Wednesday, July 27, 2011
My LP12 saga continues
The truth is I became very fascinated with LP12 ever since I owned one (or was it before I even had one) that I spin it several hours a day to play music. It sounds so addictively captivating to me that it makes me sit down wanting to listen closely, draws me deeper into the music and enables me to understand complex pieces better. Consequentially, my collection of records grows just as quickly and I stopped listening to CDs for quite a while now. There is simply no urge to, at least for the time being.
The aesthetic appeal (visual feel) of my hifi gears is of paramount importance to me, so apart from sounding good (aural feel), my LP12 must look its part too and my vanity led me to acquire a newer unit couple of years younger and in such an excellent condition that its plinth, main and sub platters are almost flawless. I have also picked up few other near-mint used parts and such actions incurred me card interests and losses when I eventually passed on the duplicated items to their respective new owners.
The plinth is an untouched fluted Afromosia or African Teak that has very beautiful grains. It is an extremely hard wood harder than Walnut which I adore and is one of the better sounding LP12 plinths around, according to Chris Harban of Woodsong Audio (http://www.woodsongaudio.com/). His oiled and hand-polished plinth made of exotic woods remains a dream of many a LP12 owner and I certainly hope to own one in the near future if my enthusiasm in LP12 has not dimmed by then.
I set up my newly acquired LP12 on my own this time around after dismantling it to thoroughly clean (including those hidden under the main platter like the motor pulley and belt guide) and swap few parts, putting to good use the tips from CM and through browsing of online articles & forum threads. The legacy and labour-of-love of CM still linger in this deck as the rebuilt Valhalla, motor brass bearing assembly (plus oil treatment) and top plate were all transferred there. It is the best sounding LP12 to have graced my system thus far with its tighter, leaner, more bites yet refined-sounding sonic characters with non-excessive blooms. 3 key words to adhere to in the setting-up of LP12 are "level", "square" and "tight" with the ultimate aim of attaining a perfect vertical bounce with no lateral movement. I have also ensured that the alignment of cartridge and the rotational speed of platter at 33 1/3 RPM are both spot on,
This present LP12 of mine is fitted with a late pre-Cirkus bearing and an epoxy-braced steel subchassis of which I also hope to replace the latter (an apparent weak point in the entire LP12 design) with either a Sole, Klone or Rubikon eventually. The sonic improvements of fitting one of these aftermarket subchassis are supposedly very significant.
Several friends have asked why I opted for the Rega RB700 instead of a Linn Ittok or Ekos tonearm on my LP12 and the answer that I repeated so often is I already owned a pretty decent tonearm and therefore no immediate need to spend further but the combo turns out to sound truly amazing to my ears despite beliefs to the contrary. Mr Tibbs and Mr Pig have found great success with their RB1000 and RB300 on their respective LP12; their own comments could be found in several online forums. A local hifi buddy who fitted a RB300 to his LP12 confided in me recently that he found the Ittok slow and muddy-sounding after some extensive comparisons in his system which goes to prove that there is perhaps truth to the comment made in a Naim forum thread (http://forums.naimaudio.com/displayForumTopic/content/1566878604389493):
"I too had read about the incompatibility problem of Rega and LP12, but pointed out that this was only likely to be a problem on older LP12, ie. pre Cirkus units. You may recall that the incompatibility debate was 'hottest' at the time when the Roksan Xerxes was a contender vying for the king of the turntables title. On the Xerxes, bass using the Rega was just fine, and, the combination was often preferred in demonstration to the LP12/Ittok. This led some to argue that what was at fault was not the Regas's performance at all, but the LP12, ie. the Rega was highlighting bass performance deficiencies in the LP12. Of course, we have to remember that all this was happening at a time when souping up the Rega was uncommon. (Since then, as we all know too well, the Rega has fronted many a Gyrodeck and many other high end decks, to the great satisfaction of many enthusiasts, who are initially impoverished by the substantial outlay required to own a quality deck).
Coincidentally, almost as if in response to this criticism (and significant lost sales to Xerxes converts), Linn announced the release of the Circus kit, which, magically, had the effect of removing some of the bass bloom of the LP12. Of course, with the seeds of discontent having been sown in so many enthusiasts minds re the LP12/Rega combination, it seems that no one really seriously bothered with the combination ever since. Indeed, such is the strength of the myth today, it now firmly resides, unchallengeable, in the subconscious of many dealers... who are more than happy to trot out the same old criticisms (I prefer to call it an inability to consider re-examining the validity of an argument in the light of new evidence). Of course, the same people are also conveniently forgetting the baseboard changes (and Trampolin), which also have the effect of taming the bass.
However, if I were to be even a tad cynical, I might be tempted to conclude that Linn were more than happy to let the Rega/LP12 incompatibility myth/problem persist. This is because if they were to invite the same comparison of the Rega/Ittok on the Cirkus decks, the Rega might well perform well enough to seriously dent the sales of that arm, and possibly kill off all sales of their Basik and Akito arms in one fell swoop! In the commercial sense then, you could argue that Linn played this one very cleverly indeed. Of course, with significantly lower profit margins for selling the cheaper arm (as compared to Ittoks), dealers themselves have a significant incentive not to sell the cheaper arm. Factor in that they also have to modify the LP12 to make the Rega fit, and there is yet further erosion of an already slim profit margin, (which is why many decks come factory fitted with Rega's).
So, to conclude, I have to say that your observation about how successful an RB300 is on an LP12 does not surprise me in the least. That a fettled RB300 might do even better, is more tantalising. Indeed, in the other forum I noted that someone reported that a fully fettled Rega, fitted to a 'modern' LP12, 'slaughtered' an Ittok. High praise indeed, and certainly plenty of food for thought, especially given the cost of second hand Ittoks - at least if you are not bothered about what company you LP12 keeps."
Alright, it is time to move on.