Sumiko knows plenty about cartridge manufacturing. The company was founded in 1982 and continues to build all of its cartridges in Japan to this day. The Rainier moving magnet sits at the more affordable end of the company’s Oyster range and looks to be a good choice for those itching for that first upgrade to their turntable.
Build and compatibility
This is a nicely made unit, with a body designed to support the internal generator assembly rigidly while minimising unwanted internal resonances. There’s nothing particularly fancy about the elliptical stylus but it works well enough, helping the Rainier track securely at the recommended 2.0g tracking force. As always, there’s no harm in trying different tracking weights between the recommended limits of 1.8-2.2g to optimise the results for your deck and tastes.
This Sumiko is a thoughtful design that’s easy to fit thanks to captive nuts inset into the body and sensibly squared off edges that make fitting and alignment a breeze. An output of 5mV is pretty normal and so shouldn’t pose any issues with the kind of phono stage this cartridge is likely to be partnered with.
Type Moving magnet
Stylus tip Elliptical
Replaceable stylus Yes
Output 5mV (1kHz)
Load impedance 47kOhms
Cartridge weight 6.5g
Tracking force range 1.8-2.2g (recommended 2.0g)
We try the Rainier on a Rega Planar 2 as well as our reference Technics SL-1000R turntable and it impresses regardless. Obviously, a high-end deck like the Technics (which costs around 100 times the price of the cartridge) is about as far from a typical partner for the Sumiko as you can get, but it does help us put a spotlight on the Rainier’s performance and therefore is a useful combination to try.
The rest of our set-up is a combination of the Naim SuperNait 3 integrated amplifier driving KEF LS50 Meta speakers plus our usual high-end reference system of the Cyrus Phono Signature/PSX-R2 phono stage, Burmester 088/911 Mk3 pre/power and ATC SCM50 speakers.
We wouldn’t judge this cartridge on the first listen. Do that and you’ll find it’s a little coarse, cluttered and tonally grey. However, get in some hours of use and the presentation blooms into something that’s surprisingly musical and engaging. The sound gains notably in refinement, becoming smoother and more fluid. Listening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, we can’t help but be impressed at the cartridge’s robust character and the way it conveys the sense of power and scale of this piece.
Detail levels are good, but it’s more the musically cohesive way that the Rainier delivers all that information that makes it special. There’s a good dose of dynamics and plenty of punch when required. Tonally, the results are pleasingly full-bodied with a surprisingly rich and powerful bass – a far cry from the usually thin and forward presentations we tend to hear from cartridges at this level.
Switching to Catch A Fire by Bob Marley & The Wailers shows that the Sumiko can dance too, with a firm grasp of rhythms and an easy-going flow that works well with music such as this. Marley’s vocals come through with passion and nuance, making it easy to understand the emotions he’s trying to communicate. It’s a fine overall performance that has us listening for fun long after the official reviewing process is done.
Spend more money and you’ll get increased detail resolution and a subtler way with dynamics. But judged by the standards at this level, this Sumiko is a little gem. Set it up with care and have a little patience, and you’ll find this to be one of the best performers anywhere near this price.
- Sound 5
- Build 5
- Compatibility 5
Read our review of the Goldring E3
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