For over 50 years Linn has been turning out high-performance, high-price hi-fi equipment, and has been setting the digital audio pace among high-end hi-fi brands for quite a while now. With the Majik DSM (which replaces 2009’s extraordinarily prescient Majik DS-I all-in-one network player) it quite obviously intends to cement its position as the go-to brand for those fortunate enough to be able to afford it.
Majik DSM is a rather different (and altogether more comprehensive) proposition when compared to the product it’s replaced. It’s more wide-ranging in its functionality, more up-to-date in the technologies it deploys. It intends to be the engine, the heart and the brain of your entire audio/visual home entertainment system. Add speakers, add a source or two and you’re good to go.
Business is taken care of by DAC architecture derived from the Katalyst convertor (good for a healthily hi-res 24bit/192kHz and DSD128), a turntable-friendly moving-magnet phono stage (switchable to line-level), four 4K-compliant HDMI inputs and a corresponding output, a fistful of physical digital audio inputs, and wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Class D amplification serves up 50 watts of power at 8ohms, and there’s a 6.3mm headphone output along with connectivity to a pair of speakers.
Got speakers and/or headphones? Got a smartphone (at the very least)? Away you go then…
Regardless of what you choose to listen to, or the format from which you source it, the Majik DSM is never less than an entirely engaging and periodically thrilling listen. Its authority is unquestionable, its understanding of music on an almost molecular level is never in doubt, and the realism and positivity of its sound is startling.
Put on a vinyl record, or hook up a games console via HDMI, or stream wirelessly from a smartphone - it’s all the same to the Majik DSM. It paints a big and convincing overall picture, serving up music with an almost palpable degree of relish. But, as we all know, the devil is in the details - and it’s here the Linn puts significant distance between itself and any nominal rival. Beyond the clean, straight edges it generates thanks to its mastery of attack and decay, beyond its absolute mastery of rhythm and tempo, beyond even its effortless momentum, the Majik DSM is a prodigiously detailed listen. No harmonic variation is too minor to elude it, no transient event is too fleeting to escape its attention. There’s ‘informative’, and then there’s the Linn Majik DSM.
The coherence of its overall presentation is what makes the Majik DSM so persuasive. Linn has long maintained that ‘timing’, the sense of unity and commonality in a recording, is the single most significant factor in presenting a piece of music as realistically as possible, and this streaming amplifier makes the case as strongly as any product Linn has ever delivered, at any price. Which is saying something.
The Majik DSM is quite a handsome device in a purposeful, industrial sort of way - although those who think their network streamer ought to display album artwork and the like are going to be disappointed. Still, Linn makes up for that in a few different ways.
Most obvious is its remarkably effective Space Optimisation technology. Your Linn dealer will take on the process once the Majik DSM is installed - and it’s a deeply impressive package. Once it’s been informed about your listening space (all about it, up to and including its humidity), the speakers you’re using and the height of the chair you listen from, the Space Optimisation software trims the Linn to what it decides is the perfect set-up.
Once that’s done, you can get what you want from the Majik DSM using the (big, logical) full-function handset - it’s not quite as upmarket as the product it accompanies, but it’s simple enough to get to grips with. Or there’s a control app for Android or iOS, in which is possible to integrate some internet radio or music streaming services. The Linn is Roon ready, too, so it really shouldn’t be too difficult to keep in charge of your Majik DSM one way or another.
At every turn, the Linn Majik DSM impresses. Where it really counts - sound quality - it’s forthright, unquestionably musical and an almost comical distance ahead of price-comparable rivals. It seems hard to imagine any music-lover ever tiring of listening to it.
Steel Pulse Handsworth Revolution
The loping rhythm, the seismic low frequencies and the clean, warm and open production are absolutely lapped up by the Majik DSM. If it’s ‘naturalistic’ you crave, well, here it is.
Thee Oh Sees The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In
Some self-consciously ‘hi-fi’ equipment turns its nose up at this pointedly primitive and ramshackle recording - but the Linn isn’t picky. If you want your hazy, bleary garage rock explained in full, the Majik DSM will do so in spades.
Richard and Linda Thompson I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
The Linn revels in both the wide-open spaces and silences of this recording, as well as giving the vocal an absolute stack of character and expressiveness. This is what a freshly restored painting sounds like.
The good people at What Hi-Fi? thoroughly enjoyed the Majik DSM’s clean, organised sound, while over at Stereonet they’re fans of the Linn’s scale and clarity. Even more succinctly, HiFi+ found it all too easy to recommend
As uncompromised and uncompromising as the company that builds it, the Majik DSM basically represents the state of the digital audio art
On the basis that we’d like any speakers that partner the Linn Majik DSM to hand over what they’re given without sticking their oar in too dramatically, the 705 Signature standmounters by Bowers & Wilkins make an awful lot of sense. Of course, the Linn is capable of driving more demanding and more expensive loudspeakers, but purely on a pound-for-pound basis this is a combination that will get on like a house on fire.