Linn 2020 Majik DSM/4 Overview & Listening Impressions
Pearl Audio's new 2020 Linn Majik DSM/4 just arrived. We set up our new Majik DSM/4 immediately and started to play a few of our favorite tracks through it to get an idea of its sound and the nuances of its performance. In this blog we will first walk through a DSM history, specs, new features, and then a few listening impressions.
The Majik DSM at Pearl Audio
Pearl Audio has been a Linn dealer for nearly fifteen years now so we were with Linn from the beginnings of the DS product line back in 2008 and have sold and supported from the original Majik DSM/1 forward. The Majik DSM has always been a major product for our store and something many customers find the perfect solution because of its superb app, compact size, inclusion of HDMI, DAC, streaming, amplifier, phono stage and upgrade paths. Oh, and it sounds and looks great too!
The Majik DSM Replaces Many Small Components
One of the reasons we have few offerings in smaller ~$1000 integrated amplifiers, DACs, and streamers is the fact that by the time you add up all of the cables, the DAC, the streamer, and the integrated amplifier, you are often at or pretty near the price of a Majik DSM. For example if you buy a $1000 integrated, you next have to buy a $1000 DAC, then a digital streamer for $500, and now a phono stage for another $500, then add cables and you're at a DSM's price-tag, but now you have four boxes to contend with, cable clutter, an interface that doesn't control volume via the preamplifier, and you need a rack to hold it all. Oh, and it likely won't sound as good either, and the app will have to be pretty darn good to match Linn's.
A Great First High End Audio System
The Majik DSM is a real high end system and an excellent system for first time high end audio system owners. It's complete in one box - all you have to do is add speakers. A natural partner to the Majik DSM is the Majik LP12 turntable which is a perfect complement both visually and sonically. In fact, using Linn's new custom color options you can even order your speakers and LP12 in matching colors.
A Great Second System
The Majik DSM also makes a great system for the bedroom or office. The compact design, multi-platform App control and ability to connect to a TV make it a perfect office or bedroom system.
Overview of the 2020 Majik DSM/4 - The Spec-City Nutshell
- Streams over a standard network
- Supports formats up to 24-bit 192 kHz
- Space Optimisation built-in
- Wireless streaming options - WiFi for higher quality or Bluetooth
- Six customizable smart buttons for immediate access to pinned content from any source plus a larger multi-way menu function button that provides comprehensive control and feedback directly from the product
- Integrates seamlessly with Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming services and compatible with Spotify Connect, Roon, & Apple Airplay
- Plays Internet radio via TuneIn
- 8 digital & analogue inputs including HDMI and USB (Type B)
- HDMI 2.0 connections (4K compatible), HDMI ARC-Return channel
- Front panel headphone output
- Built-in MM phono stage for connecting a turntable
- 2 channels of 100W Class-D power amplification
- Connect multiple Linn DSM players for a high performance multi-room system
Comparing 2020 Majik DSM/4 to the previous Majik DSM/3
- DSM/4 loses several connectors including Exaktlink, 2 SPDIF, 2 Toslink.
- DSM/4 gains USB input
- DSM/4 gains WIFI and Bluetooth and keeps hard-wire option.
- DSM/4 gains Pins on front panel
- DSM/4 swaps old vol/source/mute buttons for new menu function button
- DSM/4 gets new high resolution display.
- DSM/4 swaps 1/4 high current headphone jack, replacing DSM/3 l.c. 1/8"
- DSM/4 gets more powerful processing platform
- DSM/4 gets all new DAC based on Linn Katalyst.
- DSM/4 gets new 100 watt Class D amplifier, based on Selekt.
- DSM/4 swaps DSM/3 analog volume control for lower noise digital.
- DSM/4 DAC has improved upsampling, low noise ref voltage, lower jitter.
Linn Majik DSM/4 Inside View
Overview of the Majik DSM 4 - The Outside
The new Linn Majik DSM 4 is directly descended from the awesome Linn Selekt, and inherits the Selekt's new cosmetics as well as a front panel with the new Pin interface.
Linn's Pins and Vol/Menu button
A Pin is an app assignable button. Six Pins adorn the top edge of both the Selekt and new Majik DSM/4. Using Linn's App, you assign your favorite playlist to one, your significant other's playlist to another, perhaps the radio to one, and your HDMI connected Apple TV to another. It's a brilliant interface because most people have 4-6 things they use their stereo for regularly, and now you can assign those to Pin buttons.
