Linn Classik Movie System with DVD-Video Reviewed

Linn Classik Movie System with DVD-Video Reviewed

Where did Linn go? Back in the mid-2000s you saw innovative products from the Scottish electronics company in all of the top dealers including this all-in-one DVD based receiver component. Read a full review here.

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Think of the various 'schools' which rule our choices: ballpoint vs fountain pen, automatic transmission vs. manual, electric shaver vs. blade. You're of one school or the other, and you just know which you prefer without being told. So what the hell am I doing reviewing an all-on-one system, when you lot live for separates? Within seconds, you're going to imagine the three- or four-box alternative. And I shouldn't even attempt to dissuade you.

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Rather, I want you to think of Linn's Classik Movie System as almost a public service. It is not what you buy, but what you should proffer as a solution to those pesky types who ask you, the Local Audiophile (because they distrust most retailers), 'I want a home theatre but the ball-and-chain will kill me if I turn up with a rack full of hardware.' So regard the Classik Movie System as you did its CD-only predecessor: nice, but not for me. Instead, it's what you'd recommend to someone who wants sounds (and sights, in this case), but who simply isn't prepared to cope with bulk, with a morass of cabling, with more than one remote, with the mix'n'match delights which give us so much pleasure that we can't imagine swapping multi-component set-ups for all-in-one affairs. From the outset, you must banish thoughts of the more purist alternatives.

And there are plenty. Although the Classik Movie System will soon be followed by the dearer, more powerful T&A alternative, the Niroson (which includes speakers), probably something from B&O, and certainly a host of similar one-piece systems at assorted price points waiting in the wings, it does have its unique selling points. Not least is a badge which has now earned a position on the dash of future Aston-Martins. But what you could consider instead of this one-box solution - it contains a DVD player, AM/FM tuner, multi-channel A/V processor, five-channel amplifier and multi-room/custom installer fixtures in one teensy chassis - is so obvious it almost hurts to state it.

Yet state it I must, for the Linn will face elements of the separates genre in the stores, and many consumers will be torn between the two. Fundamentally, the Linn Classik Movie System has to fight against the higher-perceived-value of a separate DVD player plus an overkill multi-channel A/V receiver. £1995 will pay for any number of such combinations, especially as there are now so many worthy sub-£500 DVD players and sub-£1500 A/V receivers, and nearly every one of the latter will probably better the Linn's 40Wx5 into 8 ohms, or 75Wx5 into 4 ohms.

But the Linn has something going for it which takes us back to the opening stage-setter: it gives you EVERYTHING in a genuinely tiny enclosure, from a single AC socket, and with a single remote which will even operate most TVs. Thus, the most noxious, selfish, truly evil B.W.O.F. would be hard-pressed to object to its 3.15x12.6x12.8in (HWD) dimensions, like a small stack of LPs, even less so when you tell the bitch that she can have it in black, white, silver, blue or green, and probably other colours not yet announced.

As a marvel of packaging, I can't even being to think of anything even remotely as clever, not even a system which you might base on a portable DVD player. And still the ergonomics in the confined space of that fascia remain truly useful rather than of the gee-I-wish-my-fingers-were-anorexic type, the front boasting two clusters of buttons arranged around two circular cursors. Cleverly arrayed, they accomplish the majority of the functions of the 48 button/one cursor remote. Given, however, that nearly every operation bar the necessity of feeding a disc into the Classik will be undertaken by remote, you can forgive Linn for making the type barely legible (on the blue version at least). Whatever might bother you about two nearly identical arrays of buttons will soon be relegated to the so-what? compartment once familiarity takes over. Conversely, you will never forgive Linn for making the remote non-illuminated.

Actually, that's not entirely accurate. Once you've found the buttons for TV, DVD or tuner, the remote's tiny red LEDs in its upper left-hand corner will glow when you press a button to confirm activity: left LED for DVD, right for TV, both for tuner. Still, I refuse to excuse ANY make who doesn't illuminate a remote which they know will be used in a darkened room. (And if Linn thinks I'm gonna be swayed by the likelihood that most Classiks will end up in custom install systems with big, illuminated, Crestron-style master remotes, they're wrong: people shopping for all-in-one, micro-DVD-systems do not by £5,000-plus remote controllers.)

Between the banks of buttons are the disc tray and a nicely-lit display with Linn-generated graphics rather than off-the-peg tedium. In stand-by you get a cool icon; switch on and you get the Linn name. It's viewable from across the room, and does just what an on-fascia display should. At either end of the front panel are the IR receiver and that rapidly disappearing nicety, a headphone socket for a 1/4in jack.

If the front of the Linn is 'just right' in terms of balancing minimalism with necessity, the back reflects what every multi-channel/custom install/home theatre device must suffer: it's packed to the gunwales, and not with the most obvious of fittings. Even though Linn could have gotten away with treating the Classik like a closed system, the designers did opt for adding genuine universality. Not only does the Classik accept an external stereo line source - there's no phono stage, so you would need one to use LPs with this - the unit also has inputs for an external S-video source in plus TV and VCR SCARTs (the US version gets phono sockets), there's a tape loop, optical digital output should you wish to use the Classik as a DVD player through another processor, six-channel analogue output to feed a more powerful external amplifier, and full connectivity for a Linn Knekt multi-room system.

