To SME or not to SME?

...that is the question. I have an irrationally strong urge to sell my Orbe SE, a very nice 'table in it's own right and order a SME 20/3. I've posted an ad for a used 30/2 but haven't received any responses. I have a new SME V to mount on the table. Could the SME be a last 'table purchase, or will the urge strike again a couple of years down the road if not sooner? Thoughts, opinions from members with ownership or listening experiences with the Orbe SE or any of the SME tables would be greatly appreciated.
Let me gaze into my own crystal orb and divine the future. I ask " OH SPIRITS, WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD THAT THIS TRUE HIFI LOVER WILL BE SATISFIED LONG BY ANY COMPONENT, HOWEVER GOOD? Slowly the answer comes; mystic letters form within the orb: they read "FAT CHANCE".
PS, it takes one to know one. SW
As sure as the day is long, the urge will strike.
Suggest you get a 30/2 or 30/12 from Southwest Analogue in the UK. Then you will be done.
I suggest you not buy anything expensive on impulse. It is possible that even the tables compared to which SME is junk would not satisfy it.
The upgrade bug is a given for most in this hobby. From time to time it's going to bite. It's that simple. Since the 'table is my only source - and likely the best candidate in my system for an upgrade - I've been doing a lot of research lately on a replacement. Unfortunately, it's not practical, or even possible where I'm located, to audition much of anything. So you read, read, read, question, speculate, read between the lines, solicit opinions, extrapolate from what you've been able to glean, and then, when the urge becomes strong you have to dive in and hope for the best. The frustrating part is spending a lot of money but ending up short of where you hoped you would end up.
Is there any advantage to buy from Southwest Analogue in the UK compared to your local dealer?

Just for a new toy purposes that can definitely make you happier, you can. Other than that time, money, hassle to sell one get another would not worth the performance improvement.
Unfortunately, it's not practical, or even possible where I'm located, to audition much of anything. So you read, read, read, question, speculate, read between the lines, solicit opinions, extrapolate from what you've been able to glean, and then, when the urge becomes strong you have to dive in and hope for the best. The frustrating part is spending a lot of money but ending up short of where you hoped you would end up.

Mike...I would suggest at your price point that you book the weekend of Oct 14-16 and make your way to RMAF in Denver and have the opportunity to listen to multiple tables (not only SME) at that price point and compare. Yes Show conditions are not ideal and yes each turntable set up will be partnered with different phonos/cartridges/tonearms, not to mention altogether different amplification and speakers but if your option is to make a purchasing decision without hearing at all in that $15-$25K range vs. having a chance to hear a number of different set-ups, my vote would be to spend $1500 to go to RMAF and have a listen and have a fun weekend while you're at it. My 2c worth.
I gave up long ago trying to get a good understanding of a components sound outside my own system. No matter what it is it will take on a different sound in each system and room; the sound you hear may not be the sound you will get. These days I try to select items that were liked by reviewers who I think have the same general tastes as I do and have a high level of potential for good sound. The process of getting the maximum of the kind of sound you want is not easy; I attribute many of the sales on Audiogon to a lack of patience in this process. I have had my Gamut L 5s since last fall and am still far from finished in the process of final set up. Just moving them in the room or changing the way they face into the room can make them sound quite different, let alone different cartridges, cables etc. The SME tables are very good from everything I hear; I was an SME dealer but before they made tables.
But from my own experience with tables I think I can safely say that there are many good ones, however, they sound quite different. In the last couple of years I have used Basis [Ovation, 2001] VPI [TNT. Aries Extended, Scoutmaster, Scout] Linn [modified LP 12] and listened to a Raven with Graham Phantom at two friends houses. All these tables sounded different and each of the top ones had points of superiority over the others. The big tables have a greater degree of effortless power and stability while the lighter suspended tables seem a little more agile to me, YMMV. My point is that it is almost impossible to tell in advance the exact nature of the sound or how you will like it. The main reason I have been a small dealer for decades is so I can listen to different components without going broke. Of course, with todays prices even buying as a dealer is too expensive with many products.
The whole trick in audio [gospel according to Stan] is to get a system that YOU find musically satisfying. I have just about got there myself [after 50 years] . Mine is certainly not the ultimate in any respect but I have reached the point where I cannot think of anything I WISH I had rather than what I actually have; I fear the end may be near.
Sebastienl - The money you save buying from Southwest Analogue may allow you to get the table you want, or even move up from a 30/2 to a 30/12.
Just do not sell your old TT first.
You may still like it, and having two turntable can start you on the road to adopting more!
The average number of TTs owned by Lp lovers is way more than one!
What don't you like about the Orbe?
{quote]Sebastienl - The money you save buying from Southwest Analogue may allow you to get the table you want, or even move up from a 30/2 to a 30/12.[/quote]

