Linn Classik Movie System with DVD-Video Reviewed

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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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