The Karousel is annoyingly good

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hifiaf
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The Karousel is annoyingly good

Post by hifiaf »

Today I installed my Karousel. Those who, like me, sort of hoped it was all just a bunch of marketing nonsense and there was no difference to a Cirkus, or that it would sound worse than the Cirkus + Tranquility I had in before... SORRY! It sounds amazing and makes a big difference.

You'll be most interested in the sonic differences, so I'll give those first.

The first thing I noticed was more bass. Not in an overwhelming or congested way — not in a way that made me think I needed to readjust VTA, for example. At first I wondered, "Has the Karousel reintroduced the bass bloom that the Tranquility removed?" But that's not it. There was more bass, but the bass was clean and tight, and bass lines were not only louder but also clearer. Everything else was cleaner and tighter, too. I'd say that the Karousel profile is "clean, clear, and lively with more and tighter bass." More detail, better snap, better texture, and definitely better soundstaging.

So far I've listened to seven discs, all of which I listened to yesterday before installing the Karousel and took detailed notes on. These are all great sounding discs I know well. All cartridge setup settings are identical (you can get the Javelin on and off without affecting setup).

— Stay Awake
— M&K Sampler
— Pentangle, s/t, first UK pressing
— Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch, Music Matters
— Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense
— Low, C'Mon
— Yo La Tengo, Stuff Like That There

Every one of these sounded better in one way or another. Stop Making Sense starts with a big, huge drum beat: it had way more impact and slam than before, and the vocals were much more clearly presented in the soundstage, which was huge. Pentangle is a texture-fest, with bowed bass, acoustic guitars, beautifully recorded drums, and three excellent singers often all going at once. It sounded epic, especially the acoustic guitars and the drums, which were incredibly lively and full of force.

The system sounded really excellent yesterday (Adam's Goldring Troika is indeed the best cart I've heard in my system) — but a lot better still with the Karousel

If I had to go by my hifiaf.com scale, I'd say the discs sounded 10-15% better after the Karousel. So a massive difference and huge improvement. Not since getting Kit Ryan's boards into my Snaps have I heard such a big leap with a single change.

I paid 500 euros for mine, a discounted price from my German dealer as an apology for the Lingo fiasco. Lots of money for a bearing even at that discount. But based on my listening so far, absolutely worth it. This is about as big an endorsement as I'm able to offer. Massive improvement.

Thanks, @matfff for tipping me off to the actual benefits of the Karousel. Without your review, I would have figured it was just hype. Absolutely not.


Okay, now some pics and thoughts on installation.

What's in the box. I used the supplied subplatter, not the Mober I previously had installed. Like Matt, I'm hesitant to even try the Mober, for fear of messing with the magic happening now.

https://www.hifiaf.com/wp-content/uploa ... 03722.jpeg

The screws and bits. The only thing of note to me is that the nuts for the spring bolts are (I think) brass and lock in a way I've not seen on previous Linn bolts.

https://www.hifiaf.com/wp-content/uploa ... _5546.jpeg

I was chatting and texting with Mark throughout the installation procedure. The thing he was most curious about was whether the thrust plate comes off. Let's get it in the vise and see..

https://www.hifiaf.com/wp-content/uploa ... 03723.jpeg

Yep! Now let's see if Linn actually sell replacements — because that would be a great feature of the Karousel, easily/cheaply replaceable thrust pads. I did try tapping to see if the mirror finish thrust pad itself actually detaches, but it didn't -- it's embedded in the housing.

https://www.hifiaf.com/wp-content/uploa ... _5542.jpeg

https://www.hifiaf.com/wp-content/uploa ... _5540.jpeg

Note that, once installed, a traditional bearing cap doesn't fit on a Karousel. So it comes with a cute little plug :)

https://www.hifiaf.com/wp-content/uploa ... _5545.jpeg


These are just some pretty and/or funny photos from the installation.

https://www.hifiaf.com/wp-content/uploa ... 03742.jpeg

https://www.hifiaf.com/wp-content/uploa ... 03738.jpeg

Someone looks like he doesn't want a new bearing:

https://www.hifiaf.com/wp-content/uploa ... 03731.jpeg
Adam
Joe...
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Re: The Karousel is annoyingly good

Post by Joe... »

Looks nicely made...and so it should.

The brass locking nuts look like a type called 'aerotight' nuts...hard to see in the photo though. I am pretty sure that at least two of my LP12's had them but in steel.

