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2020 Product of the Year Awards | Turntable of the Year

SME Model 12A Turntable with 309 Tonearm


Replacing SME’s previous entry-level Model 10A, which also came with the 309, the Model 12A represents a substantial leap in performance over what was already an impressive ensemble. It evinces the typical SME house “sound”: all but peerless neutrality, deep background blackness, and dynamic range second to none. Not only is the 12/309’s sonic performance astonishingly close to the company’s flagship models, it also receives the same standard-setting quality of build, parts, fit, and finish that banish any worries about longevity and reliability. A powerful new motor puts paid to issues of speed accuracy, stability, constancy, and timing, while its proprietary mat/clamping arrangement rivals vacuum hold-down. Like the Model 10A, the 12A lacks the O-ring suspension-cum-damping of SME’s higher-priced turntables, yet TAS reviewer Paul Seydor found its isolation from external disturbances superb by any standard. Many arm/table combinations costing multiples of its price come nowhere near this level of execution and performance, while in use the 12A is sheer pleasure. If, as the great Edgar Villchur once said, the job of the turntable is “to stay out of the picture,” then SMEs are among the most discreet, unobtrusive, self-effacing, yet dependable stage managers in the theatre of vinyl. With an SME behind-the-scenes, the show always goes on.


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