SME is a world class high end machining and full service precision manufacturer for7 or more decades not some 3rd world shop in a bazaar, the notion of audible sample to sample differences is ridiculous. Take the tonearms apart and you’ll see it’s a simple mechanical assembly there’s nothing mystical about tonearms. This is a product made in thousands and even average manufacturers have standard procedures and jigs for this type of assembly and you believe that a top notch facility like SME doesn’t? Don‘t believe every fib in high end audio !I believe Bonzo is suggesting a thread where those who have possibly contentious views can play in a spirit of ....enthusiastic debate. I'll play.
The following is with thanks to the help of 108CY / Mik at Unique Audio, His patience with me is greatly appreciated.
There is very very little on the web that isn't old news about SME 312S or V 12 tonearms. Lets get it out there at the start: IMO, this design from the 1980's is still very relevant today. They are hugely underrated compared to many more modern tonearms. They might be unfashionable, might "sound like Pepsi" compared to a 3012R, but IMO its impossible to generalise about a definitive house sound with this family of arms. The catch is that my perspective on how good they are is SO LONG AS you get a good specific example. They are hugely variable because they are such a complicated arm to build. Ask Mik.
Now, I'm cynical and deeply suspicious of shark hifi dealers. Bitter experience has toght me to trust my ears not what I'm told. Thanks to Mik's help I was able to listen to 4 312S, 2x SME 5 and an SME V12 over a long period of time. NONE OF THEM sounded the same. If I heard a house sound it was a general tendency to control and calmness with reasonable dynamics & low surface noise. Maybe a bit dark. That doesn't tell you much, so what?
Everything else was completely different from example to example. I heard everything from sat on and boring but powerful in the bass, to better and better examples adding openness and sound staging, clarity and power, micro dynamic pop and stunning dynamics. The end point is the aforementioned control and calmness + that lot.
I eventually bought a really good 312S in preference to a 5 or a V12. This replaced my Graham Phantom Supreme. My sample of the 312S is a bit better than the Graham for openness but leaves it whimpering in the gutter for dynamics, micro dynamics, separation, clarity, tonality and focus in the soundstage.
This analysis was with my Koetsu Urushi (which which admission on its own should see me banned by Bonzo ) and a Hana ML.
I've heard other Phantom's and a Glanz, I have a 3012R. No I haven't heard everything. I could say more but I'll leave it there.
I have put on my tin hat and I am running for the hills now...