- Exceptionally engaging and beguilling sound
- Endlessly upgradeable
- Beautifully made
- Totally dependent on a decent setup
- Only plays 45rpm via adaptor
- Clunky power switch
What is the Majik LP12?
The Linn Majik LP12 is a suspended, belt driven turntable… but there is a fair chance you probably knew that already. The LP12 joins a select group of products in the industry that have enjoyed lifespans far longer than might be reasonably considered the case, even judged by the more relaxed standards of two-channel rather than the breakneck pace of change with multi-channel devices. As near as makes no difference when you read this, it will have been in continuous production for 45 years
What makes the LP12 more unusual, is that unlike a few other products that have been in production for a long time is that it doesn’t fill a very narrow evolutionary niche. While we can point to vinyl having a major resurgence, higher-end turntables continued to tick over fairly nicely in the period where vinyl was ‘dead.’ It has remained Linn’s default turntable option for customers for its entire life – a more affordable model existed for a time but has been consigned to history. What is also noteworthy is that while this 2017 Majik specification unit looks superficially identical to the launch version, it is in fact rather different internally.
This means that there are a few considerations to be made in this review. There are now enough turntables in the AVForums review inventory to note that the Majik LP12 sits at the same price as the enormously competent and sophisticated Clearaudio Performance DC (tested at £2,650/$3975). I noted at the time that Clearaudio was deeply capable and used any number of very clever technical innovations to make a turntable that was hugely easy to live with. There is also the small matter of the biblical specification options available for the Linn beyond the version you see here. Is the LP12 still a serious contender for your money in 2017 and if so, is this the best way to experience it?
As noted, the Linn has changed considerably in the time it has been in production but most of the basic architecture of the design has remained unchanged. At its core, the LP12 is a belt driven, suspended turntable with a wooden plinth and two-part metal platter topped off by a felt mat. The key word in that list is ‘suspended’ as it puts the LP12 into a slightly different category to any other turntable we’ve tested so far. The platter, main bearing and armboard are suspended on three coil springs hung from the top plate of the chassis. This ensures that a sub chassis is decoupled from the outside world while being linked together in order to keep the relationship between the two a constant.
The advantage of suspending these components is that they are much less susceptible to interference from the outside world. Interference that makes it to the plinth should be nullified or alleviated at the playing surface. The catch is that the suspension needs to be correctly set up to ensure that the platter is level and that the spring rate (the measurement by which the springs move and the resistance they offer) has to be set in such a way as to ensure the forces are equal – which does not mean that the springs themselves will be equal.
Originally, this sub chassis was the shape of a kite and the rectangular armboard was attached with screws to one end of it. Recently, this relationship has changed. The Majik seen here, still has a separate armboard which screws into place but the subchassis has increased in size and has an armboard shaped extension on it. If you choose a more expensive version of the LP12 – more of which later – this chassis and board becomes a one piece section that is either cast – a device called the Kore – or machined – a device called the Keel. This is much more rigid and allows for a more consistent relationship between the arm and the platter.
The motor of the LP12 is not suspended and is mounted to the plinth where it acts by belt on the sub platter of the unit. The motor is an AC unit and in the case of the Majik, it spins at a constant speed which is then geared to ensure the platter rotates at 33rpm. If you need 45rpm, you will either need to use an adapter – and partially disassemble the turntable to use it – or look at one of the more elaborate power supply arrangements.
Linn makes two tonearms of their own; the Akito and the Ekos but to ensure that the Majik is available for a more reasonable price, it makes use of a Pro-Ject 9CC tonearm. This is an increasingly common choice for a cost effective arm and has the advantage of using the same geometry as Linn arms meaning that you can change it for one in the future. In the immediate term of course, the 9CC is a capable device and should work effectively with a fair variety of cartridges. The Majik is supplied with the Adikt moving magnet phono cartridge but it would be up to the job of working with a wide variety of designs.
The most important part of the LP12’s specification is that a Majik LP12 can become – in stages or in a single jump – an LP12 from a different model range. These are currently listed as the Akurate LP12 with Kore subchassis, Akito Arm, Krystal cartridge and Lingo 3 power supply. There is then the Klimax version which uses Keel subchassis, Ekos arm, Kandid cartridge, Radikal DC power supply and motor and the option of Urika phono stage that is built into the underside of the plinth. What is critical to the ethos of the LP12 is that any model ever made can be converted to the current specification – or indeed mix and match the current components with legacy ones.
Neither does this flexibility end there. The LP12 has more upgrades and aftermarket parts than any other turntable ever made – even eclipsing the Planar series Regas. As well as working with a wide selection of other arms, there are power supplies, top plates, plinths and subchassis available from a variety of sources. Some of these are aimed at keeping older models going in a cost effective manner but others when used in conjunction with the Klimax specification parts can take the price of an LP12 north of £20,000/$30,000. It’s perfectly possible if you bought a Majik version, you’d go nowhere near any of these parts – but it’s potentially nice to know you can.
Without exaggeration, for many people, the LP12 is the shape and form that many people will associate when you say ‘record player’ – with only the equally long lived Technics SL-1200 coming close. It has leant its silhouette to countless instruction manuals and diagrams and it has entered the public consciousness in a way that most other items of audio equipment can only dream of. Viewed objectively, it must be said that the Linn is a good-looking piece of kit. The proportions and contrasting materials combine to make a very handsome looking turntable indeed. The carbon fibre of the Pro-ject arm can seem a little incongruous and it doesn’t look quite as good as some of the Linn arms but it doesn’t detract from a good looking turntable.
