Writing about the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable in any of its guises runs the risk of going over old ground, because there is a lot of ground to cover in the turntable’s fortysomething years on the planet. With 100,000 LP12s sold in that time, it represents one of the most important fixtures in the high-end audio firmament. And, although many enthusiasts have moved on from the LP12, those figures command respect.
In fact, such is the respect the LP12 commands that even the derogatory term used by some of its former users – ‘the old fruit box’ – seems a little more gentle (and a lot less sweary) than it could be.
Part of the reason for its continued success is philosophical, but not in the way you might imagine; it is a perfect example of what has become known as the ‘Trigger’s Broom’ Paradox (in the popular BBC sit-com Only Fools and Horses, the street-cleaner Trigger wins an award for using the same broom for 20 years, although it had 17 new heads and 14 new handles during that time). People may have bought an LP12 in the 1980s and never changed it, despite changing every component in that turntable over the years. It is at once changeless and changing, which is a part of the fascination.
But, let’s be honest here – the turntable wouldn’t have stayed in production since 1972 if it weren’t built to a high standard from the outset. It harks back to a time before pithy mission statements like, ‘by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts’, when people who bought turntables were normal human beings who liked music and didn’t want to buy a turntable that needs a check-list in order to turn it on the right way, and who didn’t want an alien invasion or an oil-rig in their living room. The Majik LP12 connects with that ‘no fuss turntable’ concept well, possibly even better than more nuanced Linn LP12s further up the hierarchy.
Back in 1972 when the LP12 first appeared, the deck was a simple thing with a big switch to turn it on. It sat in a wooden plinth, the platter and arm bounced on a suspension, and it all sat on simple rubber feet. An external power supply would have been something exotic, fancy, and superfluous. Fast forward to 2015, and that ably describes the Majik LP12, too. An ABS rocker switch has replaced the big glowing red push-button, and the Grace arm and Supex cartridge oft spied on early LP12s have been swapped out for a carbon-fibre Pro-Ject 9CC arm and a Linn Adikt moving magnet cartridge. And, of course, virtually every part has been subtly improved over the years, as electronics, engineering tolerances, and materials science developed. But the LP12 is still recognisably a child of the 1970s.