Avid Volvare - SME IV arm or Tri-planar VII ???

I am seriously considering an Avid Volvare table and was led in the direction of an SME IV arm. I have read that the Tri-Planar VII is also a very good choice.

Any experience with either arm and this table? Any suggestions???

I am also looking at the VPI Super Scoutmaster with JMW-9 signature arm and the Clearaudio Ambient turntable with Satisfy arm. Should I stick with the Avid or look into one of the others more seriously?

I have a Volvere and love it (SME 309 arm). I have spoken to Conrad Mas (designer/owner) and he recommnends Rega or SME arms. They tend to put energy back into the platter and therefore plays well with the design. Energy then travels from the platter through and out the bearing.

SME arms a breeze to work with and have really good instructions.

Another reason for rega or SME is you bolt them right to the subchassis without using an adaptor/armboard.

the AVID is the way better choice of the TTs you mentioned and in my opinoin better than some that are more $$s. I think Avid are the best suspended tables available.

great frequency extension, low noise, easy setup, well made, impeccable finish, dynamic, midrange depth, great isolation... should I go on.
I have only heard the SME IV on the Volvere and I thought it was a superb match. That said, I chose the Triplanar VII for my Acutus over the SME V and Graham Phantom. I think your choice of cartridge and need for adjustability during play might be the deciding factors for the Volvere. Just to confuse things a little more, I recommend that you give serious consideration to the Super Scoutmaster.
What would make you point me in the direction of the Super Scoutmaster if you are an Avid owner?

My primary reason for leaning towards the Avid is that everyone I have heard from says the VPI gear is a bit tweaky and needs constant fine tuning; while the Avid is truly set it up once and play. I'm not a fidget around with the table kinda guy (not enough time to fidget and listen and I'd rather be listening). I've also heard the Avid is VERY dynamic with great lower frequency extension. I have never heard anyting bad about the Super S.M. but I have heard that the VPI tables can be a bit flat sounding compared to a suspended table...

Is the Triplanar as easy to set up and use as the SME IV?
Geoff Husband wrote an excellent review of the TriPlanar VII for TNT-audio, during which he made extensive comparisons with his SME IV.vi. While he and I hear some things quite differently, notably with regard to VTA/SRA, his review was fair, balanced and gave an accurate impression of each arm. Check it out here:


My partner and I are very sensitive to VTA/SRA and we adjust and record arm height settings for each record. The TriPlanar was thus a better choice for us, since its height adjustment is vastly superior to an SME's. But if you're a set-and-forget sort of guy an SME might better suit your style.

A TriPlanar will match a broader array of cartridges, since it comes with four different counterweights. It also adjusts easily for non-vertical styli, non-square cantilevers and non-standard cantilever lengths. SME pretty much assumes that your cartridge was perfectly built, sort of like their arms are.

They are different to set up but neither arm is easier, IMO, though an SME might seem less intimidating. The TriPlanar is designed in a way that almost demands active involvement (aka fiddling) by the user. While it responds to tiny adjustments with extraordinary subtlety, it takes time, thought and effort to do this well.

They're both great arms. Choose whichever one fits your style. You'll be happy.
Brieshayana, I point you to the Super ScoutMaster as an excellent representative of a non-sprung table. If, like me, you have already determined that you prefer the sound of sprung tables then you cannot go wrong with the Avid. I agree completely with Dougdeacon's points above. I adjust the VTA frequently as well depending upon the record so for me the Triplanar was the obvious choice. And even if you don't think you'd use the options that the Triplanar offers over the SME IV initially you just might find them indispensable in the near future.
Thank you Khrys and Dougdeacon!

That article was great and VERY helpful. I can certainly see how if you are a VTA adjuster then the Triplanar is a no-brainer. I can guarantee you that I am not going to be a VTA adjuster. I will be listening to about 30% analog and over time (as my free time increases - some day) I may get more into the fine tunning, But for now I am honestly looking for an arm that is VERY easy to set-up and will sound great with a minimum of fuss.

It sounds to me like both arms are so good that changing cables, cartridges and phono stages will have a MUCH greater impact on the sound then the arms themselves. Which leaves me with two great choices and I obviously can't go wrong with either.

I did find it interesting to finally hear, specifically, the difference between the IV and the V as far as counterweight adjustment and VTA adjustment. I had a Roksan Radius V for a while and the two biggest complaints I had with it set-up wise were that I hated the simple sliding counterweight (it just seamed to me that a better, micrometer style counterweight, would be more effective and reliable) and the VTA was similar in it's lack of any fine control - just slide it up or down and hope it stays until you tighten that screw.