Right of the six Pins is the menu function button which provides comprehensive control and feedback giving access to switch to any of the connected sources, start and stop a stream, and control the volume.
An included Linn wand remote supplements the front panel and App.
Linn's six Pin buttons on left and menu function button on right
New Full-Size 1/4" Headphone Jack
The DSM/4 also has a new addition to the front panel - a full sized 1/4" TRS style headphone input. I can attest personally as to why this is so great. I love music, so at night I listen through good headphones, i.e. power hungry full sized ones. Full sized headphones use big drivers with big powerful magnets to move those driver with fast start/stop velocity - essential for tight powerful sound. Big drivers need big power and the superior current-carrying and sounding 1/4" headphone jack. One of my few gripes about the old DSM/3 was the 1/8" jack with low-power headphone amplifier. The 1/8" is appropriate for good earbuds and small entry level headphones, but at home you have the room and luxury of a BIG HEADPHONE with LOTS OF BASS, and comfort. Linn put the new TRS jack in the bottom lower corner which is exactly where it should be to reduce clutter and not have the cord stretching across the display. Lastly, Linn upped the headphone amplifier's power to accommodate large headphones, even planar magnetics. In short, bravo Linn!
Linn's new Majik DSM/4 Closeup of Headphone Jack
Linn DSM/4 New Display
I'd say if anything's the star of the new Majik DSM, it's the new display. It's a beautiful high resolution display that shows the track playing and volume. No more blue dots - the high resolution monochrome display challenges you to detect the extremely fine pitched dots that make up the beautiful white-on-black letters. It's an absolute delight to be able to read the name and track playing and the nice bright volume indicator from across the room.
Linn's new Majik DSM/4 Front Angle Showing Display
Majik DSM/4 Connectivity / Rear Panel
And now for this part of the tour, we circle to the rearmost quarter of the new Linn Majik DSM/4. (Scroll down for rear panel photo)
Starting from the left we have four HDMI 4K inputs and one HDMI output. I think Linn was brilliant to keep this configuration as many people have a host of HDMI devices: Cable Box, Apple TV, Roku etc and being able to plug them into a two-channel audiophile integrated amplifier is a perfect solution. The Majik DSM/4 also provides HDMI-ARC for those wishing to keep it simple with a Smart TV.
Linn DSM/4 HDMI Inputs
Ethernet, USB, SPDIF, Toslink
Below the HDMI ports we have an ethernet jack should you wish to run your Majik DSM with a physical wire rather than wirelessly. Immediately to the left is a new feature: a USB connection for use with a computer or music server such as an Aurender. There is also an adjacent Toslink digital optical connector and a digital coaxial SPDIF configurable to be an input or an output.The coaxial SPDIF output allows you to feed am external DAC if you wish, giving you the world-class music server functionality of the Linn DS and the Linn App with your choice of DAC. We use this SPDIF digital output functionality often in our store to feed other DACs because of the Linn App's ease of use and reliability.
Linn DSM/4 Digital Connections
Phono stage and Analog In/Out
Shifting over an inch, we see the analog input/outputs. The leftmost can be used as a regular analog input for things like analog tuners, or it can be configured via Konfig to be an MM phono stage, which is what the earth ground post is for. Linn phono stages have always given superb in-chassis performance, particularly with an LP12 or Rega turntable (that UK sound). Completing things is a Line Out that can be used to feed a whole-home audio system or a main system should you wish to use the Majik DSM as a streamer source.
Linn DSM/4 Phono and Analog connections
Linn DSM/4 Speaker Terminals
Lastly the speaker terminals are notable for being small and low-profile which allows the 2020 DSM (with a 90 deg power cord) to sit on a narrow depth shelf - a very nice touch, especially since you can attach small spade speaker cables, place the DSM/4 with its back panel overhanging the rear of a shelf, and have them drop straight down from the speaker terminals to hide them nicely.
Linn DSM/4 Speaker Terminals - banana or spade compatible
Items Removed from DSM/3 to DSM/4
Linn reduced the number of analog and digital inputs which matches current usage scenarios. They also removed the Exakt Links, which I think suits the uses of the Majik DSM. In our store for people buying a system with Linn Exakt speakers, we recommend the $4000 Linn Exakt Hub, an Exakt-speaker-only version of the $10,250 Linn Akurate Katalyst DSM. With Exakt Hub, you get Akurate level analog-to-digital conversion and component quality.
