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Line Magnetic LM-215CD CD Player Review

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The LM-215CD is not a paper over the cracks product so if you’re looking for a tube CD player to dim a bright system it’s not the player for you.  It is a quality player and if you stick it in a bright system you’re going to get a bright sound.  I have had the opportunity to use this CD player with several integrated amps: the Solid State Roksan Kandy integrate amplifier, Audio Space Mini-2SE EL34 based integrated amplifier, the Audio Note I Zero integrated, King Rex and Trends Audio Class T amplifiers and Line Magnetic’s 219IA and 211 integrated amps.  I also used it with a variety of loudspeakers including the Audio Note AX Two, Audio Space LS-3/5a, Roksan TR-5, ATC SCM 150, and Zu Audio Essence.

The LM-215CD player presents the dark velvety textured sound when used with the superb Audio Note I Zero amplifier; a brighter presentation with the Roksan and Audio Space amplifiers; and a tell it like it is quality with the ATC-SCM 150 loudspeakers which is exactly as it should be with ATC speakers.

I appreciate the fact that for the most part the CD player doesn’t stamp a character on the system it is placed in.   Some players (as well as other components) have a personality that overrides everything else.  In a way my title “A Magnetic Personality” is more than an attempt at a cute name but rather, to impart a sense that the player attaches itself to the sound of your system good or ill and gets out of the way for the most part.  At $1500 it’s a player with little to no sonic nits to pick.  If I had to pin down a character it I suppose it would be that it has an upbeat open personality over a brooding dark sort.  Indeed, not what one traditionally expects from a tube CD player.  The tube perhaps rounds off upper frequencies but not to a degree that frankly is all that noticeable.  This player is bolder, more upbeat and open (fast) than my solid state CD players from Cambridge Audio and Sony.

Perhaps you could adjust the flavor of the CD player to make it darker and add some lushness via tube rolling if you were so inclined but I haven’t felt the need to do so.  However the option is there and if you don’t like the new tube you can always switch back.  These are some of the advantages tube CD player owners have – you’re not stuck with a one size fits all presentation.

Opposites Attract

Die hard vinyl guys hate CD largely I suspect because they tend to hate that digital homogeneous  sound and the seeming artifice the technology creates.  I find that the Non Oversampling Tube CD players from Audio Note go a long way to combat the problem but there is a need for audiophiles on normal living wages to be able to listen to music all day without becoming disinterested and fatigued with affordable CD replay.  For those of us in this camp the LM 215CD is one of these good ones.

Further, I would argue it can be very suitable for more well heeled vinylphiles who want good sounding (more analog sounding) CD player and more than just background noise performance but who don’t want to invest too heavily in it (in order to spend more on their vinyl rigs) — a CD player that can attract vinylphiles who can’t afford Audio Note price tags.

Flash and Substance

A lot of Chinese made CD players in Hong Kong are all about flash.  They’re feature-loaded and have beautiful (or tacky depending on your bent) casework with tubes and lights and every connection option under the sun.  All of this is fine if it sounds good – some of you may remember Shanling.  But often the money seems to have been put in the casework and the flashing lights.

Line Magnetic is the antithesis to all of this.  Simple, direct, old school, and to the point.  Being lovers of Western Electric equipment from amps to loudspeakers including and of special note the LM 755i Field Coil speakers that Jack Roberts not long ago reviewed here ( it is clear that Line Magnetic is looking back to a time where music replay was the goal and building products that people were proud to own was something that mattered —  not just about winning beauty contests.  This is evident with their one and only CD player as it is with what I have seen and heard from their amplifiers and speakers.

Line Magnetic is a company well worth looking out for in your travels.   Jonathan Halpern of Tone Imports is the U.S importer of Shindo Laboratories and I asked him how he discovered Line Magnetic.  He replied

“I discovered Line Magnetic while searching for sources of Western Electric 555’s. Some of the story is within this web page from Auditorium 23:

Keith Aschenbrenner and I loved the 555 privately. We were experimenting and dreaming of a day when we could somehow replicate them. With lots of internet searching, I stumbled on Line Magnetic’s Chinese webpage. I contacted them and the rest is history. The Silver Series is something that came much later. I first began contact to Line Magnetic in April or May of 2010.”

This is a line of products with impressive build quality and sound quality to match.  They are very likely as close as you will probably find to the traditional Western Electric sound and aesthetic as there is in the industry today; a re-envisioning of a brand, Western Electric, that Line Magnetic’ founders obviously love and believe in.  The LM-215CD of course isn’t such a device since there were no CD players back in the days of Western Electric.  Nevertheless, it shares a sonic and visual aesthetic  to that of Line Magnetics’ other products and is just a terrific CD player for those audiophiles who are after substance over flash.  I have enjoyed this player for over a year now and it is especially easy, therefore, to recommend.

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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