The Acoustical Systems range comprises four moving coil phono cartridges: the archon, the astron, the aiwon, and the top-of-the-range Palladian.

While they all look superficially similar with their semi-nude construction, Q4 Shibata EVO stylus, 5N silver coils, and sculptural body of internally liquid-damped CNC-machined titanium alloy there is so much more than meets the eye.

For example, those archon cartridges which, very rarely, far exceed the already exceptionally high standards for measured performance are transferred into a titanium-alloy body which is “tweaked” with a constellation pattern of 24 carat gold dimples to become the astron, limited to just 18 samples per year.

The aiwon holds true to the principles of the archon and astron cartridges but uses fewer coil windings and includes numerous refinements in terms of materials and execution. Most notable is the further extension of the 24 carat gold surface treatment concept applied to the titanium alloy body.

The Palladian then, represents an endpoint in the evolution of phono cartridge performance and the design principles first established in the already formidable archon. The entire surface of its titanium alloy body is dimpled to break up resonances, giving it the lustrous appearance of mythical dragon scales. Its electrical output is a happy medium between the 0.5 mV of the archon/astron and the 0.28 mV output of the aiwon. But all of the specifications and technical features would be worthless if the sonic result wasn’t in another league compared to anything else on the market, regardless of price.

Speaking of price, this is a very expensive cartridge and upgrading to an Acoustical Systems AQUILAR tonearm should take priority over any cartridge purchase beyond the level of the archon or astron. For those who demand to hear every ounce of inner life and living presence from their record collection, you cannot do better than a Palladian cartridge mounted in an AQUILAR or AXIOM tonearm.

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