Price is a marketing tool. There is more demand. Competitors are asking ridiculous prices, so why not send some money to Scotalnd!.
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I have what up until earlier this year would have been called a maxed out LP12. It has been a great table for me, but I have no plan at all to upgrade to the Ekos SE from my Ekos II. I am considering the Keel, but I'm not at all sure I'll plunge.
Eventhough the Keel is a remarkable sonic improvement, at 3k it is simply overpriced. After all, 3K will buy a fine second turntable (say an Origin Live Resolution or a used Michell Orb, if I'm lucky), and I've always like the idea of owning more than one table anyway.
Without realizing it, I think Linn is undermining their customer base with current pricing. They are leading even the faithful to conclude perhaps they have ridden the Scottish train far enough and it may be time to check out the other lines.
I went the whole nine yards on the upgrade, the Keel, the Ekos SE and a new Akiva cartridge for good measure. Threw in a Cirkus II while they were at it. Was it expensive? Absolutely! Did it make a huge difference? You betcha. The improvement in low level detail was absolutely amazing. And the noise floor was significantly reduced. Highly recommended if you can afford it.
I would agree with Newmanoc as I am essentially in the same shoes.
Kinsekd if you did all these upgrades at the same time how can you have a quantitative understanding of improvement? I understand the convenience yet that is a lot of scratch. Had you auditioned these incrementally? Although I essentially agree with your upgrades I would have swapped the Keel for the Ekos SE for a possibly better improvement at a cost savings.
I have updated my Lp12 circa 1982 one step at a time and can unequivocally conclude that the Cirkus cut my surface noise by 50% plus well adding improved low level detail, the Lingo tightened up everything making everything more timbre correct, improving depth of stage, and added a greater (deeper) lower end. The Akiva quieted things down even better, especially on old well worn vinyl and has extracted even greater levels of low level detail which has also with no coincidence improved sound stage and instrument placing. All great sonic values. I too consider the Keel smart but extremely over priced and find it disenchanting that Linn would make the profit margins so high against their possible mass proliferation of raising the Sondek Lp12 name back to a place of respect amidst all the marvelous late comers to this industry/market. Their intent (marketing strategy) leaves me confused. They have been side-tracked from two channel analog for far too long IMHO but its good to see them back with innovative ideas and not abandoning what made their name in the first place. It will take a home audition/evaluation and nothing less for me to fork out with that kind of cash on a Keel upgrade. As for the Ekos SE which still will not allow the end user VTA on the fly, as so many of the competitors have found need to offer. And to top it all off I couldn't determine the value of these new updates at the resent Linn Manufacturer/Dealer listening demo due to the all Linn amp and speaker compo. With all due respect, how can Linn discern source upgrades with a reference system so over dynamic and yet seemingly vacuous in musicality (the dreaded word audiophile comes to mind), it leaves me totally baffled! Yet I love my Sondek Lp12 so hey, what do I know?
Happy (analog) Listening!
Kinsedkd - The "whole nine yards" upgrade - Keel, EKOS SE, and Akiva lists for about $10,945 (3000+4950+2995) if my figures are correct. I assume you got a good deal, including the Circus, by jumping all at once. It's nice you can afford to drop a large amount and consider the unit as a "whole", rather than to "microanalyze", but I'm sure many if not most Linn owners go the piecemeal upgrade route and are concerned about which upgrades are the most cost effective, as discounts are generally less available when upgrading step by step.
So we are getting into the meat of it all. We want to know both step-by-step, as well as the total value of ownership. According to Ivor's cannon, Keel ought to be done first, and if one can take only one step it is the Keel.
It is the second step that troubles me. At nearly twice, we need some extraordinary synergy to fill this gap. Otherwise one might feel the EKOS so good that the SE will not make the value gap, to wit, any old cartridge will sound so much better with the SE that you do not mind having already spent $3,000 to upgrade to the EKOS and are keen to make it a cool $8,000 BEFORE even thinking you need a better cartridge.
Or is my logic flawed? There is a better match than the Akiva to the old EKOS?
There is an interesting review of the LP12 upgrade in the October 2007 issue of Stereophile magazine. One point I think we all agree on is that this upgrade is not for the faint of heart or thin of wallet. I had to think long and hard before taking the plunge. Eventually, I justified it by saying this is the last hurrah for me. At least as far as turntables go.
Aceto - As Kinsekd has mentioned, you must read the review article in the latest issue of Stereophile regarding the Linn upgrades. It appears that the Keel is logically the first choice step - to improve the table itself. After that there are many choices. Given the prices of the Ekos SE and Akiva, one must consider other manufacturers as well. One is not obligated to pick a Linn arm or cartridge for the LP-12. Other choices of arms - SME V, Origin Live, or Graham Phantom, may be as good if not better. For example, the late Alastair Robertson-Aikman, designer of SME products, created his SME V to have synergy with his tables, yet many prefer the Phantom instead.
Kinsekd, with all due respect, Evidently I did not receive the same context for this discussion as you. As to the point, neither do I find my brief take on the individual parts to be a microanalysis by a long shot, but Ok! :^) If you felt my observation was to challenge you personally, your mistaken. Rather, my point was to aid Aceto or for that matter, anyone reading this, of understanding why I chose the upgrades I did and didnt. I personally find the Ekos SE excessive in price, but concede for reasons mentioned that I could not properly evaluate it as a separate improvement and consequently could not have an opinion on it collectively. Im sorry that my distain for Linns electronics has rubbed you the wrong way, yet after more than forty years of great concert seats in all kinds of venues and having had the good fortune of working with several turntable and tube amplifier designers and builders that our dear friends of mine, I have come to this particular opinion over time. I enjoy many semi-conductor amps such as Musical Fidelity and Pass, among others, so it is not as simple as tubes or SS. As a point of reference, I owned Linn Ikemi, LK1, LK280 Sparks, Kairn, Sara, and Linto (the last which I still find to be outstanding and one of, if not the quietest phono stages I have ever heard) for many years of good service. But alas, different stokes for different folks. Sorry to strike such a disruptive chord.
There is not a Linn dealer on the planet who will throw in a Cirkus, if you check with Kinsekd I think you will find he threw in for the Cirkus.
To me the Cirkus should be at the top of the upgrade list for every Sondek Lp12 owner. It is by far the most cost effective/sonic improvement offering available, hands down.
Rgurney's point is well taken, you certainly don't have to use Linn tonearms or cartridges on an LP12. But I think some caution is in order with respect to tonearms.
A lot of newer tonearms are quite heavy (e.g. the SME and higher range Origin Live)compared to the Ekos, and these don't work optimally with the LP12's suspension. And an Ekos II is a great tonearm, and purchased used is a very good buy at around $1500. I really don't think one can find a better tonearm in this price range for an LP12.
Cartridges are a different matter altogether - no limitations here. I actually think the Akiva is amazingly good (made by Lyra) but not cheap. The Klyde is nice enough (made by Goldring), but over priced by a few hundred dollars. The entry level Adikt (around $350) is very compelling for the money - actually my favorite mm cartridge.
I also agree with Mr. Sayles and Mr Newmanoc.I have a fully loaded LP 12 minus the SE upgrades. The money Linn wants for the SE upgrades, in my opinion, would be better spent on a altogether different turntable. For that kind of scratch Linn has successfully priced themselves right out of the market. I would like to add that there are turntable companies out there with a much better customer oriented approach.
The TW Raven, VPI HR-X will all crush the Linn at that price. The upgrade seems like an utter waste of money; and I have an LP12 with Ekos, etc. Yes, the table can be made to sound better, but it has fundamental design flaws that the other tables have overcome a long time ago. Instead of redesigning the table from scratch, which is what it should have done, Linn has come up with a bunch of retroactive changes that are exorbitantly priced.
Some good points you make Newmanoc about tone arms and cartridges. I too posses an Akiva and find it to be so revealing. It does everything well and is a very quiet (surface noise/groove) rider. Actually Scan-Tech makes both Lyra and the Akiva but, not to knit pick. I've always wondered if the Graham 2.0 or 2.2 would be a good match for the venerable Sondek, it seems light enough. Does anyone have some experience with that? A Graham is somewhat hard to find used but not impossible and you get VTA on the fly with replaceable arm tubes so one could run a mono cartridge as well for quieter, more appropriate play for all the old and reissue vinyl out there. Pricing is just beyond the Ekos II (used) from what Ive seen and if the tonearm mounting collar ID in the keel is larger than the shaft OD of the Graham by enough it is very likely one could machine a custom bushing to retrofit the two into a sound, stable marriage. Ill have to do some rooting around and take measurements. In the end I'm torn with whether to buy a second table, Lp12 or not, or go with the Keel. All three ideas have their merit and had Linn priced today's upgrades as in the past (very affordable) I wouldn't even be looking at these other scenarios so carefully. I really want a second table eventually. Just ruminating out loud. How about tartan felt mats as Art Dudley suggested? and a dee dram of Scotch. :^)
Happy (analog) Listening!