High End HiFi Streamer with *STYLE* !? Lindemann Musicbook Source REVIEW
Lindemann from Germany have been making HiFi components for over 28 years and you can see this experience with their MusicBook Source which is not only ultra modern it makes a pretty strong argument for itself that its all one would ever need.
When it comes to style beauty is naturally in the eye of the beholder, but some products stand out and the Lindemann Musicbook Source is a lovely very modern looking HiFi component. With its simple elegance it could have easily come off of the shelf in Ikea and this is a nice change from a lot of the very industrial looking designs we see across the HiFi market.
Its shape and overall form factor with its nice curves and subtle accents are all possible because the chassis is milled from one solid piece of aluminium and that is not something you see very often, especially not at this price point. Build quality is also fantastic, the power on and off switch feels ultra-premium as does the volume control wheel.
The only slight disappointment is you might think the whole black section on the front is going to be some huge amazing screen and you don’t get that, that’s probably an expectation too far. The screen is a clear and bright OLED display that is nice and crisp and the choice of yellow I assume is a Lindemann branding thing and it takes a little getting used to, but is a nice quirky touch.
Overall this is HiFi you will be happy to show off in your home and it will aesthetically fit into every room, every décor especially due to its compact size.
The Musicbook Source may be small but Lindemann have packed a lot of features and flexibility into it. It’s a music streamer or network player as they call it, giving you access to Tidal, Qobuz, Deeza, Spotify Connect, HighRes Audio and its Roon ready. You have access to internet radio and podcasts and I think we expect all of this with any modern music streamer but there is more, the Musicbook runs on Lindemann Streaming 4.0 platform which allows for high resolution music playback up to DSD 256 file playback even over wireless for the majority.
If you look at the rear you can see the Musicbook has both wired and wireless network connections catering to both preferences, it has two digital inputs which could be great for connecting other music generating sources of course, television sources can also be connected to improve the sound by using your HiFi. There is a USB port for attaching USB thumb drives or hard drives with music on them. Interestingly there are three analogue inputs including a moving magnet phono stage so CD players or external DAC use is covered.
There is both single ended and balanced analogue outputs because the Musicbook source features its own digital to analogue conversion circuitry. The DAC uses AKM AK4493 chipset used in a dual mono configuration so there are two DAC chips both fed from a MEMS Femto Clock and you can have all your music up-sampled to 1bit DSD if you choose.
The Pre Amplifier in the Musicbook uses a purely analogue volume control which is very nice and not something you expect as a lot of similar HiFi that offers volume control will do so within the digital domain.
On the front of this model, mostly hidden is a slot loading mechanism for loading and playing CD’s and a not hidden socket for headphones and Lindemann say the headphone output is capable of driving difficult loads like magnetostatics headphones and similar.
This is all pretty cool and very impressive and there are other features such as the Musicbook will find other media on your network to play and this is all controlled via Lindemanns own app – available on both android and ios.
You can choose to buy an additional remote control but I think 99% of non Roon using owners will fully control their Musicbook using the Lindemann app because its brilliant and brilliantly simple.
With the Musicbook connected to your network the Lindemann app find its straight away and then you have an initially basic set of menu options, I like this because its pretty clear and obvious what does what. For connecting wirelessly there is a WPS button for an automated connection, if that doesn’t work then you will need to connect via a network cable initially and connect to the wireless using the network settings in the app.
In the main app settings I easily updated the Musicbook firmware via the network and found other important options for the front screen brightness control and the internet radio streaming quality. There is a second sub menu called Device Settings where you control your analogue input gains, the headphone amplifier output gain, your overall balance and the different DAC sound modes, I will discuss these modes with the sound quality.
Its simplicity meant in literally no time I was about 90% confident using the Lindemann app in terms of controlling and playing music from streaming services and the CD player. I use Qobuz at the moment because I like its sound quality and high resolution music library and I think the integration of Qobuz into the Musicbook source is exceptional. You can browse your favourite albums, tracks and playlists, we expect this. You can also browse Qobuz Discover which is its music suggestion feature and I love this feature about Qobuz because I keep discovering new music to enjoy and you can do this inside the Lindemann app I think to a better level than the Qobuz app because you have more options to fine tune the process. Better still if you find an album or track you like you can add it to your Qobuz favourites in a couple of different ways which is brilliant for when you go on the road and use the Qobuz app not the Lindemann app as your music library can grow on both together easier than having to add the albums to both apps individually. You can also add albums and tracks to Qobuz playlists or create playlists within the Lindemann app which is very useful for how the Lindemann app organises your real-time playlist of music.
