SME V, Tri-Planar or Phantom B-44

To be mounted on a Raven AC (only one arm) what is your system or choice. No way will I get a chance to listen to any of these where I live (France). So would like any of you here to feed opinions.

My system is :

Raven AC
Nagra VPS
Nagra PL-L
Nat Audio SE1 (SET 211 tube)
Wilson Audio WP 5.1

I would be using a Lyra Argo i

I've had the SME V and the Graham 2.2 but not the Phantom. The Triplanar was immediately and obviously better than either of the others (with a variety of cartridges too). I've not heard the Phantom yet, but the word is that it is very good, so its down to a choice between those.

There is another thread here on that subject.
I've owned all three,but did not have the best table set-up for my Triplanar,yet it is definitely a superb arm.I liked it alot though,and you'll hear from alot of posters liking it too.

The SME was a good arm,but the Phantom is superb,in virtually any catagory....

BTW,there is NOW a NEW series II Phantom,which should be even better than the one we all know about.

Check Graham's web-site for details.

You will have a superb arm,with all these choices,so price could be a factor.

Good luck
Dear Tim: I like the SME V/IV for the Lyras, is a very good match.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Hey Sirspeedy, i should receive my Phantom in a couple of weeks after a 6 months wait. I guess with Bob's tribulations and problems with some of his part suppliers, it delayed the whole manufacturing/assembling process. Will be mounting it on my Cosmos. It will be replacing my beloved SME V. I guess i will be getting a series II. But.....i am not holding my breath. I will advise when i get it. Sly.
Tim, I took delivery of a Raven AC two weeks ago. I already had a Triplanar and ZYX Universe X and I think I will be very happy with the compination. I will double check a few elements of the set up when I have time in the next week but it is very nice now.

BTW, I had the Universe frist, later added the Triplanar before adding the Raven AC so its not like I set out to find the best just evolved that way.

That said, I have realized the Raven and Phantom could be a better match and I would have spent more time learning about the phantom if I did not already have the Tri. You may know that Tom the maker of the Raven likes the Phantom from what I have heard. But then the Tri and Universe are a great match so it is easy to keep the two togeather.

I have no experience with the SME or the Lyras, but the SME was never on my list.

ALL..Trust me!! If you have any properly working arm be happy...Be very,very happy!!

I am "not" alluding to any delay issues either!...

Don't even ask!!

" -:) " I hope)
Dear TD: +++++ " the SME was never on my list " +++++

I wonder why is that: do you already try it in your own system?, if yes: with which cartridges?

Thank you in advance.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul, zero experince with SME. It did not capture my eye so to speak while searching. Just seemed to me either all in SME, TT and arm, or not. Also hit me as a diferent school from the ZYX Universe I started with. My bad if I am missing something.

I had an SME V and the VPI 10.5 outperformed it - actually, so did my 9 Sig.
The ability of any tonearm to "outperform" another is largely based on 2 factors:
1. The cartridge(s) used. It's difficult to assess either the tonearm or cartridge performance without considering the other. There are very good and very bad tonearm/cartridge pairings. It's critical to match properly.
2. The skill of the user as it pertains to installing and aligning the tonearm/cartridge.

I have the opportunity to install, set up, and tweak many turntables; quite often the owner has, in some way, not optimized the alignment.
Dear Stringreen: Do you play it with your Ebony? what's wrong?

Regards and enjoy the music.
I've not heard the Phantom, but I've heard a Lyra Olympos on both an SME V and on my TriPlanar. Different systems, but the preamps and amps were identical and I've heard the SME owner's system with a variety of cartridges, so comparisons aren't totally invalid. It was the same Olympos both times, set up by its long-time owner (and he owns both SME and TriPlanar arms himself, so the setups were probably good).

To all ears, including the Lyra owners', the TriPlanar was a much better match. More life, more snap, much more low level detail. It let the Olympos sound like what it is, one of the world's top cartridges, with just a fine hint of warmth taking it away from today's more neutral or even slightly cool Lyra sound.

On the SME, the same cartridge sounded grey, staid, reserved almost to the point of being dull. For whatever reason, far less information was getting through.

