First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

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dagfinn
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First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by dagfinn » 30 Aug 2019 11:30

Hi everyone,
I recently got the AT-VM540 and the Sumo Rainier, and have been doing a side by side comparison, the 540 on a TD160 with Hitachi arm, and the Rainier on the TD166 with TP21 arm.

Both have compliance of 10@100Hz, which makes it a bit of a guessing game to know the 10Hz compliance. These arms are different, the Hitachi is a bit heavier. How much, I don't know, but a Denon Dl-103 sits quite happily in it, as far as I can judge. The AT has a lighter headshell than the Denon, so mass is reduced overall. I intend to switch them after a while, and see how that affects performance.
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First impression playing Tom Waits: Closing time, Blue Valentine, Ry Cooder: Into the purple Valley, and Bop Till You Drop, Paul Simon: Hearts and bones.

The 540 is smooth, clear crisp, detailed, open and perhaps a little light in bass. Very pleasing to my ears, I like it from the start. Rainier has more dynamic bass, but is very closed in the high end, specially compared to the 540. However it is brand new, and may need time to open up?

I will try some more dynamic music next :).

Collux
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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by Collux » 30 Aug 2019 12:23

I'm interested to hear further comparisons down the track.

One should note here:
These 2 carts are offered at somewhat different price points in the market.

Audio Technica VM540ML available @ ~ $250
Sumiko Rainier available @ ~ $150

Further, the AT has a Microline stylus whilst the Rainier is described as 'Elliptical'.
(The higher priced Olympia & Moonstone, stated as being 0.3 x 0.7 mil Ellipticals)
https://www.sumikoaudio.net/en-us/our-b ... es/rainier

raphaelmabo
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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by raphaelmabo » 30 Aug 2019 15:25

Sumiko needs at least 30 hours to open up in the treble. My Pearl sounded closed in the first hours, then after 30 or so it transformed. But the Sumiko house sound is warmer than the brighter Audio-Technica.

Elliptical’s a good thing, they’re easier to set up than more advanced stylus shapes.

Mr Pig
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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by Mr Pig » 30 Aug 2019 15:50

Keen to hear your thoughts as I was looking at the new Sumikos.

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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by wojtekf » 30 Aug 2019 16:15

Happy Sumiko Moonstone user here. It's not as bright as cartridges from other manufacturers, but I see this as its advantage. You do not get tired with the sound. Want to switch from Black Sabbath to Cocteau Twins? No problem. Yes, I can probably pick a cartridge that will render Cocteau Twins even better, but I don't feel the immediate need.
Solid all-rounder.

I know it's an unfair comparison (price), but it wiped the floor with 2M Red that came bundled with my TT. Which, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment after Rega Elys2 on my Rega Queen (packed in a box, waiting for more space).

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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by BMRR » 30 Aug 2019 18:52

In addition to the Sumiko opening up after 30 hours, I think you'll find that the AT's bass improves after 30 hours and perhaps it will also be slightly less bright.

Tonearms and headshells can also make a huge difference (not always, but sometimes), so it'll be interesting to know if you hear any differences when you swap the carts.

dagfinn
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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by dagfinn » 30 Aug 2019 19:08

Hi Collux, you are right. In Norway, however, the importer has priced the Rainier to €195 as regular price. Very strange, more than 30% higher than international prices. I actually ordered a Sumiko Pearl, but they couldn't deliver. So they offered me the Rainier for the price of a Pearl (€149). The Audio-Technica I found on offer for €225, including a HS10Bk headshell and cables. I look forward to hearing the different shapes, I find it very interesting.
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raphaelmabo wrote:
30 Aug 2019 15:25
Sumiko needs at least 30 hours to open up in the treble. My Pearl sounded closed in the first hours, then after 30 or so it transformed.
I am glad to hear that, raphaelmabo :). Your writings about the Pearl has definitely influenced my choices ;).
I can clearly hear the rock potential in the Rainier. At the moment it is lacking treble in metallic percussives, like triangles and ride cymbals, so when this opens up, I can compare the two again properly. (Playing Jean Luc Ponty: Mystical Adventures sounds quite good on Rainier :) )
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For now I'll just play them one by one, and perhaps move one to a Dual 510, coming tomorrow :). That way I can compare to the DL-103 as well. It's my main reference, my only cart for two decades, and after hearing 3-4 new carts the last few months it stands its ground quite well. Since I'm a guitarist, I have a close relationship to stringed instruments and that's what the DL-103 does so well for me. It can bring the different guitars, the banjos, the dobros, the mandolins, standup basses and what have you on a Ry Coder album, to life, in such a realistic way. Into the purple valley is my "most played" album for a long time, and I'm rationing it so I won't wear it out...

dagfinn
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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by dagfinn » 30 Aug 2019 20:10

wojtekf wrote:
30 Aug 2019 16:15
Happy Sumiko Moonstone user here. It's not as bright as cartridges from other manufacturers, but I see this as its advantage. You do not get tired with the sound. Want to switch from Black Sabbath to Cocteau Twins? No problem. Yes, I can probably pick a cartridge that will render Cocteau Twins even better, but I don't feel the immediate need.
Solid all-rounder.

