THE FAR SIDE OF A.J. VAN DEN HUL
It’s not hard to imagine A.J van den Hul in conversation with Lorenzo the Magnificent.
Say what you will about Lorenzo De Medici, but the man certainly knew how to attract genius to his 15th century Florentine court. He also knew how to nurture that talent.
A.J. (“yes, please call me that”), is a former University physics lecturer, audio pioneer, audio reviewer, cartridge and cable manufacturer, medical researcher, healer, humanitarian, environmental activist, humanist and philanthropist.
He’s a man who closely mirrors Lorenzo’s and the Renaissance ideal of the well-rounded man who masters whatever captures his curiosity.
And you can also say what you will about A.J, and some people say he’s eccentric while others describe him as "out there" and a "salesman".
Dig a little deeper and the truth is A.J. van den Hul the company, has never put much effort into sales or marketing preferring instead to spend on research and development.
We don’t sit around counting our profits. Nor do we ever represent our products to companies on the basis of how much money they’d make. Our company ethos is simple: it’s based on the appreciation of the quality of our products and the rest, as they say, happens automatically.
As for being "out there", while there’s much that bewilders the casual observer in some of A.J.’s "scientific" theories, the technical innovations are real, observable and in the best empirical tradition can be repeated.
But however you view the man, A.J.’s track record speaks for itself, at least in the world of audio that he happily bestrides like a modern day colossus.
Medically A.J. sees several patients a day, for free. By his own admission he has cured people of multiple sclerosis (MS), and using the same theory of alternative treatments, insists he can treat a range of other debilitating diseases, including depression. All without drugs or invasive intervention.
The medical research and practise reveal the inner contradictions in A.J. van den Hul the rationally objective university lecturer in physics, the empirically based audio technology innovator and alternative medical humanist.
During the course of our long interview, A.J.’s serviceable English laboured to elucidate the Torsion Field Theory that lies at the very core of the man’s medical beliefs and some of his audio applications.
It would be an understatement to say the theory is controversial and tinged with a hint of scandal. By A.J’s own admission, Torsion Field Theory and its medical practise has been firmly and unceremoniously rejected by the established medical community.
A Torsion Field can be understood as part of a theory of energy in which ‘’the quantum spin of particles can be used to cause emanations lacking mass and energy to carry information through vacuum order of magnitude faster than the speed of light.’’ 1.
My layman’s understanding of the field after chatting to A.J. is, that it’s a physical force that emanates from space and can permeate just about very material object with the exception of a couple of metals.
Whatever it may or may not be, Torsion Field Theory has been used as the basis for “homeopathic cures, telepathy, telekinesis, levitation, clairvoyance, ESP and other paranormal phenomena.’’ 2.
What is incontrovertible is that Torsion Field Theory was developed by a group of Russian physicists in the 1980’s and that the group disbanded in 1991 accused of fraud and embezzlement. 3.
The group’s leaders, Anatoly Akimov and Gennady Shipov were then funded by no less than the Russian Ministry of Science from 1992-1995 and by the Russian Ministry of Defence from 1966 to 1997. 4.
A.J. has developed what he calls a “Torsion Field Modulator’’, a device he claims, has cured his patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.
"After graduating from High School, I walked for three months around with a multiple-sclerosis patient in a wheel chair. The experience made me at that moment so determined to find the real cause of this disastrous disease," he says.
"After a lot of research and only after finding the NES program that was developed by an Australian, to monitor health conditions in any person, I found the four reasons why a person gets MS."
"Along with the software, there is in the NES program another device called miHealth. This emits by skin contact, electrical signals to adjust the human body-field. With clearer understanding about what happens in the human body (so different from standard medically educated persons), I can now modulate Torsion Fields with healing information to adjust the human body-field and all organs involved," he says.
"Without my hi-fi knowledge, it would have been impossible to design this Torsion-Field generator. My modulator uses extremely linear circuits, and this links audio with the medical world."
A.J. brought a hand-held Torsion Field Modulator along to the interview that he opened to reveal the circuit in one half, and a complex coil in the other half. A.J. was particularly proud of the coil.
When I asked him does it really work? A.J. simply answered: “Why don’t you ask the MS sufferers that have been cured?"
More mundanely, a version of the Torsion-Field generator has been installed in van den Hul’s preamps.
Asked what sonic effect does this have? A.J.’s answer was equally succinct.
When it’s switched on we have noticed that at every Hi-Fi show we exhibit, people stay longer to listen to the music than with it switched off.
Less controversial are A.J.’s many other technological innovations. While he’s renowned for his stylus profile, the cable technologies are not as well known.
Two that he’s very clearly most proud of are 3T: True Transmission Technology and Carbon Nano Tube (CNT).
"It took me more than 25 years of careful listening and manufacturing to arrive at 3T which requires a multi-metal technology and a unique manufacturing technology," he says.
