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Interveiw with Gilad Tiefenbrun, Managing Director of Linn Products

P&S (Martin from Peoples & Schmidt, LINN HiFi boutique, Gothenburg, Sweden): 

GT (Gilad Tiefenbrun, Managing Director of Linn Products)

P&S. Hi Gilad, it was LINN's 40 Birthday celebrations in Glasgow since I last met you and Ivor, are you both well? 

GT: Yes thanks Martin, we're both well. Thanks for asking.

P&S. You are of course LINN Products Managing Director now and I know Ivor, your Father & Founder of the company, has not retired so can you tell me about Ivor's role in the company now.

GT: When I became MD in 2009, my Dad became the Chairman of our Board of Directors. He's not involved in the day-to-day running of the business, but takes a keen interest in its products, its success and its future. From time to time he'll still meet customers; he's running LINN Exakt events in Auckland, New Zealand and Hanoi, Vietnam in April.

P&S. It has been about two years since I last interviewed you on this blogg we left off talking allot about the availability of 24 bit studio master quality music. You were literally travelling the Atlantic on an 'awareness' campaign to encourage the majors to act and visited a like-minded ally, Neil Young. I will ask you more about Neil's more recent activity later but for now my question is 'why is the availability of studio quality music so important to LINN & to your end customer

GT: Our customers want to get the most out of music at home and in their lives, which is why they have invested in a LINN system. Therefore, the quality of the music itself is of vital importance - the studio master is what the artist / producer wanted you to hear, not a watered-down CD or mp3 version of it. We enjoy a more direct connection with the artist when we listen to the studio master, and experience the emotional content of the music more intensely.

P&S. You only have to look at your own linnrecords site to see how the availability of 24 bit has expanded. A few of my favourites are George Harrison, Mumford & Sons and of course your own Artur Pizzaro. You have many indie labels on your site but you of course sell studio masters from Universal … that's huge! Did you envisage this happening and how important is the music side of the business to LINN?

GT: My father has a saying: "Do the right thing, and you get the right result." In 2007, we launched the Klimax DS, our first product capable of playing 24 bit natively, and so that our customers could experience 24 bit music at home for the first time - although we had only 70 of our own titles available in 24 bit at that time. We hoped from the start that other record labels would get involved in both recording in 24 bit, and releasing back catalogue in 24 bit, so we're delighted to make that music available on our site. It's snowballed into a much bigger initiative than we first thought, as more and more labels have understood the importance of 24 bit

P&S. For me it's all about streaming from the cloud in 16 bit & buying 24 Bit files or vinyl for that optimal experience … is this close to your own behaviour and if so how does this fit in with LINN's product development

GT: Like you I always seek out the highest quality available when listening to music at home but, as you know, sometimes the high resolution version isn't there yet; for example, I use both YouTube and Spotify extensively for music discovery. Our product development philosophy, therefore, is to make anything you listen to sound better

P&S. Quodo? & WIMP are already providing 16 bit streaming. I stream 24 bit music, I own, remotely from my own server. I was astonished how quickly my customers responded to WIMP 16 bit subscription (WIMP HiFi). Will the NAS (local storage) eventually vanish from the home

GT: For that to happen, people would need firstly to trust that whoever is providing their music collection remotely isn't going to disappear one day, taking all our carefully curated virtual playlists with them! Secondly, as we've been discussing here, the quality would need to be at least as good as the music we already own

P&S. In the last interview the focus was on LINN DSM & congratulations, DSM has been a great success and improved dramatically my livingroom experience, mostly due to your neat way of integrated HDMi/film. Little did I know at the time you were already working on a new platform called Exakt which is now released at Klimax level. Again congratulations … easilly the best HiFi I ever heard! Please tell us about a few core features of LINN Exakt and what makes it different

GT: LINN Exakt puts intelligence into our loudspeakers for the first time. Given the dimensions and furnishings of your room, and where you want the speakers positioned, Exakt optimises the sound - pretty mind-boggling stuff! I'd recommend watching the videos and reading the in-depth web content on . Exakt is a software platform that applies across the design, manufacturing, installation and service lifetime of this new breed of LINN system. Like DS in 2007, with Exakt we're at the beginning of a new wave of technology that will transform the musical experience again

P&S. In my last factory visit, I listenned to LINN Klimax Exakt then to LINN's previous referens system - LINN Komri (Aktiv). I am a fan of one box & speaker systems & very happy to hear the sound benefits over the Klimax & Komri systems. I love the current ADSM + Akubarik system & am really looking forweard to the Exakt version. The reference point at Klimax & Akurate is now 'rediculously' cheaper than the previous referens points. Fewer boxes per system, lower prices and better performance. Has this come about from market pressure or simply inovation & improved efficiency?

GT: At LINN, we're committed to delivering more value to our customers, which means reducing the gap between the artist and the listener, which we also think of as losing less along the way. By keeping the signal digital all the way to the speaker, we lose less and so get better sound with Exakt than the traditional analogue hi-fi chain AND we can do all the clever optimisation. It's a happy coincidence that our customers have been telling us for a long time that they value fewer boxes if justified by the performance; the 350A has always been much more popular than the 350P. With Akubarik, the choice is even more skewed to the integrated version. Likewise the DSMs, which combine digital source and digital pre-amp, are more popular than the source-only DS players. The trend is clear - fewer boxes, less cable, better performance.

P&S. Will Exakt deliver inter-compatability between the ranges and thus offer LINN customers the opportunity an upgrade path

GT: We've always had inter-compatibility between Klimax, Akurate & Majik, giving all customers the opportunity to upgrade their systems, and that doesn't change with Exakt. Today, all LINN customers can upgrade to Exakt, either by buying a full system, or the Klimax Exakt Tuneboxes.

P&S. Would you like to leak to me now when we will see the much awaited Akurate Exakt System? :) 

GT: I'd love to. ;0

P&S. So Neil Young is releasing PONO portable player & a 24 Bit 192 music site. This release was accompanied by the most amazing advertising video I have ever seen.
You personally declare this as Neil Young ''saving the music indusstry'' and I assume you see benefits for LINN in all of this. You have been to meet the very man at His ranch … please tell me more about

GT: The power of that video is that you have all these amazing musicians eulogising 24 bit. What are the skeptics and doubters, those people who claim mp3 is good enough, going to say now? That they know better than the artists themselves??? It's a massive vote-of-confidence for what we've been doing for the past 7 years. Pono is going to put 24 bit in the mainstream, regardless of whether or not people buy the player. Very quickly, we'll see 24-bit as a must-have feature in smartphones and home music systems. A lot of the products / services out there are maximum 16 bit today - my guess is that there are some company execs sweating at the Pono announcement, thinking: "We've got to get to 24 bit, fast!

P&S. You had your 40th aniversay last year with a big party and open day in Glasgow. The 'LINN HOME', made a big impression. It feels like LINN are literally opening their doors and it's an amazing facility to visit. I read about your new franchise in London mirroring the LINN home. Would like all LINN shops to mirror the LINN Home & would this benefit the customer experience and opportunities for the retailer?

GT: No, we're not going all corporate, nor do we believe LINN retailers should fit some cookie-cutter model. Don't worry Martin, you're safe! Seriously, the diversity of our retailers is a strength, because it caters for a wide variety of customers. However, if someone wants to recreate the look of the LINN Home in their store for the benefit of the customer experience, we'll gladly assist them

P&S. Thanks very much for your time Gilad. Please say hello to your Father for me and good luck with the new Exakt system! P.S … are you looking forward to the next 40 years of LINN?

GT: Thanks Martin. Here's to the next 40 years!


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