Both excellent tables, to be sure. I owned a heavily modified Oracle Delphi MK IV and still own an SME 20/2 with a Graham Phantom I.
The Oracle was great for its day when everything was right, but it had trouble holding the perfect setup for very long.
The SME with Graham is truly a set it and forget it system and is very easy to set up. I have never found it lifeless. It is very stable and has minimal resonances to add to what is on the record. I think most of the "lifeless" comments come from folks who have tables that "contribute" to the sound. Such contribution usually gives the table a euphonic sound that is quite pleasant. But it is not what is on the LP.
I suspect that the new 20/3 will be noticeably better than the 20/2. The new mat material is probably a signicant improvement and I think SME improved the power supply as well. Have not seen the HiFi News reviews.
Not to detract from the SME 20/2 with Graham Phantom, but I have one of Albert Porter's Technics SP 10 MK IIIs with completely restored and upgraded electronics and his plinth with an SME 312S arm. Best vinyl I have ever heard by a huge margin, it is actually close to true master tape sound on well-recorded, well mastered and well-pressed LPs. The 20/2 sound is similar but quite a bit less, which leads me to believe that it is not adding much if anything that is not on the LP.
Hope this helps.
Are there many mods needed to get one of these singing?
Did Albert Porter do it all or just the plinth?
I have just about talked myself out of the idler drive solution.
The rebuilt 301 ends up in 20/3 price territory with a decent plinth and PS.
I'm wondering why the whole DD/idler drive thing is going through a renaissance right now.
Is it a fashion thing?
Do they all add something or other and we just decide on the flavor of the year?
After all these "new gems" have been around for years. Interesting stuff.
The new 20/3 also has a way thicker top plate and heavier platter. The review was very positive....but aren't they all!
"The reviews and comments out there lead me to believe I will be better off using a non SME arm on the 20/3"
So folks are saying to put a non SME arm on a SME table? Check to see if they are off their meds.
As for the 301, yes it must be fashion and follow the leader. We discounted idler drive 40 years ago or more. And direct drive as well.
"I think most of the "lifeless" comments come from folks who have tables that "contribute" to the sound. "
Yep, removing resonances is why some folks don't like clamps. Too accurate for them.
Discloser, I own a SME 309 on a Sota Star with a suspension, clamp and vacuum system. Not much to resonate there.
Hope your turntable/arm hunt goes well,
"So folks are saying to put a non SME arm on a SME table? Check to see if they are off their meds."
I guess the comments come from those who think the combo is dark and using another arm counters that.
Just some say that others not at all.
I guess that's what makes our hobby so interesting....and frustrating too.
Thanks for the input and well wishes. Aloha!
Cipherjuris - The mat material on the 20/3 platter is the same as that of the 20/2 platter - just a different color. It is called Isodamp. The manufacturer now only supplies it in the charcoal color to SME.
A friend has the top SOTA vacuum table with SME 5. He has the same attitude toward resonances as you Robob. Compared to my Basis 2001/Graham or Linn/Jelco I find it a little dead or lifeless. Interestingly, he has been trying to sell it in favor of his other table, a Technics 1200, which has neither vacuum nor clamping. My Basis has clamping, the Linn does not, my VPIs do. It all depends on the table to my ear.
Robob, "Not much to resonate there". What about the suspension itself? By definition, it resonates at a certain frequency.
ll these discussions about the "Performance" of a Turntable - the internal Qualities - will hardly end in a final Solution. The final solution exists, but when the Listener has different "Priorities" (-> Fun, Life, Action, Bass...) well...it depends. Money isn't the Solution, because there are lots outs there which are very expensive and at the end of day they won't tell you any new for 1/3 turntables.
The right ones for Listeners who want Pace, Rythm, Timing, Bass and don't care about coloration or Precision in Reproduction, or in a full Swing Performance. The rattling idler moves so much energy into the platter and spindle that you will hear in every Record the Subway below Kingsway Hall.
One of those designs which solved a lot of Problems (suspension) and does sound right. A classic. But based on its Chassis and light Platter it can't produce the lower octaves from Organ and other extreme earth quakes. But from overall Performance very well done.
