Linn Sondek LP12 impressions

Hello I was wondering if anyone still uses these old designed turntables?

I know its totally not vogue since its a belt drive and all the rage DD and Idler have taken over as "the reference"

I no longer run a Linn LP12, but I respect the brand and its longevity and feel no need to disparage their users or the name.
It never was a Reference. That is based on Marketing only, a brilliant concept. The table itself is mediocre in sound stability and wrong in reproduction (that was the birth of PRaT, another marketing legend was born). A simple midrange pusher.
" I was wondering if anyone still uses these old designed turntables?"

There are many dedicated LP12 users even today and also many Linn specialists who rebuild and upgrade them. I happen to like the Linn house sound, but yeah it's an old design and needs TLC to maintain them.
Just pop into PFM with the same question and you'll get an earful of Linn (and most likely a knuckle sandwich to boot).

The LP12 dead or dying? I think not! :)
There is so much written on the pros and cons of the Linn that you could spend the next 5 years reading about it. It is without a doubt one of the most polarizing discussions in audio. That said, IMO a used LP12 with an Ittok or Ekos arm is an excellent buy, provided you have a good setup person.
The sound can be very good, or not so good depending on the setup. The problem is that if you get someone who really can set up your Linn, by the time you get it home, it's out of adjustment. I had the official Linn manual which explains the adjustment procedure, but don't know what I did with it. It really needs constant tweeking to keep its setup.
I have to disagree about the constant tweaking thing. I thought that too before I owned one. Once set up properly, it should maintain it's alignment for years and it shouldn't need anything until you change the cartridge. Even then, it's probably only a matter of minor adjustments. But I do agree you need a very good setup person.

Of course, if you're the kind of person that will live in the state of constant grief, worrying that the table needs tweaking, you're probably better off with a different table.
I still like my Linn Axis from 1987.
I had always enjoyed my LP12 for almost 20 years. Nothing else did it for me until I heard the AVID turntables. I have a Volvere Sequel now. AVID have the ability to give you midrange depth of a suspended TT and also have the pace, timing, and frequency range of a non-suspended table.
The Linn LP12 has gone through many variations. The latest is the LP12 SE version with the Keel sub chassis, the Radikal Dynamik power supply and the Ekos SE tonearm with the Kandid cartridge. Whether the TT competes with the current crop of SOTA TT's is another question. I brought this question up to the Linn forum and was quickly flamed to death...:0(
However, IMO, it is a valid question, particularly as the top end LP12SE is now priced at or above the competition. IMHO, the arm mount and the inflexibility of arm choices is a MAJOR detriment to an otherwise still great design.
Nice thing about Linn Axis is its easy to setup right, is said to have Sondek-like sound and can be had used these days still for a pittance compared to modern SOTA table. And I still find the sound and performance hard to fault, and I've heard a lot of different vinyl rigs over the years.
I've owned mine for 23 yrs without a problem and it sounds wonderful!
Mapman, a Linn dealer told me the reason the Axis was discontinued some years back was because it's sound was too close to the Sondek LP12 at a fraction of the cost. I guess they couldn't have their budget table competing with their top of the line.

Maybe. Would not surprise me.

Axis is easier to setup which would appeal to more people than LP 12, which is more for the enthusiast. Proper setup is 80% or more of the game when it comes to good vinyl sound. In hindsight, if I were Linn I would have kept both to keep market share, but back then most people were dumping tables for CDs for better or for worse, and Linn seemed more interested in going "high end" for higher profit margins.

Maybe the Axis should be resurrected to help Linn plug into the relative vinyl renaissance these days compared to the 80s when vinyl was dying?

Axis may be the best audio investment I ever made. I bought it when I saw vinyl was dying (and turntables becoming rarer and prices skyrocketing accordingly) so as not to have to replace all my records with CDs and its still going strong with never a down day (knock on wood...). Has saved me a lot of money and enabled me to broaden my library by not having to rebuy old stuff I already had on vinyl (which sounded great already) and focus more on adding new stuff both on vinyl or CD/digital as I please.

