SME exits the tonearm business!

sme-oracle.jpg

https://sme.co.uk/2019/12/03/sme-product-announcement/

03 DEC SME PRODUCT ANNOUNCEMENT
Posted at 14:44h in Uncategorized by Jake

SME will exit the tonearm retail and OEM business with immediate effect shifting our focus on our core turntable and tonearm combination business. The decision to leave the tonearm business was not taken lightly, especially as we have played a key role in the design and development of the world’s best tonearms. The growth of our turntable business and commitment to higher production levels means that we cannot continue both streams.

SME has designed, engineered and manufactured tonearms for retail and OEM sales since 1959 and achieved international recognition as makers of the best pick-up arms in the world. This tradition of tonearm manufacturing will continue with the manufacture of our highly accredited tonearms for the purpose of coupling with our comprehensive range of high-end precision turntables in which SME will be expanding in 2020.

Whilst no new orders for individual tonearms will be accepted from the issue date of this product announcement, all obligations of the warranty will be honoured. Factory service and spare parts support for tonearm owners will continue.

Stuart McNeilis
Chief Executive Officer
 
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Comments

cdk84

New Member
Dec 19, 2015
16
1
1
#62
Without speculating, it is safe to say that the tonearm market is neither a large volume market and for that reason alone, possibly not highly profitable for a corporation conscious of volume, earnings and /or major growth.

Is it a surprise that this change has come on the heels of the recent ownership transition?

It would be speculation to assert that tonearms represent a small, if not (relatively) insignificant portion of the gross income of SME Corporation; I simply don't know. The SME website does, however, timeline recent changes in both ownership and direction, having been acquired by the Cadence Audio Group of companies.

SME has not introduced a completely new product since the 30/12 in 2008. That kind of selective and limited product development can leave a company open to takeover if the existing product line is not highly successful. It could be argued that SME's tonearms and tables are at the top of the game, but again, and particularly in our audio world, which is so characterized by strong personal opinions, being 'at the top' is very largely subjective, and it remains unclear whether the vinyl revolution offers a lasting growth opportunity, or a temporary reversal of former downtrends for audio manufacturers.

In 2017 the company reimagined itself to focus on the Aerospace, Formula 1, Automotive and Medical Equipment indus-tries ( per their website ).

To me, this seems a logical and understandable step. ( Perhaps that's because I believe in the paramount importance of complimentarity between components in making a system sing. I myself own a system designed and constructed on this principle ( Aurum Acoustics )) My experience with Derrick Moss' gear has solidified my belief that component matching is the 'black art' aspect of audio, because the performance of his components was ( obviously ) conceived, researched and executed with the aim of making the most of the pieces assembled by the maker. The Aurum Acoustics system approach has given me great musical fulfillment.

Though no longer in the public eye, Henry Kloss' approach to creating matched and assembled audio, with the KLH entity, was another, early and successful example of this approach, if not the first. Is this the wave of the future? I couldn't possibly say, but it's interesting to view SME's approach in the developmental continuum of audio. It will be interesting to see how this endeavor works --or doesn't-- as a business model. And more to the point, how it will sound. I look forward to hearing the result of their new approach. That's the proof, you know: the audio pudding.
 
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tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
1,279
802
185
the Upper Midwest
#63
Now may be SME has more integrity than some other manufacturers and they don't see the need to market a new replacement without any significant change but others do and they might capture the buying public more often.
Say you’re a high-end electronics manufacturer and you come out with a line of preamps based on a circuit that took you many years to create. Reviewers and customers acclaim your products and the marketplace rewards your success. Life is good.

Five years go by. The competition does not stand still. Their new models appear regularly. Other manufacturers release Mark II and III versions. Some products have obscure or avant-garde three word names, some makers offer more knobs and dials; new interfaces appear with intriguing Captain Nemo style gauges, fancy digital interfaces allow manipulation from the listening chair, newly chromed or matted finishes speak to the bling-desire currently in vogue.

All of this splashes across the covers of audio magazines around the world, generating buzz about hot new features, their siren song enticing audio-lust and creating audio-insecurity. See her picture in a thousand places cause she's this year's girl. Audiophiles talk about the on-going search to meet their dream goals and set the baseline to "the journey is the goal, if you're not searching you're not evolving." New is different, it relieves boredom and generates buzz on forums for those adoring the attention that comes with bringing it to light. Audio magazines publishing best component lists drop prior class A deluxe entries because "not heard in some time."

