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From an Editor’s Notebook:  Linn Returns to the USA!

09-23-2018 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 99

I just back from a quick (two day) trip to Chicago, courtesy of the good folks at Linn in Scotland. On Tuesday, September 18, a very limited number of audio press representatives received an important briefing about new developments at the company. In addition to myself, my longtime audiobud Greg Weaver of The Absolute Sound and Positive Feedback was in attendance. There was also a representative from Dagogo.com, Doug Schroeder, and a couple of other folks whom I did not recognize or get a chance to meet.

A portrait of Greg Weaver. Chicago, IL, 2018

There's really big news from Linn:  After a number of years of being hard to find in the US high-end audio market, Linn (https://www.linn.co.uk/) has announced that they are coming back here with a reorganized structure, effective October 1.

They will be dealing directly from Linn in Scotland to their authorized dealer network in America, so there will be no intervening US distributor. Currently, Linn has about 25 dealers in the USA, who participated in a major dealer meeting on the Monday before the press event on Tuesday.

Gilad Tiefenbrun, Managing Director of Linn, and Jen Cassidy, Linn Sales Director, during our first press session.

The introduction and keynote presentation was led by Gilad Tiefenbrun, Managing Director of Linn. He shared his vision of Linn's new schema for the US market:  a factory-direct-to-dealers model that would increase efficiency, profitability, and the quality of customer support. This will strengthen the bonds and feedback loops between Linn, its US dealer network, and its customer base here. Gilad quietly and confidently outlined the changes that Linn would be making, with the launch of the new framework on October 1. New products would be coming online, and their lines would be simplified for the sake of clarity and cost-effectiveness.

I found it to be a very rational and convincing summary. Gilad knows his stuff.

A digression…the history of the thing over here in PFland…

Brian Morris here at PF Central back in the day for the installation of the Linn Unidisk SACD/CD player (bottom) and a pair of the 5125 five-channel surround amplifiers. That's his intense look.

For longtime Linn lovers…like myself (since the late 80s)…this is an extremely encouraging development. Linn had been rather passive and low-profile in the US market in the 90s, until Brian Morris came along in the later 90s as a new VP of Marketing and shook things up nicely. Linn became highly active in the US market, and high-end audio publications like Positive Feedback began to see a constant flow of emails, offers of product reviews, and visits from a very energetic and brilliant Brian Morris. The covers of PF evidenced this new trend; no less than three covers of our paper-‘n-ink magazine over a period of several years featured Linn very prominently.

This lasted for years, during which time Linn became a constant presence at PF and in a number of other fine audio journals. Covers, reviews, press releases on a regular basis, and periodic face-to-face sessions with Brian set the pace for a very dynamic marketing program.

This changed in 2007, when Linn made the decision to restructure its US operations and shift away from a direct US-based model. Brian Morris would end up leaving Linn to enter a partnership with a new audio store, House of Linn. Support and distribution seemed to have gone third-party, via Tannoy in Canada. Florida support operations were discontinued eventually.

The result was tragic as far as Linn's presence in the USA was concerned. Once again, Linn slowly vanished from the day-to-day consciousness of audio editors, reviewers, and consumers on this side of the pond. Press releases went away. Regular emails to me here became extinct. Requests for review products hit dead ends repeatedly. Once again, Linn in America went back to what they were before Brian Morris:  more or less obscure, hard to find, and difficult to communicate with.

I'll admit it…after several years of trying to make effective contact with the PR/Media people at Linn in the US, I finally gave up. Our Linn gear here continued to serve us well on a daily basis (for 14 years!), with only one remote control having to be replaced, but I fell out of touch with all of Linn's developments from 2007 forward.

This is why I was so surprised and delighted when I received a substantive email from Andrena McBain, the new PR and Marketing director at Linn. I responded immediately, and we developed a very cordial connection over the next several weeks. This culminated in an invitation from Linn to attend this press event in Chicago.

Of course I would go.

End of digression.

Back to the Linn event


Session 1 at the Linn press event

Gilad Tiefenbrun during his keynote comments

Gilad's part of the presentation, summarized at the opening, was followed three other presenters.

Jen Casidy, Linn Sales Director

Jen Cassidy, Linn Sales Director, gave an overview of how the new US model would improve the sales and support experience for Linn customers, while involving their dealers in new value-added opportunities via upgrades, consulting, and trade-ins for new Linn products.

Adrian Choong discusses Katalyst and the Selekt DSM

Jen was followed by Adrian Choong, who discussed technical aspects of the Selekt DSM, and its upgrade possibilities.

Peter Harrison of Linn

Finally, Peter Harrison talked about Linn's latest edition of its Space Optimization system. The ability to be able to dial in custom loudspeaker filters is obviously revolutionary; I was fascinated by the possibilities that he covered.

Clearly the Linn Selekt DSM was the star of the show for hardware that was being launched on October 1. Their press release on the Selekt DSM was impressive, and included the information below.

Selekt DSM

  • Selekt DSM is a new, high performance network music player that is configurable at the point of purchase to suit a customers' needs, with scope to: further increase the performance with Katalyst DAC upgrade. provide a single box solution by integrating a power amp, add both of these options together.

