September 22, 2010

10 Qs For Gilad Tiefenbrun, Managing Director Of Linn Products Ltd.

Gilad Tiefenbrun, Managing Director Of Linn Products.

Gilad Tiefenbrun, son of the legendary Ivor, creator of the iconic Linn Sondek LP12 turn table, was here in Malaysia to present the latest development on the digital down loads front at the Perfect HiFi Bangsar show room. I must say the digital future does look exciting indeed.

I took the opportunity to ask Gilard 10 Qs as usual, but it was harder this time. No, it's not because he spoke English with a Scottish accent, his English is perfectly understand able. It was the long queue, as there were many hifi/audio journalist waiting in line to speak to him! Big E was a little late, so had to wait in line!

Big E: Gilad, welcome to Malaysia! And just to pick up more about Linn, starting with your father Ivor, is he still involved in the company operations, even though you're the head honcho now?

GT: Yes, my father is still actively involved in the day to day operations of Linn. He's quite the visionary and oversees things from the big picture perspective.

Big E: Still on your father, who back in the 80's once quoted that "We've only achieved 10% fidelity on our hifi vs the actual live music experience". Almost three decades later, can you say how much closer have hifi gotten to recreating that live music experience?

GT: It's hard to put a figure to the progress on audio reproduction that we've made since the 80's. However, I can confidently tell you that today's Linn entry level products, like the Majik range does actually sound better than the previous top of the line Linn products 10 years ago! My father would agree to this statement.

Big E: Does every Linn product in R&D goes through a final "golden ear" panel test for sound quality or is it only Ivor and your good self, prior to product launch?

GT: At Linn, we do not believe in the "golden ear" myth. We believe everyone, and I mean everyone, should be able to tell good sound quality over bad. There's no superior pair of ears so to speak. If a product does sound better, anybody should be able to tell the difference!

Big E: Are Linn products, including the electronic PCBs still totally made in Glasgow, Scotland?

GT: Absolutely, we believe that's the best way to make a high end product. Every Linn LP12, or electronics like amplifier and even speakers are wholly assembled by one person. This person who assembles the product also checks it for QC and signs his or her initials on the finished and QC tested product, before packing for shipping.

Big E: The Linn Klimax amplifiers sounds very pleasing while running very cool, are they class D topology based?

GT: The Linn Klimax mono blocks are the best amps we've made to date. The stereo version which you've just heard are the next best. The Klimax are class A/B based and the reason they run very cool is because we've design a highly effective passive/active ventilation system inside the case. The casing is also coated with a heat deflecting coating, hence it feels cool to touch even during operation. However, it does get hot when stretched, and the active ventilation system will kick in.

Big E: There's a mini fan inside?

GT: Yes, the fan only operates once the sensors feels the amp reaching it's maximum operating temperature. It stops immediately once the operating temperature returns to normal.

Big E: Are they further improvements made to the Linn Sondek LP12 turn table?

GT: Yes, we're still working on ways to further improve the Linn Sondek LP12. We've got a new DC motor called Radikal which my father says is the best value up grade for the Linn Sondek LP12. There's also the new Lingo 3 power supply, Urika internal MC phono stage, and an Uphoric MC/MM phono stage.

Big E: Why did Linn made the drastic decision to stop making CD players? Do you feel Linn in particular, hastened the death of the CD?

GT: Since we launched the Linn Klimax DS music streamer in 2007, we already thought about killing off CD player production, because we're convinced that the Klimax DS was so much better sounding compared to our Linn CD12(which at the time of launch in 1999, was considered the best CD player in the world). We held on to that decision and in the end, it had much to do with our music business, Linn Records. Since November last year, our music down load sales have over taken the combined physical media sales of LPs and CDs. 80% of our customers down loaded the Studio Masters version from our music catalogue. We felt at that point, it'll be futile to keep making CD players. I would give any digital disc(CD, SACD, DVD-A and Blu-ray for Audio) medium another five years or so to be in existence. I think LP's will still be around but on a limited basis.

Big E: Does that mean Linn Records will stop pressing LPs too?

GT: We will continue to press LPs as long the artist or the customers request for it. I know many artist in the Linn Records label who'd like to see their album on LP, because they know their fans would want the album on the LP format.

Big E: Linn Records, I like your recordings, any new artist on your catalogue that you'll like to introduce to us?

GT: I personally like Maeve O'Boyle. She has a knack of expressing her emotions thru song. Her lyrics are very personal and heart felt by nature and the track you've just heard, "Pray It Never Happens", was written at a time when she was feeling very depressed and sad. So sad in fact, she prays that it never happens to anyone else. I've always like the Scottish Chamber Orchestra too. And then there's Alfie Boe, who sings operetta style tenor. He lost his confidence after cutting an album with major label EMI, which proved to be a disaster on both commercial and artistic fronts. An ex-EMI executive asked if we could do a recording for him? We did, and Alfie was soon grinning away. Alfie is not just another Andrea Bocelli style tenor, which I am sure you'll find quite refreshing.

Gilad standing next to the Linn Klimax system on demo.

Big E: Are Linn Records Studio Masters down loads proprietary to Linn digital streamers?

GT: At Linn, we're a very open company, in fact we're always against the idea of proprietary in the digital down loads. Our Linn Records Studio Masters can be down loaded on FLAC(Free Lossless Audio Codec) which is the most compatible format and will be around for a long, long time. In other words, one does not necessarily need to own Linn Klimax DS music streamer to down load our Studio Masters or vice versa, because FLAC is the most universal digital format.

Big E: How would you respond to those who claim that todays' Linn products are more lifestyle than hifi?

GT: As you know, the music and audio industry is under going a transition period at the moment. Today's iPod and MP3 users will be tomorrow's hifi buyers. We want to make hifi more accessible to more people. Show them, that hifi is more than just about cables, cones and racks. We want to invite more young people who are used to iPods and MP3 sound quality to appreciate beautiful music playback. We want to bring them in to our world of hifi.

Thank you Gilad for your time. It was an enlightening chat. I'd better give way to next waiting journalist in line, otherwise I might be beaten up! Ha!Ha!

How's that for the pulling power of Linn Products?

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