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Edward Barker
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Turntables: Kuzma XL with separate power supply and Kondo Mains lead,  Garrard 301, 2 x Garrard 401, Systemdek Transcription
Arms: Kondo-wired SME V, Kuzma Airline, Cartridge Man Conductor, Hadcock 242 SE, Ortofon 212, Mission 774, Kondo wired Rega 300, Scheu 12-inch
Cartridges: Kondo Io-M, Cartridge Man Music Maker 2 & 3, Koetsu Urushi, Madrigal MC1, Empire MC1000, Shure V15
Phono amplification: Kondo M77 
Digital: Teac  transport, Audion prototype valve DAC
Tuner: Rotel
Preamp: Kondo M77 with phono
Power amps: Kondo Gakuoh PP
Speakers: Living Voice OBX-RW,  Proac Super Tablettes 
Ancillaries: Kondo KSL LP and Kondo KSL VZ interconnects; Kondo SPC speaker cable and Kondo KSL ACz power cords; Clearlight Audio NFT cabling; Silver Arrow cabling and mains leads; Audiomagic Mini Stealth conditioner, Incognito wiring on Conductor and Hadcock 242, Living Voice Mystic Matt, Boston Audio Graphite Mat, Kyrna isolators, Cartridge Man Isolators and setup tools, Dr. Feickert protractor. 2 x separate 30 amp mains wiring spurs.
Room: 16.40' x 14.75' x 11.12'
Review component retail: £1.495

The rather wonderful thing about audio and in particular tone arms is how they are in effect a pure interface between art and science. Someone once said that an art is a process of discovery that contains more than three variables interacting at any given moment. What’s interesting about the SME IV in my experience is, it tells us something, perhaps a great deal, about the tensions and contrasts between necessary world-class engineering and how that is an insufficient part of the overall recipe of the art. The thing about a tone arm is that its sound is the result of a multitude of interactions between components, just like a guitar. And sometimes what is done for good scientific reasons (like adding rigidity) will turn out to have incalculable and negative effects on other aspects of performance.

Tone arms are in a sense attempting to do two contradictory things - to be completely rigid and lossy at the same time. Striking the right balance is still today more a matter of trial and error, of experiment and exploration than of number crunching and finite element analysis.

An arm might be antiquated technology but it still is viciously complex and defies the modeling of our most sophisticated supercomputers and programs. From a programming point of view, Garbage In, Garbage Out is what we still seem to be getting. This does not mean a rigorous scientific approach is undesirable. Far from it. A deep understanding of materials science, acoustics, wave mechanics, electron flow and many other subjects are critical to designing a good tone arm.

But we reach the frontiers of the known pretty quickly and the nature of translating theory into practice means making many decisions in the dark, each of which affects a multitude of others and each of which can be critical to the resulting sound. Any one of them can drop the performance of an arm from Formula One to formulaic.