Having said all that, when my Axis dies someday, I will have to replace it, and would have no qualms replacing it with another newer Linn, maybe even a newer Axis if the price is right. Ive finally got the current phono system (Axis, Basik tonearm , Denon DL103R cart, step up and phono pre-amps) dialed in just right. It took a lot of time and effort to get it that way and any change is likely to upset the apple cart, FBOFW.

For those more open to change in this area and willing to pay, there are many choices out there nowadays besides Linn, though that is certainly an old familiar favorite for many, and with turntables especially, familiarity matters because there is so much that can go into getting any good phono system (which is a lot more than just the turntable) working just right, even if its the best table since sliced bread on paper.
Real good stuff...Has anyone in the group done some AB comparo's?

Personally really liked my Linn lp12 type and like turntables...very surprising to say the least.... this is my kinda Lp turner :)

If you can get it setup properly by an experienced tech, they are the best value out there. That's a big if though. I tried setting mine up for years and never was happy but when Brooks Berdan (sadly deceased) finally went through it for me, I was blown away by the difference. When Brooks passed away, I sold my LP12. I'm happy with my Well Tempered Simplex, which I finally settled on after demoing a lot of table. There are things my LP12 did well that even $5k turntable arm combos couldn't do. I miss it.
Served me well for decades. Valhalla/Ittok. But doing direct comparison with my 401, it is definitely colored. I find it adds a veiled dull orange to the midband and upper bass. Still, it's pretty musical.
Hi Noromance....funny how you can pick up coloration as colors esp in music as colors ...I wish more people talked like this

Mine does not sound like this but maybe mine is not setup perfectly to hear this "orange color"

Let's face it. Any turntable that has so many upgrade kits must be exceedingly popular or why try to cash in?

There are a lot of urban myths about the LP12. One is that it needs constant tweaking and regular maintenance. Sure, anytime you return to the dealer for the latest sub-chassis, he will automatically throw away the old springs and drive belt as a matter of procedure but that doesn't mean they're worn out.
When I finally sold my LP12 it had been nearly 18 years since the last service/upgrade but it didn't miss a beat(in its entire lifetime). The springs had settled just a whisker but the chassis was still level and the "bounce" was still correct.
At more than quarter of a century old it then started its new life in someone else's service....and without even having to re-lube the bearing.

The Linn is a music making machine that defies any attempt to quantify it. In an idealist's eyes it may not be perfect but you will neither care nor notice after the music starts.
For many it can be highly addictive. Any turntable that makes you want to play music endlessly must be doing something right.
Bravo, Moonglum! Well said.

Any turntable that has so many upgrade kits must be exceedingly popular or why try to cash in?

Among the countless "upgrades" here is the

Ultimate LP12 Tuning
"The Linn is a music making machine"

Yup, that's the essence of its popularity I would say. Certainly more so than any other table I have ever owned over the years. Whatever its faults may be (what are those exactly again?) its a winner for sure.
I really enjoy my LP12. It took a while for me to take the plunge and spend $600 on an Origin Live DC motor upgrade. That upgrade made a considerable difference. It was an immediate "Why did I ever wait sooo long to do this?" I have never heard the Lingo so I can't make a comparison, but the Origin Live is worth every cent. I believe the upgrade is now less expensive.
I've enjoyed my LP12 now for 15 years. It's fitted with a Lingo, Ekos, Arkiv B. not the latest specs but that's ok, cause it makes music. I've had it tuned up 2x since buying it. I dont know that DD is all the rage, as still, most tables seem to be belt driven.

