Friday, September 17, 2010

Linn offers best of analogue and digital

Linn's managing director Gilad Tiefenbrun
 explaining how the Klimax DS player
works at Perfect Hi-Fi.
Today the music and hi-fi industries are at a turning point.


CD sales are down while music downloads are up. Millions of people are paying to download music from iTunes and Amazon.com, but the singers and musicians are getting a mere pittance while Apple and Amazon are minting money.


At Linn Records, more downloads were sold than hard copies (CDs and LPs).


Linn's managing director Gilad Tiefenbrun, who was at his Malaysian distributor Perfect Hi-Fi in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, yesterday, said since last November Linn sold more downloads than hard copies.


"And 80 per cent of the downloads were studio masters," he said.


The old world is falling apart and leading the change is Linn, he added.


Thus the hi-fi industry is facing a peculiar situation - people want higher quality digital recordings while at the same time the vinyl revolution is still gaining strength.


And Linn is making its presence felt in both fronts. "We are offering the best of analogue and the best of digital," Gilad said.


The Linn Digital Streaming players were introduced in 2007 at the Tokyo hi-fi show.


"First we played a CD on our CD12 CD player. Then we played a ripped version of the CD on the DS player and the audience comprising hi-fi critics agreed that it sounded better.


"Then we played a studio master version on the DS and they all agreed that it sounded even better," he said.


Gilad pointing at the Linn Klimax DS player
and saying it is the digital version of the LP12.
Gilad said the Linn Klimax DS player is the digital version of the Linn LP12 turntable that his father, Ivor,  launched decades ago.


However, while Linn is investing heavily in digital streaming players and also the recording equipment at its music division, they have not forgotten about turntables - after all it was the LP12 turntable that launched the company in the first place.


Linn is still working on improvements for its venerable Linn Sondek LP12 turntable - it recently launched the Linn Radikal DC motor, motor control unit and power supply; the Linn Urika internal moving coil phono stage; and the Uphorik mm/mc phono stage. All these take the LP12 to a higher level of performance.


Gilad said his father felt the Radikal is the best upgrade ever for the LP12.


But Gilad was in town not to promote the LP12, but the Linn DS players.


Using a system comprising the Linn Klimax DS, Klimax Kontrol preamp, Klimax 500 Solo power amp and Klimax 350 speakers with Nordost cabling, he demonstrated the differences between CD quality recordings and studio master 24/88.2 and 24/192 music files.


First he played the studio master version of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's rendition of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 5.


Then he played the CD version of Maeve O'Boyle singing Pray It Never Happens followed by the studio master version and finally, the studio master of Alfie Boe singing Love Unspoken from The Merry Widow.


Alfie Boe is a fine example of how Linn Record is helping out down and out singers. Alfie had cut an album for EMI, but it did not do well which, of course, affected him financially and emotionally as the failure had him wondering if he had the talent to sing operatta in the first place.


One day Gilad received a call from an ex-EMI executive asking if Linn could make a recording with Alfie. And when the recording was actually made, Alfie was grinning away.
At least through Linn Record's downloads, Alfie would get some royalties.


On the technical side of the DS players, Gilad said Linn deliberately separated the digital music player itself from the hard disk storage.


"We wanted to separate the music player from mass market electronic components. Hard disk storage changes frequently and is getting cheaper and cheaper.


"The player itself can be linked to any external hard disk and it can play all types of file formats," he said.


Linn wanted the DS player itself to last for a long time while the hard disk could be changed whenever necessary.


Linn also deliberately did not include a CD player with the DS player as lasers get hot and wear out.


Also Linn chose the ethernet-based TCP/IP protocol because it is a "pull" system compared with the S/PDIF protocol "push" system employed by its competitors.


The TCP/IP implementation cuts off clock jitter, he said.


To round off the demo, a remastered 24-bit 44.1kHz version of Yesterday by the Beatles was played and a senior audiophile who has been spinning vinyl on his beloved LP12 for the past 30 years said he heard things on the 24-bit music file that he never heard before when playing the same song on his turntable.


Well, as Gilad said, the old world is falling apart.

No comments:

Post a Comment