It’s rare for a piece of consumer technology to remain in production for half a century. Linn’s Sondek LP12 turntable was designed by the company founder, Ivor Tiefenbrun, and launched in February 1973. Since then, over 100,000 Sondek LP12s have been manufactured at Linn’s Glasgow factory, during which time the design has been continuously refined, with older models regularly updated and refurbished.
With the 50th anniversary fast approaching, Linn’s CEO (and Ivor’s son) Gilad Tiefenbrun was given an extraordinary opportunity when he was contacted out of the blue by Jony Ive of LoveFrom. ‘I had actually visited the Linn factory in the late 1980s soon after I graduated,’ Ive tells us. ‘It’s a wonderful building, designed by an old friend, the late Richard Rogers.’ Ive was enquiring about buying a new turntable, and mentioned in passing that LoveFrom was looking for passion projects.
Tiefenbrun suggested a collaboration based around the LP12. ‘It’s a legendary product and the opportunity to create something very special to celebrate its 50th anniversary was incredibly attractive,’ he says. Ive was immediately on board. ‘The goal wasn’t just to make it different,’ says the designer. ‘That’s easy – what’s hard to make something genuinely better.’
The resulting Linn Sondek LP12-50 is subtly but demonstrably enhanced from the ‘standard model’. Describing LoveFrom’s contribution as ‘respectful and gentle in nature,’ Ive and his team approached the turntable with care, thoughtfully re-evaluating the design. ‘Linn is a company with an insatiable appetite to research to improve performance,’ Ive notes, explaining how the new plinth, formed from compressed orthogonal layers of beech, is the result of the company’s ongoing exploration of new techniques and materials.
‘It’s going to be the best-performing LP12 ever,’ Tiefenbrun says. ‘The new plinth gives it a big sonic lift. Jony and his team honed in very quickly on elements of usability and interaction that we might have not seen as we’re so driven by the sound quality.’
These refinements include a new circular power switch and speed selector, neatly recessed into the top surface. Finally, there’s an all-new hinge design for the cover, using precision-engineered parts, as well as a recessed, numbered name plate.
There’s a paradox in finding one of the key drivers behind the age of digital music lavishing so much attention on a traditional turntable. ‘I have always had a deep love of music,’ Ive says, ‘and I’ve had the privilege of designing a range of music players, most notably Apple’s iPod. But these interests have never detracted from my love of vinyl.’
Like all Linn products, the 50th-anniversary turntable will be built, tested and packed by one individual whose name goes on the product. The company has 165 employees and the 35-year-old, Rogers-designed factory remains incredibly cutting edge, with automation, circuit-board printing, and CNC-milling capabilities. ‘We're one of the few companies that is really committed to manufacturing in the UK,’ says Tiefenbrun. ‘It's a real long-term value proposition for the community.’
Just 250 Sondek LP12-50s will be made, available in either a natural finish and white lacquer. Both men separately describe the collaboration as ‘joyful’, and it’s clear the process has been a real meeting of minds. ‘I’m profoundly grateful that each LoveFrom collaboration is so different,’ Ive says, adding that ‘Focus is so important to the way we work, and sometimes focus is about saying no.’
Linn Sondek LP12-50, £50,000, €60,000, $60,000
The Linn Sondek LP12-50 turntable also features August 2023 issue of Wallpaper*, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today
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Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.
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