Going from a Gyrodec to a SME 10

Hi all,

I'm thinking about going from my 10 year old Gyrodec to a near new SME 10. Would this be considered step-up in performance or just a different audio reproduction?

Currently my Gyrodec is up to date in specs including latest never connected power supply. Also it has all the Orbe upgrades including platter and using a SME IV arm. The SME would come with a 309 arm.

I'm wanting to swap carts from a mono to stereo frequently so I thought even though I I'd have the choice of arms I'd use the 309 and not keep the IV.

The rest of my system. Using Harbeth SHL5 speakers with a Aussie built KT120 amp into a Aussie built MM stage then a audio Techinca SUT..

Any thoughts would be great..

Thanks all
Looks like an upgrade to me! I think you will like the 309 arm since you want to swap out cartridges frequently! Just remember that the spare headshells for the 309 are now $250.I paid $50 about ten years ago.
Hi yogiboy,

Thanks for your reply. I think it would be an upgrade changing decks.
Yes I know that the price of the headshells aren't cheap. That's way I thought I'd ask the community here what others thoughts were..

I've also been told that changing headshells on the 309 isn't as easy as it perhaps should be..

I've contacted SME who were really good in their replay.. One of the questions I asked them was why the built a arm these day with the removable headshell, their reply was that's what a a lot of customers want...
Hi Kensell21.
The headshell is very simple to remove,just follow the instructions and you will have no problem! SME has been making tonearms for over sixty years and if a removable headshell was a problem they would not make it!
BTW,there is a new 309 headshell on Ebay for $119,grab it if it is still there!
The SME 309 headshell is easy to change and allows for relatively easy azimuth adjustments; it's the adjustment of the tonearm height for various cartridge heights that's a pain. I think the SME sliding base is genious for (horizontal) alignment of a cartridge but trying to get fine vertical adjustments in tonearm height for VTA/SRA alignment is cumbersome at best.

You could always add the damping trough and vertical height screw to easily make VTA/SRA adjustments. I've considered spending the money for the convenience.


PS: Is it simply the desire for a change or are there things about the Gyrodec that you find limiting?
I have never heard the Gyrodec, so I can't offer advice about the upgrade.
However, I did own an SME Model 10 for eight years before going up the SME
line. I started with the 309, then the 9" V and now own the V-12.

I too think the sliding base is fantastic for horizontal tracking angle adjustment
or overhang, and I used to think the VTA screw and adjusting arm height was
cumbersome at best. However, I started to experiment with different SRA
settings and I have become fairly adept at unlocking the base and making tiny
height adjustments. I now find it worth the effort for the considerable
improvements in sonics. However, I don't then readjust overhang or VTF for
different VTA.

Remember, raising or lowering the height of the standard 9" arm by 4 mm
results in a 1 degree SRA change. I alter the height by as little as 1-2 mm
depending on the LP. This is between 1/4 and 1/2 of one degree SRA. And with
my new 12" V12, it is even less. A 1mm height change means about a 3/4
rotation of the VTA screw. That's a lot. Imagine how tiny a height change or
SRA change you can get from a 1/4 turn of the VTA screw. The threads aren't as
fine as with some other arms, but, the screw is removable and you are left with a
superior rigidly locked arm base. Some feel the cantilevered/offset arm tower
allowing for relatively convenient VTA adjustment compromises the rigidity of
the arm structure. Durand changed precisely this with their top of the line Telos

The only problem is that there are no calibration marks on the SME arm for
height. I used to think that one needed a Graham or TriPlanar or Durand for
easy VTA/SRA adjustment, but now I feel the SME is almost as easy. You just
have to get used to the process. And for calibration, I use the SME scale on the
protractor measuring from the top surface of the arm board to the bottom
surface of the extension for the arm rest. The range is from 16 mm to 19mm for
my collection of LPs.

I think the removable headshell is fine for cartridge swapping and azimuth
adjustment, but I never did that with my 309. (I also did not install the finger lift
for any of my SME arms). If you swap cartridges, you should keep and use the
309, but if you use only one cartridge, I would use your IV arm.

Also check to see if the motor controller with the Model 10 has speed
adjustability. Mine did not and the speed was very slightly fast, so I replaced
belts often. I think the new motor controllers are adjustable.

You will enjoy the SME table.
Hi Yogiboy and Tketcham,

Thanks for your replies. You both seem to believe that changing over headshells would be easy although I had this reply on another forum site..

"I have used both the 309 and the 312. In terms of ease in removing headshells from the wand for cartridge swapping, I give them a fail. The recessed allen screw needs to be fully removed to get the headshell off. The head of the screw is smooth sided, and when unscrewed from the captive nut at the bottom (more about that in a second), only pokes up a couple of mm from the headshell. It's hard to grab even with tweezers. I ended up putting a dab of blu-tak in the hex and using the allen key to pull it out. I seem to recall that I needed to glue the captive nut at the bottom, too."

