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The Linn LP12 Lingo updated

The Turntable's Motor Control Gets A Lift

Marshall Nack

9 March 2003

Specifications

serial # 774098
Dimensions: 12.6W × 12.8D × 3.15H (inches)/320 × 326 × 80 (mm)
Weight: 4 lbs
Price: $1,550

Address:
Linn Products Ltd.
Floors Road, Waterfoot
Glasgow G76.0RP, Scotland, UK
US Distributor: Linn Inc.
8787 Perimeter Park Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32216
Telephone: 904-645-5242
Fax: 904-645-7275
Website: www.linninc.com

Twenty some odd years into "perfect sound forever," it's no small thing that the major players in the high end continue to develop and enhance analog vinyl playback. Given the level of playback offered by some of the current tables, cartridges and phono stages, personally, I think the glory days of vinyl are now. And this applies not just to the ultra-expensive stuff. Vinyl has never sounded better. So I was happy to hear that Linn has come out with a new top-of-the-line moving coil cartridge. They've also quietly enhanced the Lingo speed control for the LP12 without any press fanfare or promotion. Brian Morris of Linn Products told me about the new, improved Lingo and described the difference as not subtle, causing me to ask to hear one for myself.

Technology

The look of the Lingo is unchanged. There are no cosmetic or operational differences from the old one. Even the guts are largely the same. At the heart of the Lingo are two very low noise crystal oscillators derived from the Linn Numerik digital recording system. One is for 33.3-rpm and the other for 45 rpm playback. The switch on the table selects the appropriate oscillator, whose output is fed into a synchronous counter to produce a 50Hz or 67.5Hz square wave, for 33.3 rpm or 45 rpm respectively. What is different now is that it employs Surface Mount High-Density components on the circuit board, in line with most of the new generation of Linn gear.

Installation

The Lingo comes in a medium size, lightweight, square-shaped, folded metal chassis, sits apart from the LP12 itself and is powder-painted to either a black or silver finish. A power cord in and an umbilical out to the table are all you need to get connected. If this is your first Lingo, the upgrade also includes a replacement power-supply board that goes inside the table for installation only by a qualified technician. If you already have a Lingo installed, the new box can simply be swapped for the old one. Nothing further is required except burn-in. Like everything else, the Lingo needs to burn-in. Out of the box, it's stiff, dry and bleached sounding. Give it a day or two to spin the platter and loosen up (there's no need to actually play an LP).

One quick note: the older Lingo I refer to in my comparisons came off the assembly line about a year and a half ago. It's not the very first production, which came in a rectangular chassis.

The A/B Test

Over the years I've had a Lingo, I've tried perhaps a dozen power cords, finally settling on the Omega Mikro active power cord for best overall performance. It may not make a whole lot of sense when you think about it, but the power cord connected to the speed control has an obvious and powerful impact. For the comparison, I positioned both Lingos on separate shelves on my Polycrystal rack and swapped the Omega Mikro cord, along with the umbilical to the table, between the two Lingos.

An LP I keep handy when making changes to my analog front end is Hits from the Hollywood Bowl [London XPS-613], with Zubin Mehta and the LA Philharmonic Orchestra. This is one of the fabled recordings made in Royce Hall at UCLA in the 1970's by the Decca team of Ray Minshull and James Lock. Over a period of about a decade the Decca team returned again and again and made miracles happen. Everything seems to have clicked on this series of recordings. Side two, with Bizet's "Carmen Prelude - Act 1" and "Carmen Prelude - Act 4" presents a good selection of orchestral effects including wide dynamic swings, woodwind solos and bass drum whacks, not to mention the amazingly captured acoustic cues to recreate the hall.

This was an easy A/B test. It wasn't like, "Well, the dynamics are better with A, but there's also a bit more edge." Listening to the older Lingo I said to myself, "Hey, this sounds good. What's not to like?" So it was surprising when I switched to the new one. Tonality and timbre remained the same, but just about everything else got better. This is one of those changes where instantly the soundstage's dimensions expand. The stage is seamlessly populated just as it should be - fewer gaps between the instruments. Instrument sections are brought to a more life-like scale. There's more density in the space, it's more full of events. The aforementioned soundstage depth cues on this recording are enhanced. Very solid and stable images are layered into the receding distance. This remains an area where analog clearly outshines digital. The air buffering instrument images is another. Images have soft edges, nothing hard or edgy. There's more presence, more bass energy and more tonal color. Cymbals shimmer more convincingly.

In comparison, the older Lingo sounds small, somewhat reduced in proportion. Its soundstage is also a little congested with strings sounding sharper, not as silky.

Another demonstration class LP is the Walton FAÇADE [original RCA LSC-2285], with Anatole Fistoulari conducting the Royal Opera House Orchestra. This was recorded in England by Decca for RCA, and I believe Kenneth Wilkenson was the engineer. Talk about "Living Presence!" Mercury never got it this good! It's incredibly dimensional and transparent. Within that stage the strings may not sound that good - I can't tell if it's the performance or a byproduct of the recording, but at any rate, they are not offensive, just not perfectly in tune. However, the rendering of winds, tympani and brass are non-pareil. I'm again hearing things that I've never gotten from digital.

The older Lingo may actually have tighter focus. It still populates the stage width and depth, although the images are reduced in scale. This may be acceptable if your system already presents images larger than life. Again, the strings are a bit shriller than with the new Lingo and there's not that same "Living Presence," dynamics or heft in the low end.

Conclusion

Brian Morris was right: the differences are not subtle. I would estimate the performance boost from the new Lingo about equals that of swapping out the stock Power Cord for an Omega Mikro active PC, an upgrade I never looked back on.

If you don't have a Lingo, now's the time to act. If you already have one installed, consider adding this replacement to your upgrade list at about the same spot where that new cartridge or power cord you've been considering reside.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascendo

 

 

 

The Linn LP12 Lingo updated