Linn Uphorik test & review

Linn Uphorik

If I would like to find three descriptors characterising the well known Scottish brand Linn, then I would say immediately: modern design, advanced engineering and care for the client. And I think there is no-one to find, who would try to prove otherwise. But if somebody would like to argue with me, I will try to provide my point of view now. The external design is a masterpiece, which clearly lies within the world trend of minimalism and edgy shapes. About engineering it suffices to say, that there are other companies all over the world that copy Linn’s ideas. But for me, the most important part of this jigsaw, is their approach to the most important item in their business – the client. It is the client, who has the last word in terms of survival of a given company. And with Linn the client gets spoiled. How? Easy. When we become the owner of any Linn unit, the dealer takes the responsibility for setting everything up at the client’s home. This happens regardless of the price level of the bought device, or the distance the dealer has to travel. Of course if you do not want this service – you may negotiate. This is what I call full service.

I do not own any product from this manufacturer, but still I have much esteem for it. When you look at what this company offers, it will be a no-brainer to see, what I value most. I am talking about the analog offerings, of course. It looks monotone at first sight, as all versions of their turntables look very similar. But it is constructed in such a clever way, that buying the cheapest version, we have the opportunity to upgrade it all the way to the top version, which would also be a very nice treat for me, called Linn Klimax Sondek LP12. This one has a hefty price tag, but sometimes in life things are different and we have some cash to spare. Here we can go up the ladder, without having to think about resale value, just adding better components to the already owned turntable. Only the German company Transrotor has a similar policy, but there the line of starting points is more worked out. I always wanted to test something this Scottish manufacturer offers, but I never got to that. But lately I decided to have some more reference points, than only being covered with the aura of Hi End, so I tested the Theriaa, Phasemation, Bakoon and LAR, so I knew, I need to go further. So I went to the Warsaw shop “Stereo Stereo” and after some short discussion I left it having the phonostage Linn Uphorik stuck in my armpit.

Uphorik has the size of a typical integrated amplifier. The front is made from a thick aluminum plate, with a part milled, where a orthogonal part is placed, containing the power LED and the company logo. Below that part, there is the device name printed out. The side panels are integrated with the top part, and cover also a part of the bottom. The power switch is placed on the bottom, near the right front leg. On the bottom, there are also sets of micro switches allowing the unit to be adapted to the cartridge owned. The tested unit is universal, and can be used with both, MM and MC cartridges. The micro switches are very nicely described, so even if you lose the manual, you can still set them as desired. The tested unit was powder varnished black, with a tad of glitter, what makes the unit look very nice. The back plate houses inputs and outputs in two formats: RCA and XLR, as the unit is fully balanced. Beside those, we will find there two ground screws and an IEC power socket. Linn is quite orthodox regarding audiophile items, so I received dedicated cables from them – a power cable, looking like an ordinary computer power cord, and a signal cable for connecting to the tonearm connector and terminated with XLR plugs. I was not really happy to use those, but I promised to connect them, so I did – at the end of the test. Something interesting happened, but I will tell about that at the end.

A few discs played in the background while writing another test and I was ready to meet a representative of a company, that connected two worlds in their catalog: analog and digital products. The owner of Linn, Ivor Tiefenbrun, claims even today, that there is no better sound source than a turntable, a statement with which I fully agree, but the world has moved forward, and today there is no way around digitalized music. Unfortunately for a large group of audiophiles, he does not see a CD player as the digital sound source in his system, but after many years of testing, he decided that music from file is the way to go. However beginning the cooperation with the Warsaw shop, I wanted to listen first to some vinyl scratching offerings. So I did, listening for pleasure for over a week, until I got a feeling of guilt. Of course I used also some other Scottish product, from the island Islay, namely the whiskey Ardbeg. This is a splendid combination, I recommend you to try – vinyl and whiskey. To avoid any unfavorable comments, I will also state, that the amount of beverage consumed was absolutely moderate and did not influence the final result. It just helped to celebrate the procedure of listening to vinyl. I like to celebrate it, as I am not fond of fast-food and rather enjoy some traditional slow cuisine.

