Adrian M (Australia): Ultimate Full Set
I took my deck in to Decibel Hi-Fi in Brisbane to get a service, budgeting for a re-build of my Troika that had not been re-tipped since 1994 - only to find it still has life left in it.
I decided to put my spare cash into a new sub-chassis as I felt that would be the most cost effective upgrade. However, the Linn Kore was expensive and the Keel completely off the cards.
Fortunately I discovered Stack Audio on the web and was very impressed by the design of the system and the excellent value for money compared with other manufacturers. I got Decibel Hi-Fi to import and install the Serene Ultimate Full Set. I’m glad that I got to see the components before they were assembled, the quality of finish are second to none.
The law of diminishing returns seems to have been made for the hi-fi world, you end up having to expend ever increasing amounts of money for decreasing returns. Not with Stack Audio, for a modest outlay I have got a thoroughly modernised deck that sounds spectacularly better in every way!
I particularly enjoy being able to follow vocals, even when buried in the music mix, hearing far more emotion in the the phrasing of the lyrics. The soundstage is solid, deep and wide, base notes really are notes - powerful and easy to differentiate. The treble is spectacular - I was listening to Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle on “One From The Heart” and during the first track a coin is dropped, rolls and clatters to the floor - it sounded so metallic and real in 3D space!
The Serene Ultimate Full Set and given me exactly what I wanted - greater detail, clarity and control of the music without any negative effects whatsoever - all at a very reasonable price."
Robert J (USA): Arm Board
The first thing that becomes instantly apparent on receipt of the Serene arm board, is that the exceptionally high quality of its finish and functionality has been the primary focus in its design and build, from its inception to the final product the love of the music has shone through, with no sign of any kind of emphasis on profit margins, with a class leading attention to detail it is easy to see why these arm boards are fast becoming firm favourites with those in the know.
The Solid Surface material is not only beautifully finished with its hand polished, high gloss surface but highly effective, and to my ears a natural choice. The three brass inserts allow a faultless connection between the sub-chassis and the arm board, bettering many offerings at up to five times this price point, and dare I say it, giving some well known extremely high end one piece solutions something to think about. The inherently simple but highly effective fixings allow for removal of the arm board as often as you wish, without fear of damage or any alignment issues, a real plus for those of us that like our record decks to be easily adaptable and able to gradually evolve over time.
As with many LP12 upgrades of this nature the overall dynamics of the sound improvements are often subjective and easily overrated, however on this occasion I believe you can instantly experience a vast improvement over the original arm board.
If you haven't already tried out the Serene Solid Surface board then my advice is to purchase one as soon as possible. Stack Audio are one of those increasingly rare companies that are born from a passion for perfection in what they produce, and judging by this first outstanding offering, I for one am very much looking forward to their future projects
Mathew S (Yorkshire, UK): Sub-Chassis, Arm Board, Cross Brace (Platform Set)
I’ve loved hi-fi and particularly vinyl for all of my life, throughout the Linn Sondek was held up as the benchmark turntable. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford a reconditioned model back in the 90’s and whilst it was of a modest specification it was mine and I loved it!
Fast forward 20+ years and I was actually thinking about letting it go, it was tired and upgrading or part exchanging it for a new one was beyond my means given Linn’s pricing. I therefore started to investigate alternative ways to get the deck I wanted once more. There’s a whole universe now of companies offering upgrades. Many of these also charge significant sums for their products even though it’s not always obvious how they’re able to justify their asking price.
I installed a Cirkus bearing, Hercules 2 / Mose power supply as well as having my Akito arm refurbished with new bearings and rewire. All of these helped bring the deck massively closer to what I was seeking.
Upon opening up my deck at the start of this project and seeing the original chassis it was really disappointing, this key bridge that maintains the pivot point of the tonearm with that of the platter, for all of the Linn Sondek's desirability it’s clear that this vital component falls short. Linn have thankfully acknowledged that their original designs were weak, prone to flexing, vibration, or resonance which all reduce clarity and compromise the stylus’ ability to track the groove which adds to the noise floor. At nearly £2000 their solution (Keel) is twice what I paid for my LP12 in the first place!
Equivalents from other 3rd party manufacturers are still significantly higher than the price of Linn’s ‘Kore’ sub-chassis (which ironically retains many of the flaws of their earlier design). I was intrigued by Stack Audio’s solution. Solid Surface is strong, won’t flex but is also inert meaning no resonance, it sounded ideal. Stack Audio’s design appeared to offer a solution that bettered Linn’s Kore and many of the other 3rd party products yet at a price that was tiny by comparison. Was it too good to be true?
