With its top-of-the-range models, Transrotor plays a prominent role internationally in the highest league of analogue playback. However, to date there hasn’t been a cartridge matching the high-end turntables in the company’s portfolio. The JR Tamino now has come to change this.
Of course, the analogue specialists from the traditional region of the so-called Bergisches Land did not build up their own cartridge manufacturing for this purpose, but instead developed a corresponding model, according to their very own preferences, in close cooperation with a renowned cartridge manufacturer as they already did with the impressive Figaro model. The Figaro emerged from Jochen and Dirk Räke’s collaboration with Goldring; the JR Tamino came from collaboration with Yoshiaki Matsudeira, head and owner of My Sonic Lab.
With all his creations brought to the market under the brand name of My Sonic Lab as well as Air Tight, Matsudeira san has been extremely successful in keeping the internal resistance of the generator as small as possible, but still providing a comparatively powerful output voltage at the cartridge’s connector pins. A low internal resistance is usually used with a small number of coil windings, consequently only being able to generate a voltage of a similar low level. However, the JR Tamino does not follow this stereotype: it is said to deliver powerful 0.5 mV to the phono preamp. This is made possible on the one hand by extremely strong neodymium magnets, and on the other hand by a coil carrier made of a material with high permeability. Matsudeira san traditionally uses the SH-μX material, which was especially developed for My Sonic Lab. The JR Tamino’s cantilever is made out of a thin boron rod, while the My Lab models use duraluminum.
At this stage Dirk Räke did not want to disclose any further technical details. Perhaps some more information can be snatched during the official debut on the forthcoming High End show. Also, the representative packaging of the cartridge will be showcased there for the first time. While the Figaro dazzled in a matt aluminum, the JR Tamino will brightly shine in a golden finish.
The body and the black mounting plate consist of aluminum alloys of different sound transmission speeds
The cartridge arrived at Gröbenzell in a simple plastic box, but perfectly burnt-in, as Dirk Räke assured. In the absence of any further technical information, I have no other choice but simply collect some experience while listening to the JR Tamino: I really can imagine a starting point to be much worse. Taking the cantilever as line of reference, the well-thought-out alignment gauge of the Thales Simplicity allows for an almost perfect positioning of the Transrotor cartridge in the headshell. In this case, one couldn’t go too far wrong in orienting oneself on the straight front of the body, as it happens to many tonearms when there isn’t a special adjustment tool. The cantilever is exactly centered and forms a right angle with the aforementioned edge of the body. While adjusting with the Thales gauge, it is noticeable that the cantilever of the JR Tamino is quite short and relatively thin. Not only the few coil windings, but also the short boron rod help to keep the moving mass low, creating the best conditions for a dynamic playback.
But what struck me during the first minutes of Art Farmer and Jim Hall’s Big Blues is not dynamics. The quintet featuring flugelhorn, vibraphone, guitar, bass, and drums performs with utmost colourfulness and lusciousness. The horn shines golden while having the necessary snap when requested, and it richly exudes its inherent energy. No doubt, in such moments the speed of the JR Tamino comes to the fore. But it never does overwhelm the immense homogeneous and coherent presentation. Here and now, the Transrotor cartridge already reminds me of the great Lyra Atlas, which just sounds “right” when you hear it for the first time, before you then gradually start to realize that only by achieving best performances in all disciplines of musical playback can this state-of-the-art level can be reached. But while the Atlas strives for absolute neutrality and avoids even the slightest deviation from the linear path of virtue, the JR Tamino adorns himself with a touch of warmth and does not deny his preference for rich and vigorous colours in the least. While for the Atlas veraciousness seems to be the highest ideal, the Tamino reveals itself rather as a hedonist. But these differences in character do not alter the fact that the two are among the best four or five cartridges I ever have been able to enjoy.
The cantilever is made from boron
Rather for my own pleasure than to verify the Transrotor’s capabilities in the one or other discipline, I then gave a listen to Albeniz’ Suite Espanola. “Castilla” conveniently sets the mood, but when starting the testing phase the test-classic “Asturias” misled me to turn the volume control a little bit too far to the right. And this is no wonder, since the orchestra performs on a wide and deep stage with plenty of air around the instrument groups, while the strings contribute to the scenery without exaggerated sharpness, despite the volume level being quite elevated. Playing the music a bit louder is something of a must here: the power of the brass attacks is immense; even during the fortissimo passages the spatial image stays stable, and the sounds of the various timpani are revealed in a finely differentiated manner. The JR Tamino combines the finest precision with an enormous joy of playing, and even at these extreme levels doesn’t become either obtrusive nor annoying. Absolutely compelling!
The next record rarely finds its way onto the LaGrange’s platter, probably because in the past years I have increasingly lacked relaxation time to appreciate free jazz: Full Force of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. “Magg Zelma” starts very quietly with occasional—yes, one really has to describe it like this—noises of percussion and wind instruments, together with a whistle and a klaxon. These sounds suggest a large room, they explosively emerge out of nowhere and impress with their colourfulness. Decades ago I used to end my testing right after the core-shaking whistle. But it isn’t the superb dynamic performance of the JR Tamino that leads me to ignore the tonearm lift this time. I just turned the volume a bit down, and then listened to both sides of the record. The enthusiasm and vibrancy of the Transrotor cartridge do not stand in contradiction to a never-nervous or pushy playback. The JR Tamino combines numerous moments of tension perfectly with a prominently relaxed performance.
