SME 3009 S2 Improved Tonearm problem...possibly


I’m struggling with my vintage turntable setup. I’ll give a run down of my setup and what all has been done and the problem I’m having.

Thorens TD125 MKII Turntable...New Walnut Plinth. Caps have been replaced. Strobe works as it is suppose to. It has a lexan tonearm board. It has been leveled and regulated. Still has original power cable. Original Thorens platter matt

SME 3009 S2 Improved tonearm with removeable headshell. Bronze knife-edge bearing properly installed. Aftermarket brass low hung weight. Original wiring in good condition. Upgraded to RCA connections. I have installed the SME fluid damper and using the recommended 200,000ct oil.

Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC * Cartridge with less than 50 hours just purchased new. This was spec’ed to me by Soundsmith.

Phone preamp is a Gold Note PH-10 with seperate power supply and is set to correct specs recommended by Soundsmith and tested by myself.

I just put a 3" walnut butcher block under my turntable. Put hockey pucks under the butcher block and installed spikes under my turntable.

 

I am experiencing midrange distortion. I’ve noticed today that piano is heavily distorted. The music isn’t as lively sounding with the Soundsmith cartridge as with the Shure Type III V15 I had on before. However, it should be a much improved sound.

I noticed today, as I’ve been tweaking the table constantly, while I was adjusting the tonearm height that with the table on and attaching the allen wrench to adjust height that I was getting a buzzing sound through the speaker. This would happen when the allen key touched the base of the tonearm or any point on the tonearm. Could this be the source of my distortion? If so, what is the possible fix?

 

This is driving me up the wall!!!

 

jebcamaro

I've went through the setup for the past 2 weeks. It can't get any better setup without measurement equipment. I've used levels, VTF digital gauge, VTA alignment gauge, etc.

 

My only other option is the tonearm wiring because everything else has been addressed. I assume

@jebcamaro 

The Soundsmith is very smooth compared to the Shure.

Have you checked the input impedance on the phono stage - the Soundsmith MI cartridges can be very sensitive to input impedance - small changes can impact the sound quite a lot.

If the Soundsmith is new I would run it at the upper end of the recommended tracking force for a week or two until it is run in.

Also you could try removing the damping - it can slug the sound.

Another suggestion would be to try a slightly heavier headshell and see if increasing the effective mass helps. If you don't have another headshell add some blutack to the headshell to add mass and adjust the counterweight for testing.

 

 

 

I’ve played with the settings at the phono stage and have settled on the SoundSmith recommended settings. They seem to produce the best sound. However, I’m still not getting the best sound.

I just installed the fluid damper to the tonearm. I was getting high frequency distortion prior to installing the damper kit. I made a few other slight changes when I installed it, so I can’t point a finger at what made the shift in distortion.

I have went from the lowest recommended VTF at 1.8 grams and am now at the 2.0 gram setting. Neither have seemed to make any difference in the distortion or sound.

Midrange is muddy and distorted. Vocals are clear. They do seem a little laid back, but are clear. Drums are not as dynamic as could be. Not much impact or clarity there.

When the music gets lively, the distortion really starts to come through. Like I said, I noticed today that piano tracts really show the distortion. This is strange because my Klipschorns have shown great clarity and sound very lifelike in piano tracts prior to this vinyl setup.

My new cartridge came with 2 aluminum bars designed to go between the headshell and cartridge, if needed. I haven't installed them, though. 

When the music gets lively, the distortion really starts to come through. 

 

This does sound like distortion.

Firstly the Zephyr MIMC is a low output ( 0.4mv ) low compliance cartridge.

So just double checking your Goldnote should be set to MC input, gain 0db, load 470-1000.

Arm - the SME is a low mass arm, not ideal for the low compliance zephyr. The Shure is very high compliance so they would behave differently.

I have rebuilt a few SME's - usually the bearings are pretty knackered due to age - but you would think that would affect the Shure as well.

I would suggest add mass to the headshell  - add the 2 bars provided and reset the tracking weight - this should help somewhat unless there is some other issue with the arm.

 

Yes, the settings on the Gold Note are MC Input, 0dB gain and the load is 470k.

I added the two bars in between the headshell and cartridge. I guess it decouples the cartridge from the headshell and does add a bit of mass.

I reset the VTF to 2.11 grams. Double checked all the other settings too.

Threw on a mint original pressing of Phil Collins Face Value and played ’In the Air Tonight’. I played this the other day and it sounded pretty good till the drums kicked in and major distortion started. Tonight, the drums did not distort. I did have volume turned up quite a bit too. Here’s another problem I noticed the other day and forgot to mention. When the bass kicks in I get a hum that seems to come from the lower frequencies and builds and gets louder and louder till all frequencies distort majorly. What in the world is the cause of that? I almost want to equate that to like a tuning fork resonance. As the fork is struck, the vibrations build and build. Could this be some resonance coming into the tonearm?

By the way, distortion is still there, but has started to go away after the install of those two bars.

I purchased this cartridge per recommendations of Soundsmith themselves and I did inform them prior as to my setup. They were aware of what I have. I thought, like you said, from my research that my tonearm would want higher compliant cartridges. Soundsmith seemed to think it would work, though. I’m awaiting a call from Peter himself to hopefully get his insight on a remedy. Meanwhile, I’m still going to press forward in trying to fix it and try to get y’alls insight.