Review: Linnenberg GP Telemann & Linnenberg JS Bach – DAC / preamplifier, phono preamp

Review: Linnenberg GP Telemann & Linnenberg JS Bach - DAC / preamplifier, phono preamp. Here you will find detailed about both models of Linnenberg.

Review: Linnenberg GP Telemann & Linnenberg JS Bach- Two of the most renowned composers of the German Baroque have just been my guests. As an ideal reincarnation in the figures of the phono preamplifier Johann Sebastian Bach (12,900 euros) and his DAC / preamplifier colleague Georg Philipp Telemann (17,800 euros), created by the North Rhine-Westphalian manufacturer Linnenberg Audio. Both are not just a tribute, however. They should transmit music (not just that of their namesakes) perfectly. We check how well the two brand new newcomers are doing.

Linnenberg’s program is quite clear. In the smaller line we find the French romantics Bizet (Georges, MC phono preamplifier, 5,999 euros), Satie (Erik, Pre-DAC, 9,450 euros) and Widor (Charles-Marie, stereo power amplifier, 16,000 euros). The series of German baroque composers in the newly published, larger of the two lines will soon be completed by the Georg Friedrich Händel mono power amplifier (target price according to sales is around 22,000 – 23,000 euros for the couple). But since this is still a bit of a long time coming, we take a closer look at the two source devices in advance – which can also be operated in combination.

Anyone who expects expansive dimensions and back-damaging weights in view of the significantly higher price range will see themselves wrong when they first come into contact with the top Linnenbergs. The straightforward appearance of the relatively compact products from Schwerte is just as straightforward as the Linnenberg Audio product portfolio. You will look in vain for decorations or pure design elements, everything about the two new babies of boss and developer Ivo Linnenberg says in a matter-of-fact manner: We are trimmed for the best possible performance with maximum (space) efficiency.

More being than appearance

Telephone calls with developers can sometimes be lengthy – the opposite is the case when you have Ivo Linnenberg on the line. The man loves his products. Before I get to the features of the two devices in detail, I would like – as far as possible – to visualize the insights gained into the basic principles that drive company owner and developer Ivo Linnenberg. And which owe these compact and simple, albeit top quality devices, among other things, their not entirely insignificant price tags.

Fully symmetrical circuits and double mono construction

Sure, many manufacturers talk about symmetry when it comes to their devices. However, many “balanced” devices convert the incoming signal at some point in order to process it internally in an unbalanced manner and thus with fewer components, and then rebalance it. Then there are two additional processing stages in the signal path. “Because of this back and forth, the symmetry has fallen into disrepute, since the unbalanced inputs and outputs often sound better on such devices,” says Ivo Linnenberg and adds: “But if there is no conversion, then there is no problem – and that is also the solution to one of the bigger misunderstandings in the hi-fi world: namely that symmetry in home audio components is useless or unnecessary. ”

Die Rückseite mit Anschlüssen des Linnenberg G. P. Telemann DAC/Vorverstärkers

He therefore builds both the Johann Sebastian Bach phono preamplifier and the Georg Philipp Telemann DAC / preamplifier in a strictly electrically symmetrical manner from input to output, so that all the components required for signal processing are available twice – for the inverted and the non-inverted signal. A symmetrical differential amplifier takes over the necessary signal subtraction process. So we are talking about four-step signal processing.

Ivo Linnenberg goes one step further and even arranges the conductor tracks (including the digital ones) on the boards of the DAC / preamplifier and the phono preamplifier in such a way that the advantages of the real symmetry really come into their own Arrange non-inverted conductors as close to each other as possible. We want external interference to ‘catch’ both conductors equally so that they can be eliminated later. This often results in a geometrically symmetrical conductor arrangement. ”Only this real symmetry eliminates external and internal disturbances (if they are common to both signal lines) as thoroughly as possible. In addition, the circuit ground is no longer in the signal path – this is very important because the ground connection carries all types of currents, that could interfere with the audio signal. And the more devices that work together symmetrically, the clearer the advantages are, according to Ivo Linnenberg.

Mehrstöckige Platinen im Linnenberg G. P. Telemann DAC/Vorverstärker

Apparently asymmetrical components such as the RCA inputs of the phono stage do not disturb the symmetrical harmony. Because here Linnenberg devices turn the ground line of the cinch cable into an anti-phase signal conductor – the cinch cable is basically just the symmetrical extension of the symmetrical pickup output into the fully symmetrical input stage from Linnenberg. Thanks to the fully symmetrical structure of the input, the pickup only “sees” the selected terminating resistor at the RCA input – and nothing else.

