I have been a lover of vintage SME tonearms for a long long time. At first, I admired them from afar, but after I owned my first, I realized that were not all just great looks…they were also great at reproducing sound. Over the past ten years since I owned my first, I have seen the prices on these vintage arms almost double. Now, with prices averaging close to $600 for a complete arm in the revered 3009 Series II (et al) , I have come to the realization that it’s now better to spend your money on a new SME arm, in the M2 line-up. This fact was driven home to me recently when I spent $350 dollars to have one refurbished and rewired. When all was said and done, I’d invested close to $900 dollars in an arm that was 30 years old. So…lately I have begun recommending to customers coveting a vintage SME to investigate the M2-9 line instead. If you shop shrewdly, they can be had for around $1000. That’s NEW. It’s hard to argue with that price given the M2-9 comes with many of the features best loved in the 3009 Series II lineup, but it also adds better wiring, better design, and a WARRANTY. Having installed and tested four of these arms in the past few months, I can say unequivocally, they are a better arm than the 3009 Series II, even after “upgrading.”
Many of my customers are already vintage audio aficionados. However, many only know a little bit about vintage audio, and they are hoping to create the best possible vintage system. If you have read my blog, you know that before I concentrated on turntables only, I was also a huge fan of Marantz equipment. In particular, their integrated amps, tuners, and receivers. Part of my love is their great looks… I completely swoon for the brushed aluminum front plate and those signature blue lights. In addition, however, they are extremely well-made and very easy to work on for the do-it-yourselfer. Also, like the ARs and the Thorens, there is a lot of information out there to help you.
If you are looking to purchase a quality vintage Marantz receiver or other component, I highly recommend this seller on eBay. He has been restoring and selling for well over a decade, and you can see by his feedback, he does it right. I have not personally bought from him, but I have recommended many folks to him over the years, and all have been satisfied. If he doesn’t have a Marantz listed when you visit the link, you can always contact him via the eBay mail system, and ask him what he has coming up.
You need to protect your records. If you’ve been putting off getting new sleeves, go here now. I love this place. They have been around since 1976. One great thing (of many) about the company is their prices almost always include shipping. There are other places that sometimes offer things more cheaply, but once you figure in Bags Unlimited gives you free shipping, they almost always come out on top. Also, they offer collection protection for other hobbies in which you or your family might partake.
Unfortunately, due to their two piece design, I have withdrawn my endorsement of the Sound Support boards.
If you are doing a tonearm upgrade on one of the Thorens in the TD 160 lineage, you can either make an armboard yourself, or get one pre-made. If you go the pre-made road, I highly recommend this outfit out of the UK. Their products are first quality, and their service is also first-rate.
I read this on a forum years ago. It’s especially helpful if you have a dark plinth that shows dust easily. About once a week, instead of dusting my turntable with a cloth and risking catching the stylus, I use the duster pictured above instead. Never directly aim it at the stylus itself, but blowing the dust off of your dust cover and your plinth is done in seconds using one of these cans.
Some people also use a duster to remove dust from an LP, but I would worry about the sandblasting effect happening at a microscopic level. Therefore, I don’t advise that. However, I’ve read so many stories over the years about people catching an expensive stylus in their dust cloth, that using this device instead certainly makes a lot of sense. It will also save getting those swirl marks on your dust cover, if you happen to own a new one.
I have been using Magic Eraser as a stylus cleaner for about 2 years. Here is a great link with an explanation of why and how: Magic Eraser as Stylus Cleaner
Finding a reliable source for belts for your vintage turntable is sometimes challenging. I sell replacement belts for AR turntables that I have thoroughly tested. They are available on my Upgrade/Replacement Parts page. For Thorens genuine turntable belts with logo (as shown above), I sell those in my eBay store.
One of the most helpful resources for the vinyl enthusiast is the Vinyl Engine website. I use some aspect of this website daily. The forums are a wealth of information and are filled with wonderfully detailed exchanges. However, the most valuable resource is the library (http://www.vinylengine.com/library.shtml) which contains literally hundreds of manuals, templates, and info sheets on just about every turntable or tonearm out there. It is free to join, and by becoming a member, you can download all of this information in PDF form free of charge. When you go, be sure to bookmark…you will be back.
As I point out in the tuneup video on the do-it-yourself page, it is very important to use anhydrous isopropyl alcohol when cleaning the metal parts of your turntable. Using something from your medicine cabinet, it will likely contain water, and why would you attempt to clean your bearing well only to contaminate it? Tech Spray, in the picture above, sells a pint sized bottle of what you need. (There are other makers.) As it states on the label, it is also safe on plastics.
When I was at the point where I was still trying to substantially increase my LP collection, every Saturday, from spring through fall, I would head off early in the morning and visit yard sales. I called it “yard-saling.” I had pretty good luck over a number of years. Of course, I waded through my share of absolutely terrible titles. However, I also had some terrific takes. For those who are still in the collection phase, I highly recommend yard sales. Most people these days, advertise on Craigslist…so the process begins the night before deciding which sales to visit, and deciding on a route. ( Boy, how I wish I had a GPS in those days!) For me, I pretty much visited every yard sale in my vicinity, say in a perimeter of up to 10 miles. I would start very early in the morning, and my first stop would be the yard sale furthest away that started the earliest. From there, I would work my way home… again, visiting the sales that started earliest first.
My number one tip to yard sales success is related to the Columbo picture and quote above. For those who don’t know the Columbo character, he was known for always leaving the scene and coming back with the comment, nonchalantly, “Oh, just one more thing….” Though it seemed like he was a bumblehead, that question when he returned was often the most important question. In terms of yard sales, I would always always always ask the homeowner if they had any LPs they were thinking of getting rid of. I would always word it that way: thinking of getting rid of. I would wait and asked the question at a point when the homeowner was not busy with a sale or with set up. I would always be dressed neatly and appear very friendly when I asked. These last two points are important, because in four or five cases over my years of yard-saling, homeowners actually allowed me into their homes to see their album collections. The few times that asking that question worked, were among my most lucrative finds. You will get dozens and dozens of no answers, but the day you are the first to peruse someone’s album collection makes it all worth it. Good luck!