Linn Records: Vinyl to Digital – the Song Remains the Same

*The research into turntable companies and models I conducted of late, plus my continuing interest in writing about the music and mastering/recordings which smaller record labels such as the Electric Recording Co., Naim Records, Reference Recordings, and ECM are involved with led me to connecting with the gentleman who is the driving force behind Linn Records – Philip Hobbs – to discuss not only his involvement with the mastering and recording process, and his hi-fi loudspeaker designs, but how demand for online streaming services vs. traditional delivery of LPs/CDs/downloads have affected smaller labels like Linn.

The year is 1973, the place is Glasgow, Scotland and Ivor Tiefenbrun and co. are spinning professional test LPs on a freshly-turned Sondek LP12, only to deduce the quality of the albums are total rubbish. So, why not start a record label and do it proper?

Roughly 10 years later, and following an investment in a mastering studio, cutters, presses, etc. Linn Records spun out into the world. A Walk Across the Rooftops by The Blue Nile was the label’s first release. The intervening years have seen a steady stream of accolades and awards as well as partnerships with major labels for back-catalog content. Linn Records currently counts more than 700 titles as its own. Along the way the company embraced new technology and added CDs, SACDs, and ultimately high-resolution digital downloads to its library of formats for public consumption.

With the exponential growth in consumer appetite for cloud-based, paid music-subscription services which this decade has seen, dematerialized music made available via online streaming has altered the traditional business model most record labels were built on. This is most obvious in the how and what of the delivery of the final recorded performance. While some record labels still offer discs/vinyl as an option for purchase, many have eschewed physical formats altogether and gone with a ‘downloads only’ model via an virtual storefront.

Philip Hobbs of Linn Records.

Philip Hobbs is Chief Producer for Linn Records Ltd., having come to the company directly from school following a Linn sponsorship of his Tonmeister degree at the University of Surrey. For the past three decades he has labored as a classical recording producer and engineer for Linn, involved with more than 600 recordings throughout Europe and the United States in that time. He also was a key part of the KOMRI project which led to the current Linn Akurate and KIimax loudspeakers.

Hobbs combines his work for Linn with production and engineering work for other labels; particularly EMI, Decca, Virgin Classics, Gimell and Hyperion Records. Recent projects include Handel’s Samson with the Dunedin Consort directed by John Butt, Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Maxim Emelyanychev and Trevor Pinnock’s Das wohltemperierte Klavier book I (for DGG).

Hobbs’ work is no stranger to great reviews and awards including three Gramophone Awards, three BBC Music Magazine Awards and a Critic’s Award at the Classical BRITs. Most recently, Hobbs collected a Trophée from Radio Classique for Best Sound Recording of the Year for his recording of Debussy’s Nocturnes, Duruflé’s Requiem with DSO Berlin, Rundfunkchor Berlin and Magdalena Kožená.

Q&A with Philip Hobbs on Page 2

Linn Records

dadracer's picture

I thought his name was Ivor and not Igor as you have in the blog. I don't agree with much of what he has had to say over the years but he is/was right about LP quality. These days I see so many 180g albums and yet many sound as though they were mastered from a CD. It was a pity he chose that Blue Nile album. Great sound, but not such great music....sorry.

Rafe Arnott's picture
Thanks, it certainly is 'Ivor' not 'Igor.' It got 'corrected' it seems. Fixed now.
whell's picture

....I love it. I need to use that as my screen name. :)

Topher's picture

I can't fault the performances or the recordings of the music Linn Records puts out, both of which are excellent. (I'm not quite sure what an audiophile company is doing streaming mp3s on Apple Music, but there you are.)

The biggest problem though is their online front-end. It took me ten minutes and two attempts to simply create an account. Then when you get to your purchased download page you can't download the album into a single folder, a la Qobuz for instance. You're presented with each individual track on the album both in the Hi Res format you bought it in and in mp3, with no easy way to distinguish which is which. So you have to pick your way down the list, downloading the tracks you want, then copy the downloaded files into a new folder you've created on your computer. (Oh yes, and you're only allowed to download your files three times. That probably won't be an issue if you're careful looking after them, but it still irks when other companies offer unlimited downloads on your purchases.)

angelwars's picture

Biggest shame is no longer having the multi-channel option with downloads.I'm glad I still have my Linn SACD's.