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Linn Products is a Scottish company, based in Glasgow
Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

, that manufactures hi-fi audio equipment
Audio equipment
A piece of audio equipment is any device designed principally to reproduce, record or process sound. This includes microphones, radio receivers, AV receivers, CD players, tape recorders, amplifiers, mixing consoles, effects units and loudspeakers....

, home theatre
Home cinema
Home cinema, also commonly called home theater, are home entertainment set-ups that seek to reproduce a movie theater experience and mood with the help of video and audio equipment in a private home....

, and multi-room integrated audio systems. It is the manufacturer of the renowned Linn Sondek LP12
Linn Sondek LP12
The Linn Sondek LP12 transcription turntable is produced by Glasgow-based Linn Products, manufacturers of hi-fi, home theatre, and multi-room audio systems...

 turntable.

Origins


Linn began as an offshoot of Castle Precision Engineering (Glasgow) Ltd., a company now specialising in CNC machining, and many of the methods and processes of precision engineering form the philosophy behind the production of Linn's audio components. It was founded in 1973 by Ivor Tiefenbrun
Ivor Tiefenbrun
Ivor Sigmund Tiefenbrun MBE is the founder and Chairman of Linn Products Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland-based manufacturers of Hi-fi and home entertainment equipment...

 to produce the Sondek LP12 turntable, which utilises a suspended sub-chassis and an "innovative single-point platter bearing" machined to extremely tight tolerances. Suspending the platter- and tonearm-bearing subchassis from springs, an innovation pioneered by the US company Acoustic Research
Acoustic Research
Acoustic Research was a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company that manufactured high-end audio equipment. The brand is now owned by Audiovox. Acoustic Research was well known for the AR-3 series of speaker systems, which used the 12-inch acoustic suspension woofer of the AR-1 with newly designed...

, was extremely efficient in isolating the system from loudspeaker and floor-induced acoustic feedback. The Sondek's subsequent success was also instrumental in reestablishing the superiority of belt-driven turntables, which were then thought to be old-fashioned compared with the supposedly more modern direct-driven ones.

Hamish Robertson designed the Ariston RD11 in 1971 with Castle Precision Engineering Ltd machining many of the parts. Robertson left Ariston, which had been taken over by Dunlop Westayr Ltd and reorganised as Ariston Audio Ltd. In February 1973 Linn Products Ltd. was formed to sell turntables made by Castle Precision Engineering. This was officially announced in an advertisement in Hi-Fi News & Record Review, with the following text: "The turntable previously available under the name Ariston RD11 is now available under the name Linn LP12." There were claims, and even patent litigation at the time, that the first Linn Sondek LP12 was a carbon copy of the RD11, and many parts interchangeable.

Sondek LP12



The Sondek LP12 is a suspended sub-chassis turntable with a single-point platter bearing. From its introduction in 1973, there have not been any radical changes to the turntable design, which remains in production. However, the LP12's sound quality has been improved through retrofittable upgrade kits. The successive upgrades consist mostly of refinements in materials used and improved manufacturing tolerances. It is often used by hi-fi reviewers as a reference turntable.

In 1975, Linn patented its isobaric
Isobaric speakers
The Isobaric loudspeaker construction technique was originally introduced by Harry F. Olson in the early 1950s. It is derived from the term Isobar, which is of Greek origin: "isobares" meaning "of equal weight"...

 loading principle, and launched the Isobarik loudspeaker. Initially Linn manufactured the LP12 itself, but not any other components such as tonearms and cartridges. This gap was filled with a largely complementary range from, amongst others, Grace, Sumiko, and in the 1980s, Naim Audio
Naim Audio
Naim Audio is a British manufacturer of high fidelity audio products for domestic use, based in Salisbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom.-History:...

.

