Linn began as an offshoot of Castle Precision Engineering (Glasgow) Ltd., a company now specialising in CNC machining, and many of the methods and processes of precision engineering form the philosophy behind the production of Linn's audio components. It was founded in 1973 by Ivor Tiefenbrun to produce the Sondek LP12 turntable, which utilises a suspended sub-chassis and an innovative "single-point" platter bearing machined to extremely tight tolerances. Suspending the platter- and tonearm-bearing subchassis from springs, an innovation pioneered by the US company Acoustic Research, was extremely efficient in isolating the system from loudspeaker and floor-induced acoustic feedback. The Sondek's subsequent success was also instrumental in reestablishing the superiority of belt-driven turntables, which were then thought to be old-fashioned compared with the supposedly more modern direct-driven ones.
Hamish Robertson designed the Ariston RD11 in 1971 with Castle Precision Engineering Ltd machining many of the parts. Robertson left Ariston, which had been taken over by Dunlop Westayr Ltd and reorganised as Ariston Audio Ltd. In 1973 Linn Products was born and marketed their own turntable manufactured by Castle Precision Engineering. There were claims, and even patent litigation at the time, that the first Linn Sondek LP12 was a carbon copy of the RD11, and many parts interchangeable..
In February 1973 Linn Products Ltd. was formed to sell turntables made by Castle Precision Engineering. This was officially announced in an advertisement in Hi-Fi News & Record Review, with the following text: "The turntable previously available under the name Ariston RD11 is now available under the name Linn LP12. From its introduction in 1973, there have not been any radical changes to Linn's turntable design, which remains in production. However, the LP12's sound quality has been improved through retro-fittable upgrade kits. The successive upgrades consist mostly of refinements in materials used and improved manufacturing tolerances. It is often used by hi-fi reviewers as a reference turntable.
Initially Linn manufactured the LP12 itself, but not any other components such as tonearms and cartridges. This gap was filled with a largely complementary range from, amongst others, Naim Audio. As the LP12 became more successful, Linn began to design, and later manufacture, these components internally. Many were initially designed by Linn (and in particular by Bill Miller, who led the R&D effort for over two decades) and manufactured by major industry players (such as Goldring). As Linn's own manufacturing capabilities grew, the higher-end offerings were eventually manufactured in-house. Later, the range was extended to include electronic components in the early 1980s.
In an unusual departure from hi-fi products, a subsidiary company, Linn Smart Computing was formed in 1984 to develop the innovative Rekursiv object-oriented computer processor and its Lingo programming language. This was used in a number of university research projects in the UK but was not a commercial success. Another off-shoot company, IST Marine was formed specifically to sell a speedboat concept that had been designed by Ivor Tiefenbrun but, despite heavy investment by Linn in creating and promoting this marine platform, only one vessel (called SKORPION) was ever built for Tiefenbrun himself.
Linn's first CD player, the Karik, was released in 1993—11 years after the CD format itself. Linn claim that it took this long to produce a CD player that offered comparable performance to the LP12. Its flagship compact disc player, the CD12, pioneered by Alan Clark, was launched in 1997 and discontinued in 2005 because some OEM transport components could no longer be obtained from the supplier.
Further flagship additions to the range of award-winning components included the Unidisk series of silver disc players (again with cutting edge electronic design from Alan Clark), as well as the visually and sonically stunning Kisto and Kinos AV processors. These latter two, the result of highly innovative design work by Andrew Barnes and Ian Wilson, set new standards in audio reproduction and continue to be considered at the pinnacle of digital audio processor design. Since then, a new range of audiophile-quality, digitally-networked components has been released, based on the DS (Digital Stream) concept providing a much needed replacement for the aging Knekt system.
Tiefenbrun gained much of his standing and influence today within hi-fi circles when he promoted his turntable in the early days of the company by hawking retailers and personally demonstrating the difference the LP12 made when it replaced a turntable in their own system in an "A:B Comparison". The company continues to value this approach, rejecting the use of technical specifications to judge a component, citing the fact that these figures are often inconsistently measured and purposefully misleading.
