SME: ‘When it came back, the sound was transformed…I’m not exaggerating ….’

After all these years, I got a bit of a surprise with my system this week. I took my arm (series Five, 12inch version) back to SME in Steyning for some minor changes to the wiring. The arm is five years old, so I asked them to check and clean the bearings, as they had the arm anyway.

When it came back, the sound was transformed...I'm not exaggerating, it was as big a change as upgrading from a worn to a new Cartridge. SME said the bearings had slackened a little over the years; because it happens slowly, I hadn't noticed the fall-off in sound quality. But goodness, the difference was a shock.

Thinking about it, I realise that any high-precision mechanism, even if used carefully , will undergo a gradual drifting out of spec.

I think that having an arm checked and the bearings adjusted..if necessary...every five years or so, would be money well spent. And people buying used arms might be sensible to spend a little extra on a service. I realise that an arm can seem quite good, while falling well short of what it can do at its best.

I get the impression that there is a view among some audio people, that bearings only drift if mishandled. I now know better, I treated that arm with great care, but over the years, movement, vibration and fluctuating temperatures slowly got to it. It's a precision instrument and needs treating like one. Certainly opened my eyes. BTW: In terms of cost, a tempting alternative to the manufacturer would be a specialist like Audio Origami.

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