The pricing for the hugely customable Linn Selekt DSM Edition Hub is worthy of note – in its most basic form, the Selekt DSM Edition Hub sells for £9,950, the model reviewed here is kitted out with dual-mono Organik DAC sells for £16,950
I’m speculating here, admittedly, but it seems very unlikely indeed to me that the word ‘compromise’ has ever been uttered at Linn’s Glasgow HQ in the 50-plus years of the company’s existence - unless it’s immediately preceded by the word ‘never’.
Over the course of five decades, Linn products have never been less than thrillingly high-performance and never less than wallet-botheringly expensive. And for longer than seems likely, digital audio products have been part of the Linn line-up - the company read the runes correctly, where music streaming is concerned, far earlier than any of their contemporaries.
Which means the company has more experience than most when it comes to products like this, the Selekt DSM. It’s a music streamer, yes - but it has numerous configuration options. 124, in fact - it can be anything from a streamer/source/preamplifier (as it is here) to a fully integrated 5.1-channel surround sound receiver. It all depends on your requirements - and the depth of your pockets, of course…
In the course of this test the Selekt DSM is used as a wireless music streamer (via Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2 and network-attached Buffalo TeraStation 5200), and serves as preamplifier (and DAC, where required) to a turntable wired to its moving-magnet input, a CD player wired to one of its S/PDIF inputs and an Apple laptop hooked to its USB-B socket. It also takes care of volume before outputting to a two-channel power amplifier.
No matter the source, no matter the standard of the content, and everything from 320kbps MP3 digital files via 24bit/192kHz PCM to DSD128 and 180g virgin vinyl, the Linn is, without exception, a positive, direct, almost indecently detailed listen. What it doesn’t know about organising a soundstage and rigorously controlling every element on it isn’t worth knowing, frankly, and it communicates more eloquently than a Booker prize-winning novelist. Its tonality is beautifully neutral, its low-frequency control is such that even the gimpiest, most club-footed rhythms are expressed elegantly, and its insight into even the haziest, murkiest mixes is hawk-eyed. No shred of information is too fleeting or too minor to elude it, no recording is too complex or dense that it can’t be opened up and contextualised.
This specific Selekt DSM has been fitted with the top-of-the-shop ‘Organik’ DAC in dual-mono guise. It’s an in-house design using no off-the-shelf components, and it represents (according to Linn, who really ought to know) the culmination of three decade’s-worth of digital technology expertise. Certainly a direct A/B comparison with the on-board DAC of an (extremely capable, very well regarded and really quite expensive) compact disc player reveals it to be almost laughably superior. Similarly the integrated moving magnet phono stage is easily a match for a stand-alone reference item costing a comfortable four figures.
The Linn’s powers of resolution are considerable in the way a battleship is considerable - but despite this, the Selekt DSM is not a remote or dispassionate listen. Quite the opposite, in fact - it’s thrillingly musical, able to bring recordings bounding to life in an almost unlikely manner. Yes, it’s not cheap at the best of times and in this configuration is witheringly expensive - it doesn’t even have any amplification! - but performance as instinctively correct as this is hard to come by no matter how much you’re spending.
This Selekt DSM features the ‘Edition Hub’ design. Inevitably it’s a cost option, but it makes sense both in performance terms (its all-machined construction has excellent rigidity and interior isolation) and in aesthetic terms. It’s arguable whether or not any piece of electronics of this sort of size can look as expensive as this Selekt DSM actually is, but there’s no denying it presents like a luxurious piece of equipment.
The front panel is entirely composed of mirrored spy glass. There’s a crisp, bright display behind it that disappears when it’s not required. On the top panel there’s a precision-cut vent with each aperture cut at an angle - it seems to contort when viewed from different positions. The top panel also features quite the most lavish and tactile control dial I’ve ever encountered - it turns with exquisitely judged weight, and features one hundred individual LEDs arranged in a circle that give an indication of volume. It almost compels the user to make constant, tiny adjustments just to feel and see it doing its thing.
Other control options run to the Linn app (free for iOS and Android) and a remote control handset. The app is comprehensive, stable, navigable and perhaps just a notch or two down from ‘logical’. The remote control handset, meanwhile, is about the only underwhelming aspect of Selekt DSM ownership - it’s humdrum by the standards of the product it controls, unremarkable in its use of materials and a little unhelpful in its lack of backlighting.
There’s an elephant in the room, of course - but whether or not you choose to acknowledge it relates directly to the amount of money you have in the bank. Put the considerable asking price to one side for a moment and the Linn Selekt DSM is about as capable, as musical and as engaging a music streamer-cum-preamplifier you’re ever likely to hear. Until you hear one of the properly expensive Linn music streamers, anyhow. Starting price for the Selekt DSM Editon Hub is £9.950, the version we tested with all the goodies sells for £16950.
Brian Eno Sky Saw
If you want confirmation of the Linn’s mastery of tone and timbre, of its uncanny ability to extract what is surely all of the detail of a recording, or of its fearsome powers of organisation, don’t look (or, more correctly, listen) any further
Richard Hell and The Voidoids Love Comes in Spurts
Evidence that music doesn’t have to be expensively produced or especially musicianly in the first place to benefit from the attentions of the Selekt DSM. Where attack, positivity and posture are concerned, this recording doesn’t mess about - and neither does the Linn
Billie Holiday Solitude
Yes, we already knew Billie Holiday was a peerless vocalist. But if you’ve ever heard her sound so immediate, so directly communicative, or so brimming with character and attitude, well… you must have been right there when she performed. Which means you’re older than you look…
You buy the Linn Selekt DSM because you take listening to music very seriously indeed, because you are ready and willing to make a considerable investment in order to do so, because you’re prepared to spend similarly prodigious amounts of money on its partnering equipment (amplification and loudspeakers especially), and because you know a superlative control dial when you see and feel one.