Linn’s amazing fully integrated $165K 360 integrated loudspeakers

April 12, 2024
12 mins read

GARY STEEL attends the NZ launch of the game-changing Linn 360 speakers and learns what it’s like to get right inside Diana Krall’s mouth.

I forget exactly when I first heard the phrase “the law of diminishing returns” applied to the pursuit of perfection in hi-fi, and the costs related to that noble pursuit, but it’s something I’ve heard over and over with predictable monotony. It seems strange to me that it’s seldom mentioned in relation to expensive cars or other fineries of modern life.

It was surprising, therefore, to hear Linn CEO Gilad Tiefenbrun bring up the subject himself at the New Zealand launch of the Scottish company’s latest loudspeaker, the 360.

“If you spend a lot of money on hi-fi, somebody will say, ‘Why did you spend all that money? It’s the law of diminishing returns! How much better can it be?’ says Gilad, talking about an interview conducted some years ago with his Dad, Linn founder Ivor Tiefenbrun.

“But actually, with hi-fi the opposite is true. Because with hi-fi what we’re doing is we’re getting closer to the emotional impact of real music, and so what my Dad was explaining was that as technology moves, and it moves rapidly, it accelerates, and as we harness that technology in products like the 360 loudspeaker, we’re getting ever closer to the emotional experience of real music. And so, what’s happening is we’re using technology to reveal more of the tiny details that give realism to recorded music. And that’s allowing us to connect more deeply, more realistically, and have that emotional impact, and so actually, the differences are getting bigger! It’s the opposite of the law of diminishing returns. It’s the law of increasing returns.”


Would you like to support our mission to bring intelligence, insight and great writing to entertainment journalism? Help to pay for the coffee that keeps our brains working and fingers typing just for you. Witchdoctor, entertainment for grownups. Riveting writing on music, tech, hi-fi, music, film, TV and other cool stuff. Your one-off (or monthly) $5 or $10 donation will support and help us keep producing quality content. It’s really easy to donate, just click the ‘Become a supporter’ button below.


It must be so boring hearing the same “hi-fi on a budget” blokes banging on about what they assume to be the excessive cost of premium hi-fidelity products, when in fact it must be a risky business investing in genius design, leading-edge technology and top-quality components. Still, there are understandably those who might scoff at the idea of paying $165K for a pair of loudspeakers. I’ve done it myself. I don’t want to believe that spending that much money would increase my listening pleasure in any real way, because I know that unless I win Lotto, I’ll never have that much so-called disposable income.

Late last year I attended the 360 launch at the Albany-based Hi-Fi Store (hosted by owner and longtime hi-fi dealer Dean Harnish), where fine wine and tasty canapes were served and the hoi polloi who were invited (along with a few scruffy rapscallions like me) got to meet and chat with Gilad, who took small groups into the venue’s secret auditioning room for a brief listen to a selection of musical items on the speakers themselves. (A few weeks later, I returned to Auckland to hear my own selection of music on the 360s after they moved to at Takapuna’s Real Music Company hi-fi store, so remember to check out the second part of this story).

Linn turned 50 in 2023, so Gilad spent more time than he might otherwise have done explaining how the 360 fits into the company’s storied history.

“Like the 350 before it they’re fully integrated speakers,” he said. “They have all of the amplifiers, crossovers, digital to analogue conversion, it’s all built inside the speaker. All we have here is our Klimax system hub, which is receiving the music from the internet, and it’s connected digitally to these speakers, so all the technology that’s responsible for the sound is really inside the speaker.

“When I joined Linn in ’03, it was my Dad’s company and one of the first products I launched was the 350 loudspeaker, the predecessor to this speaker, and we faced a bit of a battle at that time because people associated integrated speakers with lower performance or they just thought separates had to be better, and they often are better but we wanted to show that there was an alternative. If you wanted or needed a complete system, we had a speaker that was high performance.

“The other thing Linn is renowned for is modular upgradeable products, and when you have an LP12 turntable you can see how it’s upgraded piece by piece, and there were concerns that an integrated speaker wouldn’t be upgradeable in the same way. But over the best part of 20 years, we actually introduced many upgrades, because the module at the back is removable, the drive units are removable. And so we did… we upgraded virtually every part of that speaker, amplifiers, DACs, drive units, sometimes multiple times. We’ve shown that you can have this high-performance, complete system with upgradeability as well.

“But… evolution and upgradeability only go so far, and this is revolution: new cabinet, new drive units, new amp, new DACs, new crossovers, new software, new everything.”

After playing a piece of dazzling piano-based Mozart (don’t ask), Gilad made the point that no matter where you’re sitting in the room, with the 360s (apt name) the music doesn’t sound off-beam, and he’s right. While the 360s, like any 2-channel audio system, will have a sweet spot (or best sitting position) they really do sound good practically anywhere in the room.

