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Behold: the mighty Linn Majik DSM!!!


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On 03/12/2020 at 22:28, Paul_N said:

Also David by virtue of his prime system is a top customer so even more reason to hop over the Solent!

To be fair to Chris, from what I hear from him and others he wants to give all his customers good service. I consider him to be a friend, but that is to no small degree because we both understand the respective requirements and obligations of both dealers and customers. We agree a deal before an order is placed, and then we both stick with that deal until it is complete. As the French say, "les bon comptes font les bons amis".

David

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5 hours ago, Matteo said:

Obviously, Linn are not giving What Hi-Fi enough advertising revenue. This is a mealy-mouthed review if ever I read one.

There are two criticisms of the MDSM/4. The first is of the build quality. When you read the review, you find that the criticism is not of the physical build quality, but of the styling, which the reviewer finds rather plain in comparison with the Selekt and its joystick control. A comment which IMO definitely fails the "so what?" test. As the owner of an MDSM/4 and a previous owner of an ADSM/1, I'd say that the build quality of the former is, for all practical purposes, similar to that of the latter (the extra thickness of the Alurate case is the main difference).

The other criticism is enunciated in these words: "The Linn Majik DSM is not as versatile and all-encompassing in the sound department as it is for its features and that ultimately costs it a fifth star." What on earth that is supposed to mean I have not the faintest idea. We are told is that the reviewer prefers the Naim Uniti Atom on some tracks. But the range of musical comparisons that are reported seems pretty narrow to me, with no classical music and (unless my limited knowledge is at fault) no jazz either.

The reviewer also judges Space Optimisation on the basis of a short and badly self-taught acquaintance. I found myself wanting to shout in his ear that the simple use of the one preference slider - in other words, pretty much the simplest tweak imaginable - would have changed his view completely. But then, perhaps the editorial direction had been that the review had to be a bit sniffy, justifiably or otherwise.

A useful review would have considered likely use cases for a product such as the MDSM, and assessed the extent to which it meets possible requirements. There's none of that here. The obvious question - "is this ,'just add speakers' solution all the HiFi users with £4K to spend are likely to need?" - is not even hinted at. All we get is an ill-focused and ill-informed expression of subjective opinion. It's just such a pity that people out there who could make good use of an MDSM/4 will believe this nonsense.

David

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21 minutes ago, DavidHB said:

A useful review would have considered likely use cases for a product such as the MDSM, and assessed the extent to which it meets possible requirements. There's none of that here. The obvious question - "is this ,just add speakers solution all the HiFi users with £4K to spend are likely to need/" - is not even hinted at. All we get is an ill-focused and ill-informed expression of subjective opinion. It's just such a pity that people out there who could make good use of an MDSM/4 will believe the nonsense.

I thought the conclusion of the Verdict actually did cover its suitability as an All in One quite well, though as you say I’m not entirely persuaded with rock tracks being compared with a Naim Atom to give me great confidence!  They said:- “Music streaming has come a long way over the past few years, and Linn’s just-add-speakers system shows just how high-quality, convenient and flexible such propositions can be.”

I may have relayed this tale before, but when What Hifi? were based in Teddington I visited their offices and listening rooms, as part of a panel of readers.  They ran a regular feature of reader reviews about ten years ago.  One unique aspect of their reviews is that they are essentially collegiate, whereas all other magazines (and websites these days) let one writer do the work.  

Nevertheless, I’ve sometimes disagreed with them, and happily used items that don’t necessarily get 5 stars.  3 and 4 star products are mostly very good in the right system, and price is very much a factor in their star ratings.  The Klimax DS/3 received 5 stars, if I recall correctly, as did the Akurate DS, the Series 3, the Selekt DSM and the LP12 Klimax, so they’re definitely not known for any dislike of the brand. If fact they’re high achievers all round. 

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16 minutes ago, Nopiano said:

I thought the conclusion of the Verdict actually did cover its suitability as an All in One quite well, though as you say I’m not entirely persuaded with rock tracks being compared with a Naim Atom to give me great confidence!  They said:- “Music streaming has come a long way over the past few years, and Linn’s just-add-speakers system shows just how high-quality, convenient and flexible such propositions can be.”