It would be interesting to see how many bearings Linn prototyped whilst coming up with this design. I would love to see the 'better' ones that they must have tried before rejecting on the grounds of manufacturing costs. The bearing itself probably costs them £30-£40 to make...ignoring the sub-platter and new springs so it would be interesting, as I said, to see the other designs.
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Re: The Karousel is annoyingly good

Post by flatpopely »

Where do you get the cost from?
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Re: The Karousel is annoyingly good

Post by matfff »

Hi Adam, pleased you like it. Just remember to check oil level in a few days time. I think I’ve posted this before, but the pre Cirkus bearing took an age for the sub platter to settle, whilst the Cirkus was almost instantaneous. I found the Karousel somewhere between the two, there’s quite a bit of air in there which means that in a few days running, your oil level will have dropped significantly from initial set up. Mine did, so much so I took it all apart again to look for leaks! None found, it’s just air.
The sound of the Karousel just keeps getting better and better. Mule Variations was one of the first lp’s I played on it. Sounded brilliant. Played it again last night after several weeks of running the Karousel and it was a different beast altogether, things I’ve never heard before coming out of the mix. Enjoy!
Last edited by matfff on Sun Dec 13, 2020 1:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
sq225917
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Re: The Karousel is annoyingly good

Post by sq225917 »

Working back from msrp etc, there's probably £200-230 cost in the total kit. I'd say the bearing and sub are probably closer to £80 each. The machining is trivial, the concentricity certainly not. The sub platters need relaxing after each process, and checking for run out, which I expect is a manual process. The thrust pad is press fit, as are the sleeves, there's plenty of hand work in there, they aren't just spat off the tombstone as finished products.

By way of example, a run of 500 7075 t6 hard anodized 148mm rear thru axles, machined to a 11.95-11.99mm tolerance, cost £11 each when I had them made for work18 months ago.

They were all machine finished, no hand balling at all.
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Re: The Karousel is annoyingly good

Post by Joe... »

flatpopely wrote: Sun Dec 13, 2020 10:16 am Where do you get the cost from?
Was that question aimed at me and my comments ?...if so...

I was not decrying the price Linn charge ( they can charge whatever they want ) I was just guessing at a production cost of labour/materials.

The bearing is obviously produced via CNC processing and using relatively inexpensive stainless steel. I would guess that 95% of it is just machine work.

My comment was more about wondering what designs they tried ( and rejected ) and what to cost to Linn those designs would have cost.

The Karousel is still a relatively crude/simple bearing design and comes years and years after other manufacturers have brought better bearings to the market....kind of too little too late from Linn IMO.

I am no fan of Linn's incrementalism .
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YNWaN
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Re: The Karousel is annoyingly good

Post by YNWaN »

I entirely agree regarding the incremental development Linn applies.

Joe, can you give me an example of a bearing design you would say is a better bearing and do you mean better made or a better design (or perhaps both)?

Oh, I guessed at £50.00 manufacturing cost for the bearing housing (I probably thought more for the thrust pad which I suspect is bought in) - so we aren’t far off each other.
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Re: The Karousel is annoyingly good

Post by hifiaf »

Thanks for the tip on the oil, Matt. I noticed the instructions said to put almost the whole bottle of oil into the bearing, but that seemed like a lot, so I put about half and that resulted in lots of spillage into the paper towel I wrapped around the housing. But I did notice some gurgling when I inserted the subplatter. I just tried adding some more oil, but it mostly spilled back out. I'll try again in a week or so.
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Re: The Karousel is annoyingly good

Post by matfff »

hifiaf wrote: Sun Dec 13, 2020 3:47 pm Thanks for the tip on the oil, Matt. I noticed the instructions said to put almost the whole bottle of oil into the bearing, but that seemed like a lot, so I put about half and that resulted in lots of spillage into the paper towel I wrapped around the housing. But I did notice some gurgling when I inserted the subplatter. I just tried adding some more oil, but it mostly spilled back out. I'll try again in a week or so.
Yes, I gave it a week, adjusted and no issues since. Think the instructions mention a final level just off the top of the sub platter. That’s where mine settled and has remained.
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Re: The Karousel is annoyingly good

Post by YNWaN »

When the Cirkus was introduced Linn built in breather slots into the back of the liner bushings (you can just about see these if you look closely at the top bushing and on cutaway diagrams of the Karousel). These allow the displaced air to escape when the inner platter is fitted. That’s why the bearing shaft does not take time to settle in the way it does with pre-Cirkus bearings.
Mark (100% Analogue)
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