“Outstanding” van den Hul DDT II Special MC cartridge wins Hi-Fi Choice group test

In the latest group test by Hi-Fi Choice, six sub-£1,000 moving coil cartridges battle it out to discover which is “the king of spin.” Just nudging in at £999, van den Hul’s most affordable model, the DDT II Special, takes the prize.

Nina Simone, Talk Talk, The Chemical Brothers and Jean-Michel Blais & CFCF provide the musical challenges for the expert panel’s auditioning of “a sextet of low-output moving coil cartridges.” Four of the six models under review can be yours for just shy of £1,000 and, “to keep them honest”, there are two even more affordable designs that feature “specifications similar to their costlier rivals”.

van den Hul’s DDT II Special is an updated version of the company’s earlier DDT, which stands for ‘depth, detail and timbre’. Improvements over the original include a thicker frontpole and a smaller magnet to reduce overall mass, both of which deliver enhancements in resolution and output voltage. Indeed, with 0.65mV at its disposal, this is “the most potent cartridge” in the group.

A “sophisticated” design, the DDT II Special uses a stylus profile specifically developed by van den Hul, which is mounted on a boron cantilever. The silver wire coils are pair-matched for optimal channel balance. Its all-metal body “looks and feels a little different to the others on test,” notes panel member Ed Selley. “It is unquestionably well-built, but feels a little more artisanal than mass produced.” There’s a reason for that: almost all of van den Hul’s phono cartridges are personally hand built and tuned by the Dutch master cartridge designer Aalt Jouk (‘AJ’) van den Hul himself.

“From the opening bars of Jean-Michel Blais’ skilful piano work, the DDT II Special shows that its major strength is bridging the gap between accuracy and emotion.” The cartridge’s “worthy list of attributes” (speed, detail, integration, timing, etc) is delivered in a “skilful balancing act” and elevated by “the sense of joy that comes with the technical ability.” “More than any other cartridge here, the van den Hul gives a little sense of really being there to experience the performance in the flesh.”

Read the full review of the DDT II Special and the complete group test in the July 2017 issue of Hi-Fi Choice.

Discover more about the van den Hul DDT II Special.

Find your nearest van den Hul dealer via UK distributor Decent Audio.