help with clearance between sme 3009 arm's tube and arms lifter assembly

Hello guys,
I’m writing to ask for your support to correctly couple a Thorens TD160B mk 2 with a a SME 3009 improved seried 2 removable headshell arm. The cartridge I use is a Benz ACE L.

I bought the arm’s base and mounted the arm, verified its null points with the protractor, regulated the pickup orientation and put the cartridge shell parallel to the LP surface with an LP on the mat.

So far so good.

The point with me is that the clearance between the arm lifter assembly and the arm tube: it is too short. When putting the cartridge on the LP the arm tube touches the arm lifter (the semi-arc on top of the lifter case) and so it the stylus does not touch the LP at all.

I know (or at least I think I know) all about the exagonal 1/16’’ screw to be unscrewed to rise/lower the arm’s pillar and the other to untighten and rotate the arm lifter ring. So, I screwed the hex screw to rotate the arm lifter ring to the lowest point of the thread which below the arm’s yoke, on top of the arm’s pillar, but the clearance between the arm’s tube and the lifter is still too small to any avoid contact between these two parts.

With that said, now I run out of ideas.

Images at:

Please, is there anybody out there ( ) who already run into this problem and who is so kind to help me ?

An additional info: in order to correctly set the arm pillar height (it affect the VTA...) I put a small inclinometer on the top of the cartridge shell and adjusted the height of the pillar until the cartridge shell was parallel to the disc surface. Is it correct ? I think so, but prefer to ask.

Many thanks
Raise the arm a few millimeters. Might be your only solution. A level arm is a good start point, but not set in stone. I run mine just below level...
Right. Raise the arm. Shim it up at the base, or however height is adjusted on that arm. The guys that design these things, they don't know where the arm will be used but they do know the angle the arm should be at wherever it is used. So it is unlikely they designed a lift that cannot achieve that angle. More likely you have it a bit low. They made a poor choice putting the lift so close to the arm pivot, it has the advantage of a lot of lift for little lifter range of motion but it also leverages tiny movement at the lifter into huge movement at the stylus. 

Anyway, if you raise the arm it will raise VTA and you will hear a little more clean articulate sound. If it was fat before and now higher is better then great. But if it was fine before and raising it becomes too lean and tipped up sounding then you can always fix that by adding a little fO.q tape as a shim between the cart and head shell. Added at the back end will tip the back end down slightly, producing the effect of a lower VTA without having to lower the arm.

It will also improve sound quality with greater presence and detail, making it well worth the money, but that is another story for another day.
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@isfarzo, was that arm rebuilt? It looks like it has an aftermarket knife bearing installed which is locating the tube too low. You already have the arm rest platform as low as it will go. Lowering the back of the arm will help but that might give you the wrong stylus rake angle. You could also raise the front of the arm by placing a shim under the cartridge but your ability to be able to adjust for the right SRA is going to be limited.
I suggest you get in touch with these people and see what they have to say.
You may want to send your beautiful arm to them for a check -up!
I would raise the arm height and if the sound is then too bright use a thicker mat (or cartridge shim - see below).

Most of my non-improved 3009’s have been tail up a bit (not much) when used on 160’s and 125’s, though they were level when used on 121/124.

I experienced the same problem when trying a very thin wool felt mat on my current TD125/3009 and simply shimmed the felt mat with a cork one underneath.

Never tried cartridge shims, but doing so does make sense if you are set on the current mat.

The only "improved" I’ve owned had bearing issues so I never played around with it much, plus this was 40 years ago.

PS:  I still use "shim mats" when playing super thin 70's Euro import LP's, but just to make them sound less bright.

I've seen ads (here I think) for an add-on "easy to operate" VTA adjuster for SME arms, but forget who makes them.

It has been so long. I do believe that if you loosen the grub screw at the back of the arm rest/lifter platform you can twist the entire platform around the post, (take the arm out of the arm rest first and best remove the head shell) the post is threaded. One turn should do it then reposition the arm rest, tighten the grub screw, put the head shell back on and you should be good to go.
@dekay , in order to increase the distance between the lift and the tube you have to lower the arm not raise it!
Hello and thanks to geof3 and millercarbon !

I would tell you that a solution could be in not raising the arm but lowering it.

Since the distance between the edge of the knife (the point of rotation of the arm around the vertical axis) and the arm lifter is fixed, if I rise the arm, I will decrease the distance between the arm tube and the arm lifter. If I decrease the arm height, then the distance between the arm lifter and the arm tube will increase.
You can see the drawings at: 

So, apart form having to lower rather than raising, picking your suggestion there's no way out than to modify the arm's height.
This means not having the headshell parallel to the LP surface anymore... and a change in VTA.

The point I see is that it is not a matter of the turntable type but if I need to have the headshell parallel to the LP surface (if I need to...) then the SME 3009 lifter will not work properly.

So the point is: do you know if the shell has to be parallel to the LP surface to achieve the best setup for the arm or is the arm designed to work with a different inclination of the shell ?
This question is rising in my mind !

Thanks Luca

Hello Mijostyn
i already screwed the arm lifter ring the lowest as possibile to the pillar's thread.
So I coudl not unscrew more than this...

