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Linn Sondek LP12 : Purpose built, or not and to what Spec ?

Discussion in 'audio' started by highfell, Mar 2, 2022.

  1. highfell

    highfell Active Member

    I started in the late 70s with a Rega Planar 2 which I still own. I went digital in the 90s. The quality of my music system has become more important and I have a Chord Hugo 2 as my Dac/PreAmp.

    I then came back to vinyl 9 months ago.

    Oh boy what had I been missing, I have had so much fun buying new, s/h LPs etc etc. over the past few months. I also upgraded to a vintage, slightly unfashionable turntable, namely a Manticore Mantra with a suspended chassis, which in its day was supposedly between a Rega 3 and a Linn Sondek LP12. It is lovely and I adore playing vinyl now with that analogue sound ……..

    I thought I was done but due to an upcoming celebration, I have decided to treat myself to a Linn. I realise it may not be the best turntable for the money but I am after that musicality (whatever that may really mean) that a Linn can bring.

    So, I have done some research and have narrowed it down to three options.

    1. Buy a new base model with Karousel bearing and have it professionally built for me by a Linn Specialist with s/h parts like :Baseboard : Trampoline 2 , Motor : basic one, Power Supply Hercules , Sub-Chassis : cirkus, Tone Arm : Rega 3 or Ittok, Cartridge : tbc

    OR buy a s/h higher spec second hand model already built that has a much older base unit but which has been carefully/thoughtfully upgraded over the years and recently serviced.

    Anticipated cost £3K/£3.5K

    2. Buy a lower spec s/h model already built with say a cirkus bearing, hercules power, ittok arm - cost £1.5K

    3, Buy an older grey bearing machine professionally & purpose rebuilt for me by a Linn Specialist with some new parts eg springs etc, with say a Hercules power supply & an ittok arm - cost £1.5 K

    This turntable will go into Music 3 Revolver speakers via either a pure SET class A tube amp (chinese build) but with 1950s, 70s best in class valves or a Marantz PM75 Amp.


    I realise this is a question like how big is a piece of string and I am a first poster, but I do promise to feedback ultimately on what I buy. I have also done some research into upgrade options but as ever you get differing feedback.

    My questions really relate to these things. The benefits of buying an early pre-cirkus Linn with that special Linn musicality but less detail or buying in the middle but a higher spec both around the £1.5K mark OR getting the most uptodate bearing model (new or old but well cared for), but that is twice the money.

    The personally built models would be by Cymbiosis : should this fact be a key determinant in the decision that I need to make

    Once again , this will be a question that has been asked in different guises many times before , but please indulge me

    Many thanks for your help.
     
    Miss Ariel and rtrt like this.
  2. LinnMan

    LinnMan Active Member

    I have owned many turntables over the years and have always returned to an LP12 (4 times can you believe). Why?, because it is the most musically satisfying thats why. In answer to your question, ask Peter at Cymbiosis and whatever he tells you go with. It will be fantastic thats for sure.
     
    Dave J, Musicman19, highfell and 2 others like this.
  3. joe9407

    joe9407 actress/activist

    Hi there and welcome to the jungle! I'm a client of Peter's -he came to NYC and fettled my LP12 on one of his international mystery tours a few years back and hopefully he'll be installing a Karousel and Keel this year- and I'm confident that an assemblage of parts would perform as new if he does the work. (I went the s/h route, too, mainly because I wanted an ARO.) However, if you know you're going to have a Sondek for the long haul and like the Linn plinths, I can imagine there would be some satisfaction in owning the deck from new. I also think the higher-spec, more accurate deck would be a complementary match for a tube/valve system.

    I'd go to Cymbiosis with a budget in mind and demo the (many) options they have in stock, including some of the really nice aftermarket plinths Peter carries. Hope this helps!
     
    highfell likes this.
  4. Woodface

    Woodface pfm Member

    Condition is all, but the closest to the spec you want second hand, enjoy it & add Karousel or Kore when you feel the need.

