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Linn Series 3: a wireless speaker for audiophiles

Door ALBAN AMOUROUX |

When faced with an already jam-packed connected speaker market, it’s important to know how to differentiate a dud from a quality product like this one. We wouldn’t expect any less from a legendary brand like Linn who have taken their time to release this truly original product, in terms of both shape and materials used. Linn have created a speaker tailored to music lovers who are looking to simplify their setup.

Linn has been active in the connected music sphere for many years. A certain number of the brand’s products have the ability to connect to a network and the Internet to play your music library or access online music services. Different network players that hold the DSM stamp hold such properties and are controlled through a mobile application which allows you to control your music in several areas. Communication between areas works through Linn’s Songcast protocol. Other exclusive functions are available on certain devices, such as Space Optimisation audio calibration which adapts the sound to the room you are listening in.

Linn devices have never been particularly cheap. This is not what the Scottish manufacturer strives for. Instead they make in-house products with very particular care. Therefore, when Linn announce a top-of-the-range connected speaker, there are certain expectations to be met. The Series 3 is more expensive than other top-of-the-range connected speakers like the Devialet Phantom or the Cabasse Pearl. But this Linn Series 3 has is positioned as a direct competitor. The Devialet and the Cabasse are demonstrative products: wall-trembling bass is part of their DNA and one of their main selling points. Both compete to be massive speakers in a minimal format. Linn, on the other hand, has chosen to design their product in line primarily with audiophiles’ expectations, the brand’s direction and those who may be looking to buy for the first time.

Features

Price: 3 395 €
Amplification: 2x100 watts en classe D
Speakers: 1x woofer 16 cm, 1x tweeter 19 mm
Connectivity: Wi-fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, 1x HDMI ARC, Exakt Link (RJ45)
Formats: PCM jusqu’à 24/192 kHz
Streaming: Linn multiroom, Roon, AirPlay, radios web, Qobuz natif
Weight: 6,9 kg
Dimensions (L x H x P): 250 x 296 x 206 mm

General presentation of the Series 3

The Series 3 speaker looks like an enormous Ostrich egg in which two flat surfaces have been cut out on the front and at the top. The soft-to-touch white finish reinforces this effect. The casing is well made from a synthesised ceramic, which provides a considerable density that helps to reduce vibrations: the Series 3 weighs 6.9 kg. The finish is impeccable and at the bottom the name of the person who assembled the speaker by hand can be read, much like the plaque affixed to the motors of English luxury cars.

The metallic grill cannot be removed. Once again in the shape of an egg, it protects two loudspeakers in the classic position, a tweeter above a 16cm woofer of long excursion. The class D amplification delivers 100 watts of power through each and is found fixed to a metallic section at the back which houses the radiator.

At the top of the Series 3 is a glass plaque featuring nine touch-sensitive controls and a display that validates your commands as well as permanently showing the volume. There is one power switch, two buttons for the volume and six shortcut buttons. These shortcuts can be personalised through the mobile application. Volume is displayed as a circle made up of bars. At the centre, the Linn logo is constantly illuminated.

Connections at the back are limited to three ports. Two RJ45s which serve for wired network connection and another for liaison with Exakt Link which is required for creating a stereo pair through connection with a second slave Series 3 at a slightly cheaper price. Underneath, the only physical input is an HDMI ARC, the speaker has neither optical nor analog inputs.

The series 3 is one of few speakers today that are equipped with an HDMI port which allows non compressed audio digital playback, but only in stereo and without support of multichannel Dolby and DTS formats.

Connection to our Sony television worked right away and we were able to control the Linn speaker’s volume through our television’s remote control. When we switched off the television, the Series 3 went automatically into sleep mode. For effective sound production, it is best to install the speaker directly below your television. If you place it down at a distance, the sound will not be exactly true to the image. We found it preferable to use the HDMI ARC connection uniquely with two Linn Series 3s working in stereo.

Further features of the Series 3

The mobile application controlling the Series 3 speaker in simply called Linn. It serves all of the brand’s connected devices so as to support multi room functionality. The speaker immediately found our wired network and displayed a list of available sources. A slide control serves to put the speaker in sleep mode.

The home screen can be personalised in the sense that you can display your shortcuts as you wish: HDMI input, Bluetooth, playlists, Internet radio stations, etc… They can be reorganised at any moment from the settings screen. From here, you can also add or remove physical and dematerialised sources like Qobuz.

When you activate the Qobuz service, you are understandably asked to sign in. Then a simple navigation screen, compared to other applications available today, allows access to three sections: Discover, Purchases and My Qobuz including your favourite tracks and personal playlists.

The listening screen is classic with a menu that can be called up by pressing the three dotted icon for adding the current song to favourites for example. The file type is always indicated as well as the quality and output. The volume can be controlled by opening a supplementary screen. On an iPhone, the phone’s physical controls are not linked to the volume control of the Linn speaker which is a shame.

The Linn mobile application is therefore essential. It is more simplified than most current applications that we know of. However, as the Series 3 is compatible with AirPlay and Roon, there are other ways that you can control the speaker if you wish.

Upon Listening

The Series 3 speaker is impressive, there’s no doubt about that, and it expresses itself marvelously. While it is a speaker of great size, this gives a good idea of the results we might expect. Music flows out of the speaker with ease. It seems as if sound originates from in front of the speaker and never gives the impression of a soundstage enclosed within a casing. Marcus Miller’s bass is reproduced with all the resonance and ambiance that perfectly characterises the live recording accompanied by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Series 3 has stacks of energy all over the spectrum. Basses are sharp and hard-hitting with the intricacy and definition identical to traditional, high-quality passive speakers. Without ever sounding artificial, the speakers delivers realism and a respect for timbres which will satisfy those who value fidelity over demonstration. The speaker is lacking slightly in some of the more bass frequencies, which is to expected with mobile loudspeakers. The Series 3 plays no tricks: it performs excellently in all it can do. The funk/R&B tracks on Toni Braxton’s Spell My Name were confidently reproduced to our great pleasure.

The area in which the Linn Series 3 surpasses the entirety of connected speakers is in voices. A field in which Linn has totally won us over. It manages to extract voices from the remaining sound mass, cut them out and reproduce them with acuteness and rare transparency. There is perhaps a slight dip in the high mids, but nothing significant. We can hardly be critical though when the speaker literally took on the flesh form of Stacy Kent right before our eyes, surrounded by different instruments from the Orchestral Sessions without being drowned out. Such astounding performance from a mono speaker has led us to hours of uninterrupted listening.

“Pros” and “Cons”

Pros :
Original Style
High End Finish
Quality voice reproduction
Feeling of ambiance
HDMI ARC input

Cons :
No auxiliary audio input
Incomplete mobile application

Conclusion

We have waited patiently for months before having the chance to grace our ears with this famous connected speaker from Linn, a big name on the British Hi-Fi scene. And boy was it worth the wait. Linn has succeeded in creating an amplified mono speaker almost capable of matching the abilities of a classic Hi-Fi speaker with separate electronics. Such quality of sound reproduction is rarely heard of, one can feel a strong filiation between the Linn Series 3 and the spirit of the brand. In order to fully profit from this speaker, we advice allowing the Series 3 to express itself and to avoid listening up close. It has no trouble filling up a 30 metre squared room while continuing to meet an audiophile’s expectations. A pair of Linn Series 3s in stereo should with no problem be a match, or even surpass, traditional audio systems with separated elements in a similar price range.