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Origin Live Ultra upgrade (Ultra switch box)

Origin Live Ultra upgrade (DC200 motor)

Click an image to enlarge. (main text only)

There comes a time in every hi-fi enthusiast’s life when you sit back in your dedicated listening chair and contemplate. Perhaps you may have read a recent review of the latest CD player, amplifier or turntable proclaiming the next revelation in sound quality. Your ears may still be ringing (not literally) after listening to a multi- thousand pound set-up at a recent hi-fi show? Whatever the reason – You now want to squeeze MORE out of your cherished hi-fi system.

There was no doubt my Linn LP12 Sondek was in need of more than a little TLC. For the past few months I had become accustomed to giving the platter a helping hand on its way to 33 rpm and I had long given up the arduous task of removing the platter etc in attempt to reach top speed of 45 rpm. The Valhalla psu board had finally gone to Valhalla heaven so I was forced to make a decision.

1. Buy a used Valhalla board from ‘that’ online auction site.
2. Replace the turntable.
3. Upgrade to an off-board power supply.

I quickly settled on the fact that this was definitely an opportunity for an upgrade, so I ruled out buying used Valhalla board. As there have been a few new exciting turntable designs over the past ten years it seemed a good idea to at least investigate, so I auditioned a few – Namely the SME 10A, Musical Fidelity’s M1 and Avid’s Volvere, admittedly not always under the greatest conditions. Nevertheless I was extremely impressed with all of the above, but as cost was a major factor my wandering ambitions soon came back down to earth. An off-board power supply was the most viable cost effective solution.

It is difficult to audition different off-board psu’s for obvious reasons but after basic investigation three names continuously came to the forefront: Linn’s Lingo, Heed’s Orbit, and Origin Live. Deeper investigation into the characteristics of all three options finally led me to Origin Live.

Why is the motor and power supply so influential on sound
(Article from Origin Live)

The reasons why superior power supplies have such an audible effect on performance have been well documented – they reduce vibration and variation in motor speed – both of which have a huge effect on the signal generated by the “all sensing” stylus. What may not be so generally appreciated is that platters suffer a momentary slowing under load which is so small it can hardly be measured. The cartridge amplifies this effect 8,000 times, resulting in an appreciable loss of dynamic impact, especially in the bass region. To overcome this, some decks use a very high mass platter but this “solution” has its own drawbacks, producing a thick clinical and lifeless sound. A better solution is to make the motor capable of responding powerfully and instantaneously to any increase in the dynamic load on the drive…

Origin Live Ultra switch  box (click to enlarge)

Origin Live solutions

Origin Live offer three upgrade solutions with Prices ranging from £250.00 for the Standard DC Motor Kit, £339.00 for the Advanced and £570 for the Ultra. Two optional turntable motors are available – The DC100 £79.00 and the DC200 at £189.00. An upgrade transformer is also available at £175.00. Discounts are offered if motor kits and transformer are purchased together. Origin Live also offer a no quibble refund on all units if it not to your liking. The Ultra Motor kit including the DC200 Motor and Upgrade Transformer was chosen for my LP12.

Origin Live  logo plate (click to enlarge)


The Ultra kit includes the Ultra switch box (allows easy switching between 33/45 rpm) a stylish brushed stainless steel ‘Origin Live’ logo plate (to fit over the original LP12 switch aperture) a speed strobe card and a clear installation instruction manual. You will need to be able to access the underside of your turntable comfortably to ensure precise fitting of the new DC motor. The use of a Linn set-up jig would be handy for this task. I would class myself as pretty handy with a screwdriver, but I left fitting of motor and initial set up to my local friendly dealer (The Cartridge Man).

33 / 45 calibration at the back of the Ultra switch box

First listening test

The first rather rushed test of my newly set up LP12 left me somewhat confused. Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You” (Donny Hathaway In Performance) definitely sounded cleaner with his voice and instruments having greater detail overall, but Hathaway seemed to be in a hurry to finish his set, pack up and get home. Chords that normally rolled beautifully off his keyboard sounded shaky and lack lustre. After a brief chat with the Cartridge Man and a scan of the Origin Live manual I realised the platter speed required a little fine-tuning. This adjustment is easily done by turning two small screws at the back of the Ultra switch box clockwise or anti-clockwise. To set the speed accurately you are advised to place the strobe card on the platter and direct a standard light bulb, or fluorescent light on the disc to calibrate 33/45 rpm. After several failed attempts to read the strobe card with a normal bulb I managed to hook up a makeshift fluorescent tube near the turntable. This was the cheapest and most effective way of utilising the speed strobe card and calibrating 33/45 rpm.

Final verdict

The Origin Live Ultra upgrade does much more than open up the soundstage. Lively classics such as Toto’s “Africa” never failed to get my feet tapping before the upgrade. After the upgrade my whole body struggled to remain static in my listening chair. I just had to rock naturally in time with Jeff Porcaro’s stirring drums. I could feel added weight and hear greater depth in Porcaro’s drum kit. There was a tighter, more controlled grip on all instruments generally. The eclectic colourful harmonics of Joe Zawinul’s keyboards on Weather Report’s “Birdland” were delivered stronger and deeper than ever before. You also got a strong sense of individual musicians drive energy and space. Stevie Wonder’s “Do I Like You” (Hotter Than July) has a tight driving synthesised rhythm with punchy bass. Prior to the Ultra upgrade the rhythm section tended to sound disjointed with muddy bass. After the upgrade everything jelled beautifully. The rhythm section flowed with ease and the bass sounded deep tight and controlled. David Sanborn’s seductive alto on “It’s You” from his “Double Vision” album made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck (A sensation I had only experienced when listening to Sanborn live). Sanborn’s precise powerful alto had a ‘sweet’ quality, especially in the higher register. With the Origin Live Ultra in place any possible sharpness seemed to be smoothed out. This characteristic may not be suitable for all tastes, but I found I was able to listen to specific recordings at higher volumes.

It took a month of serious listening, revisiting albums that sat dormant in my collection for years to fully appreciate the transformation this upgrade made. You find yourself listening to album tracks you initially considered album fillers.

If you sit near your turntable you may notice a slight rattle from the DC motor (and I do mean slight). This does quieten as the motor runs in and definitely does not impair your listening pleasure in anyway.

Being somewhat cynical of some manufacturers claims, I expected the Origin Live Ultra upgrade to provide a subtle change in overall sound. I was wrong. The improvement this upgrade has made to my LP12 was dramatic. Even more shocking was to receive positive comments from a guest who walked into the room “wow that sounds extremely live.” A comment from someone who had never expressed an interest in music whatsoever and thought the term ‘vinyl’ referred only to a tabletop covering!

Insure you have nothing to do for a good few hours after installing the Origin Live Ultra, once your treasured vinyl albums start spinning you won’t want them to stop. Not even an all expenses paid dinner date with Halle Berry with guaranteed afters served in a five star hotel suite would have dragged me from my listening chair.

Full component list:
Linn LP12 turntable. ITOC LVII arm. Dynavector D10X5 cartridge
Musical Fidelity A3CR amplifier
Musical Fidelity A3CR Dual Mono pre-amplifier
Martin Logan Scenario Electrostatic speakers
Van den Hull First & Second interlink cables
Chord Legend speaker cable
Campaign Audio Design Conqueror Elite 6 way mains adaptor

Malik Hamid
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd
January 2008.

Origin Live Ultra upgrade (upgrade transformer)

power supply

Linn's Lingo is a respected upgrade & relatively easy to install.

Linn Lingo Heed Orbit 2

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