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Since its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition has been to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless. Knowledge is human independent and replicatable. However, we live in new world where thanks to social media, 'facts' have become flexible and personal. HUG operates in that real world.

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P3ESR vs SHL5

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  • P3ESR vs SHL5

    How does the brand new P3ESR compare to the highly acclaimed SHL5?

    A more difficult version of the same question; should I buy a new P3ESR or a used SHL5, manufactured in 2002?

  • #2
    Re: P3ESR vs SHL5

    I was always brought up to believe that "good" bigger is better than "good" smaller (even "great" smaller using my music taste as a guide ), so my recommendation in some ways is to suggest the HLS5 if they're not too big for you. I've heard marvellous things said about the new P3 though...

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    • #3
      Re: P3ESR vs SHL5

      yet to listen to P3ESR speaker, but I've heard the P3ES2. SHL5 is in another league as compare to P3. The presence of SHL5 is way ahead of the mini-monitor. P3 simply lack the bass and scale. if money / space / WAF is not an issue, bite the bullet n go for the SHL5.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: P3ESR vs SHL5

        Originally posted by coredump View Post
        yet to listen to P3ESR speaker, but I've heard the P3ES2. SHL5 is in another league as compare to P3. The presence of SHL5 is way ahead of the mini-monitor. P3 simply lack the bass and scale. if money / space / WAF is not an issue, bite the bullet n go for the SHL5.
        ... even if we compare a brand new P3ESR with a SHL5 of 2002, would you still prefer the latter?

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: P3ESR vs SHL5

          There is simply no comparison... Literally... The P3 is made for near-field listening in a fairly small room. The SHL5 definitely needs more space to breathe (and to avoid boomy overblown bass), more distance from the wall behind it etc.

          Choose your Harbeth based on the size of the room, not anyones opinion.

          Garmt van der Zel
          www.beterbeeldengeluid.nl

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          • #6
            A little woofer v. a bigger one ...

            Originally posted by garmtz View Post
            The P3 is made for near-field listening in a fairly small room. The SHL5 definitely needs more space to breathe ...choose your Harbeth based on the size of the room...
            Sensible advice.

            However, we should be sensitive to the realities of listening at home for very many people. There are many situations (rooms, WAF, budget, troublesome neighbours, available space etc. etc.) where the smallest physical speaker cabinet that will give the biggest subjective sound is the right solution. That's the market that the P3 series has always excelled in. But it's not only domestic users who need 'the most from the least' - recording and broadcast studios have become smaller and smaller; the days are gone when, for example, the BBC would mandate a Monitor 40.1 size box crammed into a tiny studio; now there's not even space for an M30 ... so the P3 becomes the only option. But why should a professional sound engineer compromise his work just because the speakers he's provided with are only a twentieth of the volume of the speaker's he's used to?

            The starting point of the P3ESR design (and I'll be explaining all of this in much more detail by video clip over the months) had to be the bass performance. It's psychoacoustically essential to shock the listener on first audition with the P3ESR into discarding his preconceptions about small speakers and their bass potential. Then there is the revelation about midrange clarity and stereo imaging: finally the convenience of the small box.

            But, obviously I have not reinvented loudspeaker physics, nor do I need to. The secret of a great mini is a fine balance between subjective bass extension and bass loudness. It would be physically impossible to make a 5" driver do the work of an 8", or an 8" the work of a 12" or a 12" the work of a cinema's 24" woofers except in a well defined performance envelope of maximum midrange loudness v. maximum bass loudness. So what we have in the P3ESR is a small driver optimised to give astonishing bass up to a sensible loudness (more that you'd think) with low distortion but not a universal replacement for all 8" or 12" systems.
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK

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            • #7
              Re: A little woofer v. a bigger one ...

              Originally posted by A.S. View Post
              Sensible advice.

              However, we should be sensitive to the realities of listening at home for very many people... But, obviously I have not reinvented loudspeaker physics, nor do I need to. The secret of a great mini is a fine balance between subjective bass extension and bass loudness. It would be physically impossible to make a 5" driver do the work of an 8", or an 8" the work of a 12" or a 12" the work of a cinema's 24" woofers except in a well defined performance envelope of maximum midrange loudness v. maximum bass loudness...
              Thanks for the reply. However, my "practical" question is which model to buy. Assuming that there is no space limitation, if you were the buyer, would you prefer a set of SHL5 made in 2002 or a set of (new) P3ESR?

              Comment


              • #8
                Best value, second-hand, cartons and repairs ...

                I now appreciate your dilemma. It truly never occurred to me that this situation could arise as a result of my uprating the spec of the P3. But I can now see this scenario. Harmony in music (and life) is attained when there is a match between your needs and wants at a price you can afford to pay. Therefore, it would be irresponsible of me to say that the SHL5 is a must-have when the P3ESR wholly fulfills your needs and is what you can comfortably afford. We're not in the business of persuading you to spend a penny more than you have to or need to - quite the opposite. If the P3ESR will bring you great musical pleasure and is conveniently small and affordable, then that's the one for you. The global economy is in the mess it's in because money has been too easy and has overruled common sense; let's get back to a case by case evaluation of best value for the application.

                I really can't give you a black and white answer that we could both live with in the long term. What compounds the issue is that the SHL5s have been in someone else's hands for seven years, playing unknown music at an unknown level. Also, do we know if the user (or users?) were tempted to fiddle inside? We occasionally receive pictures of the most bizarre DIY 'improvements' to our speakers, hidden from view that the new owner doubts could have been factory original. Are these SHL5s Registered on the Harbeth web site? Would they be supplied to you in the original packing*? Is there any risk of damage in transit from the current owner to you? What if new woofers/tweeters are required due to damage or neglect: they're not cheap. They are long out of Warranty, and the Warranty is anyway not transferrable.

