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Speaker upgrade

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  • Speaker upgrade

    I am new to the forum and would be grateful for some views and advice.
    My musical taste is classical plus some country, folk and jazz. I play CDs only and my current set up comprises a KrellS-350 cd player, a Lavardin IS Ref amp and a pair of Harbeth P3esr. My room is rectangular, approx 20 feet x 12 feet. Due to a number of factors my system is located on the long wall with a speaker either side of the fireplace and located fairly close to the back wall (within a metre). Whilst generally happy with my system I feel that the sound sometimes lacks depth (particularly with regard to large orchestral works) and does not fill the room. This is not primarily about volume so much as detail, clarity and soundstage. To improve the situation I am thinking of changing my speakers for either the Monitor 30.1 or the Super HL5plus. Aesthetically the former would fit the room better as the physical size of the Super HL5s might tend to dominate.

    My questions are:
    (a)in my current situation would both the M30.1 and the Super HL5plus represent a significant upgrade on my P3esr?
    (b)what would each of these speakers give me over my current ones?
    (c)if it was your money, which of the two would you go for?
    I realise that, in the end, the best way will probably be to audition them both. Whilst I am saving up, however, I would be grateful for any thoughts or observations.

  • #2
    Hi kennyking,

    You've got very good equipment and quite big audition room (of volume approx 70 cubic metre). Lavardin IS ref is trully magnificent amp, but 38W per channel with shoe-box monitors of some 83 - 85 dB/W sensitivity will hardly deliver more realistic sound levels in such environment. Besides this marvellous amp itself does not produce very deep bass indeed. If you switched to room with cubature, let's say up to 40 cubic metre, you probably would praise your set on your knees. IMHO you need both more powerful amplification and bigger speakers with option for older stuff being located in e.g. bedroom or studio ... or start to listen to your speakers from much shorter distance. Sometimes impossible due to housemates .

    ATB

    Comment


    • #3
      As pkwba already said, your anplifier seems too underpowered to supply enough clean undistorted power with louder programs like symphonic in a large room. So the first and maybe single improvement you need to your system is a more powerful amplifier. Plus maybe some experiments with different listening position. Consider that P3s are surely more ambient friendly than larger bass reflex speakers.

      My esperience in listening mainly to classical with P3ESRs in a room larger than yours and a 100W/ch amp si that, while it's true that they cannot render a symphonic orchestra playing at full blast (yet they come very close and I doubt any speaker sysytem could really exploit this anyway, due to the differencies between a domestic sitting room and a concert hall), the clarity and naturality of these speakers is simply the best you can get even at very loud but undistorted (i.e. unclipped by the amplifier) listening levels. I wouldn't trade it for bigger bass, not in the least!

      Let me also add that as a regoular to classical concerts I find less natural and lifelike the bass unbalance of large speakers in domestic rooms than the lacking of deepest frequancies in P3ESRs.

      Comment


      • #4
        Hi pkwba,

        Many thanks for your reply which is most helpful and gives food for thought.

        Whilst being neither a technical person nor wishing to dispute anything you say, I am overall quite happy with my system. I take the point about the Lavardin IS Ref not being the most powerful of amplifiers. This said, it is one of the most musical amps I have ever heard and I do not wish to replace it in my listening room. I also love Harbeth and my thought process (which I admit may be flawed) was that either (or both) of the Monitor 30.1 or the Super HL5Plus would improve my set up as they appear to be larger / more powerful speakers than my current P3esr.

        As I say, volume is not the issue as I can get more of this than I need from my current set-up. It is a greater depth / fuller soundstage that I was hoping to achieve. Without putting words into your mouth, what I think you are telling me is that a change of speakers to the M30's or the Super HL5 plus on its own would not really make any difference to what I am hearing. My listening position is around 8 feet / 9 feet from the speakers. Am I reading you correctly in this? Many thanks once again.

        kennyking

        Comment


        • #5
          I think you have to be totally realistic here. It seems obvious to me (as a designer) that a speaker box of the same size of a human head (approximately) is not going to be able to perform as effortlessly as a box the volume of, say, a cello even if the drive units have the same surface area (which they don't - the C7/M30/SHL5 woofer has a surface area which is three times bigger than that of the P3s woofer). Consider just for a moment the in-box sound pressures and transport yourself in your imagination into the respective boxes and imagine what is going on in there.

