Linn Klimax LP12 Record-Playing System

Playing records is a delight-filled chore. The simple, quiet act of lowering a tonearm places one's mind at the ready for something marvelous to happen. Surely, this gentle ritual initiates a higher mode of psychic connectedness than poking absentmindedly at a side-facing equilateral triangle on a piece of cheap plastic.

Every time I play a black disc, I am aware that I am participating in a rite that's been passed down through generations. This feels especially true now, as I use Linn's new, flagship Klimax LP12 record playing system. I've been using it now for several months.

The first time I raised the Linn's dustcover, I let out my breath and sighed "whoa!" It felt so steady and controlled. I was gobsmacked by how this thick, luxurious lid holds any position along its path with absolute assurance—like magic. The original Sondek LP12, back in 1973, came with a stick on a hinge to prop its lid open.

Likewise, every time I move the Linn Ekos Super Evolution (SE) tonearm, it feels more sensuously tight-tolerance microprecise than any other arm I can remember. These experiences are important because, if you buy this Linn turntable, you will feel the feel of the lid and tonearm every time you play a disc—I'd call that an intimate, long-term relationship.

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The sensuously tight-tolerance Ekos SE titanium-construction tonearm.

Next, you will feel, and possibly be stunned by, the not-subtle sonic impact of Linn's new flagship moving coil cartridge, the Ekstatik.

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The 7gm Ekstatik moving coil cartridge with sapphire cantilever and MicroLine stylus.

The first record I played literally jumped into the room with its fantastic, uber-detailed, high-presence energy—my third Klimax-inspired wow moment, after the dustcover and the tonearm. As I played the second record, I sat admiring the deck's fluted oak plinth and thought, This is a masterpiece of midcentury Northern European design. It's a very different experience than, eg, the Japanese-made TechDAS, the made-in-Canada Kronos, or the made-in-America VPI. The made-in-Scotland Klimax is more wood-church old-Europe than those intergalactic decks.

In fact, this new Klimax looks pretty much the same as my 1985 model and not much different than the '73 Sondeks. Like every other LP12, the Klimax features a simple hardwood plinth and a modest, 7lb Zamak platter sporting a thin, black-felt mat, which, along with that distinctively shaped Linn Ekos tonearm (sitting on Linn's iconic black armboard, milled from a single piece of aluminum), creates an unobtrusive, timeless presence that will appeal to many young urban professionals, among others.

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The Linn Ekos SE–Ekstatik combination.

In the beginning
According to my memory, the first turntable with a suspended subchassis was H.H. Scott's "Stroboscopic" 710-A, a professional-quality deck that featured a polished mahogany armboard, pushbutton speed control, and a suspension described by H.H. Scott (in 1955) as "high compliance torsional filtering and two stages of damped mechanical filtering." (footnote 1) The next one I remember is the Acoustic Research XA designed by Edgar Villchur. It appeared in 1961 and was much more of a bare-bones consumer deck than the H.H. Scott.

Those American 'tables were followed in Germany, in 1965, by the plebeian-looking Thorens TD-150, which clearly influenced the Scotland-made Ariston RD11, which appeared in 1971. With only minor changes, it became the first Linn Sondek LP12, introduced by Ivor Tiefenbrun in 1973.

The LP12 was introduced a year after Matsushita-Technics introduced a more innovative turntable: the million-selling direct-drive SL-1200. Ivor Tiefenbrun and every Linn dealer made it their life's calling to demonize direct-drive turntables, complaining, "Direct-drive doesn't carry the tune!"

I remember the first time I saw the inside of an LP12. Having worked as a car mechanic, I laughed. "It looks like a cigar box full of window-crank bits," I said. I spit up when someone told me those three tiny woodscrews that held the oatmeal-fiber armboard to the light-gauge, spot-welded subchassis were "part of the reason the Sondek sounded so good."

Unfortunately, I've always had shaky hands, and Linn's delicate-bouncy thing kept me away. Instead, I used an assortment of direct- and idler-drive turntables until 1992, when I finally broke down and bought my first LP12, a used 1984 model.

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I bought that first Linn because I had a lot of records, and I realized while listening to my friends' systems with LP12s that somehow that Scottish cigar box played records right. It really did what the Linn faithful claimed: communicated the rhythmic essence of music in a way that got my foot tapping and my head bobbing. Equally important: It plowed through opera, Mahler symphonies, and Brit-pop with unrivaled ease and élan. It made records sound rich, quiet, and "well-sorted"—like I thought they should sound.

