Linn Sneaky Music DS review

Linn, one of the bastions of traditional hi-fi, has entered the 21st century with its very own digital media player. And very good it is too Tested at £995

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A startling departure from Linn, but a brilliantly realised one, too. This is a genuine alternative to a CD player


  • +

    Exceptional sound quality

  • +

    compact and easy to get to grips with


  • -

    Some price rivals are a shade more flexible

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If you ever wanted proof that the digital music revolution is well under way, here it is: Linn, one of the most highly respected names in traditional hi-fi, has come up with its very own digital media player, the Sneaky Music DS.

In fact, the Sneaky is one of four Digital Stream (DS) players in the company's line-up. It's a flexible little beastie, and not just because it can be orientated vertically or horizontally.

Thanks to its built-in 20w power amplification, it can be used a compact hi-fi system. Alternatively, thanks to fitted analogue and digital outputs, it can be treated as a source component for installation into a hi-fi system.

All you need then is a music source. This can be your PC or a Network Attached Storage box (NAS): we tried our review sample with a Dell laptop, and also with the AVA RS3 with equally impressive results.

It'll support WAV, Flac and MP3 file formats of up to 24-bit/192kHz quality, and also accepts the SHOUTcast internet radio system, given appropriate internet access. Most importantly, it uses its own upsampling engine plus powerful digital-to-analogue conversion to maximise sound quality.

Get your head round the future
And that really is the big deal with the Linn. Connected via its preouts into our reference system, it's genuinely fantastic to listen to, especially when you feed it one of Linn's own downloadable 24-bit/96kHz Flac recordings: Claire Martin's voice on He Never Mentioned Love is fabulously well-resolved and positioned with unerring accuracy.

Even if you switch to Linn's Komponent speakers and treat the Sneaky as a local hi-fi fed by 'plain' old Flac files from the AVA RS3, it retains a musical edge on rivals.

Downsides? The Linn isn't wi-fi enabled, so a multiroom installation is a little more convoluted (but hardly insurmountable).

Plus, it doesn't come with a control interface – although it can be controlled by any offboard UPnP third-party device, such as the HP iPAQ PDA that came supplied with our review sample. Otherwise, consider this a brilliantly accomplished music player.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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