                So many practical issues to consider before the acoustic ones. Anyway, it really doesn't matter what I say; what matters is your likes and tastes. That said, I think you'll have to admit that a 5" woofer simply cannot move as much air as an 8" one so room size and/or listening distance and/or listening loudness are important considerations. Ignoring the latest P3ESR for a moment and winding the clock back to last summer would you have considered the P3ES2 over the SHL5? If not, why not? The laws of physics certainly have not changed in twelve months.

                * Cartons: the cartons are made from the best grade of commercial card that we can find. Inside, the packing caps (top and bottom) are extremely expensive but do protect the speakers well. In addition, we have been fitting corner "L" strips of cardboard to stiffen and protect the carton corners. BUT - BUT - the factory supplied cartons are NOT designed for two journeys. They are designed to get the speakers from Harbeth UK to the first owner in perfect condition but not necessarily strong enough to send them onwards to a second or third owner. Please be sure that you carefully consider the packing situation before buying from the first owner.
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Best value, second-hand, cartons and repairs ...

                  All reservations with respect to buying second hand speakers are well justified. In this particular case, I have the words of the seller that the SHL5 of 2002 were left unused in their packaging until 2007 and after that, they were only used just a few hours and are (supoosedly) in immaculate condition. Hence my dilemma: brand new P3ESRs or (used) SHL5 of 2002 but in immaculate condition (only ageing to consider)?

                  Unfortunately, I do not have the opportunity to audition either of them and I have to decide based on other people's opinion. By the way, the cost of the used SHL5 is around 1,100 GBP.
                  My amplifiers are a Croft SuperMicro II valve preamp and a Croft Series 7 hybrid power amplifier. The speakers to be replaced by the Harbeths are Snell Type E II.

                  Well, what do I do?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    What do you like about your current speakers?

                    All noted. This is a tough one. I'm not familiar with your existing speakers but may I suggest that you run-down a mental list of what you like (or liked) about them. Then I'd consider how closely the shoebox size P3ESR or much larger SHL5 would fill the physical space you've allocated to your current speakers.
                    Alan A. Shaw
                    Designer, owner
                    Harbeth Audio UK

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My current speakers and set-up

                      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                      All noted. This is a tough one. I'm not familiar with your existing speakers but may I suggest that you run-down a mental list of what you like (or liked) about them. Then I'd consider how closely the shoebox size P3ESR or much larger SHL5 would fill the physical space you've allocated to your current speakers.
                      Well, what I like from my current speakers? That's a tough one for me now...

                      I like their "openness" (very subjective term, isn't it?), the natural-like reproduction of voices and stereo-imaging. My speakers have a super-tweeter as well (like the SHL5), but in this case it's a rear-firing one. I think that it helps to create a deeper soundstage.

                      I very rarely listen to music at high sound levels and I practically listen to all kinds of music apart from classical (sorry!).

                      My room is approx. 8mx4m, the speakers are placed along the smaller dimension (2.5m from each other) and my listening position is in the centre of the room, i.e. approx. 3.5m from the speakers.

                      My current speakers (Snell Type E II) are bigger (taller) than the SHL5 (dimensions: 13" W by 35" H by 11" D). You can find a review here http://www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/1091snell/ I recently refoamed the mid-range/bass units, because the drive foam suspension had been destroyed over time (my speakers must have been manufactured in the mid '80s)

                      Well?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thinking about what you need ...

                        Originally posted by valve View Post
                        (1) I like their "openness" (2) I very rarely listen to music at high sound levels and I practically listen to all kinds of music apart from classical (3) My room is approx. 8m x 4m speakers 2.5m from each other) (4) my listening position is in the centre of the room, i.e. approx. 3.5m from the speakers (5) My current speakers are bigger than the SHL5 ...
                        Please remember that I am merely a speaker designer not a hi-fi dealer so this is just my opinion. Your dealer, who knows you and your situation far better than me really should be consulted - that's his job.

                        That said, I think you really have now answered your own question. Does the above situation that youv'e described call for a speaker system which is shoebox size or significantly larger? It seems to me to that the obvious candidates are going to be at or about the size of the speakers you already have including various medium-sized Harbeths (C7ES3, M30, SLH5), not something a quarter of the size.

                        I don't think I can add anything more useful - others may be able to based on their experiences.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: P3ESR vs SHL5 - can others comment?

                          Thanks Alan. Much appreciated your advice.

                          I look forward to any other suggestions from forum members.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Comparing small Harbeths with big ones ....

                            One quick thing to add, which I should have made clear.

                            I have only very briefly (for minutes not hours) sonically "compared" the P3ESR during its long gestation with other larger Harbeths. The P3ESR is a small system and is performs incredibly well as a small system. It actually sounds like a big speaker but it isn't a big speaker. A 5" driver cannot behave in all respects like a 8" driver - that would defy the laws of physics. But the P3ESR like its predecessors can create the very satisfying illusion of 8 or 12" performance, but at a sensible loudness.

                            Since I have a mental image of the sonic clarity that our RADIAL2? cone is capable of, and since all the Harbeths now feature the RADIAL? cone technology, I didn't need to make a side-by-side comparison amongst the speakers to identify the RADIAL? advantage; that's expected from a common technological foundation.

                            As stated before, when operated within their power and frequency performance envelope, the midband quality of all Harbeths is similar (due to RADIAL? cones) so all I