by Henry Wilkenson
The Axia replaces the Aria as entry level cartridge in the Transfiguration line. It features an aluminum body to control resonances in addition to a boron cantilever and Ogura diamond stylus. With a tracking force of 2.0 grams and an output of .38 mV, it should be easy for most phono stages to handle without a step up device. The balance of the Transfiguration line consists of the Phoenix at $4,250.00 and the top of the line Proteus at $6,000.00. According to the manufacturer, the Axia shares the basic sonic attributes of its higher priced companions.
As an ‘entry level’ cartridge, I am continually surprised by just how good the Axia is. Granted, it requires a good deal of break in, but the end result is well worth the effort. Sonically, I found the Axia to be on the neutral side of the sonic spectrum. That term is often used to describe a sonic signature that is cold and/or sterile. I’m using the term here to say that the Axia doesn’t highlight or spotlight any one area of the sonic spectrum, be it treble extension, transparency or imaging. It does all of these things equally well. Overall, the performance of this cartridge is best summed up as being well balanced.
The Axia’s treble is extended which makes for very good reproduction of cymbals. The delicacy and the texture of struck or brushed cymbals are very revealing and pleasant to listen to.
The timbre, sustain and decay of piano notes is simply amazing. A good example of this is Bill Evans Trio ‘Portrait in Jazz’ [OJC re-issue OJC-088 of the original Riverside, RLP-1162 recording]. This is a 1959 recording, but it still holds up. The piano never sounds clanky or hard, although I think that it was closely miked.
Female voice is presented with fullness and naturalness with a total absence of any edge or hardness. For example, Shelby Lynn’s tribute to Dusty Springfield, Just a Little Lovin’ [Analogue Productions app041]. This is a very closely miked recording and I have heard the vocals harden during loud passages with some other cartridges, this never happened with the Axia.
The bass performance is as satisfying as the midrange and treble. Ray Brown’s double bass comes across with all of the fullness and body one could ask. Since Brown was the leader of his trio, it is understandable that the bass is quite prominent throughout ‘Solar Energy’ [Pure Audiophile PA-002 (2)]. This is another exceptionally well recorded performance and the pressings are truly first rate. The album is also a good example of the Axis’a ability to track difficult passages. In fact there is a caution label on the outer cover that states ‘Caution: Dynamic recording of bass may cause difficulties at low tracking forces.’ I have never owned an album that came with a warning label. Granted the bass intensity is considerable here and the Axia negotiated this torture test flawlessly.
Sound staging and image specificity were first rate. The width and depth of the stage totally depended upon the recording. Nothing was foreshortened or diminished. In this area, I think the Axia is outstanding.
The Transfiguration Axia excels with all types of music. Its performance will have you revisiting all of your best recordings. I was impressed to the point where I purchased the Axia to use as my reference. Given the performance of the Axia and its price of $2,450, I have no problem recommending this cartridge very highly.
As much as I like the Axia, I recently heard the flagship of the Transfiguration line – the Proteus. I can only say that the Proteus is simply astounding. Take all of the qualities of the Axia and multiply them by at least a factor of ten. Provided your system is capable of utilizing the extraordinary performance capabilities of this cartridge and if you are considering one in this price range, do not pass up the Proteus.
Source: Reviewer purchase