Once the LP12 is setup properly it does NOT need constant calibration.
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I'd get the LP12. you mention wanting to keep it. The LP12 allows you many upgrades and as mentioned by headsnappin, once it is set up "correctly" it is good for years of service. I have had my LP12 for a couple of years now and after a spell of thinking I wanted a different table. I could not find anything local that made me change. One of those I looked at was the clearaudio performance and it just didn't do it for me.
Thanks for your replies. Theo, could you elaborate a little bit more on why ClearAudio performance is not for you? You mean sonically it is substantially inferior? In my life so far I've only heard three TTs: my current Linn Axis, LP12, and non-upgraded SL-1200 which is not even within consideration. Before I listened to LP-12, I didn't even know vinyl can sound so good. Now I am convinced of LP-12's capability, but what I keep wondering is how other companies are doing considering the advances in material sciences and all that in the past decades. Keep reading that LP-12 with all that upgrades e.g. Keels, Ekos,can easily be on par with or even outperform those multi grands tables, but that's not what I shoot for - and I don't intend to play that upgrade game. My question is really that, if Clearaudio Performance CMB, or VPI, around 1.5~2K range, can be sonically in the same league with pre-Cirkus LP-12 with Ittok. Too bad in my area there seems to be no place to listen them in person...or perhaps it's just I was born 30 years too late :)
I have a pre cirkus LP12/Ittok and can vouch for the fact that it does not need constant fettling. I bought mine from Ebay 4 years ago, set it up as per internet advice and it has sounded amazing ever since. I have used 4 different cartridges and am currently using an AT33PTG. This outperforms my 2 CD players easily on most things including dynamics, presence and punch and i really do not feel the need to upgrade. I would say that if you like the Linns character then go for it. If you need something more neutral then it may not work for you. Good luck with whatever you choose.
I guess the best way for me to describe my comments is. I felt after listening to the VPI and the ClearAudio as well as Rega was that the LP12 was warmer and seemed to have a
more "natural" timbre. The VPI and CA sound good don't get me wrong on that and I would consider them again but would want to spned more time with them. They just seemed to lose the emotion that I was seeking. Maybe a little harder is a good way to describe it? The CA was quieter than the VPI or the Rega. Actually quieter than the LP12 until I realized that removing the dustcover would make a vast improvement on the LP12. And the Rega just seemed to be closer to the sound quality of the LP12. I guess my feeling on the CA was that it was not a step in the right direction for me. Many people love the TT they have and each of us has a different ear that we ultimately must please. The real problem with auditioning TT's is that the cartridge, phone pre, cables, shelf on which it sits, along with the balance of the system make so much difference it really hampers the decision. I may have resolved to stay with my LP12 because it is installed in my system and I am familiar to it's sound. I just feel at this point that the LP12 has so many ways to go and once it set up correctly by a dealer that knows and understands this TT, it is very difficult to surpass in performance.
I am fortunate that I have a dealer locally that can set this thing up like a swiss watch. I felt at one time that I wanted to have a TT that I could do everything to. But have come to the conclusion that as long as I have my dealer's expertise on this TT, I will keep it. It does what I want and does it very well. As time goes I will most likely do some upgrades. But I will always keep an ear open.