SME Series V tonearm Thomas J. Norton 1991

Thomas J. Norton commented on the SME V in August 1991 (Vol.14 No.8):

My auditioning of the Oracle Delphi Mk.IV turntable began with the Oracle SME 345 tonearm and the Dynavector XX-1L cartridge. The sound of this combination would not surprise anyone who's read my review of the Dynavector (Vol.14 No.5), though the arm in that case was the SME V. The presentation was tight, focused, open, and detailed, yet without unnatural roughness or brightness. On good recordings, that is. Mike Garson's The Oxnard Sessions, Vol.1 (Reference Recordings RR-37) definitely tended toward the sparkling and detailed—there was perhaps a very slight degree of warmth, but only enough to keep the presentation from being too analytical.

Next it was time to swap arms—replacing the Oracle/SME 345 with the SME V. This was actually after several months of listening to the Oracle arm—which should indicate that I certainly found the Delphi Mk.IV with the Oracle arm to be a very satisfying combination. With the SME V, the overall presentation was, however, definitely upgraded by more than a step—not a dramatic improvement, but a more relaxed, natural presentation. The sound had a bit more warmth, and the top end was no less detailed, though better integrated with the whole. Less obvious, but no less welcome, were small improvements in depth and overall high-frequency balance. This improved even some marginal recordings; Jerusalem had a stronger, tighter bass, its high end was less relentless, and I noted an improved differentiation of inner instrumental voices. The change was not pronounced enough to make me like the recording, but it was a noticeable improvement.

On L'art de La Flute de Pan (Arion ARN 36779), the highs, which with the Oracle arm had seemed to be somewhat off by themselves, were now somehow more believable—the breath sounds from the pipes now merely added natural character to the presentation. Overall, the SME V removed a trace of sharpness from the sound without in any way dulling it or reducing detail, while at the same time adding a welcome degree of warmth.

Replacing the Dynavector cartridge with the Benz-Micro MC-3 produced the same results I reported on in my review of the Dynavector (Vol.14 No.5). The Benz has a richer, fuller, more "tubey" sound than the Dynavector. This is both a plus and a minus. The MC-3's more relaxed, less tightly wound presentation was relaxing and easy to listen to, yet it certainly did not lack detail. Its slight softening flattered some recordings, but its subtle way of making the most of what was in the grooves without calling attention to itself continued to be appealing. Yet there were times when I definitely missed the Dynavector's attack, clarity, and, well, snap (to use an old JGH term which remains descriptive). Listening to both of these cartridges makes it clear why there are audiophiles with more than one cartridge—though I suspect fewer today than in the past. As I stated in my Dynavector review, that which works best for you will depend very much on the rest of your system.—Thomas J. Norton

Markus Sauer commented on the SME V in June 1993 (Vol.16 No.6):

The SME V, in my experience, tends to have an overblown and rhythmically inarticulate bass in many combinations (Pink Triangles being a notable exception), a tendency that seemingly can't be completely eliminated by damping adjustments. It also has a midrange that is tonally very neutral but dynamically muted, and limited resolution of microdynamics. Voices just don't soar as they should. The Naim ARO's fun factor is considerably higher.—Markus Sauer

SME Ltd.
US distributor: Acoustic Sounds
(785) 825-8609

Osgood Crinkly III's picture

Have been using the V since it came out (w/ Kiseki Purple Heart Sapphire and Sota Star Sapphire IV). No problems, no complaints. No fuss, no bother, no tweeking. Just music.

volvic's picture

I have had mine for 9 years now, same as fellow above, no fuss no mess. Perhaps newer arms sound better but its build quality, ease of set up and reliability has me yearning for no other arm and that is what big expensive hi-fi purchases should be about; lasting you a lifetime so that you can enjoy your record collection......Nuff said.

w1000i's picture

Can we have a review for the new model C109 from JAMO , which was the largest manufacturer of speakers in Europe one day. :)

midimaniac's picture

Believe it or not, about 12 years ago I purchased a Sota Star Sapphire TT (Vacuum Hold down with an SME V mounted on it...for $300 at a used gear shop!! Obviously the shop didn't know what they had, nor did I. I sent the table to Sota, where they re-fitted it with their latest silicone vacuum lip, zirconium ball and sapphire thrust plate. Can't remember what they charged me. It wasn't more than a few hundred dollars. Nowadays just the tonearm costs more than 10 to 20 times that amount. My records sound really good!