The Linn LP12 Lingo updated
The Turntable's Motor Control Gets A Lift
9 March 2003
serial # 774098
Dimensions: 12.6W × 12.8D × 3.15H (inches)/320 × 326
× 80 (mm)
Weight: 4 lbs
Linn Products Ltd.
Floors Road, Waterfoot
Glasgow G76.0RP, Scotland, UK
US Distributor: Linn Inc.
8787 Perimeter Park Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32216
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.