LP 12 the Extreme Phono Way-First Impressions

Well..after weeks of e-mail discussions and sleepless nights, I took the plunge and submitted my LP12 for major surgery at the capable hand of Case Ng (Extreme Phono). My LP12 was a 2 year old table with Lingo and Ekos in great condition, but poorly set-up by a former Linn dealer who shall remain anonymous. The mods effected by Casey consisted of a carbon fiber/aluminum subshassis and armboard, a new silver phono cable of Casey's own design (more on this later), and tweaks to the suspensions (new rubber grommets are the only visible change). I also purchased a pristine second hand Arkiv B from Casey at the same time, which he installed on my table and tweaked for optimum VTA, tracking force, etc. Reproducing his settings was a snap since he provide accurate caliper measurements (accompanied by digital photos of how/where the measurements were taken) to accurately reproduce tonearm height and counterweight position. The patient stayed in residence for about 3 weeks, and returned in good spirits w/ no scars.

Although the cable is still burning in, it is time to post some first imressions after a listening session with four other Audiogoners. For reference, the table sits on a Neuance shelf atop a Phase 4 Mana rack. I listened first with rubber Bump On feet, then placed the table on Aurios MIB bearings (a major pain in the a....!). Phono preamp is the Linn Linto.

Well...there is no comparison. This is hands down the best music reproduction I've ever achieved at home. Every single aspect of the musical presentation improved in spades, solidly trouncing my revious analog set up and my Muse Model 9 signature. Soundstaging, air, bass articulation and depth, top to bottom tonal "integrity", retrieval of detail, micro and macro dynamics, and last (but not least) PRAT were all at a new plateau. What is utterly scary is that the tonearm cable is still a good 30 hours away from break-in..so this can only get better.

Casey's cable is EXTREMELY well constructed (finish is MUCH better than the Grahm IC-30 I owned briefly) with maniacal attention to detail. Like in the Hovland cables, Casey uses very low mass RCA's, though his are made entirely of silver. My only quibble is that my Linto's RCA jacks are a bit too short/thin to provide good ground contact..but this was easily remedied by tightening (slightly deforming) the RCA plus. I will be posting further impressions as the cable burns in, but the investment (to my ears) thus far appears VERY worhtwhile (especially considerng that my loss if I tried to sell my LP12 and purchase a more "modern" table would far exceed the cost of the mods)
dear Alexc,
thank for your posting, and I am waiting for your coming reporting. I own a set of lp 12 systems exactly like yours and wanting upgrade. would you share how much it cost you for the whole upgrade. pl provide extreme phono contact e mail or phone.


One suggestion about the cable. Phono cables get such a low voltage signal that they NEVER realy break in. I have found that running them on a Mobie or similar break in device which puts a very strong signal through them makes a big difference.

Best wishes,
Don Kenney
I have set up many Linns professionally, and I have alot of experience with these tables. Linn comes right out and says in the offical repair manual tha the turntable is basically perfect and if it could be made better they would do it. They then go on to say that they have tried all or most of the Mods and found them to in fact change the table but alas not for the better. what they are in fact saying is you may think it sounds better but it does not.
I am sure the mods you got improve the table, the linn is bacially a copy of many turntables that came befor it, and it has many problems areas, that if you drop the cult crap and address them with some basic engineering improvement will be made. On a bet , I made a Valhalla Linn sound as good (3out of 5 people said better) than a fully loaded Lingo, just by redesigning the plinth and structure that holds the suspension. Escentially opening up the table on 4 legs and isolateing the motor on its own lead filled tower. Go ahead Mess with your Linns! They are not perfect.
Tim - You can reach Extreme Phono at their website (www.extremephono.com). The prices for the mods are listed. Excluding the cartride, the total was $ 1200, of which $ 400 plus (I forget the exact amount) was for the cable. This total includes $ 200 for labor, a worthwhile incestment considering I paid $ 150 to a locla, former Linn dealer to set up my unmodified table when I moved back to the US..and he did a crappy job. For $ 200, Case literally took the table apart, put in a new subchassis and armboard, installed a new cable, corrected the speed (poorly set up by Linn dealer, was running slow!), and determined the best tracking force/VTA.

Don - I own a Mobie, but have no idea how to connect the cable to it, since it is terminated with a DIN plug on one end!. Regarding cable burn in, I got an interesting tip from Casey on burning in power cables..by making an adpater that allows you to hook them up to a vacuum cleaner. I made one for about $ 15 using Schurter plugs and a plastic junction box from Lowe's, and the difference on a CPC Top Gun was amazing after 20 minutes of vacuuming!
I'm going to have my Linn modified by a local fellow in DC with same setup; after buying better speakers, they clearly, all too clearly, revealed the shortcomings of the Linn. Modify it--after all, Linn has made successive upgrades over the years, and those upgrades have changed the sound every time. If it was perfect, they would never have changed it.
Do you like what you hear ? I am curious, as the Mana board is solely used for 'reflective' energy to enhance and tune the effect of glass.

I found that the 'ting' of the Mana glass nearly = 440 Hz A tone. This can only be achieved with the proper thickness of 11mm glass. Perhaps that's where the 'magic' lies.

To get an idea, try placing/suspending A tuning fork somewhere in the middle of two speakers, make sure it is allow to resonate (i.e. not put it on a shelf there by damping its resonance).

