I just got a circa 1985 Linn Sondek LP12/Valhalla/Basik Plus table used on Audiogon for $800 including a Signet AM30 cartridge (which I'll likely replace). Although the deck could use a better arm, and doesn't have the early 1990s Cirkus bearing and underchassis (which some don't like anyway), it's a possiblity to find if you're patient...
I auditioned the rega 3, clearaudio champion, mmf-7 and the audio note tt1. The TT1 outperformed all of them by a wide margin and was not the most expensive in the group.
I picked up a used mint condition tt1 for $440. You may be able to find something similar. I would suggest a new Denon DL-103(is your pre MC capable?) and a used tonearm.
good luck and welcome to vinyl.
I agree with what SWKlein says above. A Linn LP12/Valhalla with a Basik Plus arm is in your price range and the best sounding set up for that amount of money. It will bury a Rega, MMT-7, or VPI Jr. The Audio Note mentioned above is a good table, and basically a re-make of the old Systemdek TT. But the Linn is still way above that. At $700, nothing is going to beat a Linn LP12. For a little more money, you could look at the Well Tempered Classic, which is LP12 competition.
Twl - could you provide a little more info on the Linn LP12 system. There are so many odd names around it. I understand that the LP12 is the table, and the Valhalla is an add-on power supply. But what options should I pursue vs. avoid? Is the Basic tonearm sufficient, or is the Basic plus a minimum? Are there other options that are red flags for avoiding, or is the combo you described the bottom of the line with anything else a superior upgrade? Thanks in advance for any intro you can provide to the Linn TT world!
Peter, in your price range you want to look for the LP12 with Valhalla. You can tell this by looking at the Power on/off switch at the front left of the TT. The older non-Valhalla models had a large red square pushbutton. The Valhalla changed that to a low profile black square button with a small red LED in it. That is the easy way to identify pre-Valhalla, and post-Valhalla. Virtually all Valhalla models were also upgraded with the Nirvana suspension kit, by the owners, and all Valhalla factory models had the Nirvana suspension kit in them. You don't have to worry about the Cirkus, and Lingo, and other such Linn stuff in your price range. I think the Valhalla is the ideal setup for the least money. All the other mods are somewhat controversial as to their effect.
The Basik and Basik plus tonearms are variations of the early lower cost Linn tonearms. I think the Basik had an "S" shaped chrome arm and a removeable headshell, and the Basik Plus had a black straight arm. They are well suited to medium weight and medium compliance
cartridges. A Goldring cartridge that fits your budget would do nicely.
Getting a Linn shipped to you is a complex matter. It must be disassembled and packed properly. Failure to know how to do this will result in damage. In any case the TT will have to be completely set up, as all settings will be lost from the disassembly or transit shaking. If you get one, you will need to post it, and ask for setup instructions. I will come to your rescue. I've done this for other members who have bought 2nd hand Linns by mail order shipping. If possible, buy one you can pick up in your car, and take home with you.
I have been satisfied with the music hall mmf5, though tempted to move up to a 7. I haven't heard most of the tables listed above. My understanding is Linn has its own style of sound that if it is for you, you will love it, but it is not for everyone. I notice you listed Proac speakers in your system. Did you get the Spica TC-60's and not like them? Just curious.
Thanks TWL and Paul. I'll keep my eyes open for a Linn table. I just got the Spica's in yesterday - puchased on a lark to experience good imaging. I have them 7 feet into the room based on the "golden rule" outlined on the Cardas site. The speakers definitely "dissappear" - I think due to the insulation on their front baffles. However, I think imaging is affected by reflections in the room. The ceiling is peaked up in the center, with three angled sides all pointing down toward the listening position. Tonally, my first impression is that these speakers sound a bit less "lively" than the Proacs, but I'm just starting to listen. More later and thanks for asking.
By the way Paul (or anyone else)... can you characterize the "Linn Sound" of the LP12? Thanks.
The Linn is a very musical table, and that is the best way to describe it. There isn't any one particular "audiophile" category that jumps out, with the exception of PRaT. It excels at PRaT. The resolution is very good, but not great. There is a slight warm "bloom" in the midbass, and the deep bass is not the best, but it's good. It is a very enjoyable TT to listen to, because you don't concern yourself with "audiophile neuroses", you just listen to the music and have fun. While it is not the "last word" in audiophile terms, it is a very nice TT and would be good enough to be a "final purchase" in TTs if you weren't obsessive about having the state-of-the-art. It was the best you could get, at one time, and many of the newer designers of audiophile TTs learned about TT design from studying the Linn. It probably had more impact on the future of turntables than any other TT made. Many people dislike Linn because of their "snooty" sales practices, and disparage the product because of that. I feel that is unfair, because the TT stands on its own merits as a good TT, regardless of the sales practices of its dealers. The attitude was rather like the Harley Davidson unofficial motto. "If you ain't got a Linn, you ain't got Sh*t." This offended alot of people.
Twl: Linn probably stole / modeled their motto after Stiff Records, which was a "punk" record label back in the 70's and early 80's. While they had MANY "amusing" motto's over the years, the one that i was thinking of went something like "If it ain't stiff, it ain't worth a ****". Beautiful, ain't it ??? : ) Sean
Here is some further info with regards to buying a used Linn. There are only 4 screws on the base to remove if one wanted to inspect things. Should you consider an LP12 from a distant seller, I would want a photo of the innards, so to speak. The primary concern is the Valhalla. Look closely at the Vahalla for evidence of heat. This is easy to identify since the mounting board will be discolored. I have a bad board and will be glad to forward a photo of what NOT to buy. By the way, the table would still perform but didn't sound right, having lost it's famous PRAT.
I always urge folks to do it right the first times since it's much cheaper in the long run. Bump up your investment a couple of hundred bucks and you can get an Ittok in the mix. This is a great arm and is well worth the extra $$.
As a Linn owner I can attest to the pleasure of owning one for well over 20 years. Yes, there are better tables BUT you would never have a COMPELLING reason to replace it. It is that good.
Are there any additional considerations when buying a "transcription" table instead of a "normal" LP12?
From what I've heard, all LP12's are called "Transcription" turntables. However, they only accept normal"length arms. Most "transcription" arms that I am aware of, are long arms, around 12 inches long. These will not go on an LP12. There are different meanings to the term "Transcription", that are applied to those using the term. All record players could be called "Transcription" TT's because the all "transcribe" the sound from the record. Some apply the term to mean a kind of "reference quality". Others use the term to indicate a large platter and/or long tonearm length. I know this doens't really clear things up all that much for you, but those are the references that I've heard for the term.
Can anyone offer advise regarding the difference between a Linn LP12 and an Aerostan LP12? Thanks, Peter
It's probably Aristan that you are refurring to and, if so, replacement parts are quite difficult to source.
Better off with a Linn, if that's the direction you are heading.