“At a level that few cartridges can match”: Jason Kennedy reviews the newly-enhanced Transfiguration Proteus for Hi-Fi Plus

Japan-based Immutable Music has long been renowned for its small but outstandingly formed range of Transfiguration phono cartridges, whose revolutionary design completely restructures the conventional moving coil (MC) concept. Now, the range is undergoing a number of enhancements and first to arrive in the UK in 2016 was the company’s flagship model, the Proteus.

Hand-crafted in Japan, Transfiguration’s MC cartridges have been described as the most important cartridge design since the invention of the moving coil. They are also hailed as being among the world’s most musically engaging. So, why tinker with them? And can they actually be improved upon? Jason Kennedy ponders such questions in his review for the December 2016 issue of Hi-Fi Plus.

Transfiguration Proteus MC cartridge
Transfiguration Proteus MC cartridge

“On paper at least, this year’s Proteus is not very different to its predecessor,” notes Kennedy. Indeed, it has the same aluminium body, solid boron cantilever and PA diamond stylus. The magnets remain the same neodymium ones at both ends and the internal impedance remains a breathtakingly low 1 Ohm.

What has changed are the silver coils, which “have increased in purity by, wait for it, 0.0004%”. There are also fewer turns in each coil, which reduces moving mass and makes it easier for the stylus to track the grooves’ most subtle nuances.

The second (and seemingly equally small) improvement is to the double dampers. The compound that the dampers are made from has changed, though the actual material used is something that designer Seiji Yoshioka is keeping close to this chest. “He will say that he has combined layers of different elastomers to increase tracking precision,” notes Kennedy, the goal being “to deliver increased depth and more natural tone but most importantly an even more musically involving presentation.”

With such apparently small changes, could the new Proteus reveal a genuine difference in performance? Kennedy put it to the test across a range of systems and musical genres.

On a Vertere MG-1 with SG-1 tonearm, “first class immediacy, excellent speed and bass power… remarkably clean and controlled, yet as pacey and dynamic as the turntable allowed.”

Moving onto an old recording of Marty Paich’s Big Band on a Rega RP10, “the cartridge let me appreciate just what good musicians these guys were at their peak… this album has rarely sounded so good.”

Listening to Chasing the Dragon’s recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on an SME 20/3 turntable and arm, Kennedy was “struck by the quality of timbre that the Proteus managed to reveal. The original instruments have rarely sounded so distinctive.”

And so it continued with Joni Mitchell’s Mingus in which “the bass is placed well back in the soundstage with its own distinct acoustic, all of which significantly increases the realism and presence of the performance.”

In short, the newly-enhanced Proteus performed its socks off. “I can’t tell you exactly what the new Proteus is doing that that its predecessor didn’t,” admits Kennedy, “but I can say that it improves upon those both neutral and musically engaging qualities of the original, at a level that few cartridges can match.”

hi-fi-plus-dec-16-coverRead the full review in the December 2016 issue of Hi-Fi Plus.

Transfiguration cartridges are imported to the UK by Decent Audio. Find out more and track down your nearest dealer at transfigurationcartridges.co.uk