Went to the TAVES show in Toronto a few weeks ago and got my first opportunity to listen to some Line Magnetic components, which proved to be quite the experience and had me again pondering the strange mystique around Western Electric components and design.
Coup de Foudre audio was there from Montreal and had on audition the Line Magnetic LM 518IA 845 integrated amp & LM755i speakers. I never got to hear the CD player in the room as we kept jumping from LP to LP so all the music I heard was served up from a Clearaudio Innovation Compact turntable/EMT cartridge and a Leben phono preamp.
The room had an air of chaos about it (as seen in the above pic on 6moons) but this had to be one of the most engaging and enjoyable times I’ve spent in a regular show-hours listening room. Graeme would ask what kind of music I’d like to hear next, jump from disk to disk to zero-in on specific aspects of the sound we were discussing or just step back and let me take it in in closed-eyed bliss – a lot like how it goes when you have friends over for a listen. This is the kind of dealer I love and the kind of salesmanship that got me hooked on certain aspects of high-end audio all those years ago. Pretty cool to experience this at an audio show and it’s a good thing Coup de Foudre is far away from me – my audio budget couldn’t take this on a regular basis.
I was intrigued by these speakers as I first thought they used Western Electric full-range drivers – they looked exactly like the Altec/WE 755 drivers I had at home for a while. I’ve since learned they are a field-coil take on the 755 design by Line Magnetic in a unique, beautifully built, retro-look cabinet that seem to mate extremely well with the 518IA 845 SET (also a very attractive piece with a real sense of solid build quality about it).
I don’t know what to make of the components individually but when viewed as a ‘system’, I was mightily impressed. There was an incredible sense of realism here with a mix of immediacy and detail along with big tone and the illusion of real instruments and humans in the room – the kind of presence that sucks you into the recording and lets you forget about the equipment and everything else for that matter.
Price was around $15k for the speakers and amp and I bet objective evaluation would be a little disappointing as the LM755is seamed soft on top and don’t go very low – but I honestly liked this system overall better than almost all the other systems I heard there, and many where much more expensive. Want to hear DSOTM with the bass & volume pounding your body into submission? That was there in other rooms, but if inclined to sink into a chair and be transported to a good seat up front in a cozy bar for some great acoustic jazz – this Line Magnetic system delivered.
So again I get a little confirmation that there might be something to the WE worship thing and understand a little more the fringe Japanese/Asian obsession with SET based systems and antique gear from America’s past. I keep ‘getting it’ when I listen to a WE91 circuit or a simple 2A3 build, maybe a pair WE300Bs or some crusty old alnico Altec speakers – now I can add 755s to that list. This really makes me sorry I never bothered to stick those Altec 755s into cabinets for a listen when they sat at home for all that time!
The LM755is are ultimately not for me as their compromises aren’t something I could live with overall but that LM 518IA; well, maybe…(I can dream). I sure was impressed by Line Magnetic and if searching out new equipment – LM (and Coup de Foudre) is probably where I’d end up.From 6moons:The Coup de Foudre room was equally musical. Graeme Humfrey and Jennifer Cytrynbaum of CdF were on hand to showcase several products that punch well above their weight. Coup de Foudre is a major Montreal retailer and Canada’s leading source for Shindo, Leben, Line Magnetic and other premier brands. This room featured the Line Magnetic LM 755i field-coil speakers ($8’995 including separate 300B-based power supplies to power the speaker magnets). These gorgeously crafted loudspeakers owe their pedigree to vintage Western Electric cabinets and the venerable WE 755A drivers but the LMs use a field coil, not alnico magnets. CdF drove these eminently musical transducers with the versatile Line Magnetic 518IA integrated amplifier which I own. They played some of the best music of the show in their small room, mostly blues and jazz. Again you can see my preference for wooden not aluminium boxes that breathe like real instruments. The LM speakers are big but they weigh only about 65 pounds.
The LM single drivers are smooth and coherent and sounded far better than any other such speaker at TAVES. They kept their composure when pushed hard. One of the marks of a successful room is the length of time listeners stay seated. If they get up mid-song and leave, that’s usually a bad sign. The LM speakers took hold of many a listener and refused to let go for many a song. An entire side of an LP was a typical session for many, including myself.
The sound was very much like the Harbeth room – sweet, round, full, with a pulsing beat. Toe-tapping fatigue-free musicality it was but with all the power and dynamic swings one could hope for. A large full soundstage with no congestion. The Line Magnetic amplifier using the 845 output tube can shock those who have not been forewarned. It is one sweet but dynamic beast, capable of waking up the neighbours. And it can help to achieve the full Copperfield Effect as the speakers disappear magically and put nothing but music free of hifi artifice before your ears. I have always wanted to like big Tannoys but have never quite ‘gotten’ the sound, perhaps because I have never heard them in a large enough room. I made an immediate connection with the Line Magnetic LM 755i powered by its stable mate amplifier. It’s the best of both worlds, power and finesse. This room never offended the senses and in fact it did nothing but slake my thirst for sweet aural ambrosia.