I tried the new Proteus on a Vertere MG-1 with SG-1 tonearm and got first class immediacy, excellent speed, and bass power. This resulted in very real sounding percussion on Bugge Wesseltoft’s Trialogue album [Jassland]. Double bass produced a gorgeous low throb and underpinned a full-scale image that was totally separate from the loudspeakers, the sound being remarkably clean and controlled, yet as pacey and dynamic as the turntable allowed.
On a Rega RP10 with its RB2000 arm, the Proteus delivered more bass power on Jeff Beck’s Live At Ronnie Scotts [Shock] and while it couldn’t open up this frustratingly compressed slab of vinyl, it does render the guitar more effectively than usual, pulling it out of the deluge of drumming in ‘Beck’s Bolero’. On a far older recording of Marty Paich’s Big Band [The New York Scene on Discovery and featuring Art Pepper, Victor Feldman, and Jimmy Giuffre – he knew how to pick ‘em], the cartridge let me appreciate just what great musicians these guys were at their peak. It brought out the nimbleness of the playing and the tone that they managed to produce. In truth, this album has rarely sounded so good and the cartridge is a large part of that result.
With a decent contemporary release such as Modern Cool by Patricia Barber [Premonition], you get a more visceral presence thanks to the bass extension and dynamics on this remarkable recording. The Proteus extols all its virtues with relish, revealing the fine cymbal work that often gets lost in the mix, as well as the cryptic attack on music reviewers in the lyrics that I had not noticed before, so low level detail is clearly very well served. As is the way that the acoustic varies so much between Jaco’s bass and Joni Mitchell’s guitar on Mingus [Asylum]; there is so much space between them because 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.
Moving over to the SME 20/3 turntable and arm playing Chasing the Dragon’s remarkable recording of the Four Seasons, I was struck by the quality of timbre that the Proteus managed to reveal. The original instruments have rarely sounded so distinctive and, well, woody. This, combined with beautiful musical flow and the tremendous vivacity of the performance, is unveiled with ease and no apparent character on the cartridge’s part. The way that it can deliver fluency with inner detail alongside the full weight of larger instruments is particularly beguiling.
Back on the Rega RP10, the result was even greater realism and musical engagement in the context of remarkable image depth and scale. The groove was presented in totally effortless fashion and backed up by layers of fine detail, the sound expanding out into the room. I love the way that the Proteus can present such rich detail without any tendency to sound analytical, and it reminds you that digital still has a long way to go before it can claim the crown of highest fidelity. A good digital system will give you a more polished and weighty sound, but it won’t produce a living, breathing musical performance in the way that a great turntable with a fabulous cartridge like this can. I can’t tell you exactly what the new Proteus is doing that its predecessor didn’t, 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.
Type: Low output moving coil phono cartridge
Stylus/Cantilever: PA (3x30µm) diamond stylus with 0.3mm boron cantilever
Tracking Force: 1.7g – 2.2g optimum 2.0g
Load: step-up >1 Ohms, active gain 10–180 Ohms
Compliance: 13 x 10–6cm/dyne
Output (at 1 kHz @ 3.45cm/s): 0.2 mv
Weight: 7.8g (without stylus cover)
Manufacturer: Immutable Music Inc
Distributor: Decent Audio
Tel: 056 0205 4669