The history and background to some of Linn Records technologies
Read all about the background to Vinyl, SACD and HDCD.
Vinyl is considered by many as the format of choice and it was on this format that Linn Records was first conceived. While Linn engineers were testing their flagship product, the Sondek LP12 turntable, they became frustrated with the poor quality of some of the specialist test LPs they were using. Surface noise, rumble and off-centre pressings made it almost impossible to measure what the turntable was doing. The measurements were swamped by record imperfections. Better test discs were needed so in 1980 work began on an LP cutting lathe as a research product to improve testing for the LP12. This work initially led to a better power supply for the LP12 (Valhala) and then led to a better phono stage which was utilised in the LK1 Pre-amp and a supporting power amp - the LK2. 1983 saw the release of Carol Kidd's first album and this was followed in 1984 by the release of the first Blue Nile LP, A Walk Across the Rooftops.
We continued to cut and release LPs, but gradually they were replaced by CDs. It was not until 2005 that we returned to the LP format that originally launched the label. Due to continued demand from our customers and owners of the Sondek LP12 turntable, we released our first LP for 10 years on 180 gram vinyl. Fittingly, the title was one of Linn's bestsellers, 'All My Tomorrows' by Carol Kidd, which was followed up in 2006 by 'Too Darn Hot!' by Claire Martin and by 2011 included LPs by Maeve O'Boyle, Fiona Mackenzie and William Orbit.
Before we released any new material on vinyl, we undertook a great deal of research to carefully choose our manufacturer in order to ensure the high quality you can expect from any Linn product.
The new releases are mastered on a Neumann VMS 80 lathe fitted with a Neumann SX74 cutting head driven by Ortofon GO 741 amplifiers. Master tapes are played back on a Studer A-80 MK I. For record pressing we use Pallas based in Diepholz, Lower Saxony, Germany. The presses used are Toolex Alpha Tandem machines from Sweden and they are used to press 180 gram vinyl LPs. The mastering is done at Emil-Berliner-Studios in Hannover, Germany, originally owned by Deutsche Grammophon.
- If it's quality you want, then vinyl is the true source and on an LP12, Linn heaven is just an LP away. D Cox
In 2000 we released our first album on Super Audio CD, a new format developed by Sony and Phillips which noticeably improved definition in the quality of the sound, resulting from the higher resolution in the recorded signal. This allowed the listener to hear detail that had previously gone unnoticed. Our commitment to producing recordings of the highest specification possible led to their whole-hearted support of this format. The first SACDs to be released were re-issues of bestselling albums such as 'Platypus' by Gerard Presencer and 'Sound of Love' by Tommy Smith. At this point Linn SACDs were only released in stereo SACD. The first multichannel SACD to be released was the stunning 'Poulenc Organ Concerto' by Gillian Weir in 2002, which highlights the way SACD can replicate the physical layout of an orchestra by exploiting the rear channels to place the organ in its correct position behind the listener. By 2003 Linn Records was releasing all new releases using the SACD format and now boasts over one hundred stereo and multichannel SACD recordings.
The SACD format offers clear benefits to the listener, producing a listening experience like no other. With SACD every instrument and every note can be enjoyed in great detail. You can experience the full creativity of the artist and the richness of the music like never before. Listening to a Super Audio CD allows you to listen to music as if you were at the live performance of the music in the concert venue. SACD is a listening experience like no other - do give it a try. You can access the SACD layer if your CD or DVD player has the SACD logo on it.
A Super Audio CD looks much like a normal CD, but it is in fact two discs in one. It has two layers that together are known as a "hybrid" CD. One layer is a normal CD-Audio layer that can be read by any CD player. The second is the SACD layer, which can only be read by SACD players and may be recorded in the stereo and/or multichannel format. SACD discs are recorded using Direct Stream Digital (DSD). technology. Both stereo and multichannel recordings are possible using this technique. A stereo recording uses two speakers whereas a multichannel recording makes use of several speakers. The normal set-up for SACD multichannel is 5.1 surround, with the standard left and right speakers plus a centre speaker in front of the listener and a left and right speaker behind. This gives a total of five speakers. The .1 refers to a subwoofer or bass reinforcement speaker, normally placed at the front or side, but which can be placed anywhere in the room.
All Linn SACDs are hybrid discs, which allow those who do not yet have a player with SACD capabilities to continue to benefit from the best sound available on any CD player.
- SA-CD discs achieve what excellently recorded stereo discs can only aspire to - total envelopment in the performance and venue. This is as real as it currently gets! B Whiston
- I didn't believe SA-CD could sound that good...until I heard it. D Basel
HDCD (High Definition Compatible Digital) recordings were first released by Linn Records in 1997 and represented an improvement to the sound quality available on CD. Linn's commitment to HDCD has continued and the majority of recordings since this date have been HDCD encoded. There are currently over 140 HDCD encoded recordings available on the Linn catalogue.
HDCD overcomes the limitation of the 16-bit CD format by using a sophisticated system to encode an additional 4 bits onto the CD while remaining completely compatible with the CD format. HDCD is a patented process and encoded CDs sound better because they are encoded with 20 bits of real musical information as compared with 16 bits for all other CDs.
Mastering engineers all over the world use Pacific Microsonics' professional Model One and Model Two HDCD Processors to produce HDCD recordings. The HDCD Processor is a two-channel analog-to-digital (A/D) and digital-to-analog (D/A) converter, and digital processor with more than 200 millions of instructions per second (MIPS) in computing power.
All Linn CDs mastered with HDCD have the HDCD logo on the back of the album cover, on the CD itself and are labeled so on this website. When you play an HDCD recording on a player with HDCD decoding capability, a light on the player front panel illuminates telling you that you are playing an HDCD recording. If your CD player does not have HDCD decoding capability you can still enjoy the CD on your CD player.