Re: best system for senior classical music listener
Allow me to jump in with a comment or two. The most important thing about a Linn turntable is that it should be correctly set up. It needs to sit in a level location on a non-resonant surface not too close to a loudspeaker, and the heavy platter should bounce freely on it's coiled spring suspension. The tonearm bearings should be very free-moving with no discernible friction or other impediment; it's height must be parallel to the LP record surface; the phono cartridge must be firmly mounted, aligned, and with the proper tracking weight applied for that specific model (usually toward the high end of it's tracking weight range). When correctly set up like this and playing through any good, well-matched amplifier/speaker combination you will be astounded at the clarity and naturalness of music even if the speakers are modestly priced. The best way to ensure this is to have an experienced Linn dealer set it up for you (unless you are au fait with the procedure yourself).
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Consider the turntable/tonearm/phono cartridge as a link, then the amplifier, then the speakers. Costwise, the turntable is the by far the weakest link, so the proportion of your budget that you need to spend on the turntable/arm/cartridge is much greater than what you need to spend on the other two links in order to get really high quality, musically satisfying results. Permit me to give an example. Don't hold me to the dollar amounts that I use here. They are for illustration only, OK? Let's say you can manage to afford around $2500 for an LP playing system. Buy a used Linn LP12 with arm and cartridge for, say, $1100 - $1200. Next comes a good used stereo amplifier for, say, $600. Now, add a used pair of B&W loudspeakers for, say, $400 - $500 for the pair. The remainder of your budget may be well spent on decent but not exotic speaker wires and a rack or shelves on which you mount the equipment. Sit down and listen to some favorite recordings. Close your eyes and let the music take you. Don't dissect the sound by saying too much bass or not enough treble, etc. Just listen and try to get deeply into the music. Does it move you? Does it thrill you? Compare a system like this to another system with, say, the same amplifier but this time spend $1100 -$1200 on bigger/fancier B&W speakers and the turntable/arm/cartridge budget down to $400-$500. You might hear more bass, a bigger sound, but does it move you and thrill in the same way? Not a chance! I bet you a dollar to a doughnut you will prefer the Linn-based system because it will simply give you MORE MUSICAL ENJOYMENT. Remember that dollar-wise, the source is the weakest link and if you fail to get a real high-fidelity source then no fancy amplifier or speaker or graphic equaliser gizmo can ever make up for that quality you lost at the beginning of the chain.
Now, you can argue that EVERYTHING plays a part, everything is a link in the chain. The LP record itself, the connecting cables and speaker wire, the phono cartridge stylus' wear, your room shape, the furnishings, background noise from traffic or the central heating, what mood you're in, and of course your own ears. It all plays a part, but the CORE of the issue is making sure that the source link in the chain (i.e. the turntable) is absolutely a high performance, musically satisfying unit. Get that link right and you have the basis for evaluating all other links such as amplifier and speakers. Believe me, a properly set up Linn is the cornerstone of a good sound system. Linn also has very high quality engineering; they truly are built to last.