I have had plenty of time to contemplate this post. In that time I have come up with many possible titles. Among them:
- I Hate Linn (nice and simple)
- How I Got Gaslighted by Linn (an attempt to work in contemporary… lingo)
- In Which I Realize I Have Been Inadvertently Advertising for the Most Loathsome Company in Hifi (this one hits hard)
- Comprehensive Product Design and Customer Service Fail by Linn (bland but to the point)
- Why You Should Never Buy Anything Used from Linn, but also Not Buy Anything New from Linn, and So I Guess What I Am Saying Is that You Should Never Buy Anything From Linn, Period. (But I have actually already gone against my own advice by buying a Karousel. Which I love, despite really wanting to hate it.)
Anyway, you get the idea. I am deeply pissed off with Linn. And I have been pissed off with them for a while.
There are two reasons for this.
In this post, I detail the major one: my horrible experience with a Linn Lingo 4. The horrible experience has been with the product itself, which was defective; with Linn’s dealer network, which was criminally unhelpful; and with Linn’s customer service, which was deceptive and smug.
I will divide this saga into the following chapters, which — to emphasize its saga-ness — I will map onto Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
- Call to Adventure: The Lingo with the Ticking Motor
- Threshold Guardian: Star Electronics, the Worst Linn Dealer on Earth
- Challenges and Temptations: Linn’s HinderLine versus Peter Swain and J7… and an Unexpected Hero
- Abyss: Rejected by German Customs
- Transformation: the Return of Lingo
- Atonement: Linn Loses the Lingo
- Gift of the Goddess: After One Last Challenge, the Lingo Returns
And so we begin.
Call to Adventure: The Lingo with the Ticking Motor
Almost exactly one year ago, I came across an ad for a Linn Lingo 4 on Canuck Audio Mart. This very ad, in fact: “Linn Lingo 4 new in box never installed.” It was listed for $1400 USD, about $1800 CDN at the time. I emailed my local Linn dealer, Star Electronics, to ask how much they were asking for a new Lingo 4, and the answer was $2400 + tax, so $2,712. But they asked for my phone number and, on the phone, said they would sell it to me for below MSRP — something they’re not supposed to do, by the way — for $2100 + tax, so $2373. Star would do a dealer install — and even offered to let me watch them install it so I could learn, which was nice of them. But that wasn’t worth $500 to me.
So I ordered the Lingo 4 from CAM.
In short, my Lingo 4 had a noisy motor. It ticked and ticked and ticked and ticked. And ticked.
After doing some research, I found that Linn warranties were transferrable. Since my Lingo was was less than a year old when I bought it, it was still under warranty. I wrote directly to Linn’s ironically misnamed HelpLine@Linn.co.uk email address (which I have cheekily renamed HinderLine in this post, har har), and they told me that the warranty was only valid if the Lingo had been installed by a dealer. By installing it myself, I had voided the warranty. My only option, they told me, was to contact my local Linn dealer, Star Electronics — the very people I had spurned by passing on their shady below-MSRP offer.
Threshold Guardian: Star Electronics, the Worst Linn Dealer on Earth
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Star Electronics went out of their way to be unhelpful.
It was all bad news. They confirmed that nothing would be covered under warranty, and so I would be responsible for paying for a replacement motor — a mere $1045 CDN + tax! — as well as all labour costs in replacing it. They would not supply the motor separately and would not sell it to be directly (not that I would pay that much for a motor anyway.)
Worse, however, they would charge me $500 merely for inspecting the motor. This was before the cost of the motor and labour to install it.
What they were telling me, effectively, was to fuck off.
So I did.
Challenges and Temptations: Linn’s HinderLine versus Peter Swain and J7… and an Unexpected Hero
I was extremely angry. I think anyone would be. But what I was about to learn made me angrier still.
My ticking Lingo 4 was not an anomaly. The ticking of the Lingo 4 motor was a well-known issue.
I wrote to Peter Swain of Cymbiosis, who has been extraordinarily helpful to me, as well as incredibly generous with his knowledge. He is a true hero in this story.
I told him about my problem and my experience with Star Electronics. He was disgusted and baffled by the $500 and offered to help me out if they refused to. He even thought he might be able to help get my Lingo serviced under warranty.
But first he offered some advice. He said that most Lingo motors ticked at first. So I should leave it running for at least 50 hours and see if it was better then. I appreciated the advice — but this was also deeply strange. Motors should not need 50 hours of running in before they quiet down. They should be quiet right off the bat.
