In the January 2009 edition of Dagogo I reviewed the Lindemann 820S, which was then Lindemann’s flagship disc player. Priced at $21,700, the 820S played SACD’s and incorporated a volume control so you could connect the 820S directly to a power amp. It also had four digital inputs and two digital outputs, which made it a versatile digital control center allowing you to use other disc transports and connect to computer audio. At the time of that review I was not yet comfortable with computer audio, so I never took advantage of the 820S’s digital inputs or outputs during the review, and never got to properly evaluate the 820S’s capabilities as a free-standing 24/192 DAC. Despite this limitation, I gave the 820S a very enthusiastic thumbs up just based on its performance as a traditional CD player.
Lindemann introduced its new 825 in November of 2010. I was busy with other things and didn’t really pay attention until mid-2011 after reading press releases and an initial review. Two things piqued my interest. The first was the claim that a new design approach enables the 825, which cannot play SACDs, to sound better than the 820S playing SACDs. The second was the fact that the new flagship 825 cost $9,000 less than the old flagship 820S. Better performance for a lower price is the essence of economic progress!
As it turned out, I heard an all-Lindemann system that included the 825 at the 2011 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. At that time I was also able to spend some quality time discussing the technology behind the 825 with Norbert Lindemann himself. Norbert is obviously very passionate and very knowledgeable about audio, and his enthusiasm definitely rubbed off on me. I asked about doing a review, and a couple months later received the unit that is the subject of this article.
I received the Lindemann 825 at a very opportune time. I had recently completed an extended period of listening to the Linn Akurate DS in several systems, including a complete Linn Aktive system. Moreover, I own the battery-operated Lessloss DAC 2004 and had just recently acquired an MBL 1611 that had been upgraded with the F board and included volume control and analog inputs. Furthermore, during the review period I received for review the fabulous new Pass Labs XP-30 preamp, which was perfect to use in comparing multiple DACs. Finally, I have been auditioning the Lessloss Anchorwave interconnect system, which has the best bass of any interconnect I’ve heard, with the possible exception of the Tara Labs Zero Gold. As a result, I was able to directly compare three top DACs against each other using multiple interconnect sets and multiple preamps. (It’s amazing that I ever went to work!)
The rest of the system consisted of my modded Qsonic 105 Music Server, Empirical Audio Pacecar reclocker and Monolith battery supply, Wadia i171 with iPad 2, Electrocompaniet Nemo and Nada monoblock amps, B&W 800D speakers, along with Lessloss DFPC Signature power cords and Firewall power conditioners, Aural Symphonics’ Echelon Digital cable and Chrono interconnects, Silent Source Silver Signature speaker cable, and various Walker Audio tweaks.
Appearance, Features and Operation
The 825 comes with the Lindemann 800 Universal Power Supply, a very nice upgraded power cord, remote, a USB cable, a CD with drivers to enable operation via USB to your computer, and the manual. I thought the silver and black looked quite elegant when combined with the clean lines and aesthetic design. Because the 825 is powered by a separate power pack with a 1 meter cord, you can place the power pack well out of sight away from the main unit. The outboard power pack contains the transformers, which feed the 825’s two power supplies that deliver 12 volts each. (As a side note, I was very pleased to see the external power pack, since in my experience, with the exception of battery-operated units, front ends with outboard power supplies generally sound better.)
The setup and basic operation of the Lindemann 825 as a CD player is very simple and intuitive. Connect the 825’s outputs to your preamp, connect the Lindemann 800 Universal Power Supply, connect the power cord to an outlet, insert and play a disc. The Lindemann 825’s transport section operated very smoothly and reliably throughout the review period and its performance compared very favorably to that of separate high end transports.
To use the 825 as an outboard DAC for a transport or computer with a built-in SPDIF digital output, simply connect a digital cable between the transport’s outputs and one of the 825’s digital inputs and then press the “Source” button until the display shows the input you connected to. Just as when it was used as a traditional CD player, the 825 played everything that my modded Qsonix and my Wadia i171/iPad2 threw at it without any hesitation or glitch, be it a 16/44.1 file or hi-res file via the Qsonix, or internet radio, DirectTV or other brews via the iPad2/Wadia i171.
For an USB connection to a computer you will need to load a driver supplied on the CD that comes with the 825, but the instructions were simple and the process worked perfectly. (Of course, you need to have a player, such as J. River Media Center or iTunes on the computer to play the music.) I had no trouble playing any of the music on my Windows 7-based PC.
There are three SPDIF digital inputs – two RCAs and one TOSLINK. There is also the USB input for connecting to the USB of a computer. All of these inputs accept signals with sample rates of 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192 with 16 and 24 bit resolution. Not all high-end DACs accept 176.4/192 sample rates, even though this ability is now becoming standard in DACs.
The Lindemann 825 also sports two digital outputs, one RCA and one TOSLINK. The 825’s DAC is quite good, and you’d have to I have a heck of an outboard DAC to beat it, but having the option is great. More likely, however, you may have an external signal processor to connect to the “Input Slope.”
The Input Slope is a wonderful feature which acts as an external processor loop. You connect one of the digital outputs to the input of a digital room correction processor, and then connect the output of that room correction device to the Input Slope. (Note that your external processor will need to be able to accept 24/96 data, for reasons described below.)
I should also note that the Lindemann 825 is an HDCD player, which is great because I have many HDCDs, and the HDCD feature allows Redbook CDs to be heard at their best when played on the 825. HDCD has faded into the background as hires files have become available, but there is no question that HDCD discs sound better than standard Redbook and the HDCD feature is very welcome to folks like me.
The more advanced setup options of the Lindemann 825 are accessed through the 825’s menu system. The menu lets you control the brightness of the display, designate the digital inputs, configure Slope Mode for an external processor and manipulate the upsampling.
Upsampling in the 825 is set to Auto by default. Incoming data that are lower than 96kHz/24-bit are upsampled to 24/96. You can also choose the “Native” option if you don’t want the signal upsampled. After that, the 825’s Wolfson SPDIF receiver reduces the timing jitter of input data to 50 picoseconds, which is really, really low.
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