Falling off the HiFi wagon – succumbing to the Linn LP12

In a previous blog, I wrote about the temptation of acquiring a Linn LP12 turntable. Although on that occasion, I resisted temptation, it felt inevitable that it was only a matter of time. I heard my first LP12 in 1979 and have wanted one ever since, although, it has been well outside of my budget for most of that time. Even now, a new LP12 is beyond my means. The cheapest new version is the Majik at around £3500, and that has a non-Linn tonearm, next up is the Selekt at over £10k, and the Klimax at over £25k.

However, 50 years of production has produced a very large second-hand market, with over 100,000 made and most still in circulation. The deck has been continually improved, producing an almost infinite number of variants with different power supplies, plinths, baseboards, springs, bearings, and top plates, before you allow for different tonearms and cartridges. Linn LP12s have a reputation for needing careful adjustment, which suggests that buying blind from eBay may be a false economy.

What emerges from research on eBay is that there are a few specialist dealers who practically rebuild LP12s before reselling. These obviously come at a premium compared with LP12s that have been sitting in Dad’s loft for thirty years. A well-fettled example from the mid-1980s generally comes in at around £1500.
A further complication is that most of these specialists are located at a distance and courier delivery is not recommended. So despite temptation and an acceptance that I will need to find around £1500, the indecision over which options to prioritize, is what actually what prevents me from giving in.

Then on a visit to the Cranage HiFi Show, I met the nice guys from Wilkinsons in Nelson. Clearly knowledgeable about turntables, relatively close to home and they’ve just got an LP12 in. Price is slightly higher than I wanted and no cartridge is included, but the arm is an Ittok, the original super arm, and the perfect partner in my view for an LP12. I agree to go over for a look and they kindly agree to hold it for me for a few days. A few days later, I go over to Nelson, the sun is shining and the shop is the original Aladdins Cave of HiFi. The LP12 is a very good-looking example with a classic fluted plinth. I have taken my existing rather humble AT cartridge which is fitted for demonstration purposes. To be honest, the result was never really in doubt, and the LP12 comes home with me.

How does it sound? In my own system at home, great. But it’s not just about that. First of all, it’s a beautiful piece of engineering. The Ittok arm was not on my list of essential options but is a really big part of the joy of ownership and the engineering integrity of the whole. These days when I indulge my passion for fine dining, I enjoy the whole experience of which the food quality is just one. Similarly, when listening to the LP12 playing vinyl, it is an experience par excellence. The sound quality of streaming at times is fabulous on my esoteric system, but its very convenience means the experience is not comparable. The whole process of putting on a vinyl record demands serious listening and demands my attention in a way that streaming cannot match.

So finally – audio nirvana, goal accomplished? Sadly, no! A whole new set of options to explore! My old cartridge is at best a stopgap. My old vinyl collection would benefit from cleaning and given that new vinyl is £30 a pop, a cost-effective option. And then there’s the question of a separate phono stage. The Polaris phono stage is very quiet for an integrated stage but controversial because it converts the analog signal to digital before the sophisticated volume control. And then, of course, new records. Crazy to think about acquiring vinyl copies of what I own on CD, streaming and in some cases, multichannel 96/24 disks, isn’t it? But that’s why they call it a hobby!

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