Harbeth Speakers- Doing Something Right....

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by avanti1960, Jul 25, 2019.

  1. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    I have never really fell in love with the sound of any system that was driven by high-powered amps of any sort, solid state or tube. With high-powered solid state, I just don't stay as engaged with the music because there is a lifeless quality which means turning up the volume louder to get the juices going. With high-powered tube gear, there is a "glare" (sense of a sharp peak) in the upper midrange/treble and a brittle quality I don't like. For me, it is lower powered pushpull or SET or OTL's that do the trick. That does mean some limitations on speaker choices.

    I have not owned Harbeths, but I do hear them a lot and with many different tube amps so I know they can be a challenge. The 3,7, and 30.1 can be used with medium and fairly low-powered amps. The temptation with the 5 and 40.2, because they are bigger speakers, is to play them at high volume levels. I suppose having plenty of power helps for that kind of listening. Because I don't like high volume listening, I do not think these speakers are necessarily inappropriate for use with lower-powered tube gear. The best I've heard from both of these speakers was with a 10 watt pushpull amp. I also liked the 40.2's with a 40 watt parallel SET amp. I actually liked the 40.2's less well with the 150 watt pushpull amp and another pushpull amp that was also in the same power range.

    Harbeths are no different from any other high quality speaker. They are easily capable of showing differences in upstream components, and in that sense, they are sensitive to choices made. But, being inherently on the warm and musical side, they are also somewhat forgiving of upstream components--they will sound good no matter what they are coupled with, even if they are not at their best.
     
  2. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    I have an NAD D3045 in my office at home. I hooked it up to the Monitor 30.1 in my main room one afternoon in February or March just to get a measure of what the combination could do. I also tried a TEAC AI503. Anyway, a couple of friends dropped by, I put on some music and we sat around alternately talking and listening and enjoying. It was only after about an hour or so that one of the guys noticed the NAD perched on top of my LFD NCSE MKII. I had forgotten all about the NAD because we’d been too busy enjoying the music. That little integrated does a lot of things right. So does the TEAC, albeit just a bit more clinically. Then again, the TEAC sounded great with the Harbeth P3ESR in my office when I tried that combination in late 2017 or early 2018.

    Given an advantageously complimentary setup, it’s really hard to find a bad amp these days. That’s been true for a while, AFAIC.

    The D3045 and the AI503 won’t do the complex, grand scale of large symphonic pieces or opera. They run out of wattage and current on the dramatic dynamics, massed instruments and voices. Heavy and loudly layered rock of all sorts can also tap them out as soon as the amps are pushed beyond moderately loud levels. These integrated amps also don’t resolve microdynamics in quiet music passages, and they have a few other limitations when compared to significantly more expensive integrateds and separates. In small rooms with good quality speakers though, and when nobody is looking sometimes in medium size rooms, these little class D marvels can be terrific.
     
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  3. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    I don't either (just some Jefferson Airplane, Joni Mitchell, Neko Case, Aimee Mann, Sonic Youth). Female vocals are a good "indicator" of how a system sounds. It's easy to reproduce them so they sound very good, difficult to make them sound totally magical. Harbeth speakers make them sound magical, and the rest should follow....
     
  4. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    yes, based on a limited listen with the anniversary models. the originals sound best to me.
     
  5. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    I had a long demo of some Harbeth C7ES3 with a Rogue Audio Pharaoh which uses the Hypex module. Not a good match but I put the fault at the amplifier. Rogue Audio went for an overall sound that is much darker, warmer than the typical Hypex application. Paired with the Harbeths it was too much of a good thing. Possibly the newer PS Audio or Benchmark amps may sound much better with Harbeth speakers.
     
  6. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    very good then. my dealer is giving a great deal on a Jadis I50 integrated
    I get what you are saying. Some higher powered tube amps lose the bass when they are pushed and the midrange takes over causing some glare. Lots of solid state amps do sound lifeless at lower volumes.
    I have heard examples that counter each issue- my dealer has a Jadis tube integrated amplifier that is 50 watts / channel pure class A. This thing will not go soft and sounds amazing at all volume levels including very, very loud.
    A newer McIntosh integrated (200WPC) sounded excellent even at low volume. I do enjoy the sonics of a sweet sounding tube amp at low-moderate volume but there do exist some amplifiers that can come close to doing it all.
     
