OL Silver vs SME 309

If you had a choise of these two arms for the same price, which would you opt for to go with a Michell Gyro SE?
As an OL Silver owner myself, I may be accused of being biased, but there are several British and American reviews out there that claim the OL Silver is equal or better than the SME V flagship model. I would say that it is safe to conclude from those comments that the OL Silver would be significantly better than one of the lower SME models. The magazine "What HiFi" goes as far as to say "it could be the best tonearm in the world right now". Another reviewer states that it is his "tool" that he uses to evaluate the quality of other top tonearms, to see how close they can come to it. Some accolades given the OL Silver were statements such as "no colorations whatsoever", and "the tonearm design of the decade".

Seems like a pretty good bet to me. I would agree with the above statements, as an owner of one. The funny thing is, that the Silver is the bottom of the OL tonearm lineup, and they get even better as you go up. The reviews were written before OL introduced their higher line arms. At the price they are asking, it is pretty hard to come close to it. The main down-side of the Silver is that it is fairly plain and pedestrian looking, and doesn't have that "eye candy" effect that other arms may have. But you forget all about that when the stylus is in the groove.
I'm the owner of Michell and I use Incognito RB300. I opted for it since I already had RB300 unmodified from my previous TT. The sound is great but SME309 is more robust and adjustable. Very often precision matters more than rigidity. If I didn't have Rega arm I'd go for Willson Act.05 or Kuzma Stogi arms. They combine rigidity of Regas and adjustability of SME-s. BTW Kuzma/Michell is known to be one of the best TT/arm combos.
Thanks for your comments. I agree with TWL that the OL Silver looks pretty pedestrian - I might even say "cheap" looking. While it has gotten good reviews i am always skeptical of audio press hype unless someone can say they have actually done a comparison listening test of one vs he other. The OL silver looks like nothing but a tube on a hinge with no adjustment whatsoever. Maybe this works and is all that is really needed for good sound but considering the design, the $800 price actually seems high to me. You probably have $25 of "raw materials" in that arm. Has anyone done A/B comparisons?
All I can say is I wouldn't trade mine for an SME V or a Graham. They both(SME and Graham) however are more easily adjustable. The OL has the Rega-style VTA collar, and that is all the adjustment I ever needed. No doubt that they are better looking than the OL. I guess it comes down to whether you want to look at it or listen to it. I've lived with mine for a year now, and have no desire to even think about another arm.

If you want a cool-looking arm, take a look at Morch DP-6. That is a very cool looking arm, I think. It is around your price range too. Some folks really like that arm.

If you like the SME better, then go with that one. It is a good arm. Many things enter into the choices people make. You have to be happy overall with the purchase.
Ths Silver hands down
Check this Thread
Strange Tonearm Tweak. Long
I own the "Silver" tonearm and must agree with Tom and Rockinroni,it just can't be beat for 800.00 or even much more,I am one very satisfied customer

You are going on the premise that if it looks cheap, it must sound cheap!!

I'm sure that you have past experiences to back up this reaction. I'm also sure that many of today's audio gear warrant this reaction! However, in this not the case for the OL Silver. I say this as an owner of this tonearm. I would have preferred to have paid much less for this tonearm since it looks so pedestrian but sound-wise, it is definitely worth the cost.

I've compared it directly to my previous MMF5 tonearm, which I agree is not much of a tonearm. I've also compared it to a OL OL1 (the modified RB250) but this was in a diff. system. No comparison though - OL Silver was much better. Agree, this comparison might not carry as much weight as one wherein both tonearms were compared in the same system.

You know, sometimes less is better. There is not much to tweak in a tonearm if it is correctly designed. The OL Silver has 2 bearings in its yoke hence azimuth is correct by design. No need for that adjustment. The cart. slots are long & wide enough to accomodate virtually any cart. + allow slight modification of offset angle by twisting the cart. in the headshell. Only VTA is rather clumsy but then this is a Rega trademark! If you buy a Rega arm, you KNOW this apriori.

That aluminum tonearm tube looks plain but it takes some work to machine it correctly for good sound. Internally it is damped. Headshell is also carefully machined with all those holes in it to make it rigid.

The trick lies in its simplicity. You have all the adjustments that you REALLY need & none that you DON'T need! All those adjustment dials in the SME or Graham are great to look at but they have given you enough rope to hang yourself!

IMHO, it would be foolish of you to discard the OL Silver based solely on looks. HEAR it, it'll positively surprise you! You might not still like it but at that point it won't be for looks.

