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Linn Majik DS-I review

This all-in-one network player promises, and delivers, astounding results. Just don't try to set it up yourself... Tested at £2500.00

Our Verdict

Installing the DS-I is a bit of a faff – but once set up properly this player is impressive

For

  • Multitalented unit supporting all manner of formats
  • hugely detailed and poised audio

Against

  • Takes time to get up and running
  • can't be used via wi-fi
  • expensive

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Installing the DS-I is a bit of a faff – but once set up properly this player is impressive

Pros

  • + Multitalented unit supporting all manner of formats
  • + hugely detailed and poised audio

Cons

  • - Takes time to get up and running
  • - can't be used via wi-fi
  • - expensive

The latest addition to Linn's DS music-streaming range is certainly an interesting proposition. An all-in-one preamplifier/power amplifier/music streamer unit, the Majik DS-I can accept not only all of a user's centrally-stored music, but also offer connectivity for what computer-music evangelists call ‘legacy' audio components. That takes in your existing CD player, radio tuners, TV sound, and even a turntable.

In essence, then, the Majik DS-I is an integrated amplifier with a digital-to-analogue converter and Ethernet port built-in.

It delivers 2 x 100W using Linn's Chakra power amp topology, is powered by the company's Dynamik power supply, and supports streamed music in FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, AAC, WAV and MP3 at up to 24-bit/192 kHz native sample rate.

Network set-up is fiddly
The DS system is based around a wired Ethernet connection rather than wi-fi, and should ideally be used on a sub-network using a dedicated wired router, rather than simply ‘hung off' an existing unit.

For testing purposes we ended up with two set-ups: one involved a network storage unit connected directly to the Linn, the other using two routers.

Even then the Linn proved slightly reluctant to find music on the storage unit via its own remote control, and the default software did little to solve the problem.

But we were able to ‘drive' the system using the Kinsky desktop software also supplied: it found both the storage and the DS-I, and it was possible to link music on one to play on the other.

At the time of writing, the Kinsky software only works on PCs, so Mac users will either have to run a Windows system in parallel, or forego this option.

Best leave it to the experts...
All in all, then, installing the Linn is probably best left to a dealer if you're not sure what you're doing. But the rewards for getting it right are considerable: Linn's high-resolution downloads possess a degree of detail and presence unavailable from all but the finest recordings.

Handel's Messiah sounds thrilling in hi-res form, and the DS-I, used with high-quality speakers, is more than capable of delivering all that extra impact and ambience.

Star of high-resolution storage
The DS-I makes a solid case for the storage and playback of high-resolution recordings at home, and is also a good amp for those ‘legacy' music sources.

But this is no ‘fit and forget' set-up, even though you could always use powerline transmission systems if you don't want ethernet cables.

It's all a long way from the purist Linn of the past, in which only an amp and turntable were allowed to be connected in the ‘music room'; but as a taste of what the future of music at home can offer, the Majik DS-I is as accomplished as it is intriguing.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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