Linn sondek vs sme

I recently read a thread actually comparing a Linn sondek to SME and many saying that the Linn "outperformed" an SME.  Really?.  Are some people on LSD or is this a fair comparison as I am looking to upgrade in the near future and was planning on listening to SME.  I never thought they were in the same league.  I have been told that my modest scout beats the sondek.  How can that be true?  The thing is I have no dealers for either locally.  Only VPI and project.  I think I want to movin a different  direction than VPI.
The answer to your question depends on which model of SME and which version of the Linn.
The top flite LP12 Radikal D Klimax SE is at least as competitive as any SME that I have heard, and I have heard them all. ( Personally I prefer it to even the SME 30/12...but that's IMHO) The entry level MagiK LP12 will be on a par with the lower level SME's ( like the model 10 and 15)...but not really with the likes of the top level SME 30/12 or 20/12. 
If you think your Scout beats any current model LP12, well I suggest another listen, LOL.
I have never heard a Linn.  That is what the local HiFi shop told me years ago
  I recently purchased an Sme 20/2 with an SME IV.Vi arm and like it much more than the LP-12 it replaced.  Back in May I had a new Akito, Cirkus, and Trampolin put on it.  It also was running with an Origin Live DC Drive.  

Many people think the Linn sounds better to them, and they’re probably right.  We all hear differently and my joy may be the next guys disgust.  I wish my audio nirvana was a close and play.

Now that I think about it, the fellow who's buying my Linn said his father had an SME 20/2 with the SME V arm and got rid of it because he liked jazz recordings more when he had the LP-12, so now he's happy again with his Linn.
This is interesting,  
The hardcore Linn Sondek enthusiast (not to mention dealer!) is talking about a different thing than non-Linn turntable owners/users/dealers when speaking of a table's quality. Linn's whole rational and priority is in how a table "plays the tune", considering how it presents PRAT (pace, rhythm, and timing) the main criteria in the determination of a table's ability to reproducing music, rather than mere sound. Other table brands are often described first and foremost in terms of their tonal balance, bass extension and tightness, high frequency clarity, inner detail, etc. A table CAN excel in both PRAT and purely sonic regards, of course. 
I guess I'm not much of a 'Linnie'! I have no interest in the term PRAT or for that matter 'playing the tune;. To me, the table needs to reproduce what's on the record as close to the sound of 'real' live instruments playing in an acoustic space as possible. As to playback, I think the sound of the master tape is typically as good as one can get, or expect....IF my table is getting close to that sound, I am pretty happy. 
BTW, I think abucktwoeighty would have been very well served by updating his LP12, but not with the Akito and OL DC drive..The Radikal D and Ekos SE, or the new AMG 9 arm, would have been my choice.
How important is the Keel in the order of upgrade ?
How do linns play old records?  The scout can play new reissues decent but struggles with the tracking on older records
Was the comparison made by Pete Townsend? 
  daveyf, at that time I didn't want to put that much money into the table.  I spent more than I wanted to with the upgrades made.  The upgrades you suggest come to roughly $7200, so I would hope one would be very well served.
abuckteoeighty, that’s fair enough. But, you spent probably more than that on the SME and then you went on to state how you like it better than your old "updated" Linn. Of course you do, but it’s not a fair comparison....No??

tzh21y, tables don’t have a tracking ability, the cart/arm compliance and ability is what confers tracking/tracing ability. Unless we are talking about a severely warped or groove damaged record, the age of the record should have no impact on the tracking/tracing

Pani, the Keel is after the Radikal and before the arm. Although, I am perfectly happy with the Kore.
daveyf, I bought the SME used for less than the amount of the upgrades I put in the Linn.  I also noticed my bad math, and the cost of your suggested upgrades is $9200, not $7200.

You're one of the biggest Linn defenders on this site, so I'm guessing you know what you're talking about when it comes to the high priced Linns with the top of the line parts.  I have never heard one and surely would.
I am going to audition a Linn sondek on Monday.  I still would like to hear an SME.  I watched a couple of videos on YouTube of the SME 20 and I have never heard a piano sound like that.  The attack and decay is incredible, amazing actually.  I know I heard it through my laptop but that makes it all the more incredible IMHO.
..just wondering why you want to move from VPI.  To Me they make some of the best turntables in the industry, have the best customer support, have the best trade in value, etc.
I see many, many VPI enthusiasts, but for some reason I can't put my finger on, I'm not drawn to these products.  I've looked into them but can't figure out why they don't appeal. 
The reason is that I feel VPI does not have the pivoted arm mastered.  I do not like the arm.  Maybe this arm with a much lesser cartridge would be fine like an ortofon red or black.   I cannot put a different arm on my table.  I listened to the prime and I did not like the arm at all.  My friend has a mission 774 with a 774sm arm that just blows any VPI table I have ever heard away big time.  That table is over 30 years old.  I cannot find one of these tables used and I have been looking for years.  I have only seen that arm for sale once ever.  Must be rare to say the least. VPI should allow for an different arms to be used with their tables
tzh21y, when you go and listen to the LP12, do try and listen to at least a Akurate level deck with the Lingo 3 power supply. Better still, one with the current Radikal D power supply. 

