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From vinyl to 24-bit: Linn and the art of streaming

“After we introduced our Direct Streaming products, someone asked me why we were still selling CD players. And when I tried to answer, I didn’t even convince myself.”

So says Gilad Tiefenbrun, Managing Director of Linn, the innovative and independent Scottish company perhaps still most famed for the Linn LP12 turntable, and also for the source-first philosophy of its founder and chairman Ivor Tiefenbrun. Until Linn (and others) espoused this idea in the 1970s, speakers were the kings of the hi-fi chain; today the “garbage in, garbage out” idea has led us to put at least as much emphasis on the initial delivery of the signal to the rest of the system.

Linn was also early to recognise the value of playing files instead of optical discs, and also that once you’ve made that switch, there’s no need to limit yourself to CD-quality music.

“You can play MP3, you can play CD quality — or you can play studio-quality 24-bit music,” says Tiefenbrun the younger, who visited Audio Connection’s Drummoyne store to announce the new Linn distributorship in Australia under Advance Audio – the company has previously been supported here directly under the Scottish company’s Asia-Pacific wing.

Gilad related how Linn began selling 24-bit downloadable files through its Linn Records website well before there was much equipment commonly available to play them.

“They were available as MP3s, as CD quality and at 24-bit, and everyone expected us to sell maybe 60% MP3s and very few 24-bit files,” says Gilad. “But it was entirely the other way around.”

The DS players

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In 2007, Linn introduced its range of digital stream (DS) players, and two years later stopped manufacturing CD players.

Today Linn offers DS players at four levels, all playing digital music up to 24-bit 192kHz over a standard Ethernet network, in addition to accessing internet radio and podcast material from the internet. Any number of players from the Akurate, Klimax and Majik ranges can be combined in a home system controlled by Linn’s own iPhone and iPad App (coming soon for Android). Players in different rooms can access different music or be run in a true synchronised mode for whole-house music.

altA standalone ‘Sneaky Music DS’ player is also available, which combines the network receiver with 20W of on-board amplification; its industrially-styled body can be used horizontally as a conventional component, or vertically to minimise its footprint. The Sneaky Music DS shares the same technology platform as the other Linn DS players, and regular software updates from Linn can add future features and potentially improve sound quality still further. Linn systems can also be integrated into smart-home systems, such as Control 4. It’s an impressive piece of vertical integration, from recording and retailing the music to designing and manufacturing the systems to play it back.

And of course, Linn still makes the Sondek LP12. Turntables have enjoyed small growth in the last few years, says Gilad, with turntables and accessories accounting for around 10% of the company’s business.

More information: www.advanceaudio.com.au

To see Linn Records' available 24-bit downloads, visit www.linnrecords.com

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