If something works for me I tend to keep it a long time. A number of pieces in my system are 10 years or more old. Ok, not SOTA, but not the investment of a decent car either.
Ha Lawrence, you should hear the colors when I'm rolling tubes! I swear I can hear the color of the plates! I thought that's what "colored" meant.
The LP12 is a helluva turntable, my bud still has one. I have the Garrard 401. I've had for years. It's still in mediocre working condition and could use an upgrade and plinths. Needless to say it doesn't get the much attention as it should. One day that's a work in progress no doubt.
I thought I would 'bump' this thread. I upgraded my LP12 with a new Radikal D and Kore Subchassis along with the new Cirkus bearing/ springs and grommets.
The improvements in SQ are NOT small. The jump in resolution, freq extension at both ends of the spectrum, inner groove silence and overall ease of presentation is easily heard. I do believe that the current LP12 with Radikal D is still at the forefront of LP reproduction.

Did you do the motor and sub chassis at the same time?

I'm curious about your impressions of the sub chassis
So Daveyf - how much would you say you put into the Linn at this point total?
Zavato, I did the motor and sub chassis at the same time. Therefore, I cannot say which made the biggest diff...although I'm pretty sure it was the Radikal D.
The sub chassis is nonetheless a great option to my old 80's sub chassis.
Chayro, cannot tell you exactly how much....BUT it wasn't cheap, although like everything in this crazy hobby, i guess it's all relative! The SQ has truly leapt to another plane...amazingly so!
Owned one for many years, great table in its own way. Sondek LP12/Ekos/Lingo/Linto/Akiva. Fuzzy to set up and maintain. Overall great sound but falling behind with outdated technology and steep price. Got tired of adjusting the springs every time I swapped carts. My personal opinion and not trying to persuade others otherwise.
Kiko65, the words "fuzzy to set up and maintain" would indicate to me that your LP12 was never properly set up in the first place. I have said before, and contrary to popular myth, the LP12 is NOT prone to drift out of set up and is actually pretty easy to maintain. That is assuming the set up is done right the first time.
I also think that one needs to adjust the set up on ANY table every time you change cartridge. The tonearm parameters will always need to be adjusted and the TT checked.
As to outdated technology, well one could say that about all TT's too! I don't happen to think that a DC motor control/drive and a belt drive are 'outdated'- I guess YMMV.
Properly setting up, Linn certainly can keep up with the current competition in its price range, I think. However, setup is really important and it is much more finicky and sensitive than VPI or TW Acoustic that I own. However, I have a good friend who is love Linn and tweak it to death. He also helped set up several Linns in my other friends' systems and they all sound great. Certainly have no problem playing hard rock, pop, orchestral, vocal or pretty much any kind of music you throw at it. I rather like it, not well enough to replace my TW or VPI DD but certainly I don't think it is an underacheiver in its price range. The biggest weakness it has is that it does not look like it should cost this much. I am not sure if there is any other turntable above $10,000 that look cheaper than Linn.
Suteetat,your observation about the looks of the LP12 is interesting. In some ways I have to agree, although the looks of any TT is highly subjective, IMHO.
Some people would say the new VPI Classic Direct doesn't look like it should cost anywhere near $30K.Others would say the Continuum Caliburn looks like a million $$$ ...hmmm don't want to give them any ideas, LOL.
Glad you are enjoying your upgraded LP12 Daveyf. I'm pretty sure that the improvements are not subtle. As I said, nothig wrong with the Sondek just extremely expensive IMHO and, like any other suspended TT, finicky and sensitive as descibed by Suteetat. I prefer the simplicity of the RP10 for a fraction of the cost. Again, just a matter of preference.
Daveyf, you are right, I supposed VPI DD also does not look as impressive as most other $30,000 tables either :)
I've owned my 25 year anniversary LP12 for almost 17 years. Originally it had the shoe box Lingo power supply, Cirkus bearing, and Ekos arm. Two years ago I upgraded it to the Radikal power supply, Ekos SE arm, Keel sub chassis and Akiva MC cartridge (Kandid wasn't out yet). Expensive, yes, but I'm extremely happy with the improved sound. Most that say the LP12 is dated haven't heard a fully updated one with the Radikal power supply, updated chassis and arm.
Linn has been a reference standard for years. Not that it is the best but most serious vinyl enthusiasts have heard one and can benchmark other tables against it. I had Axis and LP12 Valhalla and actually preferred the cheaper table. It was tidier cleaner and had less wooly bass, something the higher Linns also do better. I also liked the Linn Basik which was a great budget table.

