Palladian X.O. Boron, Cartridge, Acoustical Systems, High-end, analog, vinyl, audio

Palladian X.O. Boron Cartridge

Acoustical Systems Smartractor

The Acoustical Systems Palladian X.O. Boron Cartridge - Low output (.33mV) moving coil cartridge. Revolutionary fluid damped boron cantilever, Titanium Timet 1100 / Vanadium Alloy body, low mass silver coils, 11.8gr and Shibata Q4 EVO Stylus.

Palladian X.O. is so much more than the standard Palladian, considered “A piece of gem,” is the most impressive description of the Palladian Cartridge. Its design is an upgrade to the Aiwon but with a much-improved feature – a tempered aluminum cantilever. This consistently refines the frequency range, resulting in a more dynamic sound vibration.

The Acoustical Systems Palladian features a hand-hammered Titanium body of unequaled strength and an unparalleled ability to transfer energy. In this cartridge, you will find a strong heart with more energy and a more agile body with less inertia. They executed a subtle mix of small measures to fine-tune every performance parameter. This allows for a sonic explosion beyond expectations.


Acoustical Systems strives in cartridge design for a very physical, authoritative sound. They maintain subtle detail, finesse, and color-shadings to create a natural and "real" picture of the recorded event.

They use silver coils and a modified "old-school" approach in cartridge design with a concentration on creating a sound that reassembles the best moments in reel-to-reel playback:

The hand-hammered body, the quicksilver-ish shine like a dragon’s skin. The Timet 1100 body visually expresses agility, vital dynamics, and live likeness.

The Palladian brings that spark of life back into the sonic presentation of your recordings. You will experience a spark of life – independent, large or small – was there when the performance was captured.

The Palladian is fast, life-like, dynamic, and breathtakingly direct in its color, immediateness, and agility.

The Palladian is an incredibly agile, dynamic dancer – reminiscent of Misha Baryshnikov in his prime.

It is subtle, tender, and sublime – yet frighteningly dynamic, with a sonic punch both wall-shaking and stunning physical in its impact.

The Palladian is.. life….. in the best sense and the true spirit of the music; with the Palladian, the true nature of the music is there.

This is their statement in phono cartridges ….. their best!

Their range of cartridges offers unique, superior sonic performance in each price range. The Palladian X.O. Boron Cartridge is a numbered limited edition low-output moving coil cartridge assembled, fine-tuned by hand, and designed in Bavaria / Germany.

Exceptionally high levels of execution mark all Acoustical Systems products; manufacturing and finish are of the highest order, with considerable thought being devoted to materials and design. The attention to detail shows in performance, where if there is a "company sound," it is of a natural, non-fatiguing, well-integrated, highly musical presentation, yet rich with the sort of musical detail that makes listening to great audio such a memorable experience.

GECom Review (Translated from German).

Especially when it comes to pickups, I’m always curious about what can be achieved! Sure, the top cartridges have all become really expensive now. But the good news is – if you have a well-known, experienced manufacturer, you will definitely get an excellent system. I will only name the manufacturers that I have tried and heard in detail with very good results: Lyra (Atlas, Atlas Lambda SL, Etna, Etna Lambda SL), Koetsu (Urushi, Onix Platinum), My Sonic Lab (Signature Gold) , Air Tight (Coda) Audio Note/Kondo (IO) and now the Acoustical Systems Palladian. All of these pickups fulfill their task perfectly and have a high level of series consistency and quality. Of course, I have heard many more expensive pickups either in my own system or at least under meaningful conditions that I personally didn’t like. But I deliberately don’t mention these – they probably belong in the category: „didn’t fit“. And of course I’m still curious about some pickups that I haven’t heard yet but think are promising.

And all of these pickups sound different! What you like better or less is actually purely subjective and depends on your preferred music material, room, listening habits and of course the characteristics of your own system. My subsequent sound description is also based on these subjective factors and I don’t want it to be understood as “better or worse”! A week ago a brand new Acoustical Systems Palladian arrived here.

The packaging is very valuable and practical. It’s a joy to unpack. Needle protection is also included – in a good design! The pickup body is extremely high quality and precisely manufactured. What I particularly like are the defined contact surfaces for the headshell contact. This still brings a small improvement in terms of sound, while a carelessly manufactured, not even sanded large aluminum plate, such as the DS-Audio W3, wastes potential.  The cartridge body is made from hammered titanium, which is an excellent choiceThe needle appears to be pressed precisely into the needle carrier – definitely no excessive „glue piles“. Everything looks very positive.

Because the needle protrudes clearly from the front of the housing, it is a little more “at risk”, but mechanical installation is much easier. Since a good removable needle guard is included in the scope of delivery, this is a pleasant solution for me! The mechanical installation was correspondingly easy: basic setting with the Acoustical Systems template and follow-up checks with a printed template that was created using the Template Generator. This gives me two checkpoints to be sure that no errors were made in the basic mechanical setting. After the system has been correctly adjusted mechanically, I carry out the measurement settings. Here I try to achieve the best values for channel separation and at the same time the lowest values for THD and intermodulation distortion. This also progressed quickly due to the manufacturing quality. I have already experienced systems in this price range where the optimal azimuth setting of the system required turning by more than 2°! (Not one of the systems mentioned at the beginning!). Setting the zenith angle also required only minimal corrections. By the way, I generally make this setting twice – once when installing for the first time and then after a week when the system has run in.

What did I notice during the detailed listening tests? First of all, outstanding spatial reproduction, both in width and depth. You can hear it very clearly, for example, with the Beatles – Sgt. Peppers lonely hearts club band – original pressing Parlophone. During the first piece the announcer moves from right to left and then to the middle. Every movement of the fader can be traced exactly. Also with other pieces – voices and instruments can be located precisely and sharply and are spatially precisely delimited. In this area one of the best systems I have ever heard! The next clear plus point: naturalness and realisticness of voices and instruments. Especially “timbers”, i.e. basically transient and decay, are very, very good! Female voices, saxophone and piano were very convincing!

Just as at the highest level: the macro dynamics! “Foot tapping factor” included – which means that the timing is just right! This means that some very important areas of playback are fulfilled in an exemplary manner!

In my experience so far, systems with aluminum cantilevers tend to reproduce slightly less accurately in details and micro dynamics compared to those with boron cantilevers. That is also the case here. The Lyra Atlas Lambda SL simply has a more precise and finer resolution. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be an advantage. The Atlas mercilessly shows you the drastic differences between first-class analog recordings and less good digitally mixed recordings or reissues! This difference is slightly smaller with the Palladian and makes newer recordings more enjoyable. Where the Palladian lags behind the Atlas is in the “shine” in the highs and the very fast reproduction of transients. Especially with small drums, like hanging toms, the reproduction is very realistic, in case you have the right recording.

What you should also keep in mind: A “standard installation” of the systems, i.e. setting the geometry mechanically using a template, tracking force according to the manufacturer’s instructions, anti-skating as well, aligning the system horizontally in all axes, perhaps adjusting the VTA by ear, could lead to completely different results! I still do a meticulous metrological fine-tuning for minimum THD and intermodulation distortion – which can make huge differences!

After trying out a cartridge, I often look forward to reinstalling my original cartridge. With the Palladian I thought – I could easily run here longer!

My conclusion: The Palladium is an excellent system with many real advantages – simply for enjoying music. For my personal taste, the Lyra Atlas Lambda SL has slightly better performance, but only with excellent, purely analog records – otherwise it can quickly reveal recording errors mercilessly! Depending on my mood and music material, I would like to have both systems! So a clear recommendation from my side!