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Harbeth P3ESR or M30?

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  • Harbeth P3ESR or M30?

    Greetings,

    I am a new member, but a long-standing lover of good music heard through fine components.

    I am building a small system here in my current base, Lisbon, Portugal. I almost always choose to buy used equipment, and am interested in upgrading my speakers from my current Von Schweikert VR-1.

    I have never owned a Harbeth model, but am considering taking a chance on the P3ESR, given its remarkably positive reviews across the board. However, a small complication arose today as I noticed a Demo pair of M30s available for around the same that I would pay for the smaller speakers.

    I have researched the question, and am leaning towards the P3ESR, but would be grateful for any opinions that might help me make a decision.

    My room is far from ideal. Hard floors, about 15'x18', with a further, narrower extension on one side of the longer dimension, and a small window bay on the other. The speakers are set up on one side of the 15' space, and I sit on the other. I realize that this is a real limitation in terms of the system reaching its potential, but there's not much that I can do about it at the moment.

    The speakers will be powered by a re-capped, and very sweet vintage Accuphase E-303 integrated amp. For those who aren't familiar with it, it has plenty of power (180w x 2 into 4ohms).

    I listen to a variety of music. Clarity and imaging are important to me, and heavy bass is not. I'm implying that the lean bass of the P3ESR probably would be sufficient.

    Thanks in advance for any thoughts that you might have!

    Cheers,

    Tony

    {Moderator's comment: Welcome! I think you are fistaken if you think the bass of the P3ESR is 'lean'! It is remarcably full bodied! M30 or M30.1?}

  • #2
    P3ESR suggestion

    I was first smitten by M30's in a room smaller than yours, and many including me have SHL5+ in the size of your room.

    I have a bit of difficulty visualising your description. However, allowing just under 3' either side due to the different side walls (corridor/window) to limit reflection differences, the tweeters would be about 8' apart. If the speakers are 18" away from the wall, your head 2.5' from the other wall, your head is about 14' from the line between the speakers. So the triangle is a bit extended. Can you sit a bit closer in?

    I had a similar arrangement and a switch from the speakers along the short wall to along the long wall and sitting nearer with more space to the side of the speakers made a huge improvement.

    Harbeth are likely to be a long-term investment. If your budget is the cost of P3ESR, which I also have and do not have thin bass, why not get the P3ESR?

    Can you borrow the demo speakers? Can you get to hear the P3ESR somewhere?

    If you are determined to save some money, bear in mind that current models (i.e. M30.1, not M30) very rarely appear on the used market in the UK and when they do they fetch very good prices.

    Comment


    • #3
      Beats tallboys

      I can confirm that the P3ESR isn't 'lean' in the bass department. It is far better than the majority of similar size speakers and definitely not lacking.

      I did a demo, a few days ago, using the P3ESR against a floor standing speaker which cost over 1.2K 10 years ago. Not only was the P3ESR cleaner, it had greater extension and definition. Needless to say, the midband was in a different league.

      Comment


      • #4
        Perfect P3s

        As the moderator has pointed out, the P3ESR's are not lacking in real, honest bass. I listen to much small combo jazz and I'm no longer amazed at how life like a well recorder double bass sounds, even in it's lower registers. Admittedly, the bottom most octave will not be well produced (below 60 Hz or so), but unless you listen to lots of pipe organ music where the lower foot pedals may go missing, I doubt for most listening, in a room your size, you'll find the P3ESR's bass shy.

        That said, your room would easily accommodate the M30.1 (if that's the one your speaking of...) and would give you more of the lower bass you might miss with the P3's. If you are able to audition both, you can make your most informed decision. Which ever you choose, I predict there will be NO "buyer's regret"!! Good Luck.

        {Moderator's comment: We don't know if M30 or 30.1 is in mind}

        Comment


        • #5
          Ex-demo M30

          Thanks for your input. To be clear about the choice, I almost invariably buy used, and there is a pair of Demo M30s available for roughly the same price as the P3ESR.

          Given that, at least from what I have read, the only real advantage to be gained by opting for the M30 is bass extension, I suppose the choice should be fairly simple.

