SME 3009 Series III Haters

Not much has been written about this old classic lately but 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’ve been at this for 40 or so years and had my share of gear. 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, and every setting makes perfect sense and makes you think why don’t more arms give you that flexibility. Anyway all the manuals can be downloaded so there is no reason if you come across one you couldn’t get it to sing on 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 😎

I have the series One version which I paired with my Garrard 301.  SME arms are magic, just like all GRACE tone arms are.  I have a GRACE 747 on my Dual 1229, it likewise is amazing.

Glad you’re enjoying it.  It’s a fine one.

I have a Series III on a Thorens 160. It is awaiting my Shure V15mkVxMR. That will be a killer combination!
Ya that’s the combination everyone talks about. I think it was designed with the
Shure in mind. I was so on the fence
whether to try it with a Grado. I’m sure
glad I did. The Series III it’s a one trick pony people will leave you to believe. 
What a bargain at today’s prices 😎
I always liked the Series III when it appeared back in the 80's!  I was lucky to find mine already mounted on a nice TD160 (Ebay sale). And the VxMR brand new NOS from a previous seller! Probably THE best MM ever!
And the Trifecta was scoring a NOS Jico SAS replacement stylus for the Shure around the same time!
I meant to say the Series III isn’t a one trick pony like some will lead you to believe. 
I had a Thorens TD160 for over 30 years. 
I had mounted a Rega RB300 arm on it
very early on. Loved that set up!
Sold it for good money or I would have
kept it. Thank God I didn’t unload all my
Vinyl like so many did. 😎

Will someone say, compared to what?I've always thought of the series III as a good choice for a high compliance cartridge but hardly state of the art.  On the other hand, certainly not "bad".
That said, anecdotes are not good arguments.
Had the Rega RB300 and Oracle Prelude
arms in the past and hate getting into the
sonic differences because that is so subjective. Everyone’s system is so different but for what it’s worth, nothing
has sounded this good to me.
I still have to install the damping system that I will do at a later date to see if there’s
a further improvement.
I’m certain there are better arms out there
that can be discussed for days but on the used market to me this is a bargain that
will suit not only high compliance cartridges. That’s all I’m saying. 😎

The SME Series III is a very good tonearm IF it's mated to an appropriate (ie. high compliance) cartridge.  Yes, it looks a little funky and those sliding switch adjustments can be problematic if you are rough with it, but it sounds great when setup properly

That’s exactly what I’m trying to dispel. 
I have a Medium Compliance Cartridge in the Grado that when you plug in the numbers for Tonearm  frequency on those
graphs posted on line I’m bang on 9 Hz. 
Yet everyone keeps saying only High Compliance 25+. The Grado is 20 and
is perfectly suited in all respects.
Just hate to think people have over looked
this so called black sheep because of what they have read. This is surely my last arm. 
It’s that good! 😎

Muddy, The only reason to assume that the III should be used with high compliance cartridges is its very low mass.  If you are using a heavy headshell, screws, or cartridge, that could more than make up for its inherent low mass. Plus there's the question of how seriously to take the calculation for resonant frequency.  But since most modern tonearms are at least 10g and up in effective mass, if you are a stickler, and if you have a very high compliance cartridge, then the III is appealing.  That doesn't necessarily mean that the III could not work fine with lower compliance cartridges.  On the other hand, I would not use it with a Denon or Koetsu, if you want to get the most out of your cartridge.
Ya that’s very true, if were using a low compliance moving coil I certainly wouldn’t expect this low mass arm to bring out
its best. But for most MM’s this is nice
match. For a cartridge that doesn’t have the weight the Grado has you can add the
extra wt. I always root for the underdog and when I see such negative comments 
on this wonderful arm I just have to speak up. Like anything, get the setup right and it’s truly magical. Simple VTA height can 
make or break any arm and cartridge setup
even if everything else is perfect. 
Love these discussions 😎
There are many great tonearms designed for high compliance cartridges, many of them are underrated today, because high compliance MM/MI cartridges is definitely not a trend of today. You have to try Grace F14 or LEVEL II with BR/MR stylus on this arm to forget about Shure forever.

Why SME tonearms is definitely not my kind of arms, i remember some users posted about this model many times on audiogon. However, the arm is too ugly for my taste, just like those Grado tonearms.

My current favorite tonearm for mid or high compliance cartridges is DENON DA-401, the arm is underrated and i was lucky to buy NOS in the box few years ago (the price was sweet). Mounted my Joe Grado Signature XTZ MI cartridge on it. It’s been a while since i used this cartridge, first time on this arm, love it!

