use of a sub, which made for an interesting argument. When you have full-range speakers, do you need a sub for music? There is no denying that cannon explosions benefit from the added sound pressure, but does music need this addition and potential lack of accuracy? Although my system sounded great without the Sizmik on this DVD, the Linn sub added that oomph that made me feel as if I was present at the event. It’s those few frequencies that dip below the 20 Hz range that made me feel like I was in front of the huge JBL stacks on the castle’s grounds. Cut after cut, this DVD charged me up.

Shutting my video system down for a few demo tracks, I cued up the Foreigner 4 on DVD-Audio (Atlantic). Although this isn’t one of the best-sounding DVD-Audio discs I have heard, overall it’s a fun mix of music from a more innocent era and provides tons of low frequencies for the Linn Sizmik to negotiate. “Jukebox Hero” served up exactly the challenge that I was looking for. Subs come and go in my system, with my more recent references being the Sunfire Signature Sub, Monitor Audio’s FB212 and the Definitive Technology SuperCube. These woofers range in price from $1,200 to $1,800, respectively, a significant price point below that of the Linn Sizmik. Money doesn’t always matter in terms of audio performance, but in this case, it did. The Sizmik clearly had better control than the aforementioned products, but more than control, it had better integration, better tonal balance and a more liquid and effortless sound. The others could sound as if they needed to be wound up to compete with my mains and at times could become a little too juiced-up and had trouble matching pace and intensity. The Sizmik was the balance that my system had been yearning for. Stepping back, it’s a sub that was designed to best match that of Linn’s flagship speakers, the Linn Komri’s at $40,000, a speaker that performs at the very top of what this industry has to offer. Its ability to match almost any loudspeakers performance would therefore be far from a stretch.

Last but not least was a DVD-Audio that I have used several times in reviews, B.B. King and Eric Clapton’s Riding with the King (Reprise). I try to use new music in each review, but this recording and performance is fantastic and one that never drifts far from my player. Equally, it provides great balance for evaluation. The Sizmik 12.45 provided the low end that “Key to the Highway” was looking for and made this cut extremely energetic. I got goosebumps as the duo exchanges leads to the solid rhythmic punch of the drums. Sub frequencies can sometimes be hard to evaluate, due to the fact that they are mixed with higher information from the source material, information that the ear more easily discerns and sometimes confuses with the information coming form the sub. If you turn the mains off and just listen to the sub, you can get lost in a world of rumble. What I found in this recording was that the bass became more enveloping and had improved depth. It more closely resembles the live event without confusing the information. There was a time where I felt that 20 Hz was low enough and the absence of a sub when paired with full range mains assured better accuracy. I have since renounced that theory and now feel that sub support is essential, but care needs to be taken to ensure proper blend and performance for your system. The Linn Sizmik provided just that for me. As the review came due, I had to think hard about what to say – simply stated, I forgot the Linn was there. That is perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay to a sub. This defines audio integration at its purest form.

The Downside
The Linn Sizmik has its controls on the back of the unit. This is not uncommon, as the manufacturers don’t want to ruin the aesthetics of the product. Most have attenuator knobs and buttons that are somewhat easy to manipulate when the sub is positioned in corners and against walls. However, the Sizmik’s controls are not so easy to use. It has a button that needs to be pushed to cycle through the adjustment modes. This cannot be done without physically looking at the small display, meaning that you will need to pull the sub out to make even a simple volume adjustment. Not an issue in some cases, but my system has been EQ’d by Bob Hodas and moving something that has been precisely placed is far from desirable. Additionally, the symbols used for each mode made little sense to me, which meant that the manual needed to be used for reference every time I needed to make an adjustment. There are a lot of adjustable parameters, so it is to be expected that there would be an additional degree of complication in adjustment, but in this case, I would prefer that these controls be located aesthetically in the front, where they would be most accessible.

Many manufacturers are limiting the available veneer options to a select few to save on expensive inventory in these lean times. In the case of the Sizmik, you have only four options. They are great-looking but some may struggle to match their existing décor.

The Sizmik has phase control, but only provides two modes, including in and 180 degrees out of phase. I prefer variable phase, as it provides better flexibility in matching a variety of rooms and sub positioning. I was able to achieve balance, yet missed the availability of added tweaking.

At nearly $3,000, the Linn Sizmik is not without competitors. Immediately coming to mind is the impressive Revel B15 at the same price and, most recently, the Revel Sub 30 at a considerably higher price. All three provide equalization for best integration into your room – a hugely important feature to gain optimal performance. Although I have never had the Revel subs in my system, I have heard them in other familiar reference rooms. My thought is that the Revels are capable of more energy and therefore could create more pressure in the largest rooms, but the Sizmik will match them in overall balance and agility. I would have no hesitation in recommending the Sizmik into the most high-performance A/V systems. The qualities that make a sub great are openness, balance, agility, power, transparency and quickness, and the Sizmik provided all of these effortlessly. Its finishes are great although limited. My opinion is that this sub can make an aesthetic mix in most homes. If you are looking for a blend of power and agility and are tired of hearing a sub stand out due to poor integration and performance, the Sizmik 12.45 is very likely your savior. From music to movies, this sub provided a blend of accuracy and control I had not before experienced in my system.
Manufacturer Linn
Model Sizmik 12.45 Subwoofer
Reviewer Bryan Southard

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