I reviewed the Transfiguration Phoenix for Stereophile five years ago. This is not really the same cartridge though it retains the same name. In 2012 the low output moving coil cartridge was updated to include larger gauge pure silver coil wire wound on the square permalloy core used on the now discontinued top of the line Transfiguration Orpheus. The revised Phoenix also shares the Orpheus's damping system and uses a variant of the Orpheus's yoke less, double ring magnet technology featuring a powerful neodymium ring in the rear and a samarium cobalt one in front.
I was lucky enough to see the St. Petersburg Philharmonic play Carnegie Hall recently. They did Prokofiev's Violin Concerto with Julia Fischer, who played wonderfully and then Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony. We get great seats courtesy Joe Kubala of Kubala-Sosna cables who had a scheduling conflict and kindly thought of me. We had to drive through a snow storm to get there but it was well worth it.
The moving coil cartridge advantage comes in great part due to its far lower moving mass. A relatively light-weight coil moves and reacts faster than a far heavier magnet. The lighter the coil, the less the mass.
Over the past few years, thanks to improved magnets and coil and former materials as well as how they are implemented, designers have found ways to increase output efficiency. Thus fewer turns of wire are required to produce a given voltage output.
First of all thanks to everyone who participated. More did than we initially expected. This is a learning experience for sure. Future such surveys will feature “normalized” files so levels will be equal. I’ll be far more careful about clipped files too.
The listening has been completed to the nine moderately priced cartridges for this survey. The cartridges are: The Audio Technica AT95E, the AT 95SA, the Ortofon 2M red and 2M black, the Grado Prestige Gold 1, the Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO III, the Audio Technica AT7V and AT150ANV and the Nagoaka MP300.
Strain-gauge phono cartridges are rarely made and seldom heard; for most vinyl fans, they are more myth than fact. Panasonic once made one, as did Sao Win, but those were decades ago. I've heard about those two models for years but have never seen, much less heard one.
As if he's not got enough to do building his extensive lines of moving-iron cartridges, preamplifiers, amplifiers, and speakers, Soundsmith's Peter Ledermann also makes a full line of strain-gauge cartridge systems available with a choice of six user-replaceable stylus profiles. I believe the Soundsmith is the only strain-gauge cartridge currently made anywhere in the world. Ledermann says it takes him a full day to build one.
The audio industry may have lost a legend and a prolific innovator in Henry Kloss a few years back, but it still has another affable, creative eccentric in Peter Ledermann. In the mid-1970s, Ledermann was director of engineering at Bozak, where, with Rudy Bozak, he helped develop a miniature bookshelf speaker and a miniature powered subwoofer. Before that, Ledermann was a design engineer at RAM Audio Systems, working with Richard Majestic on the designs of everything from high-power, minimal-feedback power amplifiers and preamplifiers to phono cartridge systems. He was also an award-winning senior research engineer at IBM, and the primary inventor of 11 IBM patents.
You know what's the first thing they teach you in dental school? Don't ever say "Oops!" Even if you stick one of those hooked teeth scrapers through the patient's cheek, you don't say "Oops!" "Don't move!"? Yes. "Oops!"? No. That's the big day-one lesson—and given the cost of medical malpractice insurance today, a damn good one.
These are great times for analog, and I'm happy to have played a small part in the revival, but recently the demand for some products has outstripped supply; getting review samples has been next to impossible. I've requested an Audio Research PH7 phono preamplifier for literally years now, but ARC can't build them fast enough, so they don't need a review. The more they sell, the greater the buzz, and the greater the buzz, the more e-mails I get from readers asking for a review. It's not nice to not be needed.
Scan-Tech builds low-output moving-coil cartridges for a number of companies, including AudioQuest, Linn, and Spectral (footnote 1). It also markets its own line, under the Lyra brand name (Lydian, Clavis, Parnassus), which is imported and distributed by Immedia out of Berkeley, CA.
Back in 2000, when Lyra introduced the Helikon moving-coil cartridge, which replaced the then six-year-old Clavis D.C., the company inexplicably retained the Clavis D.C.'s retail price of $2000. This was inexplicable because the Helikon's revolutionary design was new from the ground up, and because audiophiles—like most, if not all, consumers—perceive price to be a reflection of quality and performance.
What makes a phono cartridge worth $3500 or $4000? Pride of ownership? Snob appeal? Sound? Tracking ability? Exotic materials? Styling? Labor cost for skilled artisans? Special ether? Cool wooden box? All of the above?