The actual carts I have, a Benz micro wood SL stereo and a Benz micro ace mono. Although from the same manufacturer, there maybe slight differences to re just when changing between the two. I do also have a Denon 103 modded by ESC which from time to time might go on.. But I'd mainly want to change between mono and stereo..

As to the damping trough and vertical height screw. Does the height screw come with the damping trough? I contacted SME about the trough, they didn't believe it was essential as they thought most modern carts had sufficient dampening..

Tom, as far as the desire for change of TT. I bought the Gyrodec new after a couple of overseas telephone calls with John Michell himself when he was still alive.. I couldn't have met a nicer person.. So I have a bit of loyalty to it.. However I have a small legacy and with a sale of the Gyrodec have this opportunity to purchase the SME 10.. In fact I have two 10's to choose from. One has the 309 arm, the other is without a arm. Both less than 3 years old. So is the Gyrodec limiting?? Interesting word... Probably not.. I wouldn't know if the SME would be an improvement unless I could have a home demo. This might give me a better idea but isn't possible at this stage... . I could use my meagre funds in another area of my system...

I wasn't going to expand too much the thread but I should add that I also have a Garrard 401 in a nice jarrah plinth with a 12" Jelco arm with the older SME removable headshell. :)

So Tom, I was considering consolidating TTs, perhaps even selling the Garrard, that's why I considered the SME with the 309 arm. Or just sell the Gyrodec and not buy the SME. keep the Garrard and perhaps get a "better" arm? It also has a removable arm board so I can change arms.. Instead of changing arms I'm even thinking of putting a second arm on it to carry the mono cart.. I know, I'm spoilt for choices but who said audio was easy :)

Peterayer, thanks for your detailed input.. It's sounds as you have got your changes down pat.. However I'm not sure I'd be as capable even with practice..

Thanks All.
I had the same problem with my 309. Just a dab of crazy glue to make the nut permanent so it stays in place fixed the problem. No big deal!
Dear Kensell21: IMHO there is no real improvement down there but a different presentation.

I think that you can change your IV for a non-SME tonearm or a better cartridge or a better phono stage if you want a real improvement.

Regards and enjoy the music,
As a former Gorbe/SME IV owner, I'm not sure this is an upgrade. I have heard the 10 in a limited listening session and I found it to be quite a bit dryer than the Mitchell. If you are looking for an upgrade in some area of the presentation, or overall, perhaps you should look into a new arm. I eventually replaced my SME IV with a Moerch DP6 and was thrilled.... but there are so many other great arms out there as well. That would be my approach. It's all about fit so maybe get the SME 10 and some other arm for the Mitchell and do your own comparison and sell the loser....
Kensell21; if it's just a fortuitous opportunity, then by all means give the SME 10 a try! (It's easy for other people to spend YOUR money. :-)

The height adjustment screw is part of the damping trough assembly. But you're paying for the damping trough when all that's really wanted is height adjustment. (SME, are you listening? Great opportunity for an aftermarket product that would be a hit with all the owners of SME tonearms.)

Your idea of having a single deck with two tonearms is also a great idea. I've considered modifying my Gyro SE to do just that. Much easier than swapping headshells. Well, at least after you've spent the time and trouble modifying the turntable.

Enjoy the journey!
The SME 309 arm that came with my Model 10A did not have a damping trough, but it did have the VTA setting screw. I once removed the damping trough on my SME V arm for cleaning purposes, and the VTA setting screw was not a part of that assembly. I think the VTA screw and the damping trough are independent.

Tketcham, Are you describing a different arm?
That is an option on the 309 arm!
Peterayer: the height adjustment screw is not available separately from the damping trough. You must have received a special in-house setup from SME.

Tkecham, Perhaps I was not clear enough in my previous post. The VTA height
adjustment screw has been an integral part of each the three SME arms I have
owned, the 309, the V and the V-12. The damping trough was not included with
the 309 but it is available as an option.

To my knowledge, the VTA screw comes standard with all of these arms. The
damping trough can be purchased separately as an option. The VTA screw is not
an option and the screw is not part of the damping trough assembly.
Peterayer; a correction to my post on the vta screw...
The screw is available separately but you need the damping trough in order to use the screw with the 309. Without the trough assembly there is no threaded insert for the screw. At least that's what all the posts on this topic have been saying and the email reply I got from SME implies. (Maybe they just wanted to sell me the whole FDIV assembly. :-)

I'm going to pull the plastic insert out of the hole in the tonearm plate to see if it does have threads or not.

Tketcham, I just thought of something. A rather fine point, but it may make a difference to the discussion. My 309 was modified and included with my SME Model 10A turntable package. I was under the impression that this was simply a 309 painted with the #10 on it for this package. It may in fact be different from the standard 309 arm. What I remember is that it had the VTA screw like all of my other arms for height adjustment and it did not include the damping trough which I considered buying later as an option. I upgraded to the V arm instead.