The first disc I placed on the platter of my Dr. Feickert turntable was a freshly bought Al Di Meola disc “All Your Life”, the newest production in his rich portfolio, with his versions of the Beatles songs. An interesting feat of this disc is the fact, that it was recorded an mastered in the legendary Abbey Road Studios, where also the Beatles recorded. Actually using this disc was a bit dangerous move, as I did not know the phonostage yet, neither how the disc is mastered. So I moved a little in the dark, but it was a good experience, as I was listening without any backload of previous experience and thus I could make my assessment of the system quite objectively. There is a saying, that you can only make a first impression once, and I must confess, that the Linn did it very well. I was a bit afraid of the hearsay opinions telling, that the upper frequency range will be matte and the bass boxy, as a result of using switching power supply by the brand. What I got was a very energetic and breathing sound. The guitar virtuoso supported by the second guitar, drums and percussion and strings was shown on a broad and quite deep stage. This depth was a little confusing for me at first, but the subsequent disc I played helped me to realize, what was going on. Despite the little shallow, I thought, perspective, the gradation of the planes was very visible, starting at the line of the loudspeakers. It was just like sitting in the front row in a concert hall. Due to that all musicians were perfectly cut from the background and had lots of space around them, what eased their localization in the virtual space. I listened with real pleasure, but I could not get around this issue of stage depth, so I took one disc from my collection I know forward and back, “Still Live” Keith Jarret Trio.

I really know this disc well, and I know, that it can be a real burden for a phono preamplifier. I listened to it in my system in many combinations of different audio components, also in other systems, so it does not have any secrets for me. Fortunately – because I do not like to find any shortcomings even in things I do not like, and Linn is one of my analog favorites – the stage depth returned to normal. One piece, second one, third one – everything was clear. This disc and the previous one, come from good labels, but they differ in the way they are mastered. The material was on a similar level regarding timbre and readability, but the virtual stage was reproduced differently. At ECM one man has the final word, for years the same person – Manfred Eicher, this is why most recordings they do sound very similar. Abbey Road Studios are different, and they have a different view on things. This shows clearly, that you have to know the music recorded on the discs used for testing very well, as while both albums were recorded splendidly, there were differences in the way space is reproduced between the loudspeakers. Not knowing those quirks may negatively influence the review and hurt a product. Anyway, I still count this whole issue as an asset for the tested piece of machinery. Because when I listened to the second disc I looked at other, important aspects of the Uphorik. Theoretically there was nothing to brag about, but after thorough analysis, I noticed, that there is a bit too little warmth, which should be present in an ideally combined analog system. To make it clear: this was not a heartless sound, but a little too even for an analog source. There was a nice contour, readability, when needed some sparkling in the high frequencies, maybe only a bit too little color. I listened and listened and tried to find out what is going on. I think this can be related to the deck I am using. This is a massloader with a quite edgy sounding cartridge, while Linn manufactures spring suspended turntables. Such a suspension has a significant impact on the final sound coming from the vibrating diamond. Of course this linear sound did not disqualify the phonostage in any way. It may be even an asset for the buyers searching for neutrality in their systems, or trying to tame down some oversaturated systems. It really depends on the musical taste of the seasoned audiophile.

Finally I will return to the company cables. Linn consistently urges to use their own products, telling that their systems fare best with those. They are so convinced of that, that the placement of the sockets prohibits the use of overly beefy cables. All cables, loudspeaker, interconnect or power, look like Chinese manufactured cheap wires, which would only mean trouble. However, much to my surprise, the black computer type power cable fared better than my top Harmonix cord. I consulted this fact with the representatives of Linn from the “Stereo Stereo” shop, telling them “Your engineers broke the device, good power cables seems to hurt it”. Like I wrote before I used the company provided cables, but trying to find a recipe for the missing warmth in the sound, I tried any audio-voodoo trick I knew. All turned out to be unfavorable. According to Linn engineers their products are absolutely resistant to any changes, but in my opinion, using the Japanese interconnects resulted in moving the sound in the desired direction of a warmer sound. Unfortunately at the same time, most of the assets of the tested preamplifier disappeared. The sound got thicker, but at the same time less lively and free. The losses were much greater than the wins, and the timbre aspect did not interfere with listening pleasure, it was just a hunch. So I left the cables as they were and did not look at the back plate of the device any longer.

