What Are The Differences Between The Vandenhul Cartridge Families

It seems like VDH had an abrupt departure in his cartridge designs awhile back. There were the metal body ones like the Grasshopper and other types, and then all of a sudden the open architecture of the Stradivarius cartridges appeared. Seems like the specifications also indicate a fundamental shift in design philosophy also. Yet I believe there is one hold over, or at least the silver and gold versions of the Grasshopper stayed around longer than the other ones.


Does anyone know what changed, and what the corresponding differences in presentation might be? I was looking at 3 of the Frog series cartridges available here on Audiogon.


Not sure if this helps but VDH explains it here.


Stringreen, Where did you hear (or read) such a thing? VdH cartridges might be more susceptible to damage by ham-handed audiophiles than some others, because of their very open structure which exposes the cantilever out in space, but I know of no chronic recurring problems with intrinsic reliability.


Who knows with Stringreen-he has gotten many things oddly wrong before such as referring to his own cartridge as an Ortofon "Windfield" despite being advised hundreds of times it is "Windfeld".

But perhaps he is referring to a rumor that went around that VdH cartridges had poor QC as to stylus alignment which I believe started with a blurb by Fremer in his monthly column toward his end at Stereophile. Fremer did not specifiy he was talking about VdH but his wording and the attached photo strongly hinted that the subject of his "public service announcement" was VdH.

IMO, Fremer was never much a fan of VdH. I talked to him about it briefly at Axpona 2019. His response as to how he felt about VdH was "how can anyone talk about VdH when you never know what you will get? Every cartridge sounds so different?".

i’ve owned 10 vdH Colibri ’type’ van den Huls over the years. starting in 2001. owned 7 back in 2001--2011, then another 3 in 2016-2018.

my early group did have a consistent nomenclature using symbols for body type, body material, and winding material. the later ’Stratovarius’ group just used names.

agree with Fremer that the vdH’s have the most inconsistent build quality of any cartridge. so reviews mean little, since they are not consistent. further; the alignment of the body, magnet structure, and cantilever is rarely correct and each cantilever is a different length. which can many times cause problems due to the clearance between the magnets and the pressing surface with the shorter cantilever units, so they pick up dust.

so it’s a train wreck to a degree. yet you are rewarded with special very lively exciting sound, if your system can handle it. the Colibri type vdH’s are a pain, but can be amazing. and they are cheap to get fixed, but the fix is not always correct.

bottom line----i owned 10 of these beasts for a reason. they can touch your heart.

so it’s a train wreck to a degree. yet you are rewarded with special very lively exciting sound, if your system can handle it. the Colibri type vdH’s are a pain, but can be amazing. and they are cheap to get fixed, but the fix is not always correct.

bottom line----i owned 10 of these beasts for a reason. they can touch your heart.

Very interesting perspective. I can't agree or disagree but I am willing to venture your take is pretty spot-on. I met AJ Van Den Hul at Axpona 2019. He is old and feeble. I understand his son has been trained to take over but having met him I can certainly understand how his hand built cartridges are not consistent. I have only owned one, a Crimson Stradivarius (not ’Stratovarius’) XGW. The sound is very lively and I love it. And that is in the context of having two very similar turntables hooked up to my system both with Reed 3P arms and my other deck has a Lyra Etna installed, both optimized and re-checked by Brian Walsh.

After the article was published-again more a blurb than an article-I sent mine back to Denmark through the USA distributor to have the magnets/suspension/donut checked and I specifically asked the distributor to send a note that I was concerned with how the stylus was aligned to the cantilever-though I had no evidence it was misaligned. As anyone with a higher end VdH is aware, VdH asks that the cartridge be returned for a check-up after 200 hours.



I owned a Colibri and had no problems with it. But I do agree that each unit is unique, like a custom built automobile that was built to someone else’s preferences or that you buy second hand. Nevertheless, they are "special". I think vdH does not disguise this quirk, because on the inside of each box you find the specs for that cartridge that came in that box. And if you buy a different Colibri with the same options for wire, materials, and etc, it is likely to sound a bit different and to have different specs. Any buyer should take these things into consideration, but that does not make the cartridges "unreliable". Unpredictable may be a better adjective. But never bad sounding.

Dear @neonknight  :  I owned 2  Frog models, one was new and the other second hand and were good performers but nothing close to the " original " Colibri with low output: 0.22mv and I owned 3 samples of those Colibri with a black  light body ( not plastic but similar to. ) and owned one with wood body, all the sample low output and I still own one sample. I remember that 2 of those samples I had to return to VDH at least 2 times in a row because the bas eof the cantilever was hitting the LP surface.

I'm in agreement with what @mikelavigne posted and if you have a high resolution room/system and a lot of patience nothing can touch the unique qualities of the low output Colibri.


I repeat the words " low output " because the today Stradivarious like are medium almost in the range of HO cartridges : 0.7mv and certainly this kind of sudden VDH design change I think was not made it by Dr. AJ VdH him self because he knows that more coil wire always means higher signal degradation, so maybe the " culprit " of that was his son. Yes, I listened the Stradivarius in my system and performs good but nothing like the " old " Colibri.


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,


I can't speak to all or older models of VDH cartridges, but a few months ago I replaced my Dynavector XX 2 MK II with a Van Den Hul MC-One Special.  The Dynavector never seemed to sound "right" until it was nearly worn out, while the Van Den Hul sounded great from first play.  It still sounds great and has ever so slightly improved (as would be expected) with ongoing use.  It's also a bargain considering the price of cartridges these days. Highly recommended. If you're considering the Frog but think it too pricey, the MC-One Special may be the VDH for you.  On another note, VDH uses a wooden box to protect the cartridge, which proved its worth when I witnessed the UPS driver toss the item toward my garage door during delivery, landing with a loud thump! I immediately complained to the driver and opened the package while he watched.  I was surprised to find the cartridge in a wooden box, suspended on a lightweight plastic insert, and in perfect condition.  The box saved my cartridge and perhaps that driver's job. 


I do not know about you, but I can not afford the time, effort and care not to spend the money going through 10 cartridges to get to one good one. There are so many fine cartridges you can depend on. If you want a cantilever hanging out in the breeze get a Lyra, Clearaudio or Verismo. It made me nervous for a while but I got use to it. Always put your stylus guard on before you do anything. 

I never got a VDH because the tolerances of the ones I have seen and the pictures I have looked at are uniformly terrible,  which is why people say they all sound different. 

I understand. I had two Dynavectors that were quite good before I bought the pricier and vaunted XX 2 MK II. and that cartridge was not a good experience. Cartridges can be an expensive pain.