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FJames
13-04-2011, 11:04 PM
I recently bought a second-hand pair of HL-P3. I use them near field and more conventionally in a smallish room, driven by an Icon Audio amp fed with iTunes through a Meridian DAC.

Well, these were bought having read through the forum, and the many reviews of Harbeth speakers on the web. Also having listened to them (and some LS3 5As) prior to purchase. But the experience of ownership is really difficult. I can appreciate the speakers present music with analytical precision and clarity, and present a wide soundstage on some recordings, but I wasn't expecting a fatiguing sound. I believed Harbeths are supposed to be natural and musical, but I find myself assailed by a clinical brightness that I can only take for an hour or two.

This seems so counter to what Harbeths are supposed to be I am at a loss. Should I just accept that these aren't for me, or can someone suggest a solution?

Dougal
14-04-2011, 12:04 AM
Interesting post.

What kind of speakers did you use previously?

Perhaps your Harbeths are revealing some distortions that were 'masked' by your previous speakers. The combination of Icon Audio, iTunes and a Meridian DAC suggests the possibility of valve distortion (if it is one of their valve amps) and the audible effects of jitter becoming more apparent.

I had to ditch an old DAC because the speakers I was using (BBC monitor tradition but not made by Harbeth) made its icy clarity unbearable.

My suggestion is to ask a friend to bring round an amp and CD player for you to try, and then experiment with the height of the tweeters relative to your ears in your preferred seating position.

Despite the impression you may take away from HUG postings, I doubt that Harbeth speakers are incapable of sounding harsh. If they can reveal micro-tonal detail, surely a bit of second order distortion will get through as well. You may just need to find less fatiguing sources.

Unfortunately when we make changes to our gear set-ups it's often the case that something is taken away to counter-balance the pluses.

EricW
14-04-2011, 01:45 AM
I second Dougal's comments and would add one thing. You say you are using iTunes as a source, but iTunes is only software. At what resolution are your music files encoded? If they are low bit rate AAC or MP3 files, you could well be hearing some harshness that was masked by other speakers.

If your Harbeths still sound harsh attached to an amplifier and source that you know sound clean in other systems (though I would change one component at a time, so you can isolate what may be causing the problem), then at least you know where the problem lies and can investigate further.

STHLS5
14-04-2011, 04:17 AM
... but I wasn't expecting a fatiguing sound. I believed Harbeths are supposed to be natural and musical, but I find myself assailed by a clinical brightness that I can only take for an hour or two....

No way Harbeth can be fatiguing. You need to watch for two things here:-

1) Since this is a second hand pair, please check if the previous owner did any modifications to the speakers.

2) Play around with toe-in or rather toe-out so that the tweeters are firing away from your ears. Try different speaker placements.

ST

FJames
14-04-2011, 10:09 PM
Thank you all for the prompt responses. I've played around with a variety of sources, and I'm fairly certain it's the DAC. I guess my previous speakers have never had the clarity to expose the Meridian's harshness and what I'd almost term "splash" in the treble. On some recordings, and female voices in particular, it's very apparent.

I've no idea what jitter sounds like. Maybe it's that.

Ah well, a trip to the hifi store is required.

Dougal
14-04-2011, 10:20 PM
As the other posts illustrate, it could well be a combination of factors that have not arisen before.

It's worth checking to make sure your speakers have not been modified, e.g. different tweeters or internal wiring installed, modifications to the crossover etc.

David Price in Hi-Fi World has said that Meridian equipment can sound a little bright (present generation of products excepted).

Some DACs you might find worthwhile investigating are the Rega DAC, Cambridge DacMagic, Musical Fidelity M1 or (higher up the price scale) the forthcoming Audiolab DQ and M-DAC, and the Leema Reference Series DAC.

But then again, experimenting with speaker height, axis and reflections in-room might save you a lot of money!