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View Full Version : Another idea for a new Harbeth speaker



EricW
09-09-2009, 08:40 PM
While enjoying the sound of my new P3ESRs very much, I couldn't help wondering what the following imaginary speaker might sound like, built with all-Radial drivers of course. But before I explain what "the following" is, let me (at the risk of being long-winded) explain what gives rise to this idea.

1. I recently purchased a new pair of computer speakers called iNNosound Piccolos, made by a small company in South Korea. They look like another other little speakers made for that application, but they're not: they key difference is that they have not only internal amplification but also an internal DAC, and one 2.5" (!) Peerless driver per side. They sound amazingly good (for what they are) and voices in particular come through very clearly and naturally. They remind of how a simple single-driver setup as found in say a car radio or a TV or a table radio (and the Piccolos are quite a bit better than that) can sometimes sound better than a typical "hi-fi" speaker. Despite lacking loudness and extension, they can sound more real, somehow (though not more real than a Harbeth, of course!). A review of the Piccolo - which is quite accurate - can be found on the 6 Moons website.

2. Another interesting speaker than I've seem reviewed (but have not heard) is made by an Austrian company called WLM. What's interesting about them is that they have a couple of models that use a cone tweeter with a 2.5" diameter, crossed over at a very low frequency (1200 hz, I think).

3. I seem to recall reading a post by Alan about running the 8" Radial driver full-range, and being surprised by how good it sounded.

So, putting all of the above together, I can't help but wonder how a Harbeth with, say, an 8" Radial woofer and a 2.5" Radial cone midrange/tweeter might sound. I expect that dispersion in the high frequencies might suffer a bit compared to a conventional dome tweeter, but might there be other advantages to offset this? Also, if this were a feasible concept, it would truly be an "all-Harbeth" product, which I'm sure many loyal fans of the brand would support.

EricW
15-09-2009, 02:21 AM
Okay, let me simplify the question:

Is a Harbeth-built Radial cone tweeter a feasible proposition, as an alternative to an externally-sourced dome tweeter? What would be the pluses and minuses?

The cone tweeter is not completely dead so I'm presuming there are at least some potential advantages, or people would stop making them entirely. Right or wrong?

A.S.
15-09-2009, 11:21 AM
All useful feedback.

Yes, I have been thinking about making the RADIAL? driver in a variety of sizes and agree with you that it could be of considerable benefit in bringing clarity to a really small speaker. In a shopping mall I passed a manufacturer's franchise store demonstrating their brands miniature surround speaker systems, used for home theatre. I was impressed by the immersive (it seems that's not a real word) sound experience with noises, explosions and FX all around from the small speakers. Unfortunately, when the dialogue started, the limitations of the speakers was evident: there was no clarity at all in the front, dialogue channel which was very muffled. Disappointing.

yeecn
16-09-2009, 06:13 PM
I have been looking up and down in vain for a pair of decent small speakers for my computer desk. If you can make an active miniature Harbeth that can be used as a computer speaker I think there will be a market for it. If you can do your crossover magic to make a matching subwoofer to extend the bass that would be doubly nice.

The surround sound is engaging only during the span of the movie. But there is hardly any movies that one wants to watch more than once, except for the musicals. I find that for musicals and music performances the surround speakers are strictly optional. I have not come across any music DVD that makes effective use of the surround speakers yet. There is really nothing much happening at the back with the performers playing at the front.

I don't watch that many movies, so I have more or less given up on the surround speakers for now. My take is that stereo sound will still be the norm for a long time to come.

Cheers,
Yee

EricW
16-09-2009, 10:51 PM
I have been looking up and down in vain for a pair of decent small speakers for my computer desk.

Cheers,
Yee

Yee, seriously, consider trying the Piccolos. They're amazing. Until Harbeth makes a computer speaker, I really think this is the best you can do, unless you get something quite a bit bigger like an Adam or a Dynaudio - and even they don't have the built-in DAC.

yeecn
17-09-2009, 10:50 AM
Thanks for the info Eric, I am surprised to see Dynaudio foraying into desktop speakers space. I think it is an indication that the high-end is finally noticing this market sector. I spend more time at my work table than the living room. I have been wondering why this market sector has been so neglected by the big boys.

I just checked, Dynaudio offer is selling in Malaysia for USD 2500. Phew... I can buy a P3ESR with a decent amplifier for that money. I don't think I can find the other brands you mentioned. The market here is flooded with sub USB 60 systems, but there is almost nothing beyond that price range. Saying that they sounded bad is an understatement.

