MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES
A READER'S LINGO CHALLENGE
SET-UP & OPTIMIZATION NEW!
The Linn Sondek LP-12 is now an obsolete 1970s design that has had a number of mainly minor (in audibility, but not in cost!) improvements in the last 30 years. It is, by far, the most overrated audio component of all time* and it is also the most obvious example that, especially in the audio world, marketing skills are much more important to the commercial success of a component than its ultimate performance.
*Explanation- No other component has a performance gap as large as its proponents' typical claim ("the best in the world") and Reality.
While the Linn sounds very good, all of the turntables in the higher classes ("A" and "B") have noticeable sonic advantages, and some of them are superior to the Linn by a relatively large margin (for turntables).
Why and how?
These others turntables all have much more up-to-date designs. It is actually amazing that the Linn sounds as good as it does, but the Cetech modification, discussed below, demonstrates what Linn has overlooked and ignored all these years. This is the result of marketing trumping basic engineering.
The Linn simplifies* and homogenizes the music, and it is also noticeably colored compared to its competitors. The frequency extremes (especially the bass) are also substandard. This is the reason why Linn, and its dealers, usually stress focusing on the most basic and simple audio goals ("follow the tune" and "PRaT") when it's auditioned.
The Linn actually does "excel" in these areas. How?
This is because "the tune" and "the beat" will always be relatively easier to hear, in comparison to superior turntables, when the natural musical complexities have been compromised (by being subtracted). This ploy epitomizes the most cynical and misleading marketing strategies; those which turn actual weaknesses into "strengths".
*For those skeptical readers who require further confirmation of this characteristic, from an actual, well-known "Linn Lover" no less, you are in for a rare treat. There is even the added bonus of an excellent example of the use of The (Secret) Audio Reviewer's Rule No. 3D* (see "The Audio Press" file for the complete "Rules").
This is what Art Dudley (now with Stereophile) wrote about the Linn when compared to the VPI Aries/JMW 10 combo in Listener Volume 6 No. 2:
"The Aries' timbral balance is different from that of the LP12/Aro combination - the latter sounding a little more 'open,' the VPI making chords sound a bit richer, thicker, and more tonally complex. Which is right? Beats me."
Mr. Dudley didn't just come out and write that the Linn sounds "simple" by comparison. He also avoided* stating a clear preference, which should be a no-brainer in this particular instance. I'm somewhat more direct. When it comes to music (though not audio):
Even the Linn's "pleasant" character, which is just an innocuous distortion and coloration, has been misrepresented by them (and their fans) to be a "musical" strength. The Linn also has a practical downside...
The Linn (along with some other spring-loaded turntables) has a tendency to bounce if it is not placed on the proper shelf or stand. This problem must obviously be corrected before an expensive cartridge is mounted on it.
But the Linn does have one important upside...
The Linn, when optimized, retains a noticeable share of "musical life", which many other turntables do not possess to the same degree. This is the primary reason why the Linn is still a Reference on this website, even though this "life" is at least partially caused by a distortion from its mat. This positive observation is a "gut feeling", but that's what most music appreciation is ultimately.
However, despite these serious sonic problems, the Linn LP-12 is still a Reference, though only under certain, strict conditions:
If a reader can find a USED Linn:
1. Manufactured "recently" (after "Valhalla" and "Nirvana"),
2. For a decent price (at least 50% off retail),
3. In very good condition,
4. And which is set-up properly, or can be done so (in your house) for a reasonable price, then "go for it".
The financial investment and risk are reasonably low at that point, and the reader will have a turntable quite a bit better than any Regas, Aristons and most Thorens etc. Linn's service reputation is also excellent.
Under most circumstances, avoid the original Lingo (which may create RFI problems) and any other expensive accessory (unless it is thrown-in). For that much money, any of the Class B models are a better turntable and investment. Don't forget that the Linn is manufactured in Scotland, and costs much more in North America than in the UK (where it is still a good value).
You may live happily ever after with the used Linn, but if not, it should be very easy to resell it and recoup most, or even all, of your money. However, never fool yourself into thinking that you own "one of the world's finest turntables", you don't.
To end the "Linn bashing" on a pragmatic note: Serious audiophiles can use all the Linn-hype to their advantage when reading and assessing the opinions of 'audio reviewers' and all other self-proclaimed 'experts'. The rule is simple:
The more a 'reviewer' (or any fellow audiophile) is impressed with the Linn LP-12 in comparison to any of the finest turntables in the Reference Turntable File, the less credibility (with turntables) he or she deserves.Top
Since my (actually our) opinion on this turntable has proved to be the most controversial of any of the components on this entire list, a further personal explanation may help to clear the air.
I owned my first Linn Sondek LP-12 back in around 1976. I purchased another one in 1979 after I realized I had made a serious mistake selling the first one (for a number of expensive direct-drives and then an Ariston). I greatly enjoyed listening to them at the time.
Since then, I (mainly my former store) have owned around 20 more of them. My most recent experience was around fifteen years ago (1999). I have heard almost every version, and in-depth.
I have made more comparisons with the Linn versus other turntable designs than I care to remember, including many at my customers' homes. I routinely used the same models of tonearm and cartridge on both turntables, which is the only method that is fair and accurate. On a number of occasions, I even went to the further trouble of having both the exact same tonearm and cartridge removed from one turntable and placed on the other, just to isolate the exact differences between the turntables themselves.
I had the finest set-up men I knew do the actual work, to make sure there could be no excuses or uncertainty as to the final results. I even used special stands, that were supposed to enhance and optimize the sound of the Linn. The results of those numerous comparisons are discussed above. The other auditioners were virtually unanimous in their agreement with my characterizations of those results. That is why I (actually my store) ended up with around 20 Linns; essentially all of them were trade-ins.
(For years, I actually kept a Linn LP-12 in my store to help sell the VPI HW-19; making A/B comparisons on a regular basis. Those comparisons enabled me to become one of the best selling VPI dealers in the world during the 1980s. Tricks of the trade.)
These (consistent) results were not unique in any manner. Virtually every other knowledgeable person I knew in the audio business realized that the Linn's basic design was obsolete after the Goldmund, Townshend Rock and Oracle designs came out. At that time, more than 30 years ago now, we all expected Linn to radically change their design, but Linn decided instead to play the "follow the tune" marketing game. The fact that this ploy was actually successful is a depressing thought.
The other common experience I had back then, and which is still very true today, is that most owners of the Linn turntable will rarely, if ever, seriously compare their Linn to the competition. There is a good reason for this reluctance. It is the same reason why religious fanatics will never seriously study comparative religions, or any "true believer" will always avoid the alternatives...
The stronger, more untenable and increasingly irrational their belief, the less likely that person will ever consider arguments or even information that would contradict that belief*. (Far too) Many Linn owners have huge emotional investments in their turntable. Accordingly, it becomes much too emotionally painful and unsettling for such a person to contemplate (let alone realize) that their now comfortable and deeply satisfying opinion may not be true. To admit that you were wrong, is to accept the fact that your years of "devotion" were ultimately wasted. Maybe worst of all are the possible social consequences...
