• A Visit To Linn And Glasgow, Scotland


    Earlier this month I traveled to Glasgow, Scotland to visit the Linn factory. I've been to many manufacturers, dealers, and audio events around the world, but this was my first time in Scotland. I had no expectations before the trip and didn't even know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by the incredibly nice Scottish people and with, what I'm told is very rare, the wonderful weather. Everyone I came in contact with during this trip was eager to help me, eager to sit and chat, and eager to share interesting tidbits of information about Glasgow. I'd love to go back to Scotland with my family and spend much more than two days in this beautiful country.


    Visiting the Linn factory was both informative and intriguing. Learning about the company's history, its avant-garde founder Ivor Tiefenbrun, its new products, and its vision for the future was well worth the time spent getting to and from Scotland. Most people think of Linn, and other manufacturers, as a company with a range of products. My visit to the factory enabled me to see behind the products. I talked to the acutely smart people who develop and support Linn products and who lead the company into the future.


    The future includes Linn's new Exakt system. The Linn team explained this system in detail during my visit and provided unrestricted access to two terrific listening rooms and a complete home-like environment with which I could exhaustively test the new Exakt technology. Linn even provided a team of people to swiftly swap out loudspeakers, enabling me to A/B the current Exakt system versus the previous analog based system. I'm not talking about moving speakers to the side, these guys completely removed one set of speakers from the listening room for each demonstration.


    My entire trip to Scotland went very well. I wish I could have taken a Linn Exakt system home with me, but the added cost of heavy checked bags from airlines would have been outrageous. Plus, it would have been pretty impractical for me to drag a couple speakers and Linn DS component up to the ticket counter. Fortunately, I should receive a Linn Akurate Exakt System, including the Akurate Exakt DSM digital music player and Exakt Akubarik speakers, this summer. A full review of the system will undoubtedly be published shortly thereafter.


    A few highlights from my experience at Linn include the Linn Home, terrific listening rooms, historical components and speakers, Linn Lounge event, the infamous log cabin, and possibly the most important part of the trip, indulging in an Irn-Bru soft drink in the Linn cafeteria. The Linn Home is a large space at the factory that has been completely redesigned into a modern home with a kitchen, dining room, office, bathroom, and TV area. As expected Linn systems are everywhere and can be controlled by a single iPad application. Linn's listening rooms both sounded great and offered excellent scenery. From the listening position one can look beyond the loudspeakers into the woods where many types of animals frequently frolic. I was told deer have been seen walking by the windows during demonstrations. In addition to wild animals, there is a pasture of cows next to Linn that can be seen while driving up to the factory. Growing up with mostly American HiFi brands, I really enjoyed a tour through the Linn historical area featuring designs of all shoes and styles. Proudly displayed in this area, and by the froth door, is a nice plaque from the Royal Family indicating Linn has supplied its systems to HRH The Price Of Wales (Prince Charles). After my factory tour I attended an event called Linn Lounge Presents The Clash. This took place in the Linn Home. I really enjoyed hearing details about The Clash interspersed with high resolution Clash music played through a Linn Exakt system. It was a really cool event. Not to be confused with the Linn Home, is the Linn log cabin. Linn founder ivor Tiefenbrun had two log cabins built decades ago for demonstrating Linn systems in a controlled environment. Why would Linn need a controlled environment right next to the factory? It doesn't. The cabins were disassembled and reassembled in parking lot at a HiFi event! Since the cabins were originally built, Ivor sent one to Japan after losing a bet, and the remaining unit rests in the woods near the factory. After hearing about it, I insisted on seeing the cabin. It was one of the coolest things I've seen at a HiFi manufacturer. Here in Minneapolis many families travel several hours to northern Minnesota on weekends to stay at very similar cabins nestled in the woods, just like the Linn cabin. Last but not least, and totally unrelated to Linn or HiFi, was my introduction to the Scottish soft drink Irn-Bru. This beverage regularly outsells Coca-cola and Pepsi in Scotland and is commonly referred to as a "great hangover cure" by the locals. Given the fact I'm a vegetarian and didn't indulge in a traditional haggis dinner, I just had to crack open a cold Irn-Bru. The taste? I think Red Bull copied much of the Irn-Bru formula! The two beverages taste very similar but I'll give the slightly better tasting award to the original Irn-Bru.


    I'd like to thank Gilad Tiefenbrun, Keith Robertson, Phil Budd, and Andrena McBain for making this a very worthwhile trip. I hate to single anyone out, but I must say Keith is one of the smartest guys I've met in the HiFi industry when it comes to understanding new technology, how to use it wisely, and where it's heading. I encourage Computer Audiophile readers to talk with Keith at the HiFi shows. He completely gets "it" and can talk as technical as the conversation requires.


    For more information on the new Linn Exakt system see Linn's website and check back for the full Akurate Exakt system review here on Computer Audiophile.


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    Comments 20 Comments
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      Well I thought you had good taste until you mentioned Irn-Bru. Didn't you try a deep fried Mars bar?