Ivo Linnenberg is also consistent when it comes to the double mono body. In the Johann Sebastian Bach phono level, for example, this results in hardly measurable crosstalk between the channels: the interference signal from the adjacent channel is far below the background noise. With an input signal of 1 millivolt and a gain of 70 decibels, the result is a crosstalk attenuation of more than 75 decibels in both directions.

Linnenberg Platinen

Components: high quality and discreet

Even in the smaller series, Ivo Linnenberg relied on the high quality of the discrete components, but with his state-of-the-art components he really goes to the limit: For example, in both devices not only discrete components are actually used, in the Phono stage, so-called bistable, gold-plated relays are responsible for the entire signal switching. With this type of relay, the armature remains in the respective switching position without the need for a voltage supply, which normally generates the magnetic field that is necessary to maintain the switching state. This way, the negative influences of the control circuit on the signal disappeared, says Ivo Linnenberg.

Double JFets connected in parallel are used in the entrance level of Johann Sebastian Bach. They are supposed to reduce the input noise because, according to Ivo Linnenberg, they do not burden the signal source. In addition, direct currents can neither flow into nor out of the phono input and magnetization of the pickup can be completely ruled out. According to Linnenberg, the ultra-precise resistor networks in the Johann Sebastian Bach have a tolerance of a maximum of 0.05% relative to one another and remain stable even over temperature fluctuations (0.2 ppm / ° C) and over the entire service life.

Der Linennberg G. P. Telemann DAC/Vorverstärker von innen

Ivo Linnenberg takes enormous care not only inside, but also with the housing of the DAC preamplifier and the phono stage. Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Sebastian Bach are actually box-in-box constructions. That means: Inside the externally visible housing there is another one, namely a mu-metal which effectively shields low-frequency or static magnetic interference fields and which is additionally mechanically decoupled from the outer housing with a special foam layer.

Precision, speed and broadband

According to Linnenberg, the passive equalization network of the Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach phono pre-stage reproduces the RIAA curve within an extremely precise 0.2 dB. The filter networks act between the symmetrical stages. In this way, neither signal currents flow to ground, nor can interference be transferred to the signal from the circuit ground. Why? “In an electronic circuit diagram, ground is just an idealized reference point for the circuit. In practice, minimal conductor track resistances in the milliohm range and minimal self-inductance torpedo the equality of potential between points that should actually be the same, but are not the same for this very reason. No device is more sensitive in this regard than a phono stage – therefore it is very advantageous to when the reference to ground is used as little as possible, and therefore all frequency-dependent networks sit between the stages. That is only possible with full symmetry, ”says Ivo Linnenberg.

Die Schnittstellen des Linnenberg J. S. Bach Phonovorverstärkers

But also the DAC / preamplifier Georg Philipp Telemann does not spoil when it comes to impressive key figures. The signal rise time of the preliminary stage for a 2-volt jump is only 35 nanoseconds, says Linnenberg. And since the bandwidth corresponds to the signal processing speed (and vice versa), this preamplifier transmits a whopping 3.5 megahertz. This can be seen as technical overkill, but Ivo Linnenberg protests against this: “The result is simply more transparency, less grain and more music,” says the developer.

The phono stage: Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach

Linnenberg J. S. Bach Phonovorverstärker mit Plattenspieler

Unlike the smaller Bizet, the Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach is suitable for MC and MM cartridges and comes in the same housing format as the converter preamp Georg Philipp Telemann: Both are slightly wider (25.6 centimeters) than high (21 centimeters ), but quite deep at 44.2 centimeters. Instead of following the standard dimensions and accepting corresponding restrictions in the arrangement of the interior, Ivo Linnenberg relies on both short and well thought-out signal paths, which are fed by inputs with RCA and XLR sockets. The design of the devices therefore follows their inner workings.

Incidentally, the aforementioned bistable relays are not only good for the sound: Ivo Linnenberg was only able to integrate the convenient operating concept of the Johann Sebastian Bach into a phono stage by using these special components. All settings can be made during operation at the push of a button on the front – the times of muting or even switching off before switching over are over. Regardless of whether you want to switch the input, set the gain between 50, 60 or 70 decibels or adjust the resistance value in the sensible steps of 30, 100, 300, 1000 ohms and 47 kilo ohms.

Linnenberg J. S. Bach Phonovorverstärker von vorne

Of course, the Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach also saves the selected configuration in standby mode, so that all settings are available the next time you listen to music – even if the mains connection should be completely disconnected after switching off standby. And the logic of Johann Sebastian Bach is also clever: The termination with 47 kiloohms is only possible if the gain has been set to 50 dB beforehand – suitable for MM and high-output MCs.