I'm confused by your diagram.

Does your lifter have a thin/raised/curved rubber ridge mounted in the middle?

If so it's much closer to the pivot point.

Is the arm hitting the rubber, or the metal base of the lifter.

It seems to me that the best solution here is to use an armboard between the turntable plinth and the arm mount. That will allow you to lower the arm pillar itself and yet still maintain a range of proper VTA adjustment.
The base is sitting too high off the plinth.  Lower it if you can, raise the arm pillar to compensate, and you'll have your clearance.
Ok, so the arm and lifter move as one? Isn’t there a screw in the back of the lifter plate/clamp to adjust the lifter up, down and rotationally relative to the arm? And, yes, I did misspeak. You need to lower the arm so that when the stylus is on the record there is clearance of the adjuster. But, there should be adjustment ability of that assembly based on the screw on the back of the clamp around the main pillar.

I have compared your pictures to my own SME - to me it appears the aftermarket knife edge bearings are not correct - the knife edges are too high, resulting in the armtube sitting too low in the carrier.

Since you appear to have the armlift as low as possible, cartridge spacers &/or adjusting the back of the arm cannot fix your problem.

I think you need to replace the knife edge bearing.

@dover , that was my impression also! Look at my first post. Isfarzo did not respond to it. Why would someone make a bearing with the wrong geometry. Maybe for a different model of arm?
@cleeds, I'm afraid that will not make any difference cleeds. Once you adjust for the right SRA it will put the arm in the exact relative position to the lift. The post will just be down lower in the base.
@cleeds, I'm afraid that will not make any difference cleeds. Once you adjust for the right SRA it will put the arm in the exact relative position to the lift. The post will just be down lower in the base.
It doesn't look that way from the photo provided by @dekay. It shows an armboard, which seems to me to be what's needed. But neither of us can be sure without actually seeing the setup.
 sorry ALL of you for the late response but I was at work.
I read very very carefully all of your posts which helped me to better understand the current situation.

Yes the arm was rebuilt and has the brass knife (also rewired with vey nice VDH cable...) .
Anyway, to see if there was any difference in rising the arm with the former plastic knife I re mounted the old knife but find out that the clearance is still exactly the same as with the bronze knife. So this was not the cause of the problem.

Concerning the question if the arm hits the rubber or the metal case of the lifter... it depends how high it is mounted !
The arm sits on the rubber on the lifter if I exactly mount the headshell parallel to a LP surface, and it hits also the outer edge of the metal case of the lifter in case I eliminate the rubber semi arc and lower a little the arm... 

So... the current sad situation is that I am to put out the rubber semi ring on top of the lifter and give up to a "hopefully" perfect VTA, mounting the arm at an height which is a little lower than the best, so that the clearance between the arm's tube and the lifter edge is sufficient to play LPs.

Personally, I do not like this but can't see more choices...  anyway it still looks to me very strange even because, looking at your photos the installation looks very neat and simple !


... by my photos you should see the armboard...
Yes, I do see that now, @lsfarzo.. Wouldn’t a thicker armboard be your solution? It would raise the arm height, which would allow you to lower the arm pillar.
OK Luca, there is one other solution but this one is a little tricky. If you were to bend the head shell just a little downwards at the front this with increase the VTA a little allowing you to lower the back of the arm giving more clearance but allowing you to keep the head shell parallel to the record. The metal is soft. I would take it off the tonearm and put the plug in a vice. It has to be bent symmetrical and just a degree or two. Worse case scenario is you'll need to get a new head shell. You could do worse.  

 If I look at photo 4 it appears the gap between underside of the top of the yoke and the bronze piece looks about the same as the gap between the bottom of the armtube and the bottom half of the yoke.

This suggests the arm is too low.

On my SME the gap at the bottom is about twice that of the gap at the top.
Actual measurements -
Physical gap between top of tube including the knife edge and the yoke 3/32" approx 2mm
Physical gap between bottom of tube and yoke 6/32" approx 4mm

Another check - the bottom of the armtube in mine is inline with the bottom edge of the top half of the yoke ( looking side on below the screw ).

Unless its an optical illusion your armtube looks too low.

If thats the case there are only 3 options -
Knife edges too high
V cuts n the bottom half of the yoke have been recut and are now too low
Is your armtube original.

There is one other possibility - if the pillar bearings have been replaced and aren't deep enough, then the arm/yoke would be sitting too low relative to the armlift. However, from the pictures I cant see anything to suggest this.

Finally - is the pillar bearing assembly/armlift original ? Maybe someone has mismatched the armtube assembly and arm pillar bearing assembly ??

@mijostyn  bought a new headshell. it is still not parallel to the arm.... bah 
I think the problem is with the arm's socket. Maybe it is worth changing it? I found a socket by audiosilente...

@dover  please, could you post a photo of your arm showing the gap you're talinkg about? So I coudl make my mind about your point.
moreover, I could try to use another pillar bearing assembly (it is the original one I changed with another bought on ebay) to have a newer one.

Many thanks !
The base of the tonarm should be at 1" to 1" ½ UNDER the record level.

Please do not bend anything, this is designed to work very well is the base of the tonearm is set at it should.