What do you do Mr. High-End Electronics Manufacturer with your already excellent five (ten twenty) year old preamp? What do you do in this world of continual audio churn?
 

Elberoth

Member Sponsor
Dec 16, 2012
1,933
137
160
Poland
#64
So they are not actually stopping the manufacture of tonearms, they are just not selling them independently of the tables. If that's the case and they continue making the same tonearms for their tables then support should continue just fine i think. Which begs the questions, that if you are making them anyway why not sell them if someone wants one? Nobody is going to buy a SME table to get the tonearm so you will just loose out on that income stream (although how significant that was I don't know). My Avid Acutus came with the SME V.
They have cut Avid off already 2 years ago. So the 'transition' process started a while back.

I had a dinner with a major arm manufacturer during the weekend, who (literally) said: "suddenly, the CEO of SME became my best friend".
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
4,294
831
360
Utah
#65
Say you’re a high-end electronics manufacturer and you come out with a line of preamps based on a circuit that took you many years to create. Reviewers and customers acclaim your products and the marketplace rewards your success. Life is good.

Five years go by. The competition does not stand still. Their new models appear regularly. Other manufacturers release Mark II and III versions. Some products have obscure or avant-garde three word names, some makers offer more knobs and dials; new interfaces appear with intriguing Captain Nemo style gauges, fancy digital interfaces allow manipulation from the listening chair, newly chromed or matted finishes speak to the bling-desire currently in vogue.

All of this splashes across the covers of audio magazines around the world, generating buzz about hot new features, their siren song enticing audio-lust and creating audio-insecurity. See her picture in a thousand places cause she's this year's girl. Audiophiles talk about the on-going search to meet their dream goals and set the baseline to "the journey is the goal, if you're not searching you're not evolving." New is different, it relieves boredom and generates buzz on forums for those adoring the attention that comes with bringing it to light. Audio magazines publishing best component lists drop prior class A deluxe entries because "not heard in some time."

What do you do Mr. High-End Electronics Manufacturer with your already excellent five (ten twenty) year old preamp? What do you do in this world of continual audio churn?
I know exactly what you mean but that's the way of the world, out of sight out of mind...

david
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
4,294
831
360
Utah
#67
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Martin r

New Member
Dec 19, 2019
1
0
1
62
#69
View attachment 59620

https://sme.co.uk/2019/12/03/sme-product-announcement/

03 DEC SME PRODUCT ANNOUNCEMENT
Posted at 14:44h in Uncategorized by Jake

SME will exit the tonearm retail and OEM business with immediate effect shifting our focus on our core turntable and tonearm combination business. The decision to leave the tonearm business was not taken lightly, especially as we have played a key role in the design and development of the world’s best tonearms. The growth of our turntable business and commitment to higher production levels means that we cannot continue both streams.

SME has designed, engineered and manufactured tonearms for retail and OEM sales since 1959 and achieved international recognition as makers of the best pick-up arms in the world. This tradition of tonearm manufacturing will continue with the manufacture of our highly accredited tonearms for the purpose of coupling with our comprehensive range of high-end precision turntables in which SME will be expanding in 2020.

Whilst no new orders for individual tonearms will be accepted from the issue date of this product announcement, all obligations of the warranty will be honoured. Factory service and spare parts support for tonearm owners will continue.

Stuart McNeilis
Chief Executive Officer
SME now own the Garrard name, so that could be one reason?
 

cuntigh

Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2014
215
5
50
FRANCE
#70
If these people came to buy the Kheops pyramid they could destroy it for building a parking or a supermarket. Tonearms are part of SME’s history. It is one of the things that make it apart. They don’t understand that and don’t understand they make sme just another hifi factory.
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
4,294
831
360
Utah
#71
If these people came to buy the Kheops pyramid they could destroy it for building a parking or a supermarket. Tonearms are part of SME’s history. It is one of the things that make it apart. They don’t understand that and don’t understand they make sme just another hifi factory.
The new ownership didn't live SME's history they only bought the legacy, they'll do what they feel is most profitable for them. They can always reverse course if needed.

david
 

IanG-UK

Well-Known Member
Apr 11, 2011
229
24
93
#72
I think a lot of this distress in relation to SME now only doing "complete" turntable/tonearm units is wrapped up with the fact that SME only did tonearms initially - but it was a long initial period. 1959 to 1991. Then they started with turntables too.