Rgurney...don't you end up paying a lot of the difference in import duties to US Customs? I am not sure how that works but I am assuming a good portion of the price differential just covers import duties. I may be wrong. Just looking for clarification. Thx
There is no import duty into the USA from UK for personal items like a tt I believe
SW Analogue is totally the way to go. They are super nice and very SME knowledgeable too!
The Orbe is a very nice analogue source. I like the Orbe, it's just that I would like something better. I think I can do somewhat better all around with the SME - better detail, resolution, somewhat deeper, more accurate bass response etc. All the things we want from our systems. I think the Orbe, as nice as it is, is the weak link in my system. Maybe I'm chasing my tail a bit but I've wanted a SME table ever since I replaced my Origin Live Illustrious MK II with the SME V with the upgraded silver wiring. It's just such a great performer, so wonderfully engineered that I have a real hankering for one of their 'tables. I just wish I knew how much of an improvement a SME would bring.
A thread here earlier this year made it clear, from various knowledgeable posters, that tables (as mechanical rather than electronic devices) can be imported without import duties. For some reason, the thread was taken down and I expect that will happen to this one too if it gets more specific on this matter. Ask Southwest or SoundHiFi directly, the will quote you a price that will find attractive, I warrant.

I bought a used SME 20/2 to replace my Aries and I am totally impressed with the quality of what is now an old table itself. For me SME was supposed to be the end point, only now I think it might be another SME that gets me there :)
'I have an irrationally strong urge to' buy ( a,b,c...n).
The irrationall part become 'visible' when I try to resell
(a,b,c...n) . The most incomprehensible fact is then that
I am glad when I get the half of my money back. Not to
mention the fact that I am aware of this fact in advance.
Such is the nature of our hobby.

The sme will bring stability, high resolution ,it will gave a stable portrayal of the record , better than the oracle , i dont know ?
Some times you just have to rely on others opinions on the world wide web , its just impossible to hear all tables in a high res system in ones home .
Someone who never tries will gain nothing .
This afternoon i ll be having a cat ultimate mk2 , i exchanged it for the plp , i never heard cat before i just read the net , i was intrigued of the reviews and look at it as a well perfected tube design , he uses for example teflon in the circuitboards and makes his own caps
Some of you talk about the advantage to buy directly in UK and that you don't have other fees beside shipping for a turntable. This is for USA. As I'm living up North in Canada, is there anyone with such buying experience living up here? If so, feed-back are welcome.

To your original post. NOT an SME for me. I've used a SME 20/3 and yes it has the blackest soundstage and pinpoint imaging BUT it had no life. It was DEAD sounding and uninvolvimng. NEVER again an SME IMHO.
To Sksos1, this is strange but it happens in audio. The opinions regarding SME tables are either an "analytical and cold sounding table" or a "musical and warm sounding one".

I've just spend the last weeks reading on SME subject since the 10 interest me and the opinions on this table are divised.

For example, my local dealer in Montreal and a UK one that I know consider the SME 10 like a "musical and warm sounding" table while many other think the opposite.

I consider that it's also interesting to know about the rest of the system use to make these analysis.

commercial thing??

The days i listened to commercial dealers are long gone, although i am one now , so please dont listen to me.
Sksos1 - "Blackest soundstage and pinpoint imaging but it has no life." No listing of what arms/cartridges were used in that assessment. Could it be that "no life" means that nothing was ADDED to the sound to give it what you consider "life"?
I dont know what brands sksos1 represents?
I heard the vpi classic again this weekend on a full nagra set up .
SME is considerably better in my opinion , much more decay of notes and musicalflow .
I have an SME 10 with SME V arm and AirTight PC-1 cartridge. This combo has a low noise floor (I don't know what Blackest soundstage means) and very good imaging. My system is anything but "dead and uninvolving". I don't know how much to attribute to the turntable as I have never inserted other tables into my system and am not able to isolate what the SME 10 is doing to the overall sound. I'm considering upgrading to a better SME table as I have read the 20/3 and 30 have more bass extension and even blacker backgrounds. They also have better isolation.

