Linn Sondek LP12

Linn Sondek LP12

The Linn Sondek LP12 transcription turntable (often shortened to LP12) is produced by Glasgow-based Linn Products, manufacturers of hi-fi, home theatre, and multi-room audio systems. Its name is derived from the 12" vinyl LP (gramophone record) which it plays.


The Sondek LP12 turntable, introduced in 1972, utilises a suspended sub-chassis design and a patented single-point bearing machined to extremely tight tolerances. The LP12 has evolved since its introduction, but its basic suspended sub-chassis design has remained [ Linn LP Playing System] , Michael Fremer, Stereophile, November, 2003] . At the time, the design was similar to the Thorens TD150, the AR [ [ OLDE WORLDE - ARISTON RD11 TURNTABLE] , David Price, Hi-Fi World Magazine] . Some contend that it was a copy of the Ariston RD11 which Hamish Robertson had come to Castle Engineering to have manufactured [ [ Is it a Linn or an Ariston ?] ,, Accessed 2007-05-10] . Linn presented what was an important challenge to the thinking at the time, of loudspeakers being thought the most important component of a high-end audio system, Linn claimed that the source i.e. the turntable was the most important part of the system.

Ivor Tiefenbrun has talked about how Sondek coming from the word Soundex as each hifi design always ends up having its own unique identifiable and recognizable sound.

Some report the original name was just Sondek without the LP12.

Early versions were a platform for mounting third party tonearms, have a basic power supply arrangements, and would only revolve at 33 1/3 RPM. Those users requiring a 45RPM option would have to purchase a special adaptor to increase the diameter of the motor pulley and platter speed accordingly.

Throughout the years, there have been many changes to components such as rubber feet, baseboard, armboard, suspension springs and grommets and reinforced plinth. However, the "Cirkus" kit, with its newly designed bearing, is one of the most significant. This subjectively offers a large performance upgrade. Since 1991 (serial number 87600 onwards), the LP12 has been supplied as a mechanical assembly only, without power supply fitted.

Today, many options are available for tonearms and power supplies to partner the deck. Tonearm options include Linn's Ekos SE; outboard power options include Linn's own top of the line "Lingo" power supply, manufactured with surface-mount technology.


The LP12 is popular with many audiophiles around the world for its excellent ability to play music with "pace, rhythm and timing" [ Linn Sondek LP12 - A definitely pre-loved item] , Hartmut Quaschik, TNT GermanyReviewed: September, 2004] . It is sometimes used by hi-fi reviewers as a reference turntable [ [ Origin Live Silver Tonearm] , Paul Szabady, Stereo Times Magazine, November 2001] although there are many more contemporary designs around now.

It was at its most popular in the golden age of vinyl playback, principally the 1970s through to the 1980s. Its closest competitors were probably the Xerxes turntable from Roksan Audio, the Well Tempered Table, the Dunlop Systemdek II, and the P3 from Phonosophie.

The LP12 has acquired such cult status amongst audiophile turntables that many seek to knock it off its pedestal. In truth, the design has not been fundamentally revisited [ [ Linn Ikemi CD Player] , Marc Mickelson,, November 1999] and whilst effective is no longer contemporary. There may have been improvements in turntable design and in material science since its launch, over 25 years ago. Nevertheless, in 2004, Stereophile said it was "a classic, a revolutionary, an iconoclast, a survivor."

Partnered tonearms and power supplies

Linn capitalised on the success of the Sondek LP12 by introducing the more affordable "Basik" and "Axis" turntables, complementary tonearms for the Sondek and cartridges at different price points.

The "bare" LP12 allows the purchaser to select from a number of Linn as well as third party options, such as Naim Audio's (Armageddon power supply and ARO arm).

Product history

Changes thereto are elaborated below. "related serial numbers in square brackets" [ LP12 FAQ] , Analogue Addicts, Accessed April 28, 2006]

