While most of you rightly regard me as a two-cartridge man - Koetsu or Decca - I'm not actually that limited. I've been known to tap my toes to SPU-series Ortofons, I love the wooden-bodied Grados and have flirted with more than a few luscious Lyras. But one family of cartridges I've neglected to mention is that of Transfiguration; I've used their Temper for years, with great results.
When it came time for a new stylus, I found out that the Temper had moved along a few generations, so the replacement was the Temper V, the lower output of the two current models. The V delivers a fragile 0.38mV, while the W bumps it up to 0.58mV. Because the Audio Research PH5 phono stage has such a huge amount of gain, I didn't mind receiving the lower output version. The dynamic range was as wide as that of a higher output design, while it retained all of the traditional low output m-c's delicacy and subtlety that has produced a generation of masochists who prefer them.
Transfiguration blends classic moving-coil design with some nice details of their own. The Temper contains a ring magnet, which endows the cartridge with five 'unique design improvements': the coils inside the magnet, there are no yokes, there are 'no magnetic irregularities,' the coils are located precisely at the 'crux of the magnetic focus,' and the design boasts more intimate coil/magnet coupling. What this translates into are greater precision throughout, fairly low mass for such a magnificently built cartridge, and the sort of sonic performance that go some way to justifying high prices.
Transfiguration, like Blue Angel (reviewed in February) isn't rewriting the book. It's merely refining the tried and tested. Its ultra tight magnet-coil coupling, which genuinely means coil/magnet proximity of only a few thousandths of an inch, provides greater focusing within the magnetic field, to improve electromagnetic efficiency. The lower dynamic mass and elimination of coil saturation mean a faster and more accurate 'stylus response to groove formation'; you will notice without question that the Temper sails through hard-to-track LPs. And the transient attack is about as close to a Decca as I've heard from any m-c.
Other details include twin SS-mu-metal square core 7N copper coils on the cantilever fulcrum, damping with a special compound to ensure consistent stylus/coil alignment and control (with very good immunity to temperature change, judging by its composure during a cold December), a special alloy core for the coil assembly, neodymium magnets, a newly-developed boron cantilever and a low mass tip in the form of an Ogura PA 3x30 micron solid diamond. All of this is housed in a flawlessly-finished anti-resonance aluminium body.