Model 10 Multichannel
and longevity are two concepts rarely associated with home-theater products.
Numerous choices and constantly changing technologies can make building a high-performance
home-theater system confusing and expensive, but reducing the number of components can
help alleviate sticker shock. For instance, you dont necessarily need to buy that
expensive processor or receiver for decoding audio -- many moderately priced DVD players
come equipped with full 5.1-channel decoding of DTS and Dolby Digital audio signals.
Price: $4200 USD
Dimensions: 18"W x 7.25"H x 16"D
Weight: 65 pounds
Warranty: Three years parts and labor
- Six two-channel RCA inputs
- 5.1-channel input
- No capacitors in signal path
- No overall feedback used in circuitry
- Capable of driving low-impedance loudspeakers
- Extremely stable under capacitive load
- Advanced soft-start circuit to limit noise or damage when
- DC voltage protection circuit to prevent damage to speakers
- Fully complementary design from input to output
- Dual 750VA custom-made toroidal transformers
- Matched JFET input transistors
- Remote control
Although few, there are options when it comes to amplifying
a DVD players 5.1 output. You can purchase a separate multichannel preamp such as
McCormack Audios MAP-1 and a companion multichannel amplifier such as Audio Research
Corporations 150M.5, or you can set your sights on a more cost-effective solution --
such as Linar Audios new Model 10 multichannel integrated amplifier ($4200).
The face of simplicity, built for the long haul
Victor Sima, founder of
Simaudio Ltd. and now owner of Linar Audio, designed the Linar Model 10 as a high-value
component. The 10 is attractive in a minimalist, industrial-design sort of way -- a
reminder of Simas enduring philosophy of putting performance before appearance. The
10s chassis construction and interconnectivity benefit from the tight assembly of
carefully chosen parts, including robust, all-metal, five-way speaker binding posts and
heavy-duty RCA jacks for multichannel and CD inputs and, to keep costs down, standard,
circuit-board-mounted RCAs for the less critical Tuner, Tape, and Aux 2 inputs.
Apart from its high-quality connections, its the
Linar 10s 65 pounds that suggest the presence of something special beneath its
antimagnetic skin -- this integrated amplifier packs five channels of 120W amplification
into its single chassis. Two 750VA transformers and a bank of capacitors totaling
120,000µF comprise a power supply that Victor Sima alleges can easily drive all
capacitive and complex loads. At first I thought the 10s power supply worked
similarly to that of the Anthem MCA 50 multichannel amplifier: one transformer handling
the front two channels while the other drives the center and rears. But it turns out that
Sima uses two transformers for managing space inside the Model 10s tight enclosure.
In application, the transformers are wired in series to perform as a single 1500VA toroid.
Sima designed the power supply to redirect all of its capability to any channel that needs
it -- this design choice enables the 10 to drive all but the largest speakers with
All Sima designs have large, stable power supplies, but
youd be wrong to assume that the Linar Model 10 is simply a reworking of a current
Simaudio amp. Sima is quick to point out that the Linar 10 is a completely new design that
is the result of almost five years of prototyping and listening. JFETs on the input feed
output MOSFETs via fully complementary, DC-coupled circuit paths. Negative feedback is
eschewed, and each of the Model 10s five channels uses the same high-quality parts.
Sima claims that this configuration, along with his secret recipe of handpicked MOSFETs,
gives the 10 a liquid, glare-free, non-transistory sound.
My main reservations about the Linar 10s design
concerned its preamplifier section and digital volume control. A preamplifier is a
separate circuit with variable gain, which can boost the relatively weak output of a
source component so that theres enough oomph to drive the input of an
amplifier. Music and movies can sound compressed and dull if the amplifiers input
isnt driven adequately. At first I believed the 10 used a digital volume control.
Was this an inexpensive digital attenuator that might add noise to the signal? My concerns
were allayed when Victor Sima described how the volume control actually works. The Linar
10 does not use a preamplifier section; instead, the digital volume control directly
adjusts the amplifiers output gain. According to Sima, omitting the preamp reduces
the noise floor, which increases the 10s overall dynamic range.