My experience, FWIW.
With the SME V, the Ebony sounded closed in and lifeless compared to either VPI's. Of course, I tried various VTA settings, dampings, etc. If you have nothing to compare it to, the SME sounded fine...only in comparison to the VPI's were the problems revealed.
The issue with the SME V is colorations due to mid and high frequency resonance. That is in fact why the 'Analog Survival Kit' was devised by Sumiko years ago. The arm wrap was very useful in reducing colorations that are common with the SME V. The result had to be heard to be believed: the arm wrap was a necessity.

The problem was that the arm warp added to the effective mass, making the cartridge choice more difficult.

By contrast both the Triplanar and the Graham have effective arm-tube-resonance damping systems, rendering the arm wrap obsolete.

If anything, I would say this is the main issue with the SME V that makes it a distant 3rd choice in this thread. Secondary: the Triplanar is considerably easier to set VTA, which can be done on the fly. You can sort of do this with the SME, but you can only go up, not down, and you have to loosen the arm to do it, which is audible. It is also easier to make micro-weight adjustments on the Triplanar, as it has a secondary weight that makes tenths of a gram changes easy.

The Graham and the SME both have output connectors at their base into which inserts the interconnect cable. This is nice for flexibility, as you can easily run the arm balanced or single ended by changing the cable. The Triplanar has the cable exit at the base of the arm, and is one continuous run from the cartridge, with no extra connections right to the input of the preamp. It too can be balanced or single-ended, ordered that way. It can be changed over in the field without too much difficulty, if you know what you are doing. Overall I favor this approach, as any additional connectors are always audible with signal levels as low as they are in a tone arm.
I do believe that the SME also has damping in the arm tube do others.

I own the Raven AC - 1 motor table. I have heard the Tri-Planar, Phantom, and Dynavector arms mounted on the TW - AC 3 motor version at Hi-Water Sound in NYC, all in one listening session. All had different cartridges mounted. There is no telling how much my impression was influenced by arm/cartridge set-up. Jeff Catalano and I did not adjust VTA settings for different records. All arm/cart combos worked beautifully. The Dynavector was stunning using a Dynavector 1 Mono cart. playing mono records. A true mono presentation which I have never heard before. The Phantom/Myabi was very transparent but perhaps a bit uninvolving with a somewhat distant front/back soundtage and a somewhat narrow left/right field. The Tri-Planar/Zyx was excellent, more dynamic than the Phantom with a wider L/R presentation and a somewhat flatter F/B soundstage and a bit less transparnet than the Phantom. All were more than acceptable. I chose the Tr-Planar and I am currently using my old Benz-Micro Ruby-2 Cart. I am very happy with the choice which I made partly on sound demo and partly on ease of set-up and easily calibrated VTA settings which you can make on the fly. I find this feature paramount for optimum vinyl playback. The Dynavector, while in mono mode for this demo, was impressive. Erector Set ugly to be sure, but I was impressed by the performance. I would not discount this arm in making your selection. Jeff C. said it is probably the easiest of the three to set up and maintain. Again, I cannot account for impressions made by the cartridges used and cartridge mountings. These were impressions based upon 2.5 hours of listening to a variety of recordings, none of audiophile quality purposely for real world listening. Whichever you chose, don't forget that you will not be making a comparison in your home unless you outfit the Raven for multiple arms. Best of luck and enjoy this marvelous table!
Sure the set-up skills of the hobbyist or arm cartridge mating is obviously important,but the actual design of the arm to be used is still paramount....They're not all equal!

Also,I still haven't heard from a hobbyist who previously owned a Walker or Rockport or Forsell or a Kuzma Airline,and felt a pivot was superior...

You can talk until blue in the face,but the fact is that there is less friction in "those" arms' bearings!...

One good reason why they sound SO good!!
BTW,sorry as I should have added this all on my previous post,but the Phantom is very fussy(in a good way)regarding it's fluid damping in the bearing.This can be very helpful in voicing the arm,once one gets familiar with it.

It is nowhere as critical as the 2.2,but this parameter is most likely a viable reason for those hearing it,and being unimpressed.The Phantom is "fabulous",by any standard and has just gone through a new update(actually a series of improvements.

