I’m not saying that Transfiguration cartridges are like buses, but no sooner have you reviewed one than another comes along, often with the same name! Clearly, Seiji Yoshioka who designs the Transfiguration cartridges can’t stop messing around with his creations. Or, put more diplomatically, he continues to refine them in an attempt to increase their capabilities. The Proteus is top dog in the range, however, and thus incorporates all the latest ideas that Yoshioka has about making a better rock to drag through a little plastic valley.
On paper at least, this year’s Proteus is not very different to its predecessor. It has the same aluminium body, solid boron cantilever and PA diamond stylus. The magnets are still neodymium at both ends and the internal impedance remains an uncannily low one Ohm. What has changed are the silver coils; these have increased in purity by, wait for it, 0.0004% to 99.9997%. And while we know that everything matters in audio reproduction, it’s surprising that this sort of change should be audible even to a master of the art. One likes to imagine a guy like the one who makes eyes for the replicants in Blade Runner, and as neither Transfiguration nor its parent company Immutable Music appear to have a website and there are no pictures whatsoever of Yoshioka-san online, that’s the way he will stay... in my mind at least.
What probably makes a bigger difference is that there are also fewer turns in each coil, which reduces moving mass and makes it easier for the stylus to track the smallest nuances in the groove. As with the original Proteus, the latest version has double dampers in a push-pull arrangement. However, the compound that these are made from has been changed. Yoshioka-san won’t divulge what material he used in the past and definitely won’t divulge what is used now, but he will say that he has combined layers of different elastomers to increase tracking precision. The goal was apparently to deliver, “increased depth and more natural tone but most importantly an even more musically involving presentation.” Which is heartening to hear, as it is all too easy for engineers to get lost down a detail resolution rabbit hole and come up with a musically challenged product. Yoshioka-san is clearly of a more sensitive disposition.
The Proteus retains its yokeless, double ring magnet design with the coils placed at the focal point of the flux produced by the magnetic field. While the internal impedance has not changed, the recommended loading for it has. Previously this was set at greater than 10 Ohms, but with the new model Transfiguration is being even less precise, noting that anything over one Ohm should be tried with step-up transformers, and that loads between 10 and 180 Ohms should be tried with active gain stages. But it does say that “100 Ohms may be the best compromise”, which will be a relief to all of us whose phono stages are fixed at that impedance.