Linn Sondek LP12
Linn Sondek LP12 with Ekos arm and Troika cartridge
|Official product page|
The Linn Sondek LP12 (often shortened to LP12) is a highly regarded transcription turntable produced by Glasgow-based Linn Products, manufacturers of hi-fi, home theatre, and multi-room audio systems. Its name is derived from the 12" vinyl LP (gramophone record).
With its iconic success, Linn named their flagship CD player the Sondek CD12.
The Sondek LP12 turntable, introduced in 1972, utilises a suspended sub-chassis design and a patented single-point bearing machined to extremely tight tolerances. The LP12 has evolved since its introduction, but its basic suspended sub-chassis design has remained. At the time, the design was similar to the Thorens TD150, the AR. The thinking at the time was that the most important component of a high-end audio system is the loudspeakers. Linn presented an important challenge to that by claiming that the source (i.e. the turntable) was the most important part of the system.
Ivor Tiefenbrun has talked about how Sondek derives from the word Soundex as each hi-fi design always ends up having its own unique identifiable and recognisable sound. Some report the original name was just Sondek without the LP12.
|“||Linn didn't invent the turntable, we simply understood that there was more information on an LP record than people were capable of accessing, so we applied our understanding of engineering to extracting it.
Ivor Tiefenbrun, 2007
Early versions were a platform for mounting third party tonearms, had a basic power supply arrangements, and would only revolve at 33⅓ rpm. Those users requiring a 45 rpm option would have to purchase a special adaptor to increase the diameter of the motor pulley and platter speed accordingly.
Throughout the years, there have been many changes which have significantly improved this table. These changes include modifications to components such as the subplatter and bearing, rubber feet, baseboard, armboard, suspension springs and grommets and reinforced plinth.
Partnered tonearms and power supplies
Linn capitalised on the success of the Sondek LP12 by introducing the more affordable Basik and Axis turntables, complementary tonearms for the Sondek and cartridges at different price points.
Today, many options are available for tonearms and power supplies to partner the deck. The LP12 allows the purchaser to select from a number of Linn as well as third party options. It is commonly partnered with the Linn Ekos SE tonearm, or the unipivot ARO tonearm from Naim Audio. External power options include Linn's own top of the line "Radikal" power supply featuring a speed management system that auto-calibrates the motor every time the Sondek LP12 is powered on; Naim Audio manufactures the Armageddon power supply for the LP12, based on its own Hi-Cap power supply unit.
The LP12 is popular with many audiophiles around the world for its excellent ability to play music with "pace, rhythm and timing". It is sometimes used by hi-fi reviewers as a reference turntable.
It was at its most popular in the golden age of vinyl playback, principally the 1970s through to the 1980s. Its closest competitors were probably the Roksan Xerxes, the Well Tempered Table, several Thorens decks (TD125/126, TD160, TD2001/3001). the Michell GyroDec, the Dunlop Systemdek, the Logic DM-101 and the Pink Triangle. However, the Linn outsold them all in the United Kingdom. In fact, TNT asserts that "most foreign manufacturers of hi-end turntables didn't even bother to import" because they were faced with an uphill fight. Critics and reviewers would all too frequently conclude of any imported competitor that "an LP12 is better and you could buy two Linn's [sic] for that money".
The LP12 has acquired such cult status amongst audiophile turntables that many seek to knock it off its pedestal. Although the design has not been fundamentally revisited, there have been improvements to the turntable's design since its launch using advances in material science, over 25 years ago. In 2004, Stereophile said it was "a classic, a revolutionary, an iconoclast, a survivor."
Changes thereto are elaborated below. related serial numbers in square brackets
- 1972, LP12 turntable introduced.
- 1974, Main bearing liner changed. Sub-chassis strengthened by addition of strap, spot welded in place. Motor control circuit changed from terminal strip to small PCB. Mains switch changed from two buttons to single with mains neon. [s/n 2,000]
- 1978, Top plate modified adding two holes for 6 x 0.5 self tappers into wood block. [23,000]
- 1979, Lid prop removed, hinges changed to spring loading. [27,000]
- 1981, February. Nirvana mechanical components. [32,826]
- 1982, May. Valhalla crystal-driven electronic power supply made standard. [38,794]
- 1984, Enlarged plinth corner bracing. [53,000]
- 1984, June. Sub-chassis strengthening bar epoxy glued instead of spot welded. [54,101]
- 1985, August. Cap head screws on bearing housing. [60,383]
- 1985, September. Diode modification to Valhalla board [61,090]
- 1985, December. Strengthening blocks on corners of plinth.
