Second Cartridge With Transfiguration Phoenix

I use Phoenix with Graham Phantom tonearm over Acoustic Solid Royal TT (ARC Ref 2 SE phono stage). I really like what I hear bur decided to get a second cartridge with a second tonearm (will be Graham Phantom II Supreme) on the second tonearm plate with my TT. I am currently considering from a list of Shelter Harmony, Koetsu Onyx or Azule Platinum, Airtight PC-1 Supreme, Ortofon PW. My listening preferences are neutral, organic sound with a deep and wide soundstage, I do not prefer a specific bandwith dominating the test, I like details without sacrificing musicality as one can get why I like Phoenix. Of course one may either find a cartridge having similar sonic clothing with Phoenix while improving its virtues or alternatively can try to find a very different sound as complementing a neutral sounding cartridge like Phoenix, which I am not decided what to do. I will appreciate from current users or ones who have experience with those cartridges and if they were able to listen to some of them with the same setup. Thanks for your help.
If you really like the Phoenix, and it is a great cartridge, why not consider Transfiguration's new Proteus?
I don't know what your budget is, but another cartridge to consider is the ZYX UNIverse II X-SB?
Hi Jmgrogan2, I presume the house sound of Proteus in terms of tonality and neutrality would be very similar, while the new flagship should have more of a refinement compared to Phoenix. I did not listen to Proteus but lived with Orpheus for 3-4 years. Although Orpheus was a better cartridge compared to Phoenix, they really shared so much, and I even concluded that Phoenix is slightly more musical while Orpheus is dynamically superior. If I go to Proteus over Phoenix, I would replace it with Phoenix. My aim is using two cartridges so even if I one day upgrade to Proteus, it does not effect my second tonearm/cartridge plan. I do not know exact price for the cartridge you mentioned but presume it is not more expensive than Koetsu Azule, so it is within budget, yes.
I second Jmcgrogan2's thought on the ZYX UNIverse II X-SB. It meets your description ("...neutral, organic sound with a deep and wide soundstage, I do not prefer a specific bandwith dominating the test, I like details without sacrificing musicality...") quite well... and a lot more. It's also known to be a good match for a Phantom. There's a review by my signature.

It's quite different from Koetsu, since it avoids the willful midrange colorations that line is noted for. I've A/B'd with the Onyx Platinum (or other models) in at least five systems and have always preferred the ZYX, at least for my tastes. For reference, I'm largely a classical and opera listener plus a little jazz, with a liking for original/authentic instrument recordings. Natural/lifelike reproduction with zero sonic fakery is my first priority.

Haven't heard the Harmony but compared to almost any ZYX my Shelter 901 sounds alot like a whoopie cushion. ;-)

UNIverse II retail is around $8500. If that's above the budget, the ZYX 4D provides 80% of what the UNI2 does for quite a bit less. Check with Mehran at SORAsound. One of the nicest guys in audio... bends over backwards for his customers.

Also consider Dynavector XV-1T (haven't heard it, but the XV-1S is pretty creditable, though lacking the UNI2's last degree of finesse, harmonic refinement and tonal purity).

Disclaimer: Mehran and I are friends and I occasionally assist his customers with cartridge questions and setup issues, for which I may receive a small consideration. The last 3 such people thought something in their system was broken. It proved to be nothing but small user adjustments which I talked them through, so the consideration was properly earned.

Thank you for sharing your views and experiences Doug. I will read the related reviews for Zyx Universe II. Yes, it is within my budget. Btw, I checked Zyx website and could not find universe, I see 4d and some other lines but not uni. Is that discontinued?
The UNIverse II is a current production model. All UNIverses are exclusive to SORAsound, I imagine that's why it's not on the ZYX site.

The exclusivity is Nakatsuka-san's way of honoring Mehran for providing the seed funding, as noted in my review of the original UNIverse.

Anyone interested in a UNIverse should contact Mehran at He sells direct in North America or via authorized local dealers in other markets.

4D is good, very good, but UNI2 is in another league. It has no peer that I've heard when it comes to finesse, clarity, tonal purity and low sound floor. It has the 4D's big dynamics too, maybe more so. Arthur Salvatore's review described it well too.

As for the Omega, I've heard it. ;-)

Here is some more information on the UNIverse II from the Sorasound website. I believe the UNIverse II is specifically designed for the North American market, of which Sorasound is the distributor.

i were in the same point with you couple of months before. Our tastes are alike. At the end i had bought lyra titan i(fantastic cartridge), zyx universe ii(more fantastic). i am using them on kuzma 4point. i am very happy with them. Both them are very very neutral. They play life like, and i am not sure my system is enough to show these two cartridges ablities, transfiguration is walking in the same line with these cartridges, more alike, less different. Nowadays, i am toying with the idea, buying koetsu/miyjami/phasemation cartridge. Simply they are different. They are different then my musical preference. But every cartridge is another system, every cartridge Changing the system in another way. So buying a different cartridge means buying a new system. Maybe changing is desirable maybe not.

