Dynaudio vs Harbeth

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by chipcalzada, Nov 15, 2019.

  1. chipcalzada

    chipcalzada Forum Resident Thread Starter

    If you listen to all types of music (Jazz, Electronic, Rock (some), Classical, Folk) which speaker would be the better pick? I currently have Dynaudio Contour 20's and I absolutely love the way they sound but I've always been drawn to Harbeth for its history, cult following and if I'm honest I really love the way it looks.

    This is purely for discussion purposes, I recently had a friend over and he had just listened to Harbeth SHL5's and he was making a case that the Harbeths would be a better fit in my system compared to my Dyns. I'm currently using an integrated tube amp and a tube phono pre. I'd like to see where everyone on this forum stands, thanks in advance!
     
    Paopawdecarabao likes this.
  2. Echo

    Echo Forum Resident

    Well, I'm owning a Dynaudio (Confidence C2), great to hear the many musical genres I love and being very satisfied with it, so where would I stand? :laugh:

    And all Harbeth owners here at SHTV will, I think, say the same about their speaker of choice.

    So I'm afraid you have to hear the two different brands by yourself...
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2019
  3. chipcalzada

    chipcalzada Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I agree that Dynaudio handles different genres with aplomb which is why I love my Dyns.

    To the Harbeth owners, is there any genre of music that you think/feel your speakers aren’t reaching its full potential?

    I ask this out of curiosity as sadly I’ve only heard Harbeths on YouTube videos. The local Harbeth AD is located a plane or boat ride away.
     
    Mad shadows, Ivand and timind like this.
  4. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    I think Echo is correct and unfortunately you'll need to judge for yourself.

    On this topic, there are plenty of Harbeth owners online who will say that Harbeth's were not designed with rock in mind and they don't do it well. Other Harbeth owners say that the speakers can rock just fine, you just need an amp that has enough control. Ok, about as clear as mud.

    I demoed P3ESR's and found they did not handle rock well, though they were amazing with small scale jazz. I don't think I heard them with the most ideal amp though.

    So even after reading a ton of opinions across various forums, and even hearing a pair for myself, I still don't know. I can seek out more opinions, but they will be all over the map. Hearing these speakers more is the answer. Now, obviously, the SHL5 is not the P3ESR, and it would probably rock more convincingly. But IMO the only way you'll know for sure is to hear a pair, ideally in your own room.
     
    Shiver, Ezd and chipcalzada like this.
  5. G B Kuipers

    G B Kuipers Forum Resident

    Location:
    Netherlands
    My SHL5 can rock just as well as the pair of Tannoy Turnberrys I used to own. They do need more power, though.

    For me, Harbeths are the most versatile and satisfying semi-affordable speaker designs on the planet. But, yes, you need to hear them before you sell your Dyns. What are your core audiophile values?
     
    TSWisla and chipcalzada like this.
  6. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Location:
    Syracuse NY
    I’ll second, third, or fourth whatever... Harbeth are great at everything but rock. IMHO they do jazz and small music venue stuff the best but loud rock and even a full orchestra can be challenging for them. That said the SHL 5Plus is one hell of a nice speaker that I could live with and I listen to everything.
     
    chipcalzada likes this.
  7. Tom Littlefield

    Tom Littlefield Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Hampshire, USA
    Harbeth's don't have a great top end as does Contour 20's has...
     
    chipcalzada likes this.
  8. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    If there's any mistake to be made it's constricting your options to these two brands. Harbeths have their deserved fans but it doesn't mean they work for anyone under any circumstances. Same can be said for any brand. The reality is that cult followings are often shallow-rooted. I often find myself disappointed in products backed by large cults.

    Best thing to do is seek out auditions of a large variety, even if requires some travel and an overnight stay. It can actually save you large sums in the long run. Some dealers will even reimburse travel expenses if you spend enough with them.