Most of the Linnies I've met are part of a group of Linnies, some of whom would be considered real friends. Changing your feelings about the Linn would mean inevitably having to leave this group, since the common belief would no longer be shared, just like a person changing their religion or political party. The now former Linnie would become an "apostate" to the group. They accordingly would consider him "disloyal", and probably shun him (like Art Dudley). It isn't much of a surprise that only a few people will choose to go through such a painful experience as this. They would rather live in "bliss", and ignorance of course.
I realize there has been a near cult (and an enormous emotional) attachment to the Linn LP-12 turntable for decades now (it started back in the 1970s). I don't care about that. To me, the Linn Sondek is just another tool for reproducing music, just like every other turntable (amp, speaker etc). It is nothing else. Nor can it be.
"When in doubt, shout..." by Ed Yong 2010/10/19
"You don’t have to look very far for examples of people holding on to their beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Thousands still hold to the idea that vaccines cause autism, that all life was created a few thousand years ago, and even that drinking industrial bleach is a good idea. Look at comment threads across the internet and you’ll inevitably find legions of people who boldly support for these ideas in the face of any rational argument.
In a new study, David Gal and Derek Rucker, from Northwestern University, have found that when people’s confidence in their beliefs is shaken, they become stronger advocates for those beliefs. The duo carried out three experiments involving issues such as animal testing, dietary preferences, and loyalty towards Macs over PCs. In each one, they subtly manipulated their subjects’ confidence and found the same thing: when faced with doubt, people shout even louder.
Gal and Rucker were inspired by a classic psychological book called "When Prophecy Fails"...The case study inspired (Leon) Festinger’s theory of 'cognitive dissonance', which describes the discomfort that people feel when they try to cope with conflicting ideas. Festinger reasoned that people will go to great lengths to reduce this conflict. Altering one’s beliefs in the face of new evidence is one solution, but for... (the "Prophet's") followers, this was too difficult. Their alternative was to try and muster social support for their ideas. If other people also believed, their internal conflicts would lessen.
Festinger predicted that when someone’s beliefs are challenged, they would try to raise support for those beliefs with paradoxical enthusiasm. Amazingly enough, during the intervening half-century, this prediction has never been tested in an experiment – that is, until now.
In all three experiments (described above), Gal and Zucker found that doubt turns people into stronger advocates. More subtly, their study shows that this effect is stronger if someone’s identity is threatened, if the belief is important to them, and if they think that others will listen. It all fits with a pattern of behaviour where people evangelize to strengthen their own faltering beliefs."Top
A reader has complained in an e-mail that I have not given the Linn LP-12 a fair shake. This is his (edited) letter. My reply (which differs slightly from my personal reply to him) is greatly expanded, because it leads to my take on the much more important issue this reader brought up:
"It is impossible for you to make this judgement:
If you have not heard the Lingoed LP-12 in the right circumstances. The performance may be ...close or equal to the Aries.
You, yourself, agree that your comments on the LP-12 have created your most contentious backlash from readers, so why not do this right and be beyond reproach. Your admission that you have based all your comments on the LP-12 without a Lingo is already quite unsettling for me.
The cost of the Lingo may not be a concern for a lot of people, as they may have already owned the LP-12 for years...The "big picture" (general) comments you make on the LP12 is on principle not right. And being a self critical person like yourself, you should set things right...Anyway, you owe it to yourself to hear a fully fitted Linn - after all, almost anyone old enough would know the LP-12..."
Though I've heard many Linns since the 1970s, in all configurations, some of which I owned personally, it's true that I haven't heard the Linn with a Lingo, at least not in a controlled environment. The question is, does that fact make it "impossible" for me to make a "judgment" about the Linn without it?
To me, the answer to that question totally depends on the degree the Lingo effects (improves) the stock Linn's performance. Can I know the exact degree of that improvement without actually hearing it? NO! But I do know the approximate (and highest possible) degree of the improvement because of the basic nature of the Lingo, which is:
The Lingo is a high-quality power supply, and nothing more. It enhances and optimizes the (relatively cheap) motor that comes on the LP-12. It will improve speed stability, which, from my experience, improves the performance of turntables in a number of areas. I recognize this reality, but, on the other hand, the Lingo is not a unique component, with unique qualities, that makes unprecedented improvements with the LP-12. That is not possible for the Lingo, or any other turntable power supply.
I've heard various power supplies over the last 25 years. This includes the SOTA, the VPI PLC and SDS used with their own turntables and others; the PS Audio power regenerators etc. and a number of others I've now forgotten. I know what improvements are possible with a better power supply. These improvements may be important, but they are limited, why?
The basic turntable is still the same: the motor, platter, subplatter, mat or LP interface, clamping system, suspension, isolation system, the basic materials, bearing, plinth, base, construction quality, etc. etc. These basic parts each make as much, or more, of a difference to the final sonics than the power supply. This is obvious to anyone who has actually heard the differences when these parts were exchanged and contrasted. (I.E. At the CES, we heard a platter shootout with the Teres.)
In fact, when speed stability is the main goal:
A flywheel makes a much larger difference (improvement) than a power supply. It has to, it is directly connected to the platter. I've heard a number of turntables over the years, with and without flywheels, in controlled enviornments, including my own system, and the improvement in speed stability has always been much larger, and much more easily noticeable, than with ANY power supply.
It boils down to this: the Linn, as is, can only be improved so much by an enhanced power supply. This is also true of ALL other turntables that have ever been made. The Linn's improvement may be greater than average because: 1. Its motor is cheap, and 2. the platter is light, but the improvement is still limited. It is certainly not enough for the Linn to even approach the performance of the VPI Aries, which, it is important to note, neither I, nor any of my associates, heard with ITS own enhanced power supply (the SDS).
One single refinement of a component, such as the Lingo, is not nearly enough for me to want to go back and totally re-evaluate it. Especially when every other Reference turntable, with the exception of the "special" VPI HR-X, also didn't have an enhanced power supply when I/we heard them. If I re-audtioned the Linn, I'd have to go back to all of the others to be fair. No thanks! Let's just say that all but one of the turntables that are References, and all the others for that matter, can be improved, more or less, with better power supplies, but the "big picture" stays the same.
When Linn makes a serious change of the LP-12, meaning a total redesign based on the engineering and materials available to them in this century, I will be glad to hear it again in a serious environment. Until that highly unlikely day, what I wrote stands.
I feel the mistake this reader has made is confusing refinements with fundamentals. The Lingo is only a refinement, and so is the VPI SDS and every other enhanced power supply I've heard. (So are the majority of the modifications I recommend, and even flywheels, though I still have an open mind on them.)
