ORIGIN LIVE: Encounter on a Linn LP12 (updated in the light of a conversation with Mark Baker)

 From the archives

I received an email  from Mark Baker (Origin Live) expressing disappointment re my observations re his entry level arm’s performance on a Linn LP12 as shown below. I phoned him, out of courtesy, to discuss this with him. I envisaged a bruising encounter (don't ask!) but it turned out be cordial. As an aside, some audio writers feel it's beneath their dignity and/or pay-grade to engage in such a dialogue. Not so with me.

Despite extolling the immediately obvious (to me) sonic benefits of an Origin Live arm on a Michell Orbe compared to the identical arm and cartridge on an LP12 (the latter combination being many £1000s more expensive), he remains (it seemed to me) unhappy. There was – in this dialogue at least – no meeting of minds. A pity – but there you go.

Anyway I feel it appropriate to report Mr. Baker’s opinion that all his arms work fantastically well on Linn Turntables. Apparently many reviews attest to this and I have no reason to doubt any of them. That said, I feel no obligation to be influenced by the opinions of others. Readers here expect me to make my own judgements based on my own first-hand direct experiences.

I remain utterly (and for the time being) unshakably of the opinion that an Origin Live Encounter offers an astonishing synergy with a Michell Orbe. I see no reason to deny this - although I remain very far from clear if Mark agrees with me on this. My impression is that perhaps he prefers the sound of his arms on a Linn rather than Orbe – but ... possibly I'm mistaken re this. Perhaps he will clarify? If so then I'll post it here.

I'm prepared to change my opinion when the facts change. Until then, I stand by what I've written below.

I have offered Mark a right of reply.

Thank you



I built the World Design VA88 power amp, Phono 3 MM/MC and Pre 3, all with upgraded components, which replaced a Dino phono stage and MVL A2+ amp. The front end is a Linn LP12, serial number 037***, that has been with me since the early 80s (updated with Circus and Origin Live DC motor). Arm is a Hadcock 228 Super, one of the early ones (circa 1979) with a Music Maker Mk3 cartridge. Speakers are World Audio Design KLS 9. Cables and interconnects are all quite adequate.

Adding valve amplification made an enormous improvement to the sound. I particularly value the detail, space and emotion that this lot provides. However, it has now made me wonder if improvements could be made to the front end, so I feel that perhaps an upgrade to the arm, cartridge and possibly even the deck may be required.

I like the music that the Hadcock (old as it is) with the Music Maker produces, it is lyrical and beguiling but may lack some detail, bass tightness and extension, possibly due to the arm. It does, however, seem to suit the Linn well and I am certainly used to setting up this arm.
The KLS9s have managed to sound better and better with each upgrade to other components so I was not thinking of replacing them unless you really think that it is necessary.

I had thought of putting an Origin Live Encounter on the Linn using the Music Maker for the time being, then perhaps adding an Ortofon Cadenza at a later date. However, is the Encounter a match for the Linn or should I bite the bullet and change the Linn for a Michelle Orbe with Origin Live Encounter, using the Music Maker for now? You may have other suggestions of arms to put on the Linn.

I am reluctant to go via the Linn Keel/Radikal route as I feel that Linn are unrealistic with the price they are charging for this. My music room, which is dedicated to the hi-fi system, measures 3.05 meters by 4.55 into the bay window, and 2.56 high, with curtains, soft furnishings and shelving placed to improve the overall sound.

I use a Moth record cleaning machine to keep 1000+ LPs in as good condition as I can. These range through rock, folk and classical. I do have a CD player and tuner but these are secondary to LP. The budget for these improvements is up to £2500 but I could at a pinch stretch to £4000. I look forward to receiving your wisdom on these questions.

This is a tricky one, as your choice of arm depends on your choice of turntable. Whilst a good combination, my perception is that there is more synergy between Michell decks and Origin Live arms than their arms on Linn turntables. I find the sound ... well ... just more engaging on a Michell, any Michell in fact. However ... I need to point out that my opinions are based on entry-level Origin arms. It might not be the same if using an Encounter. That said ..

If you want to keep your Linn, I’d consider an Audio Origami Uniarm, which is the unipivot version of the PU7, or a Naim ARO (if you were to go for an MC with Linn geometry). These both work brilliantly on the LP12, the combination being – as they say – greater than the sum of the parts. The sound will be sweet, lyrical, tonally rounded and very engaging on an emotional level.

Moving to a Michell Orbe with Origin Live 'Encounter' arm, and you'll probably get a more widescreen presentation, with a more complete picture of the recording, a stronger and deeper bass, more sparkling highs and a greater sense of absolute dynamics (although the LP12 is brilliant at small dynamic inflections).

Whilst I’m not a great fan of the Music Maker, I can see why many are. So think carefully about changing it; you may be disappointed. Personally, I’d go for anything from the Goldring and ClearAudio range but I realise that’s not a universal panacea, and many would see an example from the Ortofon range as a more sensible choice.

In your situation, perhaps the best way to get there from here would be to keep your LP12 – as you obviously love it – and improve on it with a Cirkus upgrade, whilst avoiding the Keel for cost reasons. Fit an Audio Origami Uniarm (or Naim ARO) and then decide if you’ve got what you wanted. If not, it would be time to ‘move platforms’ to the Michell, taking the arm with you, and then come back to us for more thoughts.

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