Review: Linn Akiva Cartridge
The Akiva has been in my system for about 3 weeks, though I've only had a chance to really listen to it for the past week or so. As some of you might know, I initially put the cartridge up for sale as soon as I bought it and before doing any serious listening ,for reasons I'll not go into now.
In the end, temptation won over - it was VERY difficult to have a primo cartridge just sitting there with my TT otherwise disabled - so in it went.
My impressions so far confirm what I heard in London when I auditioned the cartridge. This is serious stufff, and a not at all subtle step up from the Arkiv B. Though some might scoff at Linn's claims of an optimized cartrdige design which works synergisticaly with the Ekos, the proof is in the listening, linn has definitely got it right on this component,and the plug and play ease with which it integrates with the Ekos/LP12 is to be commended.
Advatages vs the Arkiv B come in several areas:
1. Tracking: This has always been my pet peeve with the Arkiv. The Akiva tracks at 1.75 grams (vs. 2 grams for the Arkiv) and does so with aplomb. I've yet to find an LP in my collection that makes it break a sweat, and it breezes thru my EMI Pro Use DSOTM, which used to have the Arkiv running for cover halfway thru Side A. This is also the first Linn cartridge for which the optimal anti skating force seems to correspond to the tracking force. With antiskating set to 1.8, tracks 1-3 of the HFNRR test record are pristine, and the torture test track 4 distorts equally (and not too much) on both sides.
2. Soundstaging: Though not traditionally a design paramater associated with Linn, the Akiva throws a HUGE soundstage compared to the Arkiv. The stage extends well beyond the speakers, goes WAY deep, and has vastly improved separation/localization of instruments and soloists.
3. Transient Attack: This is probably the area where the Akiva really impresses. There is a tremendous immediacy and energy on solo acoustio guitar, acoustic double bass, drums, cymbals, etc. Notes start, grow, decay and stop with a naturalness that I had not experienced before in my system.
4. Tonal Balamce: The Akiva has more extended, natural highs than the Arkiv, and preserves the latter's solid bottom end. The mids sound a bit less fleshed out, but oddly enough (since I am very much a midrange "freak") I do not feel anything missing from the overall presentation.
Though still early days (I esxpect it to improve as it breaks in), Linn's claims of lower surface nosie seem so far to be true as well.
Is is worth $ 2950? No idea. I've not heard other cartridges in this price range...and I paid $ 1600 for it after trading in my Arkiv. Is is worth 600 pounds more than an Arkiv B? I'd have to say yes. The improvements are large enough that I am reconsidering whether I should upgrade my LP12 after all. No clue, of course, regarding how the Akiva will work on anything other than an Ekos/LP12..but if you have one of those and are looking for a cartridge in this price range , this is a must audition component. If you have an Arkiv B in need of retip (like I did), I doubt you can do bettter than trading it in for an Akiva.
Pass Labs Xono
Tact 2.2 X
CJ Premier 8 XS
SF Guarneri Homage
REL Strate III (2)
Linn Arkiv B