In a way the most serious ones of the 3. Their "Problem" when we can call it that way, is their own SME Arm. It is limiting the abilities from that table. Good as the SME V is, compared to others in Soundstaging, "Gestalt", right size of Instruments and distance, it is 2. rate. And very limited in the choice of cartridge alignment.
I would use that table with a Phantom II Arm or a DaVinci.
Then it will tell the listener something really new.
Many mahalos Syntax.
You have summed up my impressions from countless hours of research and questions on various fora.
While everyone has a different ear, perspective, system, environment musical taste etc etc...I believe a consensus can be arrived at after distilling all the data available on the internet....and I believe you have summed it up very well.
I am still listening to others' stories and advise but as each day passes I must admit I am moving slowly but surely towards the 20/3 with Phantom arm.
Not quite there yet.......
Just curious what your impressions are of direct drive units and the TW Raven which seems to have a loyal following on this forum.
Agree with Syntax, SME will be around forever to service this ( their main business is military equipment ), and with the new power supply/thicker chassis etc this is the bargain of the SME line. In many ways the SME IV is a better arm now that it has the same bearings as the V, but no damping/VTA whilst playing mechanisms that muddy the sound. I recall that Bob Graham used an SME 30 for a long time so I would be confidant the Graham is a good match.
Do you know when they changed the bearing in the IV?
I purchased mine about 4 years ago.
Sorry I meant to direct that last post @ Dover :-)
This isn't a response as such to the original question but this thread like so many others ha evolved somewhat in an interesting direction and i'd just like to add something.
I bought a SME 20/2 last year at the end of the run of the Mark 2 which came with the charcoal coloured platter. I bought it without an arm as i had a SME IV arm that i'd been using on a SME Model 10 that i was going to use on the 20 and put another arm on the 10 which i'd kept for a second system. The cartridge was an Ortofon Cadenza Black. Over 6 months or so, as much as i liked the Model 20 i felt there was something holding it back but i couldn't put my finger on it. The Cadenza Black just wasn't giving me the excitement that an Ortofon Jubilee was when that was on the same arm but on the Model 10 turntable.
A new Ortofon AS212S tonearm came up for auction on Ebay so on a whim i bought it and ended up with it at half retail. Mounted on the Model 20 with the Cadenza Black hanging off the end it is a stunning combination with more detail, wider and deeper soundstage and all the usual audiophile cliches, but most of all is so much fun. I've never doubted the qualities of the IV arm but there is something in the synergy between cartridge and tonearm that makes all the difference.
Now if SME would put their skills to building a cartridge.............:>)
SME IV bearings- not sure when they changed to the same as the V but read it in a recent review ( possibly a review of the 20/3). I suspect it is relatively recent, but check with SME directly. Their aftermarket service support is excellent. If I was buying an SME arm I'd probably get the SME IV and rewired cartridge to phono with one run of Cardas. I believe SME will rewire these for you with any wire you want if you provide it.
Dover...you are correct.
just got done emailing a UK dealer who will rewire it for me and tells me at that point I will have a very fine arm indeed.
I believe I am very close to deciding on the 20/3 for now.
The dealer suggests the 20/12 is audibly better but at almost twice the price I'm going to have to pass for now.
The beauty of an SME is that they do hold their value, so when circumstances change and if I felt the need for that slight bit of extra depth and extension, I could trade up.
I'm surprised there aren't more Oracle votes to this question.
I am still a bit torn..maybe because I have lived happily with one for so long and know it's attributes so well....plus they look so very cool :-)
So...now the question is...20/3 or 20/12?
Almost twice the price.
That extra dough could go towards a Graham Phantom and very nice cartridge.
So for about the same money I could either have a 20/12 with 312S arm or 20/3 with Graham and extra wand for mono cart.
In the end forget the dollars...which will sound better?
Nice to have such decisions to make!
Mauidj - I would go for the 20/3 as it will give you a wider choice of arms/cartridges. Check out the improvements to the 20/3 as they may not be in the 20/12 yet. I think the extra money spent on arm/cartridge for the 20/3 will give you a better outcome.