  7. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    Another thing I loved about the sound of my former Harbeth C7ES3 was the way they "snapped" during snare drums and floor tom drums. So life like and quick yet with a richness that is gratifying. Possibly because of the rigidness of the radial cone drivers combined with the warmth of the cabinet response- tight and rich at the same time unlike no other speaker I have heard....
     
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  8. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    I will say the C7s are definitely warmer than the HL5+. One thing I observed as well was the C7s have a 3D-ish quality to the sound, basically amazing imaging. The HL5+ sounded clearer but sacrificed warmth and imaging in contrast in the same system at a dealer I visited. It'd be interesting to see how they'd fare at home and whether I could tweak the setup.
     
  9. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    The Jadis I50 is one of the best valve integrated amps I’ve heard over the past five years or more. It ranks among the very best in the world, IMO.
     
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  10. molinari

    molinari Forum Resident

    Location:
    new york city
    Good point. Agreed on the music...
     
  11. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Interestingly my best show audition with Harbeth came with an all MSB front end and I haven't much luke MSB with anything else. This is sort of inline with Shaw's posting online that more power is better. Though I also liked the Harbeth Super HL5+ aside from some sibilance with Line Magnetic's 219IA and a number of pricey amps.
     
  12. We've probably heard the 40.2 at the same dealer, which is where I purchased my pair. Personally, I preferred them with push-pull tube amps in the 75-100W range, but perhaps I like listening a bit louder than you do. I am using a McIntosh MC275 (current version) and they sound great IMO, though I also thought they sounded excellent with the dealer's Synthesis A100 Titan.
     
  13. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    Yes, the 40.2s do sound good with the Synthesis A100 amps. That is a very good amp with all the speakers I've heard it driving. But, to me, the 10 watt Western Electric 124 sounded even better, albeit at not very loud volume levels and the Audio Note Gaku-On also bettered the A100; but, both amps are in the VERY high priced category. I did not particularly like the 40.2s with the 150 watt/channel high-end Conrad Johnson amp, so, power is just one factor, and for me, not the determining factor.
     
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  14. Interesting...the WE 124 sounded very good but seemed to run out of steam at higher volume and compress a bit. Maybe I'm just listening too loud!
     
  15. Salectric

    Salectric Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    I liked the WE 124 amps on the 40.2 as well. And I have now heard the 40.2 twice with big CJ amps and each time was not as pleased with the sound. Different days, different rooms, different systems, so hardly a fair comparison of just the amps, just another data point.
     
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  16. jonwoody

    jonwoody Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington DC
    I've heard the 40.2's with that Synthesis A1o0 also and thought they sounded great. Also a question to those who've heard them at Deja Vu, in the old space which Harbeth's were hooked up in the room just off the office? I am thinking 40.1 or maybe HL5 but memory is foggy. Whichever those speakers were they sounded great with the A100 and also with my 17 wpc stereo amp in a brief listen when I brought it in for service.
     
  17. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    Appreciate the advice! It sounds like the 30.1 would likely be the best match. I will focus my attention there.

    It will be hard in this room to move the speakers more than 18" from the front wall. No worries on the back wall though. The diagonal placement allows me to sit quite far from it (over 6' away from that corner), which has really been a positive change for my sound quality. Highly recommend diagonal placement in a small rectangular room.

    I am very likely to run either a tube amp of some sort or my current Sugden a21. Speakers will either be Harbeth, AN, or one of my current models (PMC TB2i or Von Schweikert VR-1). Sounds like Harbeth is the worst match of the four for these kinds of amps. I think with the Sugden it may be too much of a good thing in the midrange, though it sounds like it will work with the right tube amp (35w p/p) that isn't quite as dense sounding.

    I think I need to figure out what I value the most; the rich tonality of Harbeth, the dynamic live quality of AN, or something in between with PMC and VS.
     
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  18. Bwilson1

    Bwilson1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL USA
    I have a new to me pair of P3ESR being driven by a Bel Canto C5i in a small room (11 x 10) and it sounds glorious. Note that I do not listen at high levels (max 65 dB or so) but the combo sounds very rich and full at my preferred level. The Bel Canto has a extremely low noise floor and very black “blacks”.
     
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  19. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    You may wish to try the SoundKaos standmount that I just auditioned at CAS as it was one of the three best sounding rooms at the show. The speakers were $6000 or so US and are a small 4 way standmount. The room was run by Old Forge and while the amplifier was from Pure Audio the dealer also carries Sugden and noted that it works well.
     
