It’s tempting to think of Linn as a one-product company: after all, it was established in 1972 to make Ivor Tiefenbrun’s Sondek LP12 turntable, which remains one of the mainstays of the company’s offering to this day, and even the company logo is based on the sing-point bearing design on which the turntable platter revolves. Named for Glasgow’s Linn Park, opposite which the original premises were located, Linn has since 1987 been based in a purpose-built factory designed by Richard Rogers, where it maintains its philosophy of Singe Stage Build.
This involves one technician assembling and testing an entire product – no production lines here! – which then carries their name and the legend ‘Clyde Built’ in tribute to the quality of the ships Glasgow once assembled.
Linn rapidly moved on from just making one product to the concept of creating total systems, from source to speakers, and has developed this in more recent years with ever greater integration. Having moved into digital audio with its first CD-playing components – the Karik CD transport and Numerik DAC, both following the company trend of using Ks where the rest of the world stuck with Cs – it now has systems digitising even the signal from its turntables and keeping them that way through multiple stages of processing before they’re eventually passed to the speakers.
Current Linn systems have both Space Optimisation, to tune a set-up to the room in which it’s used, and Exakt, which replaces the physical crossovers in the company’s speakers – and those from a number of third-party brands – with upgradable software-based filtering, bringing further integration.
Linn has always been known for being outspoken and iconoclastic – founder Tiefenbrun was never one to hold back with his opinions – and it created major waves with its 2009 announcement that it was halting CD player production to concentrate on network music systems. The press headlines that this signalled the death of the CD were, to quote Mark Twain, ‘greatly exaggerated’, but Linn has gone on to spearhead the move of high-end hi-fi into network audio, right up to its current DSM models, from the flagship Klimax DSM – built, like all Linn digital products around proprietary DAC, amplifier and power supply technologies – to the highly configurable Selekt DSM model, which can be anything from a standalone player to a complete ‘just add speakers’ music system.
Far from being the ‘heels dug in’ preacher that only analogue would do that it was in the early days, Linn has gone on to promote its products on a variety of platforms: it was an early adopter of the idea of custom-built hi-fi systems for cars with its offering for the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish and DB9, starting in 2002; as far back as 1993 fitted the liner Queen Elizabeth 2 with Linn systems and speakers throughout; and installed a complete system in a custom Music Room in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class lounge at Heathrow, where the stack of identical black boxes often baffled travellers trying to work out how to play a CD!
Still proudly Scottish, the company still makes its products almost from scratch, from working metal and assembling its circuitboards to assembling finished units, in its factory on the outskirts of Glasgow. But we’ve come a long way in the story of its iconic LP12 turntable: initially launched at well under £100 without a tonearm, a full-house Klimax LP12 complete with arm and cartridge is now north of £25,000, and the recent 50th anniversary LP12-50, with industrial design by former Apple style guru Jonny Ive in a limited run of 250 units, will set you back about twice that.
Linn Selekt LP12 Turntable: "The key aspect is the ease with which it can be upgraded, if you want to take your vinyl replay further, the amount of ‘stretch’ that the design has is unmatched by any other piece of audio equipment."