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Barb Jungr, Love Me Tender, Linn Records, AKD 255, SACD/HDCD.
The CD version played through my Ancient Audio Lektor, the SACD through the Accuphase DP-700. I then compared those against a 24/96 PCM file downloaded from Linn Records. This was the first recording I listened to over the Klimax but I understood very quickly why there had been a need to create this type of device. This was sound of the highest quality comparable only to the best CD players I knew. Admittedly high resolution material created a clear advantage for the Linn but the rich timbre, harmonics and great ability to differentiate sounds made me admit from the start that Ivor was right. At first I couldn't fully comprehend what I was hearing. I thought it all sounded a bit lean. Later I realized it had to do with playback volumes. The Klimax DS needs to be goosed a bit—above background levels suitable for reading a book or talking—or you might think that the sound is somewhat boring, lean and lifeless. Only turning up the volume will get the best from the Linn.

e.s.t., Viaticum, Music+Vision, ACT 6001-2, 2 x CD.
The RipNAS imported this CD at standard 16/44.1 resolution and was compared to the Lektor. It confirmed the Jungr findings. The Linn had a bit less weight and richness than the best CD players from Jadis and Reimyo and to some extent also when compared to my new Polish machine. But it didn't have less weight because it lacked bass extension. Quite the contrary. The Linn's bass went really low, almost as low as the Jadis (the best CD player in that regard known to me). Compared to the Lektor, the Linn’s bass was more consistent and better differentiated (and the new Lektor’s bass is a huge step forward over the older Prime). Since the bass from the Klimax wasn’t as rich as that from the Lektor or Accuphase DP-700, it simply appeared as though the tonal balance had shifted up. Interestingly then, the Linn’s upper treble seemed a bit laid back in fact.

The issue wasn’t with the tone of cymbals—those were presented perfectly especially from HD files—but the noise above the cymbals. The Lektor showed more of this because it is there in the recording. Of course noise is not what we listen for but this difference in presentation proved that the Linn modified this part of the range somewhat. Cymbals were very good, precise but not rough and with a touch of sweetness that made them more realistic than the hyper precision of certain digital decks. The Lektor moved the piano closer to the listener with a really big resonant cavity. By comparison the Linn seemed less colored which made the touch of warmth in the Pole’s lower midrange seem like a departure from neutrality. From many other comparisons I knew that this was not really a flaw of the Ancient Audio player. It simply created more body. Over time however, the Klimax DS's sound was so precise that anything less seemed not as ‘accurate’.

Helge Lion Trio, Hello Troll, Ozella Music, FLAC 24/96.
Here I used the same downloaded Linn Records material on the Klimax and my laptop. It turned out that the Klimax retained each recording’s unique character but also presented its own attributes. The bass was not that massive as that from the Wavelength Cosecant v3. The American DAC made the diaphragms of my Dobermann speakers battle the air with extremely well-controlled bass that was punchy and big. It was not how double bass really sounds or how it sounds when recorded with a far-field microphone. This was the sound of a close-mic’d bass and the effect the sound engineer had wanted to achieve.

The Linn’s bass wasn’t exactly light. It had drive and extension but not the type of slam I was used to. On the other hand its treble was significantly better than the Wavelength’s. No doubts this was a forté of the Klimax. Cymbals were extremely lucid and very well positioned in space. The piano trio had a somewhat bright upper midrange and wasn't as colorful but this might have been more accurate and true. The American DAC had been created with a specific vision on how it should have sounded. Yes, one could improve certain things here and there but the basics of clarity, lack of coloration and great resolution pointed at the Linn as the more advanced machine.

In this comparison the Cosecant was more euphonic and a bit slower. It was still a very good sound achieved from a laptop and USB DAC but compared to the Klimax, it seemed like the beginning of the road while the Klimax went down the same road much farther. This particular recording confirmed what I had heard before. If using a good hi-rez file (as with every format, even hi-rez has to be done right to sound good), new perspectives open up for exploration beyond what the limitations of the CD standard allow. Lovingly prepared hi-rez recordings reveal the true class of the Linn. Kids would say the Klimax DS then rules. My first contact with this new medium showed only small improvements over playing back CDs – the sound was somewhat clearer, deeper, richer etc. But as with every other true hi-end device, I needed time to appreciate its real value.