    It’s just a turntable don’t get caught up in the mystique.
     
  5. paulbysea

    paulbysea pfm Member

    I have a much-upgraded LP12 of late 70s vintage, it had an Ittok arm fitted in mid-80s and numerous upgrades since then, most recently a Hercules power supply and Dynavector 10X5. I did discuss with my dealer about getting an entry-level LP12 and putting my current arm and cartridge in and then selling my current TT with the new entry-level cartridge. They thought it would be a worthwhile upgrade and I am still pondering. In the meantime, I am enjoying my current listening to music on my current LP12. Starting out fresh I think I would go for a new base level LP12 and get a better arm and cartridge. Then when funds allow upgrade if you want to.
     
    highfell likes this.
  6. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig Trade: ^'- -'^

    Ahh, the LP12. The most lovely and dementing turntable ever made? Worth the hassle? Yeah. But a lot to think about. In no particular order.

    If you just want to buy one it depends on where you live of course but I'd say Peter Swain too. Good people. Not all Linn dealers are as good and not all are as good with the LP12.

    If you're planing on long term LP12 ownership, and why wouldn't you, consider building and servicing the deck yourself. It's not hard, it's a record player with very few parts, and there are plenty of guides to help you.

    Which one to buy? Point one. They're all fundamentally the same. Yeah, newer ones with alloy sub-chassis and trick power supplies sound better but it's all incremental. Most of the upgrades to the LP12 made a slight difference. You go back to an early one, or an Ariston to a mid eighties or even later and all the big bits are the same. And they all sound similar. You put a good arm on an old Ariston and it'll beat a later LP12 with a Basik arm on it.

    Provided that, A: it's properly set up and B: it's in good condition. It doesn't matter how old it is or how nice it looks, if it has a tired motor and isn't very sell set up it is not going to sound very good.

    So which one to buy? Everyone knows that the LP12 was progressively upgraded over its life but you need to pay attention to the details. Starting from day one, bits were tightened up. Plinth made stiffer, better bearing, less troublesome springs but what happened in the late eighties to early nineties? Vinyl, for all intents and purposes, died. Linn kept the LP12 in their books, signature product and all that, but they did virtually no development of the chassis of the deck until the Majik sub-chassis came out in what..2018? Thereabout anyway so the upshot is that two decks made over twenty years apart, within that time frame, are essentially exactly the same!

    So, you buy on condition rather than age with the caveat that you allow for fixing or replacing some things. For example, thanks to the Karousel, there are plenty of used good condition Cirkus bearings available for reasonable money but plinths are not cheap and a lid is £150! Platter is £200. You get to know the prices of parts and consider any deck you're looking at as a collection of parts, any of which you can replace.

    Would I buy a new one? No. Just too darn expensive for what you're getting. I'd buy the nicest used one you can find and change it to suit what you want. If you can figure out the bewildering permutations before you lose the will to live!
     
  7. highfell

    highfell Active Member

    All good advice.

    I guess I am torn between getting the best - because why wouldn’t one do that , but then again I have a Manticore Mantra that I purchased for £240 odd and I love it. So surely spending £1.5K on a Linn should be a big enough upgrade.

    But I think perhaps the good reviews of the Karousel are making me feel I would be missing out on such a ‘major’ upgrade, but is it essential ……
     
  8. Amber Audio

    Amber Audio This is the Day

    rtrt and highfell like this.
  9. highfell

    highfell Active Member

    Thanks for replying Mr.Pig. I have been reading and enjoying your other posts on the Linn ! First and most important question - Did you ever try out a Karousel fitted Linn ? :)

    I am looking at the Linn being my third and last turntable. So I kind of feel that I will encouraged myself to upgrade/tweak the Linn whenever I get it serviced.

    If i get one built, I have a good feeling about Cymbiosis and although i live about 3 hours away, I will use them. There is something appealing about having something built from scratch for you even with second hand parts.