Electronics


As the LP12 became more successful, Linn began to design, and later manufacture, these components internally. Many were initially designed by Linn (and in particular by Bill Miller, who led the R&D
Research and development
The phrase research and development , according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, refers to "creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of...

 effort for over two decades) and manufactured by major industry players (such as Goldring
Goldring
Goldring is an audio equipment manufacturing company that was established in 1906. In 1906 the Scharf brothers started manufacturing phonographs in Berlin, Germany. The company moved to England in 1933 and continued manufacturing cartridges and turntables. The "Juwel Electro Soundbox" phonograph...

). As Linn's own manufacturing capabilities grew, the higher-end offerings were eventually manufactured in-house. Later, the range was extended to include electronic components in the early 1980s.

In a departure from hi-fi products, a subsidiary company, Linn Smart Computing was formed in 1984 to develop the 'Rekursiv
Rekursiv
Rekursiv was a computer processor designed by David M. Harland in the mid-1980s for Linn Smart Computing in Glasgow, Scotland. It was one of the few computer architectures intended to implement object-oriented concepts directly in hardware. The Rekursiv operated directly on objects rather than...

', an object-oriented computer processor and 'Lingo', a programming language
Programming language
A programming language is an artificial language designed to communicate instructions to a machine, particularly a computer. Programming languages can be used to create programs that control the behavior of a machine and/or to express algorithms precisely....

. This was used in a number of university research projects in the UK but was not a commercial success. Another off-shoot company, IST Marine was formed specifically to sell a speedboat concept that had been designed by Ivor Tiefenbrun but, despite heavy investment by Linn in creating and promoting this marine platform, only one vessel (called SKORPION) was ever built for Tiefenbrun himself.

Digital compact disc


Linn's first CD player, the Karik, was released in 1993 – 11 years after the CD format itself. Linn claimed that it took this long to produce a CD player that offered comparable performance to the LP12. Its flagship compact disc player, the CD12, pioneered by Alan Clark, was launched in 1997 and discontinued in 2005 because some OEM
Original Equipment Manufacturer
An original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, manufactures products or components that are purchased by a company and retailed under that purchasing company's brand name. OEM refers to the company that originally manufactured the product. When referring to automotive parts, OEM designates a...

 transport components could no longer be obtained from the supplier.

Further flagship additions to the range of award-winning components included the Unidisk series of silver disc players (again with electronic design from Alan Clark), as well as the Kisto and Kinos AV processors. These latter two were the result of design work by Andrew Barnes and Ian Wilson. Since then, a new range of digitally networked components has been released, based on the DS (Digital Stream) concept providing a much needed replacement for the aging Knekt system.

On 20 November 2009, Linn announced that it is to stop making CD players, instead focusing on digital streaming products.

Philosophy


Tiefenbrun gained much of his standing and influence today within hi-fi circles when he promoted his turntable in the early days of the company by hawking retailers and personally demonstrating the difference the LP12 made when it replaced a turntable in their own system in an "A:B Comparison". The company continues to value this approach, rejecting the use of technical specifications to judge a component, citing the fact that these figures are often inconsistently measured and purposefully misleading.

Although now in his 60s, Tiefenbrun remains a controversial figure who has gathered as many detractors over the years as he has supporters. An out-spoken critic of the UK Labour government, he has continued to beat the drum for manufacturing in the UK, and even more specifically Scotland, at a time when many companies have chosen to manufacture in China and other emerging economies. This approach certainly seemed to pay dividends in the mid 1980s and late 1990s when the company experienced periods of healthy growth and expansion. However, 2007 saw a downturn in business performance, resulting in almost one third of workforce being made redundant.

Management


The founder of the company has remained hands-on at Linn, although many of the company's longest-serving directors also left Linn in the turmoil of 2007. In February 2009, Gilad Tiefenbrun, son of Ivor, was named Managing Director of the company. Ivor remains Executive Chairman. Ivor Tiefenbrun subsequently expressed an interest in entering politics, and was appointed the Conservative Party candidate for Glasgow Maryhill and Sprinburn in the Autumn of 2010. However, he was forced to resign some three days later following the publication of an interview with The Scotsman newspaper in which he defended Margaret Thatcher and insulted Scots who did not support her, calling them "so thick".

