van den Hul Colibri Grand Cru

PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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#1
I have been listening to this for about a month. It was installed on April 18th, 2020 and now has 64 hours of playing time. It is the best cartridge I have heard in my system.

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PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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#3
My initial impression of this new vdH Colibri Grand Cru (CGC) is based on having listened to my Master Signature (MS) for about a month with 40+ hours on the SME V-12 arm and then installing the CGC on the V-12. After the first 4-5 hours, The CGC came into its own and started sounding really good. What follows are my impressions during the first 64 hours of break in. It is no longer appreciably changing in character. The MS is now on the SME 3012R and has about 70 hours on it.

The CGC retrieves slightly more information from the grooves, and presents it in a slightly more natural way than does the Master Signature. The MS already set the standard in my system for resolution and energy, that sense of the music being “alive” and convincing. I heard more spatial information from the MS than from any other cartridge. However, that energy was most apparent in the mid to upper frequencies. There is great low end extension, punch, and articulation, but it is not quite as well balanced and a bit less developed than on the CGC. Some might find that my MySonicLab Signature Gold has a more pleasing tonal balance with some music because it has more body and weight, and richer tonal colors, but it lacks the energy and “aliveness” of the Master Signature. And it is not as resolving.

The Grand Cru seems to combine the very best quality of the MSL Sig Gold with the resolution and energy of the MS. It seems to extend that sense of energy and “aliveness” to the rest of the frequency range while increasing the sense of body and weight in the lower range. It has a more even tonal balance. Timbre is just a bit more accurate and convincing. The overall frequency extension seems the same as with the MS, but it is just more fleshed out with the CGC. Finally, spatial information is even more apparent and varied from recording to recording. This reflects the greater information retrieval or resolution. Both vdH cartridges have outrageous dynamics, but they are clean, natural, not hyped at the extremes to emphasis “jump”.

Tang wrote that he feels the Master Signature has many A+ and some A-, while his AirTight Opus has mostly As. It is perhaps a more all around cartridge, but the MS has some strengths unmatched by others and it seems to be his go-to cartridge for classical music.

I have only heard the Opus in a friend’s system and compared it to his Altas SL over time. Extrapolating from Tang’s insightful comments, I would say that this new Grand Cru improves those A- attributes and makes it a more all around, balanced cartridge superlative in every way. I now have my MS set up on the SME 3012R and the CGC set up on the SME V-12. The former is adjusted for 180+g LPs, mostly jazz reissues and 45s, and the latter is adjusted for standard weight LPs, mostly classical, chamber, choral, opera, classic rock.

I alter my listening about 55/45 between the two combinations, mostly because I am in a classical, choral period now, but this in no way reflects my preference for one combination over the other. I enjoy them equally and could not be happier. I am just lucky that I can now play two arms and two cartridges on my SME Model 30/12 turntable.

Someday I will get around to switching the cartridges on the arms, setting them up to play the same LPs, and do a more rigorous direct comparison, but right now I am just enjoying the music like never before. Both of these cartridges present the “gestalt” of the music. The CGC is just a bit more of a whole. It is more complete. This is music presented in a natural way, like I have not heard it before in my system.

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bonzo75

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Feb 26, 2014
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#4
Thanks. "There is great low end extension, punch, and articulation, but it is not quite as well balanced and a bit less developed than on the CGC" - this seems key, if it is addressing that it can be the complete cartridge.
 

kodomo

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Apr 26, 2017
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#5
Very intriguing review! Does GCG still has sibilance? or maybe your strad also had no sibilance?
 

Lagonda

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Feb 4, 2014
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#7
I have been listening to this for about a month. It was installed on April 18th, 2020 and now has 64 hours of playing time. It is the best cartridge I have heard in my system.

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You beat Tango to the punch ! Nice !
 

bonzo75

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#8

PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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#9
You beat Tango to the punch ! Nice !
It is my understanding that Tango has the ultra rare Master Signature Mono. I have the Colibri Grand Cru. Different cartridges. The fact that we each got them more or less at the same time is purely coincidental.
 

PeterA

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#10
Without the tease, too
Funny. The tease was the first photo on my system thread and then the one here later this morning. The tease was micro short.
 
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PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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#11
GC sounds like a winner. Do we know what differs between the GC and Master Sig in terms on design and/or construction?
Brian, having now been given permission to discuss this, I am comfortable sharing my listening impressions. I know some of the technical differences, but I will wait for Mr. AJ van den Hul to make his official announcement about the technical details, price, upgrades, and specifications.
 
