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Kenwood KD-500 / SME 3009 Turntable Service

As a follow-up to my article on servicing the Kenwood KD-500/550 motor, I bring you an article detailing the comprehensive service of this gorgeous Kenwood KD-500 / SME 3009 combination. 

The KD-500 is a heavy hitter from the late 70’s, still punching above its weight 40 years on. The Kenwood KD-500 and KD-550 direct-drive turntables are well-made, great-sounding decks, and highly sought after today.

Part of the reason for this ongoing popularity is their incredible build-quality, compared with the ‘made in the back shed’ decks from Linn, Rega and others from the era. Add great sound quality, low wow and flutter, reliability, low maintenance – no buying belts and motors here – and you have a really desirable vinyl spinner. It’s no wonder a whole new demographic of listeners are discovering the virtues of these timeless decks while older listeners rediscover them!

Servicing and Further Info

I’ve written various pieces about these great decks, including a comprehensive review, plus various servicing articles, and the best way to get access to them is to follow this link to discover other articles with the KD-500 tag.

What follows in this article is a step-by-step description of the steps I follow when servicing a deck like the KD-500/550. Most of the steps are straightforward, but experience, tools and knowledge also really help.

Don’t be put off doing some of this work yourself, but please understand that you need to be somewhat confident and skillful in the use of tools. You also need quality tools to hand, basic test and measurement gear, cleaners, lubricants and service manuals to complete this type of work.

If you do have the tools and inclination, your old deck can be brought back to as-new condition and performance, so sit back and relax as I run through how I service one of these beautiful old turntables. I’ve deliberately left out the motor servicing details because that requires extra skill and care and its own dedicated article, which you can find here!

You can see some specs below, and a few more pics of the KD-500, plus manuals you might need at the always excellent Vintage Knob website.

Specifications:

Drive: direct-drive system
Motor: 8-pole 24 slot brushless DC servo motor
Platter: 30cm, 1.5kg aluminium alloy die-cast
Speeds: 33.33 and 45rpm
Wow and flutter: less than 0.03% WRMS
Signal to noise ratio: more than 60dB
Tonearm: static-balance type, s-shaped pipe arm, eia plug-in connector
Effective length: 237mm
Overhang: 15mm
Stylus pressure range: 0 to 4g
Usable cartridge range: 5 to 12g
Dimensions: 502 x 382 x 162mm
Weight: 14.9kg

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First thing you want to do is inspect the deck – are there any cracks, scratches, scuffs or other obvious signs of distress? This provides some important first clues about any existing trouble, plus it shows how the deck has been cared for.
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Having a closer look, we can see the layers of dirt and dust on this particular KD-500. I prefer to clean the deck BEFORE I work on other servicing and repairs.
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It’s always a good idea to remove and store the dust-cover. I clean this separately and oil hinges etc as required.
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Here we can see the very cool FR-101 moving magnet cartridge, of course mounted on the iconic SME 3009 series 3. I have one of these arms, rewired with 100% pure soft silver wire 🙂
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We’ve even got a spare FR-101 stylus assembly, should we need to use it!
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OK, so in all her dirtiness, with lid and platter removed and ready for a damn good clean…
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… and here we go, first with the foaming cleanser sprayed carefully, everywhere and left to penetrate the grease and grime…
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The foam does need to sit for a while before being carefully wiped clean. I use lint-free paper towels for most cleaning like this.
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The tonearm also needs to be VERY carefully cleaned. You’ll note that I’ve removed the anti-skate weight and the stylus as these parts are too fragile to be left in place during any work like this.
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I clean everything and you should too – in this case the rubber platter mat can be cleaned with a very mild detergent and water solution.
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WOW – what a difference, grime gone!
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That beautiful SME arm looks almost like new!
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And remember all the grime here by the controls? Gone!
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That Kenwood badge looks much nicer after a good clean.

