Lindemann audiotechnik, a boutique brand from Germany, has focused on high-end music replay for the past 20 years. It was one of the world’s first high-end brands to offer an outboard USB-to-S/PDIF converter for connecting a computer to a DAC. And it was also quick off the mark to make a USB-equipped DAC.

Identifying a new trend for ‘downsizing’ complicated audio rigs, it has developed a range of four midi-sized – if expensive – products dubbed Musicbook. Extremely handsome they look too, housed in 6.5mm-thick aluminium cases boasting immaculate fit ’n’ finish and with added-value OLED displays that lend a serious touch of class.

The £3890 Musicbook 25 is a ‘streaming preamp’ with added CD playback functionality. A near-invisible slot-in CD mechanism sits above the front panel’s display screen. All four Musicbook front ends are identically equipped with four digital inputs for other sources and, being fully-fledged analogue preamplifiers, two single-ended (RCA) analogue inputs – enough for a phono amplifier and an FM tuner or old tape deck, say. They also feature discrete Class A headphone amplifiers whose volume can be controlled remotely.

You can control almost everything from the minimalist front panel – volume, input, mute the output, stop/eject a CD. But to navigate tracks on a CD you’ll need to use the accompanying rechargeable remote controller – or Lindemann’s Musicbook control app. Lindemann’s free control apps for iOS and Android are of course essential for navigating and playing music files over the network.

Gapless playback is supported with WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC and MP3 files. Streaming 192kHz/24-bit files requires a wired Ethernet connection but this is limited to 96kHz/24-bit via WLAN. Naturally the UPnP/DLNA network player functionality includes access to internet radio stations.

Admirably voiced

We marginally preferred the sound of the Musicbook 25’s CD playback to streaming music via our home network, A/B comparisons revealing a slight muting of dynamic contrasts and softening of transients.

But this preference was turned on its head when listening to hi-res audio files. For example, ‘Oh Daddy’ and ‘The Chain’ from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours [Warner] appeared a smidgen more vivid and vital via CD than playing ripped WAV files pulled from my ‘digital library’ via LAN and rendered by the Musicbook’s network player. But this marginal subjective difference was made irrelevant when streaming the laughably superior 96kHz/24-bit version ripped from a copy of the 2001 DVD-Audio release.

The longer we listened to the Musicbook 25 the more we grew to admire its voicing, its invitingly warm balance and delicate treble: not too smooth or over-sweetened. This meant that the sharp attack of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s evergreen ‘Tin Pan Alley’ from Couldn’t Stand The Weather [Epic Legacy] had plenty of energy, the leading-edge bite of the guitar sharply etched and angry.

Thanks to the player’s smooth and relaxed demeanour female vocals fared particularly well. Alison Krauss’ ‘Paper Airplane’ [Rounder] was a fine exemplar of the Lindemann’s ability to serve up a three-dimensional image, with her voice depicted exquisitely in the deep soundstage.

Skimming through a selection of hi-res recordings confirmed the Musicbook’s compatibility with all sampling rates up to 192kHz. It also showed that it was more than capable of corroborating the benefits of increased resolutions. 

Verdict

The Musicbook 25 sounds highly civilised, with a rich midband and pleasing treble. Considering the build quality, comprehensive functionality and pleasingly compact form, it crafts a pretty esoteric hi-fi experience and is warmly recommended.

Originally published in the 2014 Yearbook