Absolutely shocking news re: SME

As a lifelon fan of SME arms who has spent his whole life dreaming of putting an SME IV on my Gyrodec I am shocked and saddened to hear that SME are to cease selling tonearms except with their own turntables.

## 03 DEC SME PRODUCT ANNOUNCEMENT

SME will exit the tonearm retail and OEM business with immediate effect shifting our focus on our core turntable and tonearm combination business. The decision to leave the tonearm business was not taken lightly, especially as we have played a key role in the design and development of the world’s best tonearms. The growth of our turntable business and commitment to higher production levels means that we cannot continue both streams.

SME has designed, engineered and manufactured tonearms for retail and OEM sales since 1959 and achieved international recognition as makers of the best pick-up arms in the world. This tradition of tonearm manufacturing will continue with the manufacture of our highly accredited tonearms for the purpose of coupling with our comprehensive range of high-end precision turntables in which SME will be expanding in 2020.

Whilst no new orders for individual tonearms will be accepted from the issue date of this product announcement, all obligations of the warranty will be honoured. Factory service and spare parts support for tonearm owners will continue.

Stuart McNeilis
Chief Executive Officer

How incredibly sad. I wrote to ARA once asking for a job after university and received the kindest of replies back.

Jonathan

Yes, I read about this yesterday on Michael Fremer’s Analogplanet. It was a surprising bit of news but perhaps SME need all the arms they can make for their own decks and expanding production is not a viable option.

Which reminds me, I still have an SME IV unused in the box. It’s a gorgeous piece of engineering. I’d better hang on to it for another decade, just in case…

p.s. I’ve made a minor edit to your post just to ensure it’s compliant with forum rules.

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Richard - sorry if I broke any forum rules, thanks for the amendments.

Jonathan

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That is sad.

I’ve perhaps been a little surprised they’ve kept afloat on the tonearm side for so long. In fact I perused their site a few weeks ago.

I’m glad to know that servicing/spares will hopefully still be available as I have an SME IV on a Pink Triangle Anniversary that I need to get repaired once many other priorities are attended to.

Oh dear! At least they haven’t stopped all together. It’s good to hear that spares will still be available.
I would have thought that their tonearm sales were their largest earner (on the hifi side of their business) but they have obviously consulted their books and decided otherwise.
I’ll never be able to afford an SME turntable but I wish them well for their future.

Happily I have just secured one of the last available SME Series IV arms before they disappear altogether. Bizarrely this was all made possible by my Mother who I haven’t financially depended on for handouts since I was a student 30 years ago!

We had lunch and I had told her about SME, not I hasten to add because I had any hidden agenda but merely in conversation and she remembered my passion! I was thus completely unprepared for her offer later that afternoon to provide the funding for it!! I refused her very kind offer initially because it didn’t feel right. When she pointed out that it would be something I would always keep that would remind me of her whenever I played a record while she is here and after she has gone I realised it is a wonderful way to remember her. She jokingly asked if that would be ‘all right for Christmas?’ I replied it would do for the next 20!!

So with much excitement I collected my SME and have spent a pleasant few hours fitting it to the Gyrodec MK IV. Everything about it exudes class, from the packaging to the beatifully machined tools that accompany it and are branded SME. Even the installation instructions are wonderfully clear and illustrated every step of the way with good photographs.

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My enthusiasm for the SME IV all started when it graced the front cover of HI-Fi News magazine in July 1987. As I have never parted with a hi-fi magazine and have an extensive collection in the loft I have been able to retrieve my copy since buying the arm

To be honest I suspected before fitting it that replacing a Rega RB600 with an SME IV was likely going to be pushing deep into diminishing returns territory. I thought long and hard about what record to choose first and in the end settled on Del Amitri’s second album ‘Waking Hours’. Del Amitri were very much the soundtrack of my student years and are a band I still completely adore to this day. If beautifully crafted, lyrically intelligent, melodic rock with a celtic leaning is your thing then you owe it to yourself to explore their half dozen albums. They are one of the few bands whose albums I enjoy all the way through, there’s no filler tracks here! They are carefully crafted and well recorded albums that reward critical listening and I know them intimately.

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The SME visually is a masterpiece of engineering excellence, flawless in its finish and incredibly beautiful. Its mechanical precision is a perfect compliment to a the Gyrodec which is itself a deck that reflects its designer’s fundamental understanding of turntable engineering. There’s nothing superfluous on a Gyrodec, its beautiful form is entirely driven by function and it’s one of the reasons I have loved it for even longer than the SME.

