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Recordings for a Harbeth Demonstration

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  • Recordings for a Harbeth Demonstration

    A fellow I've come to know at our local Sound World, probably tired of hearing me go on about my new Compact 7s, asked if I would mind bringing them in for a demonstration. Of course, I was delighted to accept the invitation. In case anyone's interested, here's what I'll be bringing along to show the C7's off to the Sound World staff:

    Ave Verum Corpus, Beth Nielsen Chapman, HYMNS
    Ballad of the Runaway Horse, Jennifer Warnes, FAMOUS BLUE RAINCOAT
    From Here to Forever, Kris Kristofferson, CLOSER TO THE BONE
    La Villette, Marcus Miller, SILVER RAIN
    Almost Blue, Diana Krall, THE GIRL IN THE OTHER ROOM
    Preludio from Bach's Partita No. 3 in E Major for Violin, Hilary Hahn, HILARY HAHN PLAYS BACH
    Spanish Harlem, Rebecca Pidgeon, ULTIMATE DEMONSTRATION DISC (Chesky Records)
    Courant from Bach's Suite for Cello No. 1 in G, Yo-Yo Ma, BACH: THE CELLO SUITES
    Nocturne No. 20 in C-Sharp Minor, Maria-Joao Pires, CHOPIN: THE NOCTURNES
    Sea of Heartbreak, Rosanne Cash, THE LIST
    Psalm 42 (composed by Mendelssohn), Westminster Choir, LIKE AS A HART
    Piano Sonata No. 8, Adagio cantabile, Emil Gilels, BEETHOVEN: PATHETIQUE & MOONLIGHT SONATAS

    I'll report back on how the demonstration went.

    Bruce

  • #2
    Originally posted by Euler View Post
    A fellow I've come to know at our local Sound World, probably tired of hearing me go on about my new Compact 7s, asked if I would mind bringing them in for a demonstration. Of course, I was delighted to accept the invitation. In case anyone's interested, here's what I'll be bringing along to show the C7's off to the Sound World staff:

    Ave Verum Corpus, Beth Nielsen Chapman, HYMNS
    Ballad of the Runaway Horse, Jennifer Warnes, FAMOUS BLUE RAINCOAT
    From Here to Forever, Kris Kristofferson, CLOSER TO THE BONE
    La Villette, Marcus Miller, SILVER RAIN
    Almost Blue, Diana Krall, THE GIRL IN THE OTHER ROOM
    Preludio from Bach's Partita No. 3 in E Major for Violin, Hilary Hahn, HILARY HAHN PLAYS BACH
    Spanish Harlem, Rebecca Pidgeon, ULTIMATE DEMONSTRATION DISC (Chesky Records)
    Courant from Bach's Suite for Cello No. 1 in G, Yo-Yo Ma, BACH: THE CELLO SUITES
    Nocturne No. 20 in C-Sharp Minor, Maria-Joao Pires, CHOPIN: THE NOCTURNES
    Sea of Heartbreak, Rosanne Cash, THE LIST
    Psalm 42 (composed by Mendelssohn), Westminster Choir, LIKE AS A HART
    Piano Sonata No. 8, Adagio cantabile, Emil Gilels, BEETHOVEN: PATHETIQUE & MOONLIGHT SONATAS

    I'll report back on how the demonstration went.

    Bruce
    To report back on the demonstration: The Sound World staff were captivated by the the C7's. They helped me set them up in their nicely damped listening room at 9 am, an hour before they were to open. I had assumed the demonstration would last under an hour, but various members of the staff came by to listen over the next three hours! They loved the imaging, the detail, and the completely natural, uncolored sound.

    Bruce

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Bruce, noticed Diana Krall and Yo Yo Ma on your list. Some Diana Krall tracks are v. well recorded. couldnt help myself and ended up with a list of cd's id bring if listening to a pair of speakers...