This is, I concede, to an extent fair comment, albeit more generous than I am prepared to be. What the review does not do explicitly, however, is describe one or more actual use cases and relate the product to those cases, thereby providing an assessment from the user perspective. With all-in-one products particularly, this is important. The MDSM/1 was, I found, unsuited to the use case of my primary system. Its /4 successor is ideal as my second system. For a prospective purchaser, that kind of experience-based information is invaluable.

The comments on both SO and sound quality are so much at variance with my experience of the MDSM/4 over the past couple of weeks that I can only believe some kind of external bias is at work. Now I'm not saying that the MDSM/M109 combination is the best system I have ever heard (my much more expensive primary system is in another league and does a different job), but I am saying that it is at least as good as the Quad and LS3/5A system I had for over 20 years, and which cost me in real terms a lot more money. If I were using the MDSM as a primary system, I'd probably add a subwoofer (I had one with the LS3/5As). If my late wife were still alive, that configuration might be all the Hi-Fi system we would want or need for the 2020s. I suspect that there are plenty of people in a similar situation. To the extent that this review deters such people from listening to the MDSM/4 for themselves, it is seriously unhelpful.

David

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Hopefully potential buyers will listen for themselves. I use the MDSM/3 with some Eclipse speakers in an office system and it works wonderfully well. I'm sure the /4 is even better, but I'm unlikely to change. Linn's products are also much easier to use than Naim's, which I think is important and Naim has nothing to rival SO V2 so there are more limitations on speaker positioning.. However, I don't really feel subjective comparisons are necessary as what one person prefers will not be what everybody prefers. 

Edited by Nestor Turton
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I had a chance to breeze through this poorly written review. The couple of quotes which stuck out to me were:

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But while this is entry-level territory for Linn, the Majik DSM's aluminium casework doesn’t feel quite as premium as we might have expected at this price.

Does the reviewer offer a comparative product at the same price point which has the same level of detail paid to the casework? No. The reviewer is insinuating for a passerby reading this article to assume there are products at the same price point which offer more premium casework. An objective examination of this would be far more interesting than an opinion.

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We activate Space Optimisation and note that it draws out some of the bass richness, making way for a cleaner, slightly leaner balance. The presentation has clear gains in articulacy, though it loses some musicality and cohesion in the process and we end up preferring it deactivated. For troublesome rooms, however, Space Optimisation could prove handy in cleaning up unwanted frequencies.

I suspect based on this assessment that Space Optimisation was simply not utilized in a proper fashion whatsoever, which points out the incompetence of the reviewer(s) in comprehending their craft and performing an actual review of the software. There is no mention made of the insane level of detail one can drill down into with SO2. The fact is, with most speakers, after a proper loudspeaker integration in the room (something I assume was not done based on the above assessment by the reviewer), simply engaging the profile for the speaker itself in SO2 is enough to improve the sound dramatically, in nearly every application I've personally experienced. Methodically following the rest of the process will and does yield exceptional results which simply cannot be achieved by other solutions that I am personally aware of. There may be some extremely rare cases in which there is no improvement, but I have yet to experience that.

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However, the interplay between the synths underpinning the track isn’t as tight through the Linn, as its Naim rival stitches the sequences together with more rhythmic purpose. The Naim, while not as technically adroit as the Linn in some areas, comes across as the more entertaining machine.

Well, since you've previously confirmed you're lazy, incompetent, and unwilling to actually fully explore the product, why would I take your assessment of it's performance with any seriousness? 

The majority of audio reviews these days are all about buzzwords, amount of features, and jargon which gives no meaningful value to someone truly wishing to enjoy a music playback system of exemplary quality. People should avoid listening reviews like this one because the reviewer failed to discover how the product actually works.

Also calling Kazoo "inferior" to the Linn iOS App is just bullshit.