General navigation around the app is again very simple with the main buttons for everything being clear and obvious with only the odd screen flick to the right or left, or up and down being necessary. There is some very useful information available in the app such as the music quality your are listening to with the data rate of that music being shown in real time or tap on the album art and it displays some at times interesting album metadata.
Volume is controlled with the main slider at the bottom and volume change responsiveness I think is faster than a normal remote control, its almost instant or real time with the app which is very impressive. I will say be careful with the volume, especially if your using the balanced outputs because the volume gets loud very quickly as the output is 5v at maximum. For the system I was using it in I couldn’t get the source volume past half way and found between 40-50 volume as being the range of optimal to too loud, so not a huge amount of range but as I mentioned the responsiveness of the app to control the volume means accurate control is easy enough even with my clumsy fat fingers like mine.
The Lindemann app doesn’t seem to build the normal just played play list that we see in other control apps except it does its just organised under the Last Played option in the menu. Setup like this may initially seem a little inconvenient but you will probably find it encouraging you to listen to more whole albums rather than just cherry picking the odd tracks from albums here and there. It will also make sense to save a playlist if you want to keep a certain list of music after the Musicbook has been turned off, one nice feature is you can leave music playing and shut the Lindemann app down which is more useful than it sounds.
You can select between all digital and analogue inputs in the app, or select between streaming services or CD playback and it all happens nearly instantly. Even searching through Qobuz and playing different albums or different songs is fast and responsive with nearly no waiting for anything. You can connect to the Musicbook via Bluetooth and play music from your phone or tablet and Spotify will instantly connect to the Musicbook and when you play music from the Spotify app. There is no direct integration of Spotify in the Lindemann app. There is a Music Server option, this is where the Musicbook will find other sources of music on your network and give you the option to manage their playback.
All of this is quite sophisticated but its delivered in a simple to control and reliable way that just works and all of this is outside of Roon, so even if you don’t use Roon you still get a very feature rich, high quality experience and the Lindemann app runs lightning fast, and was totally rock solid for the whole review. Other apps may be more visually pleasing, but the Lindemann does nearly everything you want it to and I think looks nice enough to fully satisfy the large majority of users.
Its not easy for me to make any reasonable comparisons to the Musicbook because I haven’t looked at many other similar products, yes I have looked at sources from Melco, Nova Fidelity and miniDSP but none have been quite the same as the Lindemann to directly compare. I have based my opinions on its sound quality in general against how it performed compared to my much more expensive custom built computer music server.
Quirks and Negatives
There are a couple of quirks that I noticed which are minor and firmware update fixes I am sure down the line. The screen off for brightness didn’t seem to turn the screen off. Bluetooth connects automatically when you turn the Musicbook on even if you deactivated Bluetooth last time you was using it, this is a little annoying but not the end of the world. The volume wheel works the other way to what I expected, clockwise to reduce the volume and counter clockwise to increase the volume which is cool in a quirky way, it only takes a minute to retrain your brain / muscle memory.
Not coming with a dedicated remote control included could easily be seen as a negative by some and asking customers to buy it as an extra as being a little cheeky, but this does force customers into using the Lindemann app more and I think most customer will be glad of this in the long run.
One area for improvement would be an option to set a fixed volume output and set a maximum variable volume limit. I couldn’t see any such option in the app to achieve this and use the Lindemann as a source / DAC only and not as a volume variable pre amplifier, there are ways around it. I don’t see this as a deal breaker but I think it would be a nice addition for more flexibility and a nice safeguard for customers.
It must be crazy expensive
With all of these positive comments and a distinct lack of any real criticism combined with the very lovely aluminium chassis, the quality dedicated app, the lovely styling and the very good sound quality surely the Musicbook Source must be crazy expensive? It costs £3250, or £3500 with the CD player option so it’s a fair chunk of money for a HiFi component of this type and yes you can buy cheaper options that offer the same kind of features, however I think it’s a reasonable price for what you are getting in terms of the overall package built into this very lovely form factor and the form factor matters for a lot of people and the Lindemann has those people very much covered.
No HiFi component is everything to every audiophile or person but I think the Lindemann is good enough as an overall music source, DAC and preamplifier in one overall lovely, easy to live with package to create a strong argument for itself that its everything you could ever need in a modern, high quality, high lifestyle and easy to fit into your life HiFi product. Lindemann also make a matching power amplifier to go with the Source which could be of interest to those audiophiles who like their kit to match visually.
An Essential Audition Award is granted in recognition of a products high performance but with a certain uniqueness that makes auditioning even more essential
Lindemann Musicbook Source Specification
See the website here