i've owned 7 Colibri's. the last one 4 years ago.
one of them was stellar, the rest were teases. like the woman who has too high regard for herself, some days it's heaven, other days 'not so much'.
and yes, on some pressings wonderful, others it was not happy and edgy.
i would send them back to vdH and they would come back the same. every one was different with all sorts of different length cantelivers and not one had the canteliver aligned to the body.
Are you joking?
All owners I knew, had a few (guess why).
But has a good Fan community. I was too poor to be among them :-)
I've just bought a Colibri after owning a Condor.
I was initially reluctant as 1) people read all sort of caveats about the Colibri and 2) I really wanted to keep the budget reasonnable.
Point 2 stopped being an issue when after replacing the Condor with lesser carts, I realize the VdH was doing some marvellous things I didn't want to live without, mostly a neutral and extended portrayal of the musical range. All other lesser carts lacked something.
Now I didn't think the Condor was the end-all of cartridges, so I seized an opportunity on a Colibri.
It is worth mentionning that I had it returned to fit my tonearm effective mass before fitting it.
Results? Stunning. Miles ahead of the Condor in my book. It simply does things i've never heard from any other carts I've owned. I've owned turntable combos which were three times the price of what I use now, but none sounded close to what I experience now.
I simply cannot imagine why one would pay $10,000+ on a cart when one can get a Colibri for half the price, sometimes less, quite easily. Another huge plus is VdH's repair and retipping service. You know you will not have to buy your cart again in 3 to 5 years. I NEVER experienced the problems Mike reports above. Maybe i was just lucky. All I can say is that I've always had stellar service from VdH. It is worth mentionning I live in Europe, hence don't have to go through a distributor.
Sound-wise, I experience none of the edginess that one reads about quite often. Crystal-clear, yes. Beautifully extended highs, yes. But upfront or edgy, never. My Colibri (XGP model by the way), if anything, errs on the side of smoothness. A rock lover could be forbidden for wanting a tad more grit.
The Colibri is the first cart that makes me love ALL my LPs, even the ones I had previously thought were bad. It's the kind of cart that brings tears to one's eyes. It's amazingly expressive, beautiful, delicate, deft. Stings like a bee, floats like a butterfly.
I have aligned it with the excellent Mint Protractor (although it made me want to kill myself when I first used it! :), maybe that helped. On my end, no noticeable sibilance. I could only attribute this to an alignement issue or maybe a tonearm matching issue. The Colibri, well set-up, is actually quite forgiving in a stange way: it won't hide any faults but it'll bring so much music out of the groove you'll forget about them. Can't explain it better.
Now as was mentionned by Fremer some time ago, it IS a drum kit's best friend. It does have a fondness for treble, not in that it enhances it or makes it unpleasant (it's actually quite the contrary) but like in real life, it makes it impossible to ignore. The Colibri is so detailed you will hear nuances in cymbals you've never heard before. Before you say "wait that sounds bright to me!", play a violin recording and you'll realize it wonderfully smooth.
Are there better carts out there? It's worth wondering, I can't stand rave reviews like this one. I'm sure one the grass is always greener somewhere else. But I don't even care after hearing what I'm hearing. If there was would I be willing to pay 5 times the price of the Colibri to try and match it? No way.
I'm now just wondering furiously about trying a Platinum version... Must not be tempted...
It's for you if:
- you have the dough
- you're looking for a fantastic neutral sound that'll give you most of the advantages of digital (yes, it has some!) and the unique fluidity of vinyl
- you're serious enough about analogue to get quality ancillary tool (alignment, gauge)
Not for you if:
- you want round, fat and coloured vinyl sound which will set you back to the sound you heard from your parents table. The Colibri is trying to get the sound of the mastertape, not the sound of nostalgia.
- you don't like the slightly idiosyncratic appearance, most plastic body for example being quite roughly hewn as they are extremely difficult to carve evenly.
Many thanks for all your responses!
In the last month I have been playing around with VTA and alignment to try and improve things and it worked wonders :-) Firstly on the SME V arm I have found the Stevenson curve to sound the best of the 3 curves on a Feickert. This is conjunction with dropping the arm at the pivot point. The edginess is gone! To expand: the FAQ on the VdH site had suggested lifting the arm >4mm vs. the cartridge end. This worked on the prev. 3 Colibris, however this one's cantilever is not parallel to the tiny 'pc boards' where the coils are soldered to. This effectively means the assembly has added degrees of VTA dialed in in the level position. Looking at a googled pic of M. Lavigne's white XCP I noticed the same thing, I guess that's why he also ran his lower at the pivot point?
So the bad news is some sibilance is still evident on some records. However I can now play M. Davis Sketches of Spain 200Gr Classic Records, sounded horrible before. Round Midnight Speakers Corner also doesnt break up(as much) when he blows the high notes in the 1st track. So I am making progress every other month by fine tuning, also learning a lot in the process.
Glad you're managing to dial it in.
