Aidas Rainbow Phono Cartridge
Sometimes you just get lucky. After my reviews of two other Aidas phono cartridges were published last year, my brother and fellow StereoTimer, Mike Wright requested another Aidas cartridge for review called the Rainbow. As luck would have it, because of the design of his Rowland Research Consonance tonearm and the Aidas cartridge would not fit properly on the arm. So rather that send the cartridge directly back to Vira USA, the distributor of the Aidas cartridges, Victor Simakov, the owner of Vira USA asked if I would like to spend some time with it and give him my thoughts on it. At the time I was just starting to review yet another cartridge, the excellent Miyajima Labs Takumi. That was an easy, YES!
Like the Takumi, the Rainbow is a low output moving coil design, so I installed it into the same front-end that I used to evaluate the Takumi; Small Audio Manufacture Aldeberan turntable and Calista II tonearm, Pyon Sound MC Master Step Up Transformer and Pass Labs XP-15 phonostage. The Rainbow cartridge comes in a variety of body materials such as Panzerholz Durawood, Juma, Malachite composite and others. All Rainbow cartridges have boron cantilevers with Micro Ridge or Superfine polished Shibata Type III stylus. The cartridge I had was made of a very attractive Durawood.
After a few weeks of getting the sound of the Takumi out of my head and letting the Rainbow settle in, I was ready to get into some serious listening sessions. The first album that I really got into was a HQ-180 gm pressing of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue [Columbia]. Of course the first track I listened to was “So What.” The Rainbow is a wonderful groove tracker. So much so that it retrieved intricate details from this recording that reminded me of why I love vinyl in a way that I could never get to with digital sources. The liveliness that the Rainbow renders with makes you think that this is a cartridge that was designed for jazz, especially live jazz. Bass depth and detail are in good supply here, as are sense of space and atmosphere. There is wonderful image specificity of the instruments on this recording, particularly on another great tune, “All Blues.”
Next of note was the Gain 2 Ultra Analog 180g LP version of Isaac Hayes’ 70’s classic, Hot Buttered Soul [MFSL 273]. This legendary R&B album features the late, great Hayes’ funk-tastic, “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic.” Like most 70’s funk this tune is loaded with deep bass, synthesizers and fabulous R&B drenched vocals. And nobody put it all together like the late great “Black Moses,” aka Isaac Hayes (Millenials may know him better as the voice of Chef from South Park). But the tune that is the reason this album should be in the collection of anyone who calls tmeself an audiophile is the haunting cover of Dionne Warwick’s, “Walk On By.” The goosebump enducing guitar chord and Hayes’ voice are rendered so well and are so well delineated that they create an unforgettable performance.
One of my favorite live albums is Kurt Elling’s Live In Chicago [Blue Note]. I love this album like I love deep-dish pizza, and considering that I come from Chicago, that means I love it a lot … a whole lot. To borrow from the late ESPN analyst Stuart Scott, Elling’s voice is “as cool as the other side of the pillow,” and his rendering of the classic “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” is simply mesmerizing. This is where the Rainbow’s ability to throw a believable soundstage is important. This cartridge accurately reproduces the scale and detail of the performers and their instruments with the ambience of a live space. The tempo changes on track five, “Night Dream” are also handled particularly well with this cartridge. The dynamics of the drum and piano solos are rendered flawlessly. And speaking of dynamic piano, it doesn’t get any better than Ahmad Jamal on Live At The Montreal Jazz Festival 1985 [Atlantic]. “Yellow Fellow,” the fifteen minute long opening track is a true test of system dynamics, and the Rainbow gives this in spades. Of particular note was the rapid-fire percussion work of Seldon Newton. The Rainbow seemed to give this performance a shot of adrenaline.
Though I didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time with the Aidas Rainbow, I heard enough to know that it sits well amongst its siblings and should definitely be sought out if you’re in the market for an attractive, well made and fine sounding cartridge. If you still don’t know about this fine cartridge making company, do yourself a favor and start combing the internet for more information. Like its siblings, the Aidas Rainbow phono cartridge is an all-around excellent performer and well worth seeking out. And if you enjoy the subtleties of live jazz, this cartridge is a must have. Cheers!
Rainbow Durawood model
Cantilever: Namiki / Adamant boron composite/Namiki Sapphire
Stylus: Namiki super fine Shibata or MicroRidge
Magnet system: AlNiCo5
Tracking force: 1.4-1.6g.
Compliance lateral: 12 um/mN
Cartridge weight: 8.1-10.1g.
Recommended loading: 100 – 1,000 ohms
Channel separation: >30dB/1kHz
Channel balance: >1dB/1kHz
Coils: copper 0.03mm
Mount: thread M2.5×0.45, 1/2 inch / 12.7mm standard between the holes
Coil impedance DC: 4 ohms
Trackability at 300Hz/1.6g: 90-80uM
Vertical tracking angle: 20°
Recommended tonearm mass: medium
Break-in period: 50 hours
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