…and the answer is, YES.
I have owned my LP12 since the early 1980s. Since that time it has been:
Cirkused (if it wasn’t before, memory fades);
Ittock to Aro;
Lingo 1 to 'Geddon;
Linn inner platter to Mober SSP12; and
Linn Karma; Linn K18; Dynavector DV20 (different shades); and, Linn Troika (Goldring).
Over the last couple of years I have listened to MANY phono stages. The sound signature has, obviously, varied with the different stages, but one thing has been pretty constant, the bass has been more or less impactful, but never on the same scale as my digital front end; for this reason I did not put this down to my SBLs. My inclination was to think that further work on the LP12, a la Tangerine for instance, would deliver this for me, if I wanted to make that investment.
This weekend I took over a couple of phono stages to a friend’s where a mutual chum met us for a listening session. His system is HEAVILY modified, including:
Modded Garrard 401 + Longdog PSU;
Audio Note tonearm + OC9 II cartridge;
YBA integrated amp;
Modded Denon head amp;
Modded Puresound P10;
Modded JBL 4311 speakers;
This is a great system and is especially good at producing the music that my friend enjoys most, late 70’s to 90’s rock and pop.
The various phono stages acquitted themselves as I expected, each had their moment and there was a range of strengths and weaknesses.
In the meanwhile over on PFM a Tron 7 GT Phono Stage had been on sale, this was £10.5k when sold in 2012; it was on sale for £2.5k which was rather more than I was thinking of spending
Over the last twenty five years my phono stages have been EAR via their 864 & 868 pre-amps. These have done a fine job but for reasons beyond this thread I decided to move on and so have been ‘making do’ with Naim cards for the past couple of years.
I valiantly tried to ignore the Tron advert, but after a couple of weeks PM’d the seller. We agreed that I could have the unit on the basis that if in the first seven days I was not satisfied I could return it. I then ignored the add for a FURTHER week and a half. Nobody stepped in to rescue me.
I picked the unit up on Monday. I knew that I would know within two hours whether it was a keeper. I had four albums in mind to check how it performed:
The Best of Bowie
This is a K-Tel special, and so should be awful by definition; but it isn’t. Although this album can trip up a fair few stages. When properly amplified it is excellent.
The Beatles Blue Album
The Beatles albums can be damned difficult to reproduce well, frequently sounding bass light and shrill.
Rickie Lees Jones, Pirates
The vocal smudger in chief. When accurately reproduced the lyrics come through with some superb backing.
The fourth one I can’t remember, it is sat at home while I am not. It is a bit obscure, 1980’s Polish Electronic Jazz. It is fast paced but needs some good micro-dynamic capability to bring it to life.
I unboxed the ten kilogram black box and fitted it onto a shelf. There are a couple of switches at the rear, one for the two phono inputs and the other for either the low or high gain transformers. Having fitted the cables I turned the unit on and left it to warm up while I made myself a cuppa.
Following the bake off on Sunday the last thing we played was a part of The Wall, when I returned home I played this on my system to compare and so this was readily to hand. On it went and my jaw hit the floor. Frankly, it made me realise that I had never really heard this album before. The Tron pulled out detail the equaled, or more likely surpassed, what I have heard before. The BASS was as deep and present as my digital front end, but with more resonance and feel. Within five minutes I had sent the seller a text thanking him and confirming that the Tron was staying.
Somehow the Tron pulls together the strengths of all the phono stages I have been listening to, but jettisons their weaknesses.
Up until now I would have said that my digital and analogue front ends were on a par but with different pros and cons. No longer.
The Tron had been serviced in 2018. The manufacturer, Graham Tricker, thinks I will need to get it back to him in about 2028, depending on the longevity of the valves. He tells me that the unit is normally used with FAR more expensive turntables, rather than my aged relic (my description).
I am now hearing WHY the LP12 / Aro / 'Geddon was so loved.