SME 3009 II Unimporved -- "Thin" Sound

I would much appreciate any guidance/comments:  I am getting back into analogue after 20 years away, and had a opportunity to have a Thorens 124 and SME 3009 II Unimproved completely restored -- then set up by a knowledgeable technician.  My tech also recommended a Hana EH, which now has about 30 hours' time logged. Have tried BOTH the MM input on my Audible Illusions Modulus 3A, and the Schitt Mani into the AUX input of the Audible Illusions. Also purchased several current audiophile LP's of various genres -- for "trial" purposes.

To my ear, the result is "OK," but a bit lifeless.

Without drilling down too deeply into the physics and arm adjustments -- which I am 95% certain are correct -- can anyone enlighten me as to how I can improve. I suspect the hardware and mechanics -- given their age -- are capable of much better performance, but ... (after being accustomed to good quality digital reproduction) I am beginning to wonder if my expectations are too high!

THANKS, all!

Get a Hana SL mc cartridge and a good SUT (step-up transformer). This combination into the mm input on the Modulus will give you all the "life" and dynamics missing from your present rig! Nothing wrong with the Thorens/SME combination! 
For an SUT I can recommend a Bellari. I have one in my collection - $500 and USA-made. I always prefer a SUT over any tube or transistor high-gain phono stage for mc cartridges! Superior dynamics and far lower noise floor.

Avoid high-output mc cartridges. None of them sound as good as low-output mc's!
The Hana SL has a Shibata-profile stylus - again a superior shape capable of better detail retrieval than an elliptical stylus.
Most likely it is a cartridge and your phonostage weakness. 

But it is also depends on records you're listening to, you don't need audiophile pressing (re-issues), just a proper original pressing. Some records are better than others, but re-issues most likely inferior to the originals. I hope you have some great recordings to start with. 

For extended frequency response you need a cartridge with the best possible stylus profile (not conical, not the elliptical), something like MicroRidge, MicroLine, VdH, Gyger or at least Shibata, LineContact. 

P.S. You can always try a decent MM ot MI cartridge and maybe it will be better. 

wdesbrow, I tend to agree with roberjerman on this one. I have not heard a high output MC cartridge that I have liked. The Ortofon 2M series of MM cartridges is better particularly the Black.
Having said all that the coils of high output MC cartridges are larger and heavier. I can not find a compliance spec for that cartridge but I suspect it is too stiff for your arm which would effect bass performance quite a bit.
If you want to be accurate about it get a test record with vertical and lateral resonance tracks and check where you are. You could also empirically add mass to the head shell to see if it sounds better.

Try using a thicker mat (or place a thin "import" record under your current mat) and then reset VTF.

Doing so will change the VTA of the cartridge (making the tail of the cartridge ride lower).

This will not harm anything, and it's easily reversible.

If this sounds better, then have the arm height (it would need to be lowered) adjusted accordingly.

I've been using 3009 non-improved arms on Thorens decks since the 70's (including the 121, 124, various 160's and  currently 125II).

IMO, VTA needs to be set by ear once the cartridge has some playing time (50+ hours).

but ... (after being accustomed to good quality digital reproduction) I am beginning to wonder if my expectations are too high!

Oh. That's a shame. And you were so close too. You had me at "after being accustomed to..." That's where you should have stopped.

Oh well. Never too late. You simply did what a lot of guys do and became accustomed to a sound and learned to like it. Which is fine. But if you go trying to make everything else sound like that, that's where things go off the rails. If your goal is to make analog sound like digital when everyone knows the Holy Grail of digital is to sound like analog, well just read that last little bit and think about it some more.

The sooner you put that out of your mind the better. Because only when you stop trying to put legs on a snake, only when you start listening for music instead of details, then you will be in the right frame of mind to have a good shot at getting the most out of what could be one awfully good front end.

So if your goal is analog that sounds like digital you can count me out. But if you want to try and discover just how captivating and musically involving a really good analog setup can be let me know.

Oh, and stay away from those expensive "audiophile" reissues. The best that can be said for them is that they are new. Almost never sound as good as you can find in a decent used copy. Sorry. But just one more reason records are not CD. You have a lot to learn.

The OP elicited a lot of good comments.  None of us is inside "widebrow"'s head, so none of us can be sure what is "missing", as far as he's concerned, from the results of this experiment into analog. I can only offer my personal opinion. When I read the list of equipment being used, I can sort of paint a picture in my mind of how it might sound, albeit the OP does not tell us what speakers he is using, which could be very important.  But from amplifiers back to the turntable/tonearm/cartridge, this sounds like a system that would underwhelm me, just as it underwhelms the OP.  I have heard at one time or another each element, and none of them is "top drawer".  None of it is "bad", but none of it is in my opinion first rate, and therefore I would not expect the ensemble to yield my own version of Nirvana. I would expect a decent but not thrilling result. For example, it is not for nothing that the SME 3009 was "improved" in versions of the tonearm that came later.  I have heard the TD124 many times, and I know it is an audio icon, but I have always heard it as a bit colored and not as silent as many modern turntables.  In contrast, I much prefer the Garrard 301 or the Lenco L75. I say this with all due respect; it's just my impression based on my set of opinions of the gear in question.  I agree also with Mijo who I think was the one who said he has never been able to place an HOMC cartridge in the top rank; I haven't either.
I too find  most "audiophile" heavy weight records to sound a bit dull and lifleless. Try some older original pressings.

What the OP is describing (aside from ideal cartridge loading) is an improperly set VTA.

And, once again I suggest the "simple" test I described in my previous post.