LP12 can be be good or bad. Bad ones, even after being set up properly go off after a year or so. Mine was like that. I now use a Clearaudio.

That said, a well set up Linn Lp12 sounds great. Buy a nice used one. If you like it great. If not you can sell it at little to no loss.
"I had Axis and LP12 Valhalla and actually preferred the cheaper table. It was tidier cleaner and had less wooly bass, something the higher Linns also do better. I also liked the Linn Basik"

Agree about the Axis v. Valhalla. I preferred the Rega Planar 3 over the Basik.

I eventually bought a Planar 3 and kept that for I think 7 years. Sold it and bought an LP 12 with the Basik power supply. I was somewhat disappointed as in my system (at the time) the LP12 Basik was not a whole lot different from the Planar 3 (I was using a Rega arm on the LP12).

Within 2 years I had a Lingo installed and was really surprised how much of an improvement that was. That set me down the course towards upping my LP12 game. Eventually added an Ekos with a Troika. I know the Troika has a glowing reputation, but I just didn't care for it. Sold that (at almost 2x what I paid!) and bought a demo Arkiv B which I continue to enjoy.

Right now, the oldest piece of gear in my system is my LP12 at 16 years young! The Lingo is 14 years old.

My LP12 has never given me a lick of trouble. In these intervening years I've had CD players, tuners, amps, preamps, and a DAC repaired. But never the Lp12 (or my speakers-also 14 years old).
Banerjba, your comment that a LP12 can sound good or bad; Bad ones, even
after being set up properly go off after a year or so, makes absolutely no sense!
What would make a good LP12 vs a Bad LP12?
I guess I own a "good" LP12, as my TT does NOT go "off"
after a year or so, LOL.
Plus,IMHO, anyone that owned an LP12 and thought it was NOT better than an
Axis was either a) hearing a VERY poorly set up LP12 or b) hearing other
distortions up the line that were hiding the LP12's ability and playing to the
Axis's distortions or c) both. Again IMHO, whenever I have heard an Axis and
compared it to even an entry level LP12, the SQ increase with the LP12 was easy
to hear!
DaveyF. Early Linns were notiorious for going out of tune, not only in the UK but also here in Canada. Remember the basic design was not terribly well built. Lightweight wooden frame. Not terribly well braced. The Axis was a clean sheet design and for my all Linn system sounded tidier and cleaner. The LP12 was better in terms of resolution and ofcourse had a wider soundstage. But I have owned a lot of tables from Rega, Clearaudio, Pro-Ject, Technics, Thorens, Revolver and others so I know what kind of sound I like. I had my LP12 for 17 years.

I left the Linn school and prefer my subsequent B&W, McIntosh and Clearaudio set up.

As others bring up, a blown LP12 is a different animal that old 1989 vintage Lp12 I owned. I enjoyed mine but there are other excellent tables now as well.

It's pretty hard to lose with an LP12. If you like it, you have a table for life. If you don't, you can easily sell it.
I really admire your passion for the LP12. That said, not every audiophile enthusiast has $20,000.00+ to spare on a fully upgraded Sondek. I have to agree with Banerjba; my early LP12 was notorious for going out of tune. Maybe the experts at Precision Audio didn't know how to set it up properly (I would like to think they did after spending all that money).

The LP12 was a revelation in my early days! Ivor Tiefenbrun's philosophy made me a believer; the source being the most important component in the audio chain.

The Sondek LP12 itself may well be the most significant turntable of all times. However, and IMHO, many other TT manufacturers have caught up with the Sondek's strengths for less money.

Still a contender? Absolutely! The cream of the crop? Not in my book.

