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Lynn's $6,000 CD player

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
 

Simple gray rule


Lynn's $6,000 CD player
 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1992, The Syracuse Newspapers

A company from Scotland sent me a new CD player to try out, and as soon as the UPS driver showed up I knew I something strange was going on. On the floor in front of me were two big boxes for one CD player.

When I opened the cartons I found two black devices, each about a foot square and 4 inches high. They were identical except for a couple of push buttons on one of them.

The square black box with the push buttons was the Karik, the actual CD-playing mechanism, and the other was the Numerik, which houses some fancy electronics. Together they make up one of the most unusual compact disc players you can buy - if you can afford it. This two-piece player, made by Linn Products Ltd. of Eaglesham, near Glasgow, is also one of the most expensive CD players in the 10-year history of the compact disc. It costs $6,000.

If you just gulped and quickly added up what $6,000 could buy if spent in other ways, join the crowd. In a time of recession, a CD player that's 50 times as expensive as an ordinary player seems like a guaranteed flop. Who'd want to pay that kind of money just to listen to Bach or rock?

A lot of rich sound-lovers, that's who. Linn expects to sell every CD player it can make. It has history on its side, too. Many years ago, Linn introduced an expensive record-playing system that earned a reputation as one of the best turntables in the world, and now Linn is out to grab the same sort of honor with its Karik-Numerik combination.

To judge the Linn CD player, I had to put aside one of my fondest prejudices. As a registered cheapskate, I'd much rather spend a little money than a lot, because my wallet and I both believe that money is no guarantee of quality.

So, I tried looking at the Linn the way a Hyundai driver looks at a Mercedes-Benz - as something made out of pure unobtanium, shiny, svelte and totally lacking that essential aspect of affordability.

As it turned out, that was a sensible way to test an item that would cost me half my life savings if I dropped it, since it let me judge the performance and not the price.

And what a performer! I've never tested, used, listened to, peered at or even dreamed of another CD player that did as well as the Karik-Numerik in the month that I've been listening to it. It sounded gorgeous, without any of the telltale brittle sound that can he heard in many CD players once you've learned what to listen for.

The Linn player excelled at the showoff-type CDs that I keep handy, but it also played even the most mundane recordings with an ease that I'd never heard before.

It also took first place in my informal shake-and-quake derby. Every time I try out a new CD player, I slide in a disc, start it playing and then do everything I can think of to make the player skip or stop altogether. The Linn was the first player that refused to skip or stop even when I shook it from side to side, banged on the top and sides and turned the player upside down.

So this thing is good, and it is solid. But is it worth $6,000?

That's not a fair question, I know. It's performance that counts.

Right?

If you're the Mercedes-Benz driver, you'd find it easy to say yes. Money can buy a lot of things, including a great-sounding CD player. But if you're the Hyundai type, a little less performance for a lot less money makes infinitely more sense.


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