So, where do we start? I believe the best advice is, start at the beginning and carry on till you reach the end.... so I’ll start in the middle!
At the end of the 90’s I went to a dinner, taking a free ticket that my boss couldn’t use. I was sat 3 places away from William Hague, opposite the very lively, and rather charming Ffion Hague and surrounded by various members of the Cristian Salvasen and Miller Homes clans, and one Ivor Tiefenbrun, inventor of the legendary LP12 and founder and Chairman of Linn HiFi.
There was plenty of chat, but Alister Salvesen piped up with so, "is your stuff as good as Bang and Oulfson?” Now, Ivor isn’t shy, but he hesitated to reply and little old my chipped in with “B&O was all about style and trying to screw as much money out of you as possible, when Linn was all about the sound. If that meant huge boxes or tiny uninspiring speakers, if that’s what the sound demands, that’s what they sell.” I’m not sure that’s still true, but it was then.
I knew about Linn because my brother had an LP12/Ekos/Troika, LK1, LK2, Epos (somethings) and it sounded great. Anyway, long story/short (medium length anyway) he invited me out to the factory and I ended up with a Linn system (Genki CD, Kollektor pre, LK85 amp and Ninka speakers for a discount that was literally a gift. It was all ‘ex-demo’, but came in new boxes with a full five year warranty and I had to wait 6 weeks for the speakers to be made! In the meantime I was given a pair of Katens.
A few years later I was in the Linn factory and popped up to see Ivor. It was a big day as they were pouring the floor for their extension that doubled the size of the place. So, I said to him that I was about to buy a Rega turntable when he asked why I’d do that. “Well”, I said “there’s no way I could afford an LP12, and you don’t make your Basik any more.” He walked over to his sales people and said “we still make Basik, don’t we?” “No Ivor, we stopped that years ago.”
He turned back to me and said, “well, we’ll just have to give you an LP12 then!” As they’d closed their retail outlets by then, he sent me to Russ Andrews HiFi in Edinburgh (founded by RA, but sold long before to ‘Dave’ and now, sadly closed) when there I discovered that, at that time, they only ade the Lingo (no letter K!) power supply, so that’s what I got! I bought Linn’s ‘budget’ arm and cartridge and I added another LK12 and bi-amped the set-up.
I’ve since added Aktiv cards, up-graded the speaker cables and eventually added a Sizemik sub. Clearly it’s all Linn, and that means it may or may not be the best, but it’s a system that’s cost me around three grand, but should have cost ten. So, I’m pretty sure it’s the best system you could ever buy for £3K!
But, that’s not where I stared. As a teenager, my brother and I badgered our mother to buy an Akai Pro503 rack system. To us, this was ‘state-of-the-art’ and sounded phenomenal. Certainly, relative to anything we had headed till then, it was a huge leap forward. A few years later my brother bought a Rega, then a pretty basic (pre Valhalla) LP12. The die was cast!
My first ‘hifi’ was a car stereo head, wired up to a 240v transformer with sellotape insulation and a pair of huge car speakers. Tapes only! I got married in 88 an my brother offered to buy me a HiFi with a £600 budget. I went a little over, and spent months choosing by listening and comparing. I ended up going down the CD route an got a Marrantz CD65SE, an A&R Cambridge AR60 and some Monitor Audio R300MDs. I nicked the Akai turntable from my mum, and that was my system till I met Ivor.
I’ve sent some effort with tuning, like adding target speaker stands and loading the with sand fo the R300s, adding polymer bases to the Ninkas, better leads, spikes, isolator plinths etc., but both equally real biggy was going active! The difference was night and day. I’ve been tellin myself that a third amp would perfect it, but there’s always something else tha needs my money more... or so I’m told!
So why do all this? I love music and hate HiFi. I mean, I want to hear the music, not the HiFi. I want the machinery to be a clear, transparent window on the music. If I could build the whole thing in to a cupboard and vever see the thing, I’d not miss it, except my Ninkas in beautiful cherry wood veneer and the matching sub. But, I’d make room for my brother’s Isobariks, if I thought theyd sound better, and I could afford them and their multiple amps.
In terms of music, I have very eclectic taste. My favourites include ‘And the glory of the Lord’ Handel’s Messiah, Mahler’s 2nd symphony (resurrection), most of Dylan’s repertoire,many Dylan covers (Anjelik Kijo’s Lay Lady Lay is worth finding!), Lou Reed, his wife, Laurie Anderson and her recent collaborator, Phillip Glass. Talking Heads (I saw David Byrn’s American Utopia show in October), Janice Joplin (I love Pearl), The Doors, a lot of punk from The Plasmatics and Zounds, through the more obvious (Clash, Rats, Damned etc.) to the later Pixies (I love Surfer Rosa) etc. My most prized album is ‘Friday Night In San Francisco’ by Al Dimiola, Paco De Lucia and John McGlochlan... sublime! The ones I marvel at are my 180grm Billie Holiday discs an my most bought is Meat Loaf’s ‘Bat out of Hell’ (red vinyl, pic disc, different labels, sleeves etc.). My favourite current bands are Eels and the Be Good Tanyas.
The future? I put all my CDs in to apple lossless and stored them on a NAS. I play them through a Sonos thing. It’s very convenient, but sounds crap. My plan is to get a Linn streamer, but I never have he money, so I should buy a better, not too expensive DAC.
OK, so that’s HiFi, for 32 years I’ve been a financial adviser, and, currently, I’m a politician as a county councillor in Scotland’s 5th largest authority with almost £1bn in my budget, which would you like next money or politics? I do religion as well, but most of my religious experience dates from a period in my youth when I was shagging a church organist.... my she could play an organ! I’m now a born again, evangelical aetheist.
Insomniacs of the world unite, you've nothing to lose but your sleep!