Linn Products Urika II phono stage

Linn Ulrika II
Linn Products Urika II phono stage

Recently, we looked at the Linn Lingo 4 power supply, which transforms the Akurate-level LP12 turntable. It was formed from many of the concepts used in the top Klimax-grade Linn Sondek LP12. Technically, there’s not a lot to improve on that top-of-the-tree turntable, with its Radikal DC motor, high-precision Ekos arm, Keel subchassis, Kandid cartridge, and Urika phono stage all offering substantial (and upgradable) improvements over the Akurate LP12. Or so it seemed at the start of the year…

Powered by the Radikal supply, the Urika phono stage is built into the Trampolin base board of the top version of the deck. It takes a feed straight from the arm base and outputs a line-level RCA single-ended or XLR balanced output to an amplifier. Increasingly, however, Linn is racing away from the traditional, and the matching Klimax DS vinyl replay system no longer features any form of analogue input (the DSM version does have a line-level pathway, but even here it only features one set of XLR connections). The logical move for Linn, then, is to digitise the phono stage – and so the Urika II is born. 

Linn has no plans to remove the original Urika from the line-up, and both the standalone Uphorik phono stage and the MM stage built into the Majik DSM show no sign of disappearing anytime soon. But when it comes to users of older Klimax systems, the move to the Uphorik II allows a touch of box liberation. Many Linn users have Klimax Kontrol preamps from the last decade, which have become increasingly vestigial as they moved into network streaming. However, very few – possibly no – Klimax Kontrol user will have bought the Klimax DSM vinyl replay system because the line-and-phono functions were handled by the Klimax Kontrol. If the turntable is the last analogue source you will ever own, the Urika II effectively signals the end of that need, and the need for the Klimax Kontrol. It’s sell or trade-in time!

Here’s why. The Urika II connects directly to that Klimax DS that you were hitherto using as a streamer. The Kinsky app you used to navigate through your music now also acts as a digital source selector and volume control. The Klimax DS now connects directly to your power amplifiers (or in the case of a full-blown DS system, Linn Klimax 350A loudspeakers), and now you have a system that is potentially all digital from the cable hanging from the arm-base to the cables leading to the drive units. Linn’s pithy ‘the source is in the speakers’ statement doesn’t quite hold here – the source remains in the record deck, but is kind of elongated throughout the whole system – but it does take some of the analogue heavy-lifting out of the equation.

The Urika II effectively makes the Linn LP12 an almost-exclusively Linn product. That’s not an oxymoron; the Urika II gets its power feed from the Radikal supply (no problem there) but the A/D process relies on the more up-scale clocking system found in the DS product to which it is connected, rather than its on-board timing board. Technically, you could skip the Linn DS product and simply use the TOSlink optical cable (which is provided as a recording digital out for those wanting to perform a few needle-drops, or archivists), but I think the nature of that output is governed by the timing accuracy of the Linn DS system. This is why the ‘sort of elongated throughout the whole system’ line is not just a throwaway. The ‘almost’ part of its Linnsclusivity is that the Urika II can be used with a number of different, extremely good, moving coil cartridges that are not in the Linn camp, most notably models from Benz, Denon, Dynavector, and Lyra. Linn’s Akiva, Kandid, Klyde, and Krystal are also included, although the classic Asaka, Karma, and Troika models are not.

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