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9 minutes ago, Elad Repooc said:

Well, since you've previously confirmed you're lazy, incompetent, and unwilling to actually fully explore the product, why would I take your assessment of it's performance with any seriousness? 

The majority of audio reviews these days are all about buzzwords, amount of features, and jargon which gives no meaningful value to someone truly wishing to enjoy a music playback system of exemplary quality. People should avoid listening reviews like this one because the reviewer failed to discover how the product actually works.

Also calling Kazoo "inferior" to the Linn iOS App is just bullshit.

Wow, quite a first post from a new Wammer!    Welcome to the madness, and do complete your profile some time as you’ve obviously considerable experience with Linn.  You wouldn’t be called Dale Cooper, I suppose?  9_9

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Wow, quite a first post from a new Wammer!    Welcome to the madness, and do complete your profile some time as you’ve obviously considerable experience with Linn.  You wouldn’t be called Dale Cooper, I suppose?  9_9

Yea, I've spent quite a bit of time around Linn, and have been a frequent lurker on this forum, so I am familiar with many of the people on here (and have met some in person no doubt).

It's a Twin Peaks reference, probably my favorite TV show (well, more like a work of art I suppose).

Just a bit frustrated with a lot of the shenanigans I've witnessed over the years, and reviews like the What HiFi one above simply infuriate me. I've met a lot of reviewers and many of them haven't the first clue about proper speaker integration in a room. Some do, so this isn't directed towards them, but it seems as if whoever actually conducted the review (there's no singular name I could find) isn't at all familiar with this crucial factor to achieving results with SO2. Since there's no indication they even bothered to conduct a fresh speaker integration with the Majik DSM (they did not mention anything about the speakers needing to first be properly integrated using the Tune Dem method) then to me, the rest of their commentary is pure speculation. It would be similar to attempting to evaluate the performance of a BMW M3 whilst stuck in third gear, with balding tires and a compromised suspension. Absolutely ridiculous such folks are getting paid to do such a poor job.

And then, when reading how they perform their reviews, they say this:

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So you can rest assured that all What Hi-Fi? reviews are fair, honest and accurate and brought to you by the most experienced team in the business.

It seems to me there is a huge disconnect here if the most experienced team in the business (their claim, not mine) fails to properly document and educate their readers with respect to possibly one of the most unique and innovative technologies to grace the world of high performance music systems in the last decade. Other than the flawed Lyngdorf/Dirac/Audessey/ROW and god-knows-what else microphone based "room correction" systems, there is no one else in HiFi doing anything near to what Linn is with respect to SO2. The fact that it is included in a product at the price point of the Majik DSM should make the Majik DSM the de-facto performance product to meet or exceed within it's class.

Instead it appears Focal/Naim are dumping a decent amount of dough to get a slighted, biased evaluation such as this one.

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7 minutes ago, Elad Repooc said:

Instead it appears Focal/Naim are dumping a decent amount of dough to get a slighted, biased evaluation such as this one.

The regime at WHF is pretty simple, as I understand it.  Manufacturers who want a review send the mag their kit.  It gets reviewed and sent back.  Unlike some journals, individuals don’t end the review by saying ‘ I bought the review sample’.  

As I mentioned to David above, they write as a team, though one individual may script it. But they’re essentially team reviews; a composite opinion, if you like.  

The ‘money buys reviews’ or ‘adverts guarantee 5 star reviews’ is a tired old insult with zero evidence.  As I said in an earlier post, Linn have had at least five ‘5 star’ reviews in recent years from WHF, and 4 stars is no slight if they slightly preferred the cheaper Naim Atom - which is how I read it.  The last paper copy of WHF I have is the Awards edition from November 2020 - it has a double-page spread from Linn with all its dealers listed, and nothing from Naim.  

I think you overplay the benefits of SO massively, although I agree it’s a useful tool. I know it’s highly valued by many here, and I’m fortunate to have little need, though I do use it.  No arguments about the price - it was free, even on my old Sneaky!  For a consumer journal I think it’s enough to say what it does, because buyers should have it set by their dealer, especially when speaker siting is compromised.  You seem to feel it’s an automatic ‘slam, dunk’ for Linn, simply by it’s inclusion, so I guess we disagree there.  

