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Harbeth vs Tannoy, Proac and Spendor

Discussion in 'audio' started by novak, Oct 21, 2020.

  1. Old Shatterhand

    Old Shatterhand pfm Member

    @ryder : Easy to drive means a relative high impedance and a relativ good efficiency. As always, the louder you want to listen and the listening distance is big(ger), the more power you will need.
  2. maccar

    maccar pfm Member

    Of course, Pre is C2420 and poweramp is P4200
  3. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    had a vtl 5.5 pre here on demo , my it was built like a merc , very very transparent . would not mind another
  4. RoryL

    RoryL pfm Member

    A vote for Proac D2 .. open, detailed, excellent bass, easy to drive, easy to place (front ported) and non-fatiguing.
    Gervais Cote and hifinutt like this.
  5. Old Shatterhand

    Old Shatterhand pfm Member

    Easy placement has nothing to do with the place of the port. It is a hifi myth that front ported speakers are working better closer to the wall as back ported speakers.;)
  6. montesquieu

    montesquieu pfm Member

    I have to disagree there - a rear port can be a nightmare if the speaker depends on wall reinforcement for its bass response, and for reasons of room shape you can't get them the same distance from the back wall. I had a pair of AN-Es in a room like that once - couldn't image for toffee and the bass went all wonky. Front ported Tannoys were fine.

    BTW on the Tannoy vs Harbeths discussion I think it's very hard to generalise. I find the smaller Harbeths very tuneful but the bigger ones can be a bit bland. (But as a long-term Tannoy owner I would say that). It's all about room though, and about amplification. The larger the cone the more control Tannoys need, and the later Tannoys seem to work better with solid state than the early ones (and vice versa, the earlier ones are generally better with valves). Harbeths seem to be less fussy about amps in doing what they do but you get the amplification right on Tannoys and they are both big and rich AND controlled. No contest for my tastes in the main system but of course we all hear and enjoy differently. I'd happily swap a pair of PSER3s though for the Tannoy DC6es in my little study system.
    Snufkin and hifinutt like this.
  7. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    interesting to say that i studied Toms thoughts on audio note speakers vs tannoy and ended up with some tannoys !!! [ AOS musings ]
  8. tonerei

    tonerei pfm Member

    Keep going Tom! What's your view on the Classic Spendors ? SP100 onwards
  9. Old Shatterhand

    Old Shatterhand pfm Member

    You can only compare a Audio Note E with a front port and a back port, otherwise there is absolutely no evidence.;)

    The good thing is, you don't need to do that because the German company Visaton has done research for different port positions in relation to bass response in the past with the conclusion that the position of the bass port has no influence as long as there are a few cm left to breath.:)
  10. montesquieu

    montesquieu pfm Member

    Whever I've heard Spendors I've always thought them pleasant enough - in the same mental category for me as the bigger Harbeths though people with more experience of the differences may disagree there. However I've never tried them in my room with my stuff so I wouldn't feel qualified to comment at any length.

    I tried out the AN-Es after I moved house and found the Tannoy Autographs I had commissioned didn't fit. After quite a few years with Tannoys (with some Quad ESLs in the middle) I thought I'd experiment. The ones I demo'd for a couple of weeks were AN-HE's with silver coils, fairly up-spec, and they did some nice things, but I simply couldn't get them to work in my room.

    I also demo'd the hORNS FP12s (quite special speakers from Poland) - these actually came close to making a sale and I could recommend a look at them if Tannoys don't float your boat.

    But I plugged in an old pair of stopgap Tannoy Chatsworths, and the magic was back. Of course in detail terms they were well behind the curve, but I just loved what they did. Set me off on a quest that ended with my current RFC Canterbury design.

    I think with Tannoys there are some things that uniquely only they do (in the same way there are unique aspects to Quad ESLs). The dual-concentric design with phase alignment at half wavelengths means it operates as a true point source in perfect phase. It's just so amazingly musically coherent. Only the Quad ESL63 and above comes close to this (and the more bass panels the model has, the more any Quad model messes that point source up).

    Add to that the fact that many Tannoys are using 12 or 15 inch drivers - providing an impact you'll never get from six or 8 inch drivers, to go with that musical coherence - and the way the energise the room is something very special, as is the way they throw a soundstage.