I am also grateful when the developer thinks about the security of other components; in the Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach, an integrated low-cut filter with a slope of 12 dB / octave at 7 Hertz removes potentially harmful and even dangerous subsonic frequencies.

The converter pre-stage: Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann

My relationship with the previous generation of the Telemann DAC (4,400 euros) ultimately failed about a year and a half ago because of its limited analogue sociability. The only analog input of this “D / A converter with volume control” (I would also put the Linnenberg Satie in this category) also served as an analog output after changing an internal jumper. In the new Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann the signs are different: Björn Kraayvanger, head of the German Linnenberg sales department LEN-Hifi, speaks of a pre-DAC / DAC-pre: “The Georg Philip Telemann contains two fully-fledged, independently developed and optimally coordinated devices in one housing. It is expressly not a preamplifier with an additional converter module, but just as much a D / A converter as a preamplifier. ”On the back, which is nicely decorated with an idyllic landscape metal etching, there are one unbalanced and two balanced analog inputs as well as two balanced outputs, which together with the four digital inputs – Toslink, Coax, AES / EBU and USB-B are available once each – complete the dual equipment except for a phono input. And the Johann Sebastian Bach is ready for record lovers.

Die Front des Linnenberg G. P. Telemann DAC/Vorverstärkers

Volume control

As befits a “real” preamplifier, Ivo Linnenberg paid special attention to the volume control: The circuit that is responsible for volume control in Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann works fully symmetrically and is suitable for high frequencies (just think of the enormous bandwidth of 3 , 5 MHz). Ivo Linnenberg: “An arrangement of series-connected resistors and transverse resistances between signal plus and signal minus forms an attenuator. There are eight units that can be switched on and off in combination. These units have constant input and output resistances, so low (approx. 150 Ohm) that the value corresponds to the wave resistance of the signal conductor pair. Why? Very easily:


The D / A converter in the Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann largely corresponds to that of the Linnenberg Satie. This means that four symmetrical 32-bit D / A converters of the ES9038 PRO type forward the audio signals to the discrete analog circuits per channel. With a PCM sampling frequency of 384 kilohertz and 32 bit bit depth as well as its DSD512- Ability should also be satisfied with resolution fanatics. Three high-performance clocks – one for the 44.1 kHz frequency group, one for the 48 kHz family and the third for the reclocking data buffer – reduce the jitter to 0.82 femtoseconds, i.e. 0.00000000000000082 seconds. In contrast to the Satie, the Georg Philipp Telemann uses more voltage regulators for even cleaner voltages, and the entire S / PDIF area (coax, AES / EBU and Toslink) has been completely revised by Ivo Linnenberg and is now also fully symmetrical. Last but not least, six different digital filters are available with which you can adjust the digital sound of your Linnenberg Audio Georg Philipp Telemann to a certain extent to personal preferences.

Linnenberg JS Bach & GP Telemann: Sound test and comparisons

Linnenberg J. S. Bach und Linnenberg G. P. Telemann: Phonovorverstärker und DAC/Vorverstärker - Fotomontage

I could put it very briefly: The Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the two best phono stages that I have ever known. And the Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann is one of the two best preamplifiers and also by far the best D / A converter that I’ve seen in my listening room so far. But then I don’t want to make it that easy for myself – and you – after all.


In my chain, the two Linnenberg guests are celebrating a get-together with two older relatives from the same company: the Linnenberg Liszt stereo power amplifier (4,500 euros) and the “smaller” Linnenberg Bizet phono stage (5,999 euros). The latter had already replaced the Neukomm MCA112S in my chain some time ago and since then it has given me a lot of pleasure with its transparency, cleanliness and fine resolution. Yes, this is a damn good phono stage and in almost every respect better than any phono preamplifier I have tested so far. And yet it cannot keep up with its big brother, Johann Sebastian Bach, in any area. But one by one.