My suspicion is that an SME table is a good/excellent and neutral foundation for a front end. If one hears something else, it is in the arm/cartridge/tonearm cable or something further up the chain.

Unfortunately, SME is very expensive in the US. I read that the factory has no trouble selling all of it considerable output, so many music lovers are indeed saying "TO SME".
I don't represent or currently sell ANY turntables so I have no agenda I'm just stating a fact of when I was "loaned" an SME 20 table it made my system dead dead dead! The SME 10 I've never heard so my comments are only regarding the 20.
Sksos1 You still don't say what else was in the front end system.
I'm also guessing that as the 20/3 is brand new you didn't use it for long.
So what do you mean by dead? Is that a lack of coloration? Of warmth? Dead how?
Dead or lifeless seem to be the buzz words used by SME bashers....not saying that it's not deserved...but it's funny how polarizing this brand is.
I am seriously considering a 20/12 and am intrigued by your very negative comments.
Mauidj - why are you fluffing around still. I thought you had decided to buy an Oracle. Have you changed your mind again. With regard to all these opinions you have to look at the rest of their systems. In the case of Sksos1 if you look at his threads you will see he has 8watt tube amp and Ocelia speakers. You need to search the systems for people with systems and tastes similar to yourself.
Mauidj ~ I had the 20 for at least 5 weeks and during that time didn't want to listen to mt system because it had no "life" no "engaement" no PRAT with the SME 20 in it. I could list all the equipment but let's just say there was over 200K of gear that hadn't been changed except for the TT. Myself I'd NEVER consider an SME, at least the 20 becasue of my own experience yours and others may differ.
Sksos1...thanks for the info.
I was just interested in the cartridge more than anything.
Can I ask what front end you do use and what have you heard that floats your boat.
Dover...I'm "fluffing around" because spending close to 20k on a front end is not something I do every day so excuse me while I get all the info and feedback that I can.
I’m currently using a direct drive which has great rhythm and pace but lacks inner detail, still searching myself for the golden grail. I’ve used in the past which was much better than the SME, a Basis Debut Sig, a SYD S7 and S10 (although I now prefer the direct drive approach) and some of Dr. Feickert tables have floated my boat. I do listen to 90% analog and have over 12,000 albums!
Sksos1...many mahalos.
I guess in the end one has to buy, try and if necessary sell on and try again.
I've spent the last 3 weeks quizzing Audiogoners and others but as Dover stated I'm still fluffing around and changing my mind every other day.
Time to commit to something and see what happens.
That darned golden grail ;-)

Any of the turntables you have looked at will be good. If you are nervous about the $20k, then spend less. What about second hand. For $10k you could get a second hand Micro Seiki RX1500 and a new Graham Phantom. Keep your Oracle as a benchmark. If you dont like the sound you can offload the Micro without losing much money if any. Put your original cartridge on the new deck then once you get a feel for the sound make a decision on cartridge. This is the least risk approach.
I'm not nervous about the money just being careful and taking in all the data I can. Kinda excited actually as this is not something I do very often!
I agree that any of the TT options will be good fact...great. I am just looking to fine tune the decision as much as possible and also deciding what "sound" is most important to me and the rest of my system.
If I am so unhappy with my choice and have to try again...well no biggie. Fortunately the prices I have been quoted are such that I should be able to move it without a loss.
Sksos1 - I beg to differ. I've owned both the Basis Debut Signature Vacuum and the SY7. Sold them. (I've heard the S10 and don't think it is a significant improvement over the S7). Neither measures up to the SME 30/12 with V12 arm - what I own now. Plenty of PRAT and inner detail.
I'll go count up my albums now.......let's just say, quite a few.
Hi Ron - I have no idea what a 30 sounds like, have never heard one but trust your ears. For me the 20 was the most un-involving table I ever had in my system and yes it was with the SMEV arm, all I know is I myself would never consider that table EVER. And I thought the S10 was a significant improvement over the S7 but really not worth the price of admission IMHO.
Linn owner: the SME is boring.
SME owner: the Avid is boring.
Avid owner: the Linn is boring.

I've actually heard these owners make these comments.
I reckon rgurney is still counting ,.....

As long as skoss1 is so vague over the system it was used in ,it is wild guessing as to why or what.

