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Finally heard Harbeths

Discussion in 'audio' started by yuckyamson, May 11, 2016.

  1. yuckyamson

    yuckyamson pfm Member

    walked into a local store today tried out some SLH 5+ (SHL? anyway, those ones).

    Have to say although they were being underdriven by a fairly competent-if-underwhelming integrated, acoustics were great...they really aren't my kind of speaker. I love the stand-mounted three way design and they are certainly very well built and exceptionally detailed, but what I got off them was kind of like "Castles with balls. but not much more balls." I just got the sense they're kind of polite and sweet but not terribly rip-roaring fun if you know what I mean.

    Anyway just a thought, no slag meant to Harbeth owners, they're clearly very good speakers and as I said to the shop manager, I could see them being the kind of speaker that, should a customer want them, they'd really never want anything else.
  2. echann

    echann pfm Member

    I totally see what you mean. I recently went to a Harbeth event at my local dealer. Other customers were present. They sounded great playing the music the dealer chose to play which was all very pleasant vocal driven music. I was dying to hear something with a bit more umph but it wasn't on the play list (maybe purposefully). I was left wondering about how they'd sound with a wider variety of music.
  3. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    The Harbeth does the slow and mellow stuff very well, and that's the reason most if not all demos at the dealers or shows focus on these types of music, music which does not have complex and hard-thumping bass lines. When I played Bono at the dealers (6 or 7 years ago), the dealer turned down the volume on the amps. I think he didn't want the speakers to blow up or something.

    The Harbeth does pop and rock considerably well albeit in a slightly different way when compared to other (conventional) speakers. They still possess the speed and dynamics required for more complex/faster music, though the presentation is smoother and lusher with a tinge of organic warmth as opposed to the zing and tighter/tauter bass of more neutral speakers. For hard rock or metal, that is where the Harbeth will fail miserably when compared to dynamic speakers such as big PMCs, ATCs, Audio Physics etc.
  4. SteveS1

    SteveS1 I heard that, pardon?

    I don't know about the larger models but the P3s I heard recently sounded superb with anything that was thrown at them. If I was ever in the market for standmounts they would be high on my audition list.
  5. sls4321

    sls4321 pfm Member

    Am I the first Harbeth (x2) owner to respond?

    The SHL5+ use a tweeter, super-tweeter and the 8" Radial 2 mid-bass driver. It is very neutral and versatile and can be driven very nicely by a cheap 50w amplifier. For a time I used a 35w triode valve amp. Push them with some more power (say a Quad 909 for £500) and they have a remarkably good bass GIVEN THEY ONLY HAVE A MID-BASS.

    They do not employ bass enhancement like PMC's ATL (I changed from PMC Fact.8 to SHL5+). If you want big bass they make the M40.2 that are a quite astonishing speaker. I have heard them at a 3-hour demo and consider them vastly more musical and refined than, for example, PMC MB2 SE, which are almost twice as expensive.

    However, if bass is what you want then the PMC MB2 SE is probably for you.

    The real joy of Harbeth is actually the low volume performance, where my PMC's fell down (and they cost twice as much as the SHL5+). The dynamics achieved at low listening levels are astonishing, so I don't find myself cranking up the volume unnecessarily.

    At the M40.2 demo Alan Shaw started with half a dozen piano recordings (at progressively greater recording distances), several BBC voice recordings, then a nice mix of pop music, jazz, highly percussive music and so on.

    It is very unfortunate that the dealer used a poor playlist and possibly an under-powered amp.
  6. Elephantears

    Elephantears Trunkated Aesthete

    Best give some more details here, and also the music you listened to, which dealer etc. Were you on your own, in the sweet spot, etc?

    You certainly haven't heard what those excellent speakers can do. I suggest you back and demand some nice powerful amps, preferably hybrids, which Harbeths love. Or just a good old Quad, as suggested above, with a decent pre.
  7. MikeMA

    MikeMA pfm Member

    As someone who likes and uses Harbeth speakers (P3 ESRs, M30s and Compact 7s - my favorites are the P3s), I wouldn't actually disagree with anything that has been said here. It just goes to show how one man's "smooth and well balanced" is another's "bland and lifeless" (it's the same with cartridges).