Let's be honest, the $4,200.00 Sondek Majik LP12 now has to compete with the likes of Townshend Rock 7 ($3,500.00), Well Tempered Amadeus ($2,800.00), Acoustic Signature Wow XL ($2,300.00 w/out arm), Clearaudio Performance ($3,000.00), VPI Classic 1 ($3,000.00), just to name a few.

A fully upgraded LP12 may be in another league, but an entry level or outdated LP12 face many outstanding competitors.

Just my honest opinion.
Kiko65, I do have a passion for the LP12. Here's one of the reasons upgrade path. Looking at your examples above, not one can be upgraded, except for the LP12!! While some may like the Classic 1 more than the Majik LP12, there is nowhere to go with the Classic 1 to upgrade- except onto A'gon, LOL.
I don't know how old your and Banerjba's original LP12 was...but my first late 80's era model never went out of tune, that is once it was set up correctly.
I have to disagree with you on this one Daveyf. Let's take the Rock 7 for example:

The TT in itself is an engineering marvel of the modern audiophile world at an extremely affordable price ($3200.00).

I don't own one so there is no bias here. That said, I am fortunate to be close friends with Larry Weinstein who owns Hollywood Sound (Hollywood, FL) where we spend coutless hours listening to different analog set-up configurations.

Like the Sondek, the Rock 7 is a TT suspended by springs that incorporates a unique approach to arm-damping, involving viscous damping at the front end of the arm, right next to the cartridge, using a damping trough.

The trough-damping gives a solidity to the sound that one seldom otherwise encounters in vinyl playback. Best part, the front-end damping can be added to any arm (the “paddle” is attached via the cartridge mounting screws, so any tonearm can be used on the Rock 7).

The upgradealbe path?
Tonearm of your liking, cartridge of your liking, power supply of your liking, phono pre of your liking, etc.

Extremely finicky to set up properly. Once set up correctly (like the LP12) nothing short of sublime!

By the way, the same upgradeable principle could be applied to some of the other tables I mentioned before.

I can honestly tell you that, to my ears, no other table has sounded better than the Rock 7/Lyra Etna combo driven by top of the line Rogue Audio (HeraII/Apollo/Ares).

I'm sure that the LP12 with a much better arm than the carbon cc9 (not a big fan of Pro-ject at all) and a better cart than the Adikt (entry level cart) will definitely compete with many other tables out there that share the same price tag.

I'm just enjoying the simplicity and musicality of my set up and that's what this hobby should be all about; being happy with what you have and not worrying about what other people own.

In the end there is no right or wrong, just a matter of preference DaveyF.

Happy listening!

Kiko65, I don't think any of the TT's you mention give one the option of starting with the cheaper basic design and then changing out parts to optimize the sound. Your example of the Rock 7 certainly doesn't! The Rock 7 has a fixed motor and chassis, no upgrade path there, power supply...what power supply?, what you get and so on. The LP12 allows all of these options to be changed out ( and improved upon) as funds allow. To say one can change cartridge and arm and phono pre is missing the point. The BASIC TT remains the same in your example!!! Not so with the LP12! Anyway, YMMV.
I guess we are both missing the point DaveyF.

In many cases "BASIC TTs" don't require chasis/motor changes nor extremely expensive "upgrades" because they are simply good enough to compete with the best of the best.

Your point, start with an entry level LP12 and build all the way up as funds allow by changing parts to optimize sound. We can both agree that this is a very expensive upgradeable path; from $4,200.00 to $20,000.00+

My point, start with something more substantial than an already quite expensive entry level turntable like the Majik LP12 and optimize sound by changing ancillary equipment such as tonearm, cart, external power supply, etc.

Not many manufacturers offer an upgradeable path like Linn. However, they do offer different models with noticeable cost effective improvements moving up the line.

Rega for example:
Compare the entry level RP3 to the top of the line RP10. Similar in many ways but EVERY component is vastly improved moving up the line; upgraded plinth, sub-platter, platter, feet, pulley, belt, power supply, tonearm, etc.
From $895.00 to $5,995.00

Don't get me wrong Daveyf, I have always praised the Sondek LP12 because it is a darn good turntable. Still considered one of the top turntables by many audiophiles. Ranked Stereophile Class A analog component.

What I cannot do is justify spending $20,000.00+ on a Sondek LP12 when I could buy a state of the art turntable for a fraction of the cost.

Anyway YMMV.
There are tables such as Clearaudio, Brinkmann and AMG that would get my money before a blown LP12 but that is just a personal preference. I own a Clearaudio and am equally impressed with the other German tables. If you go British and suspended, I prefer the AVIDs.

Magazines in the UK during the 1980s were embarrassing in falling over themselves to anoint Rega and Linn as the only two worthy tables to the point that a lot of very good designs went away. Magazines are not as afraid to call out weakness of products today.

More recent reviews of the LP12 seem to be polite rather than truly enthusiastic. Revered more as a surviving design that is respected but not truly representative the best that can be had from a modern turntable though certainly competitive as one flavor of high end.

Linn did themselves a disservice by not bringing out a more modern turntable with a clean sheet design like their competitors.

BTW the Linn Majik package is actually quite nice but it failed one of my critical tests. I have an LP that everyone of my 12 turntables can play. It has a small pressing defect that would always skip on my old LP12. I took it to my local Linn dealer and it skipped on the Majik but not on the fully blown LP12 . So I need to spend $20k on a Linn to play a record that my $350 Pro-Ject Debut can easily play. And BTW the Majik even had a Pro-ject arm.

Sorry, just having a little fun but it was one of the things that bothered me about my Linn. It would not play certain records that my other tables would. That's not good enough in my book. Not for Rolex money for a base model.
Kiko65, I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Where can you buy a SOTA TT that is a 'fraction' of the cost of the LP12 and that is better than the top grade LP12?....I don't know of any such TT. IMHO, the Rega's are not in the same league as a top flight LP12...ANY Rega. I recently 'AB'ed my LP12 Radikal against a friend's new Palmer, I can tell you the LP12 in my system was far more to my liking. Like I said before, YMMV.
But I agree with you Daveyf.

I trully believe that a fully upgraded Klimax LP12 is in another league facing very few competitors.

I'm a huge fan of Rega (simplicity/cost effective/musicality) but I also have to agree with you that the top of the line RP10 is not in the same league as a top flight Klimax LP12. That said, it comes really close to the Akurate LP12 at half the price.

Get my point? If your idea is to keep the same TT for life then the entry level Majik LP12 (or any used Sondek LP12 in pristine condition) makes sense because of its upgradeable path as funds allow.

However, if your idea is to go with something great but more affordable, then there are many options out there; Sota, VPI, Acostic Signature, Rega, Clearaudio, Thoresns, Townshend, just to name a few.

You also hit the nail when you expressed that the LP12 was more "to your liking" when compared to the Palmer. You mentioned you got "burned" at the Linn vs Sota blog, correct? It's hard to persuade others to agree with your own opinions.

That's exactly the beauty of this hobby. Put together a nice system that will satisfy your ears based on your budget. Heck, my entire analog system falls under $15,000.00 and I'm pretty sure that many analog lovers are on the same boat.

In the end Daveyf, there is no right or wrong, just a matter of preference.

I can honestly tell you that, to my ears, my current fully tweaked Rega/DV P-75/Delos driven by Rogue Audio sounds far more to my liking that my late Linn LP12/Lingo/Linto driven by Linn.

The thread started with the following question "I was wondering if someone still uses this old designed turntables" Obviously the answer is "YES", many people still love this old design. But there is no doubt in my mind that many analog lovers (including me) would prefer to spend $2k-$4k on a newly designed TT instead.

No hard feelings, just my opinion.
Banerjba, since when is the table tracking the record, LAST TIME I LOOKED-- IT
WAS THE CARTRIDGE/STYLUS/TONEARM! do tell us what cartridges were being
used at the time of your demo.