The build quality is also extremely good. The fit and finish of the wood and metal sections are well and truly of the standard expected at the price point and the little details – the script on the armboard, the wood grain on the plinth and the like – all help the Linn feel quite special. As befits a more recent production unit, this unit has a flat sided plinth as opposed to the ‘fluted’ one fitted to older models and while many people disagree, I think this makes for a better looking turntable.
It is also impressively practical. The Linn is– by the standards of many rivals quite compact. It is no larger than a Rega Planar 3 and it has niceties like a lid which is a massive boon. It is worth pointing out that at the Majik level seen here, the lid is an optional extra but nonetheless a lid exists. The only aesthetic detractor to the Linn is also specific to the Majik. As well as the power supply of this version only spinning at 33rpm, because it terminates at a mains voltage level in the plinth, the Majik needs a socking great switch on the top panel for electrical safety purposes. It is clunky and inelegant but would be gone the moment you changed to a different PSU.
Without exaggeration the LP12 is the shape and form that many people think of when you say ‘record player’
How was the Majik LP12 Tested?
The LP12 has been connected to a Cyrus Phono Signature phono stage which has been connected to a Naim Supernait 2 integrated amplifier and Leema Acoustics Quasar all-in-one system, both of which have been connected to an Isotek Evo 3 Sigmas mains conditioner All equipment has been placed on a Quadraspire QAVX equipment rack. Speakers in both cases have been the KEF R500 floorstanders. Test material in this instance has been vinyl.
The Linn arrived – at my behest I must stress – in a partially knocked down condition as I’ve owned two LP12s in the past. It took a few minutes of staring at the huge bag of screws Linn had supplied to realise that I was massively out of my depth. I am indebted to Peter Swain at Cymbiosis just outside Leicester for performing setup and installation on the review sample. Peter is one of the best – if not the best – at this process so we can take it as read that all comments apply to a well set-up example.
This matters because set up on the LP12 is everything. If you are by nature a fan of plonk and play, this is not and never has been the turntable for you. Put simply, every component makes a difference. The springs as noted need to be correctly set and the platter must be level. Things don’t end there though. The belt is directional (and the directions invisible to the naked eye) and the mat side makes a difference too – one I’d have never believed until I heard it. If this all sounds rather involved, you need to bear in mind that a Linn dealer will perform this installation for you but if you choose to take it to bits after this, they aren’t necessarily obliged to put it together again. Compared to the Clearaudio Performance DC, the Linn is fiddly and somewhat involved.
The thing is though; if you are willing to put the effort in, the LP12 still delivers. People can on occasion get a little over excited about it – even in full Klimax spec, this is not the best turntable ever made and the talk about ‘supernatural timing’ are somewhat open to interpretation but behind the vast array of words, the Linn is still capable of a tremendously satisfying musical performance. This is not an anachronism, it’s a genuinely capable turntable.
Once installed, I selected a little piece of nostalgia from my teenage years in the form of Big Calm by Morcheeba. The Linn is wonderfully effortless in the way it goes about making this album happen. Skye Edwards’ vocals are reproduced with wonderful presence and realism. Music manages to flow in a way that is compelling and incredibly easy to listen to. Above everything else, the Linn engages you in how the music happens in a way that is slightly different to almost any other record player.
While this happens, the basics are all well captured. The Majik has an effortless three dimensionality to the soundstage and this gives everything the space it needs to sound convincing. The newly released reissue of Dead Can Dance’s Spiritchaser is vast and open. The movement of sound from left to right is vivid and physical and there is a real sense of the vastness of the recording. When you then change tack and ask for something entirely smaller and more intimate like Tribulations by My Baby, the Linn effortlessly shrinks the size of its performance to suit. That innate flow remains though. If you choose a piece of music that moves you and play it on the LP12, it really does do something that serves to engage you in the music.
It is important to stress that it isn’t perfect though. Viewed objectively, the bass response of this Majik specification is not as assured as rivals like the Clearaudio. There isn’t quite the sense of impact and heft to low notes although they stop and start with assurance. Higher specification versions don’t have this same slight softness but they do occupy a rather different price point. If your enjoyment of music is about hearing every last micro – detail and getting a perfectly flat frequency response, the LP12 in this specification at least, is not likely to deliver exactly what you are looking for. This is more of a big picture style device.
That big picture tends to work regardless of the material you are asking the Linn to play though. In the time it has been here, it has been as happy playing Leftfield’s Bad Radio as it has the pared back delta blues of R.L Burnside. The Adikt cartridge has proved to be rather impressive in this regard. It is impressively immune to surface noise and it has a sweetness to the top-end that means even poor pressings are handled well. Linn sells the Adikt separately but it manages to work particularly well here and it wouldn’t be something I would be rushing to change.
This is not an anachronism, it’s a genuinely capable turntable
When I suggested doing this review a little while back, I wasn’t completely sure what the result of it would be. As noted, I owned an LP12 some years ago. It cost £500/$750 all-up and I enjoyed listening to it but it simply couldn’t compete with the Michell Gyrodec that replaced it. Testing the Majik version has been illuminating for several reasons. As a brand new version rather than a fairly elderly used example, this looks and feels rather smarter and more in keeping with the asking price that it commands. Listening to an example that has also been rigorously and correctly setup has also demonstrated just how important this process is to the Linn.
If you do take delivery of a new Majik LP12 and have it set up by a Linn dealer, the defining aspect of its attributes is that it continues to deliver an exceptionally satisfying musical performance. Partnered with any degree of thought – and this means a range of components well beyond the Linn range – it will happily deliver its tremendously enjoyable presentation across a huge selection of music. Even in this ‘affordable’ configuration, the LP12 is significant amounts of money and there are more visually spectacular looking rivals available but as a device for the consumption and enjoyment of vinyl, it is still absolutely competitive with rivals and offers almost unlimited scope for upgrade.