The Grado cartridge I sometimes use requires that the tail of the cartridge drag well below what the manufacturer spec'd @ the time that I purchased it (perhaps this has changed since then).

Once again, VTA needs to be set by ear once the cartridge has had enough playing time to allow the suspension to sag from it's "new" alignment.

Simply put "tail down" for decent cartridges that sound "thin" typically offers more bass/less "thinness" and a more involving sound.

I'm not a "wordsmith" as others in this thread, but I know this arm and the deck you are using and I suspect that either VTA and/or loading is the cause of your displeasure.

Schiit's a great $150 phonostage. I used one while the tubed unit was being repaired.

A great backup phonostage for your "proper" $1K minimum(or $2K retail+ used)  This should  bring it back to life. SS or tube.

Consider original or close to presses. Table/arm/cart  are solid.
Is your SME equipped with a removeable h/s?  As I recall the 3009 Series II came both ways...I owned one in the mid 70s with an ADC XLM II that had a fixed h/s and it was very low mass...not optimal for a Hana EH.  If removable h/s, try getting another more compliant cart on it own h/s.  You can buy an Ortofon OM 10 Super and fit it with an OM-40 replacement stylus that will better represent the style of cart these arms were made to be used with, as well as giving you the Gyger stylus profile.  Of course VTA/rake angle needs to be tweaked with these.

Hi guys,

I GENUINELY appreciate the fast and thoughtful responses, and I will pursue many of your suggestions.  But I realize from your comments my information was not as complete as you would like, so allow me to fill-in some of the blanks:

1.  I bought a selection of "audiophile" test LP's most recommended by one of the VP's at Music Direct.  Among them:

Dire Straits (white cover);Holly Cole Trio ("don't Smoke in Bed" Linda Ronstadt's "Heart Like a Wheel,"  and the Master Pieces by Ellington on Columbia Masterworks, and the Paul Simon ("eskimo" cover).  all at 33-1/3.  I also have the HiFi NEws Analogue Test Album, btw.  I do have a small selection of older LP's I can try, however.

2.  I may have misled you -- I am Not trying to duplicate the sound of my digital music  -- on the contrary, just attempting to maximize the sound quality of the Thorens, Hana combination in order to taste analogue at a reasonably high level.

3.  DeKay's comments are interesting in that in looking at the arm from the side, I don't believe I have able to adjust the height so that it is 100% parallel to the record surface.  (If I adjust low enough the stylus fails to "clear" the outside lip of the typical (thick guage) record) and makes contact even when the cuing lever is in the up position.  So possibly, raising the level of the playing surface of the record is key?

4.  Tablejockey -- Not sure I understand your post (?).  I assume you are implying that the Schitt Mani is NOT up to the performance of the rest of the system???  Did you man something other?

5.  Finally -- just to be complete -- outside of the Audible Illusions preamp, I am running a David Berning tube stereo amp and floorstanding Merlin speakers -- augmented by a Aerial Acoustics sub.

Guys -- Given this additional information, I would again appreciate any further thoughts you might have!!!  VERY HELPFUL!




"Tablejockey -- Not sure I understand your post (?). I assume you are implying that the Schitt Mani is NOT up to the performance of the rest of the system??? Did you man something other? "

wdesbrow-You can get more out of your rig with an nicer phonostage.  The Schiit is a great unit. You can improve upon that, but it requires a little more $$. You will hear more "life" in your records, with a tube unit. Of course, that's my subjective opinion.

I'm a tube fan, so I would suggest a used Manley Chinook. Great reviews, I've used on in my system. Very nice if you can find a used  one for around  1//2 the retail.
I'd offer $15-16
You have an excellent phono stage in the Modulus 3A, no need to buy another one.   You should be using 6h23neb tubes in that preamp, anything else is a compromise. I owned a Modulus 3A for years and always found the phono stage very musical.  It is one of the reasons many keep their 3A today.   I used a mm cartridge and low output Mc with my 3A.  With the low output mc, I used a Bob Devices SUT into the phono input.  I had a very nice and rich sound, never thin or edgy.  The problem is not the phono preamp in the 3A.  
Hello stereo5.  Thanks for weighing in!

I currently have a schitt Mani phonostage and am using it through the aux input of the AI.  Aside from going to mm with SUT into the phono input, is there any other combination you recommend with the Hana EH?  

And of course, is there a particular mm cart(s) you recommend?

Thanks again
Just try shimming/raising the mat to rule out improper VTA for your cartridge.

Setting up an arm to be "parallel" with the platter (not taking into consideration the optimum VTA for the cartridge) can be a huge mistake.

Note:  My SME is NOT parallel with the platter, nor have they rarely been, and its sounds really good.

Your non-improved arm with the original low-mass detachable head shell will have an effective mass of approx. 12.5 grams, which should be fine with the Hanna.

Amazing the advice you get from people with apparently zero knowledge (let alone first hand experience) with the SME non-improved arm.

If VTA is not the culprit, then cartridge loading would be the next thing to look into.

This will be my last post on the subject.

Many tears ago I had a TD125/SME3009S2 (not improved) and a Denon 103D cartridge.  Nothing "dull" or "thin" about that sound.  Try a 103 cartridge.
I recently had also thin sounding coming from my SME3009 s2 Improved and just by changing the headshell to a Magnesium one the sound transformed completely.  Those old SME headshells give a very ringing sound, try something like magnesium, or carbon fiber that damps more the cartridge. Your hana is a fine cartridge, but I agree with the above that your gear deserves a better phono stage.
Thanks again, all, for your continuing input on this problem.

Cakyol  --  If you are familiar with the hana EH or Mani, or both  ... - what settings do you recommend?