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Thread: SME - 3012 Tonearm variations Mk1 Mk2 & R

  1. #1
    Join Date: Mar 2016

    Location: Barnet, london UK

    Posts: 1,758
    I'm Adam.

    Default SME - 3012 Tonearm variations Mk1 Mk2 & R

    I'm intrigued by the variants in SME - 3012 Tonearms.

    Can anyone offer their experienced views on
    SME 3012 Mk1, SME 3012 Mk2 and SME 3012R and the differences.

    I have read the general view that the MK1 is better than the MK2 and the R is better still, but why? and how so?
    "lack of passion is fatal"


    Vinyl: Thorens TD-124mk2 / Tenuto gun metal mat / SME-3012R ikeda rewire / SME M2-9R / STEREO: Jan Allaerts MC1 Boron / Shure M3D / Ortofon SPU A95 / Cartridge Man Music Master / Shure - SC35C (US) / SAEC C3 MC MONO: Miyajima Zero B 0.7mil mono / Miyajima Premium 1.0 / Amps & SUTs: Radford STA25 mk3 / AD Audio 'Satchmo2' pre & LCR phono / Hashimoto HM-7 SUT / ETR-MONO SUT Digital: SW1X Audio Design DAC 1 signature / Roon / Tidal Speakers: Tannoy 12" MGs' in RFC custom 'Rutland' Cabinets with RFC crossovers / Tannoy ST-100 Super Tweeters Cables: Duelund DCA16GA tinned copper / Kimber 12TC / SW1X Audio Design USB-SPdif / Duelund DCA20GA interconnects / SW1X Audio SPDIF Aero 6 / Mains Power Conditioner / Box Furniture rack / Audiodesk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner / a very beautiful & understanding Wife!

  2. #2
    Join Date: Jul 2011

    Location: Near M1/M6 junction

    Posts: 1,696
    I'm Peter.

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    I may be wrong, but I think the Mk1 had a steel arm-tube, whereas the Mk2 is aluminium (similar to the 3009 changing to the 'improved' version). The R was later, introduced in the 1980s, mainly for the Japanese market. It went back to a thin-walled steel arm-tube, with slightly increased length and effective mass. The latter have become much sought-after, and have pretty much tripled in price in the last few years, mainly due to a 58 page rave on another forum.

    The Mk2 and R are rather similar-looking, so identifying which is which, is best done by exploring the info on Vinyl Engine ... https://www.vinylengine.com/library/sme/3012.shtml

    As to your question, I've heard four over the years, and they've all sounded lovely, but too far apart to make any speculations about. What's your's, Adam?

  3. #3
    Join Date: Mar 2016

    Location: Barnet, london UK

    Posts: 1,758
    I'm Adam.

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    Quote Originally Posted by petrat View Post
    I may be wrong, but I think the Mk1 had a steel arm-tube, whereas the Mk2 is aluminium (similar to the 3009 changing to the 'improved' version). The R was later, introduced in the 1980s, mainly for the Japanese market. It went back to a thin-walled steel arm-tube, with slightly increased length and effective mass. The latter have become much sought-after, and have pretty much tripled in price in the last few years, mainly due to a 58 page rave on another forum.

    The Mk2 and R are rather similar-looking, so identifying which is which, is best done by exploring the info on Vinyl Engine ... https://www.vinylengine.com/library/sme/3012.shtml

    As to your question, I've heard four over the years, and they've all sounded lovely, but too far apart to make any speculations about. What's your's, Adam?
    If i'm to understand it I have an EARLY Mk2...(i believe there are differences in the Earlier versions of the Mk2 to the later Mk2)
    I'm happy with it and indeed on your last visit to my place, if I remember, you declared it the star of the set up. So you thought it was good too.

    Just wondering why the R is so highly regarded or is it so because like many Hifi components on the fora, someones opinion is gospel and that sticks!..
    "lack of passion is fatal"


    Vinyl: Thorens TD-124mk2 / Tenuto gun metal mat / SME-3012R ikeda rewire / SME M2-9R / STEREO: Jan Allaerts MC1 Boron / Shure M3D / Ortofon SPU A95 / Cartridge Man Music Master / Shure - SC35C (US) / SAEC C3 MC MONO: Miyajima Zero B 0.7mil mono / Miyajima Premium 1.0 / Amps & SUTs: Radford STA25 mk3 / AD Audio 'Satchmo2' pre & LCR phono / Hashimoto HM-7 SUT / ETR-MONO SUT Digital: SW1X Audio Design DAC 1 signature / Roon / Tidal Speakers: Tannoy 12" MGs' in RFC custom 'Rutland' Cabinets with RFC crossovers / Tannoy ST-100 Super Tweeters Cables: Duelund DCA16GA tinned copper / Kimber 12TC / SW1X Audio Design USB-SPdif / Duelund DCA20GA interconnects / SW1X Audio SPDIF Aero 6 / Mains Power Conditioner / Box Furniture rack / Audiodesk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner / a very beautiful & understanding Wife!