Linn Majik DSM/4 Rear Panel Photo
The new Majik DSM includes Linn Space Optimsation which tailors it to the individual room and speaker acoustics, removing distortion introduced by the room itself. Using the Linn application below, you enter in the dimensions, construction details such as concrete or partition wall, and room features such as windows and doors. Space Optimisation will then model the room acoustically and configure your DSM to compensate for any room features that introduce distortion into the sound.
For example, do you have a wall of glass behind the speakers? Space Optimisation will reduce the DSM's high treble to smooth and balance the treble frequencies.
How about a thick concrete wall on the left wall and sheetrock partition wall on the right? Space Optimisation will lower the bass on the left speaker to reduce booming and restore bass balance to both sides.
Based on our years of real-world installations, Space Optimisation can be a real game changer when installing speakers close to walls or corners or rooms with large expanses of sound reflective glass and concrete.
Even in ordinary rooms, we've used Space Optimisation to make enormous sonic improvements in our customer's common speaker locations such as placing the speakers on either side of a fireplace. We had one such system where we installed large Linn Klimax speakers 1" from the rear wall with a recessed fireplace in-between. After configuring Space Optimisation, we thought the system sounded almost like it was in a professionally built stereo listening room with acoustic treatments and ideal in-room placement. We couldn't believe it!
Generally we set up Space Optimisation, but with some practice it's easy enough for a person to use the system themselves. Below is a screen from Space Optimisation showing a room and the speaker locations within.
Linn Space Optimsation Application Screen Print
Linn 2020 Majik DSM/4 Listening Impressions
We hooked the new Majik DSM/4 up in our small room for our initial listening. We placed it next to our Akurate DSM so we could listen to them side-by-side and also hear the quality of the Majik DSM/4's DAC directly compared to the high end Katalyst DAC in the Akurate DSM. We later brought out a Katalyst Selekt for further comparison. It's a bit overkill, but we used our new Dynaudio Confidence 30 loudspeakers and Nordost Valhalla 2 cabling so we could hear the fine resolution of the components.
Right out of the gate, it was apparent that the DAC had gone through a major upgrade. The new DAC is considerably sweeter and more natural sounding. It is really a night and day difference. The older DSM had a little more of a gray background and a little more of a mechanical 'this is a cd player' sound to it by comparison. The new Majik DSM actually sounds an awful lot like the Selekt with the standard DAC. We played the new Billie Eilish 'My Future' and were amazed at the sheer sense of presence and life that the new Majik DSM has - we could hear all of those small nuances where she uses these subtle little emotional shifts to tell the song's story. Beautiful voice!
Linn's new Majik DSM/4 Top Front Angle Showing Display
We shifted to the USB input to give it a listen and it is quite good but does indeed cede a little of the analog like sound that the DS music streaming brings about. The USB input is useful if you wish to run your laptop into it for music and a welcome addition for those who have the DSM next to their work computer and want to use the computer as music host.
The phono stage appears also benefits from blacker backgrounds and a newfound gentle warmth. We used our Majik LP12 with newly upgraded Karousel, which itself is a sea-change upgrade. It's an excellent phono stage in line with Linn's historical excellence - and with adjustability via the Linn App.
We listened to the SPDIF digital input as driven by the digital output of the Linn Akurate DSM. It was quite good, but still not in the league of the Linn Majik DSM's internal DS system which plays back the streaming content from an internal memory buffer ensuring vanishingly low jitter.
Linn Majik DSM compared to the Selekt Katalyst DSM.
We plugged in our source-only Linn Selekt and compared the Selekt's Katalyst DAC to the Majik DSM. The Katalyst is still considerably more detailed with higher resolution, yet both share a beautifully analog and natural sound. The Selekt with Katalyst shows why it costs twice as much, yet both components are eminently enjoyable. We're happy to play both for you so that you can hear the differences and decide which better fits your system.
Next we compared our Selekt Katalyst integrated and could hear that the Selekt as an integrated amplifier had blacker backgrounds and more of a sense of ease driving the big Dynaudios.
Linn's new Majik DSM/4 with Dynaudio Confidence 30 Speakers
That's it for now - if you'd like to hear the Majik DSM we have it in-store and ready to show off!
John, Russ, Connor & Tara