          Cheers,

          Tony C.

          Comment


          • #6
            Miraculous P3ESR

            I can only agree that P3ESR is not at all lean in the bass region, it is only an illusion that one might have while looking at those tiny boxes. They can't have rich and full-bodies bass, can they? Yes, they can! It's a miraculous little speaker.

            Having said that, I'm using my p3 in the room half the size of yours, or about 12sqm. I think they are perfect for that kind of room or maybe just a little bit larger. Yours is twice as big so if I were you I'd seriously consider either the m30 or c7 as an alternative. Not because of the bass though. I tried my p3esr in the room where I'm normally using shl5+, which is about 30sqm, and while the bass output from the p3 was still surprisingly good, the whole sound and soundstage was definitely fuller and richer from the bigger boxes. P3 still sounded very exciting but not as good overall as they do in my smaller room.

            Comment


            • #7
              Bigger air

              M30's are bigger, with a more efficient main driver able to shift more air - you can't beat the law of physics.

              The M30 for me is a delightful speaker and smoother and better integrated (in a good way) than the LS5/9 it was designed to replace (the 5/9 is a touch uncouth in the treble regions in direct comparison and struggles slightly in bringing out very fine details at the back od a recorded mix - in direct comparison!). For me, the 30.1 tilts the response nearer to 'flat' (described by AS in the 40.2 thread), but I don't remember the difference as 'huge.'

              The music I play a lot has bass dynamics that shows up boomy speakers terribly and also severely taxes bass drivers (when I get the chance ). The P3ESR does an amazing job I admit, but don't ignore the chance of some M30's if you can accommodate the slightly bigger size, is my recommendation.

              Comment


              • #8
                My P3 & M30

                Since a year I am a proud and very satisfied owner of the P3ESR and use them in a livingroom quite similar in dimensions to yours. I bought them after I heard a pair of M30 (your model). Two weeks ago my friend and I did a swap (my P3ESR against his M30's) for a week. The dynamic range was a bit extended as others have mentioned as well and I was absolutely satisfied with what I heard.

                After swapping back I was afraid I would like my P3's less, which was not the case at all. And here comes my point: especially when listening to baroque music and choir on authentic instruments -as I do most- the P3's outclassed the M 30. But in listening to Opera, Oratoria, big orchestra's the M30's did a better job. Listening to akoustic jazz, my P3's did a better job, the lower mid-tones and bass were all there.

                I'd say that it all boils down to your musical preference, and let that be your compass for decision.

                Don't even think of purchasing the P3's and add a subwoofer to it. I have fiddled and tried with different subs for almost six months and gave. It destroys that perfect sound coming from the P3ESR.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Eclectic tastes

                  Very helpful input, thanks very much.

                  @winfriend, your experience is especially pertinent. My tastes lean much more toward yours, so the P3 seems the logical choice. I do also have a real soft spot for high-quality funk (I grew up listening to it), so perhaps the M30s would be a bit better suited to that.

                  But over time my tastes have become quite eclectic, and a high percentage falls outside of the big orchestra genre.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Subwoofers can work well

                    I don't think I agree about subwoofers. I use my P3ESRs in my 18 sq m study, and they are perfect for that. Using them in our large living room they also sounded fine, but in a smaller bubble: they could not quite fill the room.

                    So out of curiosity I decided to experiment a bit with two subwoofers. First I tried a little REL Quake-2 in my study. Now there was more bass, but it was woolly and undefined. Next I used the combination in our big living room. It was a bit better, but still quite undefined. Next I used the P3ESRs with the living room's resident subwoofer system, a much better B&W PV1d equalized by a DSpeaker Antimode 8033. Now the sound was very good indeed, with deeper and well defined bass, and a bigger and more dynamic sound.

                    I think the Antimode was responsible for most of the difference. Mind you, this is not a cheap solution, of course.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Subs on the move

                      Originally posted by willem View Post
                      I don't think I agree about subwoofers. I use my P3ESRs in my 18 sq m study, and they are perfect for that. Using them in our large living room they also sounded fine, but in a smaller bubble: they could not quite fill the room.