Transrotor makes no secret out of the Tamino being manufactured by My Sonic Lab
Up to this moment, the cartridge had been terminated with 40 ohms. Before I tried the 85 ohms plugs in order to then operate rather at the upper end of the scale, which is recommended for this Transrotor model by the manufacturer, I twice gave a concentrated listen to “God Bless The Child” in the interpretation of the Keith Jarrett Trio.
It is very, very rare to have this trio performing in such a large imaginary room. The JR Tamino indulges with the illusion of a deep soundstage. The music’s groove is as irresistible as it should be, while the otherwise often too-present-sounding hi-hat doesn’t annoy at all. This is mainly due to the fact that the cymbals’ dominating attribute isn’t limited to the mere energy they deliver, but is enriched by their colourfulness in nearly the same way. The bass fascinates with a felicitous blend of a sonorous growling and a good portion of thrust. The higher terminating impedance seems to lower the air temperature in the now minimally larger recording room by one or two degrees, while the bass is growing more intense, but with a little less richness. The cymbals emerge with a somewhat stronger aggression, which is quite beneficial to the song’s drive, but to me ultimately was a little too much of a good thing.
Since the JR Tamino doesn’t miss a trick rhythmically, and sparkles with nothing but the joy of playing, I decided to continue without another contribution to these comments about audio characteristics in favour of selecting some more energy in the low frequencies, paired with colourfulness and smoothness, all of this terminated with 40 Ohms. These are precisely the characteristics that distinguish the JR Tamino from other world-class cartridges, such as the top Lyra models, amongst others. Amazing, how the Transrotor shows character. I could get used to that. But no, even worse: I’ve already got used to it. Breaking up with this cartridge surely will end in a tragedy. But luckily there is some time left, as right after the High End show we have planned recordings for our sound library. You can already look forward to it.
Before the official presentation of the JR Tamino at the High End show, not many specifications are available, not even information about of the shape of the stylus
I don’t know whether this kind of effect is also familiar to you: For me, there exists a certain volume limit, which of course varies according to the moods of the day, that I do not exceed to avoid the playback simply getting annoying. Very often one or two decibels are enough to throw you from pleasure into—drastically speaking—pain. Where this limit is to be found, very much depends on the quality of the recording. From time to time I like to listen to some of Van Morrison’s songs like “Whatever Happened to PJ Proby?”, which can be found on the album Down The Road, most of the time sourced from the hard drive of my computer. The voice turns out to have been mixed a little too far into the foreground, while the inevitable—and for productions from the pop world, typical—compression, aggravated with now and then appearing sibilants left untamed by the de-esser, induce me to almost knee-jerk the volume control back to a stressless level. However, this record I own also as a double-vinyl album, and try the track on the LaGrange turntable. Sadly the analogue version doesn’t show up as an audiophile revelation either. Nevertheless, the JR Tamino allows for a feel-good volume that’s a bit higher up the scale than feasible with other high-grade cartridges, and, of course, well above that of computer files. So, if you like to enjoy your favourite tunes in the future with the JR Tamino in a highly relaxed, but still intrigued manner, don’t ever say that I didn’t speak out a warning: Transrotor’s “big” cartridge performs so harmoniously, homogeneously, and without the slightest trace of annoyance, that a few more decibels won’t do any harm whensoever.
An assessment like this, besides being done by someone who very much is used to higher volumes, by no means implies the reverse: even at very moderate levels, the JR Tamino with its colourfulness and low frequency capabilities won’t let you miss anything at all.
With the JR Tamino, Transrotor has enriched their portfolio with a real world-class cartridge, presenting itself as the ideal complement to Artus and Argus, and, by the way, cutting also a good figure on my own turntable. The JR Tamino turns out to be an Epicurean rather than an Ascetic, by indulging with rich sound colors, solid low frequencies, extremely high—even three-dimensional—resolution, and tremendous dynamics. But the principal thing is how coherent and harmonious the JR Tamino unifies these extraordinary skills to a whole.
- Turntable: Brinkmann LaGrange with tube power supply
- Tonearms: Thales Simplicity, Acoustical Systems Aquilar
- Cartridges: Einstein The Pickup, Lyra Etna
- Phono preamp: Einstein The Turntable‘s Choice (balanced)
- Preamp: Einstein The Preamp
- Power amp: Ayon Epsilon with KT150 tubes
- Loudspeakers: LumenWhite DiamondLight Monitors, Kaiser Acoustics Kawero! Classic
- Cables: HMS Gran Finale Jubilee, Swiss Cables Reference, Goebel High End Lacorde
- Accessories: PS Audio Power P5, Clearaudio Matrix, Sun Leiste, Audioplan Powerstar, HMS wall sockets, Acapella Bases, Acoustic System Feet and Resonators, Finite Elemente Pagode Master Reference Heavy Duty and Cerabase, Harmonix Real Focus, Audio Exklusiv Silentplugs
Transrotor JR Tamino
- Principle: Moving Coil
- Output voltage: 0.5mV
- Terminating impedance: 10 – 100 Ω
- Tracking force: 1.9 – 2.0 grams
- Cantilever: Boron
- Price: 10500 Euro
Räke Hifi Vertrieb GmbH
Irlenfelder Weg 43
D-51467 Bergisch Gladbach
+49 (0) 2202/31046
Axiss Audio Distribution