This reader brought up, at least indirectly, a much larger issue: The important difference between a "refinement" and a "fundamental improvement". For each listener, and evaluator, the vital distinction between these two terms will be very subjective, because it is based on the listener's own reaction to the perceived improvement.
To me, a refinement is just that, a generally small improvement that may be somewhat difficult, or quite easy, to hear. It will enhance the sound. You may notice it, now and then, for maybe a day, or even a week or so, and then it will be mainly forgotten, absorbed by the system. You could live without it, if you had to, with only minimal suffering.
A "fundamental improvement" is very different. This profound transformation shakes you, changes you and may even shock you. It may even make you re-evaluate everything that occured prior to hearing that component. You will almost feel like your system was "born again" (no religious inference implied). This change is a matter of kind, not a matter of degree. You wouldn't dream of returning to your former system, even if only one component caused the particular transformation.
Many audiophiles experience a literal state of ecstasy when hearing a fundamental improvement, especially their first time, and how it greatly enhances their appreciation of music. It's the desire to repeat this intense experience which transforms ordinary people into audiophiles. Sadly, it's inevitable that with each experience an audiophile has with the finite amount of different designs that exist, the less chance that audiophile will once again experience another fundamental improvement. Of course, this may be divine intervention to encourage a greater focus on the actual music, which can be easily forgotten during the excitement in the quest for audio ecstasy.
For many years now, I've only advised spending serious money when a component makes a fundamental change. If it doesn't, keep your money. The real thing will eventually come around, and you'll be so happy you still have that money when it does.
This entire issue is another large problem I've had with most of the audio press. They have deliberately blurred the distinction between these two terms to the point of meaninglessness. Hearing fundamental improvements are routine events in most audio magazines. I only wish this were true. Their shameless exaggeration of minor improvements, and even less ("the boy crying wolf"), is one of the justifiable reasons why they've lost their credibility.
Finally, I don't want to give the impression that I don't think refinements are important. In fact, they're vital. They are what may transform an excellent system into a great system. Of course, it takes a lot of refinements to do this, not just one, or even a few. The point is, don't spend big money on them. That's for something much more important.Top
A few readers have informed me of Linn LP-12 upgrades that they claim may dramatically improve the performance of the Linn. The first, and most important, is the:
This is a description from one of those readers:
"I've just upgraded (the LP-12) with a Cetech subchassis. Hell, the Linn one does ring like a bell when you tap it. The Cetech one is (a) carbon fibre/aaluminumhoneycomb composite; light, rigid, virtually non resonant. Why it works is like this: It allows the armboard to be bolted up to the chassis ... instead of being nipped up with tiny screws. The latter loses the ringing of the chassis by being 'lossy'.
The Cetech chassis makes a MASSIVE difference. Well, like changing to a better class of tt. Much more low level detail is there; extra musical phrases and instruments for a start! Yes, as big as that. Mainly, it's a total cleaning up of the sound. And much better 'tonality', individual natural tone of each instrument.
The LP12 is seriously compromised in terms of the behaviour of its subchassis and the linking of this chassis to the armboard. This causes the loss of considerable low level information, and a corresponding high sound-floor. The single most effective way to lower the sound-floor of the LP12 is to fit the Cetech subchassis. As this costs about £100, it is also by far the most cost effective upgrade. And this is a Linnie saying these things."
Below is a description from another reader:
"The Cetech carbon fiber subchassis DOES what Linn's "Cirkus" subchassis/bearing upgrade claims to do (and for less than half the price!) Many have said that the Linn "Cirkus sound" is more in the subchassis design and not the "new" bearing (though the bearing is likely improved - the original will suffice for Cetech upgrades). A few have said that the Linn Cirkus subchassis (which flattens frequency response compared to previous incarnations), still has that "ringing" and thus the armboard is still connected with the three tiny screws (thus making the Cetech mod still necessary after paying Linn their $650+ for Cirkus upgrade). Others say there's virtually no difference in the Cetech and Cirkus mods (except the steep price of Linn's upgrade). Though I might be a "Linnie", I don't believe in the "School of Tiefenbrun" bullshit either and am open-minded (as seen by my own opinions)."
More on the Cetech- A reader, who has owned a number of these turnables, of all vintages, just sent some relevant information about them. Here it is, slightly edited:
"I wanted to buy a second Cetech subchassis for my second Linn, but as soon as I found out they stopped producing them, I sold off my second LP12, only to find out they had their website up again (..perhaps only to sell off their remaining stock?). Now that I'm finally getting a second fixer upper LP12, Cetech is once again out of business, or "in limbo" from what I hear (hopefully not for good)...Perhaps this is added incentive to try some good ol' homemade modifications, etc.
Early LP-12 tables are likely to have a slightly larger inner platter - If changing to a later inner platter, the motor tilt will have to be re-adjusted and it's recommended to change to the correct belt as well. The combination of an early inner platter and newer belt may cause some speed adjustment problems (not quite fast enought). I've noticed problems seem to mostly occur when the earliest tables were changed from a 60hz motor to the 50hz with the Valhalla supply, but this can still occur with the early motor setup - often when the belt is replaced (no matter how much the motor tilt is adjusted with the current belt, the speed often can't quite be adjusted fast enough when using the early inner platter).
Funniest thing, not only does Linn claim to only have ever made one size inner platter, but that any speed issue is a bearing problem (this allows Linn to "cover up a problem they claim doesn't exist, by replacing the inner platter and bearing as a set ...to the obviously corrected one). If one has the means or access to a professional machine shop (to carefully machine some material off the early platter), then the speed issue can be fixed (I've done this with two of my Linns with great success). Otherwise, find a later "Nirvana" style inner platter, preferably with the bonded crossbrace subchassis (or better yet, a Cirkus kit - though those can be pricey). Check the inner platter for "slight run-out" or "warp", as it seems the earliest ones usually have the slightest warp, even if just a few thousandths - often this issue has no audible effect (the later inner platters seem to be perfect in this respect, probably due to improved machining techniques in later years? - my guess, since Linn won't reveal their secrets).
I've also done modifications to the early subchassis to improve the sound (adding a layer of thickness to the bearing mount region - this seems to help with the mid-bass bloom issues) - often the earlier spotweld subchassis suffer from slight warp, and require careful straightening by a knowledgeable person."
Personal Note- What a shame that the Cetech subchassis may no longer be available. I've had no personal experience with it, but a number of Linn LP-12 owners all claimed it was a significant improvement over the stock part. It wasn't expensive either.
Important Note- There is a link to the Cetech website in the Links section of this website.
A different reader sent me a simple and cost free modification that may also improve the performance of the LP-12. Here it is, with some minor editing:
"... an interesting improvement I found years ago was to make a very thin paper ring that fits between the platter and sub-platter. It takes a day or so to settle in depending on the paper type. It fixes the ringing when the table gets all excited on those loud passages. Bass gets a wee better I think as well. Every Linnie I tell this to enjoys the mod until some idiot dealer gets all stupid and puts other thoughts into their heads that Ivor is a god." (9/04)
Personal Note- While this modification sounds reasonable to me, which is why I posted it, I am not in a position to verify or dispute this reader's observations, so I would appreciate hearing the experiences of anyone who carries out this mod in their own system. However, see below for Part II.