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Lagonda

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#12
It is my understanding that Tango has the ultra rare Master Signature Mono. I have the Colibri Grand Cru. Different cartridges. The fact that we each got them more or less at the same time is purely coincidental.
Don’t sell yourself short Peter, Tang has been teasing that he was going to bring the prettiest girl to the ball.
But you have been dating her twin sister for a while It’s a coup !;)
 

bonzo75

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Feb 26, 2014
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#13
Don’t sell yourself short Peter, Tang has been teasing that he was going to bring the prettiest girl to the ball.
But you have been dating her twin sister for a while It’s a coup !;)
Such girls will usually choose the yacht first over the car
 

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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#14
It's Tang's bags of fertiliser that seal the deal.
 

PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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#15
Very intriguing review! Does GCG still has sibilance? or maybe your strad also had no sibilance?
Thank you Komodo. Both the Master Signature and the Grand Cru have a slight sibilance. I have been able to reduce it with better cartridge alignment and set up on both. I requested that my MS be fine tuned to lower the observed sibilance when I sent it back for its 200-250 hour inspection and fine tuning. Improvement with my own set up seem more significant than the fine tuning the sibilance.

Now, on both cartridges, I hear the sibilance issue on very rare occasions, mostly very hot mixed jazz reissues and pop LPs. Never on standard weight LPs or classical recordings. I have paid much attention to this since I got my first Master Signature and started reading the various reports of this. I have discovered that with break in over 50+ hours, and fine tuning of set up, the sibilance now sounds natural on choral music and solo singers. It exists, but I like it and it sounds more real than its absence with my other cartridges.

Have a friend say "Some Singers Sound Shrill" a few times while standing in a listening room that is not overdamped or while simply sitting around the kitchen table. Close your eyes (very important to isolate the sound from the visual) and listen. I hear sibilance on the leading edges of those words. I hear a very similar sound from these two vdH cartridges. My other cartridges don't exhibit this attribute, and they sound less alive and less convincing as a result, to me.

Solo sopranos sound cleaner, more present, and more like I have heard during rehearsals in Boston or Vienna on the vdH than on other cartridges. Choruses sound more like I hear in church. I can also play them louder, and more realistic levels than before. And this really loads my room, but no harshess, or grain. To me, this is more natural, more lifelike. Unfortunately, on a very few LPs, there is a sharp, aggressive "SS" sound, very short, very sharp, as if the singer touched the mic with his/her mouth. Any adjustments to loading, VTA, azimuth, bias, VTF simply makes the rest sound dull or fake. This leads me to think the issue is with specific recordings, but I can not be certain. I can think of 3-4 such LPs out of the hundred or so that I've played with these two cartridges. These cartridges seem to bring this out from these few LPs while my other cartridges do not. I prefer the sound of these cartridges because they sound more real and natural.

This may have to do with another recent discussion about one school of sound being more "pleasing" while the other is more "accurate". I would substitute the word "accurate" with the word "natural". To me these cartridges, in part because of their sibilance, sound more real and more natural than my other cartridges, and they reveal more of the music that is on the recording. That is the bottom line for me.
 
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PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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#16
Thanks. "There is great low end extension, punch, and articulation, but it is not quite as well balanced and a bit less developed than on the CGC" - this seems key, if it is addressing that it can be the complete cartridge.
Yes, Bonzo. The sense of energy and resolution have been expanded to cover more of the spectrum. It is a more complete cartridge, IMO.
 

spiritofmusic

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#17
Peter, what is this sibilance thing? When I ran a Lyra Skala, I could not get it to stop shredding at the top end. My Parnassus the opposite, almost honey-like at the top end. My Transfiguration Temper Supreme and Orpheus a touch muted. Zu Denon 103 slightly ragged.

And now my LPSd Soundsmith Straingauge...I'm playing DG 11-lp boxset Beethoven string quartets/quintet, the high frequencies "almost" feel on the edge, the energy really cascades up. But it never gets to the point of semi anxiety from me the listener. And energy upwards seems unlimited.

Right now it would be fascinating to try a plummier Lyra Parnassus. But I have to say it's a revelation to have a cart that doesn't mute, blunt, roll off, or over sweeten strings energy and high end energy.
 
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spiritofmusic

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#18
I'll freely admit, my sound doesn't have as much bloom as some. But is that the cart? Or is that a lightning fast LT arm, and spkrs where I've taken subs output down to their least intrusive level?
Whatever, I'd rather have unimpeded high end extension with a tad less bloom than a fuller warmer sound w marginally muted ability to soar and masking of microdynamics/fine detail.
 

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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#19
Maybe other listeners will tell me I verge onto sibilance when they visit post Covid. I hope not Lol.
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#20
I have a dumb question.....


Can sibilance not be resolved or ameliorated by proper cartridge set up. IOW does the presence of sibilance suggest less than stellar cartridge set up
 

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