    No speaker handles all genres equally well.
     
    timind, russk, beowulf and 1 other person like this.
  9. Slack

    Slack Forum Resident

    I like both.Which is best really depends on how you listen.
    Harbeths are great at conveying emotion and they are quite forgiving of both music and equipment.
    The Dynaudios are more revealing and image much better but will not sound their best without really top quality source and amplification.They are also typically much harder to drive than the Harbeths.
     
    timind, Echo and chipcalzada like this.
  10. chipcalzada

    chipcalzada Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks for your reply. In my original post, I mentioned that this is only for discussion purposes as I have no plans to trade or upgrade my speakers for the next couple of years. Not having access to the Harbeths, I was only able to talk about their qualities based only on what I've read on reviews. I created this topic because I wanted first-hand information from Harbeth owners so that I will be better informed in the future.

    @Helom, as mentioned in my reply above, this thread's purpose is merely to discuss the qualities and differences of Dynaudio compared to Harbeths. The same friend also told me that he preferred the sound of the Harbeths with the grill on vs grill off which he said was designed to be listened to that way. I find that interesting as I can't seem to hear a difference when I listen to my Contours grill on vs grill off, not that I've done any formal A-B comparison.
     
    bever70 and G B Kuipers like this.
  11. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    I can not speak for Harbeth, being that I've never listened to them. I was impressed with a particular Dynaudio powered studio monitor (one of their near field models) sort of a variant of the typical passive hifi speaker. The Adam powered monitor, with their ribbon tweeter I found to be intoxicating, and would buy them. When I heard the Dynaudio, the dynamics and openness of sound surpassed the "ribbon" experience of the Adam... and I love ribbons. Dynaudio is doing something right.

    I was about to purchase the Dynaudio monitors for my music project, but then thought as a speaker builder, why not see if my Celestion 3 speakers that sound horrible IMO, could be improved to be worthy for monitor use? The Celestion 3's have a titanium dome tweeter, that I consider articulate and extended, but that horrible coloration in the crossover region spoiled overall performance. So.. I built an entirely new CFAC crossover, eliminating the "capacitor" coloration of the original, plus aperiodic porting (from the huffy sounding open port) and some acoustic dampening. What a change, a slight sacrifice of deeper bass, for more accurate bass, and smooth response, far more than expected. The dynamics sound to me, on par with Dynaudio product, although I am not going out on a limb to say "better sounding" overall. I saved over a grand by building my own, would not describe as intoxicating but measure smoothly and are discriminating.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2019
  12. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    Dynaudios are a bit more of a "hi-fi" sound, and more dynamic depending on the model. Harbeth voicing is intended to best render lifelike vocals and strings. I like them for small ensemble jazz and folk music. Don't much care for them with hard rock or Electronic stuff. And No BBC-derived speaker is going to give you kick-in-the-chest dynamics.

    I think Dyns may be the better all-rounders if you get something in the Focus range or above.
     
    MC Rag, chipcalzada and The FRiNgE like this.
  13. Slippers-on

    Slippers-on Forum Resident

    Location:
    St.Louis Mo.
    You ever heard Canton Vento or Reference line of speakers? Handles everything you play very well....their drivers and crossovers are world class.
     
  14. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    I haven't heard a speaker at any price that I believe would do everything equally well, key word being equal.
     
  15. Slippers-on

    Slippers-on Forum Resident

    Location:
    St.Louis Mo.
    Well if you have a chance...listen to Canton Reference K series.
     
    russk likes this.
  16. Slippers-on

    Slippers-on Forum Resident

    Location:
    St.Louis Mo.
    There are other brands as well that do it all as well.
     
  17. Slippers-on

    Slippers-on Forum Resident

    Location:
    St.Louis Mo.
    What do you mean by hi fi sound?

    Hi fi being high fidelity?
     
  18. Slippers-on

    Slippers-on Forum Resident

    Location:
    St.Louis Mo.
    A excellent designed speaker can be dynamic and give you that same small ensemble jazz sound and folk music...sound life like as well with strings and voice. I don't think its healthy to give an idea that only BBC can do it. Other Great speaker manufactures can do it as well. A great speaker will not be shouty but laid back and effortless and yet still be dynamic life like and still be emotional and convey an experience as close to a live performance.
     
