I entirely agree with you about the SME 3009 Series III. When people are putting together turntables I have suggested this arm along with an OM40 as being ideal.
I remember well when the SME 3009 Series III arrived on the market. It seemed extremely exotic and I remember thinking, surely nobody would pay the price for that arm. However after a year I bought one myself :)
The 3009 Series III fulfilled the ideal at the time of low mass, adjustability and low resonance (as you have described). However the wind changed very rapidly, and high compliance moving magnet cartridges were out and low compliance moving coils were in.
As you mention the 3009 III is not good with low compliance cartridges at all. It can be adjusted to accommodate, but a much more rigid arm is required for these.
I will add a few things to your comments.
Using the 3009 III with the Ortofon greatly reduces the influence of the mat on the sound. With a high compliance cartridge the signal waves in the sides of the grooves in the record can move it around with much less force required and so there is consequently reduced energy coming back into the record.
It is the use of moving coil low compliance cartridges which, I think, has led to the changes in turntable design since the days of the Transcriptor Hydraulic Reference.
Transcriptors themselves were, of course great advocates of moving magnet high compliance cartridges and David Gammon warned against the use of moving coil cartridges with his designs.
David Gammon went on to design several turntables after the Hydraulic Reference.
The best design for use today, I believe, is the Transcriptor Skeleton. Used with the 3009 Series III and the Ortofon this is really a superb turntable.
Transcriptors sold an arm for use with the Skeleton called the "Vestigal Arm" which had the bearings for vertical axis movement behind the headshell. This was only to be used with the very highest compliance cartridges and you would set it to extremely low tracking weights, such as 0.1 grammes or less.
The other significant turntable was the Transcriptor Transcriber which was also built around the use of high compliance MM cartridges. This turntable was a parallel tracker in which the platter moved and the "arm" stayed still, attached to the lid of the turntable.
The Transcriber was the last turntable built by Transcriptors, personally I think that they were finished off by the change in fashion away from high compliance cartridges towards moving coils. Moving coil cartridges were very much the "go to" thing, and you could not use them with Transcriptor turntables.
Could not agree with you more. But now there is much more to the continuing saga about David Gammon designed turntables.
I have long term experience with any Transcriptors of David Gammon design, save Saturn ( not so important ) and Transcriber ( VERY important, but unfortunately impractical to use in the same room with speakers if its superb SQ is to be maintained - no reservations for use with headphones). I curse the day I decided to get rid of the rarest of them all, the Round Table. The world's ONLY actually round turntable, initially meant as an entry level Transcriptors, but due to its now ultra extreme rare status ( due to limited run of 300 or so pcs ) stratospherically priced, if and when it does appear for sale.
I am a long time (ab)user of the Vestigal pick up arm - since 1977 ( what a relief after SME 3009 Series 2 ! ) After a hiatus for about 10 years ( you have guessed it, due to MCs ...), I currently I own 1 1/2 samples ! One probably most modded Vestigal in existance graces my working turntable, along 3 other arms mounted to it. Sorry, no pics, it is work in progress and I doubt any pics will ever be released of this one - only the results of these developments when they see the light of day as commercially available products. The other 1/2 of Vestigal came rather recently from Canada - the moving part only, that is to say everything that is not a part of the base that gets fastened to the turntable. Will be used to make yet better sounding platform for MCs, as original base can not take mechanical output of low compliance carts,
Vestigal CAN be made to sing with MCs - quite well actually. NOT unmodified. Of MC carts that are still available and are high(ish) compliance, in ascending order of price and performance : Denon DL304, Denon DLS1, Van den Hul Colibri XGP high compliance version. Wish I could somehow lure
a single Colibri into my system - it is simply too much $$$ !
Vestigal was the star of http://www.theanalogdept.com/images/spp6_pics/TT_Design/MechanicalResonances.pdf It outperformed any other arm in this seminal survey to the scary degree. This design has so much going for it that its numerous idyiosincrasies and not exactly stellar build quality simply have to be taken into account. I believe that its true time has not yet even begun - so ahead of its time and far reaching was its design, that very few could really understand the " curious spelling " of its designer in the original brochure ( which is safely in my archive ). At the time - or up to now. Due to the vertical bearing/geometry, it REQUIRES PERFECTLY FLAT RECORDS. Period. Not because it could not track a warped record - it is perhaps THE best pivoted arm for warped records, but due to the change in vertical tracking angle, to a lesser degree azimuth, and, above all, Doppler distortion due to vertical bearing geometry, which results in wow/changing pitch whenever transversing the warp. It is horrible with super stylus tips available today, such as Van den Hul or Micro Line , both of which ill tolerate any geometrical discrepancy from the ideal. The only real way to do it with Vestigal is with the use of a turntable with vacuum disc stabilizer - or the use of the Audio Technica AT666EX Vacuum Disc Stabilizer on modified Skeleton. The use of the record ring weight(s) that flatten the LP against the platter without the requirement for vacuum is most probably impossible because of the fact that Vestigal is also horizontally shorter than 9" and its unusual arrangement(s) migh well interfere with such ring(s) - besides, bearing in mind the arm's fragility, the prospect of having to manipulate the heavy ring in the close proximity of by now so rare arm with every change of a side of an LP is simply too daunting a prospect.
Reading - and re-reading the above B&K paper - particularly beetween the lines - will reveal the true greatness of the Vestigal design.