“I’m quite confident that from where you’re sitting, you’ll also be able to understand and enjoy the music just as well,” said Gilad. “It’s this incredible dispersion characteristic that minimizes the interactions with the walls and the ceiling, keeps the music coming to you and the low distortion allows us to pick out any instrument and locate it from where it is in the band or the orchestra, and have those silences completely silent… from the very quiet to the very loud parts there’s no breaking up or distortion of any kind.”

The next demonstration recording is ‘No Moon At All’, a jazzy Diana Krall tune. “You’re right inside Diana Krall’s mouth”, says Gilad, at the risk of a few quips from the quick-witted in the audience. “You can hear everything that’s going on, every aspect of how she’s delivering that music.

“This is built on a couple of core Linn technologies. One is Exact, our digital crossover technology that completely eliminates the distorting effects you get in analogue crossovers of the components themselves, the variability. It’s called ‘magnitude distortion’, which is the tolerance of analogue components. We use digital technology to make sure that every crossover, every split of frequency to every drive unit is absolutely perfect every time. In addition, we do something called ‘phase alignment’, which is lining up the phases, because treble would arrive at your ear much sooner, at 5 milliseconds sooner than the bass, and that’s called ‘phase distortion’. But again we use digital technology to align the frequencies up so that the music arrives at your ears as live music would. And that gives it that added realism. ‘Space optimization’ is also running inside these speakers, so Dean has spent some time creating an acoustic model of this room that’s then loaded into the speakers and in real-time… the distorting effect of the room is taken out, so you hear the music and not the room. We’re able to do that regardless of the room, so it’s coded in at design time and it runs as a model in real time. Basically, every room is a distorting element and space optimization takes that out. Again, it’s all about getting the music to your ears without the distorting effects that would otherwise be there.

Gilad then spins a Jack Johnson tune that “you’ll all know”. I don’t. “Did you hear the clarity there? Hopefully, it leaves you with the feeling ‘I wish I could have heard more of that’. [No, it didn’t, but that’s Johnson’s fault, not the 360s.] That’s also what great hi-fi systems should do: make you want to listen to more music. Make you want to listen to your favourite music.”

Gilad finishes off his explanatory 360 session with the following: “One last thing to tell you about the speakers is the technology we use in the amplifiers, with adaptive bias control. And what we’re doing now… Linn is combining the best of analogue and the best of digital. We’re using modern digital technology to solve the problems of the analogue world, like the digital crossover, like space optimization. What adaptive bias control is doing is that it’s keeping the amplifiers operating at their optimal position, it’s biasing the transistors of the analogue amplifier at their crossover points in real-time. So normally an amplifier’s transistors are biased by potentiometer by physical variable resister and manufacturing type. Adaptive bias control is another of these real-time technologies. As the music is playing, it’s biasing the transistors in real-time. So, they don’t vary with temperature, age, or the music that’s played. It’ll drift. In other words, our amplifiers are going to perform optimally throughout the lifetime of the loudspeaker.

“There’s all these amazing things we’re doing now with all of these digital technologies that are layered onto the traditional analogue technologies of the loudspeaker, that solve all these problems, that together combine to keep lowering the distortion and keep increasing the maximum amount of music we’re able to deliver to you.”

A little later, Gilad tells the assembled more about Linn’s 50th-anniversary celebrations.

“This is a really special year for Linn, it’s our 50th anniversary, we were founded in 1973 by my Dad and on the 27th of March (2023) we had a huge event at the Linn factory in Glasgow where we invited our top business partners from around the world. Which was a bit nail-biting because you think ‘who’s going to come to Glasgow for a day party?’ but it turns out everybody came, so that was fine. And at that event, we launched the 360 loudspeakers. And that’s another benchmark for the company in terms of performance and bringing new technologies together, so it was a wonderful event.

“In the run-up to it, I was taking these filmmakers around – on our YouTube site you’ll see some nice little films and more films will appear to celebrate our 50th anniversary as part of that. My Dad told this story about meeting a journalist back in the ‘90s… that he’d presented this system to journalists who said that it sounded so amazing that there really can’t be anything left for Linn to do. This is 1994, 30 years ago, right? And my Dad said that he’d told the journalist that they were at 1 percent of what a system should be capable of, and the journalist thought he was joking. When you walk into a live performance, you know instantly if it’s live. So clearly there’s this huge gap. So, my Dad is explaining to the film director that what we’re doing is constantly trying to close this gap. But then he said something that really surprised me. He said that the progress that we’ve made has really shocked him.

“And that’s why we love what we do, it’s this constant striving for improvement, raising standards, striving for better, and that’s what this 50 years has been about for me, it’s a celebration of 50 years of the pursuit… 50 years of engineering excellence, 50 years of delivering ever-more emotional impact and pleasure and more connection with music, which is fundamentally humans connecting with other humans across time, across space. It’s a miracle, right? Across hundreds of years we’re listening to Mozart. It’s amazing, the things you can do. So, music is what inspires us, we still love it, and we still attract the best, most talented engineers in their field, and attract you, the best customers out there as well.”