      Burt Bacharach walk on by Disc 2 the burt bacharach collection Warner 2001 (only because some tunes are so engaging)
      Tracey chapman self titled elektra 1988 (some voice only tracks)
      George michael ladies and gentlmen disc 1 sony epic 1998 (some speakers cant produce the "majesty, grace" and height of George)
      Yo yo ma silk road ensemble enchantment sony bmg 2004 (drums, lesser speakers cant reproduce the scale)
      Caetano Veloso the best of nonesuch warner 2003 (male voice)
      Katherine jenkins serenade universal 2006 (lesser speakers will gag and choke on some tracks)
      Nelson riddell and his orchestra mps 2004 universal (Harbeths can do the "lazy" feel of some the passages well as well as the excitement when things pick up, on lesser speakers everything sounds the same)
      Eric clapton chronicles best of reprise warner (some guitar)
      Mariah carey greatest hits disc 2 sony bmg columbia 2000 (some good tracks, some heavily equailsed. id want to hear what this sounds like)
      Michael jackson number ones sony epic 2003 (lesser speakers crumble and &^$# out on some tracks, MJ has some pretty great recordings - bass, kick drums)
      Madonna american life - (will show off harsh speakers)
      Diana krall the very best verve 2007 (what can i say? womans voice and piano. if a speaker can do this well....)
      ryuchi sakamoto motortronic sony 2003
      jennifer lopez this is me then sony epic 2002
      fleetood mac say you will reprise 2003, not the best recording but like this album :-)

      Comment


      • #4
        ABC for Kids - Three - 836 864-2

        Yes, a kids' CD - but recorded by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and with a mix of spoken and musical tracks, all well and honestly recorded. Has a couple of Spike Milligan nonsense rhymes into the bargain.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for the tip Honmanm. ABC has some retail outlets here in Australia. I was just commenting to a colleague last week on how they hope to make a profit or breakeven when music retail seems to be under so much pressure. Will keep an eye out for their recordings. To be honest, ive passed them over due to their staid and sober image. Perhaps it’s their approach which gives their recordings the good quality. They have a dozen or so artistes under their label.

          2 other fairly good quality recordings ive listened to recently are:
          DONALD FAGEN- Morph the Cat-Reprise 2006, ENYA-Amarantine-Warner 2005. (Amarantine is a wonderful tune).

          I get the impression that some owners feel that their Harbeths make everything sound good and im starting to get the feeling that its definitely not the case. Harbeths are much more revealing and accurate than that. Was listening to Susan Boyle’s I dreamed a Dream (SYCO Sony 2009) last night and thought something was amiss. On TV she sounds fabulous. I quickly put on Katherine Jenkins and Sarah Brightman as a comparison and the result was night and day. The gradations of beauty in the female voice come across so clearly that it is possible to grade them on the SHL5's. Its almost like you could appreciate the years of training and the effect it has on one's voice.

          I then put on headphones and made the similar comparison and all the voices started to sound pretty much equal. Susan Boyle’s voice seems to have great dynamic range, and I can hear the compression kicking in on the recording through Harbeths. Through headphones this could not be really discerned.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by honmanm View Post
            all well and honestly recorded.
            i tried Barb Jungr - No Regrets- ABC Jazz 2007 and Catherine Hunter - Dream Maker- ABC Jazz 2006. As you said, very honest recordings (perhaps a little too). The Barb Jungr album is a compilation and believe the original recordings were by Linn? Two albums (and artistes) i thought were of as good a quality and possibly more listenable are Katie Melua - Call off the Search - Dramatico 2003 and Patty Larkin - Red = Luck on Vanguard 2003.

            thought i should mention a poor quality recording as well. Ke$ha - Animal - RCA Jive 2010. its just loud all the way. no soft or loud passages. an ipod optimised album?

