Linn is known perhaps most for its legendary LP12 turntable, but their CD12 also has made quite a name for itself
Linn Sondek CD12
Retail price approximately 23.000 euro
When the CD12 was released it was judged by many magazines to be the best CD player ever. One well-known English reviewer however said it sounded unlike CD but also unlike analog and in retrospect I think he said it best. I had not heard the CD12 until recently, but did operate one at a show. When playing with the drawer mech I found it difficult to distinguish between the short push against the drawer for “next track” and the longer push for “open drawer”. I kept opening the drawer by mistake and it annoyed the heck out of me.
The build of this unit is exemplary. I owned a Klimax DS/0 and the CD12 is similar in conctruction but even heavier. Trust me, when you lift it, you will be really impressed. Speaking of the Klimax DS: more recent comparisons by third parties indicate that people tend to prefer the CD12 at first for its more euphoric presentation, then the Klimax DS for its more accurate and nimble presentation.
An German AudioPhile review compared the CD12 with the Levinson 390S, stating that the Linn is essentially a better 390S. If this is so, given my love for my 390S, I suspect that I will really love the CD12. Do note however that there were two versions of the CD12 and it is not clear to me which sounds better.
Update 2015: I have now compared a CD12 directly to my Levinson 390S, see link below.
The CD12 as a guest in my system. Alas I have not been able to find out which version of the CD12 this was.
It is suggested that the transport (Linn calls it a “CD Engine”) is entirely proprietary but the home made part only goes for the loader mechanics and servo control. The laser unit itself is made by Philips, a CD-Pro. This is a self-contained CD playing unit but Linn uses home made servo control and also seems to use a very high grade clock, and it is plausible that the CD Pro is fed an external clock signal.
Left: DAC board, Right: switched power supply.
On top is the output board.
Clock and programmable DSP
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