  19. art

    art Forum Resident

    Location:
    520
    Try Graham too.
     
  20. trickness

    trickness Gotta painful yellow headache

    Location:
    Manhattan
    Harbeth 30.2 sounds like music to me. Dynaudio is very analytical to my ears by comparison at same price point. Some people like that though.
     
  21. Slack

    Slack Forum Resident

    The Dynaudios only sound analytical if the amplification and source sounds like that.It really just comes down to system matching.I have heard Dynaudio Platinum C1s driven by Bakoon amplification and with that amp they were anything but analytical.Although that might also be their downside-they will only sound their best with very high end sounding amps like the Bakoon whereas the Harbeths can sound decent with quite ordinary amplifiers.In absolute terms the Dynaudios are better but that does not mean that they will offer a better sound for your dollar when budget constraints for your complete system are considered.
     
    chipcalzada likes this.
  22. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Location:
    Syracuse NY
    Wow I didn’t even know Canton were still around. They used to make some pretty sweet speakers. When I lived in Germany they were sold everywhere and their upper end bookshelfs rocked. I preferred them to the B&Ws that I heard at the time.
     
    Slippers-on likes this.
  23. dianos

    dianos Forum Resident

    Location:
    The North
    I had the Dynaudio 160 and now the Harbeth SHL5 Plus with a Supernait 2. The Harbeths is a totally different thing. Harbeth can create emotions and connect to your music like nothing else I've tried before. The Dynaudios were not bad att all but in comparison they feel dead and boring. I really recommend Harbeth. However worth mentioning is that the Harbeth line up is very different in sound signature. The 40.1 sound like a different brand compared to SHL5 Plus so it's absolutely not a range in that matter meaning you need to listen to them all if you can to decide which sound signature you prefer.

    I'll also add that the Harbeths do require great amplification to come alive. Nothing under 2x100W is my recommendation. If you have a larger room then I recommend even more.

    If you like the Dynaudios then I think SHL5 Plus is the closest match. M30s will be a step in another direction. You may like it but it's something else.
     
    Art K, TSWisla, Strat-Mangler and 2 others like this.
  24. I would not buy speakers that don’t play every genre of music well. I have Harbeth 40.2 powered by a McIntosh MC275 and my music collection is mostly rock, pop and jazz, and all sound great. They reproduce scale better than the smaller Harbeths like the 30.1, though they’re closer than one would think given the size difference.

    By contrast I found the Devore O/96 I’d auditioned to be great with jazz and vocal, but really fell apart on classic rock. It seemed like the two drivers weren’t enough for that type of music, though I thought Audio Note AN-Es handled it much better with a similar-looking design.

    Bottom line, I think you’d need to listen before buying any speaker, even if it’s just in the store. Or make sure they have a really good return policy!
     
    Shiver likes this.
  25. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    Location:
    Westfield, IN USA
    I've owned four Dynaudio speakers, all monitors. Listed in order of preference:

    Contour 1.3MkII - my favorite of the bunc, but it couldn't quite top the Revel M20s I was using at the time.

    Focus 110 - this tiny speaker was amazing to listen to with eyes closed. You'd never think all of that sound could come from such a small speaker. It would be fun to compare the 110 to the Harbeth P3ESR side-by-side.

    Excite X12 - A really great speaker for the money on the used market.

    Contour 1.3SE - This speaker might be the biggest disappointment I've experienced in this hobby. For the price, and look, I expected to be blown away in sonic bliss. Instead I was blown away by how terrible it sounded. Here's how it went - start listening, turn volume down, listen some more, turn volume down some more. With good sound I keep turning the volume up until someone yells, "turn that down."

    As for Harbeth, I've only seriously listened to the 30.1. I auditioned them fairly extensively at a friends house when he listed was preparing to sell them. All I can really say is, even with the deal he was offering me, I didn't buy them.
     

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