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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
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
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
Why is the motor and power supply so influential on
quality? (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 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.
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).
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.
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
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
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd