The experience of superb high-fidelity sound is peculiar in that it defies imagination until experienced. One can read innumerable descriptions of the performance of a stereo system or component but really understanding what is so significant is a necessarily empirical exercise. Perhaps this point is best illustrated by the shared experience among most audio enthusiasts of hearing a truly good system for the first time. It's a flashbulb moment. An instant expansion of the conceptual possible: how can this sound so good? How can this be so close to live? How can this be so exciting and eminently enjoyable?
While the first experience most often leaves the strongest impression, hearing a great new speaker or component can further redefine one's understanding of what is sonically possible. While it's hard to complain about getting to listen to phenomenal systems on a regular basis working in hifi it does make these experiences exceptionally few and far between. While it might be going too far to say that I've become jaded after enough years in the industry, suffice to say that after having listened to hundreds or thousands of very fine components and systems a wholesale reimagining of the possible seems to be an experience firmly residing in the past.
The Linn Klimax DSM with Katalyst has been a reference digital streamer and DAC at Pearl Audio since its introduction in 2016. Katalyst introduced us to a new frontier in digital performance not so much in what it added, but what it didn't. The astonishing lack of any grain, glare, or digital artifact leaves the impression of listening to an incredibly quiet, resolute turntable. Katalyst marries the traditionally mutually exclusive combination of exceptional resolution and remarkable forgivingness. After getting our first Klimax DSM with Katalyst we were awed by how we found ourselves unconsciously listening to whatever musicwe wanted, completely ignoring recording quality. Everything just sounded better even as we heard details that we'd never before experienced. We kept diving into our collections to listen to that album that had amazing music but a previously unsatisfying recording quality.
Even as Linn tricked down the Katalyst DAC architecture to their Akurate and Selekt DSMs, the Klimax maintained its sonic supremacy. After an extended comparison between the Akurate and Klimax DSMs, both with Katalyst, a client described the difference to me as that the Akurate allows you to easily follow each section in a symphony, precisely rendered in space and with beautiful tone. The Klimax allowed you to place and follow each individual performer in those sections.
When the all-new Klimax DSM with Organik was announced I wondered how much Linn could really improve the sound given the Klimax DSM with Katalyst's already superb performance. Given my trust in Linn's engineers I had no doubt that there would be lower noise and greater resolution, but what did that really mean? The Klimax DSM with Katalyst had been my reference for so long that I couldn't quite imagine how something significantly better would actually sound. I decided that I wanted the fairest impression possible and declined to listen to any descriptions or reviews of the new Klimax DSM with Organik's sonics before its arrival at our store.
When the long-awaited day arrived we unboxed the Klimax DSM with Organik and hooked it up in our big sound room with Luxman's reference C-900u and M-900 preamplifier and power amplifier and Magico M2 loudspeakers.
Too excited to wait for any warm-up or burn-in we simply started listening as soon as it powered up. A dumbstruck "wow" passed my lips within the first five seconds of the track. I was transported back to the time in my early teens that I'd first heard a good stereo. For the first time in many years my understanding of what is sonically possible expanded in a flashbulb reckoning. Many hours of delightful listening followed as we enjoyed the new level of musical reproduction and digested just what could lead to such an immediate and powerful impression.
The Klimax DSM with Organik's resolution is substantially greater than the previous Klimax. Fine details are more evident and resolved throughout the entire frequency spectrum. While detail is often perceived most acutely in the treble and midrange, the Organik DAC achieves a degree of bass texture and definition previously unparalleled in my experience. The musical effect of this is to render the bass wholly a sonic constitution of the instrument producing it in the soundstage, rather than a identifiable, separate entity of bass sticking around the speakers.
The next immediate impression is of better soundstaging. The sonic image is larger with more precise placement of performers, especially in terms of depth. Rather than depth primarily being present in the middle of the soundstage between the speakers, depth can now be perceived accurately even towards the outer edges of the soundstage. Notably the localizability of the speakers is greatly reduced. In fact, I’d been rather bothered by being able to localize some of the sound coming from our Magico M2s and not having been able to solve the problem through speaker positioning. The new Klimax solved this issue entirely in our room and now there is now no perception of sound coming from the speakers.
However, even though the impression of these changes in resolution and soundstaging is immediate and obvious, it seems they are almost more incidental to the new Klimax's strengths rather than its primary benefits.
Linn also added more connectivity to the new Klimax DSM with an additional set of RCA inputs, USB audio input, optical ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. It can serve as a preamplifier in addition to being a digital streamer and DAC.
Don't hesitate to reach out to us with questions about the new Klimax DSM with Organik or to schedule an audition!