Live with the Classic for awhile before doing anything. You may find out you can sell the SME and recoup a good portion of the Classic's cost. If not, you'll be able to make an informed decision.
Buconero117 - the bearings aren't troublesome and the arm sounds great. It is just that they have an "upgrade" to the bearings I could take advantage of if I wanted to. I have a query into SME to see if they can send me a replacement part for the queuing lever and I'll see if I can fix it that way. In fact I will wait until I can hear them both. Thanks for the advice Wendell!
The cue lever on the V has to be left in the rest position when not in use. It is slow and I have found extra sticky when its cold. The comparison of the two arms is system dependent. A VPI arm should be ideal for a VPI table but now the cartridge match needs to be optimal. Ive found my V to be stunning with some cartridges and less so with others but overall it has been a friendlier match with a variety of tables and carts than some others.
Interesting point. As it turns out SME was kind enough to send me the service manual pages for rebuilding the dashpot and the task does not appear to be that difficult. Perhaps the dashpot damping fluid they spec'd originally was too viscous. At any rate - I'm using a Grado Reference Sonata which evidently is still settling in (100 hrs about) and WOW! What a cartridge! Old London Blue Back of Ansermet and Petroushka - holy cow what a sound. Image is taller than my speakers (still don't know how this happens) - amazing brass and visceral bass. Anyhow - I will report back with the results of my dashpot work after this weekend. Thanks for all the advice.
OK I serviced the "dashpot" on my SME V. There is a design issue on the dashpot that I take issue with: the width of the piston is wider than the lengtth of the side of the piston that articulates with the dashpot well. Any mechanical engineer will tell you that this is a formula for "canting" (that thing that happens when you try to close a drawer and it gets cocked to the left or right and won't push in until you pull it out and carefully align it before closing).
So in my case - I had to use molybdenum grease on the piston in order not to get it to cant. I used silcone "stopcock" grease which was way too light for this purpose. I removed it and then I used silicone lube for my Walther Lothar Air Pistol lube (don't ask). And this is better. However I still have to order the sticky grease. I will try to source it here, I am told it is Rocol Kilopoise 0868S which can be sourced here in the US (looking for it now).
I also had to pull apart the spring while trying to align it so that the faces of the spring were parallel to each other. Here they used a conical spring (wide end on the piston, narrow end against the fixed ceiling) and I think they should have used a narrow spring all the way. But I haven't been able to see what would fit in there. A cylindrical spring may not have sufficient clearance.
At any rate working on the spring also seemed to help prevent canting.
The queuing lever works great now - but it is instantaneous. I will have to get the viscous fluid in order to get it to slow down a bit.
Impressive report. I don't even have an SME arm, but it was still a good read.
Wouldn't a conical spring (wide end on the piston) or a full-width spring somewhat mitigate the possibility of canting? I'll bet that's what SME thought. (Of course a higher height:width ratio for the piston would have been best, as you noted.)
One piece of follow up information for you folks. According to the very helpful customer service people at SME:
SME V has always had only one revision of bearings since the beginning of production. The only change that has been made has been to the internal arm wiring. There is a modification available for this wiring for early production arms. That is all.
In addition they have made a version of the arm with gold stenciling instead of the original silver. They also have a gold plated version of the arm (makes the sound a bit too brilliant IMHO... KIDDING!)
Anyhow - I've decided to keep the arm as the wiring investment is little compared to a new price for this tonearm. And I have yet to be convinced this is not still one of the best tonearms available. Of course I would need to listen to the other arms in this category on my system, but I cant, so I won't, and will remain blissfully ignorant.
Enjoy the tunes!