Not a hater, but SME of any king never was in my wantlist. On vintage side there are many top class Japanese tonearms that just much more attractive (imo). On the modern side there are also so many other tonearms available. I think i will never buy any SME. I just don't understand the hype about SME (and knife-edge bearings). 
There are several better looking arms out there but for the average audiophile
spending thousands on an arm or even a
turntable is out of the question.  
I don’t think there is anything as good as
this under $500. Simple as that. 
I know a lot of people like the big godly 
chrome weights hanging off the back a
monster arm but I was never a fan. 
I think low weights close to the pivot just
makes sense and I love the look personality. To each his own I guess. 😎
I've come across on more than 1 occasion where an owner 
of a series III arm did not care for its sound using the OEM SME cables supplied.
 It turned out they were running a cartridge that did not 
like the factory pre load of 275 uF supplied internally with these

Another consideration is the 2 different arm geometries 
between the version 1 and 2 arm tubes, if you happened to 
own one of each and switched between the 2 without 
making changes you'd be disappointed with the results.

Very good point Totem, I had forgotten 
about the stock interconnect that has a
resistor in line for the Sure Cart.
That would really give someone a bad 
impression of this gem. 
My purchase as much as it was New
Old Stock didn’t come with any cables. 
Using the stock Oracle cables. They are
30 years old and the team over at Oracle advised me while doing the arm install that
I could see a big improvement if I changed 
them as well. Jacques said cables have come a long way in 30 years. Don’t need
to spend big $ either. That’s next 😎
The only reason to assume that the III should be used with high compliance cartridges is its very low mass
@lewm7  au contraire - compliance matching is dictated by resonance.  Mass is just one factor of a resonance equation.  "Flexi" is another factor (actually several factors, but let's lump them together).  Think of it this way:  if you have a wooden pole 12 feet long that bends and flexes slightly (not necessarily the same in each axis), will adding more weight (not mass) at one or both ends make the pole flex less or more?

The correct answer is more.  Weight added at then fulcrum increases stability while weight added outside of the fulcrum decreases stability; increasingly so the further away from the fulcrum you add the weight.  If you add weight while adding stiffness, or increasing the mass (in this case, weight added proportionally to all the lever) then "flexi" or compliance will reduce.

Who says that science and audio don't have anything to do with each other?

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I think they can only go up in value.
Investing in gear with a solid
name behind it is like money in the
bank. I’ve bought and sold enough
used Mcintosh gear to know that first
hand. Some expensive esoteric gear
might be better but good luck finding
the right guy wanting it 10 years down
the road if the company has gone belly up.
We all have to admit at a certain level we
are really just splitting hairs. If someone
has taken the time to put together a system that works well together you
hear it instantly. I sold some used gear recently and delivered it, every guys system was worth under $10k or so
but they all sounded amazing.  
What a hobby! 😎

SME III, the most elegant and beautiful tonearm in the world, and the finest and best looking design they ever did.
And the technically finest pivot arm ever created. The secret lies in damping, quite literally. Large kinda slightly loose yet very tightly coupled & azimuth adjustable headshell, very rigid & very light titanium-nitride arm wand, teak damped wand, fluid damping, ballast weights around pivot, and all those discontinuity points along the resonance path from headshell/wand to wand/bearing which intentionally is not the highest tolerances, it actually acts as damper. Brilliant design. Works just fine with lower compliance carts as well, simply add mass on headshell, 2 g or 4 g spacer provided.
After that SME went downhill.

SME III + SHURE Ultra 500 + ORACLE DELPHI MKII is a monstrous combination, the midrange especially is so ludicrously transparent that I still vividly remember that über detailed sound and in high register sweetness yet so powerful sound I experienced exactly thirty years ago. It was maestro Hendrix in Electric Ladyland and a cheap Dutch reissue but it opened a window to another, brighter world. The arriving UFO from distant space circling across the room to close my face was loud and BIG.
Moon, turns the tides gently gently away ..... And I never looked back.

And shortly after went in greater things, let my Hi-Fi specialist replace stock wires with very delicate silver, uninterrupted path from cart pins to RCA plugs and straight to preamp. It was 1991 and my Hi-Fi world was never the same. Revelation.

MuddyWaters, you surely, or shall I say shurely have a great taste : )
Enjoy your great cartridges and system.
And like you, I guess, I have always laughed at SME III haters.
 End of story.
There are several better looking arms out there but for the average audiophile spending thousands on an arm or even a
turntable is out of the question. I don’t think there is anything as good as this under $500.

This is exactly the price point for Denon DA-401, it is under $500
Wonderful tonearm, i became a fan of it quickly.

Something equal in this price category is Micro Seiki made for Luxman (answer to Infinity Black Widow).

P.S. Another favorite so far is Victor UA-7045 for slightly higher price (used). Actually many vintage tonearms are best buy in terms of quality versus price. Some of them just less popular or unknown compared to SME, most of them are Japanese, not British.

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Thanks Harold! 

Wish I had read your post months ago...

So hard to find anything positive about the Series III, in my opinion it was one of the nicest looking arms around and had been on my bucket list for years. Then when I started looking for one I was shocked how some had nothing good to say. Glad I went with my gut on this one, just love it... Can’t wait to get the damping system set up😎

simply add mass on headshell, 2 g or 4 g spacer provided.
Lets not forget the damping paddles in 3 sizes that help 
in dealing with lower compliance carts.
I only got the middle Grey one that I understand is idea for a 20 or so Compliance cartridge 😎