I may be awaiting my new arm,but I have close friends who own it,and it "IS" special!

OOPS!!...I kinda screwed up!...My comment made about the "linear" arm,and impression of it's sound,should have been placed on another thread!!

Can anyone buy the excuse of two glasses of nice Shiraz,being the culprit?
The SME, the Graham and the Triplanar all have some sort of arm tube damping (we're not talking about the damping trough BTW). The problem is the the Graham and Triplanar's methods, as far as I can tell, are a lot more effective- adding the arm wrap to them really didn't make much of a difference (other than mass). With the SME it was mandatory.

Sirspeedy, enjoy the Shiraz :)

What brand of Shiraz do you favor? We're big fans, in a casual way. :-)
I lied!!!I simply messed up...BUT I LOVE the "Rockbare" label from Australia(about 20 dollars),and really amazing!On the cheap,but the amazingly good side is "Tin Dog",I bought three cases of the stuff for Five dollars a bottle,and have been having a glass or two after the gym....Very nice stuff.

I've been saving my daughter's birthday gift to me,a fabulous Barolo,for my "finally" getting my system on track's been sitting in my "cellar wine rack",which is my son's old ping pong table,in basement,for five months.

I HOPE to crack into it in about two weeks....

Best to all
Which Rockbare Speedy??

see link

If you don't get your system up and running soon you will be too far gone on the wine :-)
BTW - Federer seems to be gone - long live Rafa!!
Downunder,the bottom-most Shiraz,and it's a good price too.

Really worth seeking out!!

I am running 3 arms on my TW and have listened to a few cartridges on the Phantom and moved my cartridges between my arms. It is all about arm / cartridge synergy. In that regard if the Lyra Argo is similar to the Titan I on the Phantom it will be an ideal match. I can't state enough how well the Titan I & Phantom match if you have the right phono preamp. I get an ideal 10 Hz both vertical & horizontal resonance. Spot on 10. Quite amazing and the sound matches. TW also measured a perfect 10. I honestly feel cartridges have different presentations that can sound more alike after matching is done correctly. Now I am refering to 3 way matching which includes the phono stage. What you need to realize is a phono w. too much gain might not match as well w. a medium output MC than others. I believe your phono stage is excellent & should match w. the Lyra. So all you need is the right arm.
Just out of curiousity since these three arms are some of the best out there, how does the vpi 12.7 stand up to them??
Oh and by the way with my limited experience in analog would like to add I am very happy with my Graham 2.2t.
I too have heard all three arms in various systems and all should match well with the lyra. As far as the sme being "grey" or having mid or high resonance issues I would love to see the freq plot that shows these alleged anomolies. I did not experience this in any listening nor has anyone I know that uses this arm. As a matter of fact far from it, if anything it gives the most nuetral presentation of the three. If thats grey so be it.
My favourite Arm from those is the Phantom.
Hi Tim,

well the phantom is perfect or the new Kuzma 4-Point
where you can swap the headshell.

regards kha
Here is an interesting site...
Hi to all,

Thanks so much for all these views/comments.

I have one question : why are Phantoms quite easy to find second-hand yet Tri-Planar less (never?).

Is this because more of the Phantoms were/are sold?

That is honestly not the case. Both are just as easy to find depending on when you are searching. The Triplanar had an update to a newer arm months ago and the new version is slightly lower in effective mass. Many Triplanars were sold then s/h. Now there is a Phantom II w. a titanium armwand. So now you will see my Phantoms Is for sale. Even the original Phantom I had a bearing update during production.
On another note, does anyone know if the Phantom II will in fact be an improvement over the Phantom I or is it due to production problems w. the ceramic armwand that the new Phantom II is being produced. Will Titanium have the same resonance control as the Ceramic armwand? Also will the effective mass be changed? This can be detrimental if the synergy w. an existing cartridge is "reduced" w. the II version.
I had a brief chat with Bob Graham and asked what where the changes coming and he said the main thing was the Ti arm tube because of to many people complaining the ceramic tubes were to fragile to many broken tubes apparently. New wire inside and the bearing pilar assembly. He said 80$ of the change is the arm tube going to Ti. He said the differences are subtle.
The "magnaglide" is also improved...Let's face it,Graham has a great track record with update improvements!!
Well many thanks for all these comments that with others have helped in the choice.