Looking at this test from a perspective, a few days later, I am very pleased to recall the adventure with the Uphorik, which showed, that all banter about switching power supplies is just to make hype. I do not know, how this is in other cases, but in the tested device, this does not have any negative influence at all. The phonostage sounded on a very high level. When somebody has issues with a too dense sound, or searches for a linear playing preamplifier, then such a person should try the Scottish way of dealing with analog discs. And for soft suspended turntables, probably this product is simply a missing piece of your system.

Jacek Pazio

Distributor: Linn Polska
Delivered by: Stereo Stereo
Price: 11900 PLN

Technical Details:Supported Cartridges: MC / MM;
Input Connectors: MM - MM - 1 x L/R pair RCA and 1 x L/R pair XLR; MC - 1 x L/R pair RCA and 1 x L/R pair XLR;
Input Impedance: 10 Ω (MC) / 47 kΩ (MM)
Gain: MM - +44 dB / +48 dB @ 1 kHz; MC - +54 dB / +64 dB @ 1 kHz
Adjustable impedance: MM - 51 kΩ, 49 kΩ , 47 kΩ, 45 kΩ; MC (low): 31 Ω, 37 Ω, 42 Ω, 53 Ω, 70 Ω, 100 Ω, 170 Ω; MC (high): 580 Ω, 670 Ω, 810 Ω, 1 kΩ
Adjustable capacitance: MM - 68 pF, 105 pF, 135 pF, 175 pF, 215 pF, 255 pF, 285 pF, 325 pF; MC - 470 pF, 1 nF, 1.5 nF, 2 nF
Line Outputs: RCA pair ( max.6 V RMS, 8.5 V Peak, +15.6 dBv; 300 Ω); XLR pair (max. 12 V RMS, 17 V Peak, +21.6 dBv; 600 Ω)
THD+N: >0.015 % MM -44 dBv; >0.015 % MC -64 dBv
Signal to Noise Ratio: >105 dB
RIAA Tracking: +/- 0.2 dB (20 – 20 kHz)
Frequency Response: 2.5 Hz to 40 kHz (-3 dB)
Mains Input voltage (auto-sensing): 100 - 120 V; 220 - 240 V
Product Dimensions H x W x D: 91 x 380 x 380 mm
Product Weight: 4.4. kg

The system used in the test, a complete set of Combak Corporation.

Electronics Reimyo:- Separate DAC + CD player: CDT - 777 + DAP - 999 EX
- Tube preamp: CAT - 777 MK II
- Solid state power amp: KAP - 777
Speakers: Bravo Consequence +
Power cables: Harmonix X-DC-350M2R Improved Version
Speaker Cables: Harmonix HS 101-EXQ (mid-high section); Harmonix HS-101 SLC (Section woofer)
IC RCA Harmonix HS 101-GP
Digital IC: Harmonix HS 102
Table: Rogoz Audio
Accessories: Antivibration stand for the power amp by Harmonix TU-505EX MK2, Harmonix Enacom improved for AC 100-240V; Harmonix Tuning Room Mini Disk RFA-80i

Analog stage:
- Turntable:
drive: Dr. Feickert Analogue "Twin"
arm: SME V
cartridge: Dynavector XX-2 MK II
- Phonostage: RCM „THERIAA”

Link to the article:here

Matej Isak. Mono and Stereo ultra high end audio magazine. All rights reserved. 2006-2014. ..:: None of the original written text, pictures, that were taken by me, links or my original files can be re-printed or used in any way without prior permission! ::..