After twenty seven years, Linn recently announced an update to their Linn Cirkus bearing--the Karousel bearing. For those who may not know what a Linn Cirkus bearing is...well this is the main bearing of the Linn LP12 turntable. The main bearing design is the part that Ivor Tiefenbrun used as his logo for his table back in the day. Ivor believed, rightly so IMO, that the bearing was the most crucial part of the whole turntable design. His original design had a oil based bearing consisting of a inner platter with a machined spindle that rotates in an oil filled container. Naturally, the container and the spindle had to be precisely manufactured for the spindle to rotate in an accurate manner. The original bearing was replaced after about fifteen years with the first bearing upgrade called ’Cirkus’. This bearing was more beefy than the original bearing and used Linn’s black oil along with a more precisely machined spindle. As such the ’Cirkus’ bearing kit consisted of a new inner platter and bearing fixture. The bearing ’cup’ attached via three screws to the sub- chassis. I replaced my original white collar inner bearing with a Cirkus bearing only about a year or so ago....to say the increase in SQ was substantial would be an understatement! Much lower noise floor, larger images and a more obvious ease to the flow of the music. This ’Cirkus’ upgrade when it first was released, about twenty seven years back came about to some fanfare, but not as much as the more recent power supply upgrades and plinth/subchassis upgrades..and yet i always felt that this particular upgrade was more impactful on the SQ than any other upgrade. ( as perhaps it should be if we go along wth Ivor’s original point!). So, after many years of Linn LP12 ownership and with an upgrade of the sub-chassis ( to Magik/Kore) and power supply/motor to the Radikal D, i was excited about the new bearing that was introduced just in time for ---the pandemic!!!
The new bearing features a different mounting system to the sub-chassis ( resulting in far more rigidity),plus more precise machining than Linn was able to accomplish before ( there is now talk of 5microns in precision!). This precision pays off in a BIG way as we shall soon see. I had expected a step up in SQ, since the Cirkus was so very impressive when I fitted it, but to say that I was ’gobsmacked’ when i first heard the new Karousel would be an understatement! This review is based on listening to the new bearing with about ten hours on it...and as such it could get even better...which would be a truly incredible thing. But, here’s the thing, the new bearing is so amazing in what it does for the Linn LP12 turntable that i think IF funds allow it should be a mandatory upgrade. My first listen with the upgrade was to the reissue of the old favorite ’The Royal Ballet gala’ album from Analog Productions. This classical LP sounds great on the Linn Cirkus, yet with the new bearing in place, I noticed something that i had not when listening to this album before...a complete and total silence between tracks along with far more precision of timbre on all of the instruments. Better dynamics and larger dynamic swings, more bass reach and better deep bass resolution and lastly, another increase in the ebb and flow ( which i wouldn’t have thought to be even possible) over the Cirkus bearing. To say that the table now moved another step closer to the reproduction of master tape would be appropriate, IMO. The new Karousel bearing for the Linn LP....simply this- Linn has hit one out of the park>>>
Yes, I've been told the Lingo 4 is a significant upgrade.
The Karousel is an amazing upgrade. the noise level has dropped significantly. IMHO, the bearing upgrade is fundamental to the table as it removes a lot of the vibration from the turntable.
The old saying that the notes "come out of the black" is true. The dynamics, micro and macro, are sooo much better that the imaging is far more accurate. The position of instruments/voices is now accurate front/back and left/right. and low level signals are not lost when the music gets loud.
In the meantime, I upgraded my preamp.... got a CJ ET3SE line stage ( keeping my DIY Super Duper Adjustable DIY Clone Pearl 2 solid state ).
Mostly, I'm on a tear to lower the noise floor. Right now I can play Warner Brothers LPs from the 70s ( after vacuum cleaning ) and the noise floor is as low as playing Tidal 24/96 over a Burson. And THAT is awesome.
It also depends on your power supply. if you have a Valhalla, then you would need to change that to at least a Lingo ( the Valhalla board is not sized to accommodate a Karousel). The sub chassis probably works if you already have a Cirkus fitted, but it would be helpful to know which sub chassis you do have. Is it the bonded Cirkus sub chassis or something else?
@vitussl101. I can tell you that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my LP12 when I changed out the original bearing and heard the significant across the board improvements with the then new Cirkus bearing. If you ask most folk who own Linns that were updated to the Cirkus, they almost universally heard what I did when the bearing was replaced. The same goes now for the new Karousel bearing, but perhaps it is like everything else in this hobby, the more resolving your upstream gear is,,.the bigger the improvements you will hear.
