Ken Kessler Reviews SME Model 15

Wed, 02 Aug 2017

This was a 'high- end' moment of disappearing hardware, and seamless sound in all dimensions.
You get sound that is nakedly revealing, with no unwanted, added textures.  Transparency is the order of the day and [you] will hear teensy details that are often buried. Never did the SME stumble. Better still, it allowed one to hear the differences in even similar-sounding cartridges. The cleanness and transparency make the Model 15 a perfect choice.
I did not expect the Model 15 to perform so astoundingly that I would think of it in terms of high-end products so good that they exacerbate the Law of Diminishing Returns.
Damn, I was hearing finer sounds than I deserved. The best way I can describe the SME’s treatment was ‘woody’, but in a good way. The acoustic sections were natural sounding, unprocessed, unfiltered.
This company’s workmanship is a match for anything I have seen in Germany, Japan or Switzerland. Or anywhere else for that matter. The physical form of the device, which is so utterly, genuinely ‘open architecture’ that changing cartridges or arms is freed of whole layers of hassle.
For just over £5000 without arm, you will acquire a piece of ‘functional sculpture’ that will reward not just your hearing, but the senses of touch and sight (the Model 15 is simply flawless on every surface).  No kidding: you’ll stare at this thing into the wee hours, continually finding details that delight. And as for the sound? That will keep you up all night, too.
The world is awash with delightful turntables at all price points, but this is the world’s best deck below £10k [$13,000].
Ken Kessler, Hi-Fi News
This is about as silent as an LP/stylus will get although the deck itself proves to be quieter still with a through-bearing rumble of just –74.5dB (DIN B-weighted). This bests the TechDAS Air Force Two [HFN May ’15] by a very small margin and knocks on the door of the quietest thrust bearing we’ve measured – the SME 20/3 which achieved –75.4dB.
Paul Miller, Lab Report

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