Linn is one of the most important forerunners in High Fidelity, there is no question about that. Every audiophile knows what Sondek LP12 is and what kind of influences it has brought into the vinyl player technology and source thinking, especially as for the latest Radikal, Urika and Keel innovations. But, Linn’s strongest innovations are not limited into the analog domain only. It covers also the digital domain. Already for years, Linn DS-players have got a great appreciation among the serious enthusiasts and professionals. Personally, I can confess as well, that they really deliver an alternative for a music source, even though one would own LP 12 already!
Nowadays, the innovation story has got a new content. For a short time ago Linn announced a new “source is in the speaker” technology, called Exakt. This means that the signal is fed digitally into the speaker and all the conversions, processing duties and amplifications are made in the Exakt speakers! Actually, feeding speakers digitally is not a totally new idea, but the way Linn does it really is. I will open the technology issues more in the next part of the writing, but it is well known already, that the only way to achieve lossless transmission is to make it digitally.
Musiikin.com demoed The Exact system 14-27.2.2014 and naturally I took an opportunity to visit there as well. The system consisted of Exakt DSM and Klimax Exakt 350 speakers. The music files came from the server to the DSM. Demoed was also how the system handles the analogue signal coming from the LP 12 and phono preamp!
Besides the more safe digital
transfer of the signal, Linn tells that the Exakt technology
• eliminates the magnitude and phase distortion of analogue crossovers at design time
• corrects for the manufacturing tolerances of individual drive units at manufacturing time
• optimizes for your a unique home environment at installation time.
All these are achieved by hyper high resolution digital technology. Just like the DS products, the Exakt DSM has an internal resolution of 35 bits which enables, at least theoretically, lossless volume control and crossover design. DSM has also the same kind of upsampling processes as DS has, in which the sampling rates are 384 or 352.8 KHz at a precision of 35 bits.
The possibility of the DSP is interesting. On one hand, the acoustic problems of rooms should be taken away by acoustic treatments, at least mostly, but on the other hand, DSP is a much easier way to make corrections. I think DSP is a nice extra for the Exakt, but not necessarily among the best features in the most critical information saving manner.
Although Linn Exakt is mainly built for a studio master downloads, analog sources have not been forgotten. Exakt DSM has a high quality analog input which make 24/192 AD-conversion. In absolute terms, the conversion seems to be questionable, but in practice, it is reasonable and in this kind of solution actually a must. If your music sources are purely analog and Red Book digital, you may well continue living with a high quality analog system. On the other hand, Linn Exakt concept offers values and features which may make even this questionable. Still, I think, that the sonic results of the best analog systems can be referable to those of the Exakt. Otherwise, there is no comparison at all.
The data from the DSM to the speakers is transferred via Exakt Link which is synchronized (the data frame has a clock signal). Actually, Exakt DSM is some kind of switch which has ADC for the analog source and which delivers the signal to the speakers with control information. Everything else is done in the speakers! The on-board digital crossover in each Klimax Exakt 350 delivers six independently controllable channels, each with its own volume control, DAC and power amplifier. So, the heart of the Exakt functionality is in the Exakt speakers!
The specifications of the Klimax Exakt DSM:
Date of introduction September
Type Multi-source digital stream player with Exakt Link
Dimensions (H) 60 mm x (W) 350 mm x (D) 355 mm (H) 2.3 inches x (W) 15 inches x (D) 14.2 inches
Weight 8.6 kg / 19 lb
Finishes Silver, Black
Power Supply Linn Dynamik Switch Mode Power Supply
Mains supply voltage (auto ranging) 100–120 V ac (±10%) 50–60 Hz 200–240 V ac (±10%) 50–60 Hz
Fuse 250 V, T1.6 A (not user replaceable)
Power consumption Sleep 9 W (HDMI disabled)
Sleep 10 W (HDMI enabled)
Active 22 W
Supported file types FLAC, Apple Lossless (ALAC), WAV, MP3, WMA (except lossless), AIFF, AAC, OGG
Audio sample rates 7.35k, 8k, 11.025k, 12k, 14.7k, 16k, 22.05k, 24k, 29.4k, 32k, 44.1k, 48k, 88.2k, 96k, 176.4k, 192k
Word depths 16–24 bits
Control protocol Compatible with UPnP™ media servers,
UPnP™ AV 1.0 control points
Back Panel Connectors
Analog inputs 1 x Balanced XLR (pair)
Digital outputs 4 x RJ45 (Exakt Link)
HDMI in 3 x HDMI Type A
HDMI out 1 x HDMI Type A
S/PDIF In 2 x RCA phono
Optical In 2 x TOSLINK (JIS F05)
Ethernet 100Base-T RJ45
Analog line input Input sensitivity: can be selected from 2 / 4 / 8 V RMS
Input impedance 7.8 kohms
S/PDIF digital input Min. input voltage 0.3 V (when terminated with 75 ohms)
Input impedance 75 ohms
The specifications of the Klimax Exact 350 speakers:
Introduced September 2013
Type 6-way floor-standing fully integrated Aktiv loudspeaker with Exakt technology
Drive units 13 mm (0.5”) silk dome super-tweeter
25 mm (1”) PU dome tweeter
75 mm (3”) PU dome midrange
165 mm (6.5”) glass fibre composite upper bass
2 * 200 mm (8”) servo lower bass
Operating volume 50 litres
Crossover options Fully Aktiv Exakt (integrated modules)
Crossover points 85 Hz, 340 Hz, 2.96 kHz, 8.18 kHz
Frequency range 20 Hz - 33 kHz
Mains supply frequency 50-60 Hz
Mains input voltage (auto-sensing) 90-135 V, 180-265 V
Connection options Exakt Link
Magnetic shielding Yes
Dimensions (including stand) 1130 mm (H) x 312 mm (W) x 430 mm (D) 41.3 inches (H) x 13.8 inches (W) x 17.2 inches (D)
Dimensions (excluding stand) 1105mm (H) x 420mm (W) x 500mm (D) 43.5 inches (H) 16.5 inches (W) x 19.7 inches (D)
Weight (including stands) 71.2kg / 157lb
Weight (excluding stands) 55.2 kg / 121.5 lb
Standard finishes Black Ash, Rosenut, Walnut, Cherry, Oak, White
High gloss finishes Black Ash, Rosenut, Walnut, Cherry, Oak, White + 208 RAL Classic
High gloss colours All 213 RAL Classic Gloss colours are available (except luminous colours: RAL 3026, 3024, 2007, 2005 and 1026).