I don't think DAC is important. I will be running it off my computer mostly, and most media player already comes with a DAC.

I am also thinking of setting up a decent sound system in my bed room. A pair of small active speakers with a media player (like logitech squeezebox) is my only chance of getting past the wife-acceptance barrier. Frankly - I would not put an imposing pile of electronics and a mess of tangling wires in my bedroom myself.

Alan - any chance of releasing an active P3ESR? Or something even smaller?

hifi_dave
17-09-2009, 12:41 PM
I would guess that a pair of active P3ESR would sell for around ?2000 and I would be surprised if there is much of a market for such a speaker.

Don't shout at me but I see Harbeth as a high quality speaker manufacturer and the market for active computer speakers is mainly price and style led with sound quality very much a secondary consideration. All the computer installations I have seen employ the likes of Bose or JBL if they are 'serious' about the sound and these generally sell for a ?100 or so.I don't see Harbeth wanting to compete in this market.

Surely, if you really are enthusiastic about computer audio, you would employ a DAC and feed it into your Hi-Fi system where the Harbeth's reside !!!

yeecn
17-09-2009, 04:22 PM
I don't know about you guys, but life style is very important for me.

I have a dilemma here. I had wanted to get a decent sound system for my bed room for months. We have been using one of those USD 100 mini-combo system. The whole setup sites nicely on a small bench top inconspicuously.

Wife acceptance is the deciding factor in my consideration. I was very tempted to buy a pair of P3ESR, which would just be barely acceptable, but then there is no way my wife would agree to the electronics and the wires. So my options are down to:
1) Stick to my el-cheapo japanese mini-compo system,
2) Get a pair of small active speakers with a tiny media player (for example logitech squeezebox touch).

The same considerations goes with my study/work room.

For me good music should be integral to our living space, much like good decorations and lighting. It is about harmony, sharing and relationship. My household cut down on TV dramatically since I setup the Hifi system. That to me is already a great improvements in our qualify of life. For that matter I would never set up a dedicated listening room for myself.

Vlado
17-09-2009, 05:01 PM
Alan, what you think about the sound qualities of an ACTIVE speaker in the size of C7/HL5, ported or sealed, fited with switches in the active crossover to accomodate the bas and treble room response. Can bring such version SIGNIFICANT improovement in sound against the passive version?

pranderos
17-09-2009, 05:17 PM
I would guess that a pair of active P3ESR would sell for around ?2000 and I would be surprised if there is much of a market for such a speaker.

Don't shout at me but I see Harbeth as a high quality speaker manufacturer and the market for active computer speakers is mainly price and style led with sound quality very much a secondary consideration. All the computer installations I have seen employ the likes of Bose or JBL if they are 'serious' about the sound and these generally sell for a ?100 or so.I don't see Harbeth wanting to compete in this market.

Surely, if you really are enthusiastic about computer audio, you would employ a DAC and feed it into your Hi-Fi system where the Harbeth's reside !!!


I have to offer a soft-spoken alternative view here. I have a bachelor friend who has far more invested in a high-end system than I ever could, as a married-with-young adults-still-at-home. He had, till recently, the works: hi-end TT, electrostats bigger than a door, thousands of records lining the house, ARC electronics, etc. Does more and more of his listening via the internet through his desktop, and a DAC. He is very interested in high quality active desktop monitors; has some nice ones he shows with pride. I read more and more about this as the coming thing; my 25 year-old has set up something similar with his PC, appropriating my tubed head-phone amp as part of the setup.

I can see a future for Harbeth in raising the bar for this growing segment.

-paul-

EricW
18-09-2009, 06:50 AM
Alan, what you think about the sound qualities of an ACTIVE speaker in the size of C7/HL5, ported or sealed, fited with switches in the active crossover to accomodate the bas and treble room response. Can bring such version SIGNIFICANT improovement in sound against the passive version?

Not just active, but with internal DAC would be my vote. No question in my mind that is the way of the future. One UK manufacturer has already gone in this direction (AVI).

Vlado
18-09-2009, 08:04 PM
Not just active, but with internal DAC would be my vote.

I'm not mentioned intentionaly the DAC, becouse this technology is changing and developing extremely fast, then the speakers become obsolete.