The Beatles, 09.09.09 sampler, Parlophone/Apple/EMI Music, 84414 2 5, promo 2 x CD.
For this duel I used the remastered stereo CD version and a hi-rez 24/44.1file on a pen drive. This was amazing. The 24-bit version over the Klimax and the 16-bit original over the Lektor sounded almost identical. Almost. There was one small detail that became more and more obvious and more important to me over each subsequent recording to eventually cause CDs to lose this bout. In the beginning, the file version seemed to offer more subdued vocals. The voices seemed more hidden, blended into the background and not as distinct as on CD. But then I realized that the CD was simply more compressed to make it sound more even. There wasn’t the same ease in a singer’s dynamics changes I could hear from the hi-rez file. The timbre of voices was similar in either case but the file offered more of everything and was better to show that with more information in the hi-rez source material, the Klimax became richer and a bit more rounded. This made it more like the sound from the Lektor yet improved resolution, dynamics and a particular smoothness that my CD player simply did not possess.

Frank Sinatra, My Way, Reprise/Universal Music Japan/Sinatra Society of Japan, UICY-94368, SHM-CD.
I compared the CD over the Lektor to the same material ripped to the RipNAS and played back over the Klimax. The RipNAS copy was very good and sounded very similar to the CD but I was able to detect certain differences. The CD player offered up deeper timbres and the upper end was a bit sweeter. The Klimax was drier and not as thrilling. Yet these differences were incredibly small. After thorough consideration and only if I really had to choose, I would have declared a preference for the Lektor here. This was the first time I heard such great sound—except for very few ultra-expensive players—from any other player than my new Lektor. Then the Klimax offered something the Lektor lacked a bit – extra clarity and resolution. Hence my preference for the CD player perhaps simply reflected my devotion to the physical medium and my personal choice of a particular tone. If I really focused on what we call ‘neutrality’, I should have favored the Scot. This was a really tough choice and made me appreciate the guys from Linn even more!

Tina Brooks, True Blue, Blue Note/Wave Audio, AWMXR-0004, XRCD24.
The XRCD24 was ripped with the RipNAS and compared to the CD over the Lektor. The Linn offered the more spatial sound. I could hear more air behind the performers. The Lektor on the other hand showed Hubbard's trumpet and Brook’s saxophone in a more intimate way, slightly pumping up the lower midrange. Cymbals sounded a bit richer over the Pole but the difference was very small. If I hadn't been trying so hard to hear the difference, I probably wouldn't have even though I love my Lektor so much!

John Coltrane, Blue Train, Blue Note/Classic Records, HDAD 2010, DVD-A 24/96+24/192.
I own the hi-rez 24/192 version issued by Classic Records as their take on the DVD-A format called HDAD. I copied it on my laptop using DVDExplorer first as WAV, then FLAC file. I wanted to compare both formats to learn which one sounded better - at least over the Linn. In Munich I’d participated in some sessions where the new Reference Recordings Hrx format was presented. Those were DVD-R discs with hi-rez 24/176.4 material identical to the master tape. Keith Johnson, inventor of HDCD, claims that only WAV files guarantee perfect sound reproduction which can't be achieved with any compression, even lossless compression. He says that any file processing even in the digital domain alters it and that executing FLAC decoding affects the sound. In Munich we compared WAV and FLAC files over Boulder’s ingenious 1021 player. This remarkable device accepted DVD-Rs with either FLAC or WAV files. There I had absolutely no doubt that things should be kept simple which favored the WAV files. This launched a lengthy dispute by the Linn guys who came to install their Klimax. Based also on their boss Ivor’s opinion, they were convinced that properly executed FLAC files played back with a decent player offer sound as good as WAV.

So I decided to put this to the test over the Klimax with hi-rez 24/192 material. The file was big and this particular music would have been a real challenge for any player. To be honest I thought that the FLAC version sounded better – the cymbals were better differentiated and the saxophone sounded less nasal. Again the differences were very small but each time I listened to this particular piece of music (and I listened several times), I had the same impression – the WAV files were a bit lifeless. That would have supported Linn's opinion. Before I could declare this universal truth, I would have to listen to the same files using different players. But for the Linn Klimax DS it was a fact – I’d chose FLAC over WAV.