Opinion on SME 15


I posted this on another forum, but thought I might have more luck here.

I'm thinking of replacing my VPI TNT with a final turntable to see me into the foreseeable future. The TNT (series 1, bought in 1989, with various upgrades over the years) has a Graham Phantom II with a SME base and my new table would be something to exploit that tonearm.

The stellar build quality and SME longevity have great appeal to me. Price wise I could only stretch to the SME 15. It seems to have the main objective criteria covered: Effective isolation, non-resonant chassis, superbly quiet bearing and excellent speed stability. The reviews I've read indicate excellent sound quality - though they have all reviewed the table in 15A guise, i.e. with the SME 309 arm.

Many SME owners seem to love their tables, but there is a portion of vinyl enthusiasts who describe SME as detached and un-emotional, lacking in PRAT (?). I am seeking a neutral platform to hear what's on my records, not a stylised boutique sound - but of course I want it to be enjoyable.

I was hoping owners of the SME 15 would  chip in with their longer term impressions. Still loving it?

Actually any SME impressions would be useful - particularly the Graham/SME combo - or if you switched from SME and why.

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I think your Phantom would be great on the SME15 (although I’ve not heard the combination). When I bought the Phantom II it was either that or an SME V. I preferred the Phantom even though it was twice the price.

Conrad Mas recommended that the Avid Acutus, another suspended table, should only be used with fixed bearing arms like the iV/V. The only unipivot to be the exception was the Graham because it is as stable as a gimballed arm. I’ve seen a few Acutus’s combined with the Phantom and they (reportedly) work well together.  The SME15 suspension is nowhere near as “bouncy” as the Acutus so I would expect even less of a problem.

The only other concern for turntables using a Graham is weight vs suspension (LP12 was always a “no”) but I don’t see that being an issue. Check first?

So your final decision must be whether you consider the SME 15 to be good enough to replace your TNT?
A wildcard thought is to suspend the TNT on an aftermarket isolation platform as an alternative.
Good luck.. :)
"PRaT" is marketing bulls**t.  SME stuff tends to be very neutral.  If you like it, fine.
Here is my story. I had a VPI Prime which I liked by I hated the arm. I wanted a table around the price of the prime and since I had a scout 2 before which i did not like the jmw metal arm either so i went with a linear tracker Trans Fi Terminator and that combo was awesome. I wanted to simplify so got the prime, i sold it once a heard the new Technics 1200GAE and was very satisfied but had an itch for something that could take 2 arms, found a SME 20 local with a M2-9 arm lond story short I might be selling the GAE, the 10 is an excellent sounding table the fit and finish is spectacular, speed stability is spot on, less feed back noise than the Technics I used both on a symposium shelf. The design with the clamp and platter just works better I feel it is quieter than the Technics with better imaging and depth. Good luck!
I would suggest a Brinkmann Bardo on a HRS base with upgraded tube power supply as something to consider for your most excellent tonearm The new SS power supply is also fantastic and comes included w table.

enjoy the music !!!!!!!!
Jim
I spent the weekend with a friend who has a SME 10 with Sumiko Pearwood II cartridge. 

The SME 10 sounds great in this system. He used to have a VPI TNT with VPI tonearm. Definite improvement
moonglum595 posts02-17-2019 10:45pmThe only other concern for turntables using a Graham is weight vs suspension (LP12 was always a “no”) but I don’t see that being an issue. Check first?

So your final decision must be whether you consider the SME 15 to be good enough to replace your TNT?
A wildcard thought is to suspend the TNT on an aftermarket isolation platform as an alternative.

Thanks for the thoughts. I hadn't considered the weight - the SME V weighs 720g and the Phantom 1100g. That's a bit of a difference, though I've never seen it mentioned that the damped/adjustable SME suspension pods are fussy in this respect(?).