BTW, the tonearm cable Alexc installed is NOT the hot-rod tonearm wire I pictured in extremephono.com. The hot-rod wire sounds very cohesive and smooth, but subject to EMI pick-up because it has no shielding. It also have less soundstage definition, since without a rigidly defined structure, the timing information cannot be well preserved. However, it remains heads and shoulders above most tonearm cable for under $100 DIY cost.
Casey - I still prefer the Neuance over the stock Mana glass shelf. It is not about "better" but about "different" in a way that, to my ears, is more pleasant. I find describing neuances (no pun intended) in sound as difficult as as finding the proper descriptors for a wine's bouquet and flavor. The Mana is more dynamic and "in your face", but the Neunace (to me) is more coherent and has more natural, realistic pace. Then again..what is "reality" when it comes to PRAT?. To be sure, if I did not own the Neuance the stock Mana would be very nice also....(same reaction I had comparing Nordost Quattrofils to AQ Diamond in my system. I could live w/ either, but the Diamond X3's were more balance throughout the range and, though less detailed on top, more pleasant/less fatiguing to my ears).
I bacame aware of Casey & his company Extreme Phono when I was hunting Ebay for a used Lingo to add to my 10 year old LP12/Akito 1/Benz Glider. I didn't find the Lingo but came accross Casey selling a used example of his cutom made silver interconnect cable specially designed to suit the LP12 installation & MC cartridges. I bought the cable &, to cut a long story short, once the cable was installed the improvement in sound quality was breathtaking! Certainly a bigger improvement than when I changed my trusty Quad 44/405 for YBA electronics.
I began to correspond with Casey regarding an upgrade game plan for the turntable. His advise was to dump the Akito for a better arm & also consider his carbon fiber subchassis & armboard upgrade. He also advised me to get new springs, rubber gromets & drive belt as these items do deteriorate over time. As you will see if you visit the Extreme Phono website Casey has a real understanding of the engineering & dynamics of how a turntable should function. With this peace of mind I went ahead & ordered the parts. I was also able to purchase a SME Model 10 tonearm with a type V mounting base from a supplier in Hong Kong, so the stage was set for a total phono make-over.
The total installation, including arm, took me about 8 hours. But I can honestly say that the time & effort was more than rewarded. See my comments regarding my initial listening impressions below. One warning to LP12 owners that do want to install one of the SME arms on their turntable, & I'm sure this applies to the 309, IV & V as well as the 10, you will need to cut-back the corner brace in the plinth where the arm is mounted. No big deal but you really need a Dremel tool to do the job properly. As for the SME arm it really is a jewel compared to the Akito.

Initial listening impressions:-

> Firstly there was obviously a tangible improvement in the quality of sound
> coming from my speakers. With more prolonged listening the
> subtleties became
> more identifiable. The surface noise, (needle in the groove), has
> vanished,
> the only audible sound on blank grooves being the hum from the phono stage
> of the amp. Soundstage has increased side to side & front to back. But the
> best part is the pace & rhythm of the music. Wow! I just could not keep my
> feet still. Come to think of it my whole body was moving with the music. I
> don't really know how to quantify the emotion I was experiencing but the
> fact is the music was drawing me in, I wasn't just listening anymore but I
> was now part of, what my brain considered, a live musical event. Other
> identifiable elements of the new presentation are a deeper low frequency
> performance with more authority to the bass notes, much more detail across
> the musical spectrum, & the space around the instruments &
> performers seems
> bigger & there location in the soundstage can be determined with pin point
> accuracy. Am I happy with the upgrade, you bet I am! I have only
> spent a few
> hours with the modified turntable so I'm sure my appreciation of
> the new set
> up will only grow over the weeks to come.
Just a quick question. I have had what I consider to be very good results (considering a relatively low cost) with 1/2" glass, which is actually 12mm as opposed to 11 mm as a support. I use it within a Target rack with vibrapods between both Target MDF shelf material and the component, as a shelf support for both CD player and integrated amp. I can do a 1/2" piece of glass for about $50 U.S. which I believe is quite a bit less expensive than the Neuance, which I have heard great things about. I have a Michell Gyrodec (older model) sited on the top spiked shelf of the Target rack and have never used the glass under it. I did experiment with both granite and marble and the 1/2" glass was clearly superior to both. Just wondering how you think it might be under the Gyrodec, which clearly sounds better straight onto the Target MDF shelf than it did on either marble or granite? Regards.

My post above should read that I experimented with marble and granite under the turntable (on the Target shelf) and that the table sounded better going straight onto the MDF spiked Target shelf. The half inch glass has been a clear winner with the CD player and integrated, but I haven't tried glass under the turntable. Sorry for the confusion.
I might assume that the glass (for under LP12) could be overly damped through the use of Vibrapads or because of the location of the Vibrapads. I would use a hard support like upward spikes (from Target) below the glass, and hard support on the glass/below the upper support, such as BD cones or similar. Or try directly resting the LP12 via 3M Bumpons on the glass. I also have good result with maple block (1/2") below/above the glass.

In my setup, on top of glass, the support (let's assume 3 cones), have to be clustered at least 2-3" away from the edge of the glass. If you still find found the glass effect too strong, I put 2 strips of duct tapes to damp down the glass a bit.

There's certain need to play by ear, as it also involves other system elements and overall tonal balance. Try to 'dial in' the appropriate amount of 'sparkle' into your music. Too bright and edgy, then you damp it down. If you are willing to spend $400, then e-mail me..... hehehe.