System Hierarchy and "Tune-Dem"


Before the launch of the LP12 vinyl record player, conventional wisdom in the hi-fi community was that the loudspeaker
Loudspeaker
A loudspeaker is an electroacoustic transducer that produces sound in response to an electrical audio signal input. Non-electrical loudspeakers were developed as accessories to telephone systems, but electronic amplification by vacuum tube made loudspeakers more generally useful...

 was the most important part of a hi-fi system. Linn championed a "source-first" doctrine, arguing that, whilst a system was only as good as its weakest link, the most important part of any system was the source: Linn marketing cited the computing analogy "Garbage In, Garbage Out
Garbage In, Garbage Out
Garbage in, garbage out is a phrase in the field of computer science or information and communication technology. It is used primarily to call attention to the fact that computers will unquestioningly process the most nonsensical of input data and produce nonsensical output...

" - information which was lost at the outset was gone for good and could not be recovered, however good another component along the chain was, and that it was therefore better to devote attention (and money) to devices earlier in the chain than later. The hierarchy has the following main stages:

- Source: the device extracting the music from the media (turntable, CD or radio). This device must carefully extract all possible information from the media; if this is not done, then musical information is permanently lost and cannot be recovered by the amplification or loudspeakers.

- Control: a device for providing control over the sources, originally switching between sources, and volume, but latterly including surround-sound processing and other system control functions. The control device must faithfully deal with incoming signals and pass the best possible signal along the chain to the playback components.

- Playback: components which convert the musical signal into audible sound: essentially amplifiers and speakers. The best that these components can do is to reproduce the incoming signal from the Control component, and cannot improve the sound.

Linn holds that within the source stage, turntable components have their own hierarchy. The turntable itself is said to be the most important component, as it must provide mechanical stability and accuracy. The tone-arm is next, followed by the cartridge.

Through use of the "tune-dem" - a method for hearing differences between components by attempting simply to follow the tune - Linn emphasises the importance of this system hierarchy. The launch of improvements to Linn's turntable, the LP12 SE upgrades (Keel, Ekos SE and Trampolin 2) have seen a resurgence of the tune-dem in demonstrations, since lesser tone-arms are said to outperform the previous flagship tone-arm, the Ekos, when used with a Keel-upgraded LP12, showing thereby the importance of the source-first approach. However, this "tune-dem" approach has proved controversial with retailers and customers because it involves repeatedly playing only very small sections (no more than ten seconds) of music to the listener, and many have criticised Linn for their insistence that this approach is adhered to.

Linn states that the most important job for a hi-fi system is to reveal the music, and the system's success in practice can be judged by how well the tune is revealed. Whereas many hi-fi companies have promoted electrical specifications as indicative of their products' performance, Linn has focused on its products' ability to reproduce the elements of music as judged subjectively - sometimes referred to as "PRAT" for pace, rhythm and timing - or, in Linn's terminology, "pitch accuracy".

Partnerships


During much of the 1970s and 80s, Linn adopted a symbiotic
Symbiosis
Symbiosis is close and often long-term interaction between different biological species. In 1877 Bennett used the word symbiosis to describe the mutualistic relationship in lichens...

 relationship with Naim Audio
Naim Audio
Naim Audio is a British manufacturer of high fidelity audio products for domestic use, based in Salisbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom.-History:...

. Their product ranges were complementary, and their names were often mentioned in the same breath. During this time, the Linn/Naim system was a preferred combination for many audiophile
Audiophile
An audiophile is a person who enjoys listening to recorded music, usually in a home. Some audiophiles are more interested in collecting and listening to music, while others are more interested in collecting and listening to audio components, whose "sound quality" they consider as important as the...

s. The two companies had almost the same sales and marketing strategy, and shared many of the same retailers/dealers. Since many of the principles the two companies subscribed to were thought to be heretical, or flying in the face of conventional wisdom, Linn/Naim aficionados were nicknamed "flat earth
Flat Earth
The Flat Earth model is a belief that the Earth's shape is a plane or disk. Most ancient cultures have had conceptions of a flat Earth, including Greece until the classical period, the Bronze Age and Iron Age civilizations of the Near East until the Hellenistic period, India until the Gupta period ...

ers", sometimes affectionately, sometimes derogatorily. The two companies diverged during the 1980s, at the dawn of digital audio.

