Is Van den Hul Frog Gold a good choice for my rig?

Hi!  I have what would probably be called a mid-fi system in these parts, although it's made up of components I really love with highish end used/open box parts bought because my tastes are Waygu, while my budget is nice brisket.

I recently acquired a gently-used VPI Titan (the older, belt-driven, model although still sold) with a 12 inch Fat Boy tone arm, in part because the price was fantastic.

After much study, albeit in complete ignorance, I am strongly leaning to the Van den Hul Frog Gold on my own, but a conclusion reinforced because my friend has it on a similarly-designed composite tone arm from Poland and the Frog sounds great. The rest of his system, however, is straight highest-end McIntosh.  (He lives far away or I'd ask to borrow his cartridge for an audition.)

In contrast to his stock top-to-bottom, system, my system is a bit of a hodge-podge of things I love, largely designed around streaming/digital, to wit:

Phone preamp (new to me): Parasound JC3+

Preamp: Evo Luna 400

Amps: Classe Delta Monoblocks

Speakers: B&W 800 D3

Subs: SVS PB-16 ultras (2)  (I have a dual hi-pass, low pass, up at pre-amp to divide between amps and amplified subs before amplification.)

(I do love base and low-end.)

Commercial 20 amp Furman power conditioner

Digital source: Lumin U1, Esoteric K-03XD SACD/CD player with excellent DACs)

This is a $3600 cartridge, which chokes me, but I could pay more or less, for the right thing.

Listen to everything, but mainly listen to classical while streaming (due to excellent choices) and rock/blues/jazz/something that pairs with Scotch while listening to analog.



I lived very happily with a Van den Hull Frog and VPI Aries turntable for about fifteen years. Very musical, great bass, and quiet combo. a good choice for these reasons.

Hey thanks!  I’ve never messed with anything than a truly mass produced cartridge.

Vary much appreciate the feedback.

After a bit, I’ll probably add another time arm and go for something risky.

Yeah. It was my first audiophile tt / cartridge and it was simply revelatory. Speaking of jaw dropping. The surface noise I was so used to disappeared, the bass slapped me in the face.  It was a completely different ball game. 

I wouldn't spend that much on cartridge straight away. $3600 cartridge requires $7000 phono stage. I would first get good MM or MI cartridge and go from there if I have to. Phono preamp is more important than cartridge and turntable/tonearm more important still.

I am no expert, cannot make a serious recommendation. But you have a great turntable that certainly needs both excellent cartridge and phono stage.

Besides, I strongly prefer tube equipment, so I am biased in this respect, and even more so I prefer tube phono stage.

I have a new-ish Frog Gold and it’s awesome. I’ll warn you it was very mediocre until I got some burn-in time, and also adjusted VTF a little higher than recommended (1.6g). I’m not used to so much burn-in dependence, so this took me by surprise. It doesn’t need the full 100 hours to start sounding great, but definitely more than 20.

As far as phono stages - it didn’t seem to like active MC gain, at least in my case. I tried with Herron VTPH-2A and Hagerman Trumpet Reference. The treble got harsh, and soundstage shrunk in - very unexpected. But with either phono stage in MM mode using an EAR MC-4 SUT for MC duties, it transforms into something wonderful. Can’t say if that will happen on your JC3+, but it’s something to keep in mind. Maybe see if you can borrow a SUT to have on hand.

My Frog Gold says 0.85mV on the box, but it really sounds like a 0.4mV (0.5 at best) and behaves best when I treat it as such (e.g., 6 ohm tap on the EAR). I have other brand cartridges here rated at 0.4 mV, 0.55, 0.6 mV, 0.8mV (etc) and it’s clearly less output than the 0.55mV and up models. I don’t know if this is typical of Van den Hul ratings or just my Frog unit. Anyways, I'm happy with it at 0.4-ish if it sounds like this :) 

Very good advice.  VdH itself warns about break in on the cartridge.  Apparently it’s a bit stiff until broken in.

" I really love with highish end used/open box parts bought because my tastes are Waygu, while my budget is nice brisket."

Great analogy.

""What would you recommend over the Parasound JC3+?"

Definitely a nice SS unit. A tube phonostage will give another perspective. To my ears, just as your tube pre does, it delivers  a more "organic" convincing presentation. Since you're open to used- Manley Chinook or Herron. 

If you do get the "new" itch, the new Prima Luna all tube phonostage looks inviting. I say that not having heard it, but owning PL gear for many years, likely it follows the PL lineage of value,performance and price. I'll demo one when I get a chance.

Primaluna EVO 100 Tube Phonostage — PrimaLuna USA (

If my current tube phono doesn't make it thru a visit to the shop, it will be on my hit list. 

You have a setup that does at least 90% of what uber setups do. The room setup, as you likely know, will make or break a system.

"After a bit, I’ll probably add another time arm and go for something risky."

I'd also look into Sota/Phoenix RoadRunner tach/speed regulation.

Eclipse Roadrunner – Sota Turntables




A word about phonostages. I owned my frog and upgraded my phonostage from an Audio Research PH 2, 2SE, 3, 3SE, 5, 8, and finally an ARC Ref 3. In each case I got a sizable boost in performance until the last. This is partially how I came up with the generality of investment level TT with cartridge = phonostage = preamp = amp. That seems to be to sweet spot if you carefully choose your components. Until I got to the PH 8 level my phono stage was holdin back me tt.


You need not start there… but this may be worth it long termed. It sure did for me.



Well, I bought one -- on Audiogon, new -- for $1995.  

(I am a discount shopper.)

Have to go to the bank and send a wire.  What a PIMA.

Seems a single major upgrade brings longer reward. 😃 Although, I suppose you just upgraded as models were released.

Audio Research PH 2, 2SE, 3, 3SE, 5, 8, and finally an ARC Ref 3


Yes. But each time I upgraded, I first, researched the heck out of the current market to determine whether switching to a different company was appropriate, typically auditioning as well. Audio Research always led the pack.