SAEC 308N vs 308SX

Does anyone know the differences between these two tonearms? I can find only that the SX version came later than the 308N. Is there any functional reason why the SX seems to be valued at nearly double that of the 308N. Thanks.
Dear Lewm, the V-Blocks inside the SX model are made of ruby just like in WE506 & WE8000ST and the whole bearing is encapsuled for protection.
Thank, Geoch. This is not so for the 308N? I had the impression that the SX designation might have something to do with the material of which the arm wand is made, but I am far from certain, which is why I asked. Anyway, your info would suggest why there is such a large price differential between the two.

I used to own a regular 308 and a 308SX, but not at the same time, if memory serves me well. All these suffixes of N, L, SX are confusing. But I remember it visually and the counterweight is heavier with a bigger diameter chunk at the back. I think they were originally for heavy cartridges like SPU. Not so sure, just a hunch. All SAEC arms have amazing bearings. When you pull the armwand, there's no slop or chatter whatsoever in the bearings. None. That's a great start for a quiet system.

However, it had a rather sterile sound so I didn't have much luck with the sound but back then I didn't know what I was doing so I cannot be fair and that was probably 20 years ago. It was purchased for only $200 at the time. The design was the Japanese's answer to the SME. Build quality is better than a typical SME 3009 and much better bearings. The one nitpicking is that I prefer SME's way of doing antiskating because it's independent from the vertical movement. The SAEC uses a rod attached to the counterweight post and that might hinder vertical movement.

I would give it another shot, if I acquire one.

I have the WE-308N and have never found the sound 'sterile' unless the cartridge provided that quality.
I agree with Hiho about the quality of the bearings.
This arm gives me enormous pleasure and along with the Micro Seiki one of the bargain vintage arms one can readily procure.
Dear Lewm: Other that what Geoch mentioned the SX is in another league in the SAEC line this one belongs to the 506/407 top of the line, all these one are build the same and differ only on effective length, all these comes with the 18grs. ceramic headshell. The SX is in between about effective length where the 407 is the shortest and the 506 the larger one.

All the other 308s along the 317 were the entry level that don't include tyhe first rate top of the line quality even comes with different headshell due that the ceramic one was a expensive one an unique to the topo of the line SAEC tonearms.

Lew, as good the SAEC ones the GST-801 is worth to try before and IMHO outperform the SAECs. Of course that if you are entilted with the SAEC SX go for it is a nice tonearm with very good build quality.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Even the headshell collar is of different design and quality and the arm wand design is different too.

I owned the 407 and the SX and own the 506 and 8000. Yes, I like SAECs but are not at the top of my list.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Thanks, Raul. There are several 308SXs for sale, on eBay and elsewhere. In most cases they do have an original SAEC headshell, but it is not the ceramic one. Don't know whether or not that means the headshell is not original to the tonearm. (I think I did see one for sale in Hong kong that does have the ceramic headshell.)

My major reason for being interested in the SAEC has to do with the fact that with my L07D turntable I received an accessory OEM Kenwood arm board that bolts to the rear of the chassis to allow one to mount a second tonearm. This is really nicely made, heavy, and seems to have been cut for the SAEC 308 specifically. Looks like it will accept either the 308N or the 308SX. But it will not accept the 407 or 506, based on my examination of photos. (Kenwood made at least four different arm boards for the rear of the L07D chassis; each one is dedicated to a different vintage tonearm. Wonder whether they made one for Lustre.) I readily concede the the Lustre may be superior, because I certainly have no basis to argue. On the other hand, I am not inclined right now to spend about $1100 to buy the 308SX. That decision will have to wait a bit while I sell other stuff.
Dear Lewm, mind that if you ever go for any variation of 308, you cannot use the ULS3X ceramic headshell on it. You have to purchase another slotted headshell, in order to make the Baerwald alignment. You must turn the cartridge another 11 degrees to the spindle side at the headshell. The ULS3X is great for any other arm except SAEC. I've seen it priced up to $450 so, you can allways put it on sale, or keep it for some other vintage arm of your's, but on the SAEC it is completely useless.
Dear Geoch, You bring up an interesting topic. I have read elsewhere that the ideal geometry for the SAEC is "unusual", but no one says what it is. Is it Stevenson type? I learned from trying to use Baerwald with my Dynavector DV505 (which IS designed for Stevenson) that strange and unpleasant distortions arise if you have to twist the cartridge in the headshell in order to conform to some iconic geometry. (I think the cause is magnified with the DV, because of its very short vertically pivoted arm.) When I finally found a Stevenson protractor and subsequently realigned my cartridge, those distortions disappeared. Ergo, I would want to know exactly how to align the SAEC 308SX so as to be able also to align the cartridge body in its headshell. And yes, it makes no sense to mess around with a headshell that does not have slots to permit fore and aft adjustment of the cartridge body, but I would rather not twist the cartridge body.

