December 27, 2011

10 Qs For Ivor Tiefenbrun Of Linn Products Ltd.

Ivor Tiefenbrun was in KL earlier this month to promote the stable of Linn products. Perfect Hi-Fi, the local dealer hosted Ivor at their Jalan Maroff, Bangsar showroom. Ivor gave a philosophical talk about why music is so important for humanity's well being, whose origins may have well started in the form a worm with vertebrae, which only had a sense of pressure, sensitive only to vibrational movements and rhythm, much like a fossil found in the Canadian Shale. He emphasized that proves that rhythm has the most profound effect on humanity compared to our other senses. Which is why, a hifi system that excels in maintaining rhythm and pace will always be considered superior.

He also did a demo asking the audience to listen to short burst of MP3 comparing to hi rez file formats, played back on a full Linn Klimax system. The reason for using short, 30 seconds burst of music for the basis of comparison is that our ears can adapt and our minds easily forgets, said Ivor. The system that sound closest and most like "live" music is the better one. Ivor adds that one should always use un-amplified music as a source for comparison.

Ivor insist that each and every human being has that ability to tell the difference in sound quality, but most did not know how to. With a bit of practice, it's easy to evaluate audio systems.

Ivor Tiefenbrun, the legendary LP12 designer and Linn founder.

Some of the crowd attending to the "Sell By Demo" session, conducted by Ivor Tiefenbrun.

At the end of the talk, the press people were invited to a Chinese dinner, and over some Macallan single malt scotch, Ivor mellowed down and was a perfect candidate for 10 Qs. There was too long a list of questions from all quarters of the hifi press, but I choosed 10 Qs of which I thought was best for your reading pleasure!

Big E: Ivor, when was the last time you were in Malaysia?

IT: I think I was last here 22 years ago. So this may well be the last time you'd meet me as I may take another 22 years, which I obviously may not have, to come round again! Ha! Ha!

Big E: How did you get in to the hifi industry?

IT: I was a young man working in the kitchen of a restaurant. One day, it dawned upon me about my goals in life, call it the awakening if you want. I asked the owner of the restaurant if I could achieve my life's goals in his place, and he told me that I should go else where. It was easy to join Linn, as my father owns the engineering company.

Big E: How did you came about with the LP12's design?

IT: Now we're getting in to controversial territory here. I was trying to make a turntable based around a bearing that my father designed for some of his projects, and by the eleventh revision, I was fairly satisfied with the results, and thus the Ariston RD11 turn table was born. It was initially marketed by Hamish Robertson who later registered the Ariston company, without my knowledge at the time. Sad to say that in a series of events, it all erupted in to by then a highly controversial court case, which ruled the origin of design in Linn's favour. The LP12 is in fact a revision, based on the Ariston RD11 design.

Big E: How many of the Ariston RD11 turn table was sold then?

IT: Linn made about 180 of the first batch of Ariston RD11. Hamish sourced the remaining later batches of RD11 elsewhere.

Big E: What are the main difference between the Linn LP12 compared to the Ariston RD11?

IT: For one, the main bearing is different. The LP12 uses bearing designed that is further refined from that of the RD11. The plinth has been completely re-worked with corner bracing as well, which by now the horizontal lines were added on to the deck for a more distinct look, now a classic.

Big E: Do you now still use an LP12, or a Linn Klimax DS at home for musical pleasure?

IT: I have both at home now, plus I've not given up on the CD12 yet. I still have lots of CDs to spin at home.

Big E: You've mentioned that music as an important foundation to humanity, because we respond most to pressure, as a kind of rhythmic vibrational sensation, justified by in the early days of human civilisation, that song and music came before speech and languages. With the current decline in today's popular music quality and creativity, does it reflect upon humanity's general decline as a species?

IT: That's a pretty bleak picture scenario you've painted there! I beg to differ, with the advantage of hindsight, having being in the business for the last 40 years or so. I see it this way, The hifi and music industry inter wined in more ways than one would assume. Every quarter of a century or so, the hifi, and hence the music industry takes paradigm shift. The hifi industry started in the fifties, coinciding with the introduction of stereo recordings. By the seventies, the LP took prominence, the LP12 design was introduced by then. By the nineties, the compact disc became the de-facto music carrier format. And now, digital down loads is the latest evolution, with LP's making a surprising comeback. You see, every time a paradigm shift occurs, the music and hifi industry under goes a transformation, weeding out the weaker players, while the strong and innovative companies(like Linn) propels to the fore front. What we are going thru now is a period of paradigm shift.

Big E: That's an interesting way of looking at things, but one that certainly holds water, coming from an esteemed industry veteran. Now we move on to another spicy question. Knowing the history of French/British diplomacy, what's your personal view on the JM Lab/Naim merger?

IT: Hmm.......... Having known Julian Vereker, founder of Naim, since it's earliest days, I doubt that's a move he'd approve off. Just so you know, we've worked with Naim since their amplifiers have proven to be excellent partners for our original Isobarik speakers.

Big E: Are you sad to see more and more British hifi brands falling in to foreign hands?

IT: Of course it is a sad, sad situation, when there's only a handful of British companies still manufacturing in the UK. I blame the UK government's business and tax policies for it. It has created an environment that does not encourage young entrepreneurs or new business start ups.   

Ivor, making a point!

Big E: What keeps you working everyday?

IT: First, I like music. I also like traveling and meeting people. It doesn't really feel like work, at least not like now, when we having this nice conversation over an indulgent meal. I spend like at least eight months of a year travelling, doing exactly the same as I did this afternoon, which is a sell by demo session. Some people told me that there are easier ways to sell hifi products. However, by doing it this way, even if it's more difficult, is very rewarding for the long term. I am slowly but surely selling more products one demo at a time. This more personal approach is surely more sustainable for the company's growth in the longer term.

There were many, many more questions and I can assure you, where some of the answers are just so shocking, we just cannot divulge. It's been an honour getting to know Ivor.

I wish to thanks Andy Tan and Perfect Hi-Fi for organising this session.

1 comment:

Joe Bigliogo said...

The original RD11 and early Linn Sondeks were identical except for minor plinth details. Ivor will claim different (like Linn had a superior main bearing) because he wants to promote and sell Linn. I've heard other claims that the Ariston bearing was better because of better quality control in the earliest production run. The truth is they were the same in the early runs.
Of course the latest Linn Sondeks are much evolved beasts and improved over old Linns and RD11s but the cost now is nothing short of obscene.
I do find the Linn hype promulgated by Ivor and his disciples most disturbing. Back in the 70s and 80s the snake oil, the hyperbole, the exaggeration and the BS were a most unfortunate period in the history of audio. The Sondek is fine turntable and so are many of it's competitors but it never merited the mystical and unscientific claims made for it. I owned one and heard many others and it sounded very good like precision bearing sprung suspension turntable should (Edgar Villchur of AR was a Genius). But it never sounded "simply better" than it's best competitors. It simply didn't.