Connor and John attended the Linn Conference in Chicago. Linn flew eight people from Scotland to Chicago to provide product training and education for their dealers. Part of these conferences always involve a extensive comparison of different products and configurations in a controlled testing environment, so we can best advise our customers, and also hear the continuing improvements.
We arrived in the afternoon, walked around Chicago for a few hours, then attended Linn's invitation to an evening of classic Chicago Blues and socialization with the Linn engineers and other Linn dealers. We even got to chat with the ever-affable Gilad Tiefenbrun himself! Gilad's dad Ivor founded Linn 45 years ago, and Gilad moved into managing Linn about ten years back.
The next day we attended the conference which presented the newest Linn technologies and products, including a teaser shot of a new product range that was to be introduced in the afternoon.
Linn engineers discussed the new Katalyst DAC architecture and the new Linn Space Optimisation II software which allows a Linn DSM streamer to even better optimize itself for the unique sound characteristics of a given room by modeling better room sizes/shapes and materials. Linn's Optimisation engineer who wore a Chicken & Waffles tee-shirt* described himself as a specialist in "astronomy and spatial acoustical engineering." Brain trust indeed!
*Hmm, that guy must be the programmer.
Linn Introduces Linn Selekt
In the afternoon, Linn rolled out their official release of the new Linn Selekt component range.
Linn Selekt is a single component, but you can configure it via retrofittable hardware options, thus in a sense it is a new range of products. Selekt fits in between Linn's Majik and Akurate ranges. It is also the least expensive way to get into Linn's new Katalyst DAC.
The base Linn Selekt has a base DAC and no amplifier. You can add in an amplification section if you wish, and you can add in the higher performing Linn Katalyst DAC. The unit is modular, so future amplifier and digital options will be available and are field retrofittable.
In the photo above, Linn is describing how the back panel supports a card cage concept making the unit modular, much like a desktop computer, or if you think about it, a Linn LP12 turntable!
You can open and access these interior locations in a minutes if not seconds, so upgrades can be field installed, meaning we can actually install them in a customer's home without their having to 'bring it in' or 'send it to the factory'.
In the photos above you have the upper rear corner removable keyed panel which is for future input/output connections. The vertical panels are for amplifiers and/or the Katalyst DAC. The base unit does have a DAC, but you can upgrade to the Katalyst at purchase or future times. The base Selekt DAC is about as good as the old DAC in the pre-Katalyst Akurate DSM.
Linn Selekt is the most modular Linn electronics product we've ever seen, and an excellent offering where an owner's investment is preserved. I cannot help but be reminded of the Linn LP12, the world's first modular turntable. If you had bought an LP12 45 years ago, you would still own a table for which current upgrades are available. I think Selekt will be like that.
Here is a little better photo taken from official Linn materials. This one shows the rightmost panel with balanced variable outputs, intended to feed an external amplifier such as the Akurate 4200, or even an existing Linn Aktiv setup. Adjacent to the right of the Network jack is a new HDMI ARC connector for the output of a newer TV, so your TV can feed its sound to the Linn Selekt AND control the Selekt's volume.
Again that large upper corner is for future connector arrays. One future upgrade will be a surround-sound module with 5.1 speaker terminals and multiple HDMI inputs and HDMI output. Our guess is that you will be able to use this as a multi-channel 5.1 processor or multi-channel 5.1 receiver.
Linn Demonstration of Selekt with Built-In Amplifier
After the talk, we broke out into two groups attending two rooms. The first room had the Select with Amplifier (on the left) compared to the Select with Amplifier with Katalyst DAC (on the right) , so we could hear the internal amplifier, then hear the improvements from adding the Katalyst DAC.
The interior amplifier is 100 watts into a 4 ohm load. As you can see from the photo below there are two adjacent slots to the amplifier which can accommodate additional amplifier modules as well as future upgrades.
We listened to the first Selekt system with amplifier and base DAC and it was quite good. To our ears it did indeed outperform the Majik DSM which also has an internal 100 watt amplifier. Linn played a couple of good tracks then moved the speaker cables over to the Select with Amplifier and Katalyst DAC. The difference was much more natural sound and a beautiful analog openness. The Katalyst is a very easy option to recommend as it does make a tremendous difference in sound quality.
Following that we adjourned to the second room, higher end system showing Linn Selekt with a separate Akurate 2200 amplifier. At Pearl Audio, we have a Majik DSM, Akurate Katalyst DSM, and a Linn Akurate 2200 as two of our go-to systems so we had a good point of reference. On the left was a Linn Selekt DSM no-amplifier with base DAC, and on the right was a Linn Selekt DSM no-amplifier with Katalyst DAC.
This Linn Selekt system with Akurate 2200 amplifier system was quite a bit better since the separation out of an amplifier always brings about a little cleaner sound, and more importantly we moved from a 100 watt into 4 ohm amplifier from the Selekt range to a in a 200 watt in to 4 ohm amplifier from the Akurate range. The difference was more sound stage size and power coupled with a more open upper range for better vocals and strings. Like all Linn offerings, it was a consistent and commensurate improvement in cost/performance.
Once again Linn demonstrated for us the fairly profound improvement you get from the Katalyst over the base DAC option. Buying the Linn Selekt with the Katalyst DAC upgrade factory installed is a little less expensive. We at Pearl Audio always love solutions like this where a customer can buy something good with their budget today, then have meaningful factory upgrades ongoing. The Linn Selekt almost defines the category now.
A little more info on Linn Selekt may be found here:
We wrapped up the day with a lovely dinner at the James Hotel in Chicago and departed the next morning after a breakfast/discussion with other Linn dealers and the high end audio press, which had just arrived to cover the new Linn Selekt. Here is some of their coverage:
Before our flight, Connor and I had a little extra time, so we visited Pro-Musica the longtime Linn dealer in Chicago, and Quintessence Audio, the Audio Research/Sonus Faber dealer (their sound room is below). I (John) lived in Chicago twenty years ago, and remember them carrying Linn and Audio Research respectively and being great hifi stores in the area. Pro-Musica was just a few block from me in Lincoln Park. It's nice to see these great stores still continuing to support these great brands, literally over the decades.