SME Series III
by Bill Stevenson
I bought this arm to fit on a VPI HW19 MKIII and used a Shure V15VMR. That was in 1992. It still sounds very good. Somewhat distant, but that perspective fits a lot of music and makes it more believable somehow. For example, a full orchestra in the living room is hard to assimilate for me, the dispensation of disbelief doesn't happen in my head. But the this combination of arm/turntable and cartridge actually is more realistic to me than newer combinations in other systems that I own on certain music. My current favorite system is a VPI Prime with Ortofon Cadenze Black, which is much more up front and comes alive with small group jazz, but ultimately falls well short of the old rig under review here for big band or full orchestra recordings. The fact of the matter is that for a lot of music the SMEIII/V15 combination has never been topped even after all these years. The only reason I don't give this arm 10 points, is because as others have said, this arm is optimized for high compliance cartridges and it is not as versatile as a result. The fluid damping does help, but there is no question that the the very low mass of this arm poses a real limitation for anyone who wants to use more modern cartridges and probably it would be very difficult to use any moving coil cartridge with it.
I have always been delighted with my SME Series III, which is fitted with a V15 Type III. You DO have to make sure you put a suitable cartridge in this tone arm (but surely it's the same with other, similar tone arms?) and I already owned the V15 and knew it matched well with the SME.
by Nick G
This is actually a very nice arm, but as others have pointed out it was originally designed for high compliance (25CU, I think) cartridges such as Shure's V15-V, tracking at low forces (~1gramme), which meant that it didn't handle low compliance cartridges terribly well. I can imagine that would indeed be the case.
However, it is extremely easy to adjust and set up, and that means that you can get the best out of it. Crucially, you can vary the amount of damping. I have mine set up with a Goldring 2500 which weighs 8.2g, has a compliance of 20CUs (ie medium compliance) and a recommended tracking force of 1.5 to 2.0 grammes.
Using a 9mm damping paddle (they are 7mm, 9mm and 13mm wide; I obtained a 9mm one by adding some carefully shaped epoxy to my 7mm paddle) and standard SME damping fluid, tracking at 1.75grammes, this cleanly tracks all but the +18dB 'torture track' on my HFN test record.
In practice that means it tracks all my LPs perfectly well. Compared with the Series V, which I've only heard once on a Model 10, it is quite gentle-sounding, but still very clean and neutral.
Intriguingly, contemporary reviews seemed to rate this arm extremely highly, Gramophone (downloadable form the VE reviews section) stating that the Series III's claim at the time to be the best pick-up arm in the world was a fair one.
Have a 3009 series 3, mounted on a Technics SL 150 Mk2 and fitted with a Shure M97xe and a JICO SAS stylus- compared with my Rega RB 300 the soundstage is wider and more detailed, tracking is superb and the music beautifully crisp and clear. I'm a very happy man listening to this!
I had mine on a Kenwood DD KD-600 with a van den hul mm-1 cart. The reason the III is maligned is because it was made over a very short period and only works with those very light tracking carts of the late 70s to 80's. Besides my VdH, I also had an Adcom crosscoil MC cart that sounded great.
I am running a SME Series III on a Denon DP-1000 with a AT-F7 , and find total Bliss! Talking about bang for the bug! ;-)
Have the SME Series 3 mounted on my TD160 Super,with SME 30H armwand and ortofon 40 stylus. Absolutely love it.
The best SME ever did, seriously just think of the S-shaped very rigid ultra light 4.5 grams titanium-nitride teak & silicone damped, with wide range compliance cart fitting tonearm from the Golden Age. Very simple knife-edge vertical bearing & counterweight anti-skate device.The highest quality/price ratio anyway. Easily fits the fuzziest MM´s. Especially rich nuanced sound on mids & highs.
The SME Series III sounds wonderful. I think is the best arm in the SME range (sonically).
sme s 111 s .A much maligned arm. For some reason gets bad reviews. Having owned one for 10 or more years, this is a brilliant arm. On my Linn Sondek it plays superb. I can play it with any cartridge, shure v15 type 111, Audio technica 440 mla, But believe it or not my favorite cart is a Nagaoka mp11. For some reason this cart does everything right, and sounds great, better than all of the above and as cheap as chips.......
Owing one for thefirst time now, mounted on a Technics SL 150 with a Goldring 2300 cartridge. Sounds simply wonderful and very engaging. So many people say this tone arm is rubbish; I think it 's a wonderful arm. I also own a Stanton 881S and plan to try it after i replaced the worn stylus.
My SME 3009 III played with the Micro Seiki BL 51... and played very very well with a van den Hul cartridge... good old staff..
still a good arm but the development went further....
The 3009 III played a Denon DL 103 satisfactory for over 20 years! That match worked much better than people said.
But desire grew and the DL 103 was replaced with a Benz ACE and this cartridge exposed the weaknesses of the arm. It was not possible to get completely rid of distortion and the sound was strained - in comparision with the SME 310 which is a huge improvement.
Well made and easy to set up-superb detail when used with the right cartridge
Simply great. Easy to set up, and made some previously meh sounding records sound totally pleasing (in a good sense), probably because of its neutral sound and excellent tracking.
Nice to setup if a bit time intensive.
Somewhat picky about cartridge matching, tends to work best with very high compliance cartridges. Slightly soft sound that can tame a slightly aggressive cartridge.
Later CA-1 arm tubes not only have changed geometry but sound better too.
SME-IIIs sounds much the same but lacks lateral ballance and rack and pinion adjustments.
Beautifully made and easy to set up,but rather lacking in fine detail and impact.
Beautifully constructed and a pleasure to use. Cartridge compatability issues though and a little on the 'gentle side' sonically, but makes up with wonderful detail.