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kevinkr 24th June 2012 09:02 PM

SME 3012 Clone Tone Arm
I recently purchased one of keeper-darren's tone arm kits on eBay which was an utter leap of faith on my part as I was unable to find any significant commentary anywhere about it. The fact that he has been selling it for a long time and keeps selling out was the only clue I had to go on..

The kit is $400 and pre-supposes that you are converting an existing 3009 which in fact I was not. I had most of the parts required for the kit without sacrificing a good 3009 so just purchased the remaining SME parts I needed. (Bedplate acorn nut and clamp kit, and a very nice right angle RCA kit - all sourced from the UK via eBay.)

The arm conversion kit arrived a few days ago and a friend and I looked it over carefully. One thing was pretty immediately apparent and that is the level of care and thought that went into both the design and manufacture of the parts provided. The level of finish is excellent.

Last night I wired up my spare SME connector with 33ga Cardas tone arm wire and started to assemble the arm. The trickiest part is securing the SME part that carries the ground wire, everything else was very easy.

I will post pictures of the completed arm and a few of the assembly steps along the way..

I'm very pleased with the end result, and while I don't expect it to perform at quite the level of my Schick I am pretty sure based on initial experiments that it is quite good.

kevinkr 24th June 2012 09:34 PM

5 Attachment(s)
Here are some pictures of the arm..

The one thing I did have to was drill out the two small holes that retain what SME calls the "track" - the part on the arm that is involved in cueing. See the second attachment where the "track" is clearly visible.

Drill out the two small holes to fit your "track"

Picture 1 shows the head shell connector after I wired it. Feed the tone arm wiring through the proper hole and out the end BEFORE wiring.. :D

Install the retaining screw after pressing the connector into the end of the arm.

Picture 2 shows what it should look like after wiring.

Picture 3 shows the knife edge installed. This involves fitting a little T shaped metal fitting with a threaded tube, and a ground wire soldered to it. I found it easiest to use a short piece of wood stick from a swab glued to the piece. I then applied a very little bit of blue tack to the knife edge and pressed it into place over the screw holes. With some patience, and a bright light I was able to visibly align the T shaped metal fitting and thread the first screw into the knife edge and the T.

The rest of the process is not shown because I got excited and successfully finished the arm..

The cigar box was a gift from a friend, and I find them useful for a number of purposes, but no cigars will ever be smoked in this house! :D

TerribleT 26th June 2012 04:44 PM

Hello Kevin,
Your new SME arm looks nice. How's it working for you? I have a SME 3009 series II Improved that I am considering in converting with keeper-darren's kit. The only problem is that on my arm, the arm lift platform is an integral part of the knife edge bearing. I may have to cut it off and glue it onto the armtube. My armtube is similar to this one:

I look forward to your impressions of your 'new' modified arm.

kevinkr 26th June 2012 05:17 PM

Hi David,
I think you will need to acquire another lift platform or what SME oddly calls the "track" other than that provided the yoke and bearing assembly are the same it should be relatively smooth sailing.. I'd double check with keeper-darren just to be sure. I recall the series II improved has a plastic knife edge which is not well regarded so using it is probably not a great idea.

Given the "improved" lift mechanism I am wondering whether you could get away without the "track." Other options would include acquiring the lift and track for a Series II (not improved) on eBay - I believe that Series II lift will fit the bearing assembly of the improved.. All conjecture on my part, but something should be workable.

It will be a while until I can seriously listen to the new arm, waiting on another slate plinth to arrive and have yet to decide on the long term cartridge. (Probably an SPU) Initial impressions are good, but the cartridge on this arm is not quite in the league of any of the cartridges I normally use, and it is a bit hard to listen around its limitations.

jervill 27th June 2012 07:16 AM

Hi guys,

Just did the conversion myself on an s2 improved. I have the same issue about the arm lift track as I've gone for a bronze knife edge as well. The track seems to be unavailable anywhere so I'm still undecided whether to get the lift mechanism with the T bar or to cut and glue the plastic track from the original. I agree with Kevin. The build of the kit is very good. Also the way the way the rod attaches to the wand seems to be a better way than the grommets on the original sme3012. It won't droop in the future.
I used a bamboo skewer split on its length about 1/2" on the flat end and pushed the ground post into it. The skewer held it firmly enough for easy manoeuvring inside the wand to line up to the hole and had the job done in a couple of minutes. (After about an hour of trying other 'solutions' lol.)
I'm not sure though of what the spindle to pivot on this will be as there seems to be differences in different versions of the original 3012 and I don't know what this conversion is closest to.

kevinkr 27th June 2012 04:27 PM

Hi Jervill,
I think the Tbar lift might be a good way out of this issue, the only concern might be the lift height not being high enough - I suspect though that a work around for this might be more aesthetically pleasing than gluing the plastic track to the arm tube. I'd keep looking on eBay though, and sometimes arm tubes with the right part appear fairly cheaply on eBay.

My understanding is the geometry is classic 3012 Series II. Yes I like the stub design - not only is more durable than the OEM design it eliminates most (if not all) of the LF decoupling which based on the performance of my Schick would seem to be a good thing.

jervill 28th June 2012 11:13 PM

Hi Kevin,

When you've had the chance to settle this arm and do some critical listening it'd be interesting to hear your impressions of it compared to your schick. That was the arm I was saving for until this kit sidetracked my curiosity. There doesn't seem to be a lot of reviews about this kit yet the eBay members I got in touch with who gave positive feedback recommended it.

Also, with the weight of it, do you think the anti skate is critical? (I have no experience with 12" arms at all.) Some photos I've seen of 3012s don't seem to have it set up.

kevinkr 29th June 2012 01:09 PM

I don't use anti-skate on my 12" arms either, seems unnecessary due to both the tracking force used and the geometry. The Schick has no anti-skate provision at all.

I've been curious about this arm for over a year and decided to prioritize acquiring a Schick which I managed just over a year ago. The total lack of any sort of review or commentary online about the kit caused me to hesitate for a very long time. I finally decided if nothing else it would be fun to put together - which it proved to be. I made the decision with no expectations of a satisfactory outcome knowing that I was risking 100% of the money invested. Fortunately the quality of the parts is excellent, and quite clearly a lot of thought went into the kit. My initial impression is that it performs well and with the proper cartridge and properly mounted it will perform at least as well as one would expect at this price point, and frankly probably a lot better.

genel 30th June 2012 12:51 PM

Kevin, I have been following your conversion with interest.

I have an original 3012 (split counterweight) and have daydreamed about another, but as I'm sure your aware of, the originals are very expen$ive. Why not buy a 3009, and convert it? Seems like a no-brainer, but it also seems that it is not that easy, from what you (and others) have been reporting.

Keep us informed.


TD124 (series Mrk I)

kevinkr 30th June 2012 09:23 PM

Hi Gene,
Actually if you have a little mechanical acuity it is not hard at all, and I had a lot of fun putting it together - really went together too fast once I had it figured out.. :)

I am fortunate in that I had a bunch of SME parts on hand including the SME head shell connector, bearing pillar, yoke, cuing lift, track and bed plate. I just had to acquire the base connector mounting hardware, a pair of bed plate acorn nuts with clamps, and some 33 ga Cardas litz wire. I didn't have to cannibalize a nice SME 3009 to do the conversion.

The arm together is very nice to look at and in preliminary testing performed well - to the limits of the cartridge installed and considering the cigar box test bed.. :eek: :D

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