Just to stir the mix, my experience is almost opposite. Still preferring V over other stock arms and suspended tables (not linn) to the above non suspended ( have not tried most current versions) Too many variables from one listener to another to draw any conclusions. I have found that you can voice a system to your criterion starting with almost any given and adding from there. I will say that I think criticisms of arms by themselves are silly. An arm performance cannot be evaluated without a specific cartridge. No tonearm ever made works well with every cartridge.Therefore it seems discussing an arm without the specific cartridge mounted is meaningless. I just happen to like the same carts my V likes.
I don't quite get it. Can't you audition both before making the final decision? It's a lot of money and I assume you don't print the banknotes.
I am also curious why you don't consider other table/arm/cartridge combinations. At this level I would definitely buy the entire set-up not first table then arm then cartridge. Unless of course you want to make yourself very busy with that.
Yeah, there are some excellent German tables, Nottingham, Fletcher Audio, Simon Yorke. Why only these?
If you really want to know what sounds better , hear for yourself , than decide which model you want.
The days i had much opinion of commercial dealers advice are long gone
any time I have heard a Oracle in a set-up I've always really enjoyed listening finding the system to be very musical, listen for hours. The eye candy look is very unique and appealing also, you being a happy owner why not just go for the Delphi VI as you mentioned and enjoy for another 30 YEARS or more.
It's really going to come down to your own preference but if you can't demo in your own set-up and are just relying on others comments it's going to be a coin toss, the other tables you refer to will offer a different flavour sonic wise but ....
I also believe the rest of your set-up is important because of the impact.
When I was looking and heard many different tables I always seemed to gravitate to an Oracle and a few German made non suspension, I found that the non suspension offered a different foundation body TEXTURE to the music which I liked so that was the route I choise. There are so many table designs available and in the end will offer a different flavour but you still have your arm, cart "set-up" etc. that will all have a impact on your end result.
If it was me and I truly enjoyed a pce for 30 YEARS the only way I would even contemplate go to a whole new design would be to have what ever peaked my interest in my system for a while and live with it, quick listens might be exciting but that's it.
Good luck and have fun!
Mauidj - Despite a late rally for the Oracle by some, I've owned an Oracle with Zeta/Koetsu/custom power supply - loved it, but as soon as you put a piano piece on the wow became unlistenable. I think the SME 20/3 is in a different league. Buy the best you can afford, it saves money in the long run. PS I dont own an SME and have no bias. I own a Final Audio Parthenon - think top Micro Seiki behemoth on steroids but have a lot of respect for the SME.
Dover may I sugest you read the Mauidj opening thread.
"I have happily owned an original oracle Delphi for 30 years!"
So your statement is your opinion and in your set-up which is okay but what you have just sugested when you said;
"but as soon as you put a piano piece on the wow became unlistenable"
well do I really need to spell it out for you? REDICULOUS!
You "think" the SME 20/3 is in a different league. What the heck type of posting is that.
Good plug for your table.
First off....thanks for all the comments.
Of course I would love to listen to them but I live on Maui (yeh I know, it's a sad story!) and there's simply no way to audition anything in my system. There isn't a decent high end retailer in Hawaii let alone on Maui.
To fly to the mainland would be a no brainer...might even find a dealer that sells and can demo both....maybe.
But to what purpose?
What am I going to hear? How do I filter all the other unknown components out?
This is a crap shoot....I wish it weren't.
Heh Mauidj you live in Maui "hang loose"
You stated above you have loved your Oracle for some 30 YEARS so why not just get the Delphi VI and enjoy for another 30 YEARS.
or if you have the means, buy what ever table that interests you and compare at home and then sell off what doesn't do it for you.
Well, the man enjoyed his Oracle for a very long time and now wants something both different and better. Quite understandable.
Flying to the mainland and arranging multiple listening sessions would be a problem, I agree, especially in our time. I suggest you talk to members here in private, to those who are well familiar with what you might be interested in.
Or fly to London or Germany for a few days. They are big on analog.
If you ever want to visit amsterdam (europe ), you are welcome to make an appointment , i have the 20/3a playing for 5 months or so , and i am a happy camper.
Why dont you read the M fremers reviews(stereophile) on for example the 20/12 and the 30 , a lot of info there, he is not convinced the longer arm is better apart from a threoretical advantidge
Dev, I owned an Oracle, own a 301, and heard the SME. Actually I was being kind - I KNOW the SME is in a different league to the Oracle. It is not a plug for my turntable - I dont own an SME if you read my post properly.