tzh21y - Nothing wrong with the VPI arms.  It's users that claim there is a problem because they don't know how to use the VPI pivoted arm.  Or you can just invest in a Jelco SA-750 (name your length) and have a good-working pivoted arm that will far outperform any Linn arm.
Well, that may be,  if they are that difficult and fussy, then it is not worth it.  I actually had my table sent out and professionally set up and when I received it, it was not right and I had to reset it up again.  That would mean that all the VPI tables I have heard have never been set up correctly.  Geez. It will be interesting to hear the linn. Maybe I just need an SDS?
Comparing turntables can be really difficult. If one really wants to compare turntables, one needs to mount the same tonearm and cartridge on both turntables one intends to compare - and hope that there is not sample-to-sample variation between the tonearms and cartridges. Of course, some turntables like the Linn don't work well with some heavy arms like the SME IV and SME V, tonearms made to work especially well with SME tables.

Perhaps easier to accomplish is a comparison of turntable and tonearm combinations against one another by using only the same cartridge, again hoping against too much sample-to-sample cartridge variation.

And any of these comparisons depends upon each turntable having been competently set up, including not just suspension, VTF, VTA, anti-skate and overhang but placement on a rack or platform suitable to the turntable. Linns tend to perform best on light but rigid platforms while other beefier turntables like the SME perform better on beefier supports. 

I do not live near a dealer who has the inventory, time and expertise necessary to facilitate these comparisons. I do not believe that many dealers have set themselves up in a way both to facilitate these comparisons and remain in business. That leaves knuckleheads like us to either perform these comparisons on our own or to rely upon distant but knowledgeable dealers or other experienced audiophiles who can guide us based upon decades of experience with turntables - and probably plenty of the cold shoulder from their wives. 

There remain a few really experienced dealers and a host of audiophiles who persist as arch Linn LP12 partisans, some of whom have performed comparisons under competently controlled conditions, i.e. turntables set up well with the same arms and or cartridges with good platforms beneath the tables. Those marching in the LP12 ranks have some credibility. They tend to be older, more experienced audiophiles. Some of the partisan Linn dealers sell competing turntable brands at higher prices than Linns if their customers reject a suspended subchassis turntable like an LP12. 

For my part, I have compared my own LP12/Cirkus/Kore/Lingo 3/RB300/Koetsu Urushi Vermillion with my Spiral Groove SG1.1/Triplanar VII iii/Koetsu Urushi Vermillion. The Linn lost in this comparison on a number of fronts - noise, bass weight and dynamics, midrange realism, etc. - but lost by little enough that I have been encouraged to further upgrade my LP12 to a Radikal/Keel/Ekos SE version on which to hang my beloved Koetsu. We will see how that comes out but I believe that, based on how the Linn narrowed the gap with a much more expensive table in the SG1.1 when I upgraded my LP12 with the Cirkus, Kore and Lingo 3, further upgrades would push my LP12 beyond the SG1.1. We shall see. 

Meanwhile, if you really like your SME or your Linn, God bless you in this holiday season. Both are terrific turntables when set up well and neither brand has a monopoly; there are other great turntables out there including VPI. And either the SME or Linn may really be better than the other in some objective, scientific, repeatable experiment. I suggest that such an experiment is likely to occur only in a world free of audiophiles who each have their own preferences and prejudices. That will be a world in which everyone completely optimizes the set up of his or her turntable, a world without floors that transmit vibrations to turntables, a world with phono preamps featuring entirely flat RIAA responses and optimized input impedances, a world with speakers that are highly efficient and offer a totally flat frequency response. Until any of us arrive in such an ethereal destination, I suggest loving the turntable you have, whether SME, Linn or another; it is probably really good and not crappy. Maybe just check to be sure that it remains set up well and be glad that there are still a few of us interested in competent vinyl reproduction.

Interesting thread. I would not substitute an opinion of a dealer who doesn't sell Linn for an actual audition. 

Am am I biased? Sure, I have and love my LP12. It's far from a bare bones entry level table but it's not top deck either. And it does the whole musical thing very well. Is it a detail master? Thankfully not. 

Is is it noisy! No more so than the record I'm playing. So there you go- go listen, and truly, I have no clue how listening to a record player via a you tube video can be instructive. 

If I were starting over, I would consider an SME 15 as well as a VPI Prime, in addition to the LP12. The Prime impressed me a great deal btw. 

