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SME Series III Reviews

displaying reviews 1 to 20 of 26

SME Series III

SME Series III

10/10 by Harbeth30

I just acquired one and put it on an Oracle Alexandria. I read all sorts of bad comments like its the Red Head of SME’s arms but there were a few that loved it and I’m here to say I’m in the love camp. I have a Grado Reference Series 2 that weighs 10 gms with a compliance of 20.
The arm only has a moving mass of 5 gms, that is low these days but this combination works fantastic.
Ya the arm has all sorts of adjustments but most of us enjoy messing around with that sort of thing anyway, every setting makes perfect sense and makes you think why don’t more arms give you that flexibility. All the manuals can be downloaded here so there is no reason if you come across one you couldn’t get it to sing in your system. There are other classic SME arms from the 80’s that sell in the thousands but these can be had in the $500 range. Worth ever penny and only going to go up in price.
Get your hands on one and see for your self what a quality arm feels like and sounds like.
This has the feel of an arm that just came out, can’t believe it’s 40 years ago. My 2 bits worth 😎
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9/10 by retro2

A very versatile arm, despite being made for high compliance carts it works very nice with lower compliance MC carts if OEM headshell wights is used.
I use one of mine III arms on LP12/Circus/Valhalla With Transfiguration Axia and 2,2 + 4,4 OEM headshell wights. And it really sings. I also have TD 160 B MkII/Ortofon MC20 and TD 165/Shure V15-III. It's a wery nice arm for the money, I think.

8/10 by royal_mile

I acquired a nice used SME III a couple of years ago and it was to be home for my Ortofon VMS 20EII, a cartridge designed for a low mass arm. Sadly, the first generation SME III headshell is too tight for the VMS series as the bulk of the cartridge is behind the bolts. I recently purchased a mint CA1 revised carrier arm which has a more generous headshell, just enough clearance at the back for my VMS. Overall, I'm delighted with the sweet, detailed sound this combination produces.

7/10 by jacoder57

Much better than its reputation. I have used it with several mid-compliance MC-cartridges to very good effect. It can't match later ambitious designs like SME IV/V for fullness and clarity of spectrum, micro-details or spaciousness. But if just listened to by itself, it gives an immensely satisfying sound which one might very well take for close to neutral and, when the recording allows, realistic. I even have used it for 78 rpm shellacs, which must be against any common sense, but works quite well as far as the subjective impression is concerned. I use it with the damper in place, which reduces distortion, as it should.

8/10 by totem

The red headed child of the SME family meaning it was popular in a time when high compliance cartridges were all the rage
and it looked like no other SME ever did or would far ahead of its time in design.

Rather than repeating what has been said I will mention that the arm was supplied with a set of SME RCA cables that were
internally capacitance loaded to suit the Shure V15 III/IV carts and should have the loads inside one end of the RCA,s
clipped or change out the cables if the cartridge used does not require it.

Although mentioned in the manual I have speculated that some users mounted what was considered a compliance and weight
matched cartridge only to be unimpressed little did they know that the OEM IC,s were the cause. [MM carts only]

A fine arm when matched with a compatible cartridge.

3/10 by David48

I got trapped in the high compliance doctrine so had an SME/3 with the Ortofon Concord cartridge. I persevered with it for about 3 months until I reverted to my 3009/S2(Fixed) and Shure V15III(Eliptical) when I could enjoy the music again. Eventually I discovered MC and now I use SME IV. I think SME made a mistake by following the high compliance fashion rather than doing what they knew was correct and waiting.

10/10 by Peter1954

Technical SP-25, Audio Technica AT20Sla Limited Edition cartridge, and new original needle, all wrapped in the Technics Rosewood base. Signal goes into an Ear834P phonograph preamp. Serious eye candy, and it just soars sonically. It was excellent before when I fed it into my old Pioneer SX 1010 receiver sans the preamp. But now, going from the preamp directly into a wonderful amplifier makes me smile so that it hurts. My ears probably can not hear as good as it really sounds anymore. Spacial quality is outstanding, from small four piece jazz bar to full symphony, it seems to just know how to sound. I've had several arms and cartridges over 45 years of listening, and this tonearm is my last and best. It gives me the exact sound I like and in the end, that is all that matters. Price and specs can't get you there, only your ears.

8/10 by TRIPOD

My second best arm equiped with an AKG cartridge on a TD-160B Mk II deck !!!

9/10 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.

10/10 by laraine_b

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.

8/10 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.

9/10 by arctica

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!

7/10 by drjjpdc

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.

8/10 by joachim59

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! ;-)

5/10 by vmd254

Have the SME Series 3 mounted on my TD160 Super,with SME 30H armwand and ortofon 40 stylus. Absolutely love it.

10/10 by HaroldNotTheBarrel

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.

10/10 by Quiras

The SME Series III sounds wonderful. I think is the best arm in the SME range (sonically).

9/10 by meharding

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.......

10/10 by Marcel58

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.

5/10 by imusic

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..

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