All this said, a buyer looking for a streaming amp with some style would potentially consider the Atom, the Majik and NAD’s slightly cheaper Masters M10, which also gets 4 stars.  A review of these three with suitably priced speakers would make a good comparative test.  

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The ‘money buys reviews’ or ‘adverts guarantee 5 star reviews’ is a tired old insult with zero evidence. 

Actually I have witnessed first hand on more than one occasion this exact practice occurring so I would suggest your "zero evidence" comment has no bearing in actual fact. It's very possible WHF does not at all engage in this practice, but from my personal experience it's highly common within the audio industry. 

I also happen to know that Linn has always insisted that they do not engage in this behavior and from what I've been able to corroborate there is no evidence that they do.

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As I said in an earlier post, Linn have had at least five ‘5 star’ reviews in recent years from WHF, and 4 stars is no slight if they slightly preferred the cheaper Naim Atom - which is how I read it.  The last paper copy of WHF I have is the Awards edition from November 2020 - it has a double-page spread from Linn with all its dealers listed, and nothing from Naim.

And my point was that they preferred the Naim Atom based on flawed premises and failure to properly, clearly explain to a potential end user how a Linn specialist would go about setting up and configuring their Majik DSM with their speakers. The existence of advertisements on the part of Linn and previous 5-star reviews of other Linn products should actually serve as a motivating factor for their publication to do their due diligence with respect to the Majik DSM, instead of putting together what appears to be a rushed evaluation with a load of subjective opinion and very little exploration of the product's capabilities.

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You seem to feel it’s an automatic ‘slam, dunk’ for Linn, simply by it’s inclusion, so I guess we disagree there.  

Absolutely it's a slam dunk. My experience is such that I've not ever not heard an improvement with SO2 properly configured. I would agree SO1 left a lot to be desired and was tedious to implement. SO2 changes that, excepting extremely challenging room architecture which supposedly will be updated and improved as things progress. 

The HiFi industry's lack of properly addressing and providing a true comprehensive analysis of recent Linn innovations like Space Optimisation and Exakt are huge indicators that a large majority of the industry wishes to remain ignorant, because the fact is it's embarrassing for many of these brands that they cannot compete.

And I'm not saying it's still not possible to prefer a Naim Atom to a Linn Majik DSM, even with SO2 engaged. That's absolutely the prerogative of the evaluator, and I respect the opinion of anyone who has gone through the work, done their due diligence, and still decides to prefer something else, to a Linn anything. The issue is when a publication is withholding a "star" (subjective - what is this, kindergarten?) in comparison to another product while giving no evidence that they've properly explored the capabilities of the product they are comparing.

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A review of these three with suitably priced speakers would make a good comparative test.  

Speaking of comparative tests, I find it fascinating that so little of it is actually practiced in a logical, methodical manner within the consumer audio industry. I've had many industry people claim this or that mega-bucks DAC outperforms a Klimax DSM/3 (and I've heard my share so I have a pretty short list of who I think the contenders really are). When they tell me this I always ask the following questions:

- How did you set up the loudspeakers and what other associated equipment was involved? Did you use the same interconnect leads for each DAC to the downstream component? Did you connect both the Klimax DSM/3 and the comparative DAC with the supplied mains leads for each component, directly to the same properly grounded and configured mains outlet?

- Did you compare the DAC directly to the Klimax using the same delivery method (UPnP/DLNA, Roon, Tidal/Qobuz) and with the same exact files and same cabling to each component? If the DAC has no on-board streamer, did you connect the streamer used with the DAC to a comparable digital input (SPDIF/Toslink) on the Klimax DSM to compare the SPDIF performance of the two DACs? 

- After you've done the above comparisons (no SO engaged yet), did you then implement SO2 using the Tune Dem method for all aspects of the SO process where necessary, in the order and manner documented by Linn?