Setup and description
My then-new friend Michael Trei set up my first Linn, a Valhalla. I had him install a used Sumiko MDC-800 tonearm and a Koetsu Rosewood Signature cartridge. That deck kept me LP-happy for a lot of years. When, in 2015, Mike set up my second Linn (the one I use now), I had him replace its aging Valhalla power supply with a new Stamford Audio Hercules supply and install a new SME M2-9 tonearm and a new Dynavector DV-20X2 L moving coil cartridge. I still use that rig.

I watched Mike closely during both LP12 setups. The work seemed fussy and tedious, but simple enough mechanically. I thought that, with a little supervision, I could have done it myself. (I recently acquired a used LP12 setup jig, so I can hot-rod my Model A Sondek without pestering Mike.)

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A platter cutaway showing belt, pulley, and (probably) the rotation-speed sensor.

This 21st century LP12 Klimax system is another story. It arrived in six boxes, none of them small. Inside, besides the obvious tonearm, cartridge, plinth, platter, platter bearing, subchassis and armboard (a single piece), preamp, and motor assemblies, were countless little bags of bits and clamps and screws taped to sheets of cardboard, with no labels and no instructions!

When I saw this, I started cussing like Donald Duck. I emailed Linn's brand manager, Joe Rodger, and he calmed me, saying, "Every Sondek LP12 is expressly built and must be installed by a certified, trained LP12 specialist. It is entirely a dealer-performed service, and most dealers go through regular training and refresher courses to ensure they are up to date with the latest components (unless you're a bona fide LP12 guru like Michael Trei and know it all like the back of your hand!). This is why it doesn't come with instructions." So, Trei built this new LP12, just as he had set up my previous ones.

I've watched Trei put numerous turntables together, but with the Klimax it was like watching him assemble a Mars Rover or an expensive watch—almost balletic in its well-managed precision.

As mentioned earlier, on the outside the Klimax looks like all the LP12s that came before it. But on the inside, everything looks different. Today's Klimax is the result of innumerable, unheralded bit-and-material adjustments and a score of celebrated subchassis, bearing, and power supply upgrades that have left the inside looking industrial-chic and more expensive than my iron-age version.


Footnote 1: See stereonomono.blogspot.com/2011/04/hh-scott-710-1955-60.html. Yes, of course I looked it up.
COMPANY INFO
Linn Products Ltd.
Glasgow Road
Waterfoot, Eaglesham, Glasgow G76 0EQ
Scotland, UK
(44) (0)141 307-7777
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
volvic's picture

Own three LP12's and love them all. Gosh! I need that Argerich record.

daveyf's picture

For a Linn LP12 Klimax with the Tramp 2 base, I'm not sure why anyone would use the old 'Audiophile system's platform? You now have two systems designed to minimize vibration, probably working against each other!
The other question is how familiar Trei is with setting up the current LP12? Set up is quite crucial with the LP12, more so than ever in many respects!

Jim Austin's picture

... certainly no one in the NYC area, is more skilled and experienced with LP12 setup than Michael Trei. Indeed, Trei was Linn's choice for setting up this new LP12.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

shinri's picture

The Audiophile Systems Platform is not an "isolation platform" in the traditional sense. Audiophile Systems (who were the US Linn importer at the time when it was made) designed it to be the embodiment of the "lightweight rigid platform" that Linn has always promoted as the best support for an LP12. It is simply a rectangular hardwood board, with an adjustable spike foot in each corner, making it essentially a tabletop equivalent of something like a Sound Organisation, Archidee, or AudioTech stand. It has no damping, absorbent anything, squishy feet, springs, or anything else in it to provide isolation. It just rigidly couples the deck to the underlying cabinet, on a surface with a minimum amount of mass that can store energy.
While its performance is certainly less effective on a Trampolin equipped LP12, it will in no way interfere with the Trampolin's own functioning or effectiveness.

jfogden's picture

Amen

daveyf's picture

The Tramp 2 and the old 'audiophile systems' platform, which probably counter acted each other! The Tramp 2 is designed to work alone with no further assistance from isolation, which i discovered myself by making this very same mistake. Luckily, it is easy to rectify.

otaku's picture

Literally jumped? Was there something wrong with the suspension?

Glotz's picture

and once again, honest observations were tantamount to all else.

Thank you Herb.

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