  4. #4
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 21,202
    I'm openingabottleofwine.

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    The Mk. 1 arms used a stainless steel arm tube, had an adjustable headshell socket (to take both Ortofon 'square' and Neumann 'Diamond' cartridge contact pin styles), a thicker bedplate and taller locking nuts. The arrangement of the counterweight was different in that the end cap holding the playing weight wayrod was captive (on later versions this was made detachable). The arm lift lower mechanism had an adjustable height control and the knob at the end of the lever was spherical. Connection to the arm was made using a McMurdo multi-pin connector. The Mk. I used a circular bearing cap and was supplied without any means of bias compensation: an aftermarket Crabbe bias compensator was later offered.

    On the Mark II versions, the armtube was made of aluminium, the bedplate was shallower (as were the locking nuts), the counterweight assembly changed slightly and a bias compensator came as standard. The lift/lower device had some changes made and the connection to the arm was made using a modified Bulgin 'Unitor' plug and socket.

    The 'R' version returned to the use of a stainless steel arm (though of a different thickness to the Mk. I), the counterweight assembly used a different decoupling arrangement, and the main counterweight had an easily adjustable knurled screw, replacing the prior Allen screw. The arm geometry was also changed slightly to conform to the Baerwald prescription for minimum tangential tracking error (both the Mk. I and II arms used a geometry which was meant to follow the Stevenson prescription, but SME made a small mistake in the geometry). I assume, but don't know for certain, the 'R' version reverts to steel knife-edge bearings, whereas the 'Improved' arms used a hard nylon(?) material.
    Another difference is the signal leads are connected to the arm via RCA 'phono' connectors. The arm latching mechanism uses that of the 'Improved' arms.



    As for sonic differences, I have two SME 12" arms: a Mk. II and an M2-12R.

    The latter dispenses with knife edge bearings for motion in the vertical plane, replacing them with ball-race bearings. As such the wayrod used to equalise the force on each knife-edge bearing is no longer needed or used: VTF is now set up by moving the counterweight on a screw thread closer to the arm fulcrum. Like its predecessors is also uses a 'J - shaped' arm wherein the axis of the vertical bearing is not a right angles to the line passing through the stylus cantilever; so when the arm rides a warp the headshell will roll in a counter-clockwise direction when viewed from the front. Though this motion is small it will affect cartridge crosstalk slightly. Most arms have the bearings for motion in the vertical plane correctly at right angles to the headshell axis so when the cartridge rides a warp, motion is truly vertical. I'm surprised SME didn't correct for this (as they did in the Mk. III and have done in the Mk, IV and V arms and the 300 series). The arm geometry now conforms to Baerwald's prescription.

    Of the two I prefer the M2-12R, for reasons describe above - but I would be very hard put to describe the sonic differences; I think it might depend on the cartridge it is carrying.


    Is the 3012R the 'best of the best' then? I don't know; I haven't heard one, but I would expect it to be the culmination of all the knife-edge arm designs SME produced.
    Barry

  5. #5
    Join Date: Aug 2018

    Location: London Knightsbridge

    Posts: 358
    I'm Nari.

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    The 3012r had ABEC 1 bearings on in the vertical position and hard nylon on the horizontal, having owned all versions of the 3012 the 3012r has a real flow to the music it just does not get in the way of the music it is truly one of the most engaging arms ever built and compares amazingly well against all the modern top offerings. For some reason while all the other versions are wonderful the 3012r just sounds like it has no signature in comparison its a stunning arm. I would say buy one quick the prices are starting to soar and good samples becoming harder to source. I recently heard a special 3012r with a abec 7 instead of a 1 in the vertical bearing it was stunning so much more control and focus this was wired with ikeda wire. Some of the 3012rs has steel knife edges but the nylon examples sounded best. There was a special edition version with steel knife edge I much prefer the nylon it has a gentler sound.There was a 3012r HE available for a short period which had a brass bass plate instead of the dicast common version. The best I ever heard was a gold plated version with with abec 7s and a highly tuned nylon bearing the thick copper plating and nickel combined with the gold really does change things.

    The 3012r in all variants is still the pick of the bunch.

    I do like the M12R I have had different results with various samples I had one that was stunning in every way with amazing control the unsung hero in the current line up of sme tomearms in my opinion.
    Last edited by Vrajbasi; 30-05-2019 at 15:29.
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  6. #6
    Join Date: Mar 2016

    Location: Barnet, london UK

    Posts: 1,758
    I'm Adam.