What is ULS3X? Is that the designation for the SAEC ceramic headshell? If so, am I correct in thinking that you are in disagreement with Raul on using the ceramic with the 308SX?
Dear Lewm, the ULS3X permits back & forth movement but not even the slightest twist of the cartridge. I would never imagine Raul to accept this kind of distortion as the above graph demonstrates so, I don't thing that he prefers this ceramic headshell on any of the 308 arms. As for me, I've never gave a chance to compare the SAEC alignment in my second armboard, with the ULS3X headshell (I 've keep it undrilled till today). The null points indicates a unique optimisation at the inner groove, but not a Stevenson align.
Now about the twist of the cartridge on the headshell, Daniel & John were in disagreement about the effect and if I have to choose between a tracking error or a mechanical paradox ... you get my point.
Have you verified the pivot to spindle distance in your second armboard? Is it in agreement with the SAEC's unique recommendation? If so, then you don't have much of a choice. I remember on most set-ups that I've seen (in photos) that the majority of users accept the std SAEC recom. align. of not twisting the cart. Me too I would like to hear from someone who has experience on both alignments upon a 308. Unfortunatelly I have very limited free time these days for more exploration.
Dear Geoch, Good point! I do have the armboard made by Kenwood specifically to fit the SAEC 308 to its L07D. It is reasonable to assume that the Kenwood engineers at least knew what SAEC intended in terms of geometry, so I should not have a problem, even without knowing the correct geometry per se. (I do recall that the preferred null points are given on the Vinyl Engine website, so one could work backward from that as well.) The Kenwood installation does allow for some "wiggle room"; one can slide the armboard from side to side a few mm each way to bring things into alignment, before tightening it down.

To answer your question about pivot to spindle distance, I cannot very well determine that unless or until I purchase a 308 and install it. One could estimate it by assuming that the SAEC pivot would lie right over the exact center of the hole in the arm board, I suppose.
Dear Lewm, all the geometry info is contained into the above Vinyl Asylum thread that I've copied back in my previous post.
Perhaps you've missed this so, please take a good look this time. It contains both alignments. First the SAEC recommendation and then the Baerwald for comparison. The P2S distance is 235 for SAEC and 222.759 for Baerwald. The difference is so great, that you can easily measure your (intended by Kenwood) P2S.
So, once again :
Yes, I know about the VE data, and I did see your earlier post, now that you've reminded me. In fact, I just mentioned that VE gives the two null points. I have been meaning to compare their numbers to Stevenson and Baerwald, just for interest. Thanks for your many other insights into the possible differences between SX and N versions of 308. My choice would be to use an alignment that leaves the cartridge aligned with the midline of the headshell. If Baerwald won't do that, and I suspect it won't, I would not use Baerwald. I would choose the data given on VE, if those are the SAEC data, indeed.
Dear Lew, I own the SEAC 407/23 for which it seems to be impossible to get the u. manual. So I made a copy of 308N from VE to get some idea about the construction. There is no mention of null points in this manual. For my 407/23
there are also all kinds of 'suggestions' reg. the null points but nobody knows for sure. According to some former Australian importer of the SEAC brand the sufix '23' means Baerwald but this was dismissed by others as a myth. It is
very strange that there are so many indistinc opinions about SEAC geometry.BTW I assume that you know that there are two versions of the 308; the sufix 'N' refers to 'new'.

Dear Nandric, thanks for your insights. Please do note however the title of this thread, which is to say that I do know about the SX and N versions, but I want to know what differentiates one from the other, especially since the SX is now valued at about double that of the N version. By all accounts and from all information available on the internet (which isn't much), the SX version came after the N version, so I don't know why N would stand for "new", but it might have been new with respect to some preceding design.

The correct geometry should not be so much of a mystery. One could measure the offset angle of the headshell, and combining that information with the null points (given on VE), one can quickly say that the data do or do not conform to Baerwald or more likely Stevenson. (From all the other posts, it seems almost a sure thing that this tonearm was not designed for Baerwald.) I guess I will look at those numbers first. As I noted above, I have an armboard designed specifically for this tonearm, so I am probably going to be OK even if ignorant.
Dear Nandric: 407/23 effective length 233mm and 12mm overhang according SAEC. The 308 has different values, I think ???.