Enjoy the music! 
Speaking of YouTube,  I just saw a couple of lp12s that seemed to sound amazing.  I know it is YouTube but I am pretty excited about listening tomorrow.
Excellent post, casaross. Only thing that I would comment on is the the RB300 arm is not in the league of the Triplanar V11iii. One of the only drawbacks to the Linn, IMHO, is the fact that one is so very limited to which arm you can mount on it ( at present). The Ekos SE, while good, really isn't in the same league as the Triplanar either. I think that the basic design of the Ekos- and frankly the Naim Aro also, has long been surpassed. Note to Linn...PLEASE bing out an arm that will work on the table and yet can compete with some of the higher end designs of today. ( Like the aforementioned Triplanar, or the new Graham's--having the ability to adjust VTA on the fly and azimuth would be a great start)---and NO the Ekos SE isn't it! The basic platform deserves this, IMO.
Hi daveyf. I agree with you regarding tone arms. The LP12 suspension limits the tone arm selection and the RB300 is not in the league of a Triplanar; provided, however, that the RB300 is really, really good for the money. 

I am sure that Linn would love to produce an arm that is even better than the Ekos SE but who can tell when that may occur? And I am sure that Linn will have concerns with the mechanical integrity and rigidity of any arm that provides for adjustable VTA and azimuth. They have the resources to try and to test such designs so we will hope that they may succeed.
I have been able to discern differences in turntables on Youtube-at least those differences I'm interested in.  I'm not really listening for the sound, but the overall ability to convey the song to me.  I would listen to Pasinee for the LP12 SE, but be careful, as, at least on his channel, at times he used a Khan instead of Linn's top-plate.  The LP12 SE uses Radikal, Keel, Ekos SE, and Akiva(or Kandid). 

Well,  I auditioned an lp 12 yesterday.  I was quite impressed and pleasantly surprised.  I did bring my Benz ref s.  It did not sound very good on the Linn.  It sounds far better on the scout.  However when the Linn klyde cartridge was installed it sounded great.  I guess my big concerns with this table are obviously setup for one.  If this expert ever left town, the closest one is in Cleveland.  Also,  how dependent is Linn synergy on Linn components.  Cartridges, arms, phonostage, etc.  I was listening to an all Linn system.
The table I listened to was an updated Iinn with the radical power supply and the ekos 1 tonearm.  I also believe after listening that I am really starting to have a problem with Benz.  It did not track well on the Linn, almost the same tracking distortion as on the scout.  We were listening to Linda Ronstadt and nelson riddle.  The benz/ekos combo could not handle the dynamic passages and Linda's voice distorted terribly although tracked perfect with the klyde.  The distortion was similar as on the VPI scout.  We looked at the Benz under the microscope and it did seem to be wearing evenly.  Not sure if this distortion is caused by resonance from the wood body.  
tzh21y, I am fairly certain that the problem is not with the Benz cartridge due to its design. The problem is simply because this particular cartridge is worn out...plain and simple. What you describe has to do with either a) the diamond is worn out, or more likely b) the suspension components have worn out.
Time to replace the cartridge and stop ruining your records.
BTW, I also use a Benz on my LP12..a Ruby 2 and it has no problem with any of the things you describe. Still sounds amazing...although showing its age a tad compared to some of the hyper revealing cartridges of today.
I agree with daveyf, your cartridge is worn.  Had a Grado Ref Sonata that did the same thing.  Sent it off for a re-tip and the problem is gone. 
Actually, the Benz only has about 350 hours on it.  I had similar problems on the Benz cartridge I had before this one so I have been marking the hours.  We looked under a microscope and the klyde cartridge actually had more wear on it.  It appeared as though the Benz was in fact wearing very evenly.  So I am concerned about Benz.  Not good.  It actually sounded distorted from the very beginning.  I was thinking it was the table arm combo, wrong.  Something else.  Not happy with Benz and I will not purchase another.
If you read the thread, this is the second expert I had set up this cartridge.
Like I said before, more than likely your cartridge has a failed suspension...due to age. Just because you have 'only' 350 hours on the diamond, doesn't mean that the suspension components are not worn out or dried up. Age of the cartridge does have something to do with performance IF the suspension has issues. How old is your Benz Ref s?? When you say it sounded distorted from the beginning, then I would question the set up and particularly the VTF...too high and you could have damaged the suspension over time.  (Never mind what it has done to your records....:0( ) 
A new cartridge is definitely in order, IMO.

The cartridge is only two years old.  Suspension is fine.  I have a 10 year old glider that tracks very well.  I have a demon 103 that tracks fine as well.  Like I said, it did this from day 1
I always thought it was my arm.  Well, now I know that is not the problem. 
Well, while the Linn is a very good table,  I am very impressed by the VPI scout.  For its modest price,  there is a lot of value for the price.  Best value for the money without question.  Very suprised