A helpful reader sent me this letter, which adds further (and highly useful) details to the above letter. There's minor editing, and my bold:
"After having read the article on the LP12, out of interest, I thought I would try the paper ring modification between the subplatter and platter. It amazes me that such modifications can make a difference to a supposedly already "good turntable". Nevertheless, a marked difference it does make! However, different paper types (thicknesses, surface coatings, textures/grains) have different effects on a setup and different effects BETWEEN setups. On my setup, I initially tried an 80g/cm copy paper, the advertised effects were instantly discernible, the ringing is gone, the bass is also tighter, less flabby more refined, yet everything else remains the same. I then tried a 250g/cm paper. This had the same effects, however it affected the treble, making it sound warmer. I tried other weights, 60, 70, 90, 100 g/cm etc., as well as newspapers, magazine papers, glossy photo papers (which have a catastrophic effect on the sound).
It seems that copy papers of uniform texture, with no prints, no surface coatings, of uniform grain size and thinner papers sound best. In my system, the 80g/cm plain inkjet/copy paper remains my favourite. However, on my father's LP12 setup, the same 80g/cm paper, he feels, brings out more low level detail, the bass is more refined, the ringing gone, but makes the treble sound a little bright/brittle. Although at first he refused to live with the affected treble, he has since changed his arm setup and currently is very happy with the paper ring modification.
In my experience this modification has a beneficial effect of similar but lesser magnitude to that of a Ringmat. It brings significant improvements to the LP12 sound, but will not address its fundamental shortcomings."
Personal Notes- It appears to me that the chosen paper shouldn't allow the platters to slide or move. Also, only if necessary, I would suggest changing the VTA, very slightly, to any person who experiments with this modification. This may offset any sonic downside caused by the minute change in height from the paper.
A reader who owns several Linns, and has a lot of experience with them, recently sent me a really interesting letter, especially for owners of the Linn. Here it is with minor editing and my bold:
"I was looking up info on that Linn Keel subchassis and Ekos SE tonearm upgrade. Something funny has happened. Whereas before, Stereophile praised the original EKOS tonearm, now they find fault with it only after the "New and Improved" EKOS SE is made to replace it. Like you said (I believe it was in "Reviewing the Reviewers"? or one of those paragraphs. A reviewer should find no fault with a faulty product from a company UNTIL the improved version is made to replace it (or something to that effect). Predictably Stereophile."
Personal Note- Actually, it's "The (Secret) Rules of Reviewing" Rule #2- "Delay acknowledging any serious problems with a 'protected' component until you give another rave review to the 'updated' model which replaces it and 'corrects' the problems."
Back to the reader's letter...
".....and a note on the Keel machined aluminum 1-piece subchassis: Not only did Linn contradict themselves with its design (single piece, without the separate armboard and tiny screws to hold it on), but the Cetech carbon fiber subchassis essentially did (improvement-wise) what the Keel does now (and for a fraction of the cost). Apparently the Keel was around $3,000 USD last time I checked, yet the Cetech was around $350USD, but is said to be around $600 now (still far cheaper thant he Keel - Apparently, the guy who built the Cetech quit making it back in 2003, but may decide to reintroduce it after seeing what Linn is now charging for the Keel).
As for the Linn, I am a Linn Sondek LP12 owner (I have several), and due to my "low budget" and the table's simplicity, I will probably stick with it for quite a while (low budget? you ask? on a table that now retails for $2,800USD without tonearm or power supply?). Fortunately, I can do my own work on them, and the only "normal wear" items I might need to ever buy from Linn would be replacement belts and spring grommets. I was able to acquire enough secondhand parts for cheap, so I could put a few together for myself and my friends (and since I can build my own plinths and top plates, the cost savings is greater yet). I can even do simple modifications that can definitely improve their sound (without having to pay Linn for their "so-called" mandatory upgrades).
...I also have a story to tell you about the LP12 and power supply upgrades. Mentioning power supplies for the Linn Sondek LP12, first, there was the Valhalla (now discontinued for what Linn claims is a lack of available "through-hole" electronics parts ....kinda doubtful, will explain in a bit). Now the only available choice is the Lingo, which is said to now exceed $1,600 USD! Almost 2 years ago, a UK hifi dealer (Stamford Audio) began selling this Hercules II power supply (essentially a redesigned 2 speed version of the Valhalla). At first, I hesitated to try it (being a far east made product from Hong Kong), but I decided to give it a try. To my complete surprise, it actually performs BETTER than the Valhalla (and at the time I bought the Hercules early last year, it only cost $330 USD shipped .....even now, at $375 shipped, it is still a reasonably priced power supply).
Others who have tried the Hercules II swear that it performs nearly as good as the Lingo power supply (something Linn probably doesn't want to hear). Both my friend and I have the Hercules II power supplies in our Linns and we swear by them. OH, and I should mention, the Hercules is similar to the Linn Valhalla, component-wise, using through-hole electronics parts. So why is the real reason Linn discontinued the Valhalla rather than simply re-engineer it to make it sound better? ....aaah, to sell the more expensive Lingo instead."
Personal Note- This reader is presently attempting to find out if the Cetech upgrade is once again becoming available. I'll get back if I receive any news from him, and with all the details. (11/07)
Here's some good news from a reader, particularly for all those Linn LP-12 turntable owners who refuse to pay Linn's exorbitant prices for their own updates. There's no editing, but my bold:
"I can confirm that the Cetech subchassis for the LP-12 is again available. Steve, the manufacturer, is now located in New Zealand, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
I believe he also sells on eBay.
I purchased a Cetech carbon fiber subchassis and armboard, and a Hercules II power supply, from him last month. This was a great upgrade from my Valhalla, pre-Cirkus LP-12 - low level detail is much improved. The total cost was US$799, plus shipping. A much better deal than the Linn alternatives." (6/08)
I recently received this message from a reader, that expands on a previous post above:
"I was reading your comments on the Linn LP-12 and Cetech. Steve is up and running again. You can go to http://derwent.co.nz/index.html for all the details. He also puts them on eBay." (8/08)
Here's another reader's testimonial for the independent sources of Linn LP-12 upgrades. My bold:
"I'm an LP12 owner (a pair of them, in fact), and concur with readers who have written to you noting the improvement that the Cetech subchassis has wrought in this turntable's performance. I recently had this subchassis installed on my LP12, and also had a carbon fiber armboard from Cetech installed at the same time (Steve Millward is now producing "matching" armboards for a relatively modest price, though the benefit of the armboard modification is more cosmetic than sonic).
