SME V Phono Cable Replacement

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by slazechko, May 21, 2017.

  1. slazechko

    slazechko New Member Thread Starter

    I just picked up a used Michell Orbe/SME V combo from my local dealer. It also came with a transparent phono breakout box (like hthe last 3 photos here: Transparent Audio: Interconnects, speaker cables, digital audio cables, HDMI cables, power conditioning, and power cords for music lovers, audiophiles, home theater enthusiasts, and music and film studio professionals.

    I've read a lot about how terrible the stock phono cable for the SME V is, but i'm not sure how "bad" it really is. I also see a lot of people in those threads moving to $750-1000 cables, which is more than I've got to spend right now. Since I've got the phono breakout kit, I could move to any standard RCA > RCA options.

    Does anyone have any idea how much I'll likely have to spend to beat the stock cable? If it's more than $100 or so, I might need to sit on the stock cable a while and restock the budget. Kinda went over budget a bit for the orbe/SME V combo, and the war chest is a bit light.

    Any suggestions for cables to try? Fortunately I'll be able to try different cables from my local dealer and at least get to see what difference I can hear. If it's gonna be $500-1000 though I might as well wait a bit and not deal with it now

    Thanks in advance!
  2. vintage_tube

    vintage_tube Forum Resident

    East Coast
    I went with the Nordost Valhalla 1.25m which is a bit out of your range at the moment; but I'd suggest a Valhalla Heimdall 2 in that length, retailing for $659.99 would be a very significant upgrade from the stock cable. If that's a bit steep, a used, original Heimdall does show up now & then on the web for quite less than a new cable.

    Best Sir,

  3. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Bristol, UK
    As a SME IV/Orbe owner my advice is to live with the SME cable and not rush to replace it based on internet chatter, can it be bettered, yes, but do you really think SME are going to sell their best arm with a cable that is as bad as some internet users would have you believe, also ask yourself in whose interest it is to undermine confidence in SME cables, it isn't yours or mine, but some people are making a lot of money out of these "better" cables. Live with the stock cable, enjoy your great arm and deck, if you truly believe something is missing after living with it then feel free to upgrade, but at least you will then have a benchmark to compare the new cable to the old and not make a blind possibly inferior choice.
    gov, macster, Satrus and 11 others like this.
  4. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    Slazechco: Is your SME phono cable an Van den Hul cable? Either 501 or 502?
  5. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident

    London, UK
    Completely agree with Dubmart - do you really think SME, maker of "the finest tonearm in the world", would sell their tonearms with a cable that made them sound like rubbish? I had one of these for years and found absolutely nothing wrong with the stock cable. It's just a bit of electrical cable and the only difference between one or another is its electrical capacitance, which you want to keep as low as possible. The SME cable is fine in that respect.

    The other big factor is whether you are using an MM or an MC cartridge. If you're using an MM cartridge, you would probably be better off ditching the balanced SME cable for an unbalanced one because balanced ones can cause hum. Get someone to make you one using the lowest capacitance Van Damme cable (that's Van Damme, not Van Den Hul which is what the SME is). If you're using an MC cartridge, stick with the SME and enjoy.
    McLover, valvehead, GyroSE and 2 others like this.
  6. slazechko

    slazechko New Member Thread Starter

    It's van den hul mc d 501 silver hybrid.
  7. slazechko

    slazechko New Member Thread Starter

    I'm currently using an MM, but plan to upgrade to an MC maybe towards the end of the year.
  8. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    I have a tonearm cable here which is 502 (the twin version of 501) and it is truly a piece of crap. So much that it's in storage because I'd feel guilty selling it to someone :agree:. Do yourself a favour and upgrade that cable!!!

    The Audio Sensibility Impact SE is a very high quality phono cable at a truly bargain price. $169 CAD for DIN to RCA or about $125 U.S. at current exchange rates.

    I bought one recently for a separate mono setup I was doing with a 2nd arm and ended up very quickly buying another to replace the Jelco 506 I was using (I run balanced from the tonearm) on the stereo side because the Audio Sensibility was so much better. The Jelco, by the way, was better than a custom cable I had built using Cardas wire, Cardas DIN and high quality Vampire XLR's that cost about twice as much, so it was no slouch either. Both the Jelco and Cardas were significantly better than the Van den Hul.

    The Audio Sensibility is a bargain. Pay Steve the extra couple of bucks to have him burn it in for you.

