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Line Magnetic LM-215CD CD Player Review

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Line Magnetic LM-215CD CD Player

A Magnetic Personality

Line Magnetic is a relatively new brand to North America but have been in business in China restoring Western Electric tube amplifiers and serving as an OEM for a number of brands for many years.  I became interested in Line Magnetic after auditioning their stunning LM 219Ia integrated amplifier driving ATC SCM 150 and Zu Audio Essence Loudspeakers.  The LM 219Ia is a 24 watt SET amplifier employing 845 output tubes, 300B driver tubes, 310Input tubes, and 12AX7s for preamps duties and I liked the powerful yet nuanced sound it put out. (Review of the 219IA coming).

Having moved to Hong Kong I made it a point to purchase an entry level system.  Not knowing if I would like Hong Kong and the contract being just two years I didn’t want to invest too heavily in a system.  With much of my CD collection making the trip I needed a CD player.  After several sessions I elected to purchase the LM CD-215 based largely on the fact that I enjoyed the overall experience listening to music through this player.  Having lived with the player for a year I am still very happy with the results.

Why did it take a year to write the review?  Well the main reason was that that U.S. Line Magnetic dealers were only carrying the amplifiers.  They were not seriously considering the notion of bringing in a CD player in an age where CD player sales are dying off in favor of computer audio.  That has changed as Tone Imports began importing the CD player and sending them out to their dealers.

The LM-215CD is not a feature riddled CD player – it plays CDs and doesn’t pull double duty as a USB/DAC, and connections are limited to RCA inputs, one Digital Optical output and one S/PDIF output.  It uses a single 12AU7 tube (which the dealer here keeps telling me to roll), a Burr-Brown PCM 1792 DA Converter Chip (24Bit/192Khz) and an OPA2604 op amp with a Sony transport mechanism.

The LM 215 CD player has a nice easy to read red display along with a blue warm up light – when the light turns off it is ready to play (about 15 seconds).  There are a 5 buttons on the front:  Power, Stop/Open, Play/Pause, and skip forward and back.  And that’s it!  The solid toe breaking  metal remote control has those same buttons (except power) but adds repeat, time, and number buttons for direct access to songs.  It doesn’t get much more ordinary than this.

The remote requires a Philips screwdriver to remove the back metal plate in order to replace the batteries.  Probably overkill but it seems to me that Chinese brands like Line Magnetic are working hard to reverse an image that their stuff isn’t built well.  Besides, if you have a few of these products and their remotes around and you have speakers that sound better with those weight pucks you could use these remotes instead and save yourself a bunch of cash.  I also appreciate the fact that the remote control is an aesthetic match to the CD player and not some flimsy black remote that looks like it was made for a completely different product.

A Magnetic  Sound

Audiophiles like to read reviews that slice and dice components into sonic aspects.  How big is the soundstage?  What’s the bass like?  Is the treble rolled off?  All I suppose are valid questions but I grow weary reading reviews that reduce music into banal clichés.  I prefer macro level listening to gear – what is the picture I see before me – what is the emotion?  Does it seduce – does it generate an overall sense of correctness – does it sound natural?

A year in and I continue to say yes to all the above.  I have not felt the need to upgrade.  Now let me be clear, it’s not the last word in CD replay.  I  auditioned the $11,700 Audio Note CD 4.1X which provides considerably more foundation (bass and body),  considerably more refined midrange, and is a CD player that can seriously enter the conversation against good, though not elite, vinyl rigs.  Very good CD players in that price realm provide much better transport mechanisms, transformers, caps, etc.  On a track such as The Yellowjackets’ “Wildlife,” the CD4.1x has a bigger 3 dimensional presentation and a sense of space rather than the more 2 dimensional leaner presentation offered up by the LM-215CD .

So you won’t get over the top proclamations from me that the LM-215CD is some kind of giant killer that slaps around the competition.  Well at least not the near $12,000 competition.

What the 215 gets right is the vocal band.  Singers don’t wind up suffering from a CD player added lisp that some players seem to give them.  Horn instruments are vibrant, tactile and there’s lots of life to big band and busy orchestral tracks and the player doesn’t become a jumbled mess.  Noise is very low (inaudible) and instruments are spread out properly across a wide stage.

4 Responses to Line Magnetic LM-215CD CD Player Review

  1. mkanna says:

    Mr. Austen, I’m interested in hearing about the differences between the Audio Note AZ-3’s you mentioned and the Audio Note J’s that you own (or did). I’m considering the AZ-3, or used J’s, if I can find them. I have a small room (11 x 12, with a ceiling that slopes from 8 ft up to 14 ft), so the AN K’s are also in the mix.

  2. Andrew Mackay says:

    Hi again Richard

    Your phrase ‘a CD player that can attract vinylphiles who can’t afford Audio Note price tags’ in this review of the LM 215CD especially caught my eye, as the price of the LM works out at least US$500 cheaper than AN’s entry level one-box player, even taking into account shipping costs (this product is not available in the UK and has to be imported via Tone Imports’ German distributor). I have auditioned the AN CD2.1x/ii at my AN dealer in the UK and it sounded beautiful – but at nearly US$4,000, the entry level AN CDP has had to come onto the radar. Given your great review of the LM CD215, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on whether the entry-level AN is still worth the effort of an audition?

    Best regards


    • Richard Austen says:

      I would still audition the AN CD player – it is ultimately a Non Oversampling CD player and IMO is unique. The AN’s don’t paper over the cracks and you should also consider resale value as part of your cost calculation – The AN may cost $500 more but on the second hand market may fetch you $800 more. You would have to look into those aspects. Another thing would be to consider that the entry level one box players use rather basic transport mechanism – both the LM 215 and the AN units. So on that front both would be about the same – but t me it seems like the DAC would be the better investment whether the 502CA (which I now also own) or any of the AN DACs. You might even consider something like the OPPO 103 for much cheaper and simply use it as a transport to one of the AN DACs. The actual transport mechanism in all of these are nothing particularly special so the bulk of the sound quality IMO is coming from the processing (the DAC) and the OPPO does have the advantage of being able to play SACD. Certainly there are some different avenues here to consider anyway. good luck.

  3. Andrew Mackay says:

    Thanks for the advice, Richard. Plenty of food for thought as always!

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