In 2002 Linn formed a brand partnership with Aston Martin
Aston Martin
Aston Martin Lagonda Limited is a British manufacturer of luxury sports cars, based in Gaydon, Warwickshire. The company name is derived from the name of one of the company's founders, Lionel Martin, and from the Aston Hill speed hillclimb near Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire...

 to supply audio systems to Aston Martin cars. Linn supplied amplification and loudspeaker systems for the Vanquish and DB9 models but was subsequently replaced by Alpine Electronics, the previous incumbent, allegedly as the result of a dispute over reliability and cost. Although now defunct, Linn's Chakra amplifier technology was derived from technology required to develop high-efficiency amplification powered by a 12V vehicle electrical system.

Controversies


As mentioned elsewhere, company founder Ivor Tiefenbrun has never been far from controversy. The company's first ever product was allegedly based on someone else's design and Tiefenbrun has gathered a reputation over the years as an acerbic opertator who often expresses his opinions candidly and colourfully, regardless of consequence. In the early 1980s, Linn launched many adverts in various Hi-Fi magazines (Haymarket Publications) in an attempt to mock the arrival of the Compact Disc player (which was a development by Philips, joined by Sony in the final stage of creation) claiming to be technologically superior to conventional turntable mechanisms, due to the fact that digital laser technology had the potential to offer a high resolution and a wider frequency band than vinyl, but did not realise that in the 44.1 kHz/16 bit format. The ads suggested the CD format was doomed to fail alongside other formats like 8 track stereo. Linn was to launch its own CD player a decade later. In the 1990s Tiefenbrun poured substantial amounts of company money into his ill-fated speedboat venture and also had an acrimonious parting of the ways with several long-standing company directors when his son joined the company and was rapidly promoted to Head of R&D and then MD.

Technology and supply chain


From its engineering roots, it is now a fully-fledged hi-fi company, having gained significant expertise in electronics manufacturing through heavy investments in computer technology since the early 1980s. The company has embraced surface-mount technology
Surface-mount technology
Surface mount technology is a method for constructing electronic circuits in which the components are mounted directly onto the surface of printed circuit boards . An electronic device so made is called a surface mount device...

, and promotes the "single-stage build", where one person is responsible for the entire process of assembling a product. It controls all the key processes from design. Linn also controls distribution in their key markets UK, USA, and Germany.

Market positioning


Linn has tried to position itself at the luxury end of the home entertainment marketplace through its work in the superyacht market and with partners such as Aston Martin. However, it is still very much a hi-fi company with a very strong and loyal following of audiophile and enthusiast customers. A recent downturn in market performance in 2007, possibly caused by the loss of the Loewe
Loewe AG
Loewe AG is the parent company of the German Loewe group. The Loewe group develops, manufactures and sells a wide variety of electronic, electrical and mechanical products and systems, and specialises in the field of consumer and communication technology. The company was founded in Berlin in 1923...

 Television distribution business and some product reliability issues, caused the company to shed approximately 75 employees (almost one third of the workforce) and raised fears for the future of the company. The return of Ivor Tiefenbrun to an active role within the company has seen a return to core values of mainstream home audio systems, with less focus on high-profile partnerships and marketing relationships. The re-emergence of an entry-level Majik product line is seen by many as Linn's continuing interest in developing a wide-ranging customer base.

