Linn Akudorik with Katalyst DAC and Akurate Exakt DSM reviewed

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posted on Wednesday, 13th December 2017 by Steve May

Hi-fi  High-end  High Res Audio 

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Linn has long been a leader in digital audio, spearheading hardware developments and championing High-Res Audio content like a brand possessed. So what we have here is the culmination of years of dogged sonic innovation.

Consisting a pair of standmount speakers and a slimline DSM streamer, this Akudoric stereo system is outwardly rather conventional, but beneath the surface it's anything but ordinary.

This high-end two-channel package comprises a pair of Akudorik speakers and an Akurate Exakt DSM network streamer, refreshed with Linn’s 4th generation Katalyst DAC architecture. As befits the heady price point, buying is a white glove experience. Consumers aren’t meant to install this kit themselves, that’s left to the dealer. Once tuned, the end result proves revelatory.

Linn Combo

Linn _Exakt _Akudorik _Stand _Connector _Detail _72dpi

Linn Akudorik with Katalyst DAC and Akurate Exakt DSM: Build quality and specification
Design and finish are top notch. The curved cabinet of the Akudorik speakers is a composite construction of steam-moulded layers of MDF and Birchwood, which is then hand finished. The rear-ported design features a quarter of drivers and can comes in a wide variety of finishes, including real wood veneers and some 200 special order gloss colour finishes.

The doric stands are actually the heart of the system. Inside sits the Exakt Engine, which connects to the DSM streamer via ethernet cable. The speakers couple to the stands via a dedicated bus (pictured above). This is connected hi-fi in the literal sense.

The Akurate Exakt DSM streamer has a nice clear display and half dozen physical buttons to control volume and source. On the rear are four HDMI inputs plus one output, six digital audio inputs (split between optical and coax), with a pair of outputs, plus a pair of analogue inputs, and a balanced stereo alternative. There's also an Ethernet network connection, and two pairs of Ethernet Exact outputs which link to the speakers. This system doesn't require anything quite so primitive as loudspeaker cable.

Included is a metallic remote with an easy to use central D-pad, and shortcuts to playlists and internet radio. It can also learn other IR commands.

Katalyst

Speaker (1)

Linn Akudorik with Katalyst DAC and Akurate Exakt DSM: Features
Finding your way around Linn’s tortured vernacular can be a chore, but it’s worth persevering. Exakt is a proprietary technology that removes phase distortion and improves time alignment. It also corrects for manufacturing tolerances between individual drive units. Every system that leaves the Linn factory has been calibrated, electronics tuned and matched to the supplied loudspeakers.

Installation is key. Linn’s Space Optimisation allows the system to be tuned precisely to the listening room, and ultimately defines the relationship between the listening position and the speakers.

Our system was installed by Linn specialists The Sound Gallery, based in High Wycombe, Bucks. The process involved tailoring the soundscape to our listening room, inputting room dimensions and even furniture info into the calibration software, before numbers could be crunched to achieve the optimum audio performance.

Akurate Exakt DSM Black Front

Linn Akudorik with Katalyst DAC and Akurate Exakt DSM: Performance
Despite a relatively modest footprint, I was genuinely taken aback by the width, depth and detail in the soundstage. Hi-Res Audio sources, streamed from a Western Digital HDD, sound divine. The system positively glows with 24-bit studio masters.

If you really want to appreciate the system’s lucid musically, play The Man Who Sold The World (24-bit Flac, 192kHz), an infectiously jazzy rendition of the classic cut by Claire Martin.

Led Zeppelin's remastered Houses of The Holy proves equally invigorating. The Rain Song has a liveness that's rarely heard on lesser systems. It’s probably the nearest you'll have to Jimmy Page strumming in your living room.

Similarly, Rock And Roll (from Led Zeppelin IV) exhibits a breathless energy that showcases the system’s easy speed. Stairway To Heaven sounds at least 35 per cent more epic than I remember from my last listening.

Normally I stick to High Res Audio sources these days when possible, but one intriguing characteristic of this Linn system is that it makes CDs sound comparatively fresh and vital too. Lucifer Sam finds girth not normally associated with The Piper At The Gates of Dawn. It finds a way of taking flat stereo and giving it startlingly three dimensionality.

Front

Rear (5)

As an AV component, the DSM streamer challenges perceptions. While it has a quartet of HDMIs, the unit is unapologetically stereophonic. There is no Dolby Digital decoder and needs a PCM input, so configure connected devices accordingly. The compensation is a sublime stereophonic performance. The system brings superb clarity to small screen content. The sheer artistry of the Game of Thrones soundmix is laid bare. Natural vocals, soaring score, superb aural FX. Outside of a native multichannel theatre environment, a DSM with this Akudorik package is a fabulous alternative.

Linn Akudorik speakers with Katalyst DAC and Akurate Exakt DSM: Verdict
There’s a purity about Linn’s approach that’s difficult to resist. There’s nothing ostentatious about either the Akudorics or the Exakt DSM streamer, but they sound sublime. And, perhaps more importantly, they’re undaunted by less than ideal environments. You don’t even need perfect symmetry between speakers, as Linn’s calibration tech is able to even out positional discrepancies. The system redefines what can be achieved with digital audio. Get a demo and see if I’m not right. It’s truly outstanding.

Linn Akudorik speakers and Akurate Exakt DSM with Katalyst architecture is available now.
Retail price: £20,000

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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