          The P3ESR creates a marvellous illusion of sound, but you should really try and experience what the larger cabinet and bigger drive units can do.
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi Nessuno,

            Thank you for your very helpful response. Based on this, and the one from pkwba, I am getting a very clear message that, for the size of room I have, a new and more powerful amp is really what is required. Whilst this isn't really what I wanted to hear, I can see the logic of what you are both saying and will give this some serious thought. Thank you once again.

            Comment


            • #7
              A.S

              Thank you for your comments. The logic of what you say has brought some much needed clarity to my thinking. With a max budget of around 3k, I am looking for a steer on the best way to spend this to improve the pleasure I get from listening to my music.

              One view is that to invest in larger speakers is a good way to go, another is that a more powerful amp would be a wiser way forward. Given that I already get much pleasure from the kit I currently possess, I have neither the will nor the cash to change both speakers and amp.

              Now is the time for some careful thought and auditioning. Thank you once again.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by kennyking View Post
                As I say, volume is not the issue as I can get more of this than I need from my current set-up. It is a greater depth / fuller soundstage that I was hoping to achieve.
                If your P3ESR speakers seem to play loud enough for you, you may want to try adding a subwoofer to your present system.
                You may find that the extended bass response helps recreate the sense of depth/soundstage that appears lacking.

                Specifically, the REL brand has been recommended as especially compatible with Harbeth speakers. https://rel.net/

                See if a dealer will let you borrow one to try at home, or determine if you can get a refund if the performance is not satisfactory.

                Look first at the relatively lower cost T-Zero or T/5i models. Pay particular attention to the set up instructions.
                https://rel.net/shop/subwoofers/zero/
                https://rel.net/shop/subwoofers/serie-ti/t5i/

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by kennyking View Post
                  My musical taste is classical plus some country, folk and jazz. I play CDs only and my current set up comprises a KrellS-350 cd player, a Lavardin IS Ref amp and a pair of Harbeth P3esr.
                  The Lavardin IS Reference integrated amplifier appears to be rated at 2x45 W RMS on 8 Ohms / maximum 2x95 W on 2 Ohms. That's not a lot of power for a relatively expensive amplifier. Also, I can't seem to find any specifications related to the 3 dB points of its frequency response. Maybe someone can pitch in there?

                  My room is rectangular, approx 20 feet x 12 feet.
                  Assuming that your room as 9 foot ceilings, its total volume is around 61 cubic metres.

                  The P3ESR is a compact loudspeaker, and is noticeably less efficient than the other speakers in the Harbeth product line. When coupled with a relatively low-power amplifier, playing in a moderately large room, that's potentially not the best combination to achieve higher SPLs with unclipped music reproduction with low distortion.

                  Due to a number of factors my system is located on the long wall with a speaker either side of the fireplace and located fairly close to the back wall (within a metre).
                  How far apart are your loudspeakers?

                  Is the fireplace an open one with a chimney? If so, you may find that it may have an effect on the sound as it's an "acoustic hole" of sorts. Probably nothing too major, but potentially altering the sound stage a bit compared to a solid wall.

                  Whilst generally happy with my system I feel that the sound sometimes lacks depth (particularly with regard to large orchestral works) and does not fill the room.
                  Have you tried moving the speakers closer to the rear wall? That will tend to boost the bass a little bit, but the 2nd-order low-frequency roll-off of the P3ESRs will probably cope with that, without sounding boomy.

                  When listening to orchestral and other genres of music, there are a lot of low-frequency cues that add to the perception of openness and reproduction of the sound stage.

