January 5, 2010

Catching Up With An Old Friend. Linn LP12 Turn Table.

It's a classic, Linn LP12 with Vahalla power supply. This turn table was manufactured in 1984, more than 25 years ago! I checked the serial no. and as indicated on the QC Passed sticker inside.

It would seem that my choice of hifi equipment is rather conservative, as I tend to go for time tested and rather storied models of the past. Well, I like my equipment to be time tested and proven. Only the most musically enduring stuff tends to hang around, in the company of the "latest and greatest". I personally see it this way, when all the hype dies down, only the true musically enduring products hang around for a long time. Some of those examples are McIntosh C22 pre amp & 275 power amp, Dynaco 70 amp, Marantz 7 pre & 9 power amp, Quad II power amps & ESL57 speakers, BBC classic designed LS3/5A & 5/9A and lastly the Linn LP12, other wise affectionately known as Linn Sondek.
That ol' skool Linn grooved body. Newer versions don't have this, just smoothly contour finished.

My first brush with the Linn LP12 was back in year 1989, in my student dorm, where most of us had our own stereo set. One of my wealthy school mates bought a Linn LP12 with a Basik Plus arm. I remembered he mounted an Audio Technica AT95E cartridge(I think this possibly is every vinyl virgin's first cartridge!), but later got himself a Goldring cartridge of some sort. Subsequently over the 20 years or so, many of my hifi dabbling friends also had Linn LP12s at their disposal. So you can say that I am already very well acquainted to the Linn LP12 prior ownership!

With my Pass Labs X-Ono purchase last month, I begin to look for an LP12 turn table to go with it. I saw a few examples popping up in the hifi classifieds, but those were sold even before I got to view them! The Linn LP12 is more than 35 years old as a product, and it is still being produced today(albeit with many improvements incorporated), shows it popularity in the market place. Naturally, prices of mint condition "pre-owned" units are rising fast! One of my friends whom decided to move up the hifi ladder decided that I should buy his LP12 unit, and with that, deal is done!

According to Linn marketing speak, the best tone arm to partner the LP12 is the Ittok LVII(or the current Ekos). However, my example came with a Basik Plus arm, just like the one my school mate used to have! Never mind, as I'll soon find out about the differences between the Basik Plus and the Ittok LVII tone arm.

Setting up the Linn LP12 proved simpler than I cared to remember. Under the strict, competent guidance of DIYer sifu Puchong Wong, set up is not difficult at all. The much hyped spring level settings are easily accomplished with the aid of a quality spirit level cum record clamp(a.k.a. the same on I wrote about not too long ago, sold by Asia Sound Equipment for RM$55 a piece). One minor grief, why can't the Linn's spring setting stay after being moved? Hmm....... So ultimate final spring level setting should be best done on final resting place of the LP12. Mounting the Benz Micro Glider L2 cartridge and setting up the Basik Plus tone arm was as easy as doing so my Rega RB600, except, this time, I am allowed to adjust the VTA(Vertical Tracking Angle, if you must know). So far, the Linn experience has been a steep learning curve for me!
The record clamp with a spirit level is sold by Asia Sound Equipment at RM$55/pc, I did not find it particularly useful on the Rega P25, but later proved to be an excellent accessory for the Linn LP12. I bought the review sample.

Upon the cartridge hitting the first spinning LP groove, Ah......! that familiar musical mid centric sound greets me again, just like an old friend. This Linn LP12 is a much quieter turn table than the Rega P25. Much, much more lower in noise floor, that's the first thing I go anal about these days! That slight hazy grayness in my LP play back is now missing. With it, the musical details all flushed out as much as the cartridge can retrieve. But there's one short fall, the Linn Basik Plus arm is a relatively poor tracker compared to the Rega RB600. Minute record groove imperfections immediately render the track skipping in repeat at the same point. Now, that's frustrating, because that same LP was just playing very nicely on the Rega turn table just a few hours ago! Well, in the mean time, I also experimented with the spring level adjustment of the LP12, and believe me, they do make a sound difference, and does sound best when setting is level(again with the aid of the same record clamp with spirit level) for all three springs supporting the platter and tone arm.

Puchong Wong is on an upgrade path too! Which left his Ittok LVII tone arm was idling on his Linn LP12 like a dead weight. One day I decide to ask if I could borrow it just to try on my LP12, so that I would know the difference, if any between the Ittok LVII hype over the Basik Plus tone arm. With his consent, I took it back, mounted the Ittok LVII over the standard hole allocated to the Basik Plus, no modification is involved, just straight forward replacement. The Benz Micro was brought over to the Ittok LVII and the whole set up procedure is re calibrated with the new arm in place.
The Benz Micro Glider L2, my reference for the past year.

Well, I am happy to report that the Linn Ittok LVII is no Marketing Department hype. The sound is weightier all round, and more assuredly exact too, compared to the Basik Plus arm. Where the Basik Plus arm is open and reasonably smooth sounding, the Ittok LVII imaged densely filled in and the highs are more refined. The bass is soft but tuneful, yet doesn't trip up easily when playing complex notes. The Ittok LVII is basically a step up in sonic performance compared to the Basik Plus, but both have that similar sound characteristics.
The Linn Basik Plus tone arm.

Linn Ittok LVII tone arm.

I am very happy to be re acquainted with an old friend called Linn. And lastly, it looks like Puchong Wong won't be getting his Ittok LVII back! He!He!
My new, old friend from the 80's.

Hifi is a wonderful journey, especially when one has great buddies like Puchong Wong. A million thanks goes to this wonderful friend!


PuchongWong said...

Big E,

You friend Yim say lack some??

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Big E,

CONGRATULATIONS!!! :-) Its a beauty! Excellent unit!

Big E said...

Puchong Wong,

If anything lacking is Yim's turntable! When you can help him?


Cheers mate!