Even though I'm pretty limited with VTA on my Thorens, my Colibri sounds great. The secret seems to be alignement, and the Mint Protractor is a huge plus. I do have some light sibilance on some records, none at all on others. I think the Colibri is just super sensitive to the material/condition of the groove, etc... But God, this is the most natural-sounding cart I've EVER heard, and the best source I've ever heard, period (CD player, FM tuners, SACD or high-rez). And the great news is that actually, despite how sensitive this cart is, it makes all my records immensely enjoyable. All carts I've used previously seemed to somehow show off lesser pressings, not this one. Actually, some stuff I thought was lesser pressings now sounds fantastic.
I have the same Miles Davis Classic Records 200g, I'll try to dig it up to see how it fares.
Also, did you send the cart back for it 300h free check? It is also very important for tracking to have it match to your tonearm, VdH will do that for you, a bespoke service totally unique in this industry.
In 15 years in hifi, the Colibri is one of the very rare components that I consider an instant masterpiece. It's an altogether different beast, even compared to VdH other offerings, which are already very good. Mike L mentionned somewhere it's like a Formula 1, I do agree to some extent except that the concept might scare a prospective buyer, and I don't think one should be. Sit at the wheel, do a dozen laps slowly to make sure you understand where everything is, then step on the gas... the Colibri will give you something very few, if any, other carts can offer.
I have good news for all who are interested in it. A Dealer in Europe bought a
bundle and tries to sell them for a year now (I saw his ads). Maybe you can get
one (or two) when you are quick....
Now at over 700hrs and with the arm dropped even lower (lowest position) and alignment changed to Lofgren. Getting the best results of the journey so far :-) I'm ready to admit that I didn't expect to have to fiddle with the setup so much to get to where I am. It is crazy!
The dealer is the High End broker, that Syntax mentioned. I bought one recently for E1300, if I remember correctly. They are still on his web site. A good reliable chap to deal with too.
Vusi and David12,
I just sprang for an XGP LW for my WT Amadeus from High End Broker and am scared to death! I've been told the Amadeus handles the Colibri very capably, and supposedly my K&K Maxxed Out phono stage is a good match as well.
Still, I am admittedly a bit skeptical given the fixed alignment of the Amadeus. Am hoping the wonderfully versatile tonearm and silicone damping bath saves the day... Let me know if you've got any words of wisdom, I'm all ears...
Hi Cfluxa. Silicon damping (and any anti-skate) degraded the sound on SME V, which has fixed head holes too. I had to file the threads off the top 3mm of the 6mm screws I use to thin them so I could twist the cart. I can imagine the expression on your face right now!
Cfluxa my first Colibri was a LW too and the few I have seen have long(er) cantilevers. So if you were 1mm out with alignment you could mod the screws and/or try trade to one with a shorter cantilever etc. Maybe I should expand that to say if you get hooked to the magic of the Colibri you might end up going through a few as they are all different. So with the limited adjustability of your setup you could get radically different results even if you stick to just the XGP LWs. Some have cantilevers that are not parallel to the body, and they dont have the same height and VTA. It has only just dawned on me why you say you are scared to death.
Vusi - the only thing that scares me more than the idea of filing the threads on cartridge screws is "going through a few" of these things!
Seriously, I am interested what you think the differences are between the XGP LW and a regular XGP model? Is one more difficult to tame than the other? I believe the effective mass of my tonearm is 10.5g and the dealer told me he thought the LW would be a good match.
Cfluxa what I'm guessing you are referring to as 'regular' is in fact the Reference or higher end (and weight) cart. Must be honest the 2 XGP LWs I went through were from memory as good as the Ref XGP. I think the Ref is about 2gr heavier but it is my opinion that if effective mass wasn't an issue then the sound would be close. You are more likely to find bigger sonic differences if the cantilever length is different or when comparing to Wood and Metal bodied ones. I ventured into the Refs so I could try Copper coils and higher voltage output, options I don't remember being offered on LWs. I suspect that longer cantilever versions of Colibris are easier to tame. Might as well share that the Ref XCP H.O. (1mv) had a similar length (longer) cantilever to the last XGP LW (and was very tame/polite/tracked best) but it couldn't match the bass of the LW. Had to send it back, they installed a shorter cantilever. Now the bass was as good or better (also edgier at the top) and it sounded louder (more output?) which is great because the plan with H.O. was so I could run cart into MM input of Phono. As posted earlier I have since managed to get rid of most of the edginess.
Vusi, I believe you bought my HO Colibri, and I bought it from Mike. So, you and Mike can compare notes directly. That Colibri has nearly traveled around the globe, especially if Mike sent it to vdH before I bought it from him. I would love to hear it again, against my current crop of cartridges.
Lewm yes it's the cart you sold me, it will one day be one of the few Colibris with over 2000hrs ;-) There is a XGP 0.65mv that Bas sold here a while back, the day I buy it I will send you the XCP to play with for a few months.
Vusi - Thanks very much for the excellent insight which, to my surprise, was actually somewhat encouraging... I see my Colibri is somewhere between Holland and the US at the moment, so I reckon it'll be another week or so before it's through customs and at my door. I look forward to posting my impressions, and hope you'll stay tuned for any questions or crises I might manage to come up with. ; )