Going for the Graham Phantom latest version and like always cannot wait!

I have to admit that the deciding factor was the arm board itself; the one I have is for the Graham standard. For the Tri-Planar I had to order and that can be a long wait with TW acoustic.

I had the opportunity to talk with Bob Graham who was very helpful with his explanations. He commented that he is working on an upgrade that will be available for the Phantom's. So I guess we will have to stay tuned...


graham received ?
First impression ?

bruno (in france to)
As an aside, for those of us with kids in college, looking for a slightly cheaper option, Thomas at TW likes the Ortofon arms. I had a 309D long 12" arm put on my Raven one this week and it sounds fabulous. I am sure not in the same league as the SME Wheaton or Phantom, but still worth a thought. It seems to have a good synergy with TW

I have compared them side by side and with the same cartridge. The Ortofon is a "steal" at the price. I bet most people will be hard pressed to hear the difference. I is audible but you need to pay attention to hear it. A great tonearm.
I find the SME V to be very neutral with rock solid imaging. If you use a dry cartridge the sound will be dry etc. Try the very musical Dynavector DRT Xv1s. Use as little damping as possible none if you can get away with it. More damping equals a damped, lifeless sound. Setup skill is a signifcant factor.
We compared B-44, DV507/2, Schröder Reference and DaVinci Grand Reference on Raven AC of a friend of mine. Cartridge was Zyx Airy-3; Klyne 7 Pre and phono. He decided buying the DaVinci (i also own); second also in my opinion was B44. I've compared SMEV, Tri VII and Graham 1.5ct on my Clearaudio tt. Imho SME is not playing in same league like other ones. For sure 1.5 is not Phantom the Graham can compete against Tri. So after all I would advice the B44 or DaVinci for the Raven as well.

I have compared a ZYX universe on the Schroder to a SME V and an Ikeda. I didn't try it on my Phantom. But... the ZYX performed its best to my ears on the Schroder. But I had to use the optional brass weight on my Schroder to increase the mass to have an good match w. the ZYX. Most Schroder owners don't own the brass mounting plate, just the aluminum one. The SME V performed very well but teh Schroder was far superior.

Now for my Titan I. Which is a Lyra. I used it with incredible results on my Phantom. By certain measures it is one of the best cartridge / tonearm combinations. There was no need to try it on the Schroder as the Phantom match was incredible. I then decided to give it a try just to "learn" a little more. The Titan I / Schroder combination is a must hear IMO. For me now, the Phantom is a normal arm. The Schroder is a special arm. The Titan I with the Schroder w. the Aluminum mounting plate sounded very poor again. Only after using the brass mounting plate did it come into its own. The description of the differences between the Phantom & the Schroder in relation to the Titan I include increased sense of space, detail and 3 dimensionality. This also includes more resolution of highs and a wonderful sense of body. It is a special combination. Areas of weakness are a slight loss of definition in the bass in comparison to the Phantom. The Phantom is truly a great arm, receiving an A or A-. With the Phantom I am using Tara Zero phono cable. The Schroder is a special arm that would be graded an A++ to my ears and has a single run of cable from cartridge to phono stage.

It is important to know how to setup a tonearm a use it over a period of time. A short test will not be an accurate measure of how the cartridge will sound. The Schroder takes patience & time to fine tune. Several hours. You need to live with it to get to know its sound. Not do a quick a/b test to know what is better. It is the same w. the Phantom which can be easily tuned with damping fluid over time to obtain the correct or preferred sound.
Dgad wrote:
"It is important to know how to setup a tonearm a use it over a period of time. A short test will not be an accurate measure of how the cartridge will sound. The Schroder takes patience & time to fine tune. Several hours. You need to live with it to get to know its sound. Not do a quick a/b test to know what is better. It is the same w. the Phantom which can be easily tuned with damping fluid over time to obtain the correct or preferred sound."
Whilst this is true, it can also be said of most components in the Hi-Fi chain.
Heradot has given some valuable first hand impressions of 4 competitive arms on the same turntable with the same cartridge.
It is simply illogical to discard these results by claiming that some of the arms 'COULD' have sounded better?
With this sort of caveat, no 'shoot-out' between Hi-Fi components will ever have any relevance.
Thank you Heradot for that valuable contribution!
First off,Hi are you doing?Best to ya!!Hope all is well...