In conjunction with replacing the Valhalla power supply with the Hercules II power supply (sourced from Stamford Audio in the UK), the sound of my LP12 is meaningfully improved, with a decreased noise floor and a greater retrieval of detail, using the same arm (Ittok LVIII) and cartridge (Grado Reference Sonata). I have also ditched the stock felt mat in favor of a "Herbies" turntable mat, which has modestly improved the sound.
Compared to the very substantial prices charged by Linn for similar upgrades (particularly the Keel subchassis), I can recommend the Cetech subplatter and Hercules II as well-priced alternative upgrades." (1/09)
This is the first letter from a reader (or anyone else I know of) whom is not impressed with the Cetech upgrade of the Linn Sondek LP-12 turntable. I felt this alternative perspective should be shared with other Linn enthusiasts. There's some minor editing and my bold:
"Thought I'd send in my experience with the Cetech up grade. I have a Linn LP12 with custom maple plinth & arm board, Origin Live motor, Basic plus tonearm, Cardas phono cable, Benz Glider cartridge, Lukaschek phono amp and all tube gear.
Compared to the stock sub chassis, the Cetech made the bass tighter, the music was slightly faster and overall quite a bit brighter. My wife thought it was so bright that she asked me to turn it off after about 30 sec. We tried a variety of music. Neither one of us liked the sound. I removed the Cetech. If you want to punch up the sound, then the Cetech should be considered. But I found it made enough of a change that I don't recommend it to be a general up grade that every Linn owner should make.
I decided to experiment with the stock steel sub chassis before re-installing it. I made a marine ply insert that was pressed into the sub chassis. I also used through bolts when attaching the maple arm board to the sub chassis. What we noticed was the music was slightly muted (for lack of a better word). This could be a result of getting rid of the sub chassis ringing. The sound stage was also bigger. These were slight, but noticeable changes.
While I was waiting for the Cetech to arrive, I installed a maple arm board to the stock steel sub-chassis. I noticed the background instruments were slightly louder and the music was livelier. A modest change.
An economical up grade could be to apply a spray-on undercoating to the stock steel sub-chassis to deaden the ringing. Just my ...02cents"
I really enjoy hearing from audiophiles who have successfully optimized their systems with only their brains and economical means. Here's an excellent example from a reader residing in Australia. There's some minor editing and my bold:
"I've always enjoyed my LP12 and regarded it as a very good, if not entirely satisfying front end to my sound system. I should preface this by saying that my sound system is very far from state of the art, which must severely muddy any opinion I can offer about how good my turntable really is. But it has always been subjectively much more satisfying to me overall than others I have owned. Recently though, I had it modified in several different ways, for a modest fee, with the result that it is now staggeringly better than it was before. This might be a good model for others to follow.
My amplification system is an Arcam Alpha 10 integrated amp and Alpha 9P power amp. My speakers are Totem Arros and a single REL T3 sub. My interconnects are a variant on TNT shoelace DIY interconnects. Overall, I would rank my system as sounding significantly better than many far more expensive systems I have heard, but seriously wanting, when compared to the very best systems I have had the pleasure of experiencing. To get a bit of financial perspective, my entire record playing system (i.e. turntable, arm, cartridge, phono preamp) has cost me well under US$4,000. Many readers will have paid more for their cartridge alone.
I started by buying an old 2nd hand Linn LP12 with Valhalla power supply and Nirvana suspension, in Sydney, for about $500 (I'm using US $ equivalents throughout), many years ago. My arm and cartridge from then have long since gone. Much later I purchased a Linn Akito 2 on US eBay for about $400 and got it installed by a Linn dealer at the same time as a general service - surprisingly good tonearm actually.
Soon after, my Benz Micro MC1 mysteriously lost its cantilever! I suspect our then house-cleaner who "never touched" the turntable. I bought a practically new Shelter 501 Mk2 cartridge for about $500 on Australian eBay - better than the Benz MC-1 in almost all respects. And a little later, I bought a Jasmine Audio LP2.0SE phono stage, direct from the Chinese manufacturer for under $500 delivered, an incredible bargain for this amazingly competent phono stage.
So, at the beginning of this year I had a turntable which should have been giving me great pleasure, but wasn't.
Vince Hamilton of Once Analog (http://www.onceanalog.com.au), had almost convinced me a year before, to install his DC motor and power supply into my LP12. I bit the bullet and had him do the replacement. The result of replacing the AC Motor and Valhalla power supply, by this high quality high torque DC motor and speed regulator, was dramatic. Much more detail. Tighter bass. Cleaner highs. Darker background. More musical tension. Better rhythm. 45 RPM capability. Bass weight fell off slightly though.
After barely getting used to this revelation, I purchased a Cetech subchassis from the manufacturer in NZ (http://www.derwent.co.nz) for Vince to install. The Cetech subchassis is made of a sandwich of honeycombed aluminium between carbon fibre skins, making for a very rigid non-resonant unit in place of the highly resonant steel subchassis which comes standard in the LP12. I also discovered that a few intrepid users of DC motors on LP12s had flipped the top plate of the LP12, to position the motor diametrically opposite the pivot of the tonearm. Sounded like a good idea.
I also read that others had replaced the lossy Masonite base board with a fairly inert acrylic one (against Linn's recommendations). Also sounded like a good idea. I asked Vince to do all these things. He offered to do so, but also to turn my LP12 into a fashion statement at the same time. He proceeded to have what was the underside (now the top) of the top plate professionally polished, and set about giving a true piano black finish to the plinth (a la Bosendorfer or Steinway). The LP12 now looks brand new and unique (which is rather nice).
I also use a Herbie's Way Excellent II turntable mat, which costs about $60. The Herbie's mat allows, I think, more detail to come through, a slightly deeper soundstage, and the top end sounds a little sweeter, but I also think it may be sanitising some of the impact of the music a little, compared to the Linn felt mat. Switching back and forward between mats, I definitely prefer the Herbie's, but I suspect that there could be a better alternative out there than either, probably at a fairly high price though. The one thing that the Herbie's mat does not do is change the overall balance, which I have heard can be a problem with many mats.
For all that, how does it sound? Pretty good. Well great really. The music is just...there.
My room is not conducive to huge deep sound stages. My amplifier isn't either. Even so, the turntable now gives me a sense of the hall where the performance took place. There used to be a sameness about different records, which has disappeared. The degree to which George Szell got a completely different tone out of the Chicago Symphony strings, than either Fritz Reiner or Daniel Barenboim, was only barely discernible before - now it is plain as day. Even more significantly, I put on a record to listen to a small section, and find myself compelled to listen to the whole work.
