As one of the world’s most prolific cartridge designers, A.J. van den Hul never stops inventing and re-inventing. And, since he is also one of the most renowned, a new edition of van den Hul’s top-of-range model is a noteworthy event. Enter the new Colibri XGW Signature Stradivarius.
van den Hul’s Colibri cartridge first appeared in the mid-1990s and was named after a hummingbird native to the Americas, on account of its swiftness, elegance and beauty. While the Colibri cartridge has continually evolved in the form of a range of versions and editions since, it has always remained at the top end of the van den Hul range. With the new XGW Signature Stradivarius edition, it now reaches even higher. Indeed, van den Hul’s stated goal in creating the new edition was to make the best possible cartridge based on his more than 40 years’ experience.
The new Colibri XGW Signature Stradivarius is crafted from cross-grained Brazilian Pau wood, a high density wood that offers excellent sonic properties, and is often used in the bows of stringed instruments. Here, its strong internal damping limits vibrations travelling between cartridge and tonearm.
A further key distinction in this new edition is the ‘Stradivarius formula’ lacquer that coats the Colibri’s body, a treatment which was recently tried and tested on the company’s ‘Crimson’ model, to great acclaim. While the details of the formula’s composition remain under wraps, its inspiration comes from that used on Antonio Stradivari’s iconic violins, hence the cartridge’s name. van den Hul applies three separate layers of the lacquer and each layer takes several weeks to fully cure and harden, meaning that every cartridge body undergoes months of work before any further construction can even begin. “The advantage,” explains van den Hul, “is that the harder outer coating destroys the standing waves inside the softer body, reducing unwanted resonance.”
The Colibri XGW Signature Stradivarius has an extremely high (for an MC model) output of 1.10mV, thanks to a magnet with double the strength of that found in the regular Colibri and a coil assembly with matched, six-layer, 24-karat gold coils which have three times the output of the standard two-layer coils. This incredibly efficient generator assembly endows the cartridge with quite incredible dynamic range and detailed retrieval. The cantilever is solid boron and uses the proprietary van den Hul type 1s, 2×85μm stylus.
Each individual cartridge is hand-built to order by A.J. van den Hul himself and can be tailored according to the customer’s hi-fi system, musical preferences and other sonic tastes. What’s more, van den Hul offers a 200-hour service check-up free of charge to the original owner.