Selekt DSM Features

Dial and buttons

  • Selekt DSM's dial is much more than a simple volume control. Contextual tilt and press controls enable the user to start and stop a stream, cycle through a play queue or list of radio stations, and even switch to any connected sources.
  • Using Linn's new Pins feature, each button can be assigned to activate a playlist, genre, or artist from a local collection or streaming service like Tidal and Qobuz. They can also be set to a radio station or even a physical source. The ability to personalise the device makes it easier than ever to start listening to music instantly.

Connectivity and compatibility

  • Selekt DSM has all the analogue and digital connectivity expected from a Linn DSM, including a built-in phono stage with dedicated inputs for either a MM or MC cartridge.
  • It streams virtually any digital source over a standard network and integrates seamlessly with Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify Connect streaming services, plays internet radio via TuneIn and is compatible with Roon.


  • A new USB port supports up to 192kHz and offers a higher performance alternative to a standalone USB DAC solution for those users who stream directly from their computer.


  • HDMI ARC provides a simple way to get audio from all of the AV sources in the system via the TV. One HDMI cable connects the TV to Selekt DSM which will automatically play everything that's connected through the TV without the need for source switching.

Selekt DSM Technical Specification


  • Type: Switched-capacitor DAC with low-noise reference voltage.
  • THD+N: 0.0002% (1kHz 0dBFS at volume 80)
  • Dynamic Range: 114dB (Measured at Line-out module XLR output with AES17 measurement filter)

Katalyst DAC upgrade

  • Type: Katalyst DAC architecture
  • THD+N: 0.0002% (1kHz 0dBFS at volume 80)
  • Dynamic Range: 117dB (Measured at Line-out module XLR output with AES17 measurement filter)

Digital inputs

  • Type: FPGA based S/PDIF receiver with digital PLL.
  • SPDIF x2 | Toslink x2 | HDMI ARC x1
  • Supported sample rates (kHz): 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192

USB input

  • Type: USB Audio Class 2 endpoint.
  • Supported sample rates (kHz): 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192

Analogue inputs

  • Type: Digitizing analogue input stage with independent analogue phono preamps for MM and MC cartridges.
  • ADC Sample rate/resolution: 192kHz/24-bits
  • Line-in (RCA): Max input voltage: 4.25Vrms
  • MM Phono (RCA): Max input voltage (1kHz): 67mVrms
  • MC Phono (RCA): Max input voltage (1kHz): 5.5mVrms

Audio processing

  • Space Optimisation | Exakt crossover filtering (option) | Upsampling to 768kHz/32-bits |
  • Digital Volume Control

Line-out module

  • Type: Direct-coupled output stage with balanced and unbalanced outputs.
  • Output Level: 2Vrms (RCA), 4Vrms (XLR) @volume 80
  • Output Impedance: 300 Ohms (RCA), 600 Ohms (XLR)

Power amplifier upgrade

  • Type: Bridged Class-D amplifier with post-filter feedback. A bespoke design that provides maximum performance in minimum space and with minimum heat dissipation. Applies an additional feedback loop around the low-pass filter to significantly improve performance.
  • Max output power: 100W/channel into 4 Ohms, 50W/channel into 8 Ohms
  • THD+N (Measured with AES17 measurement filter): <0.01% (1kHz, 100W into 4 Ohms), <0.001% (1kHz, 12.5W into 4 Ohms), <0.005% (1kHz, 50W into 8 Ohms), <0.001% (1kHz, 6.25W into 8 Ohms)

Exakt Link

  • 2 Exakt Link ports to allow connection to: Exakt speakers | Exaktboxes | Urika II


  • 10/100 Base-T RJ45 Socket

It's very evident that Linn is continuing to innovate in the world of digital streaming. The Selekt DSM looks to provide a very attractive all-in-one solution for audio lovers looking for a combination of killer looks, state-of-the-art electronics, and a compact form factor to deliver the goods to customers everywhere.

I had a particular concern, however, and shared it with Gilad Tiefenbrun:  "Does the Selekt DSM support DSD in native mode, without converting to PCM?" Gilad conferred with his colleagues and then stated that it would support Single DSD (DSD64). I then made the point that it was extremely important that Linn step up its support of DSD all the way out to Quad DSD (DSD256), as the maximum level of audio playback quality is to be found with Quad DSD.

Later, Gilad sent me a message say that both Single (DSD64) and Double (DSD128) DSD would be supported—I assume in native mode, without any conversion to PCM. Quad DSD will follow:

"To clarify on DSD, we will have 64 and 128 at launch. Aiming for 256 in the future."

This is quite reassuring to those of us who have massive libraries of DSD audio files. Terabytes, in my case.

The presentations also covered the Katalyst DAC upgrade option, which greatly enhances the performance of the Selekt DAC. According to Linn, "Katalyst takes an unprecedented level of control over the critical elements that lie at the heart of the analogue signal's creation; offering improved Data Optimisation, superior Master Clock, independent Power Supplies, a new ultra-low distortion Output Driver and crucially, for the first time, a high-stability input Reference Level." Adrian Choong did a very solid job in covering this ground, and talking about the ways that Linn owners could take their digital systems to the next level with Katalyst.