Milestones

  • 1972, Sondek LP12 Transcription Turntable
  • 1976, Isobarik DMS/PMS loudspeaker
  • 1978, Isobarik SARA (Small Acoustic Reproduction Apparatus) DMS/PMS Loudspeaker - also named after Ivor Tiefenbrun's baby daughter who was small, but could make a lot of noise!
  • 1979, Ittok LV II tonearm (made by OEM supplier from own design)
  • 1981, Linnk, Moving-Coil Phono Pre-Amplifier (Manufactured by Naim Audio)
  • 1984, Basik LV X budget tonearm (made by OEM supplier from own design)
  • 1978, first moving coil cartridge Asak (made by OEM supplier from own design)
  • 1985, LK1 pre-amplifier and LK2 power-amplifier introduced
  • 1987, budget turntable Axis with [Basik +] tonearm
  • 1988, own-made tonearm - Linn Ekos
  • 1989, budget Akito tonearm
  • 1990, budget turntable - Linn Basik
  • 1991, First CD Player & DAC converter - Karik/Numerik
  • 1994, embraces multi-room - launch of Knekt multi-room system
  • 1997, first Linn separates phono MC preamp - Linto
  • 1999, Sondek CD12 4D Transcription compact disc player - wins many design awards even before launch, first product to use satin-finished machined Aluminium solid ingots for casing
  • 1999, embraces AV - launch of AV51 system
  • 2001, Ivor Tiefenbrun - voted Scottish entrepreneur of the Year
  • 2001, Kivor Index Tunbok hard-disk storage system
  • 2002, Royal Warrant, HRH Prince Charles
  • 2002, achieved ISO 9001:2000 certification
  • 2003, Unidisk 1.1/2.1 multi-format disc player
  • 2003, Kisto AV Processor - Top-of-the range analogue and digital pre-amplifier, wins accolades from audiophiles and press alike
  • 2003, Akurate loudspeaker range for music and home cinema use
  • 2003, New extension is added to Linn's Waterfoot factory, doubling production capacity
  • 2004, granted ISO 14001:1996 certification
  • 2005, Classik Movie
  • 2005, Kinos and Kinos+DSP - Modular upgradeable system, with stellar analog and digital audio performance. Received Gold Award from prestigious international home audio magazine.
  • 2006, Majik system - Majik CD, Majik Kontrol and 100W Majik Chakra 2100
  • 2007, LP12 33⅓ birthday present - the Special Edition upgrades: Keel (replacement subchassis, armboard and arm collar machined from a single ingot of aluminum), Ekos SE tonarm, and Trampolin (Mark 2) metal isolation baseboard
  • 2007, new Akurate system - Akurate CD, Akurate Tuner, and pre and 200W power amplifiers rebadged as Akurate range
  • 2007, Klimax DS (digital stream) solid-state digital music network player
  • 2008, Akurate DS
  • 2008, Sneaky DS (DS player complete with pre amp, power amp and multiroom function)
  • 2008, Artikulat speakers upgraded and rebranded as Klimax. The LP12 also given a Majik, Akurate and Klimax specification
  • 2008, Majik-I released - first integrated amplifier since original Majik-I discontinued in 2001.
  • 2008, Majik DS
  • 2009, Introducing the Dynamic power supply - also available as an upgrade for most current Linn electronic products
  • 2009, Linn stops production of CD players (official link) - Continuing making vinyl players (!), digital stream players and DVD-players
  • 2009, Radikal DC motor and power supply for LP12, removing the electromagnetic field given off by AC motors and picked up by cartridge or anything near turntable, widely regarded as the best upgrade for the LP12, surpassing the Keel. Also allowed for (Radikal powered) Urika phonostage mounted inside the turntable. Derived from the Urika is the Uphorik external phonostage which is more flexible for a wider range of cartridges.
  • 2011, Klimax DS upgraded to KDS/1. KDS/0 customers could upgrade from old board to new circuitboard. Until October customers for an extra small fee could have old board fitted with a dynamik psu in a small box called a Renew DS. Intend for customers to have near KDS quality in a second room some customers sold RDS paying for whole upgrade.
  • 2011, DSM range introduced. Able to play a wider range of inputs (HDMI etc.) as well as IP-streamed files such as flac.