My interest was piqued, conversations with Stack Audio gave me confidence that they knew what they were doing and I placed the order for their full solution: new sub-chassis, armboard and acrylic cross-brace. They arrived quickly and I was immediately impressed by their quality, just holding them in my hand I knew I’d made the right choice. It was solid, really solid and slotted straight into the deck. Tightening the screws on the arm-collar didn’t distort anything, it didn’t ring like a bell if you tapped it, from underneath it gave an appearance similar to the Keel. Mounting the interface for the power supply was no longer via little plastic clips the screws are mounted on rubber to dampen any stray vibration. The armboard bolts into the chassis and feels tight and true, its polished appearance looks smart and sets the deck apart from the others.
Installation is no different from any other alternative whether it’s Linn or otherwise, as long as you understand how the suspended chassis works and have the means to set the springs and height correctly the whole process is quite quick, I had my deck reassembled in about 2 hours.
The difference is really quite stark, whilst trying to avoid the usual hi-fi cliches it sounded like there was more headroom and the individual instruments have more space, noise that I hadn’t realised was there was now clearly absent. A good friend of mine also has an LP12, however his deep pockets means has a very high-end model with a Keel, Ekos SE, Krystal, Radikal and Urika upgrades. His deck is glorious no doubt however in the interests of science we ran his side by side with mine. He was amazed at how well it sounded compared to his despite costing many times as much, yes of course his is better but not by the sort of margin you’d expect.
Stack Audio are clearly passionate about the Sondek and for ways to improve them, they’re also very reasonably priced, something also unheard of these days. I think they have a product here that could turn the whole 3rd party upgrade scene on its head by making these wonderful turntables sound as they should without costing the sort of money associated with upgrading them.
Mike W (USA): Cross Brace
I purchased 2 of the cross braces and installed them in 2 of my LP12s. One has a Teak plinth (no corner braces) so old it has the slot for the dustcover prop; it has a Linn Basik+ arm and Ortophon 2M Blue on a stock Linn armboard and a spotwelded subchassis with a white bearing. The other has a new corner-braced plinth, Jelco SA-750D arm with Zu Denon DL-103 on an acrylic armboard, bonded subchassis with Cirkus black bearing and platter. Both have Valhalla power supplies and acrylic base plates.
While installing I noticed that the new braces are much more rigid, are dead to the "rap" test and fit more tightly; the stock ones "ring" and flop around until bolted down. The new cross braces also sorbothane mount the Valhalla board and completely isolate it from vibration.
During playback, on both decks the most noticeable difference was "blacker blacks"; not so much more detail as less background grunge competing with detail. This was subtle but noticeable on the newer/pricier deck but stood out on the older one. I think it makes up for the lack of corner braces on the old plinths. I have a total of 3 of those and was going to start shopping for plinths, which are usually $400 to $500 unless you get really lucky. Now I'm just going to get 2 more crossbraces. I think the structural improvement affects the sound more than sorbothane mounting the Valhalla board. The sorbothane will help extend the Valhalla's life expectancy though, and we all know it needs the help. These things are a super bargain.
Ross B (Snowdonia, UK): Sub-Chassis, Arm Board, Cross Brace (Platform Set)
I finally got round to fitting the Solid Surface Sub-Chassis, Arm Board and Cross Brace and can say, hand on heart, that these items make a significant contribution to a greatly improved sound emanating from my speakers!
The nice thing about the upgrades is the ease of fitting once the original parts are removed, none take longer than 30 mins and the sub-chassis allows for much easier set up of the suspension than the original. In terms of sound quality there are huge improvements, top end is clearer and more detailed and lower registers are much more defined and bass hits you in the chest! However midrange is detailed and retains some of the 'warmth' that the LP12 is renowned for and something I like personally, female vocals in particular are excellent.
Set up: Helius Aureus arm and a Grado Signature 6
Tony P: Sub-Chassis, Arm Board, Cross Brace (Platform Set)
Having recently bought the Solid Surface Sub-Chassis, Arm Board and Cross Brace from Stack Audio I have been asked by the proprietor Theo Stack for a few words as to my thoughts on these products. Initially I will state that if you are new to LP12 setup and adjustment you may want to get expert help from a dealer or experienced enthusiast who will be familiar with the basic process of arm cable dressing and suspension tuning.
I found the installation process very easy taking around ninety minutes in total. I use the Heed Orbit 1 offboard power supply to obtain 33 and 45 rpm speeds and this supply has a vestigial circuit board attaching to the crossbrace inside the turntable. Screws for attaching a Valhalla or Hercules are supplied and threaded inserts in the crossbrace enable attachment for these boards.
