- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 17 February 2014
I tested the Linn Athenaeum speakers with an OPPO BDP-105 universal player, Pass Labs XP-20 preamplifier, and BAT VK75 SE power amplifier. Cables were Wireworld.
The first thing I noticed was that I only had to turn the preamp volume control up one notch or two, to get my typical listening volume (medium loud). Again, this kind of sensitivity is one of the advantages of horn speakers.
The album Pure, by Haley Westerna, has several tracks that are a good test for an amplifier or speaker's presence or lack of higher ordered harmonics. "Benedictus", in particular, is my favorite from this album. When she hits the high notes, the album's title spells out the sound on the Athenaeum. Nothing gets in the way of her incredible voice and the listener. It's one of those albums that soars with Pure Class A amplification (the Pass XP-20 and BAT VK75 SE are Class A biased). The sound had a hint of extra midrange, which is confirmed in the bench tests. Not too much . . . just enough to give a warmth to the sound.
Solo harp is a good test for transient clarity, with the pluck of the strings producing very strong transients. I sensed no fault in the sound at all with the Athenaeum's. Transients were intense and detailed.
This Telarc SACD (CD-80515-SA) is an excellent performance of Dukas' La Peri. The opening sequence has a very large brass component which, if there were significant IM distortion, would sound harsh. On the Athenaeum speakers, it sounded like brass - clean, piercing, but not harsh. There was no tendency for the tweeter to "shout" at higher SPLs.
Franz Liszt was the first real "Superstar" of classical composers. Before his arrival in the world of classical music, composers were treated like third class citizens. No respect. Even Bach was treated this way. But Liszt, needing several pianos to play an evening of piano works because the frames in those days were wooden instead of metal, would break them with his dynamic playing. One one evening, he went through five pianos. His music was astonishing, as, apparently, was his love life. Women fainted when he played. Dynamics? He could touch the keys as a feather, or pound them as with a sledge hammer. So, just about any Liszt recording can be used not only to test dynamics, but the timbre that is true to the piano's sound. All of these characteristics were reproduced with the Athenaeum speakers, and again, with just a few watts. Amazing !