This isn’t like the usual hi-fi product review. It isn’t really a product review at all although mention of several products will occur. This is about a service available to all turntable owners and specifically Linn Sondek LP12 owners. The LP12 has been around for almost as long as Tony Blackburn has been spinning vinyl!
Think top-end turntable and I virtually guarantee you think of the LP12 as the most well-known iteration. This deck with its suspended sub-chassis design has had many variant specifications over the years and even more upgrade paths, both official through Linn and also un-official through many smaller outlets. It is one such company that I am reviewing here – Vinyl Passion is the brain child of Mark Sears and he is ably supported by his lovely wife Jan. Vinyl Passion was started in 2005 and is the sister company to Mark and Jan’s older company – The Missing Link.
I first met Mark and Jan this summer at a forum bake-off and I had a super day. When Mark and I talked we spoke of my LP12 and he suggested it was probably overdue for a service and he outlined several upgrades he could carry out if required. Since buying my LP12 I have always hankered for an upgrade to the Valhalla power supply which would give me speed change with the press of a button rather than the convoluted method of removing the central platter and belt, fitting an adaptor before replacing the belt and platter. For a former DJ with a hunk of 12” singles which mainly remained unplayed, this was always annoying to say the least. A Hercules power supply was the perfect antidote and first on my shopping list. Mark was quick to suggest his sub-frame upgrade which had already gained glowing press reports and although I was left in no doubt to its merits, I felt it was a little out of my tight budget restrictions. However, an armboard upgrade would give a good deal of an upgrade for far less money I was told, and when shown how inert the said Vinyl Passion VP-12 Carbon acrylic armboard was compared to the standard Linn (painted MDF) this appeared a no-brainer.
When funds allowed I contacted Mark again and asked when would be ideal to call down. I travelled down a few days later to have the work carried out. On arrival I was greeted like a long lost member of the family and quickly sat down to go through the relevant alternatives and prices so that we knew exactly what work should be carried out without any ambiguity. I was left on his comfy couch with a cup of coffee and a box of records to listen to while the work was carried out. This was most enjoyable as I had already learnt at the bake-off what a good sounding system Mark had utilising a modded LP12 (referred to as a VP-12) playing into a Ming Da MD7SE pre amp , Vincent power amp and Quad 2085 electrostatic loudspeakers augmented with a Rel subwoofer. On several occasions Mark came through from his workshop to update me on proceedings and around two and a half hours later all the work had finished. I could see an immediate improvement in the appearance of my turntable as Mark had diligently cleaned all the surfaces to such an extent it almost looked like new again. To say Mark had been fastidious in his setting up of my turntable at completion is an understatement. He had explained how the arm and cartridge had been slightly mis-aligned previously and it wasn’t until I hooked it back into my system at home that all this really dawned on me.
To describe differences in sound from one day to the next after this kind of work has been carried out can be a difficult, sometimes almost impossible, exercise for a reviewer. However, in this instance the differences were not subtle. Of course there had been several changes to my turntable all at once so to describe the improvement of one is virtually futile but the quality of the overall changes should not be under-estimated. I had recently purchased a new 180gram copy of Nirvana Unplugged after my original was suffering from extended use. I had played this just before my visit to Mark and taken notice of how clean and fresh this new copy was sounding in comparison to my older version. On my return this was the first piece of vinyl that came to hand. OMG !!!! Everything suddenly seemed to have more clarity and focus. There was a real feel of being at the gig, so much more than I had ever experienced previously. I was amazed and astounded in equal measure just how these changes had made such a massive effect.
If you own a turntable of any kind and are looking for some work carrying out I cannot recommend Mark’s work highly enough. He specialises in work on Thorens and Linn’s but will happily and expertly work on any make and model.
Vinyl Passion is situated a little south of Worksop in a small village called Meden Vale in North Notts.
Phone -01623 844478.
Website – www.missinglinkcables.co.uk