Ron Herbster
18-09-2009, 09:29 PM
I would vote for an M35. A 3 way priced and sized between the M30 and M40.1. Possibly making it a floor stander.

EricW
18-09-2009, 11:16 PM
I'm not mentioned intentionaly the DAC, becouse this technology is changing and developing extremely fast, then the speakers become obsolete.

Well, the flip side of this argument is that while computers are a fine way to store digital data, they tend not to have the world's greatest analog output stages, which means that some kind of DAC is essential for the best sound, whether it's standalone or built in to the speakers.

I'm not an expert, but DACs strike me as being a fairly mature technology at this point - unless there's a radical format change, they're going to be good for the forseeable future. And you don't have to be stuck with it anway - a line level input allows for the use of any new digital technology that might come along.

EricW
18-09-2009, 11:24 PM
I would vote for an M35. A 3 way priced and sized between the M30 and M40.1. Possibly making it a floor stander.

Ron: have you seen this thread? http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?t=580

Great minds ...

I don't think it should be a floorstander, though - seems not to square with the Harbeth philosophy and design approach.

yeecn
22-09-2009, 05:33 AM
There is the stereo DAC, which I think is very mature. Then there is the various 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound and the various encodings - Doubly Digital, DD True HD, DTS etc. I have heard about 9.1, 11.1 surround sounds in the making as well. So it looks like things will be changing in this area.

Good old stereo is good enough for music listening. Most musical DVD contains a stereo PCM sound track anyway. For most music DVD I owned I have found the stereo sound track not inferior to the 5.1 sounds. One important factor is that the front speakers (Compact 7ES3) is much superior to my surround speakers. To really enjoy good 5.1 music (not special sound effects) one really need all the speakers to be of the same quality.

The USD 300 Logitech Squeezebox is already boasting a 'very good' 24-bit Burr-Brown PCM1748 DAC with optimized, regulated power supplies. So I guess DAC is cheap enough nowadays. Electronics seems to be getting very cheap nowadays. My USD 90 DVD player includes a 1080p video upgrade, so does my Denon AVR and the TV. I did not even bothered to find out which one performs better.

It seems that media players like the Logictech Squeezebox and Western Digital Media player is setting a new trend in the market. I believe that CD/DVD/Blueray players are on the way out, and active speakers complement this trend perfectly. This is bad news for electronics makers, but could be a boom for speaker makers.

I have been looking to upgrade my mini-combo in my bedroom, but I simply cannot bring myself to buy a USD 600 system from Japan after I brought my Harbeth. Now I am hopeful again...

Vlado
22-09-2009, 06:13 PM
Well, the flip side of this argument is that while computers are a fine way to store digital data, they tend not to have the world's greatest analog output stages, which means that some kind of DAC is essential for the best sound, whether it's standalone or built in to the speakers.

I'm not an expert, but DACs strike me as being a fairly mature technology at this point - unless there's a radical format change, they're going to be good for the forseeable future. And you don't have to be stuck with it anway - a line level input allows for the use of any new digital technology that might come along.

Hello,
how do you imagine to set the volume, if a DAC is build in the active speakers? You'll need also build in volume controls with remote control, consequently the things will become expensive.
One solution on hand is (for example) Benchmark DAC1 PRE (volume control and remote control implemented) and active speakers.

EricW
22-09-2009, 08:58 PM
Hello,
how do you imagine to set the volume, if a DAC is build in the active speakers? You'll need also build in volume controls with remote control, consequently the things will become expensive.
One solution on hand is (for example) Benchmark DAC1 PRE (volume control and remote control implemented) and active speakers.

Hi Vlado:

All is know is that the Piccolos implement all of this quite successfully (active single-driver speaker, internal DAC, volume control and remote) for about $300 US. Sure, there are significant limitations - a pair of 2.5" drivers is not going to fill a room - but within their performance envelope and as desktop speakers they're very very good. It makes me wonder how much more would be possible by upsizing and upgrading the drivers a bit (e.g. Radial) but still with a view to keeping the cost reasonable, especially now that space and heat-efficient Class D amps are becoming more common (two Canadian manufacturers, Bryston and Classe, have just come out with Class D lines, for example).

I don't know the Benchmark DAC 1 Pre from personal experience, but I've read good things about it. However, it would seem to be a more expensive solution than a completely integrated system: at $1500 US for the Benchmark plus a pair of good active speakers, it's probably more than what most would spend on a computer or second system, although the cost is not out of line for a main system, I agree.

Eric