|I just got my Linn CD12 back from being upgraded by David Schulte of The Upgrade Company and thought I would quickly share my experience. Right out of the box, without any burn-in time, I am simply ecstatic with the outcome. All aspects of the CD12’s performance have been significantly improved, and I mean significantly. In fact, I have aborted my plan to buy a new SOTA CD Redbook player.|
I have to admit I was a major skeptic about this whole “upgrade thing”. I was concerned that the process might improve some aspects of performance at the sacrifice of others. Or worse yet, that I would get the unit back and it wouldn’t work. But after reading about other Audiogoners experience, particularly Clement Perry’s recent experience having his Reimyo upgraded, I decided to take the plunge.
The Linn CD12 is a CD Redbook only player and was introduced in 1999. It is no longer in production although Linn has a stockpile of parts to service their installed base indefinitely. Mine is the latest 24 bit model and I have had it for over three years. On a scale of “literal versus lyrical”, the CD12 is strongly biased in the lyrical direction and for many years was a reference in CD Redbook playback. The CD12 has brought me countless hours of sonic bliss.
However, in recent years new players have emerged that matched much of the CD12’s musicality while improving upon it in terms of resolution and dynamics. In my opinion, the CD12 has always been a touch laid back in those areas. And so many audiophiles have moved on to newer players, particularly those that wanted CD Redbook and SACD/DVD-A capability in one unit. Being at that cross roads myself, I began an intensive review of all the current reference level SOTA CD Redbook players. As I have a Linn Unidisk v1.1 that I use for SACD/DVD-A my focus was only on CD Redbook which comprises the majority of my CD collection anyway.
Well, as we all know, there is no shortage of great choices out there to chose from at all price points and that’s great for us as consumers. But the new SOTA units I auditioned, while improving on the CD12 in some areas, were just not enough of a “slam dunk” to get me to switch. So, being at a bit of an impasse, I ultimately decided to take the “upgrade plunge”.
While I know there are many excellent, well regarded equipment upgraders in the market, I decided to go with David Schulte of The Upgrade Company because: (1) he had lots of very positive references, (2) he had successfully upgraded other high end CD players including Clement Perry’s Reimyo and (3) he had upgraded a CD12 previously and had a clear plan of what needed to be done.
David’s approach is not to modify the unit’s original circuit designs, but rather to upgrade selected components that offer superior sonic performance versus the stock components. Further, he has other tricks up his sleeve to deal with the deleterious effects of resonance/vibration and EMI/RFI. But, he rightly keeps all of that to himself, as I would if I were him as that is his intellectual property and competitive advantage.
David was an absolute pleasure to deal with. As I wanted to minimize downtime, he called me when he was ready to operate on my unit. I overnighted the CD12 to him and he got to work. He explained the spectrum of upgrades he offers and the pricing and I ultimately decided for the “full monty” wanting to push the CD12’s performance as far forward as possible. I found David to be a no-nonsense guy. He knows from 20+ years experience what is worth doing and what isn’t and I never felt he was trying to push fluff on me. We talked several times by phone and exchanged several e-mails throughout the process to let me know how it was going. At certain stages of the modifications he would listen to the player to see how its performance was changing.
So today I got the unit back, plugged it in and let her rip. After I got my chin up off the floor, wiped the big grin off my face and listened for about an hour I got on the phone to let him now how pleased I was. As I mentioned at the outset, every aspect of performance has been improved immensely. The inherent musicality of the CD12 is fully intact, but the noise floor has been lowered significantly which is allowing new detail to emerge that was previously masked; resolution throughout the range has increased dramatically (particularly at the low end) and micro and macro dynamics have improved immensely as well. And David tells me that the Blackgate capacitors (which were part of the upgrade) improve with burn-in, so performance should only get better from here.
One of the things he told me is that most of his modified CD Redbook players outperform SACD recordings. I said okay when he told me that, but didn't really believe it. Well, I just listened to Patricia Barber's Modern Cool which I have on SACD and Redbook. And, well, he was right, the Redbook version sounds better. I'm not saying that will be the case on ALL recordings, but it was a revelation for me that Redbook could sound that good. In fact, the CD12 performance has now reached a point where vinyl will probably go by the way side for me. I'm sure SOTA vinyl is still better than what I have now, but what I have is sufficiently good at this point that I will skip the hassle of vinyl.
Well, I’m now a converted skeptic and next week I’m sending David my Runco DLP processor (his modifications are equally effective on video circuitry I’m told) and Unidisk v1.1 universal player for the upgrade treatment.
Bottom line, upgrading components is probably not for everyone, but based on my experience the price/performance ratio of upgrading versus buying new is compelling, particularly in the area of digital.
Dynaudio Evidence Temptation speakers; darTZeel NHB-108 amplifier; darTZeel NHB-18NS pre-amplifier; Shunytata Orion speaker cables; Shunyata Antares interconnect cables; Shunyata Hydra 8 power conditioner; Shunytata Anaconda Helix power cables; Harmonic Resolution Systems (HRS) MXR rack, Isolation Bases and Nimbus couplers/spacers/footers; ARS treated, voiced and calibrated listening room