At the risk of further exposing my ignorance on this site, compared w/ the experience of others above, and given that no one else has, I will offer (somewhat of) a defense of the SME, simply because I owned a Gyro SE/SME 309 combo for nearly a year. During the time I had the SME arm, I had a Clearaudio Virtuoso, VDH MC10 (old version) and Golding Elite, along w/ a budget Grado. I have read about, but never seen in person, heard or otherwise personally experienced any of the Origin Live products. The SME and VHD on the Michell at times sounded very realistic, particularly w/ some blues and jazz LPS. I am tempted to say that, together with the rest of the system, it provided some of the best reproduced sound I have heard at times, but given the short-comings of aural memory, that is a hard statement to back up. Nevertheless, on blues, jazz and other "ligher" acoustical music, there was a clear synergy going on w/ the three. (I have heard that Michell uses SME and VHD for testing inhouse, which would explain why the Michell might be voiced to maximize the potential of these components.) However, the Michell/SME/VDH simply didn't "rock" or "boogie" with a lot of rock/pop music. In addition, the combo had a higher noise floor than I would have preferred w/ classical music, even compared w/ a Planar 25. Part of the problem, I think, was my constant experimenting w/ set-up, together w/ the lack of appropriate shelving, and the give in my suspended wooden floors that caused the Gyro's suspension to be almost constantly moving. Also, this was the older version of the VDH; the newer ones are supposed to be better.
The Clearaudio cartridge had been impressive on the stock RB250 arm I had before the SME, but for some reason didn't match well w/ the SME. On paper, it should have worked, but didn't. The Goldring was ok, and the Grado was, well an inexpensive Grado, with a nice warm, natural but dark tone, not as resolving of details.
As with you, I have considered OL products, and may yet get one, but I have been a little concerned that in all the reviews, while praising the sound, the review notes short-comings in the appearance/construction. If you go to the vinyl asylum, you will also see a few people reporting defects in OL arms they purchased, but I have no idea if this is a common problem. In reading SME arm reviews, whatever else they might think of the arm, no one doubts SME's construction quality and durability. Also, in reading a few of these reviews (mainly in the British press) most of the comparisons seem to be to arms they have owned or heard in the past, and not direct comparisons w/ products they have on hand. Such comparisons are inherently suspect to me. (The TNT review, however, may be an exception.) My final point about some of these reviews is that, even if they involved a direct comparision, they generally involved only one or two cartridges (maybe three) that the reviewer had on hand, and maybe one or at most two tables. A true comparision, which would be difficult, would involve living w/ both arms for a period of time and trying a wide range of cartridges on several types of tables. I suspect in such a comparision, the OL would work better w/ some set-ups, and the SME might be better with others, as my experience w/ the Clearaudio Virtuoso suggests. Neverthess, beyond suggesting there may be some synergy with the SME & VHD cartridges, I can't provide any info as to cartridges that might work well w/ the SME. However, if you know the cartridge you are going to be using, you might post a question about the OL/SME arms and that cartridge.

To qualify what I have said here even more, I should point out that I have now sold the Gyro, SME and VDH (all separately), and am now looking for a new analog set-up.

Tlh28, a very fair minded and balanced report of your observations and opinions. Informative also. Thank you.
Thanks again for all your opinions pro and con. IMHO a few perspectives from actual owners of these arms is worth more than 1000 over-hyped reviews in the audio press. While I still cringe at the $800 price, it sounds like the OL silver has some strong support.
BTW my cartridge is a Shelter 501 Mk2 with a Michell oem rega 300 arm. My table is in a sunroom adjacent to the listening room . The sunroom floor is 4 inches of concrete on top of a thick styrofoam block on top of crushed stone. You can jump up and down in front of the TT and not hear a thing through the system.
Jyprez, if I'm not mistaken, every one of the people that responded to this thread that are OL owners, are using the Shelter 501 in it. It is a near perfect combination. Both are strong "overachievers" for their price ranges. It's an awesome setup.
I obviously have no personal experience, but I note that a number of users on Audiogon and AA have reported good results w/ the Shelter & OL arms. You could do a search and find the comments. Good luck, and let us know how it turns out, whatever you decide.
I recently purchased a "used" 6 month old Gryo with SME V arm on Audiogon and could not be happier. Hooked it up with a new design Benz Micro Glider M2 cartridge loaded at 47K. I understand the SME arms can accept a large cross section of various cartridges. Set up was a breeze...all the tools and instructions are included. SME is a top notch outfit!
Jyprez did you read the thread?
Strange Tonearm Tweak. Long
let me know what you think.
and anyone else who has read this thread and or tried the mod please feel free to give me some feedback and or your opinion.

[Quincy: Sorry to take the thread on a slight detour, but extensive experimentation led me to load my Glider M2 at about 400 ohms. That figure isn't offered as gospel of course, but I do recommend you not rest at 47K ohms without exploring the sub-1K ohm range, providing your phonoamp permits this easily enough. Feel free to email me for my results/impressions.]
As a student looking to buy a gyrodec SE I too am interested in the answer to this question. Having trawled the net for (far too) many nights it seems that the origin live arm receives brilliant reviews (just go to www.tnt-audio.com brilliant site and theres a pretty in depth review there). Relatively few reviews exist online for the SME 309 tonearm. However A UK hi fi magazine (hi fi news or hi fi choice?) recently reviewed the two tonearms in question. The magazine rated the SME arm as being better than the OL arm in all of the categories, especially in (what i consider to be the most important area) sound - around 72% for the OL and 92% for the 309 if my memory serves me correctly. Good luck with the decision and dont forget to check out TNT audio, quite a few interesting arms that you may find more tempting than the OL or the 309 at similar prices. Let me know what you decide on (hopefully that'll help me decide too!)