Inna, you wrote;
"now wants something both different and better. Quite understandable."
I can agree the other table choices will be different but when you wrote;
"and better. Quite understandable."
using the word "better" is improper and where it gets debatable, very subjective but you seem to already have made your mind up.
Based on what?
Mauidj you are going to get endless opions as you can see by reading above which is fine, some who favour what ever they own which is normal. Listening to table within someone elses set-up which you are not familiar with will only be a stepping stone because you are listening to allot more than just the table, ideally you need to hear it in your own set-up.
Enjoy it's a very interesting journey and that's why I still feel if you loved what you have owned for 30 YEARS well you know the rest.
that's your own opinion which is very subjective and debatable.
I never suggested you own a SME, just commented nice plug for your table, I don't agree with your statement made describing it vs a MS either. See how subjective things are.
Dev - that's what forums are for, my turntable inclusion in the post was to provide context to my ( subjective ) opinion. I have no interest in plugging it, my turntable is not for sale. I have no interest in SME other than I believe it is the best of the turntables that Mauidj has ask for members' views. My subjective opinion is based on hearing the 3 decks in known systems. With regard to Oracle - what is not subjective is the number of times they have been in and out of business.
I agree fully that these forums are for discusions but it's what individules write sometimes being opininated and not subjective as they should be.
You suggesting the Oracle sounds terible playing a piano pce and then that the SME is "better" is your opinion, that's okay but just that your opinion which is all subjective just like your opinion in relation to your tables looks. I laughed when I read that for example.
You can see I have not mentioned what I personally own even though at one point the OP inqured about a specific manufacture.
Oracle has been in and out of business, news to me but then again I have never followed this but have never heard anyone having issues dealing with them.
I don't want to get into debates but personally I would own a Oracle over a SME from what I have heard first hand in set-ups to date. If I was looking a dropping that kind of coin on the SME then other table otions would come into the eqaution.
Dover.....I'm also not sure about the in and out of business thing.
I know Oracle regrouped once ..many years ago..but to my knowledge they are a stable company offering wonderful customer support and an enviable upgrade path for all old tables. The owner, Jacques, has spent countless hours with me and my 30 year old table. Not many manufacturers can claim that.
The piano thing is really interesting because in my estimation it plays piano as close to the real thing as I have ever heard. (note..living on islands most of my life I have heard very few top end tables or other systems so I cannot make meaningful comparisons).
There is a track on an album by David Sanborn called the Bridge where a single note is played with such realism that it still sends shivers through me after 30 years. I play piano so I know how they sound.
As for the "I've been happy for 30 years" quote.
Well yes I have, but that doesn't mean that I can't look for something better.
I'm a happy kind of guy so I don't dwell on having something better all the time. But the table broke so it's time for something new.
Better is also a form of different...no?
I am so happy for fora like this where people with experience can advise...hey even preach...on the merits or otherwise of the hundreds of choices out there.
I have to distill and filter these comments and those of the reviewers that I have read and re read countless times. 'Cos these guys are as biassed as any of us. How do I know?...I used to be one!...A reviewer that is. Plus just read Fremer et al and you can see their preferences which in most cases they don't hide. Unlike some forum posters who's biases are very apparent and unhelpful.
I would love to hear suggestions on alternatives to the 3 tables mentioned. The coin I'm spending might be chump change to many out there but to me it is anything but. Especially if we get to 20/12 kind of money. (I can get one in the UK for $14,000) so that's my budget's high end.
This is serious money and I want to get it right.
The saving grace is that if I don't then I always have the ability to sell and try again.
No big deal at all in the scheme of things.
Once again many mahalos to you all for your caring input.
This is a wonderful place for us hobbyists and it should never turn nasty or combative. This is all about music after all, not bragging rights :-)
So keep em coming audio friends, every word and suggestion is received with many thanks and much aloha!
If it were me Id be looking at a Cosmos IV. Ive heard it next to SME 30 same arm cart etc. and while I have great respect for SME Id still take the Cosmos (also much cheaper)
You could also take a look at Brinkmann Balance that is for sale here. It sure should be impressive; Michael Fremer is unlikely to have said what he did about it unless it was something very special. Just add Schroeder arm and a cartridge and you will be set for real playback.