If the pickup delivers accordingly, the Bizet already has an outstanding channel separation, which wrested respect, even admiration, from a hearing-trained acquaintance (sound engineer) during a long evening listening session. And the Bach is not only the maximum increase in this aspect. Often you think you can still sense subliminal hints of what is happening on the other channel. Not so here. The drum samples immortalized exclusively on the left channel in Portishead’s “Undenied”  appear to be hermetically sealed in the corresponding box housing. In the stereo image, this results in an unbelievably three-dimensional, sharply outlined image quality that is rarely presented. Whether in front of or behind, whether left or right inside or outside the loudspeaker base: The Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach phono preamplifier places voices, instruments and effects in the virtual stage space in a dreamlike manner, with sharp edges and stable at any volume. Johann Sebastian Bach also succeeds better than any other phono level I know in relating sound events on the extremely wide and, if necessary, incredibly deep stage, rather than presenting them as singular events in isolation. This significantly improves the structure and order of the sound image,

Linnenberg J. S. Bach Phonovorverstärker: Taster & LEDs

The transparency, detail resolution and differentiation ability of the Johann Sebastian Bach are phenomenal and are topped by the Blue Amp model 42 MKIII (16,900 euros), which is another 4,000 euros more expensive. It sounds a touch fresher, livelier in the treble, while the Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach strikes a slightly more golden and silky tone, without, however, appearing in the least dull. If I didn’t know better, I would – with all the exemplary tonal neutrality – think of a damn well-made tube for the airy, fragrant and yet rich, physical and athletic-springy gait of Linnenberg Audio Johann Sebastian Bach. But that would probably not conjure up such a clean background in the listening room. Seriously, it doesn’t get any blacker than this

In the bass, too, you may at first feel reminded of tubing – until the Johann Sebastian Bach Phonopre then really pervades the deepest abysses as in Nicolas Jaar’s “Colomb” with a consistency and a pressure that makes you fear and fear the speaker cones can be. But of course all of this is controlled and precise as much as possible. Accordingly, Linnenberg Audio Johann Sebastian Bach plays at the highest level in terms of coarse dynamics, makes the volume jumps in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” from the Propellerhead album Decksandrumsandrockandroll with speed, accuracy and power – and ultimately finds its master in the Blue Amp model 42 mK III, which in particular sets short impulses even more gaudy and energetic, directed more aggressively forwards.

Of change and processing

And now it’s getting really fat, even if the person Georg Philipp Telemann was rather of a slight stature. What this preamplifier with D / A converter can do in terms of sound is beyond the modest physical shell of Georg Philipp Telemann, but something of easy that I cannot even imagine how I will in the future with my really not exactly bad Norma Audio SC- 2 DAC should listen to music. It is said that time heals all wounds. I really hope so. Because in principle everything that I have just said about the Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach also applies to the Georg Philipp Telemann, namely to the preamp with analog signal feeding as well as to the converter part. Only the Georg Philipp Telemann increases the sound distance to my own solution a gear more clearly,

Linnenberg G. P. Telemann DAC/Vorverstärker im USB-Betrieb

Tonally, Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann, like Johann Sebastian Bach, moves on neutral paths, which, due to the effortlessly fine, velvety silk resolution in every frequency range, still give the appearance of warmth – which in the end turns out to be an absolute absence of any hardship . Unless the canned music demands it, then drum sheets can hail unfiltered into the eardrums or saw distorted guitars at the nerve endings. But that’s down to the sound engineer, and not Georg Philipp Telemann.

Bass? Yes, please. The consistently symmetrical circuits reproduce the deep grumpy bass in Massive Attacks “Teardrops” cleanly, deeply, contoured and drawn . The timbres of the cellos in Agnes ObelsGeorg Philipp Telemann paints “Familiar” in all shades with the perfect mixture of gnarled-woody and golden-smooth, always floating and fragrant, never covering up. Space? Always tangible, always well organized. Many components tend to place the virtual stage in a certain position relative to the loudspeaker base, regardless of its extent, starting from the center of the stage – regardless of whether it is further back or towards the listener. And like the Johann Sebastian Bach, the Linnenberg Audio Georg Philipp Telemann is much less subject to this tendency than most other devices I know.

In a sound pair

In order to find out how much of this audio bliss the preamplifier section or the D / A converter of the Linnenberg Telemann contribute (by the way, I prefer to listen to filter 6, the hybrid mode that seems to me to be the most balanced), I connect the fixed output of the D / A converting Norma SC-2 with the unbalanced RCA analog input of Georg Philipp Telemann. Immediately it is noticeable that the fine dynamics decrease a little, the floating mesh of the drum sheets in “Take Five” on Jazz at the Pawnshop comes across a little more earthy and dull and the bass in “Sign of the Season” by Pat Methenyloses contour and definition, but also pressure deep down in the cellar, while at the same time the upper bass is adding a touch of (too much) fat. Since these effects do not occur with the Bach phono preamp at the analog input, I conclude that the D / A converter is also able to beat the converter module from Norma, which is excellent in itself, plays more airily and more controlled, more neutral in the bass. When comparing the “old” Linnenberg Telemann D / A converter and the Norma solution, I would have spoken of a question of taste – the converter in the Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann is in a completely different league.