Read more about the Classik Movie System on Page 2.
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Other rear-panel fittings include terminals for a US-style coaxial
FM antenna, an AM aerial, S-video output if you'd rather not or cannot
use SCART, and the Achilles' heel of the set-up: non-standard speaker
sockets which stink of CE interference. Totally unlike any terminals
I've ever seen - they probably meet some stupid standard for 2025 so
that future EC members fresh off circa-1927 Tatra assembly lines don't
stick their dicks in - the sockets are completely shrouded. Alas, Linn
only supplied four plugs for a single pair of speakers, and the
alligator clips they sent at my behest were of no use, so I was shoving
in bare wire held in place by matchsticks. Ah, well, the Italians and
the French do say that only the British and the Germans are stupid
enough to follow EC rules to the letter, so we get what we deserve.

As you can see, this package is utterly comprehensive in terms of
facilities and connectivity. Nothing was left out, and the 50-page
owner's manual suffers no padding; you need every one of the
instructions to optimise it fully. Linn saved the real goodies for the
on-screen menus - the best I've seen yet for legibility and with a
visual clarity more typical of a recent PC or Mac program. But I'm
certain that I didn't even scratch the surface of its flexibility,
given that I was mainly concerned with sound and picture quality. The
system is so completely configurable to the user's and the system's
needs that you can do everything from the remote, including trimming
the subwoofer, varying the FM mute level, choosing from 200
user-definable presets, operating the basic functions of the majority
of TVs, change languages, shuffle play, dim the display - it was a case
of leaving nothing out, to preclude any complaints. Like I said, it
even accepts 'real' headphones.

As far as format compatibility goes, the Linn Classik Movie System
handles 5.1 Dolby and DTS - look to those big Japanese receivers if you
want more channels - decodes PAL and NTSC signals, and can play back
DVD, CD, VCD, MP-3, and CD-R. Given that six or more channels, SACD and
DVD-A are the province of hard-core hobbyists and the Linn Classik
Movie System is aimed at real human beings, their absence and that of
DTS ES and Dolby EX will bother few if any.

Strip away the extras of minority interest, like the multi-room
connectivity, and you probably wouldn't shave off much from the 1995
tariff. So look at the extras as something thrown in for free.
Concentrate instead on the essence and you find it's not such a
compromise after all. In terms of my reference system, I could only
find it wanting in two areas; then again, the Linn Classik Movie System
costs 1000 less than just the subwoofer I'm using.

As the radio proved itself to be just right for the inveterate Beeb
buff, with good signal-pulling prowess even in the wilds of Kent, one
so easy to use and well-thought out, you won't need a Tivoli in
whatever room you install the Linn. But you will have to take care on
two other accounts, both of which will require auditioning in the store
of your choice: monitor and speaker selection.

At present, the Rotel RDV-1080 is my DVD player of choice
picture-wise: best detail, blackest blacks, rich colours. Aside from a
truly crappy remote and the failure to display remaining time, it's
impossible to fault - even the DVD-A section is good. (And if the
recent price reduction is no mere rumour, then it's a steal as well.)
By comparison, the Linn's images are soft, the blacks more greyish,
minute details are obscured, colours a bit washed out and thin. But
unwatchable? Categorically 'no'. And it's a whole helluva lot better
than ANY of the sub- 300 stand-alone players I've seen. Fed straight
into the Lexicon MC-1 and compared side-by-side with the Rotel, via
S-video, you'd think you were viewing a damned good standalone machine
- but stick to sub-32in monitors.

So why would I even mention 300 players in this company? Because,
by the time you add processing, a tuner and five channels of
amplification, a 200- 500 player is precisely what you'd incorporate
into a 2000 separates package, less speakers and TV. Better still is
the Classik's surround processing, DTS implementation being
particularly crisp, detailed and all-enveloping. Reminding us, too,
that this comes from the Scottish bass wizards, the subwoofer feed was
superbly well-controlled and deeply extended, hammering home the weight
of the more raucous scenes in Lara Croft - Tomb Raider and Jurassic
Park: The Lost World. The Marin Logan Descent revelled in it, dishing
out floor-covering lower octave action which goes a long way to
compensating for limitations in the satellites. Blessedly, dialogue
stayed clear and well-positioned, and the system scores high for
soundtrack intelligibility.

What's crucial to the success of this system, especially in the
context of recommendations from audiophiles to civilians, is the
operation with stereo CDs. Have no fears: this is 'classic' Linn sound,
and if that floats your boat, then you won't mind visiting friends who
have the Classik at home. Crisp treble, tight bass, wide soundstage,
little front-to-back depth. The midband and female vocals were
noteworthy for clarity, mirroring the behaviour of the system when fed
a DVD through five speakers. But there are severe limitations due to
power, and the system could not cope with five Martin Logans or even a
brace of LS3/5As. The 40W/ch means sticking to high-sensitivity
speakers, and I confirmed this with small Loth-X horns.

None of those caveats, however, should stop you from considering
this for yourself if you are half-hearted about home theatre and have a
separate system to satisfy your purist cravings. It's ideal for a
second room, in which there's a killer two-channel set-up for 'serious'
listening; the multi-room connectivity isn't there by accident, after
all. Moreover, it should go to the top of the list if you have civilian
friends after a simple solution to their A/V needs. In real-world
terms, the Linn Classik Movie System is a little miracle, doing
everything it should do, and with style. Throw in a 28in (or even
better, a 32in) monitor, the smallest REL subwoofer and any quintet of
high sensitivity British boxes, and your next purchase will be a case
or two of microwave popcorn.

Whatever way you cut it, the Classik is the most intelligent home
entertainment solution I've seen in years. Not perfect, mind you: just
supremely apt.

Additional Resources
• Read more stereo amplifier reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an AV receiver to integrate with the amp.
• Discuss audiophile equipment on AudiophileReview.com.

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