I probably spent much of my time at AXPONA with a severe case of resting bitch face, as I’m usually concentrating hard. There’s a lot to cover, and a thousand facts to get straight. But during system auditions, I occasionally smiled too, sometimes unintentionally making eye contact with exhibitors who were excited to see that I was excited.
That’s what happened in the Linkwitz room, where CEO Frank Brenner and noted Linkwitz evangelist Charles Port were demoing the company’s LX521.4 open-baffle speakers.
Is it a new product? Yes and no. The version 4 is slightly different from earlier 521 iterations in that there’s no longer a passive crossover in the top baffle, theoretically resulting in greater resolution and purity.
By the way, it’s time to stop thinking of Germany-based Linkwitz as a company that just sells builder plans and various parts to customers who wish to construct the speakers as a DIY project. These days, the Linkwitz team offers a fully assembled and nicely finished “turnkey” system; all you have to do is unbox it and plug it in.
The company’s flagships, designed about a dozen years ago by industry luminary Siegfried Linkwitz (19352018), are four-way, full-range dipoles that produce a figure-of-eight radiation pattern, claimed to excite fewer room modes than other transducer configurations. The two bass enclosures, each containing a pair of back-to-back woofers mounted at an angle, have four sides instead of six, as they’re completely open in the front and back (you can hide them behind cloth grilles if you like). Up top, the baffles rotate separately from the woofer structures that support them, allowing users to more or less dial in the width of the desired soundstage. The only actual boxes in the system are the two components that house the Hypex nCore amplifiers and the crossovers, all included in the $26,700 system price.
A good chunk of that money goes to pay for Panzerholz (“armored wood”). It’s a pricey, literally bulletproof kind of über-plywood that’s so heavy it sinks in water. Panzerholz’s damping properties make it an excellent choice for speakers, Brenner said.
In the standard Renaissance hotel room on the 15th floormaybe 12′ wide and 18′ long, plus a small hallwayPort and Brenner invited me to sit very close to the Linkwitz speakers: less than 5′ away, at the tip of a flat imaginary triangle. The sound of an unknown-to-me, all-percussion Chesky recording was admittedly glorious there, but when I tried other listening positions, I was struck by the fact that the soundstage didn’t collapse or become unbalanced. There wasn’t a sweet spot, there was a significant sweet swath.
We played “The Real Blues” by the Ray Brown Trio, followed by Carmen Gomes Inc.’s version of “Come On In My Kitchen” and Pink Floyd’s “Time.” The system’s treble and mid drivers put in a seamless, light-footed presentation with a spatial openness that varied from very good to astounding, depending on the recording. Likewise, the bass, rated to 20Hz, sounded nimble but authoritative, and emphatically natural.
In three days I heard maybe 10% of all AXPONA rooms, so it’d be silly to give a Best in Show award. But to my ears, the German speakers were among the tip of the top: erstklassig (first class) and thoroughly wunderbar.
Other components in the system were a Jeff Rowland Design Capri S2-SC preamp ($6100); a Kuzma Stabi R turntable ($9595) with a Kuzma Stogi Ref 313 VTA tonearm ($6600) and a NOS Ortofon Rohmann MC phono cartridge ($1300); plus a Linn Akurate streamer ($18,500 including extensive mods). Cabling was a mix of Mogami and “generic” OFC and OCC cables that Port said cost less than a thousand dollars total.
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