Lastly, Gilad explained the genesis of another of the 50th-anniversary special edition products: the Linn Sondek LP12 50 turntable. It’s a long story but Apple fans might want to tune in!

“For those of you who don’t know Jony Ive was the chief product designer at Apple for 27 years and worked alongside Steve Jobs and was the lead product designer on the iPod and the iMac and later the iPhone and the iPad, and even later on the AirPods and Apple Watch. That’s all Jony Ive’s product design.

“Out of the blue at the start of 2022, I had a LinkedIn request from someone who purported to be his representative, which I immediately threw in the trash, thinking ‘well, it’s obviously spam’, because if you’re on LinkedIn you know that most of the mail you get is spam, right? And then a few hours later I had this nagging feeling like, ‘what if it actually was Jonny Ive?’ And then I had to figure out how to get the message out of the trash. And sure enough, it was Johnny Ive’s PA. And then they set up a call on Facetime. I remember talking to someone at work and saying, ‘I’ve got this meeting with Johnny Ive, I wonder what he wants to talk to me about?’ and I think he said ‘What’s the best thing you could possibly imagine?’ and I said ‘The best thing I could possibly imagine is that he would collaborate on a product for our 50th anniversary’, and he said ‘hold that thought in your brain and be ready in case it comes up in the conversation’.

“So we had this Facetime call, and the first thing Johnny said to me was, ‘I know you’re a busy guy, I don’t want anything, I just wanted to meet you and let you know that I’m buying an LP12 and a Klimax DSM.’ Okay, good. ‘But I need to know who I should buy it from’. Where do you live? ‘San Francisco’. Blah-blah. So, we’re talking about that and then I said, ‘What led you to Linn?’ And he said, ‘I’ve been following Linn for years, came on a visit when I was a student, loved the design of the factory, have been watching everything that you’ve been doing.’ And then he started asking questions about the product design and how we do things. So that’s how the conversation went. And then he told me what he’s doing now after he left Apple is set up his own design agency called Love From. And Love From is set up as a collaboration organization. ‘We work with other companies to help them make products. We’re working on the new electric Ferrari, that’s in the public domain so I can talk about that.’ He did the new Coronation Crest for the King Charles. And there’s a load of other global brands he’s working with. And he said, ‘Me and my business partner, while we do plenty of paid work, we also said that if we were going to keep working we’d also have projects that we do just out of love. And I love what you guys do and if there’s anything you ever needed, and anyway I could help and support I’d love to get involved, no cost, no fee.’ And I said, ‘Well, it just so happens that next year is the 50th anniversary of Linn and the LP12. He said, ‘Right, okay, that’s interesting.’ And the next morning I had an email from Jony saying I would love to help you design a special edition of the LP12 for the 50th anniversary. This was early 2022 and by the middle of 2022 he had his DSM and LP12 and his team had experienced them and we started to discuss what a special edition Linn Sondek LP12 would look like, and ultimately landed on the Linn Sondek LP12 50, which is a limited run of 250.

“But where I’m going with all that is that when it came to coming into 2023 and our 50th anniversary we ended up with two incredible things, the 360 loudspeaker and the Linn Sondek LP12 50 turntable. And it was only three years ago that we launched the next generation Klimax DSM as well. So here we are with the strongest lineup of products that we’ve ever had in our history and making a sound that we could not even have imagined even a few short years ago. I’m incredibly proud of what the company’s achieved and delighted to have such committed and knowledgeable customers.”

It would have been fun to stay and hob-nob but I had another commitment, so I hatched a plan to make the three-hour drive from my Northland idyll a few weeks later armed with a list of favourites to hear on the 360 loudspeakers by now in pride of place at the Real Music Company in Takapuna.

+ See Part 2 of my piece on the Linn 360 loudspeaker here.

+ The Wellington branch of the Real Music Company currently has a pair of Linn 360 loudspeakers. If you would like to audition them make contact through or 0800 438 443.
















Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Give a little to support Witchdoctor's quest to save high quality independent journalism. It's easy and painless! Just donate $5 or $10 to our PressPatron account by clicking on the button below.

Witchdoctor straight to your inbox every 2nd week


Advance Paris - Designed with French flair. Amplifiers, Streamers, CD players and more
Previous Story

Fallout: a world of mutants and metal armies

Next Story

What it’s really like to experience $165,000 speakers

Latest from Gear

Hi-Fi Show Report: AXPONA

OWEN HARRIS moseyed along to the largest hi-fi show in the USA and instead of just taking in endless rooms of product took time

HP Launches AI PCs

HP is poised to unleash its new AI-enhanced notebooks and tech guru PAT PILCHER got a close look at them at the Australasian launch.
Go toTop