Jaytea: I do not and never have had an SME 20/2 turntable, only a VPI HW-19 III ; however, I have had both the SME V and SME IV.Vi tonearms. In fact, the IV.Vi is still my current arm. I would listen to the advice from the people at Sumiko. The simplest way to explain the difference between the two arms is to say the IV.Vi has the same nice, reassuring sound as the V, but gives a little more [needed} top end extension. It is a better sounding arm from top to bottom, and cheaper too. There is one other difference, though, in terms of what is offered with each arm. With the V comes the damping mechanism, which isn't supplied automatically with the IV.Vi, but you can buy it as an option. My comments about the sound of the IV.Vi stand, even without the damping mechanism, which I never purchased. Hope this gives you a clear direction. Best of luck.
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The damping trough IS an option if you buy the arm separately. However, I dont think the IV.Vi is sonically any different than an SME V -- it's an identical mechanism -- EXCEPT for two things: the internal wiring, and the aforementioned damping trough.
The IV.Vi was designed with MC cartridges in mind, which due to their usually low compliance, don't really require damping.
The internal wiring is actually a coated ribbon instead of the vdH 150M used in the V arm. Initially, SME used Magnan for their OEM ribbon, but now makes their own. According to SME, the ribbon does two things: offers less resistance to movement of the bearings, and less electrical resistance to the tiny signal produced by MC cartridges. This supposedly allows MC cartridges to "be all they can be".
One disadvantage, if you don't get the optional damping trough, is that you also don't get the tonearm height adjustment mechanism. SME IV and V arms are difficult enough to height adjust, so not having this feature is a real PITA, IMO ;--)
Nsgarch is correct. I completely forgot about that tonearm height adjustment mechanism. And the arm IS somewhat of a pain in the butt to adjust, as I've realized when dealing with long play records of varying degrees of thickness. However, I do not agree with his contention that the IV.Vi and V are sonically the same. To my ears at least (As mentioned in my first response, I have owned both arms.), the IV.Vi has slightly more top end information, and perhaps just a tad less fullness in the bass. This combination of factors produces what I hear as more of an even balance throughout the sound spectrum. All said, however, both arms are top notch, and are my favorites among all arms I have owned, including the Zeta, an earlier version of the Triplanar, the Alphason, and several of Harry Weisfeld's VPI tonearms.
Opus, both arms are indeed physically identical in terms of parts, materials, etc. So if you are hearing a difference, it has to be due to the internal wiring differences. And it stands to reason that the wiring should produce sonic differences, especially with the very low output MC cartriges (.3 mV +/-), otherwise, why would SME bother making this special version?
The 'tonearm height adjuster' of the V - which is the VTA/SRA adjuster - is, imo, worth the cost difference. The adjuster screw has a fine thread which allows much more accurate and smaller incremental changes than raising the post by hand.
Fwiw, the IV.Vi (not the IV) as spec'd by Sumiko is described by them as having ".50 guage Magnan type Vi" internal wiring. Maybe their site info is dated. I speculate the arm cable to phono input will have as much an impact on sonics as the internal wire.
Actually, Tim, SME now makes their own 'Magnan type" ribbon for the IV.Vi. And believe it or not intenal wiring makes a real difference (if it's great stuff, of course.) When I sent my V to England for it's scheduled 15 year service appointment ;--) I asked them to remove the old copper (their standard wire at the time I bought the arm) and replace it with the van den Hul MCS 150, their very best silver Litz wire (this is even better stuff than the standard 150M? they use now.) And it made a huge difference. So did getting rid of that crappy van den Hul Silver Hybrid tonearm cable. I wonder if SME knows how much damage that terrible cable does to the reputation of their tonearm ;--)
Thanks, Neil, for the update on the newer copper ribbon in the IV.Vi. I agree the internal wiring makes a difference.
The Sumiko site says the V's external cable is VdH 501 and describes the internal as 'van den Hul mono crystal silver', while SME says the IV's internal is LC-OFC copper.
