After forty years of production there is very little to say about the Linn LP12 that hasn’t already been said, except perhaps that it must surely qualify for one of the longest standing production units in audio industry. My first experience of this turntable occurred in 1977, having wandered into the shop front that was then the Naim factory. Julian Vereker, at first angrily dismissive having (correctly) surmised that I was a young impoverished student, proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon playing music and emphasising the importance of the turntable in a hi fi system, something of an alien concept to both myself and most other enthusiasts at the time. The idea that he wouldn’t sell me an amp unless I bought an LP12 seemed just weird; and I couldn’t get my head around the fact that his preamp didn’t have any tone controls. While that first meeting was something of a culture shock, I will never forget the sheer passion and drive of the conversation, something that I had rarely encountered before relating to audio. Move forward a couple of years to a time where I could consider buying a decent turntable, and the Linn / Naim philosophy was beginning to take hold and would in time form a divide in the audio community like no other, radically influencing (if not redefining) the hierarchy that applied to system building. What was less welcome was the accompanying narrow-minded arrogance adopted by many in the industry, an attitude that in this day and age is worse than useless, but sadly still pervades in some quarters.
So I bought a Linn on the basis of its sound, but not without casting a resigned glance back at the precision engineered, beautifully machined Technics/Micro Seiki/Trio alternatives. Lets face it, by comparison the LP12 hardly looked like a definitive engineering statement at the time, with bits of fibreboard, self-tapping screws and a degree of voodoo required in setting it up. Over the years I have owned or used several other turntables that together with CD’s as an alternative source, have given me a more enlightened overview of what the Linn does and doesn’t do. But whatever its faults, I find a well set up LP12 is never less than engaging and enjoyable to listen to, focusing as it does on the positive aspects of vinyl reproduction while not drawing too much attention to the failings.
At the height of its popularity it was considered heresy to apply modifications unless they originated from the Linn factory, these days it seems to be open season with a multitude of options that cover almost every aspect of the design from power supplies to new motors, plinths and sub chassis.
The Khan explores new territory by offering a replacement for the pressed steel top plate together with a new internal cross brace and fixing hardware, this can be fitted without any modification to the existing unit. The original plate was slightly curved to enable a stressed fit to the plinth, and a degree of inconsistency had to be taken into account during the set up procedure this was an area that could have a major influence over performance. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the role played by this component is fairly critical, as it is effectively the foundation (albeit inverted) on which everything hangs or is attached to, looked at from this perspective it becomes clear how much of a factor it plays in the behaviour of the turntable.
Machined from a solid billet of aluminium, both the Khan top plate and the cross brace have a complex milled pattern on both sides to control resonance, the former is tapped to take the studs that replace the original bolts allowing better accuracy to the perpendicular. The surface is a fine blasted to a matt finish, a massive aesthetic improvement over the rather 70’s looking original. The top plate is completely flat, and a useful (though not always necessary) addition is a couple of clamps to augment the two fixing studs, that come into their own if for example the plinth is slightly out of true.
The team behind the development of the Khan have collectively had plenty of experience with the LP12, and speaking with Mark Digman, one of the partners in the project it was interesting to discover that ‘over engineering’ a product is not always the best solution. During the process of prototyping it was found that making the Khan thicker and more substantial effectively killed the performance of the turntable, and the final product is the result of a considerable amount of fine-tuning and listening to achieve the desired balance of attributes.
The first consequence of the Tiger-Paw kit becomes obvious during the process of setting the turntable up, where the greater accuracy and alignment of the bolts allows everything to sit in place more readily, but I admit this was an observation rather than actual experience. Phil March of Phonography originally alerted me to the Khan, and having fitted a few of them kindly offered to do the set up, he also happens to be second to none when it comes to getting the best out of a LP12. The current example dates from the early nineties with Linn modifications up to the Cirkus and an Armageddon power supply, but nothing beyond that. Tone arms used while evaluating the Khan were the Linn Ekos (an early one) followed by a Rega RB1000 and an Alphason HR100S, while the cartridge for the main part was a Lyra Skala.