                  To improve the situation I am thinking of changing my speakers for either the Monitor 30.1 or the Super HL5plus. Aesthetically the former would fit the room better as the physical size of the Super HL5s might tend to dominate.
                  Only you can decide what you are able to live with in regards to the physical size of a replacement speaker. You've almost decided that the M30.1 is the way to go, purely on size grounds, as we know that it's an excellent speaker.

                  I think that the M30.1 will be a big improvement over the much smaller P3ESR, so you really couldn't go wrong with that choice. Although the SHL5 Plus is a bigger speaker, it does offer even better performance, but it is also more expensive than the M30.1.

                  In any case, choosing at least the M30.1 will enable you to get better service out of your existing Lavardin IS Reference integrated amplifier, because this model and the other larger Harbeth loudspeakers are all more efficient at converting electrical energy to sound energy. Although you may think at this stage that your Lavardin amplifier works well with the P3ESRs, getting a more powerful solid state amplifier with 100+ WRMS into 8 ohms will be a big step up in performance. There are plenty of such amplifiers to choose from if you ever decide to upgrade (and not necessarily at high cost). When I went from an amplifier rated at 40 WRMS to one that was rated at 130 WRMS, I found that it made a marked difference to the quality of the sound reproduction.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It's obvious that a larger speaker moves more air. It seems also obvious to me that it requires more power to move it, at least keeping the same full range distortion figures (if I interpreted "effortlessly" the right way).

                    To answer OP's question (a), using the same 50W/ch amplifier with a larger speaker to reach the same loud listening levels with symphonic orchestra doesn't seem to me a way to obtain a significant upgrade in general sound quality (i.e. keeping low distortion over the full range). Plenty of undistorted electrical power is cheap, as many times stated here on HUG, so (c) I'd rather put my money on a more powerful amplifier and maybe my time in experiencing different speakers positions, first of all.

                    My subjective experience is that P3s can play really loud keeping low distortion especially in the, very critical for classical, midrange and that unbalance toward (distorted) lower frequencies can worsen sound quality even with symphonic, if sitting in the audience rows of a good concert hall, not in professori's or even maestro's place, is the frame of reference.

                    Just my two cents, of course...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I agree with Alan that a bigger speaker will make a real difference. I have a set of P3ESRs that I use as desk top speakers in my study (driven by a 2X100 watt Quad 405-2). They are wonderful speakers and far better than the LS3/5a they replaced.

                      Some time ago I decided to experiment and try them in the bigger system in the living room (40sq m plus an open kitchen/dining area). That still sounded wonderfully, but it was also clear that they could not fill the room, not even with 2x140 watt Quad 606-2 amplification. I then decided to add the B&W PV1d subwoofer that is a normal part of the main system (used with an Antimode 8033 dsp room eq system to tame room modes). This was much better. Bass now went really deep, which was obviously a visually surprising contrast with the small speakers, and integration was perfectly fine. The sound was also bigger, but even now it did not quite fill the room. So my conclusion was that a good subwoofer can make a small speaker sound bigger, but only up to a point. If you really want to fill the room and experience the sound of big music, you also need a bigger main speaker that can move more air.

                      I also agree with pkwba that 2x45 watt is not enough for a bigger sound. My main system originally had a 2x45 watt Quad 303 that was fine in a smaller room and with more efficient speakers. In the current set up it always felt a bit constrained, so I followed up on the discussions here at HUG about the virtues of bigger amplifiers. So I got a refurbished 2x140 watt Quad 606-2, and the difference was very real. Not at low level and with not very dynamic music, but it was obvious as soon as I was playing larger scale symphonic music. So the system now has 2x140=280 watt plus 400 watt for the sub for a total of 680 watt. In fact, I think even more power would still be beneficial (either in a second sub, or with a bigger main amplifeer - or even both).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Clarity is needed, again. I do not see a logical connection between "bigger speakers", "more power required to move it [bigger speaker]", and power available. In fact, the opposite may well be true.

                        Let's go over the basics. The starting point has to be that the user expects a certain amount of bass output from his hifi speakers, otherwise why not make do with a supermarket audio system for $100? Yet we know that there is a pivot point in the audio spectrum around, say 70-150Hz, at which any drive unit will be working flat out, when all of its electro-physical-acoustic parameters are working harmoniously and efficiently.