I also happened to be talking to Johnnie (aka j7) from Audio Origami around this time. I mentioned my experience with the Lingo 4, and he told me that it was quite common. Working in the service department at Loud & Clear, a Linn dealer in Glasgow, he often received ticking Lingo 4 motors. He did one of two things with them: sent them back to Linn, or else “whacked the spindle straight down with the handle end of a great big screwdriver.” Apparently that could sort it out.
I tried both solutions, but neither worked. I gave the motor a whack, I left it running for 18 straight days (432 hours). It still ticked audibly.
I wrote to the HinderLine again telling them what I’d learned about issues with the Lingo 4. They told me I’d voided by warranty bu installing it myself and there was nothing they could (rather, would) do. I told them the Lingo 4 needed to be recalled. I told them I ran a blog and would post about their horrible product design and customer service. I threatened them, in other words. They didn’t blink.
This is when I got another idea.
I happened to be emailing with the person in California who sold me my Tiger Paw Khan and Ekos 2. I told him about the issue with the Lingo. He asked who I bought it from on Canuck Audio Mart. He told me that the person I bought it from had bought it from him. What a coincidence.
Sensing an opportunity, I asked where he had bought it. He said he got it from a guy in Baltimore who had bought it from a kind of grey-market dealer in Germany. (Amazingly, none of these owners even tried to install the Lingo 4. I can confirm this because all of the supplied bits — zip ties, wires, etc. — had clearly never been out of their packaging.)
I asked for this grey-market dealer’s email address. Let’s call him Siegfried.
Siegfried’s business model seems to work more or less like this. He works with a Linn dealer, who get him the product around cost. He then sells this product to people like me who don’t want to pay the premium for a dealer install they can do just as well themselves. His prices are slightly below MSRP. Since none of these products are installed by dealers, and since Linn’s warranty requires that all their products be, none of them end up qualifying for Linn’s warranty.
Despite this situation, when I wrote to Siegfried, he said of course he would help me and get the Lingo 4 repaired under warranty. He gave me the address of the Linn dealer he works with — a legit dealer; I looked it up — and told me to send the Lingo there.
It seemed a little fishy, but I didn’t feel like I had a lot of other options. I put it in the mail, at a cost of about $125 CDN for tracked service.
Abyss: Rejected by German Customs
That was in February. And we all know what was happening in the world around then.
I wrote to Siegfried to ask if the Linn dealer would still be open during the shutdown that had been imposed in Germany (Canada’s wouldn’t begin for another month). He said they were closed to the public but still operating and would be receiving mail.
Alas, not this package.
I followed the tracking obsessively. After two weeks of radio silence, it arrived in Germany. There was an attempted delivery, but no one was there. Then it went to some kind of customs office which apparently sent a note to the dealer explaining how to pick it up. It seems they never got this note, or never went to pick it up, or if they did go the office was closed. In any case, it sat there for two more weeks and then was sent back to me. That was in March.
Siegfried was responsive and communicative, and seems to have spent many hours on the phone with German customs officials. But he never did manage to get a tracking number on the return package.
Months passed. We both figured it was just lost in the mail. $1800, a lot of frustration with Linn and their minions, expensive international shipping… all for absolutely naught.
Transformation: the Return of Lingo
Amazingly, one day in late May, my Lingo box returned. The customs label read “nicht abgeholt”: not claimed.
In addition to being amazed that it was back at all, I was extra amazed that I wasn’t charged return shipping, and didn’t have to pay any extra customs feed to claim it. What a relief. I felt things turning in my favour, at long last.
Still, it wasn’t obvious what to do next. If I sent it back to Germany, would they pick it up this time? Who were the people in Germany, and how were they related to Siegfried? I thought I should maybe just try to sell it as-is, ticking motor and all, and try to at least recoup something out of it.
Then I got a brilliant idea that I should have thought of much earlier. Why was I trying to sort all this out myself, when I could just initiate a PayPal claim on my original purchase from the guy on Canuck Audio Mart and stick the seller with all the hassle?
There was no reason I couldn’t. Except that it was too late. I initiated a claim. I was (literally) two days past the cutoff for disputes. Claim refused.
I took everything out of the box to see if, miraculously, its trip to Germany and back had solved the issues. Still ticking.
