Lindemann 825 High Definition Disc Player

Lindemann Audiotechnik may not be well known to American audiophiles, but that situation is changing rapidly. Well known in Europe since its founding by Norbert Lindemann in 1992, the company has been on the rise since then. Its first products, the AMP1 integrated amp and Box 1 loudspeaker, quickly established a reputation for Lindemann in its Bavarian home market. By the time the AMP2 and AMP3 models were released, Lindemann had built a considerable following among quality-conscious hi-fi enthusiasts and audio journalists.

Norbert Lindemann’s stated philosophy is that ‘Lindemann Audiotechnik is committed to the goal of lifelike music reproduction in the tradition of the high fidelity pioneers of the 1960s’, and to deliver a natural musical performance that ‘conveys the emotion and intimacy of the music performance by reproducing the recording as faithfully as possible.’

Lindemann believes that the optimization of circuit topology and the selection of the highest-quality components is indispensible in the creation of high-end audio equipment: ‘Our experience tells us that genuine, long-term progress can only be achieved through the application of coherent design concepts and an uncompromising—and often purist—approach to their practical implementation.’ While it is understood that measurement is critical in the development of high-quality products, measurements cannot be solely relied upon. At Lindemann (as well as at other respected high-end audio manufacturers), the final voicing of a product is based upon critical listening.

In 1999, Lindemann was one of world’s first manufacturers to introduce a CD player that incorporated upsampling. The CD1 revolutionized the digital market with its ‘analog’ sound. This outstanding CD player, later upgraded to the SE version, gained wide approval in the German hi-fi market, and became Lindemann’s best-selling product.

Since then, Lindemann has released a steady stream of products that now includes the 825 High Definition Disc Player. The 825 offers a wide array of digital interface options. In view of its sophisticated technology, it may be considered an advanced DAC with a CD transport added. One prominent feature of the 825 is its all-metal drawer. The drive itself is based on a DVD laser system (with coated glass lens) that has enjoyed a long and successful track record. The servo board employs a modified DVD servo optimized for CD use. Its most important design feature is the memory buffering of the data, which offers very high tracking accuracy and excellent data quality.

According to Lindemann, the 825 is the world’s first CD player to be equipped with a USB HD-audio interface working in asynchronous mode. It accepts music data up to 24-bit/192kHz. It handles all customary data formats, and is supported by Mac OS X from 10.6.4 and Windows XP/Vista/7. Digital data is processed before it is passed to the D/A converter. In ‘auto mode’, the jitter performance of the data is standardized and converted to the default 24/96 sample rate. Data 24/96 or higher is passed ‘native’, with no further processing.

Lindemann 825 High Definition Disc Player rear panel

Lindemann 825 High Definition Disc Player rear panel

The DAC in the 825 is physically isolated to form a component within a component. Because the player has two discrete power supplies, there are two mains transformer windings. The power supplies are outboard, thereby contributing to the player’s quiet performance. The original linear phase filter has been replaced with a much better sounding minimum phase filter with ‘apodizing behaviour’ — another of this player’s main design features. This filter effectively suppresses time-domain artifacts (including those present in the recording) by replacing the original impulse response with a new one with virtually no pre-ringing. The single-stage, ultra-fast output stage uses current feedback to achieve virtually perfect time-domain behavior. While the circuitry of the 825 seems to be very complicated, in fact it is very simple. Simplicity is a major design goal of all Lindemann products.

Initially I listened to the 825 primarily as a CD player, in several high-resolution systems with which I am very familiar. The question of how it sounds is difficult to answer because it is quite neutral — the sonic attributes that I heard were those of the associated equipment. What I didn’t hear from the 825 was edge, glare, or the ‘digititus’ that often afflicts CD players. The 825 is quite analog-sounding. Its treble is extended and clear. Cymbals are reproduced with the appropriate metallic sheen and shimmer (depending upon the recording). The 825 does not editorialize. Good recordings are a pleasure to experience. Poor recordings are reproduced with all of their warts and blemishes. The 825’s midrange is transparent, and is especially good with female voices. Instrumental timbres are neither overly rich nor lean, but somewhere in between — again, depending upon the recording. Bass response is deep and detailed. I cannot recall hearing any CD player in the 825’s class that goes deeper or with better pitch definition.

While I always found the 825 to be quite neutral, I was struck by its ability to allow an emotional connection to the music. “Layla,” “I Shot The Sheriff,” and “Lay Down Sally” are, in my opinion, three of the most important pieces from master guitarist Eric Clapton’s rock period (The Best Of Eric Clapton, The Millennium Collection, Polydor-078624-02). The Lindemann struck an excellent balance between clarity, detail, and tonal balance that at once provided the timbral weight of the guitar and the leading edge attack of the notes, underscoring Clapton’s highly articulate playing.

John Coltrane is another of my favorite artists. Two of my favorite songs of the many that he recorded are ‘Blue Train’ from Blue Train (Blue Note-CDP7243853428 06) and ‘Equinox; from Coltrane’s Sound (Atlantic Jazz-1419-2). These two recordings demonstrated the fact that the Lindemann’s resolving power can be a double-edged sword. Blue Train is a good recording, and the 825 allowed its sonic virtues to come through clearly. The dimensionality of the soundstage was evident, though restricted by the limitations of the recording studio, yet the musicians still seem to be in the room. The rich tone of Coltrane’s tenor sax when he played in the lower registers sounded just right. The other sonic colors that he painted were palpable. Curtis Fuller’s trombone had that full, brassy sound, with the rest of the band standing out as well. On the other hand, Equinox, while a classic Coltrane piece that was cutting-edge before he moved on to really push the boundaries of his music, is not a great-sounding recording, and the 825 revealed its flaws ruthlessly. McCoy Tyner’s piano sounded muffled and compressed. The bass was somewhat thick, and lacking in pitch definition. While the music overcame the shortcomings of the recording, the 825 didn’t cover up its faults.

I am somewhat behind the curve when it comes to computer-based music, though I am working to overcome this. The 825’s world-class DAC provided me with an opportunity to directly compare the CDs I’d auditioned using the players transport against the same tunes ripped to a hard drive and played back using a computer as my digital source. I listened to a number of recordings on a MacBook Pro running Channel D’s Pure Music, connected via AudioQuest’s Diamond USB cable to the 825’s USB2 input. I listened to the same tracks I had heard on CD, then played the same track (ripped as a digital file) through my MacBook Pro, and they were indistinguishable; though music through the MacBook Pro seemed a bit more textured and detailed. In both cases, the music displayed exceptional rhythm and pace.

Given the number of inputs and outputs the 825 makes available (TOSLINK input, USB 2 (XMOS) input, two S/PDIF inputs, & an S/PDIF digital input (RCA) / DSP-loop, along with TOSLINK, balanced, and RCA outputs), it is better to consider the 825 as a superb DAC that includes an excellent transport. The Lindemann 825 is an intelligently designed, extremely well built component that offers excellent sonic performance. Its $12,500 asking price is not unreasonable, given its cutting-edge technology, build quality, and — most importantly — its sound (or lack of same). You may not have heard of this player, or of Lindemann, but keep your ears out for a big sound from this quiet company.

Further information: Lindemann Audiotechnik