My point is, if you are looking for a different thing buy koetsu, miyajami/phasemation. But if you are looking for an upgrade both lyra titan i and zyx universe ii even universe i is sure and fantastic way.
Thank you guys for knowing me that cartridge. Pity is I am based in Istanbul Turkey, it seems as Jim said, that model is a customized one for American market, I am not quite sure I can get one here. I will ask local Zyx distributor.
The local ZYX distributor can order from Sorasound if he wishes. There are many non-American UNIverse owners, including several who participate on this forum. Good luck with whatever you choose!
Altanpsx, thank you for your feedback, very strong points to consider, really appreciate. Perhaps, I better start with a different sound to complement rather than upgrading Phoenix and then perhaps the next project is replacing Phoenix later with a similar carridge but improving its virtues more perhaps Transfiguration Proteus or Zyx Universe II.

Can you please tell which Koetsu you are experimenting if any?
İmho entry level koetsu cartridges like black etc is not what really koetsu. Again imho after rosewood signature you start feel koetsu really, sweet spot rosewood signature platinium. Coral stone is the top of the line which i am going to experiment, one of my friend thinking to sell his.
Great to hear Altan, please let us know how your experiment goes.

Have a nice listening,

Also you did no ask but Zyx Universe ii is a better cartridge then proteus. If you buy just one cartridge in neutral camp, imho Zyx is the best way to go.
I have been living with a Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum with diamond cantilever, for six months now. Wonderful.

I was a little apprehensive after hearing and reading that the diamond cantilever "destroyed the Koetsu magic", so I was primed to hear excess brightness. Well, if you don't hear excess brightness on Bach's violin concertos, or Barber's adagio for strings, you won't hear it elsewhere. Especially when electrostatic speakers are your reference.

What the diamond does is eliminate a source of resonance, because the cantilever and stylus are ground from one piece of solid diamond. The sound is uniquely clear and transparent. In my opinion.
Dear Number95: I have first hand experiences ( in my system. ) with almost all the cartridges you named here and named by the other gentlemans but the Universe 2 ( I herad other Universe and ZYX models. ), Azule Platinum and the Terry9 Koetsu ( mine is Platinum too but I think has not the diamond cantilever. ).

I think that all cartridges named here are in many ways top performers, no one of those cartridges is perfect all has trade-offs and in all cases its quality performance depends mainly on the other links that surround it in the system chain especially tonearm and phonolinepreamp.

I own the Phoenix and in the past I owned two Temper's and I heard the Orpheus ( I forgot, I never heard the Proteus. ) and I understand what you mean on what you like:

++++ " My listening preferences are neutral, organic sound with a deep and wide soundstage, I do not prefer a specific bandwith dominating the test, I like details without sacrificing musicality ... " +++++

well, neutral ( between other things ) means that has a well balanced tone and that the musicality or not as that wide soundstage ( that depends of system/room interactions. ) and that " organic " sound depends not of the neutral cartridge but what is in the recording and how accurate is that neutral cartridge.

The Phoenix is very good performer and maybe better that what you experienced in non-unipivots tonearms. I'm not saying that in an unipivot tonearm it performs wrong ( because not ) but that in other tonearm type performs a little better.

The Ortofon PW is really good and with very good tracking abilities that almost all the other names here has not and this sole characteristics makes a difference for the better ( lower distortions elsewhere and more music information. ) especially in an unipivot tonearm design. Lower compliance cartridges put to high demands at the pivot where " all " is concentrated at one point and tend to vibrate in excess against non-unipivot tonearms that tame in better way those low compliance cartridge ridding effects and its feedback that degrade the cartridge signal.

Graham is a very good tonearm and the cartridge you will select for will performs good but IMHO the subject could be: which will perform best in the Phantom II because seems to me that you already decided? ( btw, did you think in a diffrent tonearm option just to mix.? ). My advise is that everything the same try to look for the cartridge with better tracking abilities, you can ask your dealer or trough the cartridges site.


here you can read that 100um figure on traking ability, this is what you need to look for. Believe me that parameter makes a difference for the better or worse.

At the end this is only an opinion but what really matters is your opinion because you will be the person that must leave with the cartridge you decided for.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Altanpsx, why do you think that ZYX Universe II is better than Proteus?
Hi Raul,

Thank you for your detailed feedback. I have followed you and your answers in Audiogon Forums for a long time, which means I have a big respect for your knowledge and experiences. So I am pleased to get your feedback here.