OK,second(main)point...Dgad,I've been waiting for "this" thoughtful comparison for over two years.A very interesting post,and I have NO reason to doubt your findings,though I DO "hope" my new Series II Phantom is better than the Series I,which I did not own for long,so cannot comment.

The ONLY point of disagreement(I have a feeling you may understand this,and maybe agree in afterthought) I have with you is....

I believe that "Only" a few hours in voicing an arm/cartridge is grossly understated!!It seems that in order to get the best performance,over a wide range of LP's,one MUST spend some "fotzing around time" over a few listening afternoons!..

Of course,once the "audio pals" make their presence felt,the set up parameters sometimes need serious defending....against the one or two "golden eared" contrarians,who always make their superior hearing/knowledge of the LP's "true sound characteristics" known....Like we can't know this(about our own systems) on our own. -:)This IS the one thing that is "consistently" repeated in my little yenta group.Yet,I still love these guys.

Dear Marco: Very interesting comparison you participate.

IMHO all those tonearms are really good ( including the V ) and the fact that the ZYX sounded better on the DaVinci does not means that this tonearm is a better one it means only that the DaVinci is a better ZYX match ( same for your Clearaudio TT tonearm comparison. ) in that audio system.

Regards and enjoy the music.
I've got to agree with Raul!The arm/cartridge combination will absolutely be critical.

I've known some to think it blasphemy to feel the Ikeda could be bettered...with the right cartridge choice.However those cartridges were far heavier than the ZYX.The Ikeda will work best with a bit more mass,and fans of the arm give it what "it" wants.

The Titan-I I know very well.Alot heavier than the superb UNI,but I've only heard the Titan on an Air Tangent,and VPI 12.6 arm....A fabulous cartridge in either arm!

The Phantom(I installed one for a friend,and have listened extensively to the "series one" Phantom)is,as mentioned best voiced with alot of experiment with the damping fluid,but not nearly as sensitive to this as the Graham 2.2 was.Both great arms...with the 2.2 a bargain on the used market,as I've mentioned before.

I owned two SME's,but only used them with Koetsus.I remember liking both arms,but the Triplanar that replaced the SME was superior,even though I did not have it perfectly set-up.

All superb arms,and all will benefit greatly with the perfect cartridge match.

Funny thing,a well known dealer and importer of high end tables mentioned to me he felt the Davinci was inferior to many arms,due to "lousey bearings"!His words!!

Based on conversations with him,I don't believe "that" statement for one minute!!


I am not discarding the results. BUt I did obtain different results w. the same/similar arms. (Schroder has different versions) and the same cartridge (both ZYX & Lyra). I do not seek to discount his results. But the Schroder is a very difficult arm to set up & requires more than patience. Every parameter changes everything all over. Once you set VTA, VTF changes, setting damping changes VTF etc, etc. Surely not an arm for everyone but IME it does something special that other arms don't do. This includes the SME & Phantom.

Now please explain how 2 people w. similar items get different results? Honestly that is all due to setup.

I will also tell another story that includes your name.
I heard at a dealer a Halcro/Maxx II/VTL preamp w. transparent cabling & EMM CDP. I honestly was not impressed and felt that I could expect much more.

I then heard at a friends house a EMM/Maxx II/Halcro amp/ but forget what preamp in a dedicated room. The sound was some of the best sound I ever heard. This simply goes to show setup is critical in knowing our evaluations, and taking my word or anyones elses word on these forums as the grounds for deciding a purchase can be a mistake. Reviewers have had strongly divergent opinions.

