Music is Life - The Rest is Noise

The human brain is hardwired to recognise and appreciate music. Music existed before speech, after all. As a form of emotional communication and art it can be interpreted by anyone; it’s a universal language. Unconsciously tapping your feet, or breaking out into broad smiles, cheers, or even tears, are hallmarks of important musical experiences which enrich our existence on this planet – no matter if you’re from Rio de Janeiro or Reykjavik.

But when listening to music at home, in the car, or on headphones, there are two antagonists who conspire to make music sound mediocre and lose its impact: loss and distortion.

When you have a recorded song, whether it be on a vinyl record, CD, or a streamed digital file, loss can be described as musical content and detail that whatever device you’re playing it on fails to pick up. Music lost at the source can never be retrieved, or artificially reinstated, despite some claims. The perception could be that you’re experiencing the song 100%, when in fact you’re experiencing a ‘diet’ version – lacking the full depth and expression of what was recorded in the studio or concert hall. It’s just not the same as being ‘there’.

Next up, distortion. In this context, distortion can be described as unwanted sounds introduced to the music by the equipment you’re playing it on. It can be heard variously as buzzes, hums, harshness – and is sometimes barely perceptible – yet is more than enough for your music-hardwired brain to struggle subconsciously to make sense of what it’s hearing. It can be distracting and fatiguing. Ever been tempted to turn off the car stereo while you attempt to park in a tight space? Or struggled to focus on conversation in a bar with background music? THIS. This is what we’re talking about.

The combination of loss and distortion distances you, the listener, from the original recording – and that is bad news. The illusion is shattered and meaningful connection with the artist’s intention and musicianship severed. Which is why, since day one, Linn has existed to strive for elimination of loss and distortion in everything we make, so that our customers can have revelatory musical experiences at home. It should be easy and wholly enjoyable to listen to music for hours on end; as Linn’s founder Ivor once said, “it should break your heart to turn off your Linn system.”

One learns and improves by questioning and criticising, not by patting oneself on the back. The huge engineering challenges we set ourselves mean that we as a company are never standing still. It’s the beauty of what we do. It’s what makes engineering high-performance music systems so addictive for us.

Twenty years ago, people thought hi-fi systems were the best they could possibly be, when the truth is that we were only getting started…

The Rest is Noise.

Tune into the other episodes in the “Music is Life” documentary to learn more about Linn’s genesis, about the people at our core, and the purpose-built factory that allows us to perpetually sit on the cutting-edge of music reproduction and get closer and closer to REAL music.

Watch the full Music is Life series on YouTube.