There was nothing physically difficult about setting up the
Linar 10. Theres plenty of room on the rear panel to plant cables, and I found the
stout binding posts easy to tighten without tools. Still, some of the 10s settings
differ from what you may be accustomed to. Unlike many surround-sound products, the
individual channels of a surround array cant be calibrated via the Linar 10, which
offers only three choices of speaker level: fronts, rears, and subwoofer. Victor Sima
expects customers to make individual channel adjustments via their DVD player and overall
balance among the fronts, rears, and subs via the Linar 10. This proved logical and easily
I had one issue with the remote control. The Rear Volume
button toggles between the rear and subwoofer volume levels. The problem is that its
placed directly below the main volume controls. I often accidentally hit the Rear Volume
instead of the overall Volume button, unintentionally adjusting the rear or sub level
instead of the system volume. Compounding the issue is the Linar 10s painfully
sparse display, which isnt the easiest to read at a distance and offers for volume
level only a hash-marked bar, not a numerical readout. Initial setup and adjustments
require using a sound-pressure-level meter. I would rather see a display with a numerical
readout and a remote control whose Rear Volume button was in a safer position.
Simply wonderful sound
Linar recommends a break-in period of 200 hours. Victor
Sima points out that until they settle in, the Model 10s sensitive electrical
components cause nonlinearity in the delivery of voltage and current. I dont
necessarily believe in long break-ins, but I heeded the warning and let the 10 settle in
for a week before doing any serious listening. The only anomaly I experienced during my
evaluation was a gentle turn-on thump on first powering up the Linar 10. Sima
recommends leaving the amplifier on at all times to keep its circuits stabilized.
The soundtrack of Black Hawk Down will plunk you
down in the middle of the action if your equipment is up to the task, and it demonstrated
the Model 10s considerable muscle and grace. The bass in chapters 9 and 10 emerged
from my Thiel CS2.4 speakers with both weight and nimbleness, while destructive weaponry
cut through the air effortlessly. The Model 10 reproduced complexly layered Foley and
sound effects with unrestrained ease. There was never a moment when sounds were smeared or
bunched together -- every spent artillery shell clearly stood out against the mêlée of
close-proximity combat and overlapping dialogue. The Model 10s nonexistent noise
floor can take a lot of the credit for its amazing resolution. Many amplifiers Ive
auditioned always seemed to produce a little noise or an annoying hum through the
speakers. The Linar exhibited neither, even when I placed my ear right up against my Thiel
CS2.4s extremely revealing drivers.
A home-theater component should find an enjoyable balance
between transparency and restraint, but solid-state amplifiers with the Linars
crisp, open quality run the risk of sounding uncomfortably bright, or of ruining the show
by letting through too many of a recordings flaws. Action films are typically mixed
hot, which adds edge and sizzle to the clang of swords or plosive sounds. Chapters 3 and 5
of the fun but brainless Van Helsing include some sonically strident scenes; the
Linar 10 added a touch of sugar to the shrieks of airborne bloodsuckers as Draculas
brides attack an unsuspecting village.
Despite its modest claimed output of 120Wpc, the Linar came
across as an incredibly powerful amplifier. Several scenes in the extremely well-produced Hellboy
will test any amplifier, alternating as they do between silence and earth-shaking
destruction. The Linar really strutted its stuff in chapter 2, "Closing the
Portal," and chapter 22, "Something Big." Each scene was startling in
Music-only recordings were reproduced with just as much
enjoyment. Tony Banks Seven: A Suite for Orchestra, performed by Mike Dixon
and the London Philharmonic [Naxos 8.557466], sounds stunning when given the appropriate
amount of power and finesse. The fourth movement, The Ram, showcases a recursive
string motif that pulls you right in, and sparkling percussion that can have an edgy sound
through less-refined equipment. The Linar 10s fantastic high-frequency reproduction
did a remarkable job of keeping things under control with just a hint of harmonic
sweetness, and bass control never wavered, even in the most demanding passages. Robert
Shaws bombastic rendition of Orffs Carmina Burana [Telarc CD-80056]
took hold of my Thiel CS2.4s with authority.