To clarify a few things about the LP12, years ago I used to work for an authorized Linn dealer and setup quite a few LP12's at and around the time the Cirkus upgrade came out. First, their were I believe a couple of changes to the original bearing. The last one was pretty substantial in that it had a bearing liner made of PEEK. A difficult (at the time) material to machine that created a tighter bearing tolerance. A much lower expansion/contraction coefficient. It was black and the oil was black. Linn also made the bearing and bearing shaft out of the same materials to keep expansion /contraction coefficients the same to keep tolerances from changing because of differing materials. Then the Cirkus bearing came out as a response to some owners dislike of the linn's mid bass performance or something like that. By the way their was a great article a few years earlier in Hifi News & Record Review about this very issue written by Martin Colloms where he figured out the (problem?) issue with a fix for it including measurements to backup his subjective impressions. As far as the Cirkus upgrade went, while it took care of this mid bass bloat it also took away a lot of the character of the LP12 that made the LP12, I don't know, shine. I and quite a few others didn't care for the upgrade that daveyf gushed on about which leaves me to suspect that maybe his table had a more serious issue. I'm guessing. Not just customers but dealers who were quite familiar with the table personally didn't bother with the update. Also the Majik and Kore (and Keel for that matter) are different sub-chassis' models made for the LP12. By the way if you own an earlier Linn like a Valhalla model you will need to update the sub-chassis to install the new main bearing. Lately you don't hear much about LInn like in the golden era of audio. When I look at the LP12 I see a product with a lot of firsts in design and engineering. Mine is thirty odd years young and admittingly most of it has been changed. But after everything else in my setup that has been replaced, it has stood the test of time.
Like most great upgrades, the longer one listens, the more one hears. The Karousel bearing is no exception. Like zavato states above, if you can swing the cost, it should be on your very short list of things to do for your LP12. It is interesting how the bearing, like Linn says, is the most important part of any turntable design. The LP12 may be an older design, BUT this new bearing is a serious design that can compete with just about anything out there at any price, IME.
I’ll add my 2 cents. If your LP12 able to accept the new bearing, and you can swing the cost, it’s a terrific update to a venerable table. Sure, there are many who knock the LP12 as an antiquated design, but kudos to the company for keeping the table Evergreen
The new Karousel is priced at a point that does seem fairly reasonable...and for the increase in SQ that it brings...well that really tips the upgrade in the consumers favor, IMO.
Like I noted before, the price may or may not include fitting. I had to have my own 'fettler' fit mine, and this was an extra cost to me. However, that is mostly due to the fact that i do not have a local dealer who can set up the table. The nearest being about 250 miles north of me...and with the coronavirus the round trip there and back could take a day or so to accomplish. ( Due to having to drop off the table and wait in the city to pick it up once ready). This is really a crazy situation due to the distance for me to this particular dealer, but the next one up from them are close to 1000 miles away! Linn LP12 dealers who can actually do the work on the table are not as common as they once were, and as such i am lucky to have a local 'fettler' who can. Problem is Linn is being stubborn and doesn't want him to be 'authorized' to work on the LP12, as such i have to source the part from another part of the country...a real PITA. Nonetheless, my 'fettler' is truly an expert in this area and well worth his price. ( We both wish Linn would acknowledge this fact--they let him be the authorized Linn repair guy, but not the authorized Linn LP12 upgrade installer, even though they know he has worked on the table for decades...makes no sense!!).
@roberjerman With an attitude like that, I can understand why there would be folks in the dark ages...lol.
@brf The upgrade costs $975- and may or may not include fitting...depending on your dealer. The kit contains a female bearing, a new inner platter with a the male spindle ( this has changed very sightly as I noticed that the spindle top is now a stainless look vs. chrome..which looks great) and new springs/grommets and oil. The bearing is now completely made from stainless....and very impressive looking, IMO.
Linn claim that the new Karousel bearing is not only incredibly precise, but also the fact that it is now far more rigidly attached to the sub-chassis is bringing about the results. It seems it is not just the increase in accuracy of machining, but also in the attachment method. Nonetheless, the results speak for themselves.
My Thorens TD124 main bearing is being precision adjusted down to 5 micron accuracy also. Can’t wait to get it back in the next week or two and see change in sound quality. Friends who have had it down are thrilled with what those small tolerances do for SQ.
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