When a hi-fi company, or any company for that matter, doesn’t have a website today, you can draw one of two conclusions: it hasn’t got around to making a website, or it doesn’t need a website. Transfiguration maker Immutable Music Inc., of Japan would appear to be from the second group; a company that is kept busy enough by its distributors sites and word of mouth. In other words, a company with an enviable position in such a competitive market place.
Transfiguration now makes just three moving coil cartridges; the entry-level Axia, the Phoenix S seen here, and the range-topping Proteus. Sadly, it no longer makes the Orpheus, which used to be top dog. However, the S suffix on the Phoenix indicates rather more than you might expect. It differs from its predecessor by virtue of having fewer turns in its (moving) coil, which means a lower output impedance and lower moving mass; if you know anything about suspension this is always a good thing. Transfiguration MCs are quite different from the norm in that they have relatively small ring magnets that do no rely on a yoke system to channel the flux toward the coils; instead the magnets themselves are very close to the coils. It didn’t take any research to notice this when setting up the Phoenix S, because I normally use a very small, circa 1mm, allen key as an indicator of alignment. Most MCs will hold this key magnetically and it gives you a precise indication of the angle of the cartridge body when used with a gauge. The Phoenix S wouldn’t hold it and this combined with its short cantilever and sculpted shape make it more tricky than usual to set up (if you are me, at least). The manual does, however, state that “Ultimate alignment is based on the cantilever – NOT on the cartridge body.”
It turns out that the shape of the aluminium body is not the result of creative whim, but was created to combat vibrations, which in a device that’s designed to measure vibrations is pretty crucial. It also features a solid boron cantilever with the same Ogura PA stylus that is used across the range. It has neodymium magnets front and rear, and produces 0.4mV with its silver coils. The Phoenix S needs two grammes of downforce or thereabouts; the manual suggests between 1.7 and 2.2g because variations in humidity, temperature, and arm mass mean that the optimum is not entirely predictable. It is also keen to point out this cartridge is very sensitivite to set up and gives in-depth instructions on how to arrive at the best starting point prior to fine tuning by ear. It’s all good stuff and more than you get with some high-end models.