Thursday, March 31, 2011

Linn Sondek LP12 not perfected yet

Although the venerable Linn Sondek LP12 turntable is an almost four-decade-old design that has remained basically the same, it has not reached its maximum performance yet.

"No, the upgrading of the design has not reached the point of diminishing returns yet," said David Williamson, senior product design engineer of Linn who was at Perfect Hi fi in Bangsar last week.

There are always new materials, new components and new methods of doing things, he said.

“So does that mean that Man still has not learnt everything about making turntables?” I asked.

“Do we know all that we should about making cars? It would be a sad day if we knew everything about making something, wouldn’t it?” he said.

Some of the advancements in the LP12 came from other branches of hi fi such as digital components.

“The new DC motor has a clock which we learnt all about when making the Digital Streamer. The clock is to stabilise the speed of the turntable,” he said.

Sometimes, he admitted, the Linn designers can hear a difference when they change some things, but they do not know why.

Some changes can be explained scientifically, but he cannot explain why other changes work.

“Like cables sound better with the signal flowing in one direction compared with the other direction. I’m not sure why. It could be the way the conductor was made. That’s why our cables are directional,” he said.

Earlier David had spent a few hours training the staff of Perfect Hi Fi on how to set up the LP12 turntable properly.


Linn's senior product design engineer David Williamson (centre)
teaching staff of Perfect Hi Fi the finer points of setting up the Keel.

David fixing the Trampoline to the Linn Sondek LP12.

I watched as he tightened the screws on the Keel and plugged in the new phono cable. Then he checked the bounce of the spring suspension before screwing in the Trampoline.
After that, it was setting the VTF and anti-skate of the tonearm. Finally, it was the tough part - getting the geometry of the cartridge right.

David agreed with me that the Linn turntable is fussy and setting it up properly can be difficult.

“Yes, setting it up can be difficult, but the rewards....With each upgrade, it is easier to set up,” he said.

I asked him where the best place is to put the turntable.

The best place is a wall shelf so that it would not be affected by footfalls.

“What about the Ikea Lack table?” I asked. After all, Linn had often recommended that table.

“Yes, that would work. A rigid and light stand would work,” he said.

I had to ask him about after-market mods and tweaks.

“There are lots of them in the market and Internet, but the majority of them don’t work. They may make the sound different but not necessarily better,” he said.

The makers of after-market mods don’t follow Linn’s Tune Dem method of appraising sound systems and they get different results.

At Linn, the reference is the previous generation’s models. If the new models sound better than the old ones, then they are approved to be launched.

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