G. P. Telemann DAC/Vorverstärker deaktiviert

The prepress section of Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann has already clearly won the promotion and is playing at the high level of the Balanced Audio Technology VK-53SE (15,200 euros). Perhaps not quite as extroverted and lively, more sober – but also cleaner, with a black background. And I don’t know of any pre-amp that gives such a constant idea over the entire usable volume range in all sound-critical parameters. Whether space (damn big and arbitrarily placed), image sharpness and size of individual sound events (realistic exactly neither too small nor too large mapping), tonality or dynamic – because changes just do nothing.

And with the Linnenberg Telemann preamplifier in the signal path, I notice that I have previously perceived music through my chain as a homogeneous body of sound itself, as a holistic abstract – with the Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann I discover the individuality of every single musician in “ The Banality of Evil “by Nine Horses and every choir part in” Silent Night, Holy Night “on Cantate Domino as well as the subtly changing sound signatures of every electronically generated effect in” Black Shoes “by Felix Laband (album: Dark Days Exit).

G. P. Telemann DAC/Vorverstärker mit aktiviertem Display

A duo whose partners work high-end on their own, but who can set standards together. I haven’t heard any better preamps and phono preamps in my chain – just different ones. And the DAC from Linnenberg Audio Georg Philipp Telemann surpasses all D / A converters I know. Full stop.

It is not surprising that both devices share a sound tuning based on the philosophy and approaches of Ivo Linnenberg. Tonal neutrality forms the basis for a maximally fine, airy, relaxed sound, whose absolute freedom from noise and harshness suggests the impression of warmth – without causing the typical side effects of tubes. Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Sebastian Bach are not softies, however, both of them can take a lot and sometimes “bite”, even if fine dynamic gradations are more important to them than exaggerated impulsive drama.

Listeners who value maximum cleanliness and naturalness and who prefer the unpretentious, dry honesty of a good theater actor to the superficial glamor of a Las Vegas magic show, will probably not find anything more suitable in this price range. Accordingly, Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Sebastian Bach recommend themselves for almost any kind of music; Techno or hip hop with a lot of impulses alone could possibly cause greater adrenaline rushes with components that are more monotonous in terms of sound.

The Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach phono stage is characterized by …

  • tonal balance. What you might perceive as a slight tendency towards warmth can be identified after a short time as …
  • absolute cleanliness and freedom from distortion. In my opinion, it doesn’t get any better in the phono area.
  • an extremely good channel separation, which is only limited by the pressure of the record and / or the pickup used.
  • an impressively organic, orderly, tidy and sharply outlined image in a room of any size and placed solely depending on the recording.
  • a very deep, controlled and precise bass with more than enough pressure and energy at all times.
  • a character-free, changeable mid-tone in the best sense and an extremely unpretentious-realistic timbre reproduction.
  • the subtlest fine dynamics I’ve heard in the phono field so far. There is competition in terms of coarse dynamics and massive impact.
  • an unobtrusive, transparent, silky resolution with loads of detailed information, but without the tendency towards extroverted, exhibitionistic high-tone twinkling.
  • an intelligent design and a very practical and comfortable operation.

The Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann …

  • has all of the character traits mentioned above for Linnenberg Audio Johann Sebastian Bach – some on an even higher level.
  • goes one step further, especially when it comes to coarse dynamics.
  • is sound and due to the three analog inputs (and the two analog output pairs) as a pure preamplifier extremely official.
  • has probably the best D / A converter that I have heard so far.
  • allows subtle adjustments to the hearing taste with six digital filters.


Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach

  • Category: Phono Preamp
  • Price: 12,900 euros
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR and Cinch (each symmetrical)
  • Outputs: 1x XLR balanced
  • Dimensions and weight: 210 x 256 x 442 mm, 10.2 kg
  • Color: Black
  • Special features: settings can be switched during operation
  • Guarantee: 3 years

Linnenberg Georg Philipp Telemann

  • Concept: preamplifier with D / A converter
  • Price: 17,800 euros
  • Digital inputs: 1 x S / PDIF coax, AES / EBU and Toslink each, 1 x USB-B
  • Analog inputs: 2 x XLR, 1 x cinch
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR balanced, adjustable
  • Dimensions & weight: 210 x 256 x 442 mm, 10.8 kg
  • Colors: black
  • Special features: IR remote control, 6 digital filters
  • Guarantee: 3 years