My TNT is a bit of an experimenters kit - original plinth and heavy acrylic/lead platter, Mk 5 main bearing (last of the non-inverted type), the ball 'suspension' pods integrated single motor/flywheel and SDS.  
I'm pretty confident an expertly conceived/executed design like the SME 15 would be a step up - and build quality on another level.

tomic601
2,026 posts
02-18-2019 6:22am
I would suggest a Brinkmann Bardo on a HRS base with upgraded tube power supply as something to consider for your most excellent tonearm The new SS power supply is also fantastic and comes included w table.
The Brinkmann is a beautiful looking and is highly regarded turntable. In Australia the price falls between the SME 15 and SME 20 and breaches the limit I've imposed on the upgrade (though not by a huge amount).
It doesn't have the suspension of the SME designs, which may compromise its ultimate performance without an isolation platform. The Brinkmann HRS base is an expensive item itself which puts the price well beyond the SME 20.
The concept and execution looks excellent though and probably one I should consider. Thanks.
I love the Graham arm but looking around another thought occurs to me.
For the same price as the SME 15 I could get a VPI Prime Signature which includes the JMW-10 3D arm.
I could use the Prime with the SDS I already own and sell the Phantom making this move pretty cost effective move.
I wonder how such a setup would stack up against the SME/Phantom? (not expecting a response, just spitballing).

Edit: After looking at the adjustments on the JMW, they don't look nearly as precise or repeatable as the Phantom - don't know if that's something I could live with ergonomically, even without weighing up the sound quality.....back to the SME option I think.
I would say the SME.
I would say the SME.  I would say go listen and see what suits your liking.  its the only way.
Not that easy here.
In Australia tables in this price range are sold in fairly low volumes - the SME 15 would have to be ordered without demo (i.e not in stock).
I could audition the similarly priced Kuzma Stabi R - though I'd have to extrapolate how it would sound with the Phantom.
There is a fairly new Kuzma Reference 2 available for private sale at the same price as the SME 15. I've been offered a listen to the Ref2 - though again, not with my arm (I'd have to order a SME cutout board).
The Ref 2 normally sells at the price of the SME20 in Aus and seems highly regarded as a neutral platform. 
the person who turned me on to Brinkmann thinks very very highly of the Kuzma tables and arms..FWIW


@tobes as I said above you do not want the 3d arm unless you have alot of patience, the Graham or SME would be better
Heard modern VPIs. Own the SME Model 10A. SME blows the competition away. I’m unable to find a manufacturer who produces a better sounding and better made turntable than an SME at any price. And the 15 is even better than my 10. Don’t think twice, just get one. It is a marvel of engineering. The sound has insane depth and is illuminated with technicolor. I strongly recommend getting the 15A with the tonearm. 
Thanks for the input. 
SME engineering is certainly a draw card for me.
In the test results accompanying the HiFi News review of the SME15, the measured rumble for the 15 "bests the TechDAS Air Force Two by a very small margin" (the rumble test result for the SME20/3 was slightly better again). That is pretty impressive for a thrust bearing vs an air bearing in a very expensive turntable.
I know it’s only a single measure/ingredient to the turntable sound, but an important one for sure and no doubt accounts for the ’inky black’ backgrounds the SME tables are known for. Noise introduced through the bearing to the record can’t be fixed or compensated for elsewhere - though we are probably talking about levels below commercial pressing limits.
I'm a very happy owner of a 20/2 w/V mkiv arm.  I've had it for about two years and have no desire to change.  
I have not heard the 15 but those I know who have say it's nearly as good as the 20.  
Happy listening!
Noise introduced through the bearing to the record can’t be fixed or compensated for elsewhere - though we are probably talking about levels below commercial pressing limits.
@tobes  A ’rumble filter’ doesn’t help?


Just to be clear I don't have any noticeable rumble from my current TNT. It's not intrusive at all in terms of noise.
Having said that, I'd  expect the SME would would drop noise levels even lower - given that it's  bearing rivals even top notch air bearings (per above test).

@tobes  A ’rumble filter’ doesn’t help?
FWIW I wouldn't use one because I think the cure is worse than the problem. I don't think they should be required with any high quality turntable, more for your cheap decks where SQ is not paramount.
Here's one opinion on them:
https://www.hifisystemcomponents.com/forum/why-rumble-filters-are-bad_topic2842.html