Is it like being at the concert (I attend orchestral concerts several times a year)? No, but it is just as involving. If someone had told me they had spent US$30,000 to get this sound, I might have questioned their judgement. But this turntable has cost me well under $4,000 including almost $3,000 worth of cartridge, arm and phono preamp, and sounds far better than almost any turntable I have heard." (8/09)
There is a Linn Sondek modification designed and implemented by Rick Becker of "Enjoy the Music". I've never seen anything like it before. It is radical compared to most ordinary mods and upgrades, and while not cheap, it also doesn't cost a fortune to implement. Here is the link to the article, which has the complete story, plus pictures, costs, advice and instructions (though the TTWeights accessories are now no longer available):
Important Note from the Author Rick Becker: "There is much to be learned from my experience with this project that may interest your readers, but they should be cautioned to 'take what they like, but leave the rest'. The good news is that I am closer to embarking on Stage 2 of this project which will include more permanent and sometimes irreversible modifications. Stage 2 will simplify the 'ritual' of playing records and most likely take the LP12 to yet a higher level of performance. Hopefully Stage 2 will be completed within a year or two, as this project takes a back seat to my show reports and component reviews." (05/2016)
The below link is to a website that specializes in setting-up and optimizing the performance of the Linn Sondek LP-12 turntable. It is the finest resource we know of at this time.
This is the second letter from a reader who has spent a lot of time investigating the "guts" of this veteran and popular turntable. Here's his most recent communication, with only slight editing, which may prove informative to many Linn owners:
"Let me start by admitting that the LP12 is likely not the 'best turntable in the world', yet for me, (because I can build my own plinths, top plates, and acquire earlier subchassis for cheap or free), they have become the 'best value in the world' and a fun hobby. Besides, compared to the plastic junk that some of my friends had been using, the Linn is light years ahead of them (even if it's yards or miles behind other designs).
By the way, I had sent you an email a few years ago when I began to learn some things about the LP12 (but couldn't find the information on what I had discovered). Well, I've been learning a whole bunch more about these turntables. Regarding the inner platter size difference, I came upon a possible different theory (since it seems the first 17,000 or so decks have this 164mm inner platter - I have no idea when they changed them to the 163mm). As for the motor pulleys, Linn only ever made one size (I believe the sizes are 17mm for 60hz, 21mm for 50hz). My guess (this is only my theory and not a known fact for sure) is that Linn "improved" the belt composition, which may have changed the coupling of the motor/inner platter, and also the grip/speed. Apparently, Linn's fix was to machine the inner platter (subplatter) a bit further to approx 163mm. Nobody (except Linn) knows for sure, since according to Linn, they only ever made one size inner platter. Someone needs to tell Linn that denial is not a place in Egypt (just had to say that one).
As for other Linn issues, I have discovered a few other quirks more notable to earlier decks. What I am about to mention are only my own theories/findings and may not necessarily be correct or totally factual.
Regarding the Linn platters: When I acquired an early LP12 with a slightly warped inner platter, I began to check all vintages. What I noticed was the mid-80s? and later decks seemed perfect while the early 80s and before seemed to have ever so slight warpage (when I gave them the "Sharpie spin-test"). Perhaps there's a reason why Linn mentions machining the platters over a month period (did they do this all along, or did they only discover later that this prevents warpage?) Could it be coincidence that all the early ones were mishandled and warped while all the later ones that passed my way (all mid-80s and later I've ever tested) always seem perfect in this respect.
Regarding the subchassis, I really discovered something interesting simply by applying some common sense when modifying an early 10 spotweld subchassis. I drilled out the 10 spotwelds, cleaned the surfaces, and not only rebonded the crossbrace with epoxy, but I added a layer of thickness to the bearing flange(thus doubling it ...the bolts were still long enough to mount the bearing). I also noticed that on one of the three spotweld subchassis I modified, the bearing flange was bent off-true. When I separated the crossbrace, I used a special auto body metal shrinking hammer to true up the flange before epoxying the crossbrace back. Then I installed the "top patch" at the bearing mount portion simply for added strength(as I'd done on the other two). Now it's true as new. I need to do further testing and compare to the Cirkus, but when my friend listened to one of the modified early versions (compared to a stock mid-80s setup), he thought the mid-bass was less pronounced. In other words, my modification may very well indeed be a cheaper alternative to what the Cirkus does (and a considerable alternative to the no longer available Cetech carbon fiber subchassis).
Which brings me to the Cirkus bearing/subchassis upgrade.... I picked up a new Cirkus kit in a trade deal and will install it in one of my Linns for comparison. What amazes me about the Cirkus is not it's differences, but it's striking similarities in appearance to the earlier subchassis. All they did was change the bearing flange and double the thickness of the bearing mount on the subchassis (by simply eliminating the "cutout" on the crossbrace, ....but this required a slightly different "offset" on the bearing flange due to the slightly altered mounting height). A great way to sell a "total package" and make it mandatory to buy all of the parts. My thoughts."
Personal Note- I'm not intimately familiar enough with the Linn at this time to understand even half of the details the helpful reader provides here, but I assume that the real* Linn LP-12 enthusiasts can benefit from the reader's experiences.
*Meaning those owners who don't believe that the LP-12 design is the result of some sort of "divine inspiration", and that only Linn themselves, being the designated "prophets", can improve on it.
Here is a letter from a reader that I find somewhat disturbing, even though I haven't (personally) owned a Linn turntable for many years. I would appreciate receiving any other observations concerning this topic that would add some light to it. Some editing (English is not the reader's mother tongue), and my bold:
"I'm a DIYer... Sometimes, I make a request of friends' Linn Sondek TTs. I agree with you about the rating of this old and obsolete turntable*. However, it offers a big advantage by comparison with the other TTs on your Reference components list. It is very easy and cheap to make and the only option to self-produce a Class C component by few hundreds of euro. Besides, spare parts are available in big quantity, new or used, original or not, and the worldwide Linn assistance is excellent. For all these reasons, I frequently look for and buy parts for this TT. Buying and handling new and old Linn original spare parts, I can see how much the quality continuously slips down while the prices increase.
Recently, I bought a new outer platter directly from the Linn shop on ebay. A few days ago, I received and installed it onto the inner platter. I was amazed verifying that it is 200 grams underweight. Please, if you consider it useful, warn your readers about this problem. I sent my complaint to Linn. You can read below what them replied to me:
<<< Dear L...,
I have spoken with our engineers and they have confirmed that the platter is correct and is within our strict tolerance specifications. Once you have fitted a new platter you require to adjust the suspension on your turntable. This would account for the arm board being about 1mm higher than the plinth. The item supplied does not differ in any way from the listing. The listing specifies the auction is for an outer platter and a felt mat and this is what you have received.
Linn Products Limited >>>
To me, he is ridiculous when he speaks of: 'strict tolerance specifications'. 200 grams on 2,500 make a difference of 8%. I believe that so much difference is outside an admissible tolerance, especially for a part where calibration of weights is of fundamental importance. When I read on the Linn brochure: '…and our legendary precision manufacturing, all of which ensure the pitch accurate faithful reproduction of the original source'.
What other can I do more than to give them negative feedback on ebay?" (8/08)
Personal Note- I don't believe eBay feedback will do that much, one way or the other, but letting other audiophiles know about this issue by posting this experience in various forums will make a difference.
