SME IV To V Upgrade, Worth It?

What is your experience upgrading from a SME IV to V Tonearm, did you find a noticeable difference? I realize SME no longer sell the model V, so second hand is the only option now. Rest of the system is, Michell Engineering GyroDec TT (full plinth, not the SE version) with an SME IV tonearm and Clear Audio Maestro V2 Ebony cartridge. Preamp is a McIntosh C52, McIntosh MC312 power amp and Magico A5 speakers.


I own a IV.

I was careful in how it was selected back at the time of the purchase, but would, using todays gathered experiences, encourage a further demonstration in a Home System if possible to be achieved.

I heard a few IV's and V's many years ago in different systems at Uk Based HiFi Shows and at Dealerships. I was reasonably familiar with the sonic signature and impression these arms could make.

In the 90's at a show there was a demonstration room with Two TT's of the same brand, and possibly model from recollection. One was with a IV Mounted and the other with a V mounted. I can't be 100% sure if the Cart's were same.

As a result of extensive listening, I chose the IV as the Model and in the late 90's purchased one and had in use until approx' 2017. 

Again from recollection, and having the disposable funds to purchase a V, without too much concern. There was not enough separating the two tonearms, in the demonstration environment and system used, to suggest the V was a level above worth aspiring to.

Around 2015, I was going to have the IV overhauled and upgraded and all conversations had were about lifting the Spec of the IV to the same as the V.

Shortly after this investigation, I was introduced to a Tonearm that changed my thoughts about Tonearms substantially, and the result of pursuing this alternative is,  the today the IV serves as a Loaner Arm or is not used and on the Sub's Bench. 



From my perspective attained in a particular environment and using a very old recollection, I could not detect anything from the V that stood out as noteable for being an improvement and worthy of aspiring to.

Not too far back a SME 20/12 was being used as the go to TT within the HiFi Group and again, with the experiences gathered to date. The V to myself was a typical sounding arm, and presents in a manner that many arms do that are born from models using the Rega Geometry and Design.

The TT owner now has a OL Illustrious Arm and a Group Member who was looking for a New Arm was loaned my IV for a period of time and this was compared to other arms loaned. SME was not a Brand selected as the new arm. 

I’m curious as to what are the exact differences

Main differences between IV and V are

  • damping trough standard on V, optimal on IV
  • Tracking force uncalibrated on IV
  • Bearings - later IV's had the same bearings as the V.
  • Wiring - copper vs silver

If you already have a IV you would be better off getting it serviced, bearings upgraded to V, and rewire - SME will rewire whatever you like or provide. Tonearms are easily damaged ( which is not always obvious ), so rather than buy a second hand V - better to get the IV serviced and upgraded by SME.

I could not detect anything from the V that stood out as noteable for being an improvement and worthy of aspiring to.

This is subject to opinion and component matching.

When the SME V came out it was a substantial step up from the arms of the day including Alphason, Zeta, Sumiko MDC800 and of course all the Linn arms. Compared to the other arms of that era the sound was cut from one cloth from top to bottom and very organic - the midrange in particular far exceeded the other arms. The SME V does not work on all turntables though - terrible on Linns for example - too heavy. Certainly the build quality is still superior to any of the Origin Live arms.

The SME V is often underrated simply because it is very neutral, self effacing, does not exaggerate any particular parts of the spectrum.

The only poor experience I had was I don't think it matches the Koetsu's very well.


pindac and dover, thanks for your input and advice, which I intend to take. I am going to make life easy for myself and stick with the SME IV; paid for, installed and works perfectly IMHO.

@mgattmch The IV is going to play your music for you fine and dandy.

It will be a Tonearm that appreciates in value, especially with escalating cost to purchase via the SME Present Marketing Strategy.

I am sitting on my one since this change was made, the seen appreciation in value is not the only motivation, it has been loaned in the past to others with a interest in purchasing a arm as a A/B Comparison Model.

Additionally it has been loaned to two Tonearm Designer Builders as a Arm to compare their own work to.

I own one of these arms as a result of the comparisons carried out.

At present the IV and a owned Cart' are in the possession of one of the Tonearm Designer /Builder for our next stage of evaluations to take place.

I look forward to the invites and thoroughly enjoy the time spent to supply evaluation from a given demonstration.

It has taken approx' 2 Years to get to this place where the New Tonearm is performing to a extremely attractive presentation, all energy was for the performance and it has been a nice place to get to, where there is time available to create a guise that has Marketable Aesthetic and will have a Broad Appeal.

Bling does not improve performance in general, but it does ooze panache and assists with stirring a interest. 

I do apologise for not having a much more recent evaluation of a comparison between the V/IV to share with you, even though up to about 18 Months ago the V 12" was encountered regularly during a year. 

Unless the same TT, Cart' and Mounting for the TT are in use, it does make it a difficult comparison to report on. The comparison experience I Shared with you is as close to this control as I can recollect. A HiFi Show is usually not with the best system/rooms interaction to make a absolutely reliable evaluation.  


Thanks for the clarification.

On that basis I agree with the upgrade path. As a Townshend user - a damping trough works at the head-shell - not the base of the arm. As to. the calibration - i assume having a toolset overcomes that issue?

I know that the V was conceived to mount MC's that became popular in the early 80's. Funny thing was that it didn't work on Linn Sondeks that were popularised as the greatest turntables ever. 

Les Wong who owned Walrus Systems rated the Breure higher on which the Sumiko MDC800 and now Brinkmann is based. That said I think they were a pain because the end-weight limited the cartridges that worked with it. Anyway I digress.

I'd upgrade