SMEV set up needed

I have been setting up an Sme V tonearm on to an SME 10 TT and seem to have a problem setting the VTA (Arm height) In the instructions it states that the arm should be lowered to approx. 1/8" from the record surface and then adjusted until the front and back readings are similar. When I do this there is no clearance betwen the stylus and record surface when the tonearm lever is raised, what am I doing wrong??? the cartridge is a te kaitora rua, the height of this is 18.7mm from tip to top. Any help / advice would be greatly appreciated.
Initially with the arm raised I think that the arm will be about ½ inch from the top of the LP surface when viewed from the side.

Then set the arm and the cartridge on the LP and again view from the side. Have the arm about halfway across the LP.
Then use the supplied SME alignment gauge to level the arm using the stripe on the side of the arm so that the arm is perfectly level or slightly tipped back towards the mounting post.

Try to use a 150 gram pressing for your initial setup (An original Chesky LP if you have one or a heavy orange label pressing of a London Stereo Treasury). That way things will be more optimized for all thickness of pressings.

For instance original MO-FI are 100 grams. Most commercial pressing are between 90 and 120 grams. Then you have the 180 and 200 gram pressings. Unless all that you play are 180 or 200 gram.

Try to go with 150 gram as it will be the happy medium and you won’t have to tweak and fiddle with the arm at all.

The SME’s are the easiest to setup in the world and they do not go out of adjustment.

Hope this helps. If you have any questions email me.
Hi Wes,
my method is to have a number of spacers that fit in-between the bottom (clamp mount base) and the arm lifter / arm rest plate.
Inevitably this distance winds up at about 1/2" (12.7mm). The spacers I mostly use, based on various cartridge heights and VTA and! sound adjustments are e.g.
11mm:(Nagaoka MP-50),
12mm:(Ortofon Windfeld),
13mm:(AT-140CL), and
13.5mm:(Empire 1000SE/X), etc.
This corresponds in all cases from a level arm, to slightly heel up, to ~ 2.5 - 3.0mm heel up in the case of the 11mm spacer with an Ortofon M20FL super, and very little heel up with a Nagaoka MP-50.
(All measured on the side stripe of the arm).
These last mentioned carts like different VTA settings (sound) and have a rather different build height (M20FL = ~ 2.5mm lower than the MP-50) yet use the same arm height.
All is of course system / sound related (YMMV) and only to give you some indication.
I hope this helps,
Correct VTA setting is ALWAYS determined by the cutting angle of the record on the platter. Cutting angles used by record companies do vary. There is always a groove-compliant VTA - but NEVER a specific VTA for a given tonearm or cartridge.
Do set by ear. Use an acoustic recording with a solo guitar and voice. Watch for good "body" and a "believable corpus" of the guitar. The voice should have only a small "halo" around its origin.
Look for a VTA which suits the majority of your records - or if you are really particular about this - do make markers and set the VTA for every record.
SME V is a great tonearm (I've had mine for 20 years) but hard to adjust VTA -- and impossible to do it "on the fly" (while the record is playing.) SME can be excused a little bit, because the arm was designed before the era of line contact styli; and with spherical or elliptical styli, matching the stylus rake angle to the groove cutting head angle was not critical.

If you want to do it correctly, study this thread:
It's a bit tedious, but not difficult -- be patient, take your time, and use the recommended tools. And rest assured an SME V will hold it's settings forever!

Regardless of the type of tonearm you have, dozens of Agonners have set their VTA (actually SRA) this way with great results. It's really the only way to take into account the variations in stylus mounting, even among cartridges of the same make and model.
please bear in mind with all this beautiful theory, and also Dertonarm, that:
1) At least with the SME V the pivot post can be clamped within a "range" (tilted ~ 1-2 deg. either to one or the other side!) thereby changing azimuth slightly, quite often un-noticed when changing VTA / SRA.
2) If in the case of a record clamp like e.g. VPI (rubber washer), SME (alu washer), yet another ~ 1-2 deg (vinyl level) is the case mostly toward the last band of the record, since the record centre is slightly elevated for the clamp to work as intended.
3) If a record is not completely flat (and which one is?) yet again the azimuth is changed by the vinyl, offering a different "level" surface constantly during each revolution.

I guess it is like with most things, try and get things set-up well --- yet try NOT to get too anal about it, lest you may not listen to music any more but to azimuth, VTA, SRA, VTF, etc. etc.
Hi Axel, the three items you mention are all factors, but I take question the degree (literally and figuratively!) of their impact.

1.) Less than a half degree on the tonearm azimuth, and easily dialed in with a small spirit level across the headshell assuming the platter is leveled first; and assuming the stylus is true to begin with.
2.) Again, less than half a degree -- even on the worst warped records. More than a half degree and tracking begins to deteriorate, possibly the tonearm will fly free of the record! An eighth inch deflection (or warp) at the outside edge of a record is about one degree and nearly untrackable (depending how steep the bump.)
3.) Again, a negligable deviation.

It's not easy to get the Stylus Rake Angle perfect either; there is no standard, and records (especially these days) come in different thicknesses. And not everyone has a TriPlanar, Graham, or some other arm with on-the-fly micrometer adjustment. HOWEVER, it's very important to at least get in the ballpark. And to do that, you have to know where your arm is set when the stylus on YOUR cartridge is perfectly vertical. Thus my method for determining that condition.
let's agree to disagree here.
If the avg. spirit level is toward the one or the other side touching the demarcation line THAT is NOT 1/2 degree!
I work with that stuff so let's say 1 deg. plus to one and 1 deg plus to the other side, i.e. 2 deg from one extreme to the other. I will go with 1 deg. on average, yet the rage is 2 deg.
Now getting anal with microscopes, 1/2 deg. would be *much more* noticeable than that spirit bubble being but only very slightly out to the on or the other side, at least that's my learning.
I use a miniature calibrated bubble level -- mainly because it sits on top of the headshell more securely. But I could use a small spirit level, like the one van den Hul supplies with his cartridges. Either way, I could do so with a much higher degree of accuracy than you imagine possible ;-) As long as the instrument has been calibrated to a reference, it's all in the eye of the "technician".

BTW, two other ways to check and set azimuth accurately are:
1.) The 'null' method: playing an out-of-phase white noise groove with the preamp set to "mono".
2.) The mirror method: viewing the stylus with a small scope (from in front of the cartridge) as it rests on a first surface mirror and adjusting for a perfect hourglass shape; similar to the SRA calibration technique.
3.) Another method for dialing in the azimuth (similar to the 'null' method, is to use an ocilloscope.

Frankly, I like these three methods better than the leveling technique just because they take into account that the diamond itself may not be perfectly "true" in relationship to the cartridge body.

If one is using any kind of cartridge with a line-contact or microridge stylus, this degree of setup accuracy is really essential rather than 'anal'; and the results prove it. On the other hand, there are many fine cartridges available with elliptical and even spherical styli, which are more tolerant of less than perfect setup.