    Consequently, in the same way that I've marvelled at the dynamics of five-way horns, or enjoyed the 'purity' of ESLs, while rejecting both on their flaws which to me are respectively impracticality and lack of 'realism' in a musical sense, and a two-dimensionality I never learned to live with no matter how pretty the picture, I've simply never come across a box speaker that kept my ears quite so happy, even if there is theoretically more detail, or a wider frequency extension, or lowered measured distortion, to be had from one. All these things are important but they don't persuade me.

    Tannoys have issues of course: vintage Tannoy boxes (Guy Fountain famously insisted 'we aren't in the furnuture business,' and it shows) are not as well braced and damped or as scientifically proportioned as can be done today by the likes of RFC Audio; the original factory crossovers were accurate enough, but skimped on component quality - and this applies as much to Tannoy crossovers made yesterday as it does to ones made 50 years ago ... expensive to remedy, but worth the trouble; and it's the bigger the better when it comes to cabinets, which can make them a challenge to fit in a domestic environment. None of this is insurmountable but I can see why some people give up on them.

    However for me there's no substitute.
  11. yuckyamson

    yuckyamson pfm Member

    Couldn't agree more on all points.
  12. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    Try some different (but very good!) power amps with your present speakers OP is my advice.
    Gervais Cote, tuga and novak like this.
  13. tonerei

    tonerei pfm Member

    Thanks Tom for such a comprehensive reply.

    Without having heard the Spendors what attracts me is they are 3-way, the reviews concur with what I think I want to hear :) 12 inch bass driver so sort of ticks the 12/15 inch Tannoy driver bit. I like what I hear about the Tannoys but even though my room is bigger than average I think Cheviots are as big as I should consider. Temptation is the Ardens as they are available secondhand on occasion at similar price levels to the Cheviot.

    It is interesting to hear your view on the quality of the Tannoy cabinets and cross overs. For me the Tannoy cabinets especially the legacy range doesn't look particularly high quality. Spendors appear to be better put together all round. My gut feeling is the Spendors will be more coherent and give just as good a soundstage. Not sure also I like the ideal of bunging up ports to try and tame the bass. It sets off alarm bells.

    Thanks also for the steer on the Horns I had a quick look they could be worth a punt. I toyed briefly with the Opera Consonance ones advertised here.

    On the Quads I assume you only had the 57's that I ended up with from Rabski (Richard)?
    In ways I am sorry I didn't hold them to swap around with the 63's as they are very different beasts. They had Oltec treble panels and Rupert stands. I consider myself lucky that I can consider a second pair of speakers to try and contrast with the 63's but ultimately wonder will it be just an excercise in Hifitis :) The 63's are fantastic and in reality I should be happy to just carry on with them. Have had them for 6yrs at this point. It is more difficult over here to chop and change or even get to hear the range of speakers available in the UK.

    One final comment on the pricing of these type of speakers. I wonder is there an unwritten cartel on the pricing as the latest iterations of these speakers to me are very over priced. They all come out around the same price point?

  14. Paul Burke

    Paul Burke pfm Member

    Yep exactly. In fact the diameter of the port (assuming round) is what is needed as free space to breathe before the tuning and compliance are affected, and placement of ports are almost irrelevant in many ways but not quite all. Though many audiophiles don’t like this pesky sciencey stuff getting in the way do they.

    Once told by a well known dealer not to bother demoing a pair of speakers because they’re front ported and therefore need huge amounts of space from the front wall to sound right. Only small stand mounts, I’d have just said badly built/designed if that was the case, nothing to do with where the port is
  15. montesquieu

    montesquieu pfm Member

    Surely room interaction is part of the ‘pesky science stuff’?

    in any case I find a lot of measurebator types can be remarkably subjective as to which pesky science stuff they consider important, and which they consider either irrelevant or wrong (or ‘wrongly applied’ :) )
  16. Old Shatterhand

    Old Shatterhand pfm Member

    Room interaction is happening with every speaker but that doesn't change the fact about the position of the base port. Sorry if I understood you wrong, I'm no native and sometimes struggle to understand the meaning of some sentences or slang words.:oops:
  17. montesquieu

    montesquieu pfm Member

    Actually I'm no expert in the 'science' of these matters at all and I'm happy to admit that .. I was attempting to relate an actual experience with AN-Es, which have a quite a specific character in this regard. Being relatively small cabinets (in Tannoy terms at least) with a small woofer, Peter Qvortrop of Audio Note recommends they be used very close to the rear wall. With their rear port, this provides bass reinforcement and seems to interact in some way with a lightweight/resonant front baffle to generate prodigious (if not necessarily fast or accurate) amounts of mid and even low bass. This is how they are demonstrated at shows and the overall effect does tend to be very musical.

