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!!!



One thing I've realized, I do not have the tonearm grounded to the chassis of the turntable. The chassis is grounded to the phono stage via an AudioQuest ground wire, but that is the only grounding I've done. Could this be the source of all my ills with this vinyl setup?

Whether or not an un-specified "Fidelity Research" tonearm would solve your problems is problematic.  While I do like my FR64S, its "technology" is about as old as that of the SME 3009, give or take.  And specifically the FR64S, FR's best along with the FR66S, is on the high end of effective mass and may not mate well with the SoundSmith cartridge unless it is low in compliance. While I am no fan of the 3009, you ought to be able to solve your problems with it by trouble-shooting as per Dover.

Looking at the Fidelity Research arm, it looks like a SME 3009 with a different bearing. If I buy a different arm, I'm looking for something that has more precise calibrations such as dials for VTA, VTF and Anti-Skate. The SME V looks like something I'd be interested in, however I don't know if that arm fits my table.

Nearly any pivoted tonearm can be made to fit your turntable, if you are willing to source a new arm board OR if you are lucky and the replacement for the 3009 has the same or very nearly the same pivot to spindle distance as the 3009. Yes, the SME V would be a great choice but I think SME have stopped making them or selling them as separate entities or both.  You should be able to source a used one, however.



I have an SME Series II Improved with the fixed headshell

If set up properly, it is an amazing tonearm! I stripped mine down to the last screw, cleaned, rewired and put it back together. (There are parts in the service manual where they say to not open certain areas - its worth heeding that advice...) After some colourful use of language, I got it back in order and it sounds amazing!. There are all kinds of compliance info and null point/overhang etc. info online. 

Could be an issue with the compliance, or with the geometry you chose to use when setting it up. The ground noise you are experiencing doesnt seem like it  would be the cause of the distortion from high intensity passages. 

There is a company here in Canada that does a full rebuild/rewire of the tonearm for around 400? I was going to send mine in to be done, but decided to just do it myself. The wire harness they install wasnt compatible with my turntable (DIY heavy plinth Lenco) as I have the arm connected to RCA plugs on the rear of the TT, and there are no provisions for a wire to run from the arm directly to the phono.