In his coverage of CES in the April '07 'Stereophile', Fremer describes being shown an updated V that SME has (or is about to) release: "...upgraded low-tolerance bearings and new internal wiring of silver." Presumably the bearings are beyond ABEC-7 - wonder if they might be ceramic.
My ancient FMS Blue II copper tonearm cable sounds better than the stock SME and it is a wee bit limited on the frequency extremes. Its next on my list for upgrade.
Tim, that's right: the 501 is the crappy TA cable I don't like. Might as well just throw a blanket over your speakers and save the money!
The V has silver wire, the IV may use LC-OFC copper, but AFAIK it is in ribbon form.
New bearings, hmmmm . . . . ? To paraphrase an old Jewish punchline, "Whatsa mattah, yu didn like da bearings I already give you?"
It was sort of a happy accident, but I went from doggie doo to diamonds when I acquired (on a whim and VERY cheap) a Purist Venustas TA cable. My system and my bank balance have not been the same since ;--)
Okeh, dets all what I know! (.....famous Jewish grandmother ;--)
Thank you so much for all the info. After careful consideration, I have chosen an SME 20/2 Table and a SME IV.Vi tonearm to replace my though-to-be-final setup: Avid Acutus & Origin Live Conqueror & Koetsu Urushi. My philosophy for hi-end now is that you have to spend a lot more for the last 10-15% of improvement, AND there is NO perfection ! Each and every hi-end tables i own has limitation/problem in its design, so i dont want to spend too much anymore. Just wanna get a good setup and enjoy the music. I have wasted too much time and money.
For those who wanna know, the SME IV.Vi now shipped with the damping trough mechanism included but not VTA adjustment as some noted in the V. That is OK with me because i just want to set and forget..i dont want to tweak VTA for every type of records i use. Plus, if you watch MF 's turntable setup DVD, he said in order to make a different in VTA, the base of the arm has to raise up to 3mm for 1 degree in VTA change..so i guess it doesn effect the VTA much going from 180gr to 200gr records.
Jaytea, you have a gorgeous system, I just looked at it! But God spare us MF. You can get more, and more accurate, hands-on information right here in these forums. (It's 4mm/degree BTW, not 3mm ;--)
As for the SME IV or V, you can't adjust SRA/VTA on the fly anyway. So basically, you HAVE to set it and forget it, which I therefore accept. HOWEVER, all the more reason to do so with the utmost accuracy -- for which you will need the adjustment screw and a set of automotive feeler guages. (The adjustment screw is removed when setup is complete, BTW)
Jay -- Why don't you give Cardas a call to find out about the bulky ones, because I really like the spring clips a lot. Looks like they wouldn't break where the wire is connected, and that they'd be easy to put on and take off. But yes, they seem a bit short.
Explain that you want to use them on an SME IV w/ a Koetsu Urushi, and your concerned about clip size compatibility and wire length. It's their product, they should know what it can/can't do. AND if it's too short or bulky, ask if they'd make some up the way we want (they do sell the spring clips separately, but who wants to mess with that!)
Jay, I just spoke to Colleen @ Cardas, and she recommends the less expensive headshell leads for a couple of reasons:
First, the clips on those fit a wider variety of pin sizes. The clips themselves are rolled tubes with slit sides and make better contact than the standard triangular folded clips, yet they are easy to attach/remove. There are two choices of clip metal: Gold and Rhodium. She recommends Rhodium as it retains its springiness better.
Second, both kinds of leads use the same kind of wire and it's 1.5" long but there's more flexible length in the standard version, as you pointed out the expensive one are kind of bulky.
I am using the non-spring-loaded Cardas leads with my SME V and Transfig Orpheus. I passed on the fancier ones for fear the collets would be too wide for proper fitment. The wire is flexible, much more so than the stock SME silver leads. The Cardas clips (gold on mine) are side slit and expand and attach very easily, which also means they don't grip super tight. You may want to snug them up before or after attaching. I've thought about using some of the Walker silver conductivity enhancer on the pins/clips but haven't tried that yet.