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LP12 modification frenzy -- what order?

Discussion in 'audio' started by anhammond, Oct 8, 2019.

  1. anhammond

    anhammond Active Member

    Hi all,

    I've recently decided to try out a series of upgrades and modifications to my 1980s LP12, trying as best as I can to proceed in a "scientific" fashion, adding piece by piece, recording my impressions, keeping anything that makes my music sound better and selling anything that doesn't. This will require me to build up and tear down the LP12 multiple times, but that's part of the fun, as I'm eager to get really comfortable setting up the deck myself. I will document this all in meticulous detail on a blog I have just set up, http://www.hifiaf.com/

    My current setup is as follows: 1986 LP12 with Mose Hercules II PSU / Cirkus bearing and subchassis / Roksan Nima arm / Adikt MM cartridge / Dynavector P75 mk I phono stage. I do my listening via a Schiit Mjolnir 2 headphone amp with Telefunken E88CC tubes and Hifiman HE-1000v2 headphones, and through a Schiit Vidar into KEF LS50s mounted on Target stands. Photos of the full setup are at http://www.hifiaf.com/in-my-room/

    I have already assembled quite a lot of pieces for the iterative upgrades. They are:
    • Tiger Paw Khan top plate
    • Mober aluminum subchassis (Rega geometry for Roksan Nima)
    • Linn Kore subchassis (Linn geometry)
    • Linn Ekos 2 tonearm
    • Linn Troika cartridge (retipped by ESC, zero hours)
    • Dynavector XX-2 mkII cartridge
    I also bought a Greenstreet "Klone" subchassis for Aro (I got a great deal on this!) in case I ever come across a reasonably-priced Aro...

    At some point I would like to add a Lingo 4 or Radikal, but the budget is now sufficiently strained that it's time to stop buying and start installing.

    I have the Linn LP12 setup jig and have read through Peter Swain's setup manual as well as a couple of versions of the official Linn manual. I do not have the T-tool (but I should possibly get it; although the Khan eliminates the need for the T-tool, I suppose I will need to be able to properly set up the stock top plate in order to evaluate the difference the Khan makes, though it does feel a bit silly to pay for the T-tool when I expect the Khan to be better...)

    The question I'm now facing is which order to make the changes.

    I see two main possible paths.

    1) "WORSE" TO "BETTER". According to this strategy, I would slowly move from my current setup to the one most likely to sound best, noting the changes at every stage (and leaving the table in each of these configurations for a good month or so to be able really to "inhabit" it). So I would likely go:
    1. Swap stock top plate for Khan
    2. Swap Cirkus subchassis + Rega armboard for Mober
    3. Swap Adikt for Troika on Nima
    4. Swap Troika for XX-2 on Nima
    5. Swap Mober+Nima+XX-2 for Kore+Ekos+XX-2 (and try Troika as well)
    2) EASIER TO HARDER. Reading through Peter Swain's LP12 setup manual, it is apparent that my likely "best-sounding" rig is is the easier one to set up — especially concerning cable dressing on the Ekos 2 vs. Nima. This version would make a bit less sense, I think, in terms of "scientifically" evaluating every change (and would require multiple changes at some stages, something I'd hoped to avoid) but might allow me to more gradually increase my skill with setup. And I suppose going "better to worse" in a few steps might make me less susceptible to the trick of hearing every change as an improvement...
    1. Swap stock top plate for Khan and Cirkus subchassis+Nima+Adikt for Kore+Ekos+Adikt (lots of changes in one step!)
    2. Swap Adikt for Troika, then Troika for XX-2
    3. Swap Kore+Ekos for Mober+Nima
    Which of these makes the most sense to you? Or is there some other path I should be following?

    Thanks for your help!
  2. david ellwood

    david ellwood Kirabosi Kognoscente

    That’s a lot of no brainers

    khan top plate is one of those game changers that fundamentally redefined what the LP12 could do.

    similarly the Ekos will murder the nima.

    It’s a shame that the green street and mober aren’t linn geometry because both those might give the kore a run for its money.

    I’d put my money on the dynavector beating the troika, unless you can bring yourself to get it rebuilt by goldring.
  3. anhammond

    anhammond Active Member

    I'm pretty sure that the Ekos will indeed murder the Nima, and that the Khan top plate will be a good addition... although one of my main objectives is to really SEE (or rather HEAR) the precise difference that each addition makes to the overall sound, which is why I ask especially about the order question.

    I am probably crazy enough to compare the Kore vs. Mober vs. Greenstreet (maybe Keel too if someone is selling one used locally for a good price!) for Linn once I've satisfied myself than the Ekos is the arm for me, so stay tuned :)

    By the way, I will most likely end up building a second LP12 with the leftover bits — most likely built around the Nima.
  4. Vinny

    Vinny pfm Member

    I would bet quite a lot that choice of cartridge will be far more important to the sound than anything, perhaps everything, else on the list.

