The 2003 Products of the Year 2003 Analog Source Component
SME 30/2 turntable (review) ($25,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.26 No.3, March 2003)
Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):
Lyra Titan phono cartridge ($4500; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.26 No.6, June 2003)
Music Hall MMF-9 turntable ($1695; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.26 No.8, August 2003)
Rega P9 turntable ($3500; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.25 No.11, November 2002)
Rega P3 turntable ($650; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.26 No.2, February 2003)
Rega RB1000 tonearm ($1595; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.25 No.11, November 2002)
van den Hul DDT-II Special phono cartridge (review) ($900; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.26 No.1, January 2003)
In an otherwise very close race, the SME 30/2 turntable freed itself—quietly, smoothly, quickly—from the rest of the pack. Its no-BS design features one high-quality motor and electronic drive, a crowned stainless-steel pulley, a compact, high-mass plinth system, ultra-high-tolerance machining everywhere, zero use of acrylic, and a truly effective isolation system. This 94-lb hunk of black metal is "built to run O-rings around the competition," and that's exactly what it did.
Michael Fremer noted pitch-black backgrounds, spectacular transient speed and attack, glorious decay with no edgy peaks, and unparalleled performance in the areas of bass control, definition, extension, dynamics, and harmonics. All of this makes it, possibly, "the finest turntable in the world."
Though little more than a third the price of the Class A+ Rockport System III Sirius, the 30/2 had Michael singing a new tune: "I'd say the SME and the Rockport are at least on a level playing field....Overall, the SME Model 30/2 might just be the best turntable I've heard."