Ivor shares his twin passions for music and precision engineering

Vote 40 Votes

Discover the inside story from the man who invented the Sondek LP12 and founded Linn forty years ago.

Ivor Tiefenbrun was recently invited to give the annual joint lecture for The Royal Society of Edinburgh and The Royal Academy of Engineering.

For anyone who was unable to make the event, grab yourself a glass of something nice, sit back and enjoy a personal and passionate tale of 'Extreme Engineering' - view film.

Source First

"Conventional wisdom was that the loudspeakers were the most important components in a hi-fi system because that is where the sound comes from. I was told that the turntable just goes round and round. I replied that loudspeakers only go in and out!"

Born from a love for music and a refusal to settle for a dull and uninvolving hi-fi system, the idea for the Sondek LP12 grew from Ivor's home experiments with what was supposedly the best hi-fi available at the time.

With an open mind and the help of his father's engineering company, he quickly moved from a hypothesis to a working prototype, and succeeded in making a turntable that was immune to acoustic feedback from the loudspeakers.

Ivor's turntable, the Sondek LP12, could improve the sound of any system and he overcame industry scepticism to prove that the turntable - the source of the music - was the most important component in a hi-fi system.

The Linn Sondek LP12 evolved swiftly, with every component designed to recover more music from the groove of the record. Ivor's determination to continually improve the quality of music you could enjoy at home has stuck with Linn ever since.

By people for people

"Active listening is a deliberate, conscious, mental process where we try to mimic every sound we hear. If you are concentrating and listening attentively to me speaking, then you are repeating every word I say simultaneously but silently in your head. Listening is defined as silent repetition. All of us have an expectation of what music is. All of us have an internal music reference. All of us can spot a mistake or a wrong note."

An engineering approach that favoured open systems and modular parts meant that a music system could be developed, upgraded and expanded over time - an LP12 manufactured in 1972 can still be repaired, serviced or even upgraded to the latest spec one step at a time. Which makes owning an LP12 a long-term relationship.

Ivor devised a single stage manufacturing process that replaced the conventional production line so that one skilled person performed an entire intelligible task from start to finish. This still survives today - look on the underside of a Linn product and you'll see the name of the person who assembled, tested and packed it for you.

By placing trust in individual responsibility and encouraging people to be enthusiastic about learning and craftsmanship, Ivor proved that people - working in teams and backed by the latest technology - make the best music systems.

The 'people first' analogy extends to choosing a music system - it sounds obvious now but Ivor's insistence on selling by comparative demonstration empowered people to choose for themselves. It wasn't about brand names and technical specifications - if it sounded better to you, it was better.

Think differently

"Music is a universal language of human feeling and emotion. It is sung, written and performed by people for people. Music is the song of our species. It is in our DNA…No one confuses a happy tune with a sad one."

Ivor knew very little about hi-fi when he started to experiment with his music system at home. An open and restless mind helped him think differently and work things through from first principles.

Ivor was told his intention to make a loudspeaker that could accurately reproduce very low frequencies was impossible. It took him less than a week to conceive a workable idea and prove it had potential with a prototype.

If Ivor hadn't been so uninspired by his first music system, he would never have made the Sondek LP12 and Linn would not exist today. He didn't set out to start a company, he just wanted to listen to better music at home. Inspire yourself.


> View full film