What Does It Take To Surpass A SME V?

Thinking about the possibility of searching for a new tonearm. The table is a SOTA Cosmos Eclipse. Cartridge currently in use is a Transfiguration Audio Proteus, and it also looks like I will also have an Ortofon Verismo if a diamond replacement occurs without incident. 

The V is an early generation one but in good condition with no issues. Some folks never thought highly of the arm, others thought it quite capable. So it's a bit decisive. 

The replacement has to be 9 to 10.5 inches. I have wondered if Origin Live is worth exploring? Perhaps a generation old Triplanar from the pre owned market?

 Any thoughts on what are viable choices? 








The Turntable that is the Predecessor to the Linn Design Deck id the Ariston RD11.

Castle Engineering produced Parts that were critical to the function of the Ariston RD11 

The change occurred following the British Patent, published as BP1394611.

Linn was formed as a Company shortly after the Patent and was to be closely associated with Castle Engineering.

I visited numerous HiFi Retailers throughout the Late 80's and well into the 90's.

It was soon learned that a HiFi retail outlet did not give fair lore to all on demonstration, as a result of this I had a few retailers I trusted above the plentiful ones available from this era, ultimately ending up having Bespoke Equipment Produced to bypass the salivating sales person looking to have ones hard earned put their way.

Rega Designed and had Produced their RB 300, as it was a cutting edge design and use of technology. The Product proved to be such a successful design, it is the Copycat Design of Four Decades.


Thank you, Dover.  Reading recent posts I have been mystified by the suggestion that the RB300 could be considered to offer performance on a par with, or even close to that of the SME 5  I have owned both and the Rega, while offering good performance for the money (as you state) is not in the same league.  The one area where I think some might argue that the Rega is “better” is bass performance.  In spite of its generally excellent performance, my experience with the SME in my system and the several systems that I have heard it in has been of an overblown bass frequency range.  According to my tastes and my idea of accurate, of course.  More bass is not necessarily better bass.  

Much of what was posted by Frogman, Dover and Lewm are in agreement with my experience that I resisted posting.

I’m going to make a few comments that are guaranteed to generate pushback.   SME V12 and perhaps other SME versions use Van Den Hul silver wire and if the stock tonearm (DIN/RCA) cable is replaced with better quality, it’s quite a good combination.   The small fine internal tonearm Van Den Hul cable does not sound like their interconnect cable.  I don’t know why but this applies to many companies that build interconnect and internal wire too.

Kuzma can be ordered with several kinds of wire, I choose  Crystal Cable silver gold and instead of Bullet RCA connectors I opted for the new Furutech Nano Crystal version ($200.00 per connector).

To steer off even further, in my opinion the drive system of the turntable can effect dynamics and bass almost as much as the tonearm.   Add turntable mat and you come more near covering all the factors that effect end result.

In my experience mats that are soft are not as dynamic and belt drive systems are often less dynamic than best idler wheel and direct drive systems. Like all sweeping statements there are exceptions.   For instance Rockport belt drive was equal or surpass most idler and direct drive but the Rockport direct drive and other top tier direct drives are added performance.

I know these are sweeping statements and I’m sure there are exceptions but in my experience, testing here with as many as three turntables set up at once and auditioned by  dozens of people for nearly a year, arrived at the combination I use now.

Best  results were stainless steel mat and stainless steel center weight, filled with oil.   Second best was Micro Seiki CU320, third best was Micro Seiki CU180.   With each of these end result could be substantially changed with choice of center weight.  

Turntables I can remember, not in order.

Thorens TD 121
Thorens TD 124
Thorens TD 124 MK2
Thorens TD 125
Thorens TD 125 MK2
Luxman PD-121
Win Labs
Oracle Delphi
Oracle Premier
VPI 19
Well Tempered
Linn Sondek
Townsend Rock
Versa Dynamics
Basis Debut Gold MK4
Basis Debut Gold MK5
Walker Proscenium Black Diamond
Lenco L75
Garrard 301
Technics SP10 MK2
Technics SP10 MK3
NVS Wave Kinetics
Grand Prix Monaco

Tonearms I can remember, not in order.

Ortofon RMG 212
Ortofon RMG 309
Infinity Black Widow
Fidelity Research FR66
SME 3012
SME 312S
Durand Talea
Air Tangent 10B
Micro Seiki Max
Breuer Dynamic
Exclusive Pioneer
Primary Control
Audiocraft AC4400
Kuzma 4 point 9”
Kuzma 4 point 14”

Last, the speed accuracy of the turntable has huge effect on dynamics and bass.  The drive system is important but so is the accuracy of that system.   At one time I was testing all turntable with a Sutherland laser and watched for error as an LP rotated.   The best result was the ability of the turntable to lock the laser into precisely the same spot on the wall (16 feet away) regardless if 33 or 45 RPM and regardless of dynamics of the LP.

I had one turntable here that actually caused the laser spot to appear to run backward, then catch up with itself, while rotating at wrong speed along with these dynamic errors.

So many things to consider in addition to the very important tonearm but sometimes a tonearm is mounted on a lower performance table with a lower performance mat and weight and it gets blamed for total results.

@lewm , I guess my ears are not as good as yours. Yes, you are wrong again. Zenith is critically important. It is vital for phase coherence and syncopation not to mention constipation. May I suggest a jar of Citrucel?

@albertporter , You are for more experienced than myself and lewm put together however, I would like to point out the speed variability of even a mediocre modern turntable is far superior to that achieved by your typical somewhat less than flat and concentric record. You will have to look elsewhere for pitch consistency besides drive type. 

@lewm , It means that the stylus is perfectly vertical as seen from the front and has the correct 92 degree SRA when loaded at the recommended tracking force.