The ‘Scale Model Equipment Company Ltd’ was founded in 1946 to produce parts for the model engineering industry, but by the 1950s, it had expanded to include aircraft instruments and commercial machinery. The first ‘precise pick-up arm’ from SME didn’t come until 1959. It was a revelation by agricultural standards of the time, and it quickly gained many admirers and accolades. Alastair Robertson-Aikman, the originator and designer of SME, modified it later, developing numerous variations, including the 3012 12″ version for improved tracking precision. The final 3009 S2 is still in use, and the 1978 Series 3 was never able to effectively replace it. It was the best-selling tonearm of its generation before the Rega RB300 in 1983.
Its heyday was the 1970s, when it was the arm to fit to turntable motor units, making it widely and inexpensively accessible second-hand. It’s well-engineered, with a combination of precision ballrace and knife-edge bearings, low friction, and easy tilt, overhang, and height adjustments. Although the optional FD200 fluid damper makes the 3009 happier with heavier designs, it’s best suited to lowish mass cartridges. The key is to use magnetic cartridges with a highish compliance, such as the classic Shures of old or the outstanding current Goldring G1042. Also, fixed headshell models sound better than the ‘enhanced’ detachable shell type.
Unfortunately, the 3009S2 is no longer in style, but it still sounds great in its own right. Of course, it’s a rudimentary device in comparison to the latest Series V, but it’s still dynamic and entertaining. It still delivers an engagingly musical performance despite significantly less detail, constricted low bass, harsh, shut-in treble, and a hazy midband. The S2 bounces along with a fluid midrange and plenty of vigor, never letting the recording’s intricacies get in the way of the big image.
The arm should be returned to SME for a full service for best results. When attaching the arm to a hardwood armboard, it’s also a good idea to utilize SME’s strong mounting washers instead of the default rubber grommets. All plugs and connectors should be cleaned with Kontak, and if you have an older model with edge connectors, these can be upgraded to gold-plated phono sockets at the manufacturer. Always utilize SME’s LC-OFC arm leads and headshell wires, as well as SME’s double pin type headshells, which are also available from the factory.
The 3009S2’s cheap second-hand pricing make it a decent used buy – though they’re starting to climb now. Rough around the edges but pleasing nonetheless, the 3009S2’s low second-hand prices make it a good used buy – although they’re beginning to climb now. Depending on the condition, expect to spend between £50 and £250.