Michael Fremer Reviews SME Model 60 in The Absolute Sound


SME could not have faced a more formidable challenge, nor could the stakes be greater: Design and build the first new, line-topping SME turntable since company founder Alistair Robertson-Aikman passed away in 2006—and be sure it outperforms the original by a considerable margin.
While the tonearm pictured on the 60 may appear to be the familiar “something old” Series V—it is a new arm designated as the Series VA tonearm, not of die-cast magnesium, but rather machined from a single piece of a ‘unique polymer high-density resin’.
Four large-diameter, height-adjustable footers, each incorporating three silicone rubber cylinders that decouple the towers from whatever platform they’re placed upon, provide a strong foundation for the re-imagined suspension system.
A new custom-made bi-phase AC-synchronous motor housed in a high-mass brass enclosure and isolated on height-adjustable points (as on the Model 30) drives the subplatter, controlled by a dedicated DSP engine that generates two independent sine waves, which control frequency, phase relationship, and amplitude, tuned to the individual motor. SME removes the transformer from the superbly machined-from-an-aluminum-billet motor-controller box, which can then be placed close to the turntable with no worries about induced hum.
As with the Model 30, setup is relatively simple despite the design’s complexity. In about a half hour, using the supplied tools and gauges and an excellent instruction manual, an experienced turntable enthusiast should have the Model 60 spinning and in no need of further adjustments for years to come.
Reviewing the Model 60 turntable and Series VA arm separately is obviously impossible. However, I’m thinking the silky, sweet, effortless presentation—a floating sensation so fundamentally different and more enticing than my sonic recollections of any of the many SME turntables I’ve positively reviewed in the past—must in great part be due to the new Series VA arm’s low to non-existent resonant character.
This may sound oxymoronic, but the arm is noticeably not there. Instead, it accurately delivered the sonic characteristics of both the Anna Diamond and the Lyra Atlas Lambda SL, comparable to what the SAT CF1-09 manages, and that arm alone costs around $50,000!
Combine that floating sensation with as black a backdrop as I’ve heard from only the best vinyl record playback, with speed stability and rhythmic vitality that’s direct-drive-like, and you have a formidable combination, more importantly one that elicits as much love as it does the usual SME respect.
Clearly, it was a big deal for SME to produce a brand-new turntable intended to better the company founder’s original, now-classic design. Challenge met. The new SME Model 60 with Series VA arm is an overwhelmingly successful upgrade to what was formerly the company’s flagship Model 30. It accomplishes new SME greatness without forsaking the vision of founder Alastair Robertson-Aikman.
Michael Fremer, The Absolute Sound, December 2022

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