    Default

    Great posts chaps... very informative.
    "lack of passion is fatal"


    Vinyl: Thorens TD-124mk2 / Tenuto gun metal mat / SME-3012R ikeda rewire / SME M2-9R / STEREO: Jan Allaerts MC1 Boron / Shure M3D / Ortofon SPU A95 / Cartridge Man Music Master / Shure - SC35C (US) / SAEC C3 MC MONO: Miyajima Zero B 0.7mil mono / Miyajima Premium 1.0 / Amps & SUTs: Radford STA25 mk3 / AD Audio 'Satchmo2' pre & LCR phono / Hashimoto HM-7 SUT / ETR-MONO SUT Digital: SW1X Audio Design DAC 1 signature / Roon / Tidal Speakers: Tannoy 12" MGs' in RFC custom 'Rutland' Cabinets with RFC crossovers / Tannoy ST-100 Super Tweeters Cables: Duelund DCA16GA tinned copper / Kimber 12TC / SW1X Audio Design USB-SPdif / Duelund DCA20GA interconnects / SW1X Audio SPDIF Aero 6 / Mains Power Conditioner / Box Furniture rack / Audiodesk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner / a very beautiful & understanding Wife!

  7. #7
    Join Date: Sep 2016

    Location: Brussels, Belgium

    Posts: 131
    I'm Tim.

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    On the stainless steel versus aluminium wand/tube differences and the nylon, steel (both SME OG's) or bronze (after market) knife edge bearings combinations for the SME's, there was an interesting trial in comparison done estimating that the steel knife edge bearing suited best the aluminium wand/tube best.

    On the other hand t bronze knife edge bearing was heard as an improvement for the stainless steel tube/wand versions. But not the other way around. The original nylon knife edge bearing if performing evenly well on both stainless steel and aluminium tube/wand proved to be somewhat "duller". For what it's worth...
    - Cart Denon DL-102 in bakelite Ortofon SPU 'G' type headshell
    - TA SME 3009 'Improved' converted in heavy mass with detachable headshell
    - TT Thorens TD160 'E' totally tweaked driven by an 'Eagle & RoadRunner' PSU & tachometer combo
    - Matts top to bottom: leather, cork, felt & 12" vinyl
    - Pre-amp 'Modulis' Isem
    - Amp 'Exampli' Etalon 2x40W
    - Speakers 12" Leak 'Sandwich' first generation creatively recapped

  8. #8
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 21,202
    I'm openingabottleofwine.

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    Yes I agree. I swapped the nylon knife-edge bearing in an SME 3009 (Improved) arm for a steel one taken from an early version of the 3009 (Improved) fixed headshell arm. The improvement in dynamics was noticeable, as well as detail and 'air'. The performance is now just more enjoyable, regardless of cartridge used.

    I would experiment with an aftermarket bronze bearing, but if you say it doesn't suit aluminium arms as much as stainless steel arms, then I'm not persuaded to try; and changing the bearing is a tricky enough exercise anyway.
    Barry

  9. #9
    Join Date: Sep 2016

    Location: Brussels, Belgium

    Posts: 131
    I'm Tim.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry View Post
    Yes I agree. I swapped the nylon knife-edge bearing in an SME 3009 (Improved) arm for a steel one taken from an early version of the 3009 (Improved) fixed headshell arm. The improvement in dynamics was noticeable, as well as detail and 'air'. The performance is now just more enjoyable, regardless of cartridge used.

    I would experiment with an aftermarket bronze bearing, but if you say it doesn't suit aluminium arms as much as stainless steel arms, then I'm not persuaded to try; and changing the bearing is a tricky enough exercise anyway.
    My SME came with a steel knife edge bearing. Love it indeed. You use almost the exact same terms used in the trial comparison between te nylon and steel. Since I don't know if we can post link to any other sites (neutral, friend or foe) on here, I've PM'ed you the link to that site
    - Cart Denon DL-102 in bakelite Ortofon SPU 'G' type headshell
    - TA SME 3009 'Improved' converted in heavy mass with detachable headshell
    - TT Thorens TD160 'E' totally tweaked driven by an 'Eagle & RoadRunner' PSU & tachometer combo
    - Matts top to bottom: leather, cork, felt & 12" vinyl
    - Pre-amp 'Modulis' Isem
    - Amp 'Exampli' Etalon 2x40W
    - Speakers 12" Leak 'Sandwich' first generation creatively recapped

  10. #10
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 21,202
    I'm openingabottleofwine.

    Default

    Thanks for that Tim. Here is the link: https://www.tnt-audio.com/accessories/smebronze_e.html .

    I does appear to parallel my findings with aluminium arm tube SMEs.
    Barry

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