Starting afresh with a Linn Sondek LP12...

Hi! I'm new to the high-end audio universe and would be grateful for some guidance and suggestions.

I have a vintage Linn Sondek LP12 turntable and would like to keep vintage with vintage. My living room is approximately 24 sqm and space is unfortunately limited. I listen mainly to classic rock, jazz, world and some newer eclectic stuff (from Fennesz and Tortoise to Converge and Sunn O, etc).

I'm not very technically inclined, but do have a sensitive ear and strive to find a good setup. With this in mind, I feel lost in terms of pre-amps, power amps and speakers.
Having looked around online, I seem drawn to second-hand Marantz, Lamm and Shindo. Also with speakers, considering my taste in music, I'm not sure where to begin.

Given space constraints, I would ideally like to avoid mono-blocks, hence the Marantz 7 + 8B seem like a good combo, but I don't wish to dive into the deep end and regret it.

Before committing to anything, I don't want budgets to be the deciding factor, but realistically the amps and speakers shouldn't go beyond US$ 15K.

As a footnote, I'm currently working in Beijing, China, voltage here is 220V, 50 Hz. It seems a lot of vintage gear (whether US or Japan made) is 110V. Would running the gear through a transformer noticeably affect the sound/performance?

Appreciate any thoughts you can share.

Thanks in advance!
Not all components are good to buy vintage. A vintage tube power amp may work OK for you, but there's no way that I would buy a vintage preamp.
Annika, welcome to Audiogon!

The choice of a suitable amplifier will of course be highly dependent on your choice of speakers. Since you appear to be gravitating toward relatively low powered tube amplification, it would probably make sense to choose speakers having fairly high efficiency, perhaps in the 95 to 100 db/1 watt/1 meter area or thereabouts. Although this thread is a few years old, reading through it will probably yield a number of possibilities to look into, albeit mostly modern ones.

Given that you appear to be envisioning a vintage preamp that includes a built-in phono stage, the choice will depend on what kind of cartridge is installed in the LP12, and especially on whether it is a low output moving coil type (rated to provide just a fraction of a millivolt output under the standard test conditions), or if it is a moving magnet or high output moving coil type (rated to provide a few millivolts output under those conditions). Let us know what model cartridge it is.

I owned a Marantz 7 (also known as a 7C) for a while about 20 years ago, which I used in conjunction with a moving magnet cartridge. It was an excellent performer, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend its use in conjunction with high output cartridges. PROVIDED, however, that it is in top condition and/or well restored. And, ideally, if you would enjoy a bit of experimenting with various makes and vintages of the 12AX7 tubes it uses, to optimize its sonics.

Also, be aware that VAC (Valve Amplification Company), the highly regarded American manufacturer of tube amplifiers and preamps, during the 1990's produced a Marantz 7C reissue. That could very well be an excellent sounding but easier to find and less expensive alternative to the 50+ year old original.

Another possibility that may be worth seeking out would be a good example of one of the early solid state Mark Levinson preamplifiers from the 1970's or early 1980's (not later), provided it is suitably configured for the cartridge that you have. I still use the phono section of a Mark Levinson ML-1 preamp as my phono stage, accessed via its tape out connections.

Finally, some of the Audio Research and Conrad Johnson tube preamps from the 1970's and 1980's are well worth considering.

Regarding your question about AC step-down transformers, I don't know the answer. I recall that there have been a number of threads here in the past on similar questions, which you can find via a search. I'm not sure, though, that the answers I have seen provided in some of those threads are necessarily authoritative.

Best of luck. Regards,
-- Al
With the Sondek as source. Naim amps of a similar vintage ( which can still be serviced) along with either Linn or Naim speakers ( Sara or SBL's) etc that can be put against back wall would make for a classic 'flat earth' system great for classic rock.
Thank you all for the feedback! I am still trying to find a suitable setup, as I am in Beijing, it's frustrating being able to only read online about all this great gear and take a chance buying second hand.

@Al, thank you for your concise and helpful information, especially with the thoughts on high efficiency speakers and the relative output of the cartridge.
Do you think the Sonus Faber Minima could be a suitable high efficiency speaker in this case? Any thoughts on a suitable amp for these, vintage or not?

@Pcoombs, Naim amps and speakers seems interesting too. As mentioned above, really wish I could give these a try before committing.

Thanks again!
Hi Annika,

No, the various versions of the Sonus Faber Minima all appear to have efficiencies in the low 80's (Sound Pressure Level in db for a 1 watt input measured at 1 meter), as opposed to the mid to high 90's I had suggested. For example, as noted in these measurements the Minima FM2, while being tube friendly in terms of its impedance characteristics, produces only 82.5 db for a 1 watt input at a 1 meter distance.

A speaker having that kind of efficiency will struggle to reach 90 db at typical listening distances (10 feet or so), when powered with say 20 or 30 watts. Which in turn would be adequate for many and probably most recordings for most listeners, but is likely to be insufficient to handle the brief high volume dynamic peaks, for example on bass drum beats, of recordings having particularly wide dynamic range ("dynamic range" being the DIFFERENCE in volume between the loudest notes and the softest notes). I feel pretty certain that you would ultimately find that to be an issue with enough recordings to make it an unsatisfactory choice.

I'm thinking that a MUCH better choice in that and many other ways, although it is not vintage, and although it would involve importing a speaker from Canada, would be the Coincident Triumph Extreme II. The indicated prices including stands total $3400 when translated into US dollars at current exchange rates.

For amplification, you may want to consider the currently produced Line Magnetic products, particularly their integrated amplifiers. They are manufactured in China, and seem to be VERY highly regarded by reviewers and knowledgeable audiophiles. They would allow you to avoid the condition-related risks and uncertainties of older tube equipment. And although their products tend to be largish, heavy, and substantially built, an integrated amplifier would be space saving in the sense that it would combine preamp and power amp functions into a single component.

As with most modern integrated amplifiers, though, you would need a separate phono stage. The Herron VTPH-2, made in the USA and costing $3650, seems to be raved about by everyone who hears it. And it is sufficiently versatile to be suitable for use with a particularly wide range of cartridge types. Also, by all accounts Mr. Herron is a wonderful person to deal with.

Finally, since the Line Magnetic products are manufactured in China, they presumably are available in a 220V 50Hz configuration. And I note that the description of the Herron indicates that “most international voltages are available."

Best of luck as you proceed. Regards,
-- Al