Linn operates its own record label, Linn Records
Linn Records
Linn Records is a Glasgow-based record label which specialises in classical, jazz and Scottish music. It is part of Linn Products.-History:While Linn engineers were testing their flagship product, the Sondek LP12 turntable, they became frustrated with some of the specialist test LPs they were using...

 to which artists such as Claire Martin, Carol Kidd and Martin Taylor
Martin Taylor
Martin Taylor, MBE is a British jazz guitarist who has performed in groups, guitar ensembles and as an accompanist to many of the world’s most famous musicians...

 have signed. Its subsidiary Linnsight used to distribute Loewe
Loewe AG
Loewe AG is the parent company of the German Loewe group. The Loewe group develops, manufactures and sells a wide variety of electronic, electrical and mechanical products and systems, and specialises in the field of consumer and communication technology. The company was founded in Berlin in 1923...

 Televisions until Loewe decided to set up their own division in the UK in early 2007.

In March 2002 Aston Martin
Aston Martin
Aston Martin Lagonda Limited is a British manufacturer of luxury sports cars, based in Gaydon, Warwickshire. The company name is derived from the name of one of the company's founders, Lionel Martin, and from the Aston Hill speed hillclimb near Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire...

 and Linn Products announced a partnership that has resulted in 'unique' audio systems for the V12 Vanquish and DB9
Aston Martin DB9
-DB9 Volante:The Aston Martin DB9 Volante is the convertible version of the DB9 coupe. It is built by hand in limited numbers and has enhanced styling. It is powered by the same 6.0 litre, DOHC 48 valve V12 as the DB9 and is completed with 470 bhp and a top speed of 186 mph...

 models. This partnership lasted less than 3 years, allegedly as the result of disputes relating to system reliability and cost.

Awards and recognition

  • Ivor Tiefenbrun was awarded the MBE by HM Queen Elizabeth II
    Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
    Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

     in for "his and his company's engineering achievements and outstanding service to the electronics industry."
  • As of 1 January 2002, Linn Products Ltd has been awarded The Royal Warrant
    Royal Warrant
    Royal warrants of appointment have been issued for centuries to those who supply goods or services to a royal court or certain royal personages. The warrant enables the supplier to advertise the fact that they supply to the royal family, so lending prestige to the supplier...

     of Appointment as a Tradesman to His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales
    Prince of Wales
    Prince of Wales is a title traditionally granted to the heir apparent to the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the 15 other independent Commonwealth realms...

    , as a provider of Entertainment Systems.

Products and trademarks


Linn have a number of trademarks for their products, many of which have the characteristic "k" in place of a hard "c". The origins of this practice have been relayed in a number of ways during Linn's history. Ivor Tiefenbrun said stated its a
contraction of both 'sound deck' and the word soundex as all designs have their own unique recognisable sound. Many of the names have Scottish origins, e.g. Kairn, Keltik or Ekos (cairn
Cairn
Cairn is a term used mainly in the English-speaking world for a man-made pile of stones. It comes from the or . Cairns are found all over the world in uplands, on moorland, on mountaintops, near waterways and on sea cliffs, and also in barren desert and tundra areas...

, Celt
Celt
The Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Roman-era Europe who spoke Celtic languages.The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture , named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria....

ic, Ecosse), some have relevance to the function they perform e.g. Knekt (a system to connect many rooms together) or Klout (a powerful amplifier), while the origins of others are rather more obscure. Some products have had relatively simple names such as the Index loudspeakers.

Isobarik


Name from the original loudspeakers that first used the design
Isobaric speakers
The Isobaric loudspeaker construction technique was originally introduced by Harry F. Olson in the early 1950s. It is derived from the term Isobar, which is of Greek origin: "isobares" meaning "of equal weight"...

. The bass driver sits at the front of a tunnel of identical shape, a second bass driver is at the rear of this. As both drivers move in unison, the front driver gets the impression the speaker cabinet is twice the size than it actually is, resulting in that equivalent amount of bass performance.

Products which bear the name:
  • Linn Majik Isobarik


Legacy products no longer in production :
  • Linn Isobarik Sara
  • Linn Isobarik Sara 9
  • Linn Isobarik DMS/PMS
  • Linn Keltik
  • Linn Melodik Active Isobarik Bass

External links