"The result is a cable technology that sounds like live music performances or like you’re working in a recording studio."
"We presented the first 3T products in December 2010 and were pleased listeners loved them. From there we developed several applications and think we have closed the bridge between consumer and professional."
"So we have 3T audiophile balanced and unbalanced connections, electronics connections and have even supplied complete rewiring of two recording studios and have the full support of two Viennese orchestras."
Asked if 3T cable really worked a sonic treat A.J. reached into his bag and produced a CD his company has produced called Lavinia Meijer: Harp Fantasies and Impromptus. It features works from Sphoe, Faure, Pierne, Saint-Saens and others. The disc was recorded in a wooden church on equipment connected by 3T cabling. van den Hul includes a copy with every 3T audio cable and it’s also available via the company’s website at a cost of about 15 Euro.
"Why don’t we listen on your system?" A.J. asks.
Minutes later, Lavinia Meijer is playing live in my listening room. The recording is perhaps the best I’ve ever heard and I share that with A.J who replies humbly: "Do you think that… please keep it, this is for you."
The danger of inviting an audio luminary with such educated ears as A.J.’s resulted in a cursory comment that I knew to be the truth about my listening room.
Within fifteen seconds of the first track, A.J. pointed to the rear wall and said "you really need to treat these corners. Get a couple of rolled up rugs. But really you need to treat the corners all the way up to the ceiling."
Whilst subjective listening sessions can lead to foolish immediate hyperbole, later that night and more relaxed in the company of a couple of audio friends, the disc sounded as poised, refined, smooth, airy and sweetly detailed as it did earlier this day.
"We use this disc to help train our dealers," A.J. says.
"I told our Ukrainian dealers recently, if you hear harp that is six metres wide, you have wrong speaker placement. And Ukrainian dealers need some support after their invasion and war. Very sad situation."
A.J. is also keen to talk about his innovative Carbon Nano Tube (CNT) cable technology that he describes as the world’s most advanced conductor material currently available.
“Listen to CNT and you can hear the sound quality benefits from using this very advanced type of carbon", he says.
"We’re the first in world to have a hi-tech and commercial application of CNT. And the sound quality is unsurpassed. Audiophiles will love its sense of space, dynamics, transparency and no hardness."
A.J. explained how CNT is a supra thin carbon conductor with a diameter of a single strand just 15 microns.
"We use 19 of these single strands and twist them together for one internal conductor. We can also make long lengths and no one else can. I remember one show in Moscow and a businessman offered me $500,000 for our metre-long sample and I told him ‘It’s not for sale.’
“He came back a little later and tells, “I offer you one million dollars”, and I answer “No. It’s not money I’m after.” I say this because CNT is very stable and environmentally friendly material that I like to make available to more applications like medical and space research.’’
A.J. with the writer's young Italian Greyhound
Pressed about his environmental concerns, A.J. admits quietly that he cares and worries about the kind of planet people are getting and the one they deserve that should ideally be is free of environmental pollution.
"I worry over infra-red. If we destroy the Ozone layer we’ll fry. Did you know methane gas effects this layer? Everything that decays and this means animal bodies or vegetation gives off methane. So I plan to work with the Dutch government to do something helpful for all of us," he says.
Environmental activism and not just words, permeates everything van den Hul, the company, does.
"You know the structure that guides our research and manufacture contains just a few basic elements. Number one is that the durability of our products should raise no questions or discussions. Two, is my insistence that whatever we undertake there must be an optimal protection against environmental influences and three, I insist in the applications of only “”Green’’ raw materials."
This environmental wish for a cleaner world for all of earth’s inhabitants extends to the company’s brochures and inks, packing material, the use of wooden reels to transport cables instead of plastic.
"We use about 7000 kilograms of cable insulation material. Ours is totally environmentally friendly. And we use carbon in many of our products. Please remember is that the net benefit of all this ecological thinking saves our environment and for our customers, the sound is clearly and cleanly better."
Music is vital to A.J van den Hul. It influences the type of cartridges he creates, his cables, phono preamplifier, preamplifier and amplifiers. All these products must enrich a person’s emotional response to music or why bother?
"Music means everything to me. I can’t imagine my life without music. I carry a portable receiver when I travel, I always listen to music when I work," he says.
A.J’s musical taste gravitates to Vivaldi, Locatelli, Bach, Haydn, Handel, Mozart, and Mahler but this largesse does not extend to the modernists who he considers are tonally adrift.
"I stop at Mahler. Nothing after that. But I admit to a great appreciation of Brahms, Bruckner and Shostakovich. I have a huge collection of masses on vinyl and all the piano works of Chopin and the Schubert lieder are like diamonds to treasure," he says.
A.J. is not anti digital, but he does prefer analogue by a huge margin. Digital is handy and convenient but musically not in the same league as analogue.