I may think of some other tonearms but decided to have the same tonearms in order to compares cartridges better (same t/t same tonearm less parameters on cartridge comparisons), also I am very used to Graham, its settings. I also considered if a 12 inch might be the second tonearm but then decided to go with 9 inch. I have read in those forums that Graham is best with 9 inch. I may be wrong on that. A second consideration is IC-70 phono cable as Graham suggests that one and I have it with my current Phantom. I never tried another phono cable, rest of my audio chain (with exception of power cords) is all Transparent XL (mm2) so I wonder if Transparent XL phono vs IC-70 makes a greater synergy with rest of cablings.

I listened to Ortofon PW in an Audio Show in London years ago, I used to like what I heard. I will consider that suggestion as well. That being said, have you tried or listened Anna vs PW? I presume they use same stylus (Nude Ortofon Replicant 100 polished) so I guess their trackings should be similar (which I checked now and interestingly PW having 100 vs Anna's 80).

Regarding Phoenix, I found it more musical over Orpheus (I also have Orpheus and spent 4-5 years with that). After I realigned Graham/Phoenix with Feikhert Universal Protractor (PtS distance was harder for exact measurement due to Phantom's spherical top over pivot anyway that is another story), there has been a remarkable improvement (more relaxed but tonally correct and better upper frequency details etc). So my idea to add another tonearm/cartridge is not due to I am not pleased with Phoenix.

Thank you for your feedback for the issues above.
Dear Number95: You are right, with less different audio items/devices cartridge comparisons are not only more easy but reliable.

The Anna has lower compliance and different design but you can get the A-90 that is really good and in the tracking ability regards shares same 100um.

Right now I'm testing listening to my Lyra Kleos that fater some " hard days " finally " settle down " and what I'm listening is nothing less than first rate quality performance.

I own or owned and listened all the Lyra cartridges ( Akiva included that was made by Lyra for Linn. Truly great. ) since the Envolve 99 ( I think? ) but the Delos and Atlas.

Now, that I'm really enjoying the Kleos, I can tell you that is a better performer even than the Titan i or the Olympos.
The Kleos is not a simple upgraded design but I understand a new cartridge design and I can attest why.

This humble price cartridge can compete and even outperform some of those " big cats " named here. Even that's not the best tracker out there the Kleos design is so good that through the listening session you almost forget that. I only can or I have to say " can't " imagine how the Kleos could performs with better tracking abilities.

The Kleos is a winner and if I were you I put my eyes and ears with. Yes, I like it.

I know that you want to have a mix on your cartridges " kind " of performsnce and maybe you can think too in the MM alternative and especially the Audio technica AT150ANV ( you can get from . No, I don't have any relationship with. ), this mis the today top of the line and a very special design that when you hear it you can't say if it's a MM or LOMC performer and you can buy it for less than 1k.

Yes, you can think that a so low price cartridge can't perform s at the same level of a 5K-8K cartridge but I can tell you it can. Even you could have as a spare cartridge.

Not all but the very top MM/MI cartridges ( vintage or today ) are a competitive alternative. I remember that a gentleman whom owns the Atlas he owns too the vintage MM Technics EPC100CMK4 and posted that in many ways he prefered to the Atlas. Of course that this comment is not on anyway detriment for the Atlas but a compliment for the MM cartridge alternative.

Well, the ball is in your hands you just need to play with. Good luck.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Thank you Raul. Looks like new candidates on my list (Kleos, Audio Tecnica mm), lots of homework :))

Can you provide some info if you have any on phono cable for Graham? I have not yet decided on the phono cable for second tonearm, the one I have with my current Phantom is Graham's IC-70. Never had a chance to compare it. Rest of the audio chain is all Transparent Ref XL.

Best Regards,

Dear Number95: Tonearm internal wire and IC phono cable are critical between other things because there must pass a very low level/output signal that is very sensitive and prone to be contaminated. We need here not only very good wire conductors but well shielded and with low impedance/capacitance/inductance trying to preserve the cartridge signal integrity. Of course that we are looking here for neutral/accuarte conductors.

Each one of us have their preferences that's what we are using. Normally what we have we have it because through comparisons is the one that performs with accuracy and neutrality. We don't want a colored wire/cable down there.

As some other persons I tested several cables ( never the IC70 ) and I ended with the Silver Oval by Analysis Plus that's achieve those characteristic name it here. The cable is a combination of silver/cooper. I'm satisfied with.

Could be that due that all your system is wired by Transparent one the MM2 can be a " natural " option. Of course that the best way to decide is to listen it.
The Cable Company has a 30 days time to test cables and if you are not satisfied with they return your money but maybe whom you bought your Transparent ones can do the same.

