I also tried a different cartridge in the Model 309, this time Rega’s Aphelion MC that I usually use in a Rega RP10. This brought some real daylight and rhythmic bounce into the picture, making the Trialogue album more atmospheric and mesmerizing at the same time; the soundstage remained deep and the bass very powerful, perhaps a little bit too much so. I reduced downforce to the bottom of the cartridge’s recommended range, which helped the lows and didn’t undermine the endless vista produced by the second track on the album, Dan Berglund’s ‘Valiant’, a slower deeper piece that proved remarkably compelling. This assembly of turntable, arm and cartridge seemed to shine with the slower tempo tracks, digging out all the tonal richness of the Marty Paich Big Band’s rendition of ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face’ [The New York Scene, Discovery]. In truth this tune was absolutely delightful, showing that Art Pepper, Victor Feldman, and Jimmy Guiffre at the height of their powers could play show tunes in sublime fashion.
There is no doubt that the Model 15 is very much an SME turntable. The Model 15 has very little character of its own, which means that it can reveal an awful lot about the records it spins. Build quality is in another league to the vast majority of turntables because so few manufacturers have the engineering facilities that a company which provides precision engineering to the aerospace and medical industries can offer. It may not have as many feet as the bigger models, but that does little to undermine its capabilities when it comes to resolving all the fine details locked away in a vinyl groove. If SME can continue to expand its range with turntables and arms of this calibre, its future looks as stable as the sound those record players produce.
Type: Full-size, suspended subchassis, 3-phase motor‑drive turntable
Rotational Speeds: 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM, 78 RPM
Supported Tonearm Length(s):
9-inch to 10-inch arms supported
Drive Mechanism: Belt driven via 3-phase, brushless outrunner inductance motor
Speed Control: Closed loop speed control with proportional plus (PI) algorithm.
Platter Type: Machined from aluminium alloy with diamond-turned Isodamp surface
Platter Weight: 4.6kg
Bearing Type: 19mm (3/4”) machined from high chrome tool steel, ground super finished and supported in a sealed housing
Plinth Configuration: Suspended subchassis with fluid damper and resistive ground path for acoustic signals
Dimensions (H×W×D): 176×428×378mm
SME 309 tonearm
Type: One piece magnesium tone arm with detachable headshell
Tonearm Length: 232.32mm
Effective Tonearm Mass: 9.5g
Offset Angle: 23.204 degrees
Signal Cable Length: 1.2m Van den Hul cable with SME RCA connectors
Price: £8,052 inc Model 309 SPD
Manufacturer: SME Ltd
Tel: +44(0) 1903 814321
UK Distributor: Padood
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 653028