27 Jan Mathew.S, Yorkshire
I’ve loved hi-fi and particularly vinyl for all of my life, throughout the Linn Sondek was held up as the benchmark turntable. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford a reconditioned model back in the 90’s and whilst it was of a modest specification it was mine and I loved it! Fast forward 20+ years and I was actually thinking about letting it go, it was tired and upgrading or part exchanging it for a new one was beyond my means given Linn’s pricing. I therefore started to investigate alternative ways to get the deck I wanted once more. There’s a whole universe now of companies offering upgrades. Many of these also charge significant sums for their products even though it’s not always obvious how they’re able to justify their asking price. I installed a Cirkus bearing, Hercules 2 / Mose power supply as well as having my Akito arm refurbished with new bearings and rewire. All of these helped bring the deck massively closer to what I was seeking. Upon opening up my deck at the start of this project and seeing the original chassis it was really disappointing, this key bridge that maintains the pivot point of the tonearm with that of the platter, for all of the Linn Sondek’s desirability it’s clear that this vital component falls short. Linn have thankfully acknowledged that their original designs were weak, prone to flexing, vibration, or resonance which all reduce clarity and compromise the stylus’ ability to track the groove which adds to the noise floor. At nearly £2000 their solution (Keel) is twice what I paid for my LP12 in the first place! Equivalents from other 3rd party manufacturers are still significantly higher than the price of Linn’s ‘Kore’ sub-chassis (which ironically retains many of the flaws of their earlier design). I was intrigued by WTPAudio’’s solution. Corian is strong, won’t flex but is also inert meaning no resonance, it sounded ideal. WTPAudio’s design appeared to offer a solution that bettered Linn’s Kore and many of the other 3rd party products yet at a price that was tiny by comparison. Was it too good to be true? My interest was piqued, conversations with WTPAudio gave me confidence that they knew what they were doing and I placed the order for their full solution; new sub-chassis, armboard and acrylic cross-brace. They arrived quickly and I was immediately impressed by their quality, just holding them in my hand I knew I’d made the right choice. It was solid, really solid and slotted straight into the deck. Tightening the screws on the arm-collar didn’t distort anything, it didn’t ring like a bell if you tapped it, from underneath it gave an appearance similar to the Keel. Mounting the interface for the power supply was no longer via little plastic clips the screws are mounted on rubber to dampen any stray vibration. The Armboard bolts into the chassis and feels tight and true, its polished appearance looks smart and sets the deck apart from the others. Installation is no different from any other alternative whether it’s Linn or otherwise, as long as you understand how the suspended chassis works and have the means to set the springs and height correctly the whole process is quite quick, I had my deck reassembled in about 2 hours. First run: The difference is really quite stark, whilst trying to avoid the usual hi-fi cliches it sounded like there was more headroom and the individual instruments have more space, noise that I hasn’t realised was there was now clearly absent. A good friend of mine also has an LP12, however his deep pockets means has a very high-end model with a Keel, Ekos SE, Krystal, Radikal and Urika upgrades. His deck is glorious no doubt however in the interests of science we ran his side by side with mine. He was amazed at how well it sounded compared to his despite costing many times as much, yes of course his is better but not by the sort of margin you’d expect. WTPAudio are clearly passionate about the Sondek and for ways to improve them, they’re also very reasonably priced, something also unheard of these days. I think they have a product here that could turn the whole 3rd party upgrade scene on its head by making these wonderful turntables sound as they should without costing the sort of money associated with upgrading them.