I know it's an unfair comparison (price), but it wiped the floor with 2M Red that came bundled with my TT. Which, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment after Rega Elys2 on my Rega Queen (packed in a box, waiting for more space).
I agree, I think it is good to have some carts less sharp. Some pressings or types of music can be more enjoyable if rendered more softly. And yes, much better than 2M Red that I find not very engaging. I also find the possibility of Moonstone or Olympia upgrades interesting in time. Same with the AT, many interesting options :).
BMRR wrote:
30 Aug 2019 18:52
In addition to the Sumiko opening up after 30 hours, I think you'll find that the AT's bass improves after 30 hours and perhaps it will also be slightly less bright.

Tonearms and headshells can also make a huge difference (not always, but sometimes), so it'll be interesting to know if you hear any differences when you swap the carts.
Thanks BMRR, just what I was hoping for. The AT is a tiny tad sharp on some recordings. I'm also interested in differences in tonearms/headshells, so I will report back on that :). I know the DL-103 is very influenced by headshell as it generates a lot of resonances.
Compliance seems compatible in both arms, tracking is surprisingly good and no extra adjustments has been required after setup with protractor and level VTA.
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raphaelmabo
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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by raphaelmabo » 31 Aug 2019 08:27

Yes, my first impressions with the Pearl was ”what have I done?. :) I wanted to throw it away, it sounded so boring and dark. But with time it has become one of most loved cartridges. :)

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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by Issuesman666 » 31 Aug 2019 13:51

I have about 10 hours on my 540 VML and it's wonderful.

My 2M blue on my Project might need replacing soon and I am looking at Sumiko or Nagaoka cartridges around 400 to 500 US dollars for the Project 8.6 cc tonearm.

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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by dagfinn » 31 Aug 2019 17:19

Nigel Gomez wrote:
31 Aug 2019 13:51
I have about 10 hours on my 540 VML and it's wonderful.
You know, I have to agree. It's so detailed, and yet so quiet and soft. The way it separates human voices is amazing, it manifests the singer in the room in an astounding way. I can hear singers doubling themselves in a way I've never heard. No sibilance, and no issues on inner tracks. In many areas I already find it better than my Dl-103. Make me wonder about the 7xx series, how much sound is in the body of the cart, and how much is in the stylus? How is a Special Line or Shibata better?

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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by BMRR » 31 Aug 2019 19:09

I'd say about 80% of it is the stylus. MicroLine is actually a more sophisticated cut than Shibata or SLC, but Shibata and SLC come from a different supplier and cost more.

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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by Collux » 31 Aug 2019 21:49

The following stylus information is taken from the Sumiko website:
https://www.sumikoaudio.net/en-us/our-b ... er-seriesj

Amethyst nude Line-Contact
Moonstone 0.3 x 0.7 mil Elliptical
(Cantilevers: 0.5mm aluminum)

Olympia 0.3 x 0.7 mil Elliptical
Rainier Elliptical ??
(Cantilevers: aluminum)

Does anyone have any further stylus detail for these carts and in particular, the 'Rainier' ?
https://www.sumikoaudio.net/en-us/our-b ... es/rainier

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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by raphaelmabo » 01 Sep 2019 14:24

Collux wrote:
31 Aug 2019 21:49
The following stylus information is taken from the Sumiko website:
https://www.sumikoaudio.net/en-us/our-b ... er-seriesj

Amethyst nude Line-Contact
Moonstone 0.3 x 0.7 mil Elliptical
(Cantilevers: 0.5mm aluminum)

Olympia 0.3 x 0.7 mil Elliptical
Rainier Elliptical ??
(Cantilevers: aluminum)

Does anyone have any further stylus detail for these carts and in particular, the 'Rainier' ?
https://www.sumikoaudio.net/en-us/our-b ... es/rainier
To my knowledge the Rainier has a 0.4 x 0.7 mil Elliptical (same as Nagaoka MP110... ).
There's an interesting difference between the Rainier - Olympia - Moonstone:
Rainier has an output of 5.0 mV.
Olympia has an output of 4.0 mV.
Moonstone has an output of 3.0 mV.

But the generator is all the same.
The difference in output is because the Olympia has a smaller moving magnet than the Rainier, and the Moonstone has an even smaller moving magnet. This means that the Olympia has lower moving mass than Rainier, and Moonstone has lower mass than the Olympia. Lower mass means the cartridge is being able to give a faster and more precise response to changes in the groove, meaning better and faster transient response, better dynamics and stereo separation.

Another difference is that Rainier has a compliance of 10 @ 100 Hz, where the others has 12. So the others has a softer suspension.

The Amethyst has it's own generator, so it's not only the shape of the stylus that differs there. And it has 2.5 mV output, so again a reduction in size to the magnet, and an even lower mass.

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Re: First impressions AT-VM540ML and Sumiko Rainier

Post by Collux » 01 Sep 2019 14:57

Thanks raphaelmabo
- that's significantly added to my knowledge of these rather interesting and attractive (to me) carts from Sumiko.

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