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For example, the design of and interaction between the hifi amplifier and its speaker load can and potentially will alter the sound balance of what you hear. To reproduce the sounds captured by the recording microphones, as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would naturally select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

Identifying components for their system neutrality should, logically, start with the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance, as any and every deviation from a measurably flat frequency response at any point along the serial chain from microphone to ear is very likely to cause the total system to have an audible sonic personality. That includes the contribution of the listening room itself.

HUG specialises in making complex technical matters simple to understand, aiding the identification of audio components likely to maintain a faithful relationship between the recorded sound and the sound you hear. With our heritage of natural sound, HUG cannot be really be expected to guide in the selection, approval, endorsement or even discussion of equipment that is intend to introduce a significantly personalised sound to the audio signal chain. 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 electronics offered there. There is no on-line substitute for that time investment in a dealer's showroom.

If you desire to intentionally tune your system sound to your personal taste, please consider carefully how much you should rely upon 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, listening loudness and listening room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you.

Alternatively, if faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over your speakers is your audio dream, then understanding something of the issues likely to fulfill that objective is what this forum has been helping with since 2006. Welcome!"

Jan. 2018
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Which Harbeth in a Professional Studio setting?

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  • Which Harbeth in a Professional Studio setting?

    I am interested in monitors for a small Professional Studio setting. The studio is small, but I need a very accurate 'full range' system for mixing acoustic music, from double bass up to violins etc. I am not sure whether it is better to go for smaller monitors, the P3ESR with a sub for the lower frequencies, or if larger models which already have lower bass extension are better remembering that the room is small, and I will be fairly close to the speakers.

    Also, like the famous Yamaha NS10's , the P3ESR is a sealed unit, ie. has no bass port. I have heard in a studio setting this can be preferential as ports can emphasize certain frequencies 'inappropriately' which does not translate so well when mixing. As an example if the bass is over emphasised by the monitors, my mix may be 'bass light' on other systems. It is mixing I need them for, I am not looking for the best sounding system necessarily, but the most revealing...

    Many thanks for your views.

  • #2
    'Revealing' may be over-emphasis

    "Revealing" is not a free lunch without undesirable side-effects. A speaker that is inappropriately "revealing", presumably because certain upper-mid frequencies are over emphasized in the speaker's overall balance, is unhelpful as you will compensate for this in the mixing, thus producing a result that many will perceive as "dull" or "lifeless".

    I regularly use the P3ESR as a secondary monitor (to our M40s) and, provided that you are not dealing with massive LF content or demand huge volume, it does the job with panache.

    Too many audiophiles seem to have pre-concerted beliefs about the effect of ports; like so many things in life, they can be used well or poorly. If you want something a bit heftier and more robust than the P3ESR, consider the M30/M30.1 - a superb workhorse.


    • #3
      Typical studio options

      Thanks for your reply. I take on board the "Inappropriately revealing" comment. I do actually own SHL5's, and have wondered if they might be ok for mixing. I have also wondered if they are 'voiced' differently to the Pro M20.1, M30.1 and M40.1 as there is not a pro version of the SHL5 available.

      The other thing is the near-field question. Is it appropriate to mix on those bigger speakers near-field ie, from lets say only a meter away? You use the M40's as main monitors so are able to check on the low end frequencies with them. Maybe I could use the P3ESR near field, but check my mixes on the SHL5's to hear the lower end.

      Foot print wise the smaller P3ESR would be ideal with a sub-woofer as i could have them on my desk top with the sub near-bye. I am torn between 3 options.

      1..use the SHL5 as a mid field monitor and get some P3ESR for near field mixing.

      2..get some P3ESR and buy a Sub, in effect creating a 2.1 system which seems popular in smaller studio's these days..

      3..Buy some M30.1 and use them as a large near field monitor without sub (But with better bass response than the P3ESR), and again use the SHL5 as a second set to check low end performance.


      • #4
        Monitoring - advice from a pro

        If you already have your own SHL5, why not take them to the studio and give them a try.

        My preference would be for option 3 - the M30.1 which is a thoroughbred studio monitor. Obviously the room is a factor but I would certainly start from the point of trying not to use a sub unless you really have to. The M30.1 is a properly designed full-range speaker and provided your room has no major anomalies, you can be assured that "what you hear is what you get".

        You appear to believe that a sub is a vital part of the installation - why? They seldom integrate well, even in massive rooms. I went to see Prometheus a few days ago and even in a theatre with otherwise good sound, it was obvious that the LFE was a "bolt-on" that had been set up for maximum "shock". Now I appreciate that when you are working in 5.1, the LFE is a separate channel that you may choose to drive - or not as the case may be, but in an installation where the sub is set to crossover from the mains, good integration is especially tricky.