*The Linn Sondek LP-12 is still a Class C (Lower) Reference turntable in my evaluation. It is a particularly good value when purchased used.
Below is an update from a reader whose original letter I posted in August 2008 (above). His problem was solved by Linn, which doesn't surprise me, because I've long felt that their customer service was excellent. Some minor editing:
"After a long and boring dispute, Linn replaced that faulty outer platter. The replacement outer platter (dated September 15th, 2008) is correctly weighted and balanced and is cosmetically perfect. My feeling is that Linn has just revised the production process because the new production is excellent (perhaps my claim was useful). This performs better than the older ones. (The Linn now) sounds more controlled, relaxed and richer of inner details with a more stable and accurate soundstage." (10/08)
A never ending "tune"...
I rarely receive letters like this, though I am obviously fully aware that many other "Linnies" feel the same way about me as this reader (if not even worse). Still, I'm posting this "criticism" to both expose the "thinking" of this hyper-sensitive "club", and to also allow me to make a direct response.
Please excuse me for mainly repeating what I've already written at length about the Linn Sondek many years ago. There's only so much new you can say about a now washed-up turntable design and its bizarre following. I realize that some people will be offended by what I write below. That is not my intent, but it's my basic nature to be direct and substantive, in spite of the consequences. There's been no editing to this letter, but it's my bold:
"Clearly, you have never heard a fully current LP 12 (2nd generation Lingo power supply; Cirkus bearings; Trampolin suspension; Keel sub-chassis; Ekos tonearm and Akiva cartridge). If you had, you would hardly call this obsolete. I can afford any turntable in the world, and I have heard several that cost double or more than a fully current LP12. And I choose the Linn hands-down for its neutrality, accuracy and musicality.
I have to wonder about the construction of your ego, that you get so much apparent satisfaction from your contrarian, if insufficiently informed, viewpoints. I can see you are a man who never lets the facts get in the way of his beliefs." (4/09)
First, let's get the Ekos and Akiva out of the way, so we can then focus on what is really important; the Linn Sondek Turntable and some larger related issues.
I don't doubt that the Akiva and Ekos are the best cartridge and tonearm that Linn has ever made, because they have a proven track record of improving their components over time. However, I rarely (if ever) find either component being used on any of the countless other turntables. That is the only critical test of their relative performance, and both components fail this simple test. In short, if either component had truly outstanding performance, audiophiles would be using them on a wide variety of turntables. They don't, period, even though they're very well-known, widely discussed, well-reviewed, easily purchased in many stores and their selling prices, while very expensive, aren't that much more than most of their competitors also claiming to be among "the best available".
Now, on to the Linn Turntable...
Based on the letter above, an objective person would never guess that the Linn Sondek has long been listed as a "Reference Turntable" on this website. In fact, I consider a used Linn one of the best turntable values around. So, where then does all the blatant hostility from this reader come from? Well, the Linn is placed in the "Class C" references, while there are other turntables that are in the higher "Class A" and "Class B". That may appear to be a superficiality, but to a Linnie, anything other than completely agreeing with their Eternal Mantra ("The Linn Sondek is the best turntable in the world, and will be forever"), is considered serious "fightn' words".
Let's look at some turntable history, or in other words, the facts...
I'll freely admit that it's possible that the Linn actually was "the best turntable in the world", though only for a short period in the 1970s. However, even that (now irrelevant) assumption is seriously disputed by all of the growing adherents of the vintage idler-wheel designs (which now even include Art Dudley* of Stereophile, once the "King of the Linnies"), with examples such as the Thorens TD-124, Lenco and Garrard 301. More to the point, even if you totally ignore the idlers, everything changed for the Linn, and all for the worst, between 25 and 30 years ago.
In short order, the introductions of the Goldmund Studio, the Oracle, the (large) Micro-Seiki(s) and the Townsend Rock turntables made the Linn design obsolete. I used that exact word back in the early 1980s (along with many other objective audiophiles, who could see and hear the obvious reality), and I still stand by it today. Those four turntables, as a group, had radically different, and noticeably superior, platters, suspension/isolation systems, bearings, clamping systems, bases and far less resonant parts.
History has proved us correct in our assessment. How? Virtually every serious turntable designed since that time, and especially those made today, has been an evolutionary step from those Big Four mentioned above (or the even older idler-wheels). Meanwhile, not even one serious turntable model made today is using the basic Linn design as a template, except, of course, Linn themselves. In short, if the Linn design is/was right, everyone else is/has been wrong (for 30 years). (Take a guess at what this reader believes?)
On a more subjective note, history also records that, one by one, serious, phono-oriented audiophiles, who actually made real comparisons, and made the effort to understand what a turntable was supposed to do (and not do), realized that the Linn was far too compromised to be competitive with the newest designs. This all happened despite the introduction of the most brilliant marketing campaign in audio history ("follow the tune" etc), which was created by someone who was aware of, and cynically took advantage of, the well-known insecurities, naivete and ignorance of most audiophiles. (If this reader had even a gram of human empathy, he would realize that I'm sickened by the thought of Linn's actions, and I receive absolutely no satisfaction from thinking and/or writing about it.)
*Dudley was heavily criticized for this component change. This is how Dudley replied to his critics, in a Stereophile column (February 2009):
"Hey, fellas—it's just record players and speakers and stuff, okay? It's not a love tryst or a suicide pact or a tree house with passwords and secret handshake. Yes, I parted with an audio component that you're besotted with, and I moved on to something else: Get over it. Stop taking your amps and your speakers and your fat selves so damn seriously and lighten up a little..."
As for this "current" Linn, with all the expensive updates...
Yes, it's true, I haven't heard it. Actually, I have no interest in hearing it at this time, because all the "upgrades", despite their exorbitant costs, don't remove the unsolvable and serious problems with the basic design. (The platter, the mat, the base, the LP interface, the subplatter, the inferior suspension/isolation system, the motor, the basic materials, the construction quality etc.) Every good modern design, which use totally different and now proven approaches, demonstrates the noticeable problems with the Linn. In effect, the current Linn is like a highly updated Honda Accord competing with Formula One racing cars. One example of their half-way measures: Linn makes a big deal, and charges a fortune, for their Lingo (2nd generation!), while any good flywheel will make a more noticeable improvement.
I also don't dispute that this reader sincerely prefers the Linn "hands down to several that cost double or more". I can't account for (or understand) taste, or even someone's listening ability. Some people prefer boom boxes and/or ipods to high quality sound systems. Amazingly, some listeners actually believed that the old hand-cranked phonographs, from the 1920s, were completely indistinguishable from live orchestras! (Some of my Italian cousins, as children, preferred Chef Boyardee ravioli to those that were homemade by my Italian-born Grandmother.) Ironically, it must be noted that a number of serious Linn Sondek fans still prefer the much earlier models, from the Late 1970s to the middle 1980s, to those made today. In short- Without a comprehensive, mutual understanding, someone's preferences mean nothing.