    Phono Cables (OCC copper and OCC silver) + Audio Sensibility

    EDIT: Just noticed you can go RCA to RCA, which is $20 less!!!
    Last edited: May 21, 2017
    valvehead and rcspkramp like this.
  9. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    South West, UK.
    There is nothing bad about the SME cable and it certainly is not cheap. Some improvement may be possible with another cable but I doubt it will be transformational and likely not strictly price related. Owning a 309 I find it sounds nothing like many will claim on forums. Frankly I would never spend £750 on a cable. Would be better spent on a cartridge or phono stage upgrade.
    RONENRAY and Dubmart like this.
  10. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    I use SME1V , and it uses van den hul cable.
    I am delighted with the sound this arm produces.
    It's not cheap, its flexible (essential) and like others have said
    I cannot see SME using rubbish
    I fitted Van Damme Pro Grade XKEE rca leads to my TD 150/SME 3009 improved cost £ 29 and sin am delighted with it.
    The same cable is for sale elsewhere at 3x 4 times the normal
    Price. There is a lot of this going on . I don, t believe changing
    The RCA cable benefits any one except the seller of expensive cables
    Last edited: May 21, 2017
    valvehead, RONENRAY and Dubmart like this.
  11. patrickd

    patrickd Forum Resident

    Austin TX USA
    Had that arm for a few years and always heard the same thing about the stock cable. I did explore a few options and generally concluded that the cable SME provides holds its own up to a point easily. Now what that point is will vary from listener to listener. I thought a $800 Harmonic Tech phono cable seemed better but not hugely so. A Furutech tonearm cable (the Silver Arrows) clearly improved everything I was hearing from the table and arm as soon as I installed it, but it's a $1600+ cable. If you are keeping the arm for the long haul it's worth considering this as an upgrade path but as others caution, the stock cable is not going to be improved just by swapping any old alternative in its place, SME clearly have thought about all aspects of their designs. If you want to try a cheaper tweak, may I suggest the Furutech headshell cables (many folks don't realize you can replace the stock ones in the SME V easily). For about $400 I heard enough improvement on my (admittedly well used) orginal wires.
  12. GyroSE

    GyroSE Forum Resident

    IMHO there's nothing wrong with the SME stock phono cable- it's as good as it gets and the one I've really makes the vinyl sing. :righton:
  13. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    I have never seen anything wrong with the SME / van den Hul cable either. It's actually quite nice by comparison to many others.
    GyroSE, RONENRAY and Dubmart like this.
  14. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    South West, UK.
    Having bought a 309 a few months ago I can only conclude everything negative you read about SME arms and cables is forum myth. Even the overpriced tag is dubious. SME have been able to jack up UK prices as practically every other alternative is even more expensive. You can get better but from what I see of new super arms you need to spend from £5K to £30K. Some of the suggested cables that 'improve' SME are crazy expensive.
    valvehead, GyroSE and RONENRAY like this.
  15. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    I have no comment on the arms as I have no experience with them and by most accounts they are very good.

    The topic of this thread, though, is the cable and there are many users who have found the stock SME cable to be a very weak link when comparing directly against other cables. I would agree that many of the suggested cables are quite expensive and perhaps "not worth it" for some users but I certainly wouldn't put the Audio Sensisbility at $125 (or about 100 GBP) in that league and it is grossly, and I mean grossly, superior to the stock SME cable. The Linn T cable is mentioned in one or two of the threads below as an alternative but it's pointed out that it is essentially a Mogami cable (Mogami 2549) and I would point out that you can purchase a Jelco 501/502/506 for well under $200 (which is Mogami 2534) which will also outperform the SME cable handily. The Jelco, for what it's worth, although around the same price as the Audio Sensibility, is not even close to being in the same league. Nevertheless, there is really no need for a 2nd mortgage to get much better performance and to get much closer to realizing the full performance capabilities of the arm.

    So "myth" on the cable? I am not so sure and other users in the various threads linked to below don't think so either, at least not based on their actual experience.

    Dreadful SME tonearm cable

    Best Phono Cable for SME Series V | Audiogon Discussion Forum

    SME Silver Hybrid Tonearm Cable D501

    SME V Tonearm cable
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2017
  16. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Bristol, UK
    One has to question why the overwhelming consensus from SME users on this specific thread is so positive then? We've got 309, IV and V users all very happy with the stock cable are we all wrong? I'm not sure you'd get us all to agree on much else in audio, well I guess maybe Michell decks at a push.
    GyroSE and valvehead like this.
  17. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    Someone starts a rumour and it escelates. The truth ? Well i use the SME1V and its superb , end of.
    I use a Garrard 401 with the SME. Now this superb turntable. Has a veiled treble or so the magazines say.
    Does it ? No.
    When i first set it up I listened and guess what? I have no idea what those magazines are on about. Use your own mind on these matters. My system improved beyond all recognition
    When I did this
  18. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    If you are happy, you are not "wrong" and that is all that matters. However, if you've never compared the cable with any others, or are unwilling to do so, or to state the others that you have compared it to, then I think it's a bit unfair to state that there is some kind of "mythology" on the cable being inferior to others when clearly that is the case with many who have done the comparison.