    I have used a Troika, and an XX2 recently on my LP12 (ARO, blah, blah.....) and they sound very different and which you'd like is impossible to say. I am using and prefer a Delos, which beat, for me, the XX2 by a mile. The Troika is far nearer the Delos than the XX2 - I prefer the Delos, but that isn't one of your choices.
    Mickdale likes this.
  5. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I can’t advise at all about order, I’ve really no idea there, but I’d certainly recommend taking time and really getting to know each change and whether you like it or not. I tend to put something in and leave it for at least a week before reversing-out unless I am absolutely positive from the off it is better or worse. I’ve ended up undoing quite a lot of tweaks etc over the years, probably as many as I’ve kept!
    murphydog and Wolfmancatsup like this.
  6. wylton

    wylton pfm Member

    I'd second that and would add to make sure that you play a good selection of music before you make your choice; there's no worse mistake than to try to tune your gear to a duff sounding record!
  7. denni55

    denni55 pfm Member

    My Lp12 is an eighties vintage black ash deck.
    came with an Ittok LV111 and Valhalla.
    changed the subchassis to Cirkus then an Ekos 2 and Dv17d2 (x2).
    last major change was a pit stop at Loud n Clear Glasgow for Johnnie of Audio Origami to give her the once over and fit a DV XX2 MK2.
  8. anhammond

    anhammond Active Member

    Thanks for the advice, everyone. Yes, I'll be taking my time at each step: at least a week, likely more. And I've been working on my set of test tracks for a few months now, focusing on recordings I (a) know well, (b) love listening to, and (c) know to be excellent pressings. It doesn't hurt that a good friend recently leant me twenty of his best-sounding jazz recordings, including many 1950s and 60s albums on Blue Note, Impulse, and (oh how I love Japanese jazz!) Three Blind Mice.

    I think my first step will be to swap the Cirkus+armboard for the Mober subchassis. That way I won't need to take the deck apart completely for my first change. The next step will be to install the Khan, which will require a complete teardown. Then I'll focus on carts, then switch over to the Ekos. I have a good lead on a beautiful Aro now, too, so that may enter the mix as well...
  9. Salamander

    Salamander pfm Member

    My advice would have been sub chassis first and top plate 2nd which you seem to agree with. :)
  10. DavidS

    DavidS pfm Member

    Stop now before it's too late.
    Salamander likes this.
  11. flatpopely

    flatpopely Prog Rock/Moderator

    The question you need to ask is why?
    Is your current LP12 not good enough, do you play vinyl and not enjoy it?
    DavidS, Vinny, Julf and 1 other person like this.
  12. Vinny

    Vinny pfm Member

    Like I said, change the cart', you even have a MC compatible phono stage. It will, if the correct cart' is chosen, likely produce FAR greater change towards a sound that you like more than currently, than most or all of the other changes put together. And leave plenty of ££ for more music.
    DavidS likes this.
  13. Woodface

    Woodface pfm Member

    Bit late to be asking advice after you've bought all the options. I've come to the conclusion that I have spent enough on vinyl & TT, was thinking about a top plate but can't be bothered now Tiger Paw has gone gone pop.
  14. Colin L

    Colin L pfm Member

    Buy a Rega or an SME. No ****ery. Job done
  15. david ellwood

    david ellwood Kirabosi Kognoscente

    As far as top plates is concerned the Karmen by tangerine is superb and available.
  16. antonio1

    antonio1 pfm Member

    I’d do a good mc Cartridge now and possibly a kore later on
  17. Woodface

    Woodface pfm Member

    It is also £1300
  18. david ellwood

    david ellwood Kirabosi Kognoscente

    mober do one if your looking for a cheap option.

    Not heard it, so cant say if its any good.
  19. YNWOAN

    YNWOAN 100% Analogue

    There is a company who does a laminated (two layer) stainless steel one and that is what I would have designed if AudioFlat had continued.
  20. anhammond

    anhammond Active Member

    I've definitely been enjoying my vinyl. In all my hobbies -- guitars, bicycles, audio -- a big part of the pleasure for me comes from figuring out the machine works, how it works differently if I change something here or there. So this LP12 modification quest will be all pleasure. When I'm done, I'll know my turntable better and have a better sense of what makes it sound the way it does. Since I'm buying everything used and resale values for everything I'm buying a quite strong, it will be cheap thrills in the end.

    YNWOAN, I'm interested in trying out that two-layer stainless steel top at some point — relatively inexpensive, too. And they also do a two-layer aluminum top, sort of like a Kore vs. a Keel in concept...

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