regards and enjoy the music,
Yes, Raul. You were correct earlier when you mentioned that the 407 (at 9 inches) is a bit shorter than the 308 (at about 9.5 inches).
Tonight I had a chance to go poking around on Vinyl Engine for more info on these two tonearms,
(1) It appears that Nicola may be correct; the "N" may stand for "NEW". On VE, there is a reprint of the brochure for 308NEW.
(2) The 308SX is shown with the ceramic headshell; the 308N does not have the ceramic headshell. So that was one difference. The SX version has larger heavier "ears" flanking the bearing housing, to increase lateral effective mass. The arm tube of the SX might or might not be different from the N.
(3) The P2S distance for the N and probably for the SX is given as 235mm. Only 5mm of stylus overhang is recommended, for an effective length of 240mm. With a headshell offset angle of only 12 degrees, this results in an inner null point of 39.2mm (!) and an outer null point of 60.6mm. The ad copy says no tracing distortion on innermost grooves. I can believe that, since at 39.2mm from the spindle, the stylus is at best reaching the run-out grooves if not only the outer edge of the label. At 60.6mm it would probably be within the innermost cut of the LP. So they compromised the tracking angle over the whole rest of the LP in order to minimize tracking angle error in the innermost grooves. In contrast, Stevenson results in null points at ~60mm and ~117mm. And Baerwald and Lofgren B both have their null points farther away from the spindle than Stevenson. So the SAEC geometry is strange, indeed. Why choose to set your tonearm up so that only one null point occurs where there is music? Dunno. For one thing, the small headshell offset angle would tend to reduce skating force.
Dear Lew, This is a quote about SEAC WE-308 SX from 'Tonearm Geometry and Setup' (Kessler&Pisha,Audio,January 1980): 'The SEAK WE-308 SX arm design is based upon research done by the Sansui Electric Co. The AES preprint 1390 (D-5) derived the optimum pivot position from a kinematic point of view,with
the mass of the arm ,the location of the center of gravity,
and the moment of inertia around the system's center of
gravity. Resonance was the engineering problem being solved. For this prticular arm ,it is not advised to optimize the geometry, or the resonance of the system will
change to such an extent that the arm will not track properly.'
So obviously this arm is not only unique qua price . BTW you should know that reaserch is very expesive and need to be earned back somehow. I assume that 308, 308N, 308 L and my 407/23 are not 'inflicted' with the Sansui research and
that te owners of those arms may 'mess' with different geometries? There is no other choice btw because SAEC is very confusing or not very clear about,say, the null points.

Dear lewm, dear Nandric, dear Geoch, for those wondering about the odd geometry on many SAEC tonearms ( see 506 for instance ...). SAEC stated that these tonearms geometry was optimized for zero distortion in the inner grooves.
This wasn't smart.
However if used as a tonearm to play 7" singles, these SAEC's geometry shines in a all new light .......
Whatever motivation it was that prompted SAECs engineers to design some of it's tonearms with a very odd geometry, they can all be "re-adjusted" to Baerwald/Loefgren/Stevenson et al - if however at the expense of sometimes very odd off-set position in headshell/mount and altered breakdown torque with effects on skating force.
Dear Nicola or anyone else, What do you think was meant by the statement you quoted: "it is not advised to optimize the geometry, or the resonance of the system will change to such an extent that the arm will not track properly."

What does that mean, exactly? What is the definition of "optimize" in that sentence? It would seem that they mean one should use the recommended and indeed strange SAEC parameters and that the warning not to "optimize" means not to use one of the more standard geometries, each of which gives two null points between outermost and innermost grooves.
Dear Daniel, What kind of German are you? I thought, because of Wagner, that you are very fond of all kinds of mythology. Do you really need to destroy the SEAC kind?
Never in my life I was so dependant from a sufix. Ie I hope
that my 407/23 and more in particular the sufix '23' is something 'totally different' in the SEAC brand (aka the Bearwald geometry). You should postpone your answer till I
sell the thing(please!).

Dear Lew, 'Dear Nicola or anyone else' is not to the liking
of my 'super ego'. I am alas not an expert in kinematics, have, to be honest, no idea what 'kinematics' means so you are overating me in one aspect of the issue while underating me in some other. My idea is that you should design some
other tonearm base for your second arm on your beloved Kenwood.Ie this SEAC enigma is developing from bad to worst.
Dear Nicola, I do not think so badly of the SAEC 308, just because of the weird geometry. As I said, the very small angle of offset of the headshell (12 degrees) means that there will be less skating force than for any of the standard geometries (where offset angle is at least 20 degrees). This may mitigate any issues with tracking angle types of distortion. Also, I have the RS Labs RS A1 tonearm, which has NO null points across the surface of the LP, and sounds excellent. So I am not so concerned about tracking angle distortion per se. Anyway, based on what Raul wrote, the 308SX, 407/23, and 506 are "cousins". But now I am thinking that maybe the "23" refers to the angle of offset of the headshell. Twenty-three degrees would correspond to Baerwald or Lofgren. In that way, you are ok with your 407/23. Maybe this is also why the 407/23 is so costly now, compared to the 308s. In fact, it would be informative if you can take a protractor and estimate the angle of offset of the headshell on yours.
Dear Lew, This '23 offset angle' by SEAC 407/23 was exactly the story of the Australian importer of the SEAC brand who seems to be at present an succesful designer of HIFI gear Switzerland. If you persist I will search for his name. But Daniel scared me (nearly) to dead with his Kantian way of judgments. I am probable more sensitive to
German threatening than you are. But you are even messing with those 'transfomerless amps' which seems to need at least 1000 spare tubes. Is there any space in your cellar
for some wine btw?

Dear Nandric, to ease your mind and save the weekend: .... 23° off set sounds perfectly fine for a 9" effective length pivot tonearm ... ;-) ....
Geoch, yes Allen Wright is the person I refered to as 'the
Australian importer' who induced SEAC to produce 407/23.
He thought that this way SEAC would be more acceptable for
the Western customers who were more familar with the Bearwald geometry. This guy seems to be many-sided talent but I am not the right person to write about him.

Thank you, dear friends. Together we have groped around in the dark and finally found the light switch due to collective efforts. I even have some information now about differences between SX and N, but maybe not the whole story.
More to discover