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So with a glass of oaky spanish Batturica Tarragona Gran Reserva poured I lowered the beautifully damped lever of the SME IV, the Audio Technica AT-OC9 MLII slipped gently into the groove and I took my seat for this evening’s performance. Now my copy of ‘Waking Hours’ originates from the start of my second year at Birmingham University in 1989 and was the soundtrack to numerous parties seductions and breakups over the years so it’s far from pristine but immediately I was struck by a seeming reduction in surface noise. As the opening bars of ‘Kiss this thing goodbye’ rang out through the ATC SCM40’s (driven by NAC82/HICAP/NAP250) the sound was so much more ‘in the room’. Justin Currie (vocals) was a palpable presence, the guitars were precisely located and the piano had a scale and presence I have not heard listening to this album on any format before. Everything was so much more tangible and ‘real’. Underpinning all this was a staggeringly solid bass and drum line, when a Tom drum hits you feel the air in the room move the way it would if it was actually there. I expected it to be better but never in my wildest dreams did I expect this level of improvement.

As I listened on I realised that not only did the SME have hugely more impact and dynamics but it was smoother at the top end and yet more revealing of details buried deep in the mix. On one side of an album I have owned for 30 years I heard three instruments I had never even noticed before.

Like many people I had doubted that moving up from a middle ranking arm like the Rega to a super-arm like the SME could produce a sufficient improvement to justify the cost. Let me disabuse you of that notion right now!! It’s worth pointing out that as part of the arm change I also moved up to the Orbe record clamp and that is a far superior device compared to the relatively lightweight affair shipped with the Gyro as standard. By all accounts the Orbe clamp offers a superior sound so undoubtedly some of the improvement is related to that as a core component of the Gyrodec design relies on clamping the record to a mat with similar acoustic and mechanical properties to vinyl.

As one can imagine I spent a blissful evening exploring my record collection with my wife and both agreed that the change was absolutely not subtle. The SME has unlocked a yet higher level of performance from the Gyrodec that I simply never knew existed. Previously I would have said that it had achieved parity with my NDX and Naim Cdi. Now it is quite clearly the superior source.

In terms of next steps the possibility of a dedicated phono stage is tempting. I currently use the NAC82 in-built phono boards but a Trichord Dino and Never connected supply looks like a tempting proposition…

It’s strange finally acquiring one of your hi-fi bucket list items when 32 years of longing comes to a close. Products such as the SME IV, for me at least, are the stuff of dreams. I did wonder if it would prove to be a disappointment, like meeting a famous actor, actress or musician who you have idolised your whole life only to find they aren’t as charming, amusing or beautiful as you expected. Well tonight I encountered one of my heroes and my records will simply never sound the same again…

Jonathan

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Great post Jonathan and what a gift from your Mum. Always thought the SME is the best looking tone arms ever made - there’s something a bit sci-fi spaceship about it.

A very cool looking thing. Congrats! :sunglasses:

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Nice one - The IV goes so well with your GyroDec.
I have the V on an Orbe for the last 20 years and been a solid performer with a range of different cartridges.
I also had a OC9, but was probably used on a Silver Litz wired Mission 774 before I got the Orbe.

Other areas you could look at is the tone arm board and suspension spring replacement.

Simon

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What a fantastic result Jonathan. Well done your Mum. The SME IV looks absolutely perfect on the Gyrodec.

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I really enjoyed this, wonderfully written and I feel your joy. Great Mum there to.

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What a great tale. Your mum is a star, and how great the SME looks. Happy Christmas!

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I enjoyed my beautiful SME 20/ 2a with SME V for 15 years. The build quality was fantastic.

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I followed a similar route, also waited a long time before I took the plunge but the IV has been a delight on my Gyrodec - I find that the sq is on a par with streaming, the key thing being the quality of the recording. I’ve been amazed how good some 40 year old records sound - but a duff recording really stands out. True of digital of course, I just notice it more on vinyl since the SME. Did you go for the damper as well?

Thanks for all the lovely messages, I didn’t go for the damper as well but would be interested if people perceive it makes a difference.

Jonathan

Your SME turntable looks stunning!! I love the way that SME have seemingly carried on making tonearms just the same way they always have and have maintained that glorious 1950’s style logo. What a truly superlative company SME are.

Jonathan

Yes, their build quality is awesome. The problem is that SME turntables are more suited to classical music, trio jazz or voices.
I sold it one year ago and found the rega rp10 more involving. I enjoy more my jazz rock and soul funk from the 70’ s with the rega.
But the rega looks more like a toy vs the SME.

Today, if I wanted to invest in a big turntable, i would more go for a Vertere SG 1 or Avid Acutus SP with SME V.

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The Regas do look very simple; I believe that relates directly to their design philosophy. I think it’s interesting to look at the “big” turntables, but for me and my love of “keep it simple,” I will stick with Rega. What sells it to me is that people who have heard a lot of turntables think that it also sounds good at its price.

I’d be more inclined to upgrade to a P10 if it has more of a plinth and a rectangular dust cover, like my RP-8. P10 really does look like a toy! But that’s ok . . .

I agree. I prefer today the simplicity of the rega, and even the sound vs my ex SME deck. But I was only talking about the aspect, the look.

The Vertere is also simple. Comes with an arm. Nothing to upgrade or adjust after.

Errrr apart from the cables. Touraj will encourage you to spent lots on those…