My tonearm is the brilliant budget Alliance arm from Origin Live and I use a Dynavector XX-2/2 moving coil cartridge. Prior to fitting the Stack Audio kit I had the standard glued Linn component and I am at the moment using a pre-Cirkus bearing set. So how do the new components compare? My immediate impression was of a far more linear bass response from the system. The emphasis and boom of certain bass notes has disappeared completely and bass guitar is now far easier to understand. Over the next few sessions as I have been able to involve myself more in the music I’m noticing far better soundstaging in all three dimensions where recorded and I’m hearing more of the engineering decisions made during recording and mixdown. Tonal balance has been largely unaltered. The general effect if I may use a video analogy is that the systems’ contrast has been turned up and made more vivid allowing expressions in the music that are often lost in greyness to emerge and make musical sense.
In summary I feel that the relatively small investment in this upgrade has given me a very large and fundamental improvement in my vinyl listening. I am considering later this year to purchase the Stack Audio top plate and baseboard. Yes, I am that impressed.
Andrew T: Sub-Chassis, Arm Board
The original Linn sub chassis did not resolve complex mid-range recordings such as Abba. With the Serene Sub-Chassis every word was audible and there was space between the instruments. The arm board fitted very securely and looks and feels a million dollars. With the motor in the 7o'clock position the music is fuller and has more presence, particularly with a moving coil cartridge. I do not understand why but this was confirmed by the other 2 people listening, one a self-proclaimed audiophile and the other a novice with a musical background.
Keith G: Sub-Chassis, Arm Board
Solid Surface Sub-Chassis and Arm board - wow !! What a difference - gone from a Fiesta to a Ferrari !! Many thanks.
Having recently moved house (downsizing) I was considering rationalising my hi-fi kit. I had a LP12 /cirkus / lingo 1/ trampoline 1/ which had been unused and in the loft for 10yrs, preferring to use a full Michell Orbe with NC power supply and DC motor- quite a lump off stuff! To give the LP12 a last chance and tempted by the price and concept I decided to give the Solid Surface combination a punt - turns out a great move - best value and most significant upgrade I have ever made.
It has taken me a little while to get the balance of the Linn Active system correct (digital sources included) and cope with quite bouncy suspended floors in the house, however I believe I'm just about there. To my ears the LP12 /Ekos2/ dynavector xx2 via Graham Slee Elevator /reflex phono stage into Linn Klimax DSM, Klimax Keltic analogue X overs, 6x Klimax solos, Keltic speakers -sounds great - other testimonials on the site explain the differences in detail.
I have directly compared the digital presentation of tracks by streaming through Tidal, and also fed by a Melco storage drive to that of the LP12 (same tracks) and find that on these I prefer the analogue presentation as being more 3 dimensional and spacious sounding. I'm well aware that the quality of vinyl recordings can vary as well as digital, so tried to select the same revision levels in each case during the comparison.
As a final note I dug out a vinyl album that my late brother - a talented violinist - recorded in Bath in 1976 with a group of friends. Quite unexpectantly I was moved to tears by the presentation of the recording, the vitality and energy of the musicians and the sense of being there really shone through. I had never experienced that previously!
I mention all the kit, not to brag, but hopefully add some credibility to my review
I eventually managed to get the sub-chassis and arm board installed and the result is very impressive!! All instruments brought into focus together with speed and timing - a massive improvement. Had a strange issue with resonance due to the suspended floor in our new house but have now identified the problem -nothing to do with the sub-chassis. I have gone through a steep learning curve learning how to set up the deck and no doubt have further things to learn!!
Trevor C (UK): Top Plate, Sub-Chassis, Arm Board, Base Board
Having taken the plunge and purchased the Stack Audio top plate, subchassis, armboard and base board I can honestly say the quality of manufacture and attention to detail is absolutely first class.
I’ve not yet completed the rebuild of my turntable but given that all the parts are so inert, which is why I took the plunge, I’m fully expecting to build a very special and high performing turntable.
Peter B, USA, Solid surface arm board & sub-chassis
I have just played my first lp. Claude Bolling suite for flute and jazz piano. Absolutely stunning! Bass and mids are superb. The piano sounds like a piano, not a recording of a piano. Gone is any suggestion of wooly or bloated lower octaves.
I don't want to bore you with my catalogue of records I have been listening to, but everything I have heard so far with the corian subchassis and armboard fitted is several levels better than ever before. Even with a Naim pre into an old Pioneer SX-650 receiver. Absolutely a huge thumbs up!