- 1986, May. New clear lid.
- 1986, Suspension springs improved.
- 1987, March. New bearing housing, New Formica and MDF armboard. [69,161]
- 1987, April. New springs. [69,591]
- 1987, Bearing improved with better lining material and tighter tolerances. Change to black oil. Suspension springs ground to improved tolerance. Arm board composition improved. [70,000]
- 1989, Motor thrust pad changed. Valhalla surge guard modification. PCB mains lead (UK). [79,700]
- 1989, New MDF armboard, laminated top and bottom. [79,160]
- 1989, Harder suspension grommets fitted. [81,000]
- 1990, External Lingo power supply available as add-on.
- 1991, motor thrust pad cap added to Lingo models. [87,047]
- 1991, Valhalla board prototype with 45RPM (never went into production) [87,047]
- 1991, motor thrust pad cap added to Valhalla models. [87,206]
- 1991, Introduction of LP12 Basik, a stripped down version of the turntable [87,672]
- 1991, Solid base board replaces hardboard. [87,672]
- 1991, Trampolin base board with isolating feet available as an option [87,672].
- 1992, Improved top plate fixing. [88,950]
- 1993, Cirkus upgrade (larger and better machined inner platter and new bearing, new springs, armboard, belt) fitted as standard. [90,582]
- 1997, a limited edition commemorative LP12 was created to mark the 25th anniversary of the LP12. Amongst other features, it bears a plaque etched with the signature of Linn's founder Ivor Tiefenbrun.
- 2000, 4th bolt added near motor on top plate, fitted as standard. Required extra cross beam on plinth.
- 2001, New motor used (first new motor since original 1972).
- 2002, Maple plinth introduced adding to existing black, walnut, rosewood and afromosia options.
- 2013, Full-spec limited-edition (40 in all) 40th anniversary LP12, plinth made from oak casks from Highland Park distillery, priced at £25,000.
(in chronological order)
Lingo Power Supply (Introduced: 1990) Linn describes the LINGO as a "high precision, direct coupled, power supply designed to sit alongside the LP12 turntable".
Stereophile describes the Lingo as "a power amplifier intended to deliver a high-purity 120V 50Hz sinewave to the turntable's synchronous motor". The Lingo synthesises the supply voltage and delivers two sinusoidal waveforms to the turntable motor, instead of a single sine wave generated by the Valhalla.
The Lingo employs two "very low noise" crystal oscillators, one for 33⅓ rpm and one for 45 rpm. By the length of time the switch is depressed, the switch on the turntable allows selection of the appropriate oscillator the output of which is fed into a synchronous counter to produce a 50 Hz or 67.5 Hz square wave for 33 rpm and 45 rpm respectively. The square wave is filtered into a clean sine wave to minimise motor vibration, and amplified to 120V to feed the turntable.
The Lingo feeds the motor with a higher voltage for increased start-up torque. When the platter reaches the selected speed, this load-sensing circuitry reduces the output to where the motor just maintains the platter's own momentum to keep it going silently.
The Cirkus upgrade (Introduced: 1993) Aiming to provide the LP12 with greater stability and ensure the bearing sits perfectly true to the chassis, an improved bearing and stronger sub-chassis assembly are core to the Cirkus upgrade. The bearing housing was completely redesigned – its height has been increased to improve lubrication; its mounting flange thickness has been substantially increased; the geometry of the top and bottom liners in the bearing housing has been altered to further reduce incidence of rocking. Thickness of the sub-chassis was doubled to improve rigidity, reduce flexing and improve control of the relationship between turntable platter and arm is reduced, thus limiting the audible degradation to the reproduced signal. With the new bearing comes a new sub-platter.
