Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ivor: 'Digital can potentially be better than analogue'

Digital music can potentially be better than analogue, said Ivor Tiefunbrun, founder of Linn and designer of the legendary Linn Sondek LP12 turntable.

Ivor, who was in Kuala Lumpur yesterday and today to meet Linn fans, seems to be just as passionate promoting digital music these days as he was promoting analogue music (using his LP12 of course) some 40 years ago.


Ivor Tiefenbrun, founder of  Linn.

At Perfect Hi-Fi's showroom in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Ivor demonstrated the quality of hi-res 24-bit music files using a Linn Klimax DS and a Linn Klimax stereo system controlled by an iPad.

Using short clips of MP3 and 24-bit hi-res files of the same song, he demonstrated how to "follow the music" as a way to determine the quality of a sound system.

"If you can follow the music more easily, then it is a better system and the sound is closer to real life. With MP3 files, it can be difficult to follow the music while with 24-bit files, it is easier because the music sounds better and closer to real life," he said.

At Linn, the designers realised how even minute amounts of jitter can affect the quality of digital music and worked towards removing jitter from the equation as much as possible.

The Linn DS has no moving parts, uses proprietary circuitry and has an extremely low noise floor.


"In your view, how does the Linn DS compare with your Linn LP12?" I asked.

The Linn DS has the potential to sound better than the turntable, but it depends on the performance and how well the recording was made with the right microphones and techniques. There are some great performances which are available only on analogue, he said.


Ivor Tiefenbrun and Andy Tan of Perfect Hi-Fi.

Prior to the demo, Ivor was getting really philosophical about life, evolution, rhythm, music, language and turntables, and he was trying to tie all these topics up in one great theory of everything.

He said that in Canadian shale, a fossil of a worm with vertebrae was found. The worm had no eyes, no mouth, no ears; thus it could not see, taste or hear. So what was the sense it possessed? Pressure. It could feel vibrations and rhythms.

The worm evolved into higher life forms and eventually Man was 'born' out of the worm with vertebrae. That's why rhythm is in our DNA, he said.

"Music is the song of our species," he said. Before a child is born, the foetus hears the heart beat of his mother. That's why rhythm is so vital in singing and language and in the reproduction of music.

Ivor also seemed positive about the paradigm shift affecting the entire world in the way that the Internet is causing society to become more and more wired and connected.
 
"We are in a mega trend that is resulting in us becoming more connected," he said. And the Linn DS system is part of that paradigm shift in that you can wire all the rooms in your house with the Linn DS system and they will all play the same music in a synchronised manner ("It took us seven years to get that right.") and the Linn DS system can be connected to the Internet to stream music from online sources.

Later, during a Chinese dinner in the Pavilion in Kuala Lumpur, Ivor talked about his relationship with Ariston and rubbished Internet reports that his Linn LP12 was a copy of the Ariston RD11.

"I designed the Ariston RD11 using the patented single-point bearing that my father invented," he said.

He added that the Ariston RD11 was not much different from the early Linn Sondek LP12 turntables.

Ivor elaborated on the legal suits between Hamish Robertson, who had set up Ariston, and Linn over the patent of the single-point bearing with the courts eventually ruling in Linn's favour.

He chose the name "Linn" which is a Scottish word for the pool below a waterfall while "Sondek" was a shortened "Sound Deck".

He also talked about the relationship between Linn and Naim and how he first met the late Julian Vereker who founded Naim Audio.


Ivor autographing a Linn Sondek LP12.

After all the reminiscing, I had to ask him this question: "The Linn LP12 is an old design that has been improved over the years. Will there come a time when you cannot improve it anymore?"

"Not in the forseeable future," he said.

There's still a lot of information in the grooves of records that the stylus still cannot retrieve.

"Now we are getting maybe 20 per cent of the information in the grooves," he said.


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