Krell and Linn Release High Resolution Audio Players

Krell and Linn Release High Resolution Audio Players (HFR)

Krell Industries and Linn Products, two of the best known names in high end audio, announced this week that they plan to release their initial entries into the high resolution audio player market. The new products from both companies are shipping to dealers in May and should be available for an audition soon.

During January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, I was struck by the number of new SACD and DVD-A player announcements from high end audio firms. This marks a depature from past shows where most of the high resolution audio players came from either the format sponsors (SACD players from Sony & Philips and DVD-A players from Toshiba, Panasonic & Meridian) or from mass market audio firms.

The SACD Standard from Krell
Krell Industries previewed their SACD Standard player at the CES show in January in Las Vegas. The SACD Standard is a Multichannel/Stereo SACD disc player that is designed in look and function as a companion piece to the firm’s DVD Standard DVD Video player.

During CES, the player received a lot of attention due to its relatively low price ($3,999) for a high resolution audio player from a high end audio firm. Other high end firms at CES were introducing such players for prices in the $7,000 – $12,000 price range.

Krell says that their new SACD Standard player is noteworthy for its high quality enclosure, a “chassis-in-chassis” design that offers “ultra stable disc drive operation” and damping from vibrations. The player also features separate power supplies for the digital and alaong sections, a custom-wound torodial power transformer and regulated power supplies that offer “maximum dynamic impact” on playback. It offers a 2 Channel balanced output for Stereo playback as well as a 6 Channel unbalanced output for Multichannel playback.

Commenting on the circuitry of the SACD Standard, Krell CEO and Chief Designer Dan D’ Agostino says

“For years, we have realized the benefit of circuits with the capability to perform in the upper reaches of the audible spectrum. We understand how much the information above 20 kHz contributes to the vitality and impact in music reproduction. A typical Krell current mode preamp has a usable bandwidth that exceeds 1 MHz. This approach allows us to make a circuit with very low distortion, and that is phase-coherent all the way up to 100Khz. The Krell Current Mode output stage transmits every bit of detail available from the SACD format, while a new multi-channel output brings the exciting musical perspective of six-channel sound to a Krell source.”

As to Krell’s interest in the SACD format, D’ Agostino said

“The SACD Standard marries the Krell high bandwidth, high dynamic-range approach to circuit design to the Super Audio CD platform. SACD and Krell are a perfect fit. Krell components have always been sought after because of their ability to convey more of the source material to the listener. As a source, SACD offers more information, more music, plus it is a music only platform. We favored this format from the outset because, like Krell, SACD is focused on advancing the art of music playback. Our Current Mode circuit architecture is tailor made for the extended bandwidth capabilities of SACD. I firmly believe that SACD has the potential to improve the sound of every Krell customer’s system worldwide. Our new SACD Standard marks an exciting time for Krell source components.”

At CES, the SACD Standard was part of a static display, so I was unable to audition the player’s performance. But it does look to be a product that Krell owners and SACD fans will want to audition – both for its features and price.

The SACD Standard will be available in both black and silver metal finishes. It will start appearing in dealer showrooms for auditions in June.

Linn Products Releases the Unidisk 1.1 “Universal” Player
Linn Products calls their new Unidisk 1.1 player a “true convergence” product that offers “pitch accurate source component and unites a comprehensive range of disc formats”. The optical disc formats that the Unidisk 1.1 is designed to play include
two-channel and multi-channel Super Audio CD (SACD), CD, DVD-Video and DVD-Audio (DVD-A). The Unidisk 1.1 is designed to automatically recognize, configure audio and video and then optimize playback of all of these formats on the fly.

The player features a variety of video outputs including Progressive Scan, Interlaced, Component and DVI incorporating HDCP encryption. All of the video outputs are said to carry a constant signal which Linn says will allow the user to have “concurrent use of several video playback devices”. This is in addition to the Unidisk’s ability to playback optical discs with both stereo and multichannel audio.

According to Linn “The Unidisk 1.1 player is an integrated universal digital disc player that establishes the highest sonic and video standards and delivers universal disc recognition and precise processing for all major optical digital disc formats. Combining unsurpassed sound and picture quality with simplicity of use, the Unidisk 1.1 player is, in the unique tradition of Linn source products, engineered to deliver compelling levels of audio and video involvement regardless of format. The Unidisk 1.1 player is a ‘true convergence’ source product for genuine reference quality music and theatre applications designed to satisfy the most discerning music and movie enthusiast. This no compromise solution delivers the best possible audio and video performance; indeed, standard CD sonic performance approaches that of the acclaimed Sondek CD 12.”

At CES, I was able to audition an early prototype of the Unidisk 1.1 player with a group of listeners that included Lon Neumann from the Sony SACD Project’s facility in Hollywood. In the demo, Linn played a Stereo CD, a DVD Video Disc, a DVD Audio Disc (“You’re The One” by Paul Simon) and two selections from a Multichannel SACD (“Grace” by the Broadway Inspirational Singers). The player performed as advertised, automatically detecting and switching modes as the type of optical disc placed in the player’s tray changed.

The Unidisk 1.1 player is now available in a choice of black or sliver finish. The list price of the Unidisk 1.1 in the United States market will be $11,000.