For a company that saw the future of digital audio streaming from very early on, Linn has certainly taken its sweet time to deliver a wireless speaker, especially considering it launched its first music streamer way back in 2007. But then this is a company that’s only ever done what it feels needs to be done - and it’s taken until now for Linn to be able to incorporate its ‘Exakt’ digital audio processing technology into a product that a) sounds worthy of the ‘Linn’ badge and b) can fulfil that most troublesome of marketing requirements - that of ‘lifestyle’.
And, of course, Linn is a company that’s never been shy when it comes to slapping a price-tag on its products. The Series 3 is the most expensive wireless speaker you can buy (discounting those pointlessly gold-plated, Swarovski-smothered affronts that crop up every now and then). The question is: is it worth it?
Linn has built its considerable reputation on excellence in sound and engineering topped off with unbridled confidence, on show here with its statement that the Series 3 is “the best-sounding wireless speaker in the world”. Take that statement on a pound-for-pound basis and there’s a debate to be had. In absolute terms, though, it’s mightily difficult to argue with.
The company has long since insisted that music sounds most natural and most believable when all the frequency information reaches the listener at the same time, regardless of how long or short an individual sound-wave is. At its heart, that’s what the Exakt engine is designed to do. And there’s no arguing with its efficacy where Series 3 is concerned - the sense of unity, the idea of a single and sympathetic performance, is so obvious here it’s absolutely unarguable. No other wireless speaker can knit together the individual strands of a recording, with all their different textures and timbres, into as convincing and coherent a whole as this.
Doesn’t matter what you listen to, the Linn delivers the music in direct and unequivocal fashion, loaded with detail and brimming with energy. It hits hard and digs deep at the bottom end with absolute control. At the top end it’s shiny and bright, but never hints at hardness - even at volume. In between, it packs a vocal with so much information that a singer has nowhere to hide.
And in virtually every other respect, the Series 3 delivers. It’s not the most out-and-out loud wireless speaker you can buy, but it’s potent in dynamic terms, and its presentation has precision, eloquence and momentum. And none of this is for its own sake - it‘s always and only in the service of the music. If you want to be enthralled by the sound of digital audio as well as impressed by its convenience, the Linn Series 3 is the speaker for you.
As a thing, the Linn Series 3 satisfies on both a visual and a tactile level. It looks assertive and nicely proportioned, and it feels good too. Only the unnecessarily reflective metal grille strikes the mildest of bum notes.
As far as practicality goes, the Series 3 is (as they say) fully loaded. It’s Roon Ready, so any networked audio (up to an authentically hi-res 24bit/192kHz standard) is accessible. Apple AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth 4.2 are available too, for the most straightforward streaming. Services like Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz are integrated into the Linn/Kazoo control app, as is TuneIn internet radio. MQA is about the only mainstream standard missing - and the reasons Linn is happy to omit this particular function would fill a much bigger space than we have to work with here.
There’s a very agreeable physical interface here too. The angled top surface of the speaker is fitted with a glass plate, which features a number of touch-sensitive controls - mostly looking after volume and presets. The 100 slim LEDs that form a softly glowing ring in the middle of the glass are a conversation-piece all by themselves.
The Linn Series 3 covers every base. It’s a lovely object, and it’s shorthand for just how judicious (and well-off) its owner is. And on a sonic level (which is what really counts, after all) it’s getting omn for untouchable. It sounds as vigorous, as dextrous or as delicate as your music requires, it can be as soothing as it can be hard-hitting. As far as authentically high-fidelity sound from a wireless speaker is concerned, it’s without doubt a front-runner.
The Byrds You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Rolls along in the most natural manner imaginable, with almost indecent levels of detail available from every element of the recording. The Linn does particularly admirable work with those aching harmonies during the chorus
John Grant Queen of Denmark
Big spaces, eloquent silences, a hair-raising immediacy to the vocal track and more than enough dynamic headroom to deliver the fulminating choruses in unambiguous fashion. If it’s sincerity you want, hear this song this way
A Tribe Called Quest Electric Relaxation
The jazz inflections are given just as much prominence as the bounding hip-hop beat, and the Linn turns a collage into a unified whole. And (not for the first time) the voices are given an absolute stack of character and personality
You buy a Linn Series 3 for one reason and one reason only: because you want the best-sounding wireless speaker currently available