Written some time in 1994:



Linn LP12 Upgrade Kit - The Cirkus


One of the most all-pervading pieces of hi-fi equipment (at least in
Britain) is the Linn LP12 turntable. Love it or hate it, it can't be
ignored, especially as Linn seems to offer an upgrade for the deck with
almost annual regularity. In the last couple of years we saw the
introduction of the Lingo power supply, which made the deck sound a heck
of lot better, and also turned it into an LP7 at the touch of a button.
All changes to the deck's design have been retrofittable, if at a cost. So
now, we have another retrofittable goody to play with. Namely, the Cirkus.
This is an upgrade kit at around half the price of a Lingo, and for your
money you get a new subchassis, bearing housing, bearing, inner platter,
and suspension. You also get a spare arm board and 2 spare belts. Almost
sounds good value for money. 

My system comprises LP12 Lingo/Ekos/Arkiv, Naim 32.5 preamp with 135
monoblock poweramps, and bi-wired Linn Sara 9 speakers. Now with this set
up you can probably work out that I like the LP12, and that I couldn't
wait to get my hands on the Cirkus upgrade kit. So off I went to get
cirkuscised (my spell checker suggests that isn't what I mean). So this
done, what are my views on it?  Well, I'll get this out in the open right
up front. I think it's brilliant. From the first track I heard, it was
clear that the deck has undergone a transformation, and the subjective
change is what often gets labelled as `huge' (which taken with a pinch of
salt usually settles down to `very significant'). 

Initial testing at my Linn dealer showed that the upgrade seems to have
drastically extended the frequency extremes, this being very apparent with
a comparison of Sondeks with and without the Cirkus, using active Keltic
speakers (Linn's Isobarik replacement).  The bass to treble spectrum of
the LP12 has perhaps been known for having a fat end and a thin end. But
the Cirkus has made the LP12 shed pounds off it's wobbly bottom, and has
filled out and greatly refined the top end too. The bass notes just seem
to keep on going down and down but at all points, the pitch is clearly
heard. No one-note bass here.  The control and speed of the deepest notes
is excellent too. The so called Linn `bass warmth' is no more. Just deep
and powerful, with overhang being banished to the history books. The huge
bass drum beats on The Blue Nile's track `Rags to Riches' from the `Walk
Across the Rooftops' album was room-shaking but effortlessly controlled.
The pitch of the deep synth bass in the same song was never in question,
and the play between the drum and the synth was handled amazingly well. In
fact in terms of control and pitch, the LP12 bass is now one of the best
I've heard - and that's something you may not expect from an LP12! 

Listening continued at home. Even over the Sara 9s, the deep bass is
easily apparent and control of bass drum impressive. The other improvement
which bordered on the shocking, was the wealth of detail that the deck now
gives. When a drum is hit, the deck isn't content with telling you
`thump', but insists on digging out the subtleties that let you get a good
idea whether the drumstick tip is wood or nylon and where on the drum the
stroke has been put. Other instruments get the same treatment. The amount
of information this new LP12 digs out of the grooves is great! In a
complicated mix, each instrument line is easily followed. Kate Bush's
`Sensual World' album gets a touch `busy' at times, but even at the most
congested times, the LP12 presented everything in a clearly delineated way
making the playing and music very understandable. My estimation of the
musical merit of the album has increased greatly since the coming of the
Cirkus. 

One of the strengths of the LP12 is to portray timing and rhythmic
subtleties well, this being one of the essentials when it comes to
realistic music-making in your home. And in my opinion this is where the
Cirkus scores most heavily. It's taken a big step forwards in terms of
realism. The music just sounds so much more believable with subtle timing
manipulation by good drummers being clearly audible and understandable.
It's the timing that I think really wins. I just haven't heard it so good.
Eric Clapton's guitar playing on Roger Water's `Pros and Cons of Hitch
Hiking' was excellent, with all the signatures of a damned fine guitarist
being easily heard. 

The icing on the cake is that there appears to be a good deal less surface
noise with the space between the notes being inky black.  Notes start and
stop with such control and with such authority that it gives you a
tape-like solidity (I mean that reel to reel master copy feel - not a
warbling walkman!). 

All new LP12s will now have the Cirkus fitted as standard, but most
interest will initially be from people who already own a Sondek. For those
people, I can highly recommend getting to your nearest Linn dealer for a
fitting. My deck was fully up to date, but still the improvement was
easily better than obtained from adding a Lingo. For people who's LP12 is
ageing a little (say 5 or 10 years old) then the Cirkus kit offers an
excellent opportunity to bring your deck up to spec so giving your system
a huge shot in the arm. 

For critics of the deck, I feel the new LP12 addresses many of it's
problems, so making the deck much more `audiophile'.  It now offers a much
more neutral and transparent performance. In a way, it's lost some of its
`Linn-ness', but this has been done in such a way, with such a big overall
improvement of music portrayal, that Linn-lovers will be raving about it.
So final words on the Cirkus? If you have an LP12, get one.