I listened to Linn's flagship hi-fi setup and it was absurdly good, frankly

Linn hi-fi system at Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2024
(Image credit: Future)

Founded in Glasgow, Scotland in 1973, Linn is a manufacturer of premium hi-fi components. Its first, and most legendary, product was the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable - a deck that has retained popularity among adoring audiophiles since its first release over 50 years ago. 

At the recent Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2024 in Bristol, England, Linn showcased a range of products, proving it’s not just the best turntables it should be known for. Attendees, including myself, were treated to Linn’s best of the best. 

The setting and Linn’s choice of lighting are to be applauded. The room was dimly lit, with blue lighting against the backdrop and a central light casting a shadow of the Sondek LP12-50. The effect gave the system an ethereal feel and announced, “You’re about to hear something special.”

Linn clearly carried its reputation as even at 10:15 am, a mere 15 minutes after the show had opened, the room was already packed with hi-fi fanatics itching to hear what seriously premium audio sounds like.

Just what was on show? The full hi-fi system, which, for fun, I’ll put prices next to, was as follows:

  • Linn Sondek LP12 turntable 50th anniversary - from £50,000 (around $63,170 / AU$97,130) 
  • Linn 360 Floorstanding loudspeakers (pair) - from £55,000 (around $69,500 / AU$106,900) 
  • Linn Next-generation Klimax DSM network music player - from £35,000 (around $44,220 / AU$68,000) 
  • Linn Klimax Solo 800 power mono-amp (monoblock) x2 - from £37,500 each (around $72,870 / AU$72,870)  
  • Total: £215,000 (around $271,770 / AU$417,740)  

So, we’re dealing with some serious kit here. After people grabbed seats or made do with whatever space they could get at the back of the room - I found space on the left side - everyone waited with bated breath. 

Linn 360 speakers at Bristol Hi-Fi Show

The Linn 360 floorstander (pictured) at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2024 - one of the best speakers on show  (Image credit: Future)

A touch of modern  

The first track, streamed through the Klimax DSM, was The Weeknd’s Out of Time, which immediately showcased the bass capabilities of the Linn 360 speakers, one of the 5 best speakers I saw at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show. Although powerful, the bass was still tightly controlled and never overwhelming, giving the twinkling keyboards and The Weeknd’s vocals the space they needed. 

This was one of the Linn system’s finest strengths: balance. Everything was allowed to breathe but also worked together as a unit. Quite often on cheaper systems, one aspect such as bass or treble can completely overpower the mix and alter a song, but even when the Linn 360s were pushed to an almost room-rattling volume level, this balance was never lost.

I eventually set off to cover other systems and speakers at the show but returned later to see what this setup would cook up next. I arrived in time for another modern electronic track: Sylvan Esso’s Die Young

Slow, pulsing synths and chilled vocals emerged, revealing the incredibly nuanced capabilities of the 360s, which filled the room. The synths began booming before the chorus kicked in, and they carried a much darker, heavier tone than the ones in The Weeknd’s Out of Time. Vocals began to soar and the sustained note would’ve been punishing to lesser speakers, but the 360s again handled it brilliantly. 

The quality of the two tracks I’d heard, both modern and beautifully produced, was outstanding, and they showcased the clean reproduction of the Klimax DSM, which comes with Linn’s Organik DAC (its first DAC) built-in. 

The unsung hero here is the Klimax 800 Solo mono power amplifier, which gave the Linn 360s the extra juice to deliver that glorious bass and synth action. A sleek, yet plain-looking black box, each Klimax 800 Solo weighs a whopping 27kg (59 lbs) and outputs a mega 800W of power (at 4 ohms). 

Linn hi-fi system at Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2024

Linn's flagship hi-fi system on show at Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2024  (Image credit: Future)

The turn of analogue

I’d heard what the Klimax DSM could do - now it was the Linn Sondek LP12 50’s turn. A 50th-anniversary edition of the legendary LP12, the LP12-50 is limited to 250 units worldwide (hence the higher price tag than Linn’s flagship Klimax LP12 turntable, which retails for £25,100) and was designed in collaboration with Sir Jony Ive of LoveFrom. 

The most striking feature of the LP12-50 is the gorgeous plinth, which was made using Linn’s latest ‘Bedrok’ technology where the plinth is machined from a single piece of chunky wood made by compressing layers of beech to help with stability. In person, it was a sight to behold.

Linn Sondek LP12-50 turntable

The Linn Sondek LP12-50 (pictured) is a thing of beauty.  (Image credit: Linn)

Back to the music. The record of choice was by the band Applewood Road, with the track Applewood Road from the album… Applewood Road. There’s something fun about a band that goes all out on a name, isn't there? Plus, I think it’s a pretty good name that suits the band perfectly.

This track is very bare bones - a single guitar with a three-part female vocal. Plucked guitar blended beautifully with the luscious harmonies, showcasing the Linn 360’s wondrous, wide soundstage.

The harmonies echoed throughout the room and we were surrounded by warm, angelic voices captured by a single microphone in a small studio in Nashville, Tennessee. It suited vinyl to a tee and perfectly highlighted the LP12-50 and 360 speakers (not forgetting the Klimax 800 Solo monoblocks).

After the relatively short track ended, I snapped out of whatever trance I had been in and again exited to dash around the show. During my day there, however, I always made sure to pop my head back into Linn’s room, and whatever was playing, be it Bob Marley or Kraftwerk, sounded simply awesome. It’s not every day that you hear music in this way.

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James Davidson
TV Hardware Staff Writer, Home Entertainment

 James is the TV Hardware Staff Writer at TechRadar. Before joining the team, he worked at a major UK based AV retailer selling TV and audio equipment, where he was either telling customers the difference between OLED and QLED or being wowed by watching a PS5 run on the LG 65G2. When not writing about the latest TV tech, James can be found gaming, reading, watching rugby or coming up with another idea for a novel.