Funk Vector Linn Sondek LP12
Malcolm Steward wrote this article in 2007 for a British title but somehow, I guess by the structure of the copy, it wound up in an American one. most likely ‘Enjoy The Music.com‘
Ah, the joys of updating one’s Linn Sondek! Especially when the process involves barely a single element produced by the origina…
It’s a Linn Sondek but not as we know it…
The Funk Vector Link kit is a truly radical modification to the venerable Linn Sondek LP12 turntable. The fully Funked LP12 – which the Funk Firm says attempts to extract greater LP12-ness from the deck rather than turn it into something it was never intended to be – undergoes major surgery before acquiring its racy, carbon-fibre-topped exterior.
A major element of the deck’s organ replacement is the fitting of a carbon-fibre and balsa wood combined sub-chassis and arm-board, called the Charm. Linn has already introduced a combined sub-chassis and arm-board with its Keel upgrade but it is worth noting that – disregarding performance considerations – this is currently only available to suit Linn tone-arms. If you use any other design that doesn’t adopt a Linn pattern fixing, you’re snookered. The Charm, though, can be ordered configured to suit the tone-arm of your preference.
There is a variety of parts that you can fit if you’re not going the whole way with the Funk modifications but, if you opt for the full package, you’ll also receive a carbon-fibre top plate, an Achromat to replace the Linn’s felt mat, and the intriguing K-Drive motor system.
My own LP12, which hasn’t been in standard guise since 1991, already features a repositioned DC motor powered by a battery PSU. The K-Drive kit also employs a DC motor but one that has been optimised for mounting on the deck’s sub-chassis from where it drives the sub-platter through a belt supported by three pulleys. Its power comes from a small external box housing a class A, single ended, low-distortion output stage along with circuits that provide frictional compensation, reduced mains interference and current-derived servo operation. All these elements combine to deliver a smoother and more stable performance from the drive system, which, all else being equal, should deliver an enhanced portrayal of your music.
A selection of piano recordings served to demonstrate that the platter was indeed rotating at the correct speed and with formidable stability. Notes had rock solid, secure pitch and delightfully exposed envelope shape that imparted a convincing sense of realism to recordings. Left-hand passages also revealed a total absence of the upper-mid-bass coloration for which the Linn was once criticised by its detractors: the Vector’s lower frequencies — indeed, its entire frequency spectrum — displayed an outstanding clarity and freedom from coloration.
An acknowledged strength of the LP12 is its ability to ‘follow the tune’ and the Vector preserves and, in fact, enhances this. It displays an amazing aptitude for tracking the melodic and harmonic development of music no matter how subtle that may be. It is particularly adroit at following delicate harmonies and making abundantly obvious the relationships between different instrumental lines. Aiding it in this respect is the LP12’s inherent dexterity with timing and rhythmic information, which the overt ‘clarity’ of the Funk Vector seems again to augment and amplify. The modified turntable’s lack of clutter and background ‘noise’ lays bare every note, rendering the music with close to the lucidity of a master tape. The same qualities, furthermore, allow the deck to provide genuinely realistic dynamic contrasts: this was especially noticeable when the music dropped rapidly to silence and the abrupt absence of sound was little short of startling.
The beauty of the Funk Vector LP12 is that it manages this type of high-resolution performance without ever sounding sterile or clinical. Its portrayal is always musically coherent and engaging. And therein is the appeal of this modification: it truly seems to make the LP12 more LP12-like, bringing its positive qualities fully to the fore while suppressing those that its detractors chose to focus upon. It still plays wonderful music but it has a good tidy round — thankfully without making Johnny Thunders sound like Johnny Mathis — before doing so.
- Sound: 92%
- Features: 90%
- Build: 85%
- Value: 90%
- Plus points: It meets its manufacturer’s objectives by making the LP12’s performance much more LP12-like. It’s very much a music first presentation whose clarity will also satisfy the hi-fi enthusiast.
- Minus points: It is not an ‘official’ Linn factory supported modification if that sort of thing concerns you.
- Conclusion: Those dogmatic types who still view tweaking the LP12 as heresy will miss hearing how significantly the amazing Funk Vector kit can enhance their enjoyment of music.
- Overall score: 90%