Then Peter Harrison told us about the new developments in Linn's Space Optimization technology, an option with the Selekt DSM. They have created a new cloud-based system online that will allow local dealers and their properly equipped customers to create custom filters that will tune the crossovers in their system for the room that the equipment resides in. All sorts of parameters are allowed:  length, width, depth, height, variations in wall placement, composition of wall materials can be factored in. The online system will then create a digital custom crossover filter that can then be downloaded and installed on the customer's system. This is a very promising development, one that is even starting to draw the attention of other loudspeaker manufacturers in Europe. For more, go to the Linn Web site page on the subject, right HERE.

As a Linn surround sound owner myself…Kisto reference surround preamp, two 5125 5-channel amplifiers, and Akurate 242 (left/right front), 225 (center channel), and 212 (left/right rear)…I can say that I'm very interested to look at what the latest generation of Linn Space Optimization+ might do for the PF reference surround system here. I'll be conferring with the good folks at Linn to see how we might proceed with legacy gear. If that goes well, then look for me to be pursuing this as a very important major project for 2019.

The price ranges that Linn announced for the Selekt DSM products looked quite reasonable.

  • Selekt DSM USD: $5,200 / $CAD 6,999
  • Selekt DSM with integrated power amp: USD$6,825 / $CAD 8,999
  • Selekt DSM with Katalyst: USD$7,150 / $CAD 9,499
  • Selekt DSM with integrated amp and Katalyst: USD$8,755 / $CAD 11,999

For the rest of their related product lines, this is the picture; the Linn network music player range now consists of:

  • Majik DSM: USD$2,999 / $CAD 4,249
  • Selekt DSM: USD  $5,200 / $CAD 6,999
  • Selekt DSM with integrated amps: USD$6,825 / $CAD 8,999
  • Selekt DSM with Katalyst: USD$7,150/ $CAD 9,499
  • Selekt DSM with integrated amps and Katalyst: USD$8,755 / $CAD 11,999
  • Akurate DSM: USD$10,250 / $CAD 12,650
  • Klimax DSM: USD$23,380 / $CAD 25,720

Listening impressions

After the presentations and a brief coffee break, we went on into a different room for some comparative listening. The new Selekt DSM was there in its basic configuration, and also with a fully-loaded version. For comparison, there was also a Naim integrated digital unit, although I didn't catch the model number. Interestingly, the loudspeaker for both demos were non-Linn brands, one being a Wilson, the other a B&W. This was so that we might hear and evaluate the benefits of the two Selekt DSM versions vis-à-vis the Naim, as well as each other, all the while hearing the results via non-Linn transducers.

We started by listening to the Naim/Wilson combination. This didn't make any magic to my ears, which seemed to be the general consensus among the audio press in the room. Enough said.

Then we shifted to the Selekt DSM base line with the Wilsons, a much more pleasant pairing. From there, on we went to the Selekt DSM with the Katalyst DAC upgrade. This brought nods around the room, since the improvement was unmistakable, though some press members found it easier to describe and qualify than others. There was definitely better transparency, detail, and clarity, with some improvement in soundstaging.

Finally, we heard the full monty:  The Selekt DSM with Katalyst and also the Space Optimization filters for the room in place. Caramba! The improvement couldn't be missed. Now there was the development of real soundstage depth, extending into the back wall…the feel of better roundness…and a more organic integration of the harmonics.

To me, if you're going to purchase a Selekt DSM, don't go halfway. Given the reasonable pricing that I listed above, I can tell you that you really want the full-blown DSM with Katalyst, integrated amp, and with the Space Optimization system in place for your room. The leap forward is really gob-smacking!

My impressions were reinforced when we did another listening comparison with the Selekt DSM base vs. full-monty, this time with a pair of B&W speakers. I must say that I preferred the sound of the B&Ws to the small Wilsons; they were much more coherent, articulate, and transparent, as I noticed instantly. All of the audio virtues in the comparisons that I mentioned above now couldn't be missed; obviously the Selekt DSM gets along famously with these B&W's.

Final thoughts

The Linn press conference and listening comparisons made several things clear to me.

First, Linn is (really) back in the US!

Second, their new framework looks like it will be better in every way:  significantly improved customer satisfaction, value-added opportunities for their dealer network, much better customer bonding over time, an effective upgrade mechanism, and a more definite market presence in the US high-end audio segment.

Third, the team that they've assembled looks very competent, and are quite confident in the new model and product line in the US. I was impressed by my conversations with them during breaks, and in the Q&A session.

Finally, the Linn product line reflects innovative engineering, great flexibility, and a willingness to make necessary changes to move ahead in the highly competitive world of fine audio.

So, for the first time since 2007, I am once again enthusiastic about the future prospects for Linn. Stay tuned into 2019, as we explore Linn's products and progress.

All photographs and image processing by David W. Robinson, except Robinson portrait by John Robinson. Linn product photos courtesy of Linn. Cartoon by Dan Zimmerman.