Originally Posted by Chris J
Any thoughts on the SME arms?
Familiar with V. IV is supposed to be reject V , with slightly reduced performance. No experience with 309 ( is that with a detacheable headshell ? ).
SME V must one of if not the most rigid arms out there. Not only on paper, but for real. While working at Benz, I measured quite some carts mounted to V and "other" arms. Invariably, with a good/great/non plus ultra cartridge ( that had inherently channel separation usually only dreamt of ),
SME V menaged to squeeze yet from 5 to 10 dB more channel separation, particularly below say 500 Hz - leading to devastatingly precise bass and localization of instruments in listening test.
One gripe with SME is the fact they NEVER provide for any sort of azimuth adjustment, going into great lenghts boasting their arms are "so and so fraction of a degree from dead 90 degree accurate in azimuth" and that decision is backed by the usual claim of higher rigidity, placing the burden of accurate azimuth totally on the cartridge. Regarding the arm rigidity, this may well be true. ( the same comment applies to Rega arms ). BUT - an arm has bearings that govern azimuth precision spaced at say 40-50 mm ( 2 inch ) - and at that relatively large distance it is not that hard to achieve azimuth accuracy claimed by the SME using good machining. Cartridge manufacturers must work with say 0.1 mm stylus - and lots of other components that are FAR smaller than the relatively big tonearm - that means within manufacturing possibilities, there WILL be greater deviations from perfect in cartridges - PERIOD. Since channel separation is extremely vulnerable to azimuth ( anything with channel separation equal to or better than 35 dB will be within 1/3rd of a degree or less from dead 90 degree ) - with real world cartridges, even those costing in 5 figures, having no azimuth fine adjustment on the arm will not be able to align the cart for best possible reproduction.
Those who have done more cartridge installatins using measurements ( and consequent listening ) tests will know that. Once you heard a cart adjusted properly for azimuth, you are not likely to be satisfied with anything less.
The same sample of SME V is in daily use at Benz since at least 1990 - every cart produced is listened to on this very arm - and it still performs flawlessly. It is a precision product that more than proved its ruggedness and longeivity.