    Your post suggests that a good arm will provide more value than say moving to Karousel bearing vs Cirkus - is that the general consensus ?
     
  10. highfell

    highfell Active Member

    Thanks - that is very helpful. The comments about hearing little sonic differences between the two quite different Linns is somewhat surprising.
     
  11. Amber Audio

    Amber Audio This is the Day

    I emailed and recently spoke with Peter at Cymbiosis, defo seems a top bloke and one of if not the best place to get an LP12 built, wish I wasn’t so far away from them being up near Aberdeen.
     
  12. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig Trade: ^'- -'^

    No. I'd quite like to hear one but it's £800, for a bearing! :0.

    There is a lot of hype about it but the thing is, Linnies hype everything! I remember when the Cirkus came out, same hype. Was is better than the old bearing? Well it was different.

    So thinking about it logically, what does a better bearing do? It tightens up the interface between the platter and the tonearm. It improves the integrity of that join. There isn't much else it can do. But doesn't a better sub-chassis do the same thing? I fitted a Stack Audio Tenor sub-chassis to a friend's LP12 not long ago and the effect was dramatic. As big as a Karousel? I don't know but I bet it was. And that sub-chassis costs £200.

    I'm sure the Karousel bearing is very nice but Linn upgrades are notoriously poor value. I prefer to try and keep a sense of perspective. I've got an old Thorens TD160 here just now. Does it sound as good as my LP12? No. Does it still make really enjoyable music? Yes. Is the LP12 worth the extra in enjoyment terms? I'd rather not think about that...
     
  13. highfell

    highfell Active Member

    I did the same but spoke to someone else as Peter was away. I also was left with a good feeling.
     
    Mr Pig likes this.
  14. Amber Audio

    Amber Audio This is the Day

    Aye me too, especially with all the hype about Karousel but over many years I’ve often read about a “massive” difference and found I heard small or no difference myself, have to say though that unlike with digital I usually hear quite a lot of differences between TTs/Arms/Carts/Stages though and also to get the best from a TT you usually have a bit of fiddling/trial and error over a wee while.
     
    Mr Pig likes this.
  15. Andy Stephenson

    Andy Stephenson pfm Member

    "The best one" is now, I believe, £23,300
    That's more than twice as much as I payed for my first house!!
    Andy
     
    Mr Pig likes this.
  16. highfell

    highfell Active Member

    Haha - the best one in my price range
     
  17. Knipester

    Knipester pfm Member

    Loud and clear I’m Glasgow are top people and as they have Johnnie of audio origami in their team you can guarantee a top build.
     
  18. Amber Audio

    Amber Audio This is the Day

    I’ve been in touch with L&C.
     
  19. James

    James Lord of the Erg\o/s

    The OP asked for views, so here's mine.

    Buy a new Majik-level LP12 if that's within your budget. For your hard-earned, you get a plinth variety of your choice and the best bearing Linn has ever made. You'll also have the privilege of a brand-new LP12 with no question about its provenance or state of wear. Over time, you can upgrade the PSU, tonearm, sub-chassis as and when opportunities arise. In the meantime, you'll have a deck that's visually to your liking, with a sound that Linn intended.

    Going down the second-hand parts route and cobbling together an LP12 of mixed pedigree is just too fraught in uncertainties for me. But starting with a known baseline, you can better judge whether the next incremental upgrade takes you in the direction you want. That being said, do have a listen to a Majik LP12 first and see if that alone floats your boat.
     
  20. Oneandtwo

    Oneandtwo pfm Member

    My LP12 is Radikal - Karousel - Kore - Ekos - Adikt. If I was doing it again I would buy a brand new Majik as a baseline and start. Mine was originally a 1985 but with various upgrades not one single part of the chassis is now older than 2018, not even the screws. If the Karousel had been out in 2018 when I did the majority of upgrades I would’ve sold my chassis and bought the Majik deck.
     

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