Back to phono questions, I have been able to get 2 different arms w. 2 different cartridges and 2 different phono stages to sound almost exactly the same. Switch the phono stage and instantly everything unravelled and the differences were starteling.

Hope all is well. In short you are right about the protracted time needed in the world of analogue. In the digital world I assume it is easier but speakers will be even more difficult to setup in a matter of minutes for an a/b comparison.

Since you expressed interest in the comparison, let me just state my Phantom is the last generation in terms of bearing etc. It does not have the additional markings on the azimuth but has the latest azimuth control. No titanium armwand either (but I wonder if it is better, as the Ceramic was much more difficult to manufacture but should be better damped). I am waiting for a few people to do a comparison between the old & new Phantom. More than one would be ideal as it would give a broader perspective.

I also wonder if some of what I heard/hear between the arms is more a matter of length (9 inch vs. 10.5 for the Schroder) than tonearm design. I wanted to try my Phantom w. the optional 9.5 inch armwand, but made the mistake to order the 9 inch.
Dgad,of course I(being the yenta that I am)LOVE this kind of posting,from you!In no way do I doubt your findings,and hope my comments are taken as just hobbyspeak.

The truth is,from my own experience(in my set ups over the years)as well as friends' systems.....there is such a huge chasm of differing performance parameters that we all MUST overcome(individually)that it's hard to make blanket statements.

I don't accuse you,or anyone of this,but "BOY"....I've been to friends' homes whose systems literally did an about-face in specific performance areas,when someting as supposedly insignificant as a "fuse" was changed for a better one....A slight azimuth change,a tube change,a cable change,a speaker placement change,sub roll off change,on and on!I went into withdrawal when a friend sold his Air Tangent arm,and originally got far lower performance from the unipivot replacement.Months later,the UNI got a much better set-up(from another hobbyist/friend),and BOOM.... "fabulosity"!!...Yet...

The truth is,even the "cute and popular" little stylus force pressure guage many of us now use(I do),which has become so popular,and is advertised by Acoustic Sounds as "The Accutech"(over priced "there" btw)is NOT accurate,from the latest info I've come across.

The VTF guage is inaccurate to about .05 gms,and though many folks do/should voice this by ear,there are those who simply set to a "desired" vtf,if it falls into some kind of sefety zone,and "is good enough sounding"!...There are alot of folks where "good enough" is the FINAL STOP!

What can I say?Even I have no clue(as of now)if my series two arm is any better than the series one,and in truth I don't care...Why?Because we get far too "into" the techno crap,and forget that ALL the answers to our sonic questions lie on the LP's!We talk far too little about the great software,and how to approach great LP's differently,other than throwing new toys at them.Do we "really" know how the best discs their "best"?Only one way to approch this,from my perspective.

If we know what they "should" sound like,we are way ahead of the game.....There exists a useful alternative to hobbyspeak by "us",as well as industry folks/reviewers opinions!You've really got to take these discs over to some very good/reliable outside set-ups,to learn how well we "do" these individualy....

Sometimes it gets ugly!I've done this like a zillion times.Often not being so pleased with what I thought was "good enough" in my own set up.Spent serious moola too.

If we know what truly accurately reproduced music sounds like on many of our reference discs(which comes into focus quite well,once you start to drag these LP's over to other learn something interesting,and I hope this makes sense),the better LP's will tell us everything we need to know,and this business(though I admit to loving it)of the newest comparison componentry/gadget revealing the "N'th degree" of "some" kind of parameter will be rather insignificant.

Just my 2 cents
Hi Speedy and Dgad and also Raul. Good to see you all back!
I agree with you Dgad about the differing experiences and sound which can be derived from identical components......just listen to the horrors at HiFi shows with expensive exotic equipment. All I was pointing out was that, if we accept this fact, how do we reconcile the descriptions and conclusions of any components review?
If the reviewer claims a component to be good in his testing yet we ourselves have heard it to sound poorly, what are we to think?
And yet in this case (and always with Raul), when a component is preferred over another by a consensus, there are those who claim "mismatch, poor set-up etc".
It seems to me that if poor sound can always be blamed on poor set-up or compatibility, what you are really saying is that there are no 'lesser' nor 'better' components?