"I use a Brinkman turntable in my home system equipped with a Technic’s EPA100 arm, a choice of my own cartridges and van den Hul phono stage, preamp and power amplifier. My speakers are Acapellas. When I use this the sound is so superior and much more emotionally richer and sophisticated than digital," he says.
This conviction of analogue’s superiority to digital is the reason why A.J. has developed a new high-end cartridge and a new turntable to partner it.
"Yes, I have made a prototype and two samples of the new Colobri Signature cartridge. One sample is for our US market dealers. Tell you a little about it? Let’s say it improves on the Colobri in just about every parameter," he says.
Eager to learn a little more about the new turntable I posed the question when we might see it?
"We had a great turntable that used floating magnetic suspension. But at show people kept poking the suspension and it became misaligned. So we have designed a new one they can poke all they like because it is mechanically impervious to their fingers. And to answer your question, we will take it to next year’s Munich audio show," he says.
Attendees captivated by A.J. during the recent Cartridge Building Demonstration at Carlton Audio Visual
The environmentalist is yet another side of van den Hul to reveal itself over tea and Italian cakes. So I feel compelled to ask him what the link is between the different selves that make up a very complex A.J van den Hul.
Without hesitation, the conversation turns to A.J. van den Hul’s father. A towering and loving man who emerges as the inspiration and the vital energy life-force that helped shape the trajectory of his life’s work.
The father-son relationship resulted in a unique bond that bore fruit in all of A.J.’s roles, interests and innovations. The trace of his patented and acclaimed van den Hul stylus, his cable technologies, his environmentalism, humanism and medical work have their origin in the father’s curiosity, humanism, determination, intellectual brilliance, moral clarity, courage and compassion for others.
As A.J. begins to willingly trace the link that binds all the facets of his life, his eyes close and he begins to explore his consciousness as if in a trance.
The effect would be unnerving had not A.J. explained earlier that he’s not a verbal thinker.
"I found in formal education that I think in pictures. They don’t like that. But that is how I explored my stylus shape and cable technologies." he says.
Moments later my wife, daughter and I watch A.J.’s fingers trace the shape of his famous stylus in the air in front of him, while both eyes remain fully closed.
As he describes his father’s life those eyes twitch noticeably and you can feel the man’s pain. Now 79, the memory of what his father endured during World War 2, is still painful, is still raw and it still rankles.
"My father believed and learned me how technical innovations better the life of a lot of people. He was a recording engineer for Decca and Philips and through him music became a huge influence in our house," he says.
"He was a man of faith and he himself played the church organ. Because of his underground resistance the Germans put him in Neuengamme prison, but they could not take his faith away. He gave that belief in God to me and I hand this to my children. That is the biggest gift my father gave me."
"My father was also a great inventor and the Ultrasonic cleaning technology was one of his inventions."
"After the war he returned, but he’d been tortured terribly in prison and the Germans tried to make him inform on his comrades. He never did unlike some others. He never informed and I’m proud of him for that strength and courage. But the torture, starvation and endless beatings ensured he got cancer soon after release from prison, and he died in 1948."
"But I remember even though he was seriously sick, he still wanted to help others. That’s a big reason why I try to help people medically. As for audio, music is more than mere entertainment. It’s emotional relief and so it’s cathartic and good for health. My father always tried to improve the quality of recording and reproduction of music in any detail. That is also the main purpose of my work."
"You know, a good sound system is great to improve one’s emotional sensitivity, and the number of knobs or cost of components is not as important at all."
"My father left me a lot of old equipment, mainly receivers and amplifiers. You know the son’s hobby was my father’s also. He worked as a designer for Philips. So naturally I tried to pull these things apart and put them, back together."
"When I made a start with all my father’s collector items, it was my dream to manufacture all audio items and this dream came true. My only regret is I cannot show my father all that happened. But he knows, of that I’m sure."
While he reveres his late father, A.J. van den Hul doesn’t live in the past. His life’s most important goal lies in the present and it does not involve music or audio.
"Important to me always is to help young people find their direction in this very complex world. It does not involve any of our products or music but it provides tremendous personal satisfaction," he says.
"It involves a lot of emotional listening and clearing up of what is truly important and not so important," he says.
"Also important to me is to give a sustaining hand to people in distress. Every year I make a journey to Belarus and take multi-vitamins and toys. Seeing those smiling faces and happiness makes me equally as happy. Happiness is giving out what your life has collected. Give rather than take. That’s how to feel really happy."
Peter Familari (left) and A.J. van den Hul (right)
There's no denying that A.J. van den Hul's contributions to HiFi are remarkable, however it's the story of the other side, the humanitarian side, that deserves to be known. The truly inspirational man that is A.J. van den Hul.
For more information on van den Hul visit the brand page.
References: 1, 2, 3, 4 - Wikipedia
One of the veterans of the Australian HiFi industry, if there's a speaker he's likely heard it or owned it at some point in his career. Peter was formerly the audio-video editor of the Herald Sun for over two decades.
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