Phono Cartridge Reviews
General Introduction on cartridges
by Mr. A.J. van den Hul
The first serious step in the analogue world by our company was the design
of a quite new stylus shape in 1973. This design was the result of plenty of
observations made during my 13 years of audio-reviewing. Repairing and
designing cartridges afterwards created the platform for the start of the Van den
Hul Comp. Actually worldwide around 1.4 Million styli have been sold under all
kind of very creative names.
The original design, the VDH type 1 stylus, is specified with a major (vertical) radius of
85 micron and the minor (horizontal) radius of 2 micron. Especially the stable 2 micron
radius was a very revolutionary decision. There was the general fear that this 2 micron
would act as a cutter for the groove. Experiments I made before the official introduction
showed that this fixed idea was wrong. Especially the 2 micron helped a lot to generate
plenty of extra spacious information. The standard radius of 18 micron as was used by
many manufacturers at that time was not able to generate enough resolution of the
recorded signal. Many cartridges were already better designed compared to the ability of
the common styli to track this high resolution. Replacing styli in all kind of cartridges by
the VDH 1 produced an audible improvement. Also the lifespan of 3500 hours was a great
challenge for many audiophiles.
In the 70's and 80's well-known companies like Goldring, Elac, EMT, Adcom, Coral,
Ortofon, Allaerts, Clearaudio, Audio Note and many others used the VDH 1 and/or the
VDH 2 (a milder version on number 1 with vertical radius of 40 micron and a horizontal
radius of 7 micron).
Repairing and modifying cartridges became a daily occupation. It showed in many ways
minor and major design defects. Detailed observations generated many new ideas. One
of the first modified models in greater quantity was the famous EMT TSD-15: a 15 degree
V.T.A. cartridge with high sonic potential. Because there was a shortage of supply, I decided
to design my own (and first) Moving Coil cartridge: the D.D.T. standing for Detail, Depth
After a while, with more precise manufacturing of parts and other minor components
available, a better construction quality was possible. Models like the MC-10, MC-One,
MC-One Super & MC-Two were taken in production. The differences at that time were
mainly the quality of the components and the output level. Cartridges like the MC-One
Super with 1.25 mV and the MC-Two with 2.25 mV were (and still are) special designs.
In the beginning of the 80's came the request from a number of our representatives to
create a real high end model. This was the beginning of the later well-known Grasshopper
The first model used components from Dynavector. It was a very open construction,
a quality design feature used for all other and later models. Open constructions have no
resonating panels to create extra coloration during replay. Variations in body material and
shape, magnet material, type of cantilever, armature models, types of wire and especially
dampers created a big variation of models known as Grasshopper I, II, III, IV. Still the
Grasshopper III GLA with gold wire coils and Alnico magnet is a very popular model. Also
the Grasshopper IV GLA, already made in rather big quantities is still regularly ordered.
Parallel to the Grasshopper series, the original line of cartridges was extended with our
most popular cartridge: The Frog. The aim was to produce an ‘easy' sounding closed body
cartridge with healthy output and a very high resolution. Another criterion was the ability
to perform in any arm ever made. So an order for a Frog included also the type of arm the
customer intended to use.
This extra service worked so well that from this moment on it turned out to be an extra
parameter in the construction of each individual Frog (and afterwards even an option for
each cartridge we made). Another breakthrough in this Grasshopper line was the Black
Beauty series. The aim was to build a light weight body cartridge with very high resolution.
The Black Beauty in several variations was the result. Again a very popular cartridge for
record addicts both in the classical and jazz world.
The challenge to produce the ultimate quality in cartridge design was an always existing
dream circling around in my mind. Thus on 2nd Christmas day 1999 the Colibri was born.
The first auditioning created a shock because I heard a music quality I had never auditioned
before then. Immediately I made some more samples and the quality improved per unit.
Another generation was born. It became a very popular model for those very demanding
audiophiles looking for (and listening to) the best quality possible. The design is based on
an ultra short cantilever and a single pole magnet.
Both design ideas worked out very well in both very high resolution and spacious reproduction.
With such a short cantilever (3.0 mm), the suspension stability becomes very
crucial. Also the cartridge-tonearm combination needs a better specification. Older and
more heavy arms are specifically not advised in combination with The Colibri.
Experiments were made with copper, silver, gold and platinum wire coils. Also variations in
output level in combination with specified load-impedance are a real must for the dedicated
audiophile. The Colibri is currently made in many variations. Everyone can have his or her
personal selected combination of design parameters. As the Colibri is sometimes too critical
for older tonearms, the request came again to design a cartridge with a wider spectrum of
tonearm options. The result is The Condor born again on 2nd Christmas day but in 2003.
The Condor sounds in many aspects close to The Colibri with the same ease and refinement.
But the suspension is made with less critical components so the variety of tonearms which
can be combined with The Condor is wider and less specific.
Both The Colibri and The Condor offer a very high replay refinement and produce a very
high emotional value.
Reviews on our specific cartridges are positioned on the right side of this page.