Linn’s venerable LP12 Sondek – over 40 years young – has become so synonymous with the succession of upgrades that have been applied to the basic deck since its launch, that it’s now almost impossible to talk about the turntable without applying some qualifying suffix. Of course, most of those upgrades have originated with Linn itself, reaching so deep that platter apart, pretty much nothing else remains of the original – although any Sondek can be updated to current spec if the inclination exists and funds allow. In fact, these days, there is no one Sondek, but three distinct levels of parts and all the pieces to step between them.
But one element of the deck has remained almost untouched since the earliest days: aside from adding corner braces and reinforcing blocks early on, Linn has left the plinth essentially unchanged, a decision that has opened the way for a recent flurry of alternative plinths from third party sources – although interestingly these have tended to concentrate on aesthetic or practical considerations, offering alternative woods or extended footprints intended to accommodate longer tonearms. Now comes yet another ‘after-market’ plinth for the LP12, but this is very definitely a plinth with a difference…
Whereas virtually all the other LP12 plinths, whether they come from Linn or alternative suppliers, feature the same simple hardwood picture frame construction, the booplinth is built from bamboo – a material that isn’t actually a wood at all. So much has been written about this almost ‘magical’ material (magical at least from a sonic standpoint) that I won’t repeat it all here, but the key thing to know is that this fast growing, carbon-positive grass is formed from long, resin bound fibres. Its tubular structure means that in order to create useable sheets of material you can actually make things from, you need to slice it into strips that are then pressure laminated to form slabs. The end result is incredibly strong, resilient and yet relatively light. It also creates a random structure built from differential strips of a random material, and as well as being seriously random that makes it deeply dispersive in nature, aided by its fibre/resin matrix nature. Its mechanical appeal is matched only by its eco credentials, which explains why it is cropping up in everything from the shelves in hi-fi racks to loudspeaker cabinets – with readily demonstrable sonic benefits all round. This is the material from which the booplinth is built.
But that’s not the only major difference between boo and the neighbours. The other thing that sets this plinth apart is that it’s CNC machined from a single slab of bamboo. Compare that to the standard LP12 plinth that consists of no fewer than 17 separate structural elements, including separate strips of wood that are attached to the inner face of the frame and act as shoulders on which the top-plate rests. In contrast, the booplinth’s one-piece construction is both stronger and mechanically more stable, while the nature of the process that creates it guarantees that those bits that are supposed to be level and parallel actually are, those corners that are supposed to be 90 degrees really are right angles – and stay that way. One of the great, unresolved debates in Linn folklore revolves around which age and/or colour of plinth sounds best. The answer is, they all sound different, irrespective of vintage or hue, and if you look at how they’re made and what they’re made from, that’s really no surprise. The booplinth doesn’t just promise superior sonic and mechanical performance, it should also deliver much greater consistency.