Although now in his 60s, Tiefenbrun remains a controversial figure who has gathered as many detractors over the years as he has supporters. An out-spoken critic of the UK Labour government, he has continued to beat the drum for manufacturing in the UK, and even more specifically Scotland, at a time when many companies have chosen to manufacture in China and other emerging economies. This approach certainly seemed to pay dividends in the mid 1980s and late 1990s when the company experienced periods of healthy growth and expansion. However, the 21st Century has been less kind to Linn, and 2007 saw the company experience considerable redundancies. Many of the company's longest-serving directors also left Linn at this time.
Before the launch of the LP12 vinyl record player, conventional wisdom in the hi-fi community was that the loudspeaker was the most important part of a hi-fi system. Linn championed a "source-first" doctrine, arguing that, whilst a system was only as good as its weakest link, the most important part of any system was the source: Linn marketing cited the computing analogy "Garbage In, Garbage Out" - information which was lost at the outset was gone for good and could not be recovered, however good another component along the chain was, and that the it was therefore better to devote attention (and money) to devices earlier in the chain than later. The hierarchy has the following main stages:
- Source: the device extracting the music from the media (turntable, CD or radio). This device must carefully extract all possible information from the media; if this is not done, then musical information is permanently lost and cannot be recovered by the amplification or loudspeakers.
- Control: a device for providing control over the sources, originally switching between sources, and volume, but latterly including surround-sound processing and other system control functions. The control device must faithfully deal with incoming signals and pass the best possible signal along the chain to the playback components.
- Playback: components which convert the musical signal into audible sound: essentially amplifiers and speakers. The best that these components can do is to reproduce the incoming signal from the Control component, and cannot improve the sound.
Linn holds that within the source stage, turntable components have its own hierarchy. The turntable itself is said to be the most important component, as it must provide mechanical stability and accuracy. The tone-arm is next, followed by the cartridge.
Through use of the "tune-dem" - a method for hearing differences between components by attempting simply to follow the tune - Linn emphasises the importance of this system hierarchy. The launch of improvements to Linn's turntable, the LP12 SE upgrades (Keel, Ekos SE and Trampolin 2) have seen a resurgence of the tune-dem in demonstrations, since lesser tone-arms are said to outperform the previous flagship tone-arm, the Ekos, when used with a Keel-upgraded LP12, showing thereby the importance of the source-first approach. However, this "tune-dem" approach has proved controversial with retailers and customers because it involves repeatedly playing only very small sections (no more than ten seconds) of music to the listener, and many have criticised Linn for their insistence that this approach is adhered to.
Linn states that the most important job for a hi-fi system is to reveal the music, and the system's success in practice can be judged by how well the tune is revealed. Whereas many hi-fi companies have promoted electrical specifications as indicative of their products' performance, Linn has focused on its products' ability to reproduce the elements of music as judged subjectively - sometimes referred to as "PRAT" for pace, rhythm and timing - or, in Linn's terminology, "pitch accuracy".
In 2002 Linn formed a brand partnership with Aston Martin to supply audio systems to Aston Martin cars. Linn supplied amplification and loudspeaker systems for the Vanquish and DB9 models but was subsequently replaced by Alpine Electronics, the previous incumbent, allegedly as the result of a dispute over reliability and cost. Although now defunct, Linn's Chakra amplifier technology was derived from technology required to develop high-efficiency amplification powerd by a 12V vehicle electrical system.
Linn operates its own record label, Linn Records to which artists such as Claire Martin, Carol Kidd and Martin Taylor have signed. Its subsidiary Linnsight used to distribute LOEWE Televisions until Loewe decided to set up their own division in the UK in early 2007.
Name from the original loudspeakers that first used the design. The bass driver sits at the front of a tunnel of identical shape, a second bass driver is at the rear of this. As both drivers move in unison, the front driver gets the impression the speaker cabinet is about six times larger than it actually is, resulting in that equivalent amount of bass performance.
Products which bear the name:
Legacy products no longer in production :