    It's a subjective hobby. Over the years, if I can see my preferences being aligned with a poster of information on audio forums, I'm sometimes willing to entertain the idea of improving my system with that information. That information is really most valid to me (and really only valid to me actually) when there are actual comparisons made.

    Otherwise it is just a matter of someone saying "this is great" and buying into that concept. I was simply pointing out that others have done those comparisons (including myself) and found the SME cable to be lacking.

    Boards like this are for the distribution of information upon which one can act or not act, and nobody has a gun to their head.

    But, as I said above, if one is happy that is all that really matters.
    macster likes this.
  19. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident

    London, UK
    I agree, happiness is the only goal. But I'm always surprised that more people don't test these cables, for fun or out of curiosity. It's incredibly easy just to record the sound coming from a turntable, then switch the interconnect and record the same track again. Then you can play around with the two samples as much as you like, switching between them very rapidly or doing blind tests on yourself or for complete certainty, measuring them. I would expect a big difference in capacitance to produce a small difference in frequency response when used with an MM cartridge and this would be extremely simple to measure using, say, Adobe Audition with the Voxengo CurveEQ plugin. The SMEV cable from memory has a capacitance of 125 pF and it would be possible to get a bit lower than that, to maybe 95 pF, with an inexpensive alternative cable (eg Van Damme, not to be confused with Van Den Hul). That might be just enough to take a very slight edge off any brightness in an MM cartridge and the difference might be detectable to the human ear. I'm genuinely puzzled as to what other benefits an alternative cable could offer but it may be safer not to go down that road because I definitely don't want to open up another "do cables make any difference" debate!
  20. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    South West, UK.
    I have belatedly come back to this subject. Read somewhere of someone trying a non SME cable that damaged the alignment pins because not the same. Besides that though I am sure you may get a slightly improved or different sound with an expensive upgrade cable, are you going to risk one on some forum poster's or dealer's say so? Note we have a person who has never owned an SME telling me the cable is rubbish because he has read it on the interweb and another who thinks comparing needle drops is a valid way of comparing cables. That's more like comparing arm cable plus dac plus computer plus software sound. I think the point myself and others are making is that the current supplied cables do not in any obvious way compromise the sound.
    GyroSE likes this.
  21. GyroSE

    GyroSE Forum Resident

    Sorry but I find it a bit odd that you categorically condemn the SME stock cable without having been able to listen to a vinyl rig including an SME tonearm combined with the stock cable. As someone wrote above I also ask you- do you really believe that SME would combine its excellent tonearms with an inferior phono cable? I find that very unlikely as we're talking about one of the worlds greatest manufacturers of turntable gear. Of course there are other great phono cables that one can connect to an SME tonearm like Furutech and/or Cardas but I think the standard Van den Hul phono cables that SME has choosen to combine with its tonearms easily can compete with the other brands out there.
  22. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

    Scottish Borders
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  23. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    I have just fitted a Benz Glyder .
    Utterly sublime. Lousy cable?
    I think not!
  24. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    Find it a bit odd if you like. I've compared the cable in my system (which is listed) directly with the following cables:


    DIN Phono Cable -

    all of which were significantly better than the Van den Hul 502 (which I've used both single ended and balanced). The Audio Sensibility above is by far the best of the bunch, the Jelco and the Cardas being much closer in performance.

    The cables above are not expensive. If the Van den Hul cable's shortcomings can be revealed through an inferior tonearm like mine ;), I'd assume that it might do so with the SME arm as well. Others have clearly found that to be the case if you read any of the links which I also posted above.

    So far in this thread, unless I'm mistaken, most of those that are adamantly defending the SME cable have not compared it to anything else.

    I find that a bit odd. ;)

    Readers here can do what they will with the info. Use or flush. No big deal.
    triple likes this.
  25. GyroSE

    GyroSE Forum Resident

    I've tried a few different phono cables in my system and my impression so far is that the Van den Hul holds its own. Among the cables I've put through the test is the cable you've but the unbalanced version and it fell short in my system. I believe it's a lot about synergy when one does combine a sound system, the synergy between the phono cable and the inner tonearm cable is one of those parts that matters IMHO. I can only answer for myself but I find it hard to trust a reviewers impressions as perceiving music is something subjective and very personal. My own ears are my instruments that I trust while searching for hifi nirvana.
    ThorensSme and Dubmart like this.

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