Linn Sondek LP12 Turntable
The Linn Sondek LP12 was arguably the first modern high-end turntable, with a belt-drive design that was a game changer in the 1970s and 1980s.
Ivor Tiefenbrun in Glasgow, Scotland, designed the LP12. Tiefenbrun freely admits earlier landmark turntables like the Acoustic Research and Thorens record players inspired it, but vinyl aficionados of a certain age know the LP12 is a near twin of the Ariston RD11 turntable. Those specific models are ancient history, but the LP12 remains in production, albeit with numerous large and small revisions. The important elements of the design—the bearing, platter, and plinth base—have remained essentially unchanged for close to 40 years!
The thing that really put the LP12 on the map was Tiefenbrun’s assertion that it’s the quality of the turntable—more than the speakers, electronics, or even the phono cartridge—that determines the sound quality of the complete system. The theory was based on his belief that once the information in the record’s groove was lost or obscured by poor turntable design, a better cartridge, amp, or speaker can’t magically restore it. He also said, “Put a bad signal into a good loudspeaker and you’ll clearly hear it’s bad. Put a good signal into a modest loudspeaker, and it’s likely to sound pretty good.” Tiefenbrun was citing a variation of the computer nerd maxim “garbage in, garbage out,” and he regularly wowed crowds at hi-fi shows by putting a cheap phono cartridge in an LP12 and doing live comparisons against competing turntables outfitted with a better cartridge.
LP12s of all vintages can be retrofitted with some or all of the upgraded and revised elements of the current-generation LP12. Thousands and thousands of decades-old Linns are still used on a daily basis. I know of no other consumer electronics product that rivals the LP12’s longevity as a state-of-the-art design.