|Linn Sondek LP12 Turntable|
|Home Theater Audio Sources Vinyl/LP|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Sunday, 01 August 2004|
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Technology surrounding music reproduction is progressing at a skyrocketing rate. Consumers are being introduced to new digital formats, such as DVD-Audio and SACD, with promises of even greater resolution formats around the corner, like Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Since the inception of CD musical playback in the early ‘80s, most of those old enough to have experienced its processors, such as vinyl records, cassettes and eight track tapes, have since purged their collections of such relics in favor of the more convenient and seemingly “perfect” digital formats.
Many consumers decided to let their ears decide which format sounded superior. What many of them found was that the compact disc was not all it was built up to be. Sure, the CD succeeded in eliminating some of the annoyances of the older generation formats, such as eight-track tape track changes, the poor compressed sound of cassette tapes and the irritating pops and scratches of vinyl records. But with this new technology, many argue that although the resolution has increased, we have not moved any closer to the insatiable palpability of live music, something that keeps concertgoers flocking to their local live music venues. Although this debate is sure to rage on long past this review and into the future, surprisingly, LP vinyl record sales are growing as many rediscover the positive virtues of this somewhat forgotten format.
If you trace the history of high-performance LP playback, it will lead you straight back to Linn’s LP12, the world’s first high-end record playback system. First introduced in 1972, the LP12 was a revolutionary piece that helped define the importance of the source product. Prior to this time, manufacturers and consumers alike placed all the importance in downstream gear such as the amp, preamplifiers and speakers. The introduction of the Linn LP12 was a new era in understanding of the importance of your system’s playback components. Although initially displaying some resistance in this theory, the world soon climbed onboard and manufacturers followed trying to produce better players to compete with the Linn LP12. Some 29 iterations later, the Linn LP12 remains a (some argue the) standard in vinyl playback.
The Linn LP12 set-up being reviewed is comprised of several elements: the LP12 table mechanics, Linn LINGO power supply, Linn EKOS tonearm, Linn AKIVA cartridge and Linn’s LINTO phono stage preamplifier, at a total price of $11,650.
At the heart of the Linn SONDEK LP12 is its table, referred to as the “Mechanics.” The LP12 Mechanics retail for $2,400 and consist of a solid wood plinth, stainless steel chassis, suspended sub-chassis and a solid arm platform to eliminate any vibration and acoustic feedback. The precision platter is belt-driven and perfectly balanced for speed, accuracy and reliability. It’s then coupled to the motor using a patented low-noise, single-point bearing to eliminate noise and provide the highest possible performance. There are optional speeds for both 33-1/2 and 45-RPM media.
The LP12 uses Linn’s LINGO power supply, once their best power supply option, now the only available power supply for the LP12 at a cost of $1,600. The LP12’s assembled overall dimensions are 17.5 inches in width, 14 inches in depth and five-and-one-half inches in height, weighing 28.5 pounds.
Linn offers two tonearm options for you to choose from, starting with the AKITO at $1,100, and the EKOS, used in the review model, priced at $3,000. Both tonearms are manufactured with painstaking steps to assure precision playback. All critical components are machined from a solid piece of material to eliminate unwanted vibrations. Linn uses the finest alloys and adhesives to maximize the strength and integrity of the arm. Linn tonearms use ultra low-friction bearings, assembled in a cleanroom for long-term, guaranteed performance. In addition, The EKOS and AKITO both employ temperature-compensated precision springs to ensure constant tracking and bias forces.
Last but not least is the ever-critical cartridge. Linn offers two different Moving Coil cartridges to choose from, the entry-level KLYDE and the top-level AKIVA that retails for $2,995.
In the old days, you simply plugged your turntable into your receiver and voila, you were spinnin’ music. These days, you will still find phono preamps in the better receivers but almost all higher-quality preamps do not offer a phono stage (preamp), or if they do, it’s an option.
The Linn LINTO direct-coupled precision phono preamp is a moving coil phono preamp that uses the finest and most advanced technology to maximize your playback experience. It has a state-of-the-art silent power supply with Linn Brilliant SMPS technology providing immunity to mains noise or variation. It allows for the option of two gain settings for use with both low and high output moving coil cartridges. For connection, the LINTO has one pair of RCA phono input connectors and two pairs of RCA phono outputs. It has a high gain of 64 dB @ 1 kHz (x1600) and a low gain of 54 dB at 1 kHz (x500). The Linn LINTO Phono Preamp has a retail price of $1,700.
The set-up of the Linn SONDEK LP12 is very detailed and should be performed by a professional to assure maximum performance from the player. I watched as Linn set up the player, which involved detailed precision adjustments. The power supply needs to be installed and required detailed routing and soldering. After hours of set-up, followed by some good old-fashioned tinkering, I determined that it is essential that a seasoned veteran familiar with the unit perform this job. This is something that all Linn authorized dealers are qualified to perform.