            Comment


            • #7
              A. The ULTRA LOUNGE collections (Capitol Records). A total of 5 cd's. Old recordings remastered in 1996, but excellent stereo, clarity and dynamics. Very nice music also. Try at least one and you will buy them all!
              1. Rhapsodesia 2. The Crime Scene 3. Cha Cha de Amor 4. Saxophobia 5. Bottoms Up!
              B. THE BEATLES "Love" (Parlophone)
              C. MYRIAM ALTER "Where Is There" (Enja) Pay attention to tracks No 3 and 8
              D. PATRICIA BARBER "The Cole Porter Mix" (Blue Note)
              E. KEITH JARRET "The Coln Concert" A great live recording (ECM records)
              F. JAN GARBAREK "Rites" (ECM records)
              G. STAN GETZ PLAYS JOBIM "The Girl From Ipanema" (Verve)
              H. REBECCA PIDGEON "The Raven" (Chesky records) Tracks: Grandmother, Spanish Harlem.

              Comment


              • #8
                BBC recordings - Rachmaninov on the BBC Music Magazine

                I'm only judging the wonderful liquid piano tone from my headphones, but I recommend the Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini free on the cover disk of the BBC Music Magazine, August 2010 (BBC shop here).

                Recorded live at the Barbican, London in 2003 it has the hallmark BBC balance, with the piano demonstrating a beautiful separation from yet fully part of the acoustics. I always liked the liquid tone and distant perspective* that the BBC manage to capture in their (live) recordings, which on the Harbeth RADIAL cones reveals micro-detail as the piano notes decay into the reverberation of the hall. Reproducing piano with this sort of purity and evenness is what got me excoted about speaker design twenty five years ago when Dudley Harwood (Harbeth's founder) lent me a pair of Mk4 monitors.

                The shock of hearing those notes decaying and being individually audible to a very low level compared to the generally mushy sound of the same notes poorly reproduced on conventional polypropylene bass/mid speaker cones was incomprehensible to me at the time. A few years later, with a growing understanding of how super-critical the cone material is to the clarity and purity of tone, we set about creating a higher resolution material - RADIAL™. All Harbeth speakers are now engineered around our magical RADIAL™ cone material.

                I'm sure that Rhapsody (on a Decca recording) was one of those test recordings I used back in the late 80's to develop the original Compact and HL5.

                * By 'distant perspective' I mean that the sound stage captured in the (older?) BBC recordings gives the listener a sound balance that would be familiar to someone sitting in perhaps the 10th-15th row. This is not necessarily a commercial balance suitable for a CD recording (which would normally be recorded in the dryer acoustic of a studio) where the listener is positioned much nearer to the performers for a more immediate sound. But to my ears, the BBC way of recording is and has always been to me the correct presentation of the concert-hall perspective of what one would hear, live.
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

                Comment


                • #9
                  Piano reproduction on Harbeth

                  While many have said that reproducing piano is ATC's forte (Billy Woodman is an accomplished pianist), i feel that Harbeth is better still in reproducing the piano, especially with regards to tonal purity, decay & timbre. And this has been further comfirmed when a friend, together with his wife who happens to be piano teacher, visited my place. His wife upon hearing piano music on my SHL-5 immediately said to her husband that the SHL-5 is better than their huge & expensive ATC when reproducing the tone & timbre of piano. Its very natural & real she said. I of course couldn't agree more.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Which Decca recording?

                    Hi Alan,

                    May I know which Decca recording was that? I like to know conductor/pianist/orchestra name.

                    I love this Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (I kept whistle this music this afternoon) and also composer's all piano concertos.
                    "Bath with Music"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Piano reproduction and the realities of cone materials

                      I'm not surprised that a critical listener is more attracted to piano on the Harbeths. It is the defining glory of the Harbeth sound - in my opinion.

                      You know, the piano has a similar characteristic to the human voice. I think that is why it is such a universally loved instrument - it 'talks' to us with a voice and soul just like a human. Reproducing human voice - and hence the piano accurately is by far the most difficult task for a loudspeaker. That's because we all know how a real live human sounds, and many of us know how a live piano sounds too. No degree-level acoustics expertise needed to hear and judge a great piano in action.

