The Linn Akurate 242 floorstander is not only the top model in the company's Akurate speaker range, but also the latest manifestation of a trend that's served the Scottish company well over the years.
In common with a select few other high-end companies, Linn offers a complete end-to-end solution, from source components to speakers – and even the cables to go inbetween.
And it was end-to-end that we tested the 242s, combining them with the Akurate DS streaming player, Akurate Kontrol preamp and Akurate 2200 power amplifier.
There's plenty of innovative technology in the 242, including Linn's 3K Driver Array, shown in the picture above – the idea is to create a something approaching a point-source, so all frequencies are delivered to the listener's ear from the same place.
Or at least the high-frequencies are, courtesy of the three drivers in the array; bass – the directionality of which the ear is less able to discern – is delivered by a pair of 16.5cm sandwich-cone woofers.
This is a true five-way speaker, and can be driven by up to five amplifiers in quint-wire configuration – if that's the correct term for the five-way version of biwiring! – by using or removing a range of linking-strips supplied for the terminals to the rear.
When used any way other than single-wired, there's also the option of giving a bit of lift to bass frequencies below 200Hz, by connecting one amp to dedicated 'bass boost' terminals.
The Aktiv option
And if you want to go really wild, you can run the Akurate 242s in a fully active – sorry Linn, we mean Aktiv – configuration. can be few one-make rigs as complete as this Linn Akurate set-up.
To do this you'll need several power amps, fitted with Linn's Aktiv crossover cards, and the speakers will need to be converted to Aktiv operation, bypassing their internal crossovers. A Linn retailler will be able to advise on the configurations available.
Finally, the speakers come in a choice of four real wood veneers, and there's also a custom finish service available.
Expensive – and they look it
These are pricey speakers, and look it with their immaculate finish and engineered feel. Like any big speakers – these stand 1m high and weigh in at 32kg each – the 242s need room to breathe.
They come with foam bungs to block their two large-diameter rear-firing ports should bass become too much, and these do as advertised – but the 242s really need a free space to perform at their best.
They prove relatively uncritical of toe-in angle, but in our test room still worked best firing slightly inward towards the listener.
It says a lot for Linn’s engineering team that each part of this system, from the Akurate DS to the 242 speakers, has a common sonic signature. This kind of consistency is rare – and suggests carefully controlled development and a clear idea of the sound the company is trying to achieve.
Indeed, if you swap any component out for an alternative, even one normally considered a class leader, the system never sounds as convincing.
The system’s sonic presentation is very clean and precise. There’s an underlying tautness to the sound that doesn’t always result in the most relaxed listen, but gives the overall presentation an impressively stable structure.
The combination of power, precision and composure is deeply impressive, as is the sense of space around instrumental threads.
The soundstage is less expansive than some rival set-ups, however, and there’s less sense of depth in the presentation than we expected.
It’s the kind of presentation that brings the musicians into your listening room rather than transporting you to the recording venue. A problem? Not for us, though stereo image obsessives might object.
In hi-fi terms this is a deeply impressive sound, with high levels of insight coupled to exceptional control and authority.
Not totally smitten
But we aren’t totally smitten: for all the analysis, punch and precision on offer we could do with a tad more fluidity and exuberance.
There's a rather dry, detached approach to music replay, sounding a little too clinical to fully satisfy us.
Music such as Adele’s Rolling in the Deep should make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up, but through the complete Linn set-up, it never quite does that enough for our taste.
For all that, the Akurate system’s insight, precision, punch and composure are all top class, and come to the fore with high-resolution downloads.
Those of you lucky enough to be in the market for a system at this price – and really the 242s make the most sense as part of complete Akurate system – should give the Linn a serious look.
If its cool approach to music replay and understated elegance appeal, jump right in. You won’t be disappointed.