In that regard, and after reading that article, I actually think going with the SME V is propbably the smartest move on my part as it will make set-up and long term maintanence the easiest and least tweaky. With that said, you both made comment as to the SME's "assumption" that the cartridge is perfect and I am a bit concerned as to cartridge matching... How significant an issue is this?

What cartridges (or manufacturers) would you describe as "perfectly built" lending themselves to being well suited and matched to the SME IV or V?

I was initially seriously considering the Benz or the Dynavector. I may start out at a lower price point as my budget will be chewed up by the table and arm - maybe a Karat or Glider 2 and upgrade as I can. I figure since the cartridge is clearly the easiest to change (especially with the SME arm) it makes more sense to go that route... Any suggestions?

Thanks to everyone who posted here. I'm looking at the same 3 tables and have learned a ton from this thread.

Two questions:

1) Khrys alluded to differences in sound between spurng and non-sprung tables, and I'm wondering if he (or anyone else) can elaborate on this? I've been listening to vinyl for a while, but I'm fairly new to serious turntables, so wondering if there's a design concept in play with either format that has a certain type of sonic signature?

2) So no one has heard the Clearaudio Ambient table with Satisfy arm? Anyone...Bueller?



If you are a "set and forget" listener then I want to throw you another suggestion, Basis Vector. This arm does not have dials and such so setting it up is a bit more work. However, once set this arm never needs re-adjusting. The Vector is very well engineered and can handle just about any cartridge you want to mount on it. That's not to say the Tri-Planar or SME can't also but the Vector is alot less money. Because it is a modified unipivot you will probably never have to worry about maintenance. I think it would be a good match with the Avid as it can hold the arm very stable.

You could also start with a Denon 103R cartridge and save more money towards that next higher end cartridge, but I do like the Glider.
I have been told by many that unipivot arms are basically a huge mistake with the Avid suspended tables as they don't provide a direct line for vibration to be channeled through the arm into the suspension, or something like that. I think I'll stick with the SME arm for now, but thank you for your suggestion... And I will look into the Denon Cart.

...you both made comment as to the SME's "assumption" that the cartridge is perfect and I am a bit concerned as to cartridge matching... How significant an issue is this?
Unlike most arms, the SME IV's headshell does not have slots which allow you to angle the cartridge. It has two mounting holes. That's where the cartridge goes and that's that (unless you drill the holes out a bit, as some owners do).

Overhang is easily adjusted, since the entire arm slides in or out on a rail, but offset angle will necessarily be wrong if your cartridge:

a) has an off-line cantilever and/or,

b) has a stylus-to-mounting holes dimension different than whatever SME assumed when they positioned the mounting holes.

In either case your cantilever won't be tangent to the groove at the intended null points. The sonic result will be higher than intended tracing error distortion (channel information out of phase due to the cantilever being non-tangent over more of its arc, and/or non-tangent by a larger amount than designed).

How significant will this be? That depends on how far from SME's ideal your cartridge happens to be. There's no way to predict that. I can only tell you that if I mis-align the cantilever when mounting a cartridge the distortion can be audible, especially on inner grooves.

What cartridges (or manufacturers) would you describe as "perfectly built" lending themselves to being well suited and matched to the SME IV or V?
There's no such thing as a perfect cartridge. Of course I'd avoid brands known to have poor QC in this area. Shelter and VdH come to mind. Getting a square one of those requires some luck. FWIW, I've not heard of many problems with Dynas or Benz's.

Any mid-compliance cartridge should be a good theoretical match with an SME IV. Which brand and model to choose depends on your phono stage, budget, sonic priorities and musical tastes. I think that's a topic for a whole other thread.

P.S. If you do opt for an SME, I'd seriously consider trying to find a used one. They are beautifully built and should withstand anything short of outright abuse. The money you'd save might buy a cartridge upgrade.
I understand what these folks are saying about unipivot arms in general. The Vector is not a unipivot per se and should never be compared as such. But the vibrations from the Vector would not be sinked to the suspension, that is true. It is also true that vibrations from the platter cannot be leached into the Vector from the suspension. That is because of the damping that is built into the design. I agree with DougDeacon, if you do go with an SME it would be a much better value to find one used.