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Hands on: Linn Series 3 review

The best one-box wireless speaker you can buy?

What is a hands on review?
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

Linn's first wireless speaker is pricey, but it might just be worth every penny

For

  • Stunningly clear, articulate sound
  • Solid streaming platform
  • Luxurious looks

Against

  • Expensive

Linn was one of the first hi-fi brands to launch a music streamer back in 2007, so in some regards it’s surprising the Glasgow-based company has waited this long to launch its first wireless speaker. But here it finally is, the Linn Series 3. 

While often a newcomer in the market faces an uphill battle to conquer established rivals, Linn's wireless speaker lands exuding a cool confidence thanks to the company's decade-plus experience producing high-end wireless streamers.

The Linn Series 3's potential difficulty is its hefty price tag: it's £2450 in the UK. For now it's exclusive to exclusive retailer Harrods, though it's due to get wider availability next year. 

So does it have a Linn level of performance to justify that price? While only proper testing time at What Hi-Fi? towers will fully answer that, we've been ears-on with the Series 3 speaker to bring you our first impressions...

Features

(Image credit: Future)

The Series 3 may mark a new venture for Linn, but anyone acquainted with one of the brand’s streaming products doesn’t have to forage far to find a fond familiarity in the design.

The speaker leverages Linn’s built-from-the-ground-up streaming platform, which offers access to networked servers and music services such as Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz. You can do this over wi-fi or Ethernet, using Linn's own Kazoo app. You can add Spotify to that list of course, as well as AirPlay, Bluetooth and Roon support. Its only departure from a streaming mind-set is its HDMI ARC socket, which lets a TV get in on the Series 3 action too.

While that wraps up the speaker’s socketry, its rear is also notable for the steel plate that acts as a heat sink for the non-ported enclosure. There's also an Exakt port that allows serious spenders to wire a Series 3 speaker to a slightly modified and more affordable (£2450) ‘slave’ version to form a stereo pair.

Multi-room is an option for those with Linn Series 3 speakers in different rooms, while anyone partial to barking demands at Alexa can do so usefully here when the speaker is paired with an Alexa-compatible device on the same network.

Design

(Image credit: Future)

Linn adopted a new aesthetic for its latest streamer, the Selekt DSM, and the Series 3 is a clear continuity of that. Its cut-glass, touch control top plate is similarly lit by one hundred LEDs to indicate volume, and also has six numbered presets that offer shortcut access to playlists, albums, radio stations and the like – assignable in the app. To minimise the amount of touch controls on the panel, pressing presets 3 and 4 simultaneously initiates Bluetooth, while pressing 2 and 5 puts the speaker in wi-fi mode.

That neat top is complemented by a ceramic-like stone chassis, which has been shaped to imitate the top of a wine glass to “encapsulate modern living”, and is fronted by an egg-shaped, changeable grille electroplated in either a gold (exclusive to Harrods) or chrome finish. 

This all makes for a speaker no less gorgeous than you’d expect from Linn – elegant, polished and as close to looking its price as you’d imagine is possible for a wireless speaker just shy of £3k. 

Underneath the aluminium mesh is a silk dome tweeter and long-throw driver, through which the Series 3’s real magic reveals itself...

Sound

(Image credit: Future)

But before we get to it, an important nod to what helps makes it happen: Linn’s proprietary Exakt technology. Linn Exakt aims to reduce phase errors by intentionally delaying higher frequencies so they arrive a your ear at the same time as lower frequencies. It also keeps the music signal’s data in the digital domain for as long as possible to avoid any degradation caused by signal processing.

We’ve heard Exakt do its (impressive) thing in many a Linn product before, and here it once again contributes to what is an absorbing performance. What’s immediately striking is the stunning midrange clarity on offer, as demoed here by Ed Sheeran and Stormzy’s Take Me Back To London

The South London grime star's vocals showcase the Linn's revealing nature as it successfully follows the dynamics of his delivery. Meanwhile the bassline, which is given size-belying volume and texture, bounces along with keen agility. (As it does so, we’re amused by the movement of the driver causing the front grille to shimmer as it catches the light. A bit of intentional audio and visual synchronicity? A bit distracting? We shall see.)

Our demo spans peppy electronica and barer vocal-led tracks and each time we’re drawn in by the Linn Series 3’s rendition. It doesn’t necessarily seem to offer the widest soundstage we've heard from a one-box wireless speaker, but it is full of depth and detail.

Initial verdict

(Image credit: Future)

Our overarching impression: we’ve got ourselves an astonishingly articulate speaker here. 

The Linn Series 3's not-insignificant price can't be overlooked, of course – not when most premium streaming speakers of this kind sit around the £1000 mark. 

Is it worth three times the outlay of the Naim Mu-so 2 or the B&W Formation Wedge? That's the question we look forward to answering in our full review.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.