Compare this to the other main UK turntable/tonearm manufacturers. I'd guess nearly all units from Linn and Rega are (and have nearly always been) sold as turntable/arm combinations. The same lower down the scale with Project. Michell also do their own arm, albeit a Rega rebuild; and Avid are the only company I know of who are having to switch away from the SME supply chain.

I'd guess, pre the SME turntable, many SME arms were installed on Thorens turntables. Now you rarely see that.

Both manufacturers and retailers must want this consolidation. With the volume of high end turntables and tonearms sold being pretty low, a retailer must be much happier stocking three variants of three brands - nine in all - rather than the possibility of having to reconstruct up to 81 turntable/arm combinations depending on customer requests.

And I'd guess if you really just want an SME turntable or an SME arm they will supply them but just not market them.
 
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IanG-UK

Well-Known Member
Apr 11, 2011
229
24
93
#74
I believe the LVV and LVX and LVXPlus were Japanese but the higher end stuff like Ittok and Akito and Ekos were UK.
 

MPS

Active Member
Jun 20, 2016
57
21
25
Finland
#75
Thank you for correction.
At least Ekos is made in UK (however Ittok is Japanese) so we can count Linn into tone arm business as well.
 

Loheswaran

Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2014
295
40
58
#76
Without speculating, it is safe to say that the tonearm market is neither a large volume market and for that reason alone, possibly not highly profitable for a corporation conscious of volume, earnings and /or major growth.

Is it a surprise that this change has come on the heels of the recent ownership transition?

It would be speculation to assert that tonearms represent a small, if not (relatively) insignificant portion of the gross income of SME Corporation; I simply don't know. The SME website does, however, timeline recent changes in both ownership and direction, having been acquired by the Cadence Audio Group of companies.

SME has not introduced a completely new product since the 30/12 in 2008. That kind of selective and limited product development can leave a company open to takeover if the existing product line is not highly successful. It could be argued that SME's tonearms and tables are at the top of the game, but again, and particularly in our audio world, which is so characterized by strong personal opinions, being 'at the top' is very largely subjective, and it remains unclear whether the vinyl revolution offers a lasting growth opportunity, or a temporary reversal of former downtrends for audio manufacturers.

.
SME 15?
The new integrated turntable with a Nagra Phono Stage?

I guess the new wave of buyers are from the fit and forget school - maybe not the tweeters of old.

I frankly think that on the one hand they buy the Garrard name and outsource the plinth build to Spendor, whilst going up what they first made for audio.

It could be that the engineering into the tonearm is significantly greater than that of their turntables, and they cannot be made profitably on their own.
 

IanG-UK

Well-Known Member
Apr 11, 2011
229
24
93
#77
The new ownership didn't live SME's history they only bought the legacy, they'll do what they feel is most profitable for them. They can always reverse course if needed.
The new ownership didn't live SME's history they only bought the legacy, they'll do what they feel is most profitable for them. They can always reverse course if needed.

david
Actually, if you look at many of the original UK hifi companies these were started in the 1970s (sometimes before) and the founder was also the owner and chief exec and the engineer - and reached an age where selling out was a way to retire profitably.

Not all cases were quite like this but many were and many ended up with overseas ownership where buying the brand reputation was key but perpetuating the company style or approach was not possible or not even wanted.

I can think of Quad, Musical Fidelity, Naim, Audiolab, Arcam, Bowers and Wilkins, KEF, Spendor, SME, Exposure, Celestion, Cambridge, Wharfedale, Castle and (to a degree) Tannoy. I call think that eight of these fifteen went to the far east - China or Hong Kong or Malaysia.

The only names i can cite as sustaining their original UK ownership and style of operation are Linn, Meridian, ProAc, PMC, Harbeth, Rega, Wilson Benesch and dCS. None is exclusively turntable focussed and, indeed, only Linn, Rega and Wilson Benesch have turntable interests with, I suspect, only Rega being a substantial producer. There is or was Michell, but one hears little of them these days; and Pro-ject might be described as more budget that mid-high focussed.
 

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