Hopeful fellow that I am, I sent the Lingo back to Germany.
Atonement: Linn Loses the Lingo
I was nervous about many things at this point.
That German customs would foil me again.
That Siegfried was some kind of slightly inept scam artist who had missed his chance to snag the Lingo the first time, but would do better this time, and I’d just never hear from him again.
Mostly what I worried about was that Linn would refuse the warranty claim that Siegfried’s dealer connection would make. My Lingo was not under warranty under Linn terms, after all, since I’d installed it myself. Worse yet, I had given the HinderLine my serial number in one of my early emails. Maybe they kept a list of dodgy serial numbers and would flag the Lingo when it arrived, and then I’d be on the hook for some more international shipping. And right back where I started.
The first two worries proved unfounded. In June, Siegfried received the package and told me that his dealer connection had sent it to Linn, whose factory had reopened.
The latter worry was persistent, however. June, July, August, September, October, November… Every couple of weeks I would write to Siegfried and say, “Hey man, what’s up? Any word from Linn?” I saw no point in taking a hostile tone, so I was always friendly. He was always friendly in return. “Nope, nothing, I don’t know what’s up — Linn have been slow but we have been getting warranty returns from them…” I figured they’d flagged my Lingo by its serial number, thrown it in the garbage, and were just torturing me now.
Finally in November Siegfried promised to “kick some ass” for me and bring this all to a conclusion.
The result of this ass-kicking was to determine that… the Lingo was lost. Again!
I’m actually still not entirely sure who lost it. I think it was Linn (that would make me happiest, from a karmic perspective), but it might have been the dealer connection.
Anyway, this was great news for me.
It was lost. The serial number was irrelevant. I would be getting a brand new Lingo 4. I could put it straight up on eBay, never open it, and maybe actually recoup most of my losses. “Brand new Lingo 4, in box, sealed, never opened.” One-Year-Ago Me would’ve bought it for sure!
Gift of the Goddess: After One Last Challenge, the Lingo Returns
But that would be way too neat, wouldn’t it?
Earlier this month, I got a package from Germany.
Disappointment #1: It was not the official Linn Lingo 4 box. There was no seal on it.
Disappointment #2: All of the parts were in the box, apparently new and unopened, though loosely packed. Except for one. There was no motor in the box. You know, the thing had actually been giving me trouble.
I wrote to Siegfried. I said the most polite possible version of “What the hell, man, where’s the effing box, where’s the effing motor??”
I was imagining all kinds of nightmare scenarios. Siegfried never replies. Siegfried says the motor was in the box — and makes me deal with FedEx shipping insurance, which, since I’d asked him to declare a low value, results me in getting $25 after months of legal wrangling and still not motor.
Siegfried replied. He said the motor was in the box. He asked me to look for any holes in the box. Well, what do you know, there was a gap in the box. It had been very lightly and hastily taped together. The hole was exactly the right size for a motor to escape from.
To his credit, Siegfried skipped right over the whole FedEx insurance nightmare and said he would just send me a new motor. I said I had heard that motors and boards were matched, which would mean not just any motor would work (this actually isn’t an insane idea; there is some possible logic behind it; I believe Rega match their boards and motors on high-end model). He said he would check with Linn, and Linn said motors and boards were not matched. So he got a new motor off to me.
It arrived this week.
I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with this Lingo 4 — sell it right on or give it a shot.
Since everything was already open and there were no seals to break, though, I figured it couldn’t hurt to see if this one actually worked.
I tell you what, this was maybe the scariest moment of the whole process. I was horrified that, after all this, I would end up with another of the noisy ones on my hands, and I’d have to start all over again. I wouldn’t be able to just put it on eBay, or my conscience would pursue me. I’d have to write yet another email to Siegfried: “Sorry, man — it’s ticking.”
I was pretty sure this is exactly what would happen.
But, amazingly, thankfully, mercifully — the new Lingo is quiet. I don’t hear any ticking even with my ear right up next to it. I can barely feel any vibration when it’s running in my hand.
I have more to say about this Lingo 4, even before I listen to it (if I do). For one thing, it’s very clear that Linn have silently (pun intended) replaced the original motor with a new model — one that doesn’t tick. The new motor looks different from the original and has a different model number.
Naturally they have done so without admitting any fault with the original one, and no doubt continue to gaslight many hapless customers like myself. Linn, you really do suck.
More on the Lingo soon.