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Linn IKEMI - CD player

[Linn IKEMI]

[Italian version]

Product: CD Player IKEMI
Manufacturer: Linn - UK
Approx. Price: 3,000 Euro
Reviewer: Giorgio Pozzoli
Reviewed: December 2000

Certainly, Linn needs no introduction. Besides the world renowned LP12, a top of the line turntable for more than a decade, its product range is significantly extended towards all other fields in High Fidelity and Home Theater.

Linn avoided producing CD players for a long time. It was only when the level of technology was deemed adequate, did they introduce their players.

First generation gear (the Karik, the Numerik, and then the Mimik) already showed great skills, almost incredible for a rookie company in that sector, yet Linn doesn't start selling a product unless the company perfectly dominates the technology behind. For instance, even the transport mechanics were self-produced, something very few could afford.

Now, it's time for the second generation gear and once again, the first one to appear in the market is the CD12 model. It's an integrated CD player deliberately intended to place itself to the top of the range. It sports absolutely up-to-date technical solutions. For instance, Linn says to have obtained a theorically nul jitter at the converter's output. Speaking of the CD 12, let me give you a piece of advice, don't listen to it, unless you are among the very few that can afford it...
After the CD12, Linn recently introduced two more CD players, the IKEMI and the GENKI. They are at the price range formerly held by the Karik and the Mimik.

The IKEMI keeps the typical look of the non-stratospherical level Linn gear. The cabinet is a dark grey box, 30-cm wide, 8 high and 32 wide.
The front panel shows the display on the left and below it is a row of rectangular buttons interwoven with little circular buttons. The thin and very strong drawer, is placed on the right and the on/off switch with its green rectangular LED is placed on the far left.

I (generally) always liked Linn's look. This model doesn't look bad, although I dislike the little secondary command buttons placed between the rectangular buttons.

The cabinet seems to be made of moulded plastic, very stiff, sonically dead and heavy (absolutely nothing to share with the "plasticky" look of some gear...), forming the front, the bottom and the rear panels. It mates to a metallic (aluminum?)  external hull, which received a "dampening" treatment. It forms the sides and the top panel, and sports a rubbed external surface.

If you are used to the usual cheap CD players, its rear panel will surprise you - it's completely crowded with connectors. Starting from left, we have

Total weight is 4 Kgs, surely not much, yet you have to consider its compactness.
The remote control is very complete and complex, since it allows you to control also other Linn devices.

Its operation is reliable and simple. The mechanical design appears to be superb. The drawer slides out with a silent and barely perceivable "sneaky" hiss with no hesitations nor vibrations. Also, the control electronics seem decisively solid - never a hesitation nor a malfunction.

Timbrics, dynamics and image

The sound is neutral, quite open, very harmonic-rich, especially in the mid to high range. General colour is clear, yet not completely solar. Sound is strong, quite full, with a remarkable lack of hesitation.

Bass is round, full - maybe without a huge impact, but fast enough. Mids are correct, voices are natural, in particular, acoustic music is very pleasant to listen to. Highs are present in the right amount, never exceeding, yet never too smooth.

Good macrodynamics, with a very good speed, though not lightning fast. The microdynamics are good too. The ambience detail is present, maybe a little more air is needed. Image is more than adequate, decidely wide, firm, and sharp without being excessive. Precision helps depth.

The Linn as well as most all the CD players I have listened to (barring maybe one or two), I seem to perceive something wrong in mid-highs referring to the analog playback. My feeling is, as if to compensate for the lack of harmonics at frequencies above half the sampling frequency, the device enhances the mid-highs. This is certainly not true but it could even be that the sudden and unnatural cancellation of the harmonics above Nyquist Frequency leads to this feeling.
Maybe in the end, it's the most prevalent aspect of digital sound. It's the digital characterization that I perceive (almost) always, but I could never describe well.

Anyway, we're talking about a digital source based on the Red Book standard, so we've got to stick to this. As a representative of this category, we can't say much but positive about the unit (unless you really want to compare to its bigger brother...).

To give you an idea of the how good this unit is, although price classes are very different, I compared it to the Mimik. Briefly, the Ikemi beats the Mimik in all aspects and usually by a good margin, starting from its speed (surely one of Mimik's lesser points), its impact, its bass' depth, its high's precision, and finally its image. Yet their sound is similar.

I'm becoming aware of something - I'm not giving the IKEMI a just review. The fact is, analyzing a piece of audio gear can give you an idea about it's individual characteristics, but that doesn't lead to the whole. And here, as well as with the Mimik, it's the whole that counts.

The Ikemi has a natural, deep, sometimes even excessive musicality, that (at times) seems to push it to sing too much. Its sound is fluid, continuous, smooth, glittering and pleasant.
Maybe it's not the sound for a super expert, or for those who look for the background sounds of the recordings, because what it shows is music. It's not that it lacks or somehow needs more details, ambience, or image, it's that they stay at their proper places. They remain details, as they are in the real world. They don't inflict themselves as the main goal for the listener but remain subdued, allowing him to enjoy the music.


Since I can't find anything serious to complain about its fundamentals so I'll address the details.
The little buttons. I really don't like them. Couldn't they be totally removed and left only on the remote? Why clutter such a clean line with those little things? It's true that Mimik's multiple button procedures weren't the top, but I never had to use them.


Once again Linn delivers a solid, serious, durable product, with excellent mechanics and extremely good electronics.
It's certainly a product engineered to allow its user to fully enjoy its music forgetting everything else, and it gets to the point.

Certainly, its not inexpensive, but it's very solid, has great flexibility and sound refinement. It's price completely justified.

Once again, we have to thank Buscemi HiFi, the renowned Milan shop, for having loaned us the CD player for this test.

© Copyright 2000 Giorgio Pozzoli - http://www.tnt-audio.com

Translation Carlo Iaccarino - HTML and supervisor: Scott Faller

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