        Why are you so concerned with the distinction between near-field and mid-field? What is the difference anyway? Most loudspeakers, in a particular room, have an "ideal distance" between them and the listener. If the room is lively those distances will tend to be smaller than if the room is relatively dry. BIG mixing rooms tend to offer small near-fields in addition to the mains, but if your room is more typical I do wonder about the need to emulate what the big rooms do. Optimize the monitoring distance and stick with it; that way you avoid the constant debates and uncertainty - which speakers are "right"? In an average room, M30.1 at a distance of two to three metres (and sufficiently elevated to clear all obstacles) ought to be all you need; forget about the complications of multiple monitoring options.

        My suggestion is to get thoroughly used to the new monitoring before adding a sub. You might be amazed that the transparency and cohesion you achieve with new speakers draws your desire away from the perceived need for earth-shattering bass (and sparkling "detail") towards a new ideal of entirely natural sound with nothing exaggerated.


        • #5

          Thanks again. My Near-Field / Mid-field debate is really only to do with the room size. I don't know if I am able to get the speakers two to three meters away from my listening position. So, it's really whether the M30s can be used closer up, say a metre away. I would much rather use the one set of speakers instead of adding a sub, but If the m30's need more space between them and my ears, that's when the P3ESR would be the other option, and to get a full range system with them , that's when a sub entered my mind.

          I will try to audition a pair of the m30's in my studio room and see how close I feel they can be.


          • #6
            Designing for near field or far field listening?

            Originally posted by bluegrass View Post
            Thanks again. My Near-Field / Mid-field debate is really only to do with the room size. I don't know if I am able to get the speakers two to three meters away from my listening position.....
            It only occurred to me some years after entering the speaker business that, as a general rule, all 'BBC monitors' are designed with near-field use in mind. Why wouldn't they be? In a broadcast environment, the sound engineer is always working in a relatively small control room - about the size of a typical UK bedroom - crammed with equipment and people. Even if we look back through the archive at BBC studios from fifty years ago, the sound engineer (or in BBC speak, the studio manager or studio assistant in local radio) would be working intimately closely to the monitor speaker - almost under it in some cases.

            So what? Well, it's a really important point actually. Take a speaker - that is, almost any hifi speaker - and play it in a large room, a few mtrs. from the listener and it will sound good. Take the same speaker and put it in a much smaller room than the one it was optimised for and then put the listener right up close to it, and that same speaker can (and often does) sound absolutely ghastly. So the magic of the 'BBC formulae' for speaker design is to attack the design from exactly the opposite direction to conventional hi-fi speakers. A huge amount of design effort is expended to make the speaker sound natural with dreive units properly integrated when the listener is close enough to touch it, which virtually guarantees that listening further away, it also sound good.

            Make sense?
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK


            • #7
              Pro versions?

              Yes Alan that does make sense, thanks.

              So that only leaves the one question about the SHLS5 compared to the M30. There is a pro version of the M30 for studio use. Is there any reason why the SHLS5 does not have a pro version. Can the SHLS5 be used just as effectively in the studio as any of the "pro" Models?


              • #8
                Near field use - very revealing of speaker design problems

                Here are some archive pictures of classic BBC studios from the era where expensive sound proofing (damping) was mandatory. As you can see, even large speakers used close enough to touch.

                As I mentioned, this is a really challenging environment and application for the speaker designer. Because by convention, the full range sound is not handled by one full range driver but by a bass/mid and HF driver (or bass, mid and Hf driver) combo, if the blending of these drivers is not to a really high standard in the crossover, when listened to in the near field (and especially when listening on speech) any misalignment is really audible to the sound professional. But take that speaker with its almost-correct driver blending and put it in a big room and far from the listener, and the room and distance will smudge the misalignments. Rule of thumb: don't be that curious about how a speaker will sound in a big room - it'll surely be fine. Get up close and personal and it will reveal far more.

                Pictures of traditional BBC studios attached. Note how close the technicians are to the speakers - close enough to touch. Very few speakers sound natural when listened to that close - the BBC inspired designs are the exception.
                Attached Files
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK


                • #9
                  Monitors up close

                  Great pictures Alan. As you say, all the monitors are fairly close, the bigger ones seem to be in the main recording studios and the smaller ones used for other monitoring purposes.

                  That leaves me with the general question on the SHL5's.