I am happy to hear rgurney ended up with the top sme , i might have made a good choice .

skoss1 if your sme system was boring , put a convergent pre in the system.

mauidij i personally also like raven ac with davinci arm

That is a good one. Kind of sums up things quite nicely. Very pithy and so typical of this subjective hobby. Subjective in what one hears and objective in the sense of intense brand loyalty practiced by many toward their preferred objects.

I'm leaning with Rgurney and wish I could find a way to afford the big SME.
Why foucs on SME. Not saying it isn't a good turntable, just saying there are many more brands that maybe are equally good. When buying some new gear don't focus on one brand. Have a look around. Listen to some turntables like AVID, Oracle, TW Acustic, Goldenote, Holborne, Transrotor etc. Holborne might not impresse your audiophile friend by its looks but they do sound very good. his original post mate...he fancies owning an SME not an Oracle or a TW or an Avid etc.
Mikesmith.......obviously you are interested in SME so don't let others muddy the waters.
It's too easy to just list a whole range of different tables as Mordante has done...but you could spend the next 2 years trying to hear them.
If you have an urge to own an SME then find out all you can about it and make your decision.
Trust me I asked the same question on a different thread and so many posters wanted me to try something i had not asked about my head was spinning.
It's nice people want to help with their advise but it's not helpful to have them just add to your list because it's what they are using right now or what they have a soft spot for.
Why focus on SME? It's the title of the thread.
I lusted after an Amazon Turntable and without listening just bought one based on the collective (small sample) reviews and comments online. Couldn't be happier but I would have just sold it if it didn't match into my system. I think you just go for it if you can afford it. Life it too short.
I bought my Model 10 without hearing it nearly 10 years ago and never regretted a thing. I bought a Model 20 last year based on my experience with the 10 and again, no regrets. I too echo the responses of others who say 'just go for it'.

Could you describe the sonic differences between the Model 10 and 20? I've read that some feel the 20 sounds more like the 10 and others feel the 20 sounds more like the 30. And what arms/cartridges do/did you use on these tables?

Judging from the latest comments about the 20/3, it gets much closer to the 30.
The 20 digs far deeper into the detail of the music and brings out a significant amount of information compared to the 10. Bass appears lighter at first but is far, far tighter and going back to the 10 which i moved to a second system confirms this. The 10 produces more bass but has a touch of bloat compared to the 20, not a boom or anything unpleasant but noticeably different. My 20 is a 20/2 . Arms used are a SME IV arm and an Ortofon AS212S, cartridges are Ortofon Jubilee and Candenza Black and a Phase Tech P-3 Alexandrite which really needs a heavier arm.I swapped about using all permutations until i came across what was my favourite and I've ended up with the SME IV arm with the Cadenza Black on the Model 10 and the Ortofon arm and Jubilee on the Model 20. The Jubilee is still the best cartridge i've heard with my system.

Although there's clearly an SME thing going on i feel the 20/2 to be a noticeable step up from the 10. I've not heard a 20/3 or 30 so can't compare to those.

One thing of note though is that as the 10 is an unsuspended design, it is greatly affected by what it sits on so what i'm hearing might be completely different to someone else with a different support. To hear it at its best you would probably have to put it on a stand that was completely isolated from its surroundings which might end up costing far more than the cost of upgrading to the suspended designs of the 20 and 30.
I own a SME 30/2 with Basis Vector 4 arm and Dynavector XX2m2 cartridge. Previously I used the V arm with same table and cart.

The 30 is a significant step up from the 20. Comparing with the 20, the 30 has more speed, liveliness and dynamics. The 30 brings plenty of boogie which SME 10 and 20 are not known for. And the bass is articulate, deep and with plenty of details.

The best way I can describe a SME30 is a LP12 on steroids. The PRaT of an LP12 with deeper bass, bigger sounding, wider + deeper soundstage
In addition to having a different suspension system compared to the 10, the 20 and 30 have different feet. With the latter tables, one can leave in place the rubber insert pads or remove them exposing the stainless steel balls inside. If one wishes to 'ground' the table to an isolation platform - such as the Symposium Ultra - one should remove the pads. If the table is resting on sensitive furniture, the pads would best be left in place. This choice could certainly have various effects including the amount and tightness of bass and perhaps the degree of detail and 'blackness' of background.
Different strokes.......
Just ordered a SME 20/3 today. Hope it's the right move. Thanks to all the members who posted. After I get the 'table and run it in a bit, I'll post my findings for anyone who might be interested.
Congrats mike , im curious what you think .
My personal second choice would have been raven ac with davinci arm , which is a little more expensive