As for his detailed "reasons", I won't discuss "musicality" (which I consider a meaningless, if not a weasel, word), but I completely dispute this reader's claim of the Linn's superior "accuracy and neutrality". The reality is this: The Linn's basic design, and the "quality" of its parts, simply won't allow it to be as neutral or accurate as most of the (numerous) competing turntable models. His claims contradict the laws of physics and acoustics, which always matter, however forcefully (and desperately) you want to believe otherwise, and that's a fact. In fact, of all the truly outstanding audio systems I've heard in my life, almost all of them with a turntable as the primary source, not even one of them used a Linn Sondek.
To be specific, and provide context, I'm convinced that a 25 year old (last generation) Goldmund Studio, in good working condition, using hockey and Sorbothane pucks to replace all three springs, would easily outperform any Linn Sondek made today, no matter what upgrades are installed on it. This is an easy call, because the Goldmund's platter, plinth, suspension, base and clamping system are so far superior to the Linn, that any advantage it has becomes sonically inconsequential by comparison.
It's pretty obvious that this reader, with his various insults, arrogant assumptions and contemptuous tone, really dislikes me. Why? He takes my criticism of the Linn Sondek's performance personally. That's his problem. He apparently now has a "relationship" with the Linn (an inanimate collection of parts), and he's insulted that I'm not as impressed with those same parts as he is. Worse, he's totally convinced himself that it's my "ego construction", and the desire to be a "contrarian", which are the only and true reasons for my criticisms. Accordingly, using basic logic, this means, that from this reader's viewpoint, the Linn is beyond any real criticism. So, in effect, it's "perfect" (until Linn makes an update!). It's from such an extreme perspective that cults are born.
The fact that I've personally owned a Linn, twice actually, is ignored by this reader, along with the fact that there are many tens of thousands of other audiophiles who have also happily moved on to superior models, just like me (and now even Art Dudley), for 3 decades now. I must assume that he assumes that we're all egomaniacs, contrarians or just hopelessly ignorant. In fact, of my many audiophile friends who were Linn owners decades ago, every single one of them has moved on, and with no regrets. We recognized the Linn as just another tool, like all other turntables and components, and all tools are bettered over time. This is in stark contrast with those sad individuals who see the Linn Sondek as an object of worship.
Of course, it's obvious that this reader's personal attacks are indisputable signs of a deep insecurity (about audio matters). He's not alone in this, and not only "Linnies" share this affliction, but their irrational, cult-like devotion to this component makes it much more noticeable. This is why, for many years, they couldn't even recognize an obvious improvement, like the Cetech subchassis, until Linn came out with their own version, the grossly overpriced Keel. Why? As psuedo-fundamentalists, they believe that any confirmed improvement, from someone other than Linn, must mean that the designer made a mistake. This admission would then throw doubt on the entire design (and designer), which they consider uniquely infallible. Like religious fundamentalists, there are no gray areas allowed, only black and white.
Linn has not been on the cutting-edge of phono reproduction for decades now, and I seriously doubt they ever will be again. This is because they don't have to, based on the lack of critical thinking, and the simple requirements, of their typical customers. My advice is to enjoy the turntable, as I did, for all the reasons that made it popular, like its good performance and reliability, but ignore all the BS.
I made a few mat (and even record clamp) comparisons with the Linn back in the 1980s, but I never came up with a satisfactory and definitive alternative to their own mat, which I still consider a serious compromise, despite its "successful" use all of these decades. One reader sent me his observations on his own mat comparisons (as well as another reader's recommended "paper ring" platter modification), which I am posting here. There's some minor editing, and my bold:
"I read about the paper ring between the inner and outer platter on a Linn LP 12 on your website, and you asking for other people’s experience with this tweak. I used the preferred 80gm copy paper. Made no difference that I could hear. If the paper was intended to damp the ringing of the platter, it wasn’t very effective. But maybe I was doing something wrong.
On the other hand, I had a thin flexible grey rubber mat (of unknown origin) sitting on my SOTA. I put that on the Linn instead of the usual thin felt mat. That made a difference. Swapping between the two, the felt mat appears to extend and widen the bass and give instruments a slightly bigger image. But at the same time the images of individual musicians and instruments appear to extend or blend into each other – kind of fuzzy and warm (like a felt mat). The felt mat does nothing to dampen the ringing of the platter. Sibilants are more pronounced and the felt mat appears to be add a kind of glare to the top end. Overall the sound seems less focussed. If I look at a light without glasses on, the light appears larger and out of focus. With glasses on the size of the light is much smaller, but sharply defined. The Linn felt mat is like that – larger images from individual instruments, but a lack of focus. Just as I prefer corrected vision to uncorrected vision, I also prefer my music to be focused and the musicians and instruments to be delineated from each other, not blended in.
With the rubber mat, the bass loses some depth (extension) and width, but gains weight and impact, which I prefer. Bass also seems slightly rubbery (the cartridge 'reading' what is underneath the record?). Instruments and musicians are more focussed and delineated. The difference was most apparent on a Haydn piano trio played at a low level. With the rubber mat, the piano trills were obvious and easy to follow – a series of quickly played notes and a clear bell like quality. With the felt mat – not the same. The piano notes were slurred, lacking definition. Guess which I prefer. Less work was required to listen with the rubber mat.
And it supports what you say about sound floors! I could really notice the difference between mats at a low level. I also have the original Linn ribbed rubber mat. This mat just deadens the sound, and is less preferable to the felt mat. So not all rubbers are the same. So, as a quick and simple Linn tweak, try a thin rubber (non-Linn mat), but I can’t tell you what my mat is, unfortunately. A bit of fiddling for others out there, if they want to try. Ain’t hi fi wonderful. The mat I used is only slightly heavier than the felt mat, and I didn’t adjust, or need to adjust the springs. The slightly greater weight didn’t change things enough to fiddle further, but the Linn did seem to bounce ever so slightly better than before!" (10/09)
Personal Note- Considering how many Linn turntables are in current operation, anyone who designed a "super mat" for it would have to be a potential millionaire. How's that for an incentive.
I received this letter from a reader who reports that he is a long-term Linn Sondek owner. There is some minor editing and my bold:
"Read everything and, yes, being a Linnie for 21 years, I picked up mine in 1991-2 second hand and added a Lingo to my Valhalla Ekos combo. There is a serious earth loop design flaw with Lingo PS, the power switch relay to the power inlet can effect other components i.e. CD player etc.
Left it always on and one fine afternoon heard a CD with stereo female vocal and soundstage coming out from the right speaker, and only after powering off the Lingo was normal stereo image reinstated. In 2005, I modded and removed the relay and it's been good. Yes, all the new gimmicks are to change the LP12's original fat mid bass sound to suit modern hi-fi equipment. For your info, the latest EKOS SE are built by Project. I am never fond of any Project stuff. Kinda old school." (09/13)Top
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