                        Above that frequency, into the audio midband, the drive unit (in the raw, not driven by a crossover/equaliser) will have a rising sound pressure output as its electrical > sound efficiency increases. We cannot use any of that efficiency gain in a high fidelity speaker if the user wants a goodly bass output - we have to throw it away in the equaliser to have a subjectively satisfying bass output and a flat, high fidelity output across the audio band.

                        So what this boils down to is that any speaker is critically limited by the amount of air that the drive unit can generate and that is related, in practice, to the DC resistance of the voice coil (practically same for P3 and larger Harbeths) and the surface area of the drive unit and crucially, the amount of excursion fore/aft that the driver is capable of. Common sense then says that an 8" unit is going to produce a louder, cleaner sound for the same power input, and that it can tolerate greater music dynamics with less strain. A 12" driver would be expected to be even more linear. These are easily measurable facts.

                        One of the most interesting comparative experiences is to spend a few days at a trade show where in adjacent rooms there are the smallest and larger Harbeths with the same amplification and music. Then you really understand what's possible when you have the budget and space. All and every loudspeaker design is about balancing lists of parameters into a healthy sonic compromise. When the designer has a larger box and driver diameter available, he is working with greater freedom. A Fiat 500 is a great little car, but its no Mercedes E class.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by kennyking View Post
                          Hi pkwba,

                          Many thanks for your reply which is most helpful and gives food for thought.

                          Whilst being neither a technical person nor wishing to dispute anything you say, I am overall quite happy with my system. I take the point about the Lavardin IS Ref not being the most powerful of amplifiers. This said, it is one of the most musical amps I have ever heard and I do not wish to replace it in my listening room. I also love Harbeth and my thought process (which I admit may be flawed) was that either (or both) of the Monitor 30.1 or the Super HL5Plus would improve my set up as they appear to be larger / more powerful speakers than my current P3esr.

                          As I say, volume is not the issue as I can get more of this than I need from my current set-up. It is a greater depth / fuller soundstage that I was hoping to achieve. Without putting words into your mouth, what I think you are telling me is that a change of speakers to the M30's or the Super HL5 plus on its own would not really make any difference to what I am hearing. My listening position is around 8 feet / 9 feet from the speakers. Am I reading you correctly in this? Many thanks once again.

                          kennyking
                          Hi,

                          So there are probably two issues:
                          1. The distance you listen to your loudspeakers is typical. If you are not satisfied with the soundstage, it is probably due to acoustics of your room or arrangement of the speakers in it. Your shoe-box loudspeakers are one of the best ones to produce true and "multi- layered" soundstage I ever heard.
                          2.Read carefully the response from Alan, speakers' designer. I would follow his recommendations. The best is to contact with local authorized seller - they should help you both with room and support at choosing the most appropriate bigger speakers form Harbeth's range.

                          If you are OK with medium levels of replying music in your room, your amp may be satisfactory enough, but I would highly recommend to consider some more powerful amplifying unit to this specific venue (possible clipping at higher levels ) , nevertheless how high technically elaborated is your present one. Physics is physics.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            OK, many thanks for the detailed clarifications.

                            Just a last note (where maybe speaker's analogy fails): an E Class has a much bigger fuel tank than a 500, also...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Spending a finite budget wisely is always a challenge. If I had to make a blind decision here, I would use the budget to buy a pair of M30.1s. I think that of the different options, they will make the biggest difference. They are the smallest Harbeth speakers that will reproduce (almost) the entire frequency range of classical music, and they are the first to handle pretty big power for a quite realistic (no more) dynamic range. I think the M30.1 is about right for your room size. Of course, the SHL5+ will offer more of all that, but at greater expense and a rather bigger size. Finally, both the M30.1 and the SHL5+ are a few dB more sensitive than the P3ESR, which means that the power limitations of the amplifier will be felt just a little bit less.

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