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Contrary to all my fears, Pono is here to save the music industry! 24-bit music is about to hit the mainstream, backed by Neil Young, the major record labels and an army of world-renowned artists.

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It was May 2005 and we were holding a regular Linn management review at a hotel near Glasgow where, as it turned out, Lou Reed was also staying during a break in his tour.

During a coffee break, I saw Lou reading the newspaper in the hotel lobby and, despite shaking with nerves, couldn’t resist approaching him. He immediately put me at ease, placing his hand firmly on my shaky leg, telling me I didn’t need to be nervous and asked me to take a seat.

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My interview in the UK’s Metro newspaper last week appears to have touched a raw nerve with many people. In that interview I claimed that mp3 downloads will be replaced by music at studio master quality. And it was this prediction that seems to have raised the most hostility.

This surprises me.

It’s not like I predicted the demise of the toaster…

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I cringed throughout Neil Young’s recent appearance on The David Letterman Show, in the way you do when sensing public embarrassment of one of your heroes at the hands of a talk-show host.

What made it worse though, was the confirmation it gave that my visit to Broken Arrow a year ago had made zero impact on the great man.

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Last summer, when a friend invited me to a gig in a tiny venue in Glasgow, I had no idea it would end up with Linn signing one of the UK’s most exciting rising acts, Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo.

That night there were about 25 people crammed into Brel, a little pub on Ashton Lane, in Glasgow’s trendy West End. From the atmosphere alone it was apparent that something very special was happening…

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It recently dawned on me that most of our family time is now spent in the kitchen. Of course it’s where we cook, but also where we eat, where we socialise and increasingly where we listen to music.

Music as part of family living means lots of different things for us; during the day my wife likes the radio on in the background, my kids use the iPad to watch TV in the afternoon, I watch the news on the laptop when I get home from work. That’s all before dinner.

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Perhaps the last thing you’d expect to find hidden in the Japanese countryside, nestling in a beautiful forest, is Linn’s old exhibition stand from the 1987 London show “Hear Linn Live!”

But indeed there it is, the wooden cabin that Linn’s founder Ivor Tiefenbrun commissioned for the show, once he realised it would be more cost-effective, and reusable, to build an actual house than a typical exhibition stand.

Over an adequate sufficiency of drams after the show, so the story goes, Ivor pledged the cabin to Yoshihisa Mori, the legendary audio engineer and log cabin enthusiast. It was packaged, shipped to Japan, and rebuilt on Mori-san’s small freeholding, about halfway between Tokyo and Fukushima.

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Finally it’s begun. The waiting is over.

I’m delighted and excited to report that this week we’ve launched our Studio Master download partnership with Universal Music Group.

The first titles are some of the greats of classical music, remastered at 24-bit by Deutsche Grammophon and Decca Classics from their original analogue tapes.

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Apple’s decision to finally open source its Apple Lossless (ALAC) format is welcome news.

For one thing, people who use iTunes to store and archive their CD collection, and take care to change the audio quality to Apple Lossless, will be able to stream their collection to a wider range of products.

For Linn, where we’ve been advocating FLAC, yet supporting an unofficial version of ALAC, it means we no longer risk the wrath of Apple HQ for letting people listen to their music collections through our systems.

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You might have noticed that the Linn website has changed in the last couple of weeks.

Out with the Old

Our previous website was conceived as an online catalogue. The structure neatly mirrored the areas of Linn’s business and the categories of products. This was ideal for people who knew Linn and knew what they were looking for.The home page was used as a podium to display the latest products and upgrades. It broadcasted: “Look at our latest offering.” It assumed knowledge of Linn, assumed that the latest offering made sense in the context of an existing understanding of our business and products.

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Following my last blog on music industry moves towards studio master, and Neil Young’s blog on the same subject, I was both gob-smacked and terrified to be invited to Broken Arrow Ranch to meet with the man himself.

Neil Young’s music was a soundtrack to my teenage years, especially Harvest. Inevitably, every time I was dumped by the seemingly-never-to-be-replaced love-of-my-life, ‘Man Needs a Maid’ with its heart-breaking story and dramatic orchestral backing felt like it was written for me. And ‘Needle and the Damage Done’ just had to be nailed on the guitar in order to have any kudos at all with my guitar-playing friends.

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The music industry has spent the last 25 years trashing the quality of its own product, mesmerised by the allure of convenience whilst watering down the quality of the music. It may not have been apparent to the music industry in 1985, when CD started to appear in the mass-market, but it was the beginning of a gradual decline in quality that led to the commoditisation of its core product -and to today’s crisis.

The solution: the adoption of the Studio Master download as an industry standard is the only way out of this mess…

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“Music companies are in a real spin - battling falling profits, increasing competition and rampant piracy.”

So the inevitable has happened, and EMI has fallen into the hands of the bankers, after one of the most spectacularly bad bits of business in history.

The private equity firm Terra Firma has lost $2.7bn - its entire investment - Citibank $3.5bn.

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Really, she did.

Let me explain, and I can assure you it’s not as dodgy as it sounds.

Linn, together with our Russian partner Linn Prestige, brought Claire Martin to Russia for the first time to perform in front of an invited audience in St Petersburg.

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As the latest debate on whether Linn should support a proprietary Apple format, this time the newly-announced AirPlay, flared up on the Linn Forum, it reminded me of the calls before the Klimax DS was released from some quarters for Linn to get on the bandwagon and support iPod docking, the latest “must-have” feature for home music systems.

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With Spotify’s announcement of greater Facebook integration, music could well be heading for a permanent home in the cloud. What implications does that have for audio quality and the future of music itself?

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In the UK we have the unique situation of a compulsory license fee for every household in order to fund our public service broadcaster, the BBC. How on earth then have we arrived at a situation where the BBC…

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If you’ve been following Linn closely over the last couple of years, I doubt you’ll have failed to notice our emphasis on Open. We do this in the knowledge that Open is best for the customer and at Linn we believe, as my father Ivor is fond of saying: What’s best for the customer is best for the company.

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A journalist I spoke to the other day said to me: “Your father, he’s rather opinionated, isn’t he?” “Oh, how so?” I replied. Journalist: “In the 1980’s he said that CD would never catch on.” Me: “Well, he was…

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As I mentioned in my earlier entry on introducing Cara to Japan, Linn has been responsible for introducing music streaming into the Japanese audio market and probably because of that I was asked to speak to an invited audience…

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