SME 3009 / 3012

Classic SME tonearms - technical data
... and how to recognize the differences


The classic J-shaped tonearms from SME are easily distinguishable by looking at the shape of their counterweights.

1. counterweight of the 3009 R (including rider weight - one-piece-) - 118g
2. additional weight to be attached to 1. - 64g
3. additional weight to be attached to 1 - heavier, for SPU cartridges - 77g
4. counterweight of the 3009 Series II (including rider weight) - 111,2g
5. additional rider weight for 4. - 24,5g
6. counterweight of the 3012 Series II (including rider weight complete with additonal rider weight 5.) - 169,8g
7. counterweight of the 3009 Series II (old version, including rider weight)- 56,1g
8. additional weight to be attached to 7. - 66,3g
9. additional weight to be attached to 7 - heavier, for SPU cartridges - 88,6g
10. same as 5..
11. bias weight 3g
12. bias weight 4,5g
13. double bias weight - 5,6g

Because some models are pricier or cheaper than others, and some can be used with low compliant cartridges while others are suitable only for the high compliant types, I've made up this page to help you find the right arm for your money and purpose.

Some information regarding the rare 3012 First Version and the lightweight SME III / IIIs at the bottom of this page.

Let’s start with two scans of an SME info sheet - some technical data (Thanks to ColinR /

SME 3009 Series II, SME 3012 Series II (until 1972)

Click here for the manual (9 JPEGs)     More pictures : early 3012 Series II (two-piece counterweight)

Aluminum arm tube, steel knife-edge bearings. Effective mass12,5g (3009) or 14g (3012). Barrel-shaped main counterweight, different sizes for 3009 and 3012. Main counterweight locked in place using allen bolt. VTF set using outrigger. Outrigger can be split into two pieces to change the range and precision of VTF
(one : up to 2.5g, both : up to 5g). Lateral balance is adjusted by changing the distance of the outrigger from the main counterweight. Antiskating adjustment by thread and weight, long axle with 10 notches.

Above pictures show the weights of the SME 3009 Series II; in the upper picture you can see both weights for VTF in place whereas the lower picture shows only one of the weights, the other has been removed.

The small weight with the thread (for antiskating) can be seen in the upper picture only.

The next two pictures show the weights from the SME 3012 Series II. It's obvious that the counterweight is larger.

Shortly after SME went out of production with the Series II tonearms the Improved was introduced.

There were two versions - with fixed or detachable headshell - but the arm was available in 9" length only. The Improved was intended for the use with high-compliant cartridges and had therefore a quite low effective mass.

SME 3009 Improved, SME 3009 S2 Improved

Click here for the manual (16 JPEGs)

3009 Imp: fixed headshell. 3009 S2 Imp: detachable headshell. Aluminum arm tube, effective mass 6,5g (3009 Imp) or 9,5g (3009 S2 Imp). Nylon knife-edge bearings. One-piece disc-shaped counterweight, threaded. VTF set using outrigger, one weight. VTF range: 0 -1.5g. Lateral balance is set by adjusting the position of the outrigger relative to the main counterweight. Antiskating adjustment by thread and weight, short axle with 6 notches.
Null points : 66 and 121mm.
Mounting distance (bedplate centre to turntable centre) : 215,4mm.

The differences to the Series II arms are easily recognizeable by looking at the weights.

Since a lot of users found the Improved arms inferior to their predecessors and due to their lightweight construction it turned out to be unsuitable for low-compliant cartridges like Ortofon SPU or Denon DL 103 SME decided to produce a new series of heavier tonearms again (from 1981).

SME 3009 R, SME 3010 R, SME 3012 R

Stainless steel arm tube (thickness 0,25mm), Nylon knife-edge bearings (steel bearings as upgrade available). Effective mass 12,7g (3009-R), 12,8g (3010-R) or 14g (3012-R). Barrel-shaped main counterweight. Main counterweight position can be adjusted by turning small knurled dial at rear of arm. Main counterweight can be split into two pieces to change the range of acceptable cartridge mass (two different removeable pieces are available : 64g, 77g).
Can be used with very heavy cartridges (up to 32.5g). VTF set using outrigger, one weight. VTF range: up to 5g. Lateral balance is adjusted by turning an allen key which moves the entire counterweight / outrigger assembly relative to the main arm tube.
Mounting distance (bedplate centre to turntable centre) : 215,4mm (3009 R), 222mm (3010 R),
295,6mm (3012 R).

Above picture shows the weights of the 3009 R / 3010 R.

BTW : Check out the bronze bearing and tonearm base from Analog Tube Audio, Germany.

In the follwing picture you can see the weight of the 3012 R which appears to be slightly larger.
BTW : the counterweights may look like three different parts but are actually just two-piece. Only the front part of the weight is removable.

Here’s a picture of my small headshell collection.
From left to right :S2 (Shure SME Series II), S2 (SME Series II), S2-R (SME R), S2 (rare version with slots)

Below are some pictures of the very first version of the SME 3012.

Stainless steel arm tube. Initially no antiskating device (three photos show a device that was available as an accessory later). Long, barrel-shaped main counterweight, outrigger with one-piece weight to adjust VTF, located in a smaller weight behind the main counterweight.

I scanned technical brochures for the Improved and the R plus the SME III and IIIs, the lightweight relatives to the 3000 range.

Click on the small pics to view the readable images (quite large pictures, please be patient : 180 - 340 KB).

> Holger Trass 2003/2006 <