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Decided to upgrade my tonearm rather than get a new TT package.
Posted by lochrider on May 9, 2012 at 07:21:08:
A while back I posted the query: "Hot rodded GyroDec vs. VPI Classic 3; Or Encounter mk iii vs SME IV.vi?" (See link below.)
Since then I listened to the VPI Classic and decided to go the route of upgrading my tonearm to an SME V.
My decisions were based in part on what I read online here and elsewhere. Predominately, I elected to stick with the GyroDec because I had already invested in some Orbe upgrades (screw down spindle, Never-connected power/speed control, arm board isolation tweak, modest damping of the underside of spider ring). I really enjoy the sense of PRAT I experience with it over the Classic 3's more damped (some say more "solid" or "dead" expression). To my ears, the GyroDec seems more life-like using either an OL-mod'd Rega-250 or Encounter mk iii tonearm and Dynavector cartridges.
I chose the "V" series over the "VI.iv" because the former had the standard ability to raise the arm in the event I wanted to adjust VTA (as I had become addicted to the process with the Encounter tonearm) and provided a damping tray should I ever experiment with severly warped LPs. Also, I wanted the opportunity to use the supplied tonearm cable from VdH.
Prior to set up, I asked my vendor to burn in the tonearm cabling.
Set up was a breeze and I followed some suggestions from my vendor and on posts here and elsewhere regarding anti-skate setting. I used both the provided SME protractor and an Avid mirrored protractor, then evaluated the results.
The new tonearm is a major improvement on many fronts.
First, the SME revealed that the Encounter added a ringing at certain high frequencies which was pleasant but NOT in the grooves (e.g., on the pedal steel guitar on side 3 of Lucinda Williams' "World Without Tears;" on the choral during the 4th movement of Beethoven's Ninth, Decca, Solti, CSO).
Second, there is much more in the grooves than I thought (all the elements came out of hiding and stood proud in the first cut of "Short Sharp Shocked," Michelle Shocked, Polygram). Mid- and high frequency ranges were appropriately balanced in comparison to live music when the recording presented acoustic performance in real space. In sum, well recorded LPs became amazing and I found myself toe-tapping so much my joints in my big toes have begun to hurt.
Third, low frequencies were reproduced with more of everything: more depth, more texture, more leading edge, and gave everything from reggae to symphonic LPs a more life-like presence.
Finally, the precision of the SME is as advertised. That may account for all of the above.
I was hesitant to pull the trigger on the SME V upgrade for obvious reasons: cost. I had no idea how or if I would appreciate any improvement over the servicable OL Encounter mk iii. With my TT and cartridge the new tonearm seems a perfect fit. Frankly, I'm still giddy after more than two months of listening.
So, thanks are extended to those on this forum who suggested the tonearm upgrade.