    In my case howerver the back wall is stepped back on one side - not a problem with my front-vented Tannoys which I have a minimum of a metre or so away from the closest wall anyway. However with the AN-Es while one speaker was hard up against the wall as recommended, the other was a couple of feet out and not benefiting (if that's the word) from bass reinforcement, so the sound was lopsided. Pulling both out from the wall definitely lost something in terms of bass response and presence. I just couldn't get them to work very well at all.
  18. montesquieu

    montesquieu pfm Member

    I had several pairs of 57s including the ones you ended up with, and a pair of Lindley-Allen custom jobs in massive solid wallnut cases. (considerably wider, heavier and bulkier than standard 57s, but the stability of the frame definitely improved the imaging). I later had some 63s myself, alongside my Tannoys ... I remain a fan of electrostatics and if I had two suitable rooms my other speakers would most likely be a pair of 63s. As you say the 63s are a different beast from the 57s and in many ways I prefer them - there's a strong argument that the original 63 design is the best verion of the concentric panel design and that later ones, in pursuit of lower bass, lost a little bit of that most magical thing about them which is the point source coherence.

    I can see why Harbeths and Spendors might appeal, moving from electrostatics, but you'll almost certainly miss that point source imaging. A three way while having more bass extension is likely to provide more of a change than a two-way in that regard. I agree with you on not wanting to bung up ports, but there can be some utility in port modification for room tuning: Paul Coupe's later version of the design for my speakers has sliders on the vents to allow the tuning point to be changed to avoid room nodes (when he designed my original pair he came round and measured the room and adjusted the tuning to match!). Some more recent factory Tannoys have this as well though not sure if the Legacy series does.
  19. novak

    novak pfm Member

    Yes, nothing wrong with the Harbeths at all. They sound wonderful! I guess I'm intrigued what other options would bring – I'd say the Tannoy Eaton Legacy in particular. Maybe run both in parallel.

    Design – from an audio perspective, and a visual one, is of great interest to me. I like how different companies have evolved their products, taken different approaches, and ultimately, the experience you get from these different products. That's why, I guess, I could enjoy Kans and a Nait 1 as much as I can enjoy SHL5+ and valves. Totally different recipes, but equally tasty.

    I do have a soft spot for the more classic / heritage products in particular. The design evolution, the ideas behind them, the flavours you get. I like Shahinian for the same reason. Never heard any Tannoys, apart from some Monitor Golds being blasted out in a venue, which wasn't the best occasion for them I imagine.

    I have tried Proac D2 and the latest signature Tablettes, they tend to appear more insightful than Harbeth (at least a feeling of that through being brighter in my IMO) but don't possess the same magic as Harbeth in the mids. I did wonder about the new D2R which seem to get reviewed well. Never tried a ribbon before. They're a nice size too, they'd fit nicely and apparently work with valves, which I have. So, boxes ticked.

    But on reflection, I'm probably more intrigued by the Eaton Legacy than the Proac or Spendor. More for what I have read about their apparent ability to do something completely different in terms of sound stage and depth. A bit of a new avenue to explore I guess.

    The SHL5+ are the best speakers I have ever owned – and in the 10-15 years I have owned a few, or least tried at home, including Harbeth, Proac, Spendor, Shahinian, Linn, Totem, ATC, Kudos, with amps from Naim, Luxman, Lavardin, Croft, Sugden, Yamaha, Devialet. I have found amps to make only small differences – I'd say my best (from memory) setups were the Naim 282/250.2 with P3ESR and M30.1, the Croft 25r/7R was a good set up too. Nait 1 with Kans I always enjoyed. Weirdly, Naim chrome set up (think it was 62/140/hicap) with Shahinian Arcs. Lovely stuff.

    Might be tempted to try amplifiers to see what more power would do to the SHL5+ despite low-level listening, but I do rate the Jadis and feel it works brilliantly with the Harbeths, and I don't need a lot of power.

    I guess my ideal would be, on further reading, would be to try some Legacy Eaton at home but fear it'll be a lot of faffing around with couriers and dealers, and I switch them on, they sound big, warm and immersive, but lack the delicacy and transparency of the Harbeths. I think the room could do take it, they'd be rather fetching on either side of the fireplace, and would work with the Jadis.

    Hmm... will have a think!
    hifinutt likes this.
  20. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    Paul benge will sort you a pair of eatons with no fuss !!

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