- Did you happen to then compare the DACs and still ended up preferring the other one?

So far there isn't anyone I know personally who can answer a large portion of these types of questions. I've not read any reviews where such comparisons are made (happy to spend some time doing so if anyone can provide me with one). I'm sure there are some end users and dealers who have done this, but they don't seem to be advertising it.

I myself have not done this comparison because I've not been able to find anyone invested enough in their craft to do so. Usually it's because a sales person is making easier money with other products. I know of some who simply sell their customer something more expensive strictly because of perception - the client thinks the higher price tag on the competitor's product equates to additional performance, and so they buy it. 

To me that's just one example of how laziness on the part of supposed industry "experts" is detrimental to the HiFi industry as a whole. People end up with expensive systems that lack musicality and are a chore rather than a pleasure to listen to (I've experienced this on numerous occasions). And then when friends and family come over and listen to it, and hear how much was spent on this or that cable, tweak, or other nonsense, they walk away shaking their heads and failing to comprehend why they would ever decide to spend time and money on such a pursuit.

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Perhaps the most sensible antidote to the review is a discussion of what the MDSM/4 is actually like.

The casework certainly seems plainer than I had been led to expect from pictures, but plain is not the same thing as "less premium". The cleverly machined pattern of ventilation slots, and the Linn logo at the left rear corner, on the top of the case are clear indications that the device is not meant to be stacked or shoved into a tight shelf space.

The rear panel is as orderly and as well labelled as we have come to expect, though the presence of a USB socket will prompt a wry smile from those who remember Linn's former outspoken hostility to USB. Even now, the socket is for audio playback only, not to connect storage devices. The rear mounted mains switch will be regarded by some as a regression, but, if, as intended, the device is placed on a shelf or the top of a cabinet, the switch is fully accessible.

The display is, in terms of quality of presentation, better than anything else I have seen from Linn (other than the Selekt, of course). It is far superior to the display on my KEDSM. The buttons are both neat and easy to use. The case buttons, including the 'joystick' are neat but not overly fiddly to use. There's the sense that the device is there to do a job reliably and without fuss.

There are some niggles (none mentioned in the review, incidentally). Those ventilation slots reveal that three blue LEDs have been fitted to the main board, and that they glow brightly whenever the device is powered. The light shines up through the slots, and can be annoying in a darkened room. There seems to be no way of turning the LEDs off.

Setup is also more complicated than it should be, because there is no single document that tells the new owner, step by step, what he or she needs to do to get the device working. I have now owned four DSMs; this is the one on which, even as an experienced user, I have found it hardest to navigate through the documentation, while, for different aspects of the setup process, I have found myself using three separate applications - Kazoo, the Linn Account and Konfig. I had dealer help with the installation, but the setup should be no more complex in most cases than setting up an old-style component Hi-Fi and well within the capabilities of many owners.Tidying up the documentation would make this process a good deal easier.

The final niggle relates to the power amplification. The inbuilt class D amplifiers do deliver the same 100wpc RMS into 4 Ohms as their Chakra counterparts in the previous MDSMs.  However, the Class D amplifiers have, as the documentation makes clear, significantly lower gain than their predecessors. I find that music I would play at a volume setting of 50 to 55 on my main system, needs, for a similar perceived volume level, to be played at a setting of 60 to 65 on the MDSM.This difference is a small irritation when moving between my systems. I have set the startup volume on the MDSM to 60, which helps.

But, of course, most of the above is of relatively little significance compared to what the MDSM sounds like, with the M109s with which it is paired in the Linn marketing literature.  Now that the system has been pretty much run in, it is proving itself fully capable of bringing out the character and dynamic of any music it is asked to play. There is a fullness and an immediacy in the sound picture which keeps the listener's attention and is very enjoyable. There is less sense of the acoustic environment in which the music is playing than there is in my primary (Exakt) system, and also some limitation in the tonal range. As would be expected, the lower bass is somewhat lacking in depth, but that is an inevitable limitation of the 109s or almost any reasonably priced standmount speaker, and previous experience tells me that it is fixable with a decent subwoofer. (I have already reported that a simple application of SO v2, using the room model inherited from the Kiko that was the MDSM's predecessor, tightened up the bass and greatly improved the tonal balance of the system.)