      Anyway a shame you couldn't explore Scotland beyond Glasgow.

      (Sorry all nothing to do with Linn).

      Did you get to any of the other UK HiFi industries while you were over here?

      Eloise
    1. realhifi's Avatar
      realhifi -
      Will really look forward to your in depth review of the Linn Exact system. These boys are at the top of their game and you are fortunate to have them bringing that level of hardware to your place.
    1. MikeJazz's Avatar
      MikeJazz -
      Also very interested in your review of Exact and the Akurate level is a bit less stratosferic thank Klimax, so it might appeal to more people. Good choice.

      I personally feel that Exact goes well beyond what Devialet is doing with ASM...

      Let's wait for your review...
    1. earflappin's Avatar
      earflappin -
      Maybe its just me, but there seems to be a dearth of CA equipment reviews as of late. Rut ro....I feel a post coming from Chris stating that my membership fee can be refunded if I am not happy with the site....:-).
    1. jcbenten's Avatar
      jcbenten -
      The Exakt system is pretty cool. If the DS was connected wirelessly to the speakers and had a USB input for an external drive, it would be perfect. Well, except for the pricing.
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      Quote Originally Posted by jcbenten View Post
      The Exakt system is pretty cool. If the DS was connected wirelessly to the speakers and had a USB input for an external drive, it would be perfect. Well, except for the pricing.
      Why is everyone hung up on direct USB connections... All it means is the renderer (player) has to do file management duties as well as playing the music. A well set up UPnP server is much better idea (if you are avoiding utilising a computer).

      Eloise
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by earflappin View Post
      Maybe its just me, but there seems to be a dearth of CA equipment reviews as of late. Rut ro....I feel a post coming from Chris stating that my membership fee can be refunded if I am not happy with the site....:-).
      CA is about much more than product reviews.
    1. jcbenten's Avatar
      jcbenten -
      Quote Originally Posted by Audio_ELF View Post
      Why is everyone hung up on direct USB connections... All it means is the renderer (player) has to do file management duties as well as playing the music. A well set up UPnP server is much better idea (if you are avoiding utilising a computer).

      Eloise
      Minimalism. I do not want a pc, vortex box, UPNP server, an NAS, or anything similar to have to be active to play music. I want to plug in a USB drive, my turntable, BR/SACD player (for my two SACDs :-)) , and my TV sound and use a tablet/phone to control.

      Is it the best way? Probably not. But with the music files being digital all the way to the speaker, how much can the file be mucked up? Of course, with the turntable....hmmmm.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by jcbenten View Post
      Minimalism. I do not want a pc, vortex box, UPNP server, an NAS, or anything similar to have to be active to play music. I want to plug in a USB drive, my turntable, BR/SACD player (for my two SACDs :-)) , and my TV sound and use a tablet/phone to control.

      Is it the best way? Probably not. But with the music files being digital all the way to the speaker, how much can the file be mucked up? Of course, with the turntable....hmmmm.
      It's not a matter of being "mucked up" by a specific connection method. It's a matter of usability and practicality. Many people think a solution that is easier to understand or involves a "simple" USB drive is the best. This is not the case is many instances. Your idea of minimalism if a bit shortsighted because it's minimal with respect to hardware, but the opposite when it comes to usability, practicality, and the time you will spend to keep such a system functioning.

      If you connect a USB drive directly to a Linn DS, how are you going to add new music to the drive? Unplug it, walk it over to a computer, add music, walk it back to the Linn DS, reindex the library, etc...

      If you connect a USB drive directly to a Linn DS, would you keep a manually backed up copy of the music on another drive? Then you're adding new music to two drives.

      If you connect a USB drive directly to a Linn DS this music isn't available to any other systems like it would be if you use a NAS.

      There are several items that could be brought up along these lines.
    1. wappinghigh's Avatar
      wappinghigh -
      The major problem with this Exakt approach is it binds the audiophile to the "Linn way" of Digital to analog conversion...

      And right now they are very much anti DSD...

      DAC separates can't be used right?

      Therefore a very expensive upgrade is required if Linn ever embraces DSD or multichannel DACs...???

      How do you use this setup in the daily rough and tumble of life with say a Home theatre receiver? Can you use a preamp with HT bypass? And which preamp! ??

      Can someone please tell me if there is upgrade potential later on with this gear?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by wappinghigh View Post
      The major problem with this Exakt approach is it binds the audiophile to the "Linn way" of Digital to analog conversion...

      And right now they are very much anti DSD...

      DAC separates can't be used right?

      Therefore a very expensive upgrade is required if Linn ever embraces DSD or multichannel DACs...???

      How do you use this setup in the daily rough and tumble of life with say a Home theatre receiver? Can you use a preamp with HT bypass? And which preamp! ??

      Can someone please tell me if there is upgrade potential later on with this gear?
      The DS and the speakers are software upgradable.
    1. jcbenten's Avatar
      jcbenten -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      It's not a matter of being "mucked up" by a specific connection method. It's a matter of usability and practicality. Many people think a solution that is easier to understand or involves a "simple" USB drive is the best. This is not the case is many instances. Your idea of minimalism if a bit shortsighted because it's minimal with respect to hardware, but the opposite when it comes to usability, practicality, and the time you will spend to keep such a system functioning.