                      So out of curiosity I decided to experiment a bit with two subwoofers. First I tried a little REL Quake-2 in my study. Now there was more bass, but it was woolly and undefined. Next I used the combination in our big living room. It was a bit better, but still quite undefined. Next I used the P3ESRs with the living room's resident subwoofer system, a much better B&W PV1d equalized by a DSpeaker Antimode 8033. Now the sound was very good indeed, with deeper and well defined bass, and a bigger and more dynamic sound.

                      I think the Antimode was responsible for most of the difference. Mind you, this is not a cheap solution, of course.
                      I also tried some B&W's and the Little Rel Quake. The Rel came closest but something essential in the sound disappears when using a sub. I also considered an equalizer, but than I considered I might as well buy bigger Harbeths...... But subs are another topic.

                      @Tony: I hope you will inform us about your decision and your experience. A nice picture would be fine too.

                      I should have made a motion-stop movie, just for the fun of it, because the subs have seen about every inch of the living room. ;)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        M 30 -- Class (and price) shows!

                        Originally posted by Tony C. View Post
                        Thanks for your input. To be clear about the choice, I almost invariably buy used, and there is a pair of Demo M30s available for roughly the same price as the P3ESR.
                        Given that, at least from what I have read, the only real advantage to be gained by opting for the M30 is bass extension, I suppose the choice should be fairly simple.
                        Tony C.
                        Hmmm ... I didn't really read the thread that way, but no matter. The visceral experience of listening to the speakers is quite different, bearing in mind of course that both are Harbeth, with the sound we all love.

                        I own the M 30 (original), but am quite familiar with and admire greatly the the P3ESR. What the P3 is better at is what all small speakers at this quality level do best in my experience: choral, light acoustic (eg., lute), and very intimate vocals with minimal backing... but, even then, it's only a little better than the remarkable M30 in these areas. Without disagreeing at all with the many positives posted here for the P3, the M-30 does virtually everything else better than the P3 IMO by a greater margin -- really, in a different class altogether -- and again, that is no rap on the P3 -- look at the price difference!

                        But at the same price -- not a close call -- but that's just one man's opinion -- yours is the one that counts!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Elaboration

                          @bgiliberti

                          I appreciate your input. I still haven't made a decision, and wonder if you would mind elaborating.

                          When you say that the M30 is better, and by a clear margin, in almost every other respect, to what are you specifically referring?

                          Thanks in advance,

                          Tony

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            P3 and M30

                            Originally posted by Tony C. View Post
                            @bgiliberti
                            I appreciate your input. I still haven't made a decision, and wonder if you would mind elaborating. When you say that the M30 is better, and by a clear margin, in almost every other respect, to what are you specifically referring?
                            Thanks in advance,Tony
                            Fuller response sent via PM.

                            I would describe the P3 as "quicker," an attractive quality at which smaller speakers tend to excel due to the laws of physics, and the lighter bass response, which tends to make the transients more prominent, at least subjectively. But, to put this in context, the P3 is arguably better than any of the Harbeths, including the M40, by these particular criteria; yet, few would deny the superiority of the M40 overall. Regardless, I have not the least doubt that you will be immensely gratified no matter which Harbeth you decide upon.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Some basic basics

                              Do please bear in mind one vital statistic. The working heart of the speaker is the cone, and specifically, the diameter of the cone is the sound generating engine.

                              If, in round numbers, the P3 has a cone of 110mm diameter, that equates to a surface area of about 100 square cm. The M30, with a 200mm diameter cone has a surface area of about 300 sq. cm. - three times greater.

                              Common sense then tells you that for a given sound loudness at your ear, the smaller cone is going to have to flap backwards and forwards with much more gusto than the 200mm cone. And we all know what cone movement is inescapably linked with don't we?

                              Then ask yourself if there is an example of a 1000cc car engine which outperforms a 3000cc engine for power reserve and effortlessness.
                              Alan A. Shaw
                              Designer, owner
                              Harbeth Audio UK

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