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At this stage, the motor service would come next. I’ve written about this separately, here.
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Time to turn to the insides of the deck now. There isn’t much to see or do here in many cases, but the controls usually need some attention. In this case we need to clean and lubricate the speed control potentiometers, speed switches and the start/stop switch.
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Use contact cleaner, but it should be a quality product, not WD-40, not products that you can get from Altronics or Jaycar. I recommend proper commercial or lab-grade products by Ambersil, EML and others. Most of these can be purchased from RS, Element-14, Mouser and similar suppliers. I would suggest isopropyl alcohol for cleaning the switches or even a quality defluxing solvent, followed by a thorough drying and then the application of a very small amount of contact lube, from Caig, EML or Ambersil.
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The motor! The servicing of the direct-drive motor is discussed in detail here.
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It’s a good idea to use a premium contact cleaner/enhancer like DeOxit by Caig for the arm output connector.
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Time to replace the cleaned platter. Again, for this I use the foaming cleaner and some paper towel and elbow grease.
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And now the tonearm set-up process. The aim here is to set-up the arm as per SME guidelines. This means arm height, cartridge overhang and azimuth, as well as lateral balance of the SME arm and anti-skate. Quite a bit to do, you need correct alignment tools and a digital stylus pressure gauge.
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Then we get to sit back and enjoy the fruits of all that hard work. A perfectly tracking tonearm and stylus, a perfectly locked platter and that lovely strobe.
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The deck looks really nice now. The owner was very pleased, saying it had never looked so good!

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Naturally, I would be very happy to work on your cherished KD-500 or KD-550. Reach me via my contact form.

19 thoughts on “Kenwood KD-500 / SME 3009 Turntable Service”

  1. Thanks! Bought the cleanser allright, but I can’t seem to pull off the platter at all? Any tricks? It really seems stuck, and when I try to lift it the whole base gets lifted with it…?

    1. Hi, yes a stuck platter can be a problem on some decks. You must make sure you apply force symmetrically to the platter by grabbing and jerking it upwards evenly. If this doesn’t work, you may need to elevate the platter and apply a drifting force downwards on the spindle, with a large piece of wood for example. Whatever you do, be careful, the bearing is fragile and easily damaged. If in doubt, take her to an expert.

  2. Unfortunately, it seems the platter lid is cracked. You can see it when its removed and slightly warped for inspection, but not when it’s sitting in place. Does this affect sound? Because I gathee finding a replacement will be pretty hard…

  3. Great info, thanks! I just picked up a 550 and will be servicing with the help of your write up. My dust cover is crack and warp free and the hinges swing open and shut smoothly- however the dust cover will not hold open in the up position. Is there something I can do here- spring tension adjustment maybe?

    1. Hi Mike, great job on getting the 550, just be very careful when working on her not to damage anything. There are wires in the motor finer than a human hair – break one of these and the deck is potentially dead! Unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done about those hinges that I’m aware of, the lid and hinges are quite unique!

  4. Hi, just got a Kenwood KD-550 in good working order. However I was trying to change the VTA, loosen the screw but could not change the tonearm hight, In this model, do you have to apply lots of force to do that (tried both ways, up or down)? Or maybe the mechanism could be stuck, what method would be best to unjamm it? Thanks, and hello from Poland.

    1. Hi Rafal, be careful, there are two VTA screws that must be loosened. Don’t force anything, but loosen both screws slightly and see if that helps.. If in doubt, refer to the owner’s manual, and if it’s jammed, I would need to get my hands on it to work out what’s wrong and free it up.

      1. Thanks a lot for your fast reply. Forgot to write that it is a stock arm on my kd-550. In the manual they show only one screw and its very short info about it. I will examine it once again today. Thats a great blog you have. Congrats!

        1. Hi Rafal, KD-550 only comes with a Kenwood arm and the manual for that arm shows two screws, at least the one I’m look at does, so maybe check again. Thanks re the blog, glad you are enjoying it!

          1. Hello, you were right of course, I have overlooked the second screw in the manual. After loosing that, VTA could be easily adjusted, nothing was jammed. Got one more question, I have some LP’s that are bent. I was thinking about an additional weight (about 400-500 grams), as you have lots of experience with those Kenwoods, does this kind of additional weight is ok for the motor, or maybe it’s not worth to put it to more stress?

            1. Hi Rafal, yes I figured that would be the issue. Having much experience with turntables and vinyl, I can recommend a non-weight-bearing clamp for most belt drive decks. Generally, lighter belt drive decks don’t like a lot of extra rotational mass. Michell Engineering in the UK makes an excellent Delrin collet-style clamp that really clamps the record down. I have one (plus many others) and they are excellent. Try this link: https://www.analogueseduction.net/michell-engineering-upgrades-parts-accessories/michell-engineering-record-clamp.html. You can use conventional clamps, but the collect style is better in this application.

Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts!