where are you located? if you are very lucky a dealer locally may have both. Portland oregon is one.
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I have heard both at the dealer that I do most of my business. Although he is no longer a Ayre dealer he continues the Linn line. I think that on the digital side that the upper Linn seems to deliver more information but the Ayre presents it in a more natural timbre. I have owned a Ikemi and sold it to get the C5xe then upgraded it to the MP. But I made this move to pick up the SACD/DVD-A capability. However the C5xe does outperform the Ikemi. The newer Linn Akurate is as good if not somewhat better, I avoided changing back to Linn since the dealer had had so much trouble with his Unidisk 1.1 and the Linn stepped out of the CDP business. As far as pre-amps and amps I can only say that this dealer showed more Ayre products than Linn. I can't say why, it is just an observation. And I will add now with him dropping the Ayre line, he hasn't brought in any more of the Linn. So I make an assumption based upon that. I will add that I have had great experience with Ayre Service so far. I think Linn makes good gear and have a Linn LP12 and Linto and at this point plan to keep them. Your really need to listen to both if you can.
My Linn Genki CDP went crazy. It turned on randomly, send wild loud signals through my speakers, froze so you could't do anything but pull the plug.
At the time years ago I didn't mind because when it didn't freak out it sounded clear and musical.
I later bought a CX7eMP and was astonished by the difference in build quality, soundstage, detail, weight, etc.
The Linn was like a cheap toy compared to the Ayre. I'd love to hear differing opinions. FYI the genki was $1800, the ayre was $3k.
Both brands have stellar reputations for sound quality and performance. You have to select which is best for you. Ayre is made in America and their service is superb. Linn is made in Scotland. Their service network is not as desirable as Ayre's. Linn makes speakers to match their electronics, Ayre does not. The sound quality of both are among the best out there, yet are distinctly different.
Linn has a unique, long time cult following and also produces high quality music for their customers.
Linn and Ayre can be heard side by side at Pearl Audio Video in Portland Oregon.