Is the rest of your system up to this level of performance?
There are also couple of SMEs with arms here. Less expensive though still expensive.
If I were you I would probably get the Brinkmann. SME is somewhat ordinary, so is Oracle.
I would guess that you want world-class table. SME 20 is not that, SME 30 perhaps.
Inna.....the system is Krell EVO-202, 402e and 505. into B+W 801. Pass Ono Phono.
You know what an Oracle sounds like and I hear the new Mark V addresses the bass shyness. I have owned an Oracle for over 20 years and have modified many times.
I know this is a pain but listening to all these tables is the only way you can be happy with a purchase.
Re: the piano piece,it must have been a bad pressing or a set up issue. On my table Piano music in a solo setting is natural and the decay is spot on. I enjoy many piano concertos on my Oracle rig.
I would include the Linnlp12 with Radikal/Dynamic(their dc motor and supply). You can listen to needle drops of it on their(and some others)forum. I mention this because you asked for more suggestions.
Dear Mauidj, If you can muster the courage, go ahead and buy the Kenwood L07D that is for sale on Audiogon at an absurd low price. And that one was completely serviced by the best possible person to do it. (I know, because he has done two L07Ds for me.) The L07D will be..... better, and the tonearm is included. Yes, it is a direct-drive turntable, one of the best every made. If you want to hear realistic piano reproduction, you cannot beat a good direct- or idler-drive. This is not to say that a top notch belt-drive cannot also do the trick, but not for $3000 (asking price for L07D).
Lewm...nice idea but sorry I just can't muster it enough ;-)
I was the Marketing Manager for Trio Kenwood in the UK for several years during the 70's and know their products very well.
They were easily some of the best mainstream pieces out there.
I was very involved with the L07 series when first introduced in about 1972.
First ever MOSFET amp! Awesome build quality.
Anyways...I just can't remember the L07D being that amazing but we didn't have such high resolution systems back then so I'm open to be surprised. It sure was good but I hope that the Oracle, SME or TW are way better. But I'm sure gonna pay the price!
Right now the TW has it by a head!
Mauidj, hope you have your armor on because you just mentioned the word TW, here we go.
.."way better"... No. Not even "any better".
Try then a well developed and tweaked Lenco idler-drive, also for much less money. I know you won't do that; I am just trying to help you think outside the box.
Lewn, what makes you think that you think outside the box, just a different box?
Manidj Good luck with your quest for a new turntable thirty year's with a single component certainly stood the test of time.
Whatever you choose I'm sure you will be delighted.
Asking a question which way you should spend your money most respondent's would like to to do just that, help spend your money.
You welcome other's thoughts well here's mine.
Take your time ,you already proved your patience with your Oracle.
Be wary of evangelistic type people in this hobby.
Keep an open mind to new improved solution's for thought to be antiquated turntable drives.
I wholeheartedly agree with Lewm here and others elsewhere like Steve Dobbin's, Win Tinnon, Mike Lavigne, Albert Porter, Jonathan Carr, Thuchan, Jean Nantais and Arthur Salvatore just to name a few.
Dear Inna, I am beginning to think you don't think I think outside the box. Somehow, this does not trouble me. Obviously, we all live in our own boxes and escape to novel thinking is different for each of us. I hate the phrase "think outside the box" anyway; it was clever once but now it has become just as much of a cliche' as thinking inside the box. (Name is "LewM", by the way.)
The fact is that I have been a devoted audiophile since the early 70s. I lived through all the fads in turntable design and construction. I was totally sold on belt-drive up until a few years ago. In fact, I never owned anything but belt-drives, starting with an AR turntable in the 70s. Then I heard a Lenco at a friend's house. That experience stimulated me to buy a nice condition Lenco L75 and to start to modify it per Lenco Heaven, etc. The Lenco completely blew away my then Nottingham Analog Hyperspace, which I still consider to be a great belt drive turntable. After that, I got interested in vintage direct-drive turntables, slate as plinth material, etc, etc. I have no beef with belt-drive turntables per se, but I get performance out of my tweaked Lenco, my SP10 Mk3, and my L07D that continues to please me and is far more cost-effective than buying a belt-drive turntable at the price point that might even dream of competing with what I own.