    It's a good job there is still plenty of choice out there. Often the hardest part is finding somewhere to audition them properly or getting a home demo.
  8. sls4321

    sls4321 pfm Member

    Using 300w Quad mono's and a passive pre-amp (the Hattor that has a pair of their Khozmo stepped attenuators, cost £500). Works fine. A TEAC UD-503 DAC/pre-amp and Quad QSP is less than £2,000 new and would be ideal for any Harbeth.
  9. narabdela

    narabdela who?

    That really pulls the rug out from under the rest of your mini review.
  10. MikeMA

    MikeMA pfm Member

    I think it's a myth that Harbeths need huge amounts of power. I run mine with valve amps (Jadis Orchestra (Class AB) and DA30 ClassA) ) putting out 40 watts max.
  11. sls4321

    sls4321 pfm Member

    I've run SHL5+ with a 20w 300BXLS Class A (sold), 35W KT88 Triode (about to sell), 160w Quad 909 (now using with P3ESR in second system), 200w Plinius (balanced, in use) and 300w Quad Mono (unbalanced, for sale). With this experience, the bass resolution improves substantially with more power. The performance is hugely improved with the Plinius and Quad Mono's.
  12. mercalia

    mercalia pfm Member

    Are they a UK owned company? or been gobbled up? cant be many left now?
  13. amazement

    amazement pfm Member

    Still UK owned. My little P3's are remarkable speakers and sound great with anything I throw at them, AC/DC, Jazz, Classical. Great tonal quality. Never feel I'm missing anything.
    My other half knocked one off it's stand recently by accident and damaged the veneer, still sound great though so am now toying with keeping these or replacing now with another pair of P3's or move up the brand.
    Really great natural sounding speakers.
    Had ATC 15's in the past good but fatiguing over extended listen.
  14. Mr Underhill

    Mr Underhill pfm Member

    Good post!
  15. Old Shatterhand

    Old Shatterhand pfm Member

    If you like to hear speakers that grab you buy the balls and play powerfull tight bass, you have to look for maybe a Klipsch Cornwall, if tonality, timbre, realistic stage size is your goal, go for Harbeth.
  16. Martyn Miles

    Martyn Miles pfm Member

    I would totally agree about the P3-ESRs.
    They sound superb with all the music I play.
    ( I don't like heavy rock )

    Having said that, I have just refurbished a pair of LS3/5as and they are sounding very good indeed as I write this.
  17. MikeMA

    MikeMA pfm Member

    With valve amps I've found that bass grip/articulation is very much dependent on the quality of the output transformers and the damping factor, rather than sheer power. This is unlikely to be an issue with decent SS amps, most of which don't have OTs.

    I'd be interested in trying a decent hybrid. Croft amps are reputed to work well with Harbeths.
  18. Tim Jones

    Tim Jones pfm Member

    I've lived with Compact 7s for about six months now, powered by a SuperNait2 . A lot of 'modern' speakers (especially PMCs, I have to say) sound very contrived to me.

    I could have bought pretty much anything short of £3-4k, but am delighted with the C7s. They have fabulous instrumental timbre and do the 3D thing very, very well for what is not exactly a small standmount. I do know that I'm missing out on ultimate bass extension (or at least that weirdly detached sense of it that you get with many recent floorstanding designs), but that's not where most of the musical information I'm interested in sits anyway.
  19. Old Shatterhand

    Old Shatterhand pfm Member

    Total agree, I've owned a Audiomat Solfege Reference and the amp had nearly the same basscontroll like most transitoramps I owned, the Unison S6MKII was much much softer and less precise.
  20. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I think that is rather unfair on the Cornwall! FWIW Paul Klipsch detested rock music, and for that matter solid state amps. All the Klipsch Heritage range were designed for small tube amps and classical, jazz etc, that they ended up in discos and bars playing rock at ear-splitting levels is one of those odd things! I certainly think Klipsch speakers sound their best on classical and acoustic music and I've enjoyed my TV system La Scalas the most on the BBC Proms, Young Musician Of The Year etc. Piano is especially good. I've never really got them to sound right on rock yet. Very different things to Harbs though, but not as chalk and cheese as one might think, i.e. it is very possible to like both (as I do).

    PS As to Harbeths; I suspect I've owned the two I don't entirely get on with, SHL5s and C7s, and not the ones that I think I really like, the P3ESR and M30. I have a feeling that if Alan Shaw ever stuck the lovely M30 tweeter into the P3ESR I'd end up having to buy a pair!

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