Linn Ittok LVIII

Linn IttokBy many people’s reckoning the Linn Ittok was the world’s first super-arm. Originally manufactured for Linn by the Denon Parts Company of Japan (no relation to the electronics brand), it was designed by a Mr Ito to Linn’s specification back in the late seventies. It evolved over the years with various detail changes, such as a new counterweight, until it reached its LVIII incarnation in 1989. By this time, the price had risen from its original launch price of £230 in 1978 to over £450 when it ceased being sold in the mid nineties.

Arguably the first arm to espouse the maximum rigidity principle, the Ittok is built for strength. Its large bore alloy armtube is glued to a perforated magnesium headshell and a robust bearing assembly, housing standard ball races plus a stainless tool steel central shaft. Very finely aligned, these bearings offer a single, rigid coupling right through to the arm pillar with its three-point fixing. The sliding brass counterweight is decoupled to the rear end stub by hard rubber bushes, and thumbwheels set the spring-applied tracking force and bias. Cabling is very low capacitance and inductance copper, terminated by high quality gold plated Linn phono plugs. With an effective mass of 12g, the Ittok is in the medium to high mass category, meaning it will work well with most MCs and MMs alike.

One of the Ittok’s best platforms is Linn’s own LP12, with which it enjoys real synergy. But it’s actually extremely effective on any decent turntable, suspended subchassis or not. Its slightly forward, lively character tends to complement most smooth sounding high end belt drives. After hearing a previous generation design such as Grace’s G707, the Ittok’s bass articulation is immediately apparent. It’s both unusually tuneful and very powerful. Later super-arms like the Zeta significantly bettered it in the latter respect, but never the former.

Moving up the frequency scale, the midband is detailed and open, with good depth perspective. It images well – far better than the LP12 it usually partners – but is still a touch vague about the centre compared to rival Syrinx PU3 or Zeta arms of its day. The Ittok’s real strength is its musicality. It’s still one of the most enjoyable non-unipivot designs around, investing a sprightly bounce into anything it plays. Dynamics are also strong, and although quite a way behind the likes of the Zeta and SME V in absolute terms, the Ittok always manages to sound more expressive that its peers.

The Ittok has some bugbears though. Treble isn’t the most refined on the market, being rather forward and splashy compared to the best of the rest, but still does the job well enough. The maxim about not partnering the Ittok with bright sounding moving coils (such as Audio Technicas, for example) holds true as ever. Bass, although very fluid, can be lumpy and lacks the clout of the Zeta or SME V. Detail retrieval isn’t a particular forte either, tending to be cloudy in the midband and fuzzy in the treble. It’s such an involving listen though that most people simply don’t notice which is its charm.

The Ittok is readily available second-hand, and prices are low. The problem is that it isn’t the most robust cartridge carrier in the world, so it’s easy to buy a pig in a poke. The very last LVIII is undoubtedly the one to have, but is relatively difficult find; pay up to £300 for a minter. Condition is everything – a superb early LVII with one owner is a better bet that a late LVIII that’s been on everyone’s LP12 – pay between £200 and £300. Spares availability is good, and for a couple of hundred quid Linn will rebuild your Ittok, which is a very worthwhile option.

One comment

  1. 12x12

    An Ittok LV 2 replaced a Linn Basik LV X on my LP12 way back in 1984. It was a revelation. Immeadiately apparent: improved, almost explosive, dynamics, greater weight and body of sound. On further listening, a far greater ability to resolve even the finest pitch-and-timing increments, from which music is built, became apparent. An LP 12 with an Ittok simply lays musical structure bare – you can hear where a tune ‘will go’ even before it’s got there! Music made ‘sense’. An intoxicating combination!

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