There is another seemingly subtle and in fact hugely significant change to the Selekt DSM – it supports USB! The other Linn streaming devices in the range have all been exceptionally good at dealing with UPnP streaming, and more recently online streaming from Tidal or Spotify, but plugging in a humble PC full of music via USB was simply not done in Linn circles. There were accusations of elitism by Linn’s rivals (it was low-hanging fruit for the competition), and more than a few red-faces among fresh-faced Linn reps trying to find a USB port. That all ends with the Selekt DSM, as it sports a Class 2 USB port, and your computer – if not a USB hard drive – can now play from a Linn product. DSD is coming, but MQA remains steadfastly MIA.
Before we get to the performance, let’s just focus a little more on the hardware itself. The Selekt acts identically with analogue or digital sources, in that its first step is to pass any analogue sources through an A-D converter and all subsequent processing is performed in the digital domain. This means the built-in MM and MC phono stage has a lot in common with Linn’s flagship Urika II t. At its most basic configuration, the Selekt DSM is a standalone streaming source component/limited function preamplifier, and subsequent upgrades (available at launch) include the Katalyst DAC cartridge, and power amplifiers. A headphone amp module and potentially other products in the Selekt line will launch later.
But it’s how it sounds that matters. Selekt DSM sits midway between the Majik DSM integrated streaming amplifier and the Akurate DSM. In standard guise (as in without Katalyst DAC), its performance is in line with its price positioning; it’s a lot better than Majik DSM and not quite as good as Akurate DSM. Adding the Katalyst DAC cartridge upends this happy placement, however, as the Selekt DSM has more control over the music than the Akurate DSM. The differences are not substantial however; it’s more an ‘edges past by a nose’ rather than ‘pistol-whipping the Akurate into submission.’ It has that characteristic Linn lean, clean, tight, and dry sound common across the range, but the precision of that sound improves significantly by adding the Katalyst DAC cartridge. It doesn’t ‘obsolete’ Majik or Akurate. Probably.
A more interesting test is with the inclusion of its amplifiers modules, making the Selekt DSM a very close price match with the Naim Uniti Nova. Typically, this test wouldn’t be performed because of Linn’s almost shut-in approach, but the Selekt DSM is the ‘outreach’ device, and this makes for interesting listening. The Linn has both a drier sound and a more satisfying bass than the Naim product (even in standard DAC guise), and when the Katalyst DAC is in place, the differences between the two are substantial and significant. Granted at that point the Linn product is considerably more expensive than the Naim, and it was a quick test, but I suspect many people would choose the Linn if they performed the same comparison.
Finally, there’s Space Optimisation. Where before it had a basic set of room construction options, it now allows far more nuanced real-world room settings, accounting for L-shaped rooms, more accurate placement of doors and windows, and a graphical user interface that allows you to draw your room. The listening room was rectangular anyway, so we are not going to access Space Optimisation’s refinements, but once again the improvement is worth making especially if you are in a less-than-perfect setting.
Linn’s new Selekt DSM has a series of Linn-relevant ‘firsts’. It’s the company’s first fully new digital streaming platform in years, and it will undoubtedly form the basis for new models. It’s the first product in years that is designed to break free of Planet Linn’s gravitational pull, and it is modular enough to attract a range of listeners. I think Linn has got it right with the Selekt DSM.
Addendum:In reading my review back having let it settle for a month or so, I’m of the opinion that I underplayed some aspects of the product’s design and performance. Whether this was because I had just come off the end of one of the busiest writing schedules in my career, that I was setting the Selekt DSM in the wrong context, or a combination of these things remains unclear to me, but I feel like I was pulling my punches.