Keel (Introduced: 2006) The Keel upgrade to the LP12 is a replacement subchassis, machined from solid aluminium. It builds on the Cirkus upgrade (now fitted as standard to new LP12s) but is not included as standard in 'regular' production LP12s. Linn claims that the Keel is an application of its "close-tolerance aluminium machining", first seen in the ingot casing of the Sondek CD12 CD player. The Keel, along with the Ekos SE tonearm and Trampolin Mk.2 were three Special Edition upgrades for the turntable's 33⅓ birthday, 33⅓ being the standard rotational speed when playing LPs.
Trampolin Mark 2 (Introduced: 2006) The original Trampolin baseboard was made from MDF, rather than masonite, incorporating damping feet which were optimised for LP12 placement on heavy furniture. The Trampolin II is made from aluminium, and is generally reported to be 5% of the SE upgrades.
Radikal (Introduced: 2009) The 'Radikal' system, priced at £2,500, comprises a "control box", DC motor and power supply which, according to Linn, offers new levels of speed accuracy, plus "radically reduced electrical and mechanical noise". The design goals included more accurate speed control, and reduced vibration and resonance. This is achieved by using on-board speed management system with automatic calibration, and use of a new motor with low magnetic field and electrical noise, located within a machined housing.
Gives off no electromagnetic radiation so allowing for the Urika upgrade at the same time, a Radikal powered phonostage mounted inside the turntable atop a Mark 3 Trampolin.
- Named No. 1 of 'The Hot 100 Products, 2002' by Stereophile.
- Named '2004 Analogue source component of the year' by Stereophile.
- In May 2006, Hi-Fi Choice reviewers voted the LP12 "the most important hi-fi components ever sold in the UK".
- Named '2007 Analogue source component of the year' by Stereophile.
- Greenberg, Corey (1 December 1993). "Linn Sondek LP12 turntable & Klyde phono cartridge". Stereophile
- Lander, David (1 November 2001). "Ikonoklast: Linn's Ivor Tiefenbrun"
- Linn LP Playing System, Michael Fremer, Stereophile, November 2003
- OLDE WORLDE – ARISTON RD11 TURNTABLE, David Price, Hi-Fi World Magazine
- "Interview with Ivor Tiefenbrun". Positive Feedback (2002)
- Wes Phillips, Linn's Klimax DS, Stereophile, 16 September 2007
- Quaschik, Hartmut (September 2004). "Linn Sondek LP12 – turntable — A definitely pre-loved item". TNT Germany. Archived from the original on 13 January 2012.
- Origin Live Silver Tonearm, Paul Szabady, Stereo Times, November 2001
- "Linn Sondek LP12 – turntable — A definitely pre-loved item". TNT Germany. Archived from the original on 13 January 2012.
- Sircom, Alan (2 July 2013). "Roksan Xerxes.20Plus Turntable System". Hi-Fi+
- Husband, Geoff (November 2002). "Roksan Xerxes X turntable and Artemiz arm", TNT Audio. Archived from the original on 11 July 2013.
- Linn Ikemi CD Player, Marc Mickelson, Soundstage.com, November 1999
- LP12 FAQ, Analogue Addicts. Retrieved 28 April 2006[dead link]
- Sircom, Alan (23 September 2013) "A wee dram for Linn’s 40th", Hi-fi Plus.
- Atkinson, John (10 January 1991). "Linn Sondek LP12 turntable with Lingo power supply", Stereophile
- "Linn LP12 History and Upgrade path", Vinyl Engine, 3 May 2002
- "Linn LP12 Upgrade Kit – The Cirkus" neilmcbride.co.uk
- "Linn hits the road to demonstrate its Radikal turntable upgrades", What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, 27 April 2009
- Dudley, Art (30 June 2011). "Listening #102. Stereophile
- The Hot 100 Products, John Atkinson, Stereophile, November 2002
- Hi-Fi that Rocked the World, Hi-fi Choice, 20 July 2006
- Stereophile's Products of 2007, Stereophile, December 2007
- Linn Music Systems – Turntables
- Gresland, Antoine (July 2009) Test : platine vinyle Linn Sondek LP12 Radikal et Urika, EcoutezVoir (French)