                      I have mentioned before and I state again: the fundamantal element in a loudspeaker system that governs (or limits) the ability of a speaker to 'sing' naturally is the material from which the bass/midrange driver cone is formed. Please real that last sentence again. Twice. It is so desperately important to grasp that idea. Harbeth's RADIAL™ cone material has, amongst other properties, extreme stiffness. That means it acts more like a piston, and that is exactly what you want for a speaker cone: as much of the cone moving together as one harmonius push/pull element as it tries to trace-out the micro detail of (for example) the piano tone especially as it decays into silence between the notes.

                      Contrast the pistonic behaviour of RADIAL™ with that of a soft-dome drive unit. First, the soft-dome is, by definition, made from knicker elastic (or similar), which is a soft, floppy, woven cloth. Bad news. Second, to give it the illusion of stiffness (and damping) it is coated with some sort of sticky gunk which lies unevenly on top of the fabric. That means it is impossible to make two domes which behave the same because they will be physically different. Have a close-up look at the glossy, injection moulded Harbeth RADIAL™ cone and compare that with a similar close-up of the fabric and see for yourself.

                      There is absolutely no justification to use coated underwear fabric as a diaphragm material. It's simply the wrong solution. Our stiff injection moulded cone made from an engineering plastic is by far the best way to ensure that the micro-tones are sent as sound out into the room, not flopping around in the woven doped mesh of a soft diaphragm eventually lost as heat.

                      Anyone able to take close-up pictures of the Harbeth cone v. a fabric cone? No need to mention brand names; the issue is that fabric bass/mid drivers just do not meet the primary requirements for high fidelity transducers, namely: repeatable, rigid and optimally damped at a microstructural level. The fact that a midrange dome buckles under the slightest finger pressure proves the point.

                      You wouldn't make car engine pistons from lightweight woven elastic (even if the could withstand the temperature) and nor should you make speaker cones. Structures that move (including engines, planes, bullets and midrange cone/domes) especially structures like domes/cones which are under great acceleration - should only be made from rigid, reliable, strong, homogenous materials.

                      I've previously covered the sonic signature of cone materials here. I think I specifically mentioned polypropylene as a sub-optimal acoustic material, but cloth domes fall into a similar category.
                      Alan A. Shaw
                      Designer, owner
                      Harbeth Audio UK

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        @keithwwk

                        the best decca record of the "rhapsody" is SXL 2176. pianist is julius katchen, conductor dohnanyi and the LSO is playing. amazing record in the original wide band pressing and not expensive.
                        Harbeth M40.1-Naim NAC52-Supercap-NAP 135-CDS2-XPS

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Compact 7 + LFD vocal clarity test

                          When I want to demo vocalization playblack for guests I play any of the Julian Raye tracks that are specifically available from this page on the Society of Sound. In addition to the admirable tonal quality the clarity is so fine that one can hear Julian's tongue articulating on her teeth. Even the 30 second samples are good.

                          Audio here.

                          [Compact 7 / LFD LE III ]

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Rhapsody with LSO

                            Originally posted by delgesu View Post
                            @keithwwk

                            the best Decca record of the "rhapsody" is SXL 2176. pianist is julius katchen, conductor dohnanyi and the LSO is playing. amazing record in the original wide band pressing and not expensive.
                            Hi delgesu,
                            Thank you so much.
                            "Bath with Music"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Bizet Carmen, Solti, Decca ..... SHL5 stunning

                              Have been spinning Sir Georg Solti's version of bizet Carmen with London Philharmonic Orchestra (Decca label) the last couple of nites & it was very musically satisfying. This recording was done in the 70s & engineered by the legendary Kenneth Wilkinson. Listening to this excellent recording on the SHL-5s was nothing short of stunning!

                              Comment

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