"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound from microphone to ear, achievable by recognising and controlling the numerous confounding variables that exist along the audio chain. The Harbeth designer's objective is to make loudspeakers that contribute little of themselves to the music passing through them.

Identifying system components for their sonic neutrality should logically proceed from the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance. Deviations from a flat frequency response at any point along the signal chain from microphone to ear is likely to give an audible sonic personality to the system at your ear; this includes the significant contribution of the listening room itself. To accurately reproduce the recorded sound as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would be best advised to select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

For example, the design of and interaction between the hifi amplifier and its speaker load can and will alter the sound balance of what you hear. This may or may not be what you wish to achieve, but any deviation from a flat response is a step away from a truly neutral system. HUG has extensively discussed amplifiers and the methods for seeking the most objectively neutral among a plethora of product choices.

HUG specialises in making complex technical matters simple to understand, getting at the repeatable facts in a post-truth environment where objectivity is increasingly ridiculed. With our heritage of natural sound and pragmatic design, HUG is not the best place to discuss non-Harbeth audio components selected, knowingly or not, to introduce a significantly personalised system sound. For that you should do your own research and above all, make the effort to visit an Authorised Dealer and listen to your music at your loudness on your loudspeakers through the various offerings there. There is really no on-line substitute for time invested in a dealer's showroom because 'tuning' your system to taste is such a highly personal matter. Our overall objective here is to empower readers to make the factually best procurement decisions in the interests of lifelike music at home.

Please consider carefully how much you should rely upon and be influenced by the subjective opinions of strangers. Their hearing acuity and taste will be different to yours, as will be their motives and budget, their listening distance, loudness and room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you. Always keep in mind that without basic test equipment, subjective opinions will reign unchallenged. With test equipment, universal facts and truths are exposed.

If some of the science behind faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over Harbeth speakers is your thing, this forum has been helping with that since 2006. If you just want to share your opinions and photos with others then the unrelated Harbeth Speakers Facebook page may be for you. Either way, welcome to the world of Harbeth!"

Feb. 2018
See more
See less

Not what I was expecting

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Not what I was expecting

    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?

  • #2
    Not what I was expecting

    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.


    • #3
      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.


      • #4
        Second hand pairs

        Originally posted by FJames View Post
        ... 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.



        • #5
          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.


          • #6
            Explanations for 'harshness'

            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!