Amplifier Power 2x1000W (4O) + 2x400W (4O) + 2x 100W (4O)
Input Power (Sleep Mode) <5mW
Input Power (Playback Muted) 69W
Continuous Rated Input Power 250W
Power Supplies 2 x Dynamik Switch Mode Power Supplies
Mains supply frequency 50-60 Hz
Mains input voltage (auto-sensory 100-120 V AC / 200-240 V AC
I did not have very much time to listen to the system, but I think one hour was more than enough for making some most evident observations of the music reproduction. I knew the guys in Musiikin.com had plenty of music available, including some of my red-book test samples. So, I needed only to sit down and choose the samples from the pad. In the latter part of the session, I listened to some LPs as well, just for making sure how the analog inputs work.
Even by the Red Book samples, it was clear that the music reproduction was exceptionally good in the package. Besides the well-known Linn-strengths, the music presentations were now more open, detailed and dynamic. Especially, the interpretational information of the music was much more evident than during the previous visits. The presentation seemed to miss only the very last bits of the decay information of certain instruments, like triangles and cymbals. Anyway, I believe this was not because of the Exakt concept, but because of the positioning of the setup, and probably because of the nature of the tweeter - the treble performance of the Klimax Exakt 350 seemed to be a bit more on back than forth.
The Exact system shined also rhythmically. To achieve this, the system must have high level dynamics, resolution and correct speed and timing. In many mercy audio systems, all the attacks of percussions are more or less smeared. This makes listening easy, but also less inspiring. The Exact system avoided this kind of lacks hands down. Additionally, it may be useful to know that I could enjoy the music samples and their rhythmical patterns even far out of the sweet spot.
Clear was also the best sonic balance I have heard in the Musiikin.com demo room. Although the room is sonically challenging and it causes some bass notes to be more prominent than the others (just because of room modes and reflections), the bass region was not exaggerated at all. The punch of the bass was not quite among the most powerful ones I have heard, but surely impressive enough, smooth, very extending and articulating. In other words, the bottom end presentation revealed benefits of the Exakt technology as well.
Instead of opening the spatial reproduction of the music vertically and horizontally into the very end, the Exakt system concentrated on the depth and structure. The presentations were simply exemplarily structured in both ways, in a melody separating manner and in a spotting manner. No matter if the sonic view was done in a studio or in a real concert hall, the Exakt system could catch the melodies and locations of players very well. For example, the instrument groups of the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra (RR Respighi) were clearly separated into the places where I have used to here them. This was not so clear in the previous Linn demos, but now it was.
Finally, I will write a couple of words about how LP12 worked with the Exakt system. On the whole, the vinyl samples worked very much like the digital ones: excellently. There were no hints of messing up the analog signal, no hints of digital hardness and no hints of extra distortion. The music flowed with both realism and beauty. Actually, I liked the vinyl performance a tad more than the digital one (I did not use studio master files). In many cases, at their best, vinyl sources deliver more natural and more acceptable performance than digital ones, at least for me. So it is even with the quite affordable vinyl players. Reasons for that are quite well known, but opening this requires another story.
This was absolutely one
of the best Linn demos I have ever heard. In many ways, it was the best one.
How high it rises in absolute terms and in comparison to the other brands, is
very much dependent on the preferences of each listener. I know that in many
ways there are absolute truths in audio performance. For example, delivering
more dynamics is always better. Still, people are different and typically strong
in their attitudes and doubts. So, the final decision is anyway an individual
question. In this case, clear is that the Exakt concept works and it contains
theoretically and technically a superb basis. Surely, Linn will make improvements
in the future (personally, I would concentrate more on the technology after
the DA-conversion), but as mentioned, the concept really works. Actually, very