Linn Ekos tonearm Martin Colloms Comments
Martin Colloms commented on the Ekos in March 1990 (Vol.13 No.3):
Based on the well-loved Ittok—the first of the true super arms—the $1750 Ekos looks very similar to its forebear and is distinguished by its excellent all-black finish and the incorporation of the arm-rest in the pillar. Ekos seeks a higher mechanical and sonic performance standard, which engineering intuition indicates would confer benefits. (In practical terms, it offers little measurable improvement.)
The form may be similar but the build has been improved. Three critical components, previously trimmed precision castings, are now machined from solid, using higher-performance alloys—aluminum and stainless steel—where appropriate. These parts are the headshell (which carries additional sidewall reinforcement and is optimized for the Troika cartridge), the main bearing yoke, and finally the pillar-stem. This is a two-piece component in the Ittok but is machined as one in the Ekos. Superlative bearings are fitted, with performance which approaches that found with the finest gyros. These are very low-friction (something confirmed on test) and thus contribute less noise than usual, thereby improving dynamics and the resolution of low-level detail in the presence of louder complex modulation. Torsional stiffness—the main resonance criterion for a tonearm—has been radically improved by the new mechanical parts, as well as by the adoption of thermal bonding for the main tube beam.
Given good tonearm design and manufacture, one might intuitively expect the improvements attained above to result in better dynamics, improved bass definition and detail, and overall control, and that is just what the listening tests suggested.
In the lab the Ekos showed an upward shift in its primary resonance compared with the Ittok, confirming the greater torsional stiffness, while the overall Q and distribution of higher resonance modes was clearly improved. Bearing friction was vanishingly low, too low to be measured reliably, and was of the order of 10mg or less. The effective mass varied somewhat according to the cartridge mass to be counterbalanced, and was typically 9.5gm, suited to a wide range of cartridges. No viscous damping is provided. Due to the geometric offset, some interactive variation of VTA and azimuth is possible, while the latter is nominally accurate. Fine adjustment of azimuth for a specific cartridge is not possible.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the Ekos is a top-class tonearm, clearly better than the respected Ittok, reinforcing its strengths while sharing a moderation of its weaknesses. That positive, decisive quality was still more in evidence, with the new arm more explicitly revealing complex midrange textures. Vocal lines extending over a wide frequency range were presented more clearly and with a consistent weight, here drawing a parallel with the SME V.
However, where the SME V demonstrates a quiet neutrality, being almost too laid-back for some tastes, the Ekos sounded energetic, lively, and eager to communicate. The upper range was a little bright, but where the Ittok would slip into a touch of lazy brashness, edging on grain (depending on cartridge type and quality), the Ekos maintained its grip on the situation and retained a higher level of treble precision and detail. The treble remained well controlled to the highest reaches, this particularly evident with the Troika cartridge, where any arm weakness can quickly deteriorate into fizzy mush.
Evaluated on the LP12, the Ekos's bass was also better than the Ittok's. While the latter was always tight, rhythmic, and purposeful, the Ekos added a degree of transient speed and definition which improved the snap and crack of wide-band bass percussion. I also got the impression of more tuneful bass lines, as well as a more open extension to low frequencies.
In terms of coloration, I also found the Ekos to be a little cleaner than the Ittok, with a reduction in that fairly small degree of nasality and hardness in the upper mid. Both the Karma and the Koetsu worked well in the Ekos, while the tetchy Troika throve when mounted on this platform, delivering its characteristic and sometimes wayward sparkle without too serious a hint of brittleness. In fact, the Ekos allowed the Troika to make its qualities known in a manner which eluded me in earlier tests using the Ittok....The Ekos, like the Ittok, is destined to be a classic and has been found compatible with a variety of high-class turntables.—Martin Colloms