Together, Audio Researchs MP1 multichannel
preamplifier and 150M.5 multichannel amplifier produce a sound that is liquid, powerful,
and alluring. I love the ARC combo, especially the 150M.5. Still, $14,500 for the pair is
expensive; the Linar makes a compelling argument for pocketing $10,000 and saving some
shelf space in the deal.
The qualities of construction of the ARC pair and the Linar
10 are comparable. Both sport well-finished, heavy-gauge boxes made entirely of aluminum
and secured using machine screws instead of less-expensive sheet-metal screws. Each ARC
product uses much-higher-quality switchgear and an impressive vacuum-fluorescent display,
while the Linars display and silver buttons look as if pulled from the same parts
bin as my cell phones. The binding posts on these products differ but are both of
extremely high quality.
In terms of circuit design, however, the two are at
opposite ends of the playing field. The 150M.5s digital amplifier design is based on
the popular Tripath Technologies class-T Digital Power Processing (DPP) semiconductor,
while the Linars amplifier is based on traditional class-A/B design principles with
Victor Simas own modifications and well-protected parts recipe. Both are reported by
their manufacturers as being unconditionally stable into the most demanding speaker loads.
ARCs MP1 preamplifier has no direct counterpart in
the Linar. The MP1 does use a class-A circuit to (reportedly) minimize distortion; the
Linar sidesteps a preamplifier section altogether by directly adjusting the
amplifiers output gain.
In terms of cost, the ARC combo requires five cables
(balanced for best performance) to connect the 150M.5 to the MP1. I used ARCs own
brand of balanced interconnects, which cost about $300 per 2m pair, or $750 for a
five-channel system. Because the Linar 10 adjusts gain internally, there is no need for
interconnects other than those from the DVD player.
Sound quality is where the major similarities converge. I
listened to the ARC combo for quite a while before replacing it with the Linar Model 10.
Once installed, the Linar immediately impressed me with its bass extension and delicate
high frequencies. The Linar presented a more controlled and bottomless low end to my ear
and backside, while the ARC favored a bit more warmth. The high-frequency performances of
the two sounded very similar. Whether it was the subtle mechanical sounds in chapter 22 of
Hellboy or the layered Foley effects in Blade 2, both captivated me with the
amount of inner detail and sophistication they were able to let through from any
The midrange was where they differed. The ARC combo
exhibited a bit more forwardness and bloom, while the Linar sounded slightly more
reserved. And a comparison of the noise levels was no comparison at all: the Linar clearly
won out when compared to the slight but readily apparent hiss of the ARC combo.
Simplicity isnt easy to accomplish
What Victor Sima has done with the Linar Model 10 is
astonishing -- at $4200, the Model 10 multichannel integrated amplifier has to be one of
the greatest values in audio. Its hard enough to find a processor that sounds good
with music, much less an amplifier to go with it, all for $4200. With the Model 10, all
you need is a top-flight DVD player for out-of-this-world home-theater sound. The Model 10
is a high-value component bred from an impressive bloodline, and the next great product
for audiophiles looking to make their lives a bit simpler.
|Speakers - Thiel CS2.4
(mains), MCS1 (center), PowerPoint (surrounds), SS2 (subwoofer)
- McCormack MAP-1, Audio Research MP1
|Amplifier - Audio Research
- Esoteric DV-50, Panasonic DVD-RP82S, Denon DVD-2900, Simaudio Moon Orbital universal A/V
players; Arcam FMJ DVD-27A DVD player
|Cables - Analysis Plus,
- Mitsubishi WT-46809 rear-projection widescreen monitor with Duvetyne modification and
full ISF calibration
|Power Conditioning -
Panamax, Shunyata Research