      If you connect a USB drive directly to a Linn DS, how are you going to add new music to the drive? Unplug it, walk it over to a computer, add music, walk it back to the Linn DS, reindex the library, etc...
      Sure. Most of the music I am buying these days is vinyl. Not all but 80% or so. Reindexing on the SBT is the major drawback. Hopefully Linn would be smarter about the activity. Ideally, since the DS is on the network anyway, the HD would just show on the network for updatiing. I am not opposed to using a PC, just the reliance of having one operating to play music files. An NAS is not unreasonable and is the next best method (for me).

      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      If you connect a USB drive directly to a Linn DS, would you keep a manually backed up copy of the music on another drive? Then you're adding new music to two drives.
      Sure. Don't you have other backups? Or are you completely reliant on the NAS? I read your Cloud article so that could be an option but not one I am willing to pay. When will Google Drive have 2TB free? (rhetorical).

      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      If you connect a USB drive directly to a Linn DS this music isn't available to any other systems like it would be if you use a NAS.

      There are several items that could be brought up along these lines.
      I know.

      I have been reading the forums voraciously for a couple of years and looking for MY perfect solution for even longer. The SBT is pretty great for the price but has limitations. It occasionally whigs out and I have learned to get it back pretty easily. The Aries looks interesting but its 3-5 times the SBT new price. What I want does not currently exist in the quality that I want. Naim Uniti is close. If Linn had $5K Exakt system I would be all over it as it currently works. But they do not. So I keep dreaming. In the meantime, I am perfectly happy with my current Linn/Rega system (although I might do something about the NuForce DAC).
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      Linn have upgraded the "standard" Klimax and Akurate DSM units now so that you can (for example) use the DSM with third party active speakers now and upgrade to the Exakt speakers later.

      No they don't support DSD - I think that's a decision they will stick with.

      An upgrade would be the replacement of the DSM unit which would then continue to work with the existing Exakt speakers. Linn have been good in upgrading the DS units as newer versions have come along so I imagine in the future they will be too.

      The DSM units can accept analogue inputs which can be set for HT bypass (certainly the Akurate DS can). Alternatively the HDMI inputs can strip the front two channels for decoding within the Linn system and pass the center and surround to a third-party decoder.

      Eloise

      Quote Originally Posted by wappinghigh View Post
      The major problem with this Exakt approach is it binds the audiophile to the "Linn way" of Digital to analog conversion...

      And right now they are very much anti DSD...

      DAC separates can't be used right?

      Therefore a very expensive upgrade is required if Linn ever embraces DSD or multichannel DACs...???

      How do you use this setup in the daily rough and tumble of life with say a Home theatre receiver? Can you use a preamp with HT bypass? And which preamp! ??

      Can someone please tell me if there is upgrade potential later on with this gear?
    1. wappinghigh's Avatar
      wappinghigh -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      The DS and the speakers are software upgradable.
      Great. Sorry. I missed that..
    1. FatTed's Avatar
      FatTed -
      Isn't this what Meridian have been doing for years?
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      Quote Originally Posted by FatTed View Post
      Isn't this what Meridian have been doing for years?
      Yes. At least mostly.

      I may have missed something - but I don't think Linn are claiming the Exact system is any more revolutionary than Apple claimed the iPod was... :-)
    1. usblues's Avatar
      usblues -
      Chris,glad you got to visit another major player in the game.Been looking at their thin CNC sculptured amps and preamps for years.Did you see them or hear them?Would of loved to view their insides.Next time!Thanks again,Bob
    1. Wavelength's Avatar
      Wavelength -
      Chris,

      Always loved these guys. Met the team when I was in college at my first AES show in NYC. Also thanks for the pics of some of their older speaker models. Those KEF drivers bring back memories of college, the B110 mid bass (used in the LS3/5A), B139 bass drivers were to die for. I made transmission line speakers using the B139 in college.

      Hey come out to Ohio and we will show you the pick and place lines we have out here. They just updated paste optical scanners to make sure the paste does not move off the pads and cause errors. Also each PCB is optical checked and it's pretty cool how we can still make stuff here at the same prices as moving them to the far east.

      Thanks,
      Gordon
    1. afridi's Avatar
      afridi -
      I used to live in Glasgow way back in the 70's. As a kid I loved Irn-Bru! One of my first auditions of a good system was an all Linn system in Glasgow. I do rememeber being blown away at how good audio reproduction could sound from that listen.
    1. wgscott's Avatar
      wgscott -
      Quote Originally Posted by jcbenten View Post
      Minimalism. I do not want a pc.

      ... Most of the music I am buying these days is vinyl. Not all but 80% or so.
      I don't mean to be difficult, but the name of the website is after all Computer Audiophile. Your criteria may therefore be at odds.