SME M2

sme-m2Aside from the Rega RB300, the SME 3009 is the best selling tonearm in history. It began production in the early nineteen sixties, and was still in production at the turn of the new millennium, clocking in four decades of faithful service. Its heyday was the nineteen seventies, when it was the arm to fit to turntables from the Thorens TD160 to the early Linn LP12. Nicely engineered using both precision ball race and knife edge bearings, friction was low and the arm was easily adjustable for tilt, overhang and height. Rather like the original Land Rover Defender you might say, it was so good at the job it was designed for, that it gave its manufacturer a real headache when trying to replace it…

In the late nineteen eighties, SME launched its Series V, Series IV and 309 tonearms using radically different design and materials, but this new generation wasn’t for everyone. So in 2005, the new M2 arrived in differing effective lengths; the M2-9 (£612.59) at 233.2mm, the M2-10 (£626.05) at 239.3mm and the M2-12 (£670.33) at 308.8mm. The M2-10 has a typical effective mass of 9.6g and 17.3 mm overhang. Like all classic SME pickup arms, it’s a static balance type with the primitive yet effective thread-and-weight bias compensation. The main counterbalance weight is rotated to set tracking force, with a Vernier gauge marked in 0.25 gram steps. It retains the stainless steel arm tube of its 3009S2 predecessor, along with that famed quality of finish. Indeed the M2 is effectively a lightly re-engineered SME 3009-series, with an improved headshell and better damped arm tube. There’s also an optional fluid damping kit.

Anyone familiar with its predecessor won’t be too surprised by the sound of this. It’s a world away from the SME 309, and even more so from the Series IV and V – instead, you’re talking a slightly looser and more fluid sort of sound, with far less rigorous analysis of what’s in the groove, and a more happy-go-lucky sound. It’s very refined – sounding noticeably less ragged in the midband than the 3009, and it has better frequency extremes. Bass is a little tauter and treble is just a little less coarse. Indeed, the M2 comes over as a consummate smoothie, making it a fine sounding bit of kit with a very polished and mature sound. It is not, however, the best out-and-out performer at its price – instead, it offers those qualities that made its predecessor so popular. In essence, it’s a quality item at an affordable price.

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