* 1972, LP12 turntable introduced.
* 1974, Main bearing liner changed. Sub-chassis strengthened by addition of strap, spot welded in place. Motor control circuit changed from terminal strip to small PCB. Mains switch changed from two buttons to single with mains neon. [s/n 2,000]
* 1978, Top plate modified adding two holes for 6 x 0.5 self tappers into wood block. [23,000]
* 1979, Lid prop removed, hinges changed to spring loading. [27,000]
* 1981, February. "Nirvana" mechanical components. [32,826]
* 1982, May. "Valhalla" crystal-driven electronic power supply made standard. [38,794]
* 1984, Enlarged plinth corner bracing. [53,000]
* 1984, June. Sub-chassis strengthening bar epoxy glued instead of spot welded. [54,101]
* 1985, August. Cap head screws on bearing housing. [60,383]
* 1985, September. Diode modification to "Valhalla" board [61,090]
* 1985, December. Strengthening blocks on corners of plinth.
* 1986, May. New clear lid.
* 1986, Suspension springs improved.
* 1987, March. New bearing housing, New Formica and MDF armboard. [69,161]
* 1987, April. New springs. [69,591]
* 1987, Bearing improved with better lining material and tighter tolerances. Change to black oil. Suspension springs ground to improved tolerance. Arm board composition improved. [70,000]
* 1989, Motor thrust pad changed. "Valhalla" surge guard modification. PCB mains lead (UK). [79,700]
* 1989, New MDF armboard, laminated top and bottom. [79,160]
* 1989, Harder suspension grommets fitted. [81,000]
* 1990, External "Lingo" power supply available as add-on.
* 1991, motor thrust pad cap added to "Lingo" models. [87,047]
* 1991, "Valhalla" board with 45RPM capability added [87,047]
* 1991, motor thrust pad cap added to "Valhalla" models. [87,206]
* 1991, Introduction of "LP12 Basik", a stripped down version of the turntable [87,672]
* 1991, Solid base board replaces hardboard. [87,672]
* 1991, "Trampolin" base board with isolating feet available as an option [87,672] .
* 1992, Improved top plate fixing. [88,950]
* 1993, "Cirkus" upgrade (larger and better machined inner platter and new bearing, new springs, armboard, belt) fitted as standard. [90,582]
* 2000, 4th bolt added near motor on top plate, fitted as standard. Required extra cross beam on plinth.
* 2001, New motor used (first new motor since original 1972).
* 2002, Maple plinth introduced adding to existing black, walnut, rosewood and afromosia options.

Important upgrades

("in chronological order")

Lingo Power Supply ("Introduced: 1990")Linn describes the "LINGO" as a "high precision, direct coupled, power supply designed to sit alongside the LP12 turntable".

The Lingo employs two "very low noise" crystal oscillators, one for 33⅓ rpm and one for 45 rpm. By the length of time the switch is depressed, the switch on the turntable allows selection of the appropriate oscillator the output of which is fed into a synchronous counter to produce a 50 Hz or 67.5 Hz square wave for 33 rpm and 45 rpm respectively. The square wave then needs to be filtered into a clean sinusoidal waveform to minimise motor vibration for silent running.

The Lingo feeds the motor with a higher voltage for increased start-up torque. When the platter reaches the selected speed, this load-sensing circuitry reduces the output to where the motor just maintains the platter's own inertia to keep it going silently.

The Cirkus upgrade ("Introduced: 1993")The Cirkus upgrade to the LP12 focuses on bearing performance and the connection of the bearing housing to the sub-chassis. The improved bearing and stronger sub-chassis arrangement provides the turntable with greater stability and ensures the bearing sits perfectly true to the chassis of the turntable. According to Linn, this supposedly minimises the risk of turntable platter movement with respect to the sub-chassis and arm, and thus limits the audible degradation to the reproduced signal.

Keel ("Introduced: 2006")The Keel upgrade to the LP12 is a replacement subchassis, machined from solid aluminium. It builds on the Cirkus upgrade (now fitted as standard to new LP12s) but is not included as standard in 'regular' production LP12s. Linn claims that the Keel is an application of its "close-tolerance aluminium machining", first seen in the ingot casing of the "Sondek CD12" CD player. The Keel, along with the Ekos SE tonearm and Trampolin Mk.2 were three Special Edition upgrades for the turntable's 33⅓ birthday, 33⅓ being the standard rotational speed when playing LPs.

Trampolin Mark 2 ("Introduced: 2006")The original Trampolin baseboard was made from MDF, rather than masonite, incorporating damping feet which were optimised for LP12 placement on heavy furniture. The Trampolin II is made from aluminium, and is said to offer an improvement.



* Type: Belt Drive Transcription Turntable Platter
* Power: 100/120/220/240V 50-60 Hz
* Dimensions: W445 x D356 x H140mm
* Power Consumption: <13W
* Weight: 13kg (turntable mechanics only - packed weight)


* Type: precision, direct-coupled LP12 power supply
* Speed Accuracy: 0.03%
* Power: 100/120/220/240V 50-60 Hz
* Dimensions: 320mm(L)x 325mm(W)x 80mm(H)
* Motor Frequencies: 50Hz (33⅓); 67.5Hz (45) Sinusoidal


* Named #1 of 'The Hot 100 Products, 2002' by Stereophile Magazine [ The Hot 100 Products] , John Atkinson, Stereophile Magazine, November, 2002]
* Named '2004 Analog source component of the year' by Stereophile Magazine [ Analog source component of the year] , Stereophile Magazine, 2004]
* In May 2006, Hi-Fi Choice reviewers voted the LP12 "the most important hi-fi components ever sold in the UK" [ [ Hi-Fi that Rocked the World] , Hi-fi Choice, July 20, 2006]
* Named '2007 Analog source component of the year' by Stereophile Magazine [ Analog source component of the year] , Stereophile Magazine, 2007] 10.]


* A limited edition commemorative LP12 was created to mark the 25th anniversary of the LP12. Amongst other features, it bears a plaque etched with the signature of Linn's owner Ivor Tiefenbrun.


10. [ Stereophile's Products of 2007] , Stereophile Magazine, December, 2007

External links

* [ Linn Music Systems - Turntables]

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