Linn Ittok vs. Rega RB-300

I've been using a Linn Ittok tonearm on my VPI HW-19 Mk II for about ten years. Prior to that I used a Rega RB-300. When I got the Ittok I put the Rega RB-300 in the drawer, thinking it was an inferior arm, and have not used it since. In the past few years, however, I have seen a lot of positive views on the RB-300 and not much on the Ittok. Question is, is the RB-300 really an inferior arm or is it in fact as good or better than the Ittok. This could be especially true given all the mods available for the RB-300. For those inquiring minds I'm currently using a Benz Glider but I haven't tried installing it on the RB-300 mainly because of time.
That's a tough call, and I'm not going to stick my neck out and pick one. They are both good arms. The Linn has some colorations, and the Rega is more neutral. The Linn has a higher quality of construction throughout, and is very articulate. It also has VTA adjustment. I do think that a modded RB300 would beat out an Ittok.
Haven't ever listened carefully to an Ittok. I'm using a modded RB300 on my LP12 Lingo, with a Cardas Heart Reference. The arm mods are: Cardas wiring, Expressimo Heavy Weight and Michell height adjuster; the stylus pressure spring has been removed and the arm is balanced statically. I am told it sounds better than an Ittok.
I think whether the Ittok sounds better than the RB300 will depend greatly on the deck they are being used on.

An RB300 used on an early LP12, for example, wasn't the best match, and this in this sense the Ittok could unquestionably sound better (read here, more lively, and hence 'preferable' to many listeners). The main problem claimed for the Rega in this set up concerned poor bass performance, it tending to sound muddy and ill defined. Of course, one might expect the Rega to lose out against the Ittok in this set-up, as this arm was specifically designed and developed to work on and with the LP12.

However, this is not the end of the story, because the the outcome of comparison between these arms turned out somewhat differently when the Rega was mounted on a Roksan Xerxes. In this configuration, the Rega easily competed with the LP12/Ittok. Indeed, and for many listeners (reviewers and enthusiasts alike), the Roksan/Rega rig outclassed the LP12/Ittok rig by a fair margin and it was not long before people (some of whome had been extreme Linnies for years) began leaving the Linn marque in their droves. The reason for the differences in results obtained between the decks, some argued, was that the Rega was simply showing up a weakness in the Linn's bass performance (well, it was argued, it works just fine on a Roksan!) Of course, and perhaps rather tellingly, not long afterwards Linn revised its bearing and the way it was attached to the subchassis with the Cirkus mod kit, which oddly had the effect of 'cleaning up the bass'). I leave you to draw your own conclusions here...

Let's also not forget either that the above 'early' comparisons were most often being made using Rega's with their bog standard arm wiring fitted (re-wiring and structural mods to the Rega were not common at this time). Thus, it is possible that a modded arm, fitted to a new spec'd Sondek, plus Origin Live mods might well slaughter the equivalent Ittok, and possibly more, depending on your tastes. Indeed, Tobias reports, albeit from second hand sources, that people have told him that his modded Rega sounds better than an Ittok!

The shear cheapness of the Rega in comparison to the superarms is also a massive disadvantage in terms of how dealer loyality can be split between the Rega and the manufactureres of expensive arms they stock, which broadly translates to biased selling and promotion of products. This is basically because dealers risk alienating the manufaturers of expensive arms. After all, if you were the manufacturer of an expensive super arm, would you feel comfortable having your product demmed against an arm that may cost hundreds of pounds less than yours, but may only compromise slightly on its performance (with fitted arm lead and normal counterweight)? I know what my answer would be, but does this help the enthusiast that only wants the best music they can afford?

Along the same lines, the profit argument is also especially significant: the Rega simply has less of profit margin as compared to the Linn arms, and so dealers cannot so easliy absorb the cost of demonstrations. Factor in that the Rega is so good to start with, and you can perhaps begin to appreciate why Linn would not encourage comparisons of the Ittok and Rega.

Taken together, I therefore feel that arriving at a definitive judgement as to the absolute merits of these 2 arms is very difficult to make. At the very least, arriving at such a judgement requires anyone interested having to make a fair comparisons between both the current spec'd and modded gear of each manufacturer.

I hope this helps!

Excellent analysis, Mark! This from a professional information analyst!

Many thanks for your vote of confidence, re the quality of my analysis. Out of interest, I am an engineering psychologist by profession, and so, perhaps, am used to engaging in detailed, often convoluted, analytical discussions on complex technical issues (usually about the operation of commercial nuclear reactors)!

One further note on the tone arm 'goodness' topic is that, even assuming that all manufacturers aim to develop an arm that least interferes with process of 'reading a record', the innevitable use of different materials, in unique combinations, will, by definition, directly impact on the performance of the whole unit in unique, and often in subtle, or, sometimes, not so subtle ways. Thus, all arms must, by definition, sound different from one another. Of course, the rub is whether, as individuals, we find one set of 'compromises' more acceptable/truthful, than those of another design (which, in turn, is a function of our individual sensitivity to various types of distortion of the musical signal).

The important point is that no manufacturer, no matter how much money they may spend on exotic materials and techniques, can ultimately defy the laws of physics. All design in this sense is, and must be, a compromise (which is something we all ought to bear in mind when in our persuit of excellence). The question is, how much of a compromise, and how much more are we willing to pay to minimise those behaviours that interefere least with the function of extracting information from a record, and/or irritate our musical sensibilities? For some, the depth of our pockets define the second aspect, but as the Rega RB300 shows, just because you may not be able to afford much, does not necessarily mean that the compromises have to be either large, or unacceptable. Indeed, the really clever thing about the RB300 is that it achieves such a good balance at a such a remarkably low cost!

Obviously, in discussing the above, we find ourselves sailing perilously close to the boundary of another, somewhat thornier issue, which is whether different is necessarily better. But that is another story! Anyone else care to comment, here?