                  "There is a pro version of the M30 for studio use. Is there any reason why the SHLS5 does not have a pro version. Can the SHLS5 be used just as effectively in the studio as any of the "pro" Models? " Thanks


                  • #10
                    Definitions of studio and 'pro'

                    Originally posted by bluegrass View Post
                    Great pictures Alan. As you say, all the monitors are fairly close, the bigger ones seem to be in the main recording studios and the smaller ones used for other monitoring purposes.
                    When you talk of 'recording studio' you should specify this clearly as either a broadcast studio/control room or the different work environment of a recording studio. If you compare the broadcast studio pictures I have shown with this one of a recording studio control room, you can see that they are very different environments indeed. For a start, the recording studio control room is much, much bigger than the rather cramped broadcast studio control room. Second, the monitors in the recording studio are much bigger and third, the main monitors are much further away from the engineer. You can guess that the replay loudness is vastly higher in the recording studio than in the broadcast studio. all of these points are super relevant to selecting appropriate speakers for use at home. If you see a speaker sold to the home consumer* cheerfully promoted with images of the brand's emphasis in sales to the recording studio market I'd say, you need to ask some searching questions and go for a careful audition and insist that the speaker be played at a low level representative of how you would use it at home*, not the ear-bleeding levels it may well be suited to and abused at in the recording studio.

                    That leaves me with the general question on the SHL5's. "There is a pro version of the M30 for studio use. Is there any reason why the SHLS5 does not have a pro version. Can the SHLS5 be used just as effectively in the studio as any of the "pro" Models? " Thanks
                    In all honesty, Regarding Harbeth's line-up I don't really recognise the term 'pro' other than in the colour and finish of the cabinet. Let's just forget the word 'pro' with all its (positive?) connotations for a moment. Then your question boils down to "Is there any reason why the SHLS5 does not have a pro version". The answer quite simply is to do with marketing. The M30/M40 and M20 were specifically designed to drop into service as size for size replacements for the BBC LS series monitors, first introduced in the mid 70s. There was a ready market for these size-for-size replacements, and I took advantage of giving the customers (esp. the BBC) exactly what they wanted. The HL5/SHL5 had not been sold to the BBC (because the BBC would either select the smaller (Rogers licensed) LS5/9 or larger LS5/8) so clearly repackaging the SHL5 into an LS5/9 box (as the M30) was what the market wanted and expected: and paid for.

                    There are some differences between the SHL5 and M30/30.1. The SHL5 cabinet is significantly bigger and the port is tuned differently. Despite that, they do sound similar (all Harbeths sound similar because every one was designed by one designer not a team or committee - me). Also you have to consider your musical tastes, which I don't yet know.

                    * I include in 'home user' user both those who place the speakers in their family living space and listen to pre-recorded music recreationally and those who make and monitor (electronic) music in a 'project studio' - aka a spare bedroom fitted out with music making/recording.monitoring equipment.

                    Attached Files
                    Alan A. Shaw
                    Designer, owner
                    Harbeth Audio UK


                    • #11
                      Influence of the room

                      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                      ...Rule of thumb: don't be that curious about how a speaker will sound in a big room
                      A corollary of this, is that with speakers in the far-field you are hearing more of the room than the speaker. In fact the whole movement towards the use of smaller, closer, speakers started when it was realised that the room was, quite probably, the weakest element in the listening process. If follows that the more you can do to reduce (or even eliminate) the sound of the room, the better*.

                      The use of the terms near and far-field with respect to sound is a bit tricky in any event; while those terms are quite well defined within the discipline in which the terms were coined (that is, antennas and electromagnetic radiation), they seem to have slipped into the language of audio without much precision of use.

                      *That said, we humans tend to abhor acoustically dead environments which is odd because, on the whole, we like the outdoors which is the deadest of the lot. We do tend to describe extreme quietness outdoors as "eerie".


                      • #12
                        Home studio use

                        Very useful posts , thanks. My own setup is very much a home studio... A small room dedicated to practicing, recording and mixing acoustic music. Saying that, I do play professionally and am releasing commercial CD's, so 'small studio' does not mean not high quality. The speakers are very much for tracking and then mixing raw tracks to finished cds.

                        Looking at your photos above, the closest to my own setup would be the first picture of five, and the fifth. In those pictures they are both using the P3 sized speaker. I do think though, because I want a little more low end information, that the M30's may be appropriate. I think my SHL5's would be a little large on the table top. If you placed the M30's in the pictures I suggested, they may also seem quite big for the environment, but as long as they sound as good near field and played fairly quiet (I try to save my ears) as you have talked about, then I think they would probably be ideal. The SHL5's would be perfect if I had a slightly larger music room, but as things stand, they can stay in the other room for domestic listening ans as another system for checking mixes.