Living with the Linn Majik DS streamer – customer review

Adrian CowderoyReviewing the last month, the Linn Majik DS streamer has overwhelmed me and brought new discoveries in my CD collection. But the experience has not been entirely easy.

Delivery | Setup | Pre-amp | Konfig | Kinsky | Songmaster | My HiFi

Linn Majik DS

Delivery

Linn deliver to the store, not your home. (Insurance reasons?) It took 1 working day.

The package included free 1.2 metre DIN interconnects, normally costing £210/$195, suited for use with the vast majority pre-amps and power-amps. There was also a CD for the software – it gets the most recent version of the software from the internet.

(Thanks to HiFi Cinema for arranging everything efficiently.)

Setup for the Linn Majik DS

The Red - best upgrade

Setup was a fiddle – the boxes did not seem to recognise each other. With hindsight there were two problems:

  • NAS drive performance. The budget NAS drive I bought separately was preoccupied with a huge number of updates, as I copied files from another drive.
  • Kinsky behaviour. The Kinsky software often has to be restarted (see below).

The good:

  • Documentation. Well documented in manuals on the CD, and the software elements ask to update themselves via the internet.
  • Defaults. The default settings are good (unless you want to use the pre-amp, which is easily changed).

The optional pre-amp

Konfig setting for preamp

Konfig setting for preamp

The Linn Majik DS has a built-in preamp so that the streamer can be connected directly to the power amps. The pre-amp shares its power source with the DAC (Digital Analogue Converter).

  • Operation. It is switched on and off using a setting on the Konfig program followed by a quick reboot of the Majik. There are 2 pairs of DIN connectors, so it’s possible to bi-amp or use power-amps plus a sub-woofer.
  • Quality. I’ve tried with and without the preamp, and I’ve even tried with the Linn preamp going through my custom preamp. The Linn preamp is competent, but not as good as mine. It loses detail and dynamics.

Avoiding a separate box for the preamp means the HiFi takes less space. If I didn’t have a decent preamp, I would use it.

Linn Konfig – 5-star

Linn Konfig control panelIt’s a free software programme for PC or Mac that allows you to see the music network in your home, and to control the Linn devices.

  • Options. There are an amazing number of options for a streamer, compared to the minimal variations with earlier generations of CD player and pre-amps.
  • Installation. The software was easy to install, easy to use and has been completely dependable on my PC (Windows 9).
  • Free, from http://www.linn.co.uk/support/software#other

Linn Kinsky – 3-star

Linn Kinsky control panel

A free software programme that allows you to control the music to play on the Linn Majik DS.

  • Play solution. It allows you to select what to play next. You can browse by album, artist, track, etc, or by folder. Because of the cataloguing problem of classical and world music, I use folders, bookmarking folders such as “Classical”, “Jazz”, “Rock/Pop”.
  • Play options. You can see details of each track, and the progress of the play. You can shuffle the order, use random and repeat. If you are using the pre-amp, you can control the volume level.
  • Radio. It has radio channels pre-programmed. Most are under “Radio”, but with BBC separated because they use a different format. (If you set your watch by streamed radio, remember the clock is behind real time because of the time in the buffers of the broadcaster and your streamer.)
  • Growth. There is flexibility for growth. You can have multiple NAS drives. If your house has more than one Linn streamer, you can select which to play.
  • Convenience. I use the PC version (on Windows 7). In the demo I found the PC quicker and easier to use than the iPad and iPhone apps – a mouse and big screen helps.
  • Permanent sleep. If the computer is dormant I find Kinsky refuses to start playing the selected tracks. This always happens with sleep and hibernate, and sometimes even when the computer is running but not used. Solution: close the window and restart the program. (Takes seconds.)
  • Kinsky spinHanging. When the NAS drive is busy the program hangs, with the twirling image spinning on the screen before something happens. But my NAS is slow. The good news it does not affect the music playing.
  • Single control. Your PC must be left switched on for the music to play, even if you’ve already given the streamer your playlist. For me it, it’s not a problem: if I’m in my office/music room, the laptop is on. (If using a mobile/tablet, does it have to stay in range of the house’s WiFi? People listening to the music will have their experience stopped abruptly.)
  • Updates. There are software updates (optionally automatic), so things may get better in the future.
  • Free, from http://www.linn.co.uk/support/software#other. This also includes apps from other companies for Androids, iPads and iPhones, but there may be charges for these.

Linn Songmaster – 4 star

Songmaster iconA free software programme to get music from iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc to go to the HiFi instead of through the computer’s speakers. Play video as well as music and voice.

  • Installation. Easily installed, easy to use and dependable.
  • Quality. Works great with itunes and Windows Media files, but it does not seem to work with the BBC Media Player.
  • Free, from http://www.linn.co.uk/support/software#other

Notes about my HiFi

With the Linn Majik DS, I am using a Western Digital NAS drive, a custom-built pre-amp & power supply, Avondale 130 monoblocks (power amps) and Acoustic Energy Radiance 3 speakers, all mounted on a pile of Mana tables to support their natural vibrations. The overall effect gives me a sound stage that stretches into the far distance and takes on the characteristics of the recording hall/room; the dynamics of rock music and jazz shake my bones and forced me to reinforce a cupboard to stop it shaking.

5 comments to Living with the Linn Majik DS streamer – customer review

  • Sounds awesome (no pun intended).

  • Absolutely right, Austen.
    The music is totally engrossing, wrapping round me like warm clean sheets in a bed, and opening endless new insights into the music itself. I count myself very lucky.

    I also find it difficult going to work – because I want to keep listening to the music.

  • stephanie

    At last an honest review of a Linn streamer at home. The reality I’ve found is that I cant just walk into the room and have the Ds play musk – either either it or the mac mini its attached to for its itunes library need rebooting. The software is atrocious for such and expensive product – the very fact that there are pages and pages on their own website forums show its not actually an easy product to use.
    If it was pain free then these pages wouldn’t exist.

    The sound quality is superb but it fails miserably as a useable piece of kit

  • Stephanie
    Good points.
    I am not experiencing the need to reboot, except about once a fortnight when the entire network needs a kick.
    I use a PC to control the DS. Since I wrote the above article, the software has improved a little – whatever has been loaded into the DS memory as a playlist is there once the computer is switched off. So if I want music when I get into the room, I can replay the last list. I put a radio channel as number one on the playlist.

    Songcast is a total pain in the neck. Some months it works, then there’s an upgrade and it stops. The sequence with which Kinksy and Songmaster are started seem to be critical – I may have to reboot things. Today it’s working, but in general I’ve given it up as dangerous for my blood pressure when it takes 10 minutes to get it working, with no promise that I will succeed.

  • stephanie

    I’d like to **** the Linn software people for doing such a poor job.

    Whilst the sound is great the softawre is awful and unstable

    i then have to reboot the mac and then its all go

    I find this lack of stability to the software VERY annoying

    why is linn software so ridiculously poor? I don’t know if Naim software is better but by comparison Sonos software is a doddle and far more stable from a product 1/6 of the price…………

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