As I indicated in my previous post, I see the MDSM/4 plus passive speaker setup as all the Hi-Fi many music lovers and even some audiophiles will need, neatly packaged and sensibly priced. The Kiko served me well for six years, but the MDSM has proved to be all of the substantial upgrade I was looking for. In terms of value for money, I think that it challenges pretty much everything that sits above it in the Linn product hierarchy.

David

Edited by DavidHB
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there is no one else in HiFi doing anything near to what Linn is with respect to SO2.

I would like to clarify this point for passers-by -

I am fully aware of solutions in the DIY world such as HQ Player, DEQx, and others, as well as other professional audio products and applications which can achieve similar results and can be implemented in a similar fashion to what SO2 offers.

My point is that for the everyday consumer who does not wish to obsess over assembling the right kit to serve as a digital source component, they have a highly unique answer with the Linn products that I don't see other companies providing in a turn-key solution.

For audio retailers and hi-fi industry guys to not see the inherent value being offered by Linn with SO2 to the point it's essentially poo-poohed by reviewers, is baffling to me.

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Setup is also more complicated than it should be, because there is no single document that tells the new owner, step by step, what he or she needs to do to get the device working.

I agree this is complicated for the typical end user, but to be fair to Linn they do have an expectation (rightfully so I think) that the dealer at least attempt to perform this service. For those dealers who balk at this, I simply don't find it much of an excuse that they are too busy (especially now) to do the following for a Linn client even if one can't make it to their home:

  • Determine how the client's network is configured and what they will be using as a control point; pre-plan for network infrastructure as necessary/where needed
  • With the client's permission, unbox the DSM and configure all inputs, labels, and possible WiFi network information (if client is going to connect via WiFi)
  • Take a quick 10-15 minute phone call to walk the client through downloading and installing the control point software they wish to use on their device(s)
  • If the client is going to use Qobuz/Tidal, with their permission request the login information and pre-configure for the client
  • With the client's permission, setup device with the client's new or existing Linn Account and share access to the device (can be revoked at anytime) for post-installation checkup if necessary

Taking this approach will minimize hassle and also simply provide better service to the client.

Further, there are plenty of remote desktop options for dealers if they wish to help their clients remotely configure a NAS for use with DSMs.

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Tidying up the documentation would make this process a good deal easier.

The documentation can be a mess, I've seen it. I do agree, but again there really is an expectation for the dealer to be able to point the client to the correct solution when problems arise.

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As I indicated in my previous post, I see the MDSM/4 plus passive speaker setup as all the Hi-Fi many music lovers and even some audiophiles will need, neatly packaged and sensibly priced. The Kiko served me well for six years, but the MDSM has proved to be all of the substantial upgrade I was looking for. In terms of value for money, I think that it challenges pretty much everything that sits above it in the Linn product hierarchy.

I have yet to hear it but I do appreciate the detailed feedback and it's great to hear you are enjoying it. I had a Selekt DSM with Katalyst and integrated amplifier for a little while and was massively impressed.

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So, you have yet to hear it and you seem to agree about the Selekt, which did get 5 Stars, but cannot accept that the reviewers find the Atom a more entertaining entry level product? As well as them preferring SO turned off ”must” mean they did not position the speakers ideally.. (How many on this forum can honestly say their speakers are ideally positioned? Seem many make compromises and still think SO is the best.)

Most of my fellow Linnies left the former Linn forum for exactly that reason; that SO is robbing much of the life from the music (relatively speaking of course) and that ”new” Linn has made a turn for a more analytical sound. And as these became the foundation for ”all” discussions on that and especially this new forum all that disagree are gone making this a very homogenous group thus a much less interesting forum. 

Having not heard the new MDSM I prefer to not have an opinion about the reviewers preference for the Atom (which is great) until I have. 

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