Yep, just a different box. Very sorry for the OT rant. The L07D needs an RFI/EMI shield between the platter and the platter mat, in order to really shine, by the way, which is why the OP might not have appreciated it back in the late 80s. I made one out of TI Shield, for $40.
I think one of the main differences I'm seeing here is that I am maybe not an "audiophile".
I have been listening to music on reasonably nice gear since the early 70's but I have never in that time played the change game with any kind if regularity.
In that time I have owned maybe 4 different amps/pre amps, 3 different speaker systems, 2 tables ...you get the picture.
I just want to hear my albums in as realistically and emotionally stimulating fashion as possible.
I'm not a dd, belt drive or idler drive person just as I'm not a valve or transistor guy.
I'm a music lover.
Don't get me wrong...I like gear.
I read the mags and lust after some of the mouthwatering stuff I see...but I just don't have the time or money to feed that lust.
I stated above that I was bending toward the TW. (only to have a poster warn me of the encroaching storm????)
But when I got down to adding up all the Raven upgrades that these folk have said I would want, suitable arm and cart, isolation platform...I was spending $25k plus. Well for that coin I can buy a reasonably nice Caterham/Lotus Seven. Guess what I'm choosing!
I am very intrigued by the old stuff....301, Lenco, some DD's. However I have no chance of listening to them and they obviously have a "sound". That worries me a bit.
I am in the slightly unfortunate position of having to play it a bit safe here knowing that I might not end up with the ultimate solution...but reading these posts I'm not sure anyone here has reached that nirvana point either.
I do know that I am genuinely thankful for all the time and effort the posters here have spent helping me with this decision.
It is a fraternal group indeed despite the polarizing nature of the hobby.
I asked for more input and I sure got it....of course I am no better off for it from the standpoint of reaching a decision ;-)
Confusion continues to reign!
Many mahalos and a big Aloha to you all !
LewM....As an aside.....I really love the look of the modified Lencos. Yeh I know that one doesn't buy on looks but there is an emotion attached to that value that does drive us for sure. Out of interest what is your take on the Artisan Fidelity units? I'm assuming you prefer the Lenco over the 301?
I don't know anything about Artisan Fidelity. Is that an idler-drive turntable? In my initial idler frenzy, I bought a 301 grease-bearing chassis at about the same time I bought the Lenco. After I heard the Lenco, and realizing that upgrading the Garrard might cost a few thousand or more bucks and not sound any better than the Lenco, I sold the Garrard chassis without ever having heard it. So, I cannot claim to know that the Lenco is better or worse than a similarly upgraded Garrard 301/401. (I refuse to form any opinion unless I have had something in my own home system for audition.) That first Lenco had a Jean Nantais wood plinth. I subsequently sold it and moved on to make my own slate plinth for a nice used L75 I found on eBay. On my Lenco, I use a "PTP" chassis and an aftermarket bearing made by "Jeremy" in England. (All of the relevant info can be found on Lenco Heaven.) Actually, until I got into this craziness, I was like you; I very rarely ever changed my system. Maybe once every 4-5 years I would replace one component or another with something new. I never before 2-3 years ago owned more than one tt at a time or more than one tonearm or cartridge. For 35 years I have favored tube preamps and OTL tube amplifiers mated with ESL or other planar speakers. Still do. I am pretty boring and predictable in that regard, like Inna says.
How about the Audio Technica AT-LP 120 Turntable?
A unit for the serious user. And available in black, too. That Stealth technology is a major step in braking room resonances. Plus USB Port.
Why would you make the assinine comment that Oracle has been in and out of business a number of times. You obviously do not know of what you speak, and to defame a reputable, long standing manufacturer like that is just irresponsible and suggests that none of your comments or opinions are worth reading. Get your facts straight before you mouth off. Or if you beieve you are correct, then name at least two times that Oracle has been in and out of business. You would need at least two to say a "number" of times.
The Oracle is very well supported, and Jacques has supplied me with parts for my various Oracles a number of times, even though it was manufactured before his ownership, by his brother.