Regards and enjoy the music,
With both the Orpheus and Phoenix in house, I can agree the Universe II will be a super choice as an alternate cartridge. Spent a few hours with it on two different days at CES on the Kronos - oh my oh my.
I would like to thank to all of you who shared their honest and sincere opinions as well as providing very useful information. Here is the plan for me. I decided to buy two cartridges. I understand Lyra and Zyx are more on the neutral and honest side, so I will consider either Lyra Kleos (or perhaps Atlas) or Zyx Universe II. Good news from my dealer who sells Zyx in Turkey, he said he can bring Universe so it is affordable for me (seems Universe specific model for North America). Apart from that part of spectrum, I will get another cartridge but on the warm side to add a different flavor like Koetsu (stone bodied). I will buy an additional armwand with second Graham and will test all 3 cartridges (including Phoenix). If neutral sounding cartridge (Lyra or Zyx) outperforms Phoenix with a clear margin, then it will be the new reference cartridge for me. If Koetsu or else also shows its virtues as a keeper then it will be the second cartridge. I will order second Graham with IC-70 phono cable to compare all of the cartridges equally. In worst case, you may see a second hand Koetsu for sale in Audiogon :))
Number95, glad you've formulated a plan, which seems sensible and should teach you a lot about whichever cartridges you try.

One caution: Raul's first post correctly mentioned that the Graham might not be the optimal tonearm for lower compliance cartridges. IME that is true and (speaking generally) Koetsu's have the lowest compliance of the cartridges you're considering. They may not perform at their best on a Graham.

I'm not suggesting you change your plan. A stone body's higher mass will help them play better than a wood body. Just be aware that what you hear depends on the arm as well as the cartridge..

Dear Number95: ++++ " I will order second Graham with IC-70 phono cable to compare all of the cartridges equally. " +++++

just an additional thought: what if for example you test the Transparent MM2 and outperforms ( with the same cartridge ) the IC 70? is it not a better alternative and in some ways what you are looking for when asked about?
Yes, if that happen you need to invest not in one IC but two IC cables and this means a higher investment.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Hi Raul, your logic is undeniable, will get a phono cable from Transparent to test. Many thanks.
Raul, higher investments don't seem to be a problem for Number95! ;-)
Raul, higher investments don't seem to be a problem for Number95! ;-)

Well yes and no. Yes I can afford buying a second tonearm, two more cartridges as well as a more expensive phono cable. But, I want to be sure I am not wasting my hard earned cash for nothing or garbage. As you can realize, I have not bought any cartridges since 2008 (Orpheus) and currently use Phoenix (bought in 2007), so I am not kind of a guy who continiously swapping gear for sake of change.

I plan to keep the new cartridge(s) as a long term investment. Hope this does not be a famous last words story ;-)
Update: I bought Dr Feikhert protractor as well as its Adjust+ software and realigned Orpheus, this time it has performed much better (way above Phonenix) so Phoenix became the back up cartridge. Then came Transparent Ref MM phono (din to rca) cable which did a big improvement over Graham IC-70, the difference is almost night and day. I also bought Miyajima Kansui as second cartridge and wait for second Graham Phantom to be delivered (pity I will need a second Transparent Ref MM phono with that). Funny it is, I ordered Kansui without even hearing one, then had a chance to listen to it at a friend's setup (also compared that to Phasemation PP1000) and really liked it.
Number95, what would be the sound difference between Kansui and Phasemation PP-1000?
Number95- I owned the Shilabi and it performed very nicely on a higher mass arm. It was not so great on Basis Vector, but exceptional on a friends Tomas Schick arm. Please share your impressions of the Phasemation cartridge.
I have heard a good report, but only from one person. Cheers -Don
Hi Don,

I hope Kansui (a bit higher compliance vs Shilabe) goes well with Graham.

I listened to Kansui with Kuzma 4p tonearm and Clearaudio (dont exactly remember the model perhaps Innovation), it was marvellous. I also listened to PP1000 with Clearaudio Linear Tracking tonearm (either tt2 or tt3). So I can not directly compare both cartridges since tonearms are different. Having said, Kuzma+Kansui was more musical, the soundstage and focusing more precise to my ears while PP1000+Clearaudio more on the analytical side, more detail, a bit aggressive on highs while Kansui+Kuzma's highs texture was better. The mids, no question, Kansui side clearly outperformed. Both cartridges with their tonearms had good bass definition. If I did not order Kansui before that listening test, I would order without any hesitation afterwards. By the way, my friend who owns them likes them almost equally, so my feedback is just one man information.
Don i am the friend who owns both of the cartridge. I think pp1000 has a better bass and it plays bigger, kansui plays more focused and vocals are better then most of the cartridges i own. One of my friend thinks pp1000 is the one, other thinks (number95) kansui is more preferable. I love both of my friends, so i bought both them to please my friends :)
No questıon, you are a good friend Altan ;-)
Number95, any news, how did the story went on?