  20. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    Location:
    South West, UK.
    It begs the question is why they play jazz and acoustic stuff at shows with tube amps and horns. Maybe it is because they sound crap with anything else?
     
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  21. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    Location:
    South West, UK.
    A high powered amp uses just a smaller amount of it's output capability most of the time. If it is not straining to drive a speaker it should sound more relaxed. You are complaining about the issue of amplifier character. Either you listened to some bad high power designs or you just prefer the presentation of low powered amps such as single ended valve designs. Conceivable a very low powered amp works better into some highly efficient designs intended to work well with those amps (such as Audio Note). Since we are on subject of Harbeth their bigger speakers (according to Harbeth) require 25 to 35 watts minimum and handle 150W plus continuous so should be well suited to high powered amplifiers. I find that for most speakers good powerful amps offer more control. I still maintain that an 8 watt amp into a Harbeth will distort at high volume with orchestral or rock music. More likely to do damage than too much power. Obviously may be fine at moderate volume and near field listening. Some valve amps distort in a way that is quite easy on the ear which seems to be what some like. As I said before, why are all these dems using acoustic jazz and/or female vocals? I think the answer is obvious.
     
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  22. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    I have only listened to a small sampling of high powered solid state amps, and only a few with my own speakers (high efficiency). But, I have not been impressed with the sound of systems with high powered amps, whether it is the amps, the speakers or something else, I cannot say definitively. Let me amend my statement by saying I generally don't like high-powered amp/low efficiency speaker combinations. If what I heard were "bad high powered amps," bad would include Soulution, Constellation, Diavalet, McIntosh, D'Agostino, Naim, Luxman, Pass, and a few other brands I can't immediately recall. I sort of like like the Ayre amps I've heard, but even these don't quite have the liveliness, large and enveloping soundstage, and musically engaging quality of the very best low-powered tube amps.

    As for low-powered solid state, the one brand that I've heard that I like is First Watt. I had my friend's J-2 in my system for two weeks and I enjoyed that amp. His SIT amp (homemade from First Watt schematics) I heard in his system; he liked these amps more than he did the J-2.

    I tend to dislike most of the high-powered tube amp I've heard, such as Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, VTL, and Manley.

    As for low-powered amps, I like SET amps as well as pushpull amps. I also like some OTL amps, and these can deliver moderate power levels. I own two pushpull amps, a 45 amp and a 349 amp. My SET amp is a parallel SET amp using 2a3 tubes. The two best amps I've heard were an OTL amp running television sweep tubes (I can't remember the type), and a pushpull amp running very old 252 tubes. The Audio Note Gaku-On's I mentioned above are also very nice sounding.

    My preference, stated above, is in regard to ultimate sound quality. That is not to say I don't enjoy the sound of more modest gear of all types. I have appreciated the sound of many systems employing amps for the likes of Bel Canto (class D solid state), Luxman, Naim, Jadis, and VAC.

    Component matching is, to me, more important than the intrinsic quality of any particular piece of gear. I've heard stuff that I thought I had a handle on and did not particularly like, that were in systems that sounded wonderful. This has surprised me on a number of occasions, perhaps none more so that hearing a system with Spectral electronics and Wilson speakers that sounded really good.
     
  23. Subagent

    Subagent All I know is What I Read in the Liner Notes

    Location:
    Arlington, VA
    [Sidebar]: Have you ever visited the Zu room at a show? Oh my goodness, they play some rough and rowdy stuff-- far too hip and obscure for my tastes, but definitely not "polite" music.
     
  24. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Not that I'm doubting your knowledge or experience as I always value yours but I have to wonder why you wish to read and post so regularly in a thread about a manufacturer's products which you clearly have no love or interest in. It doesn't detract me from my personal enjoyment of these products but it's a strange thing to have a couple of members actively post almost with disdain about products they've never owned. It might not provide much context in how these products work in a home setting. Just my 2 cents.
     
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  25. Salectric

    Salectric Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    A low-powered TUBE amp will not damage speakers when it distorts. What you said is correct, however, about low-powered solid state amps. When a ss amp clips it can produce sharp spikes at high frequencies that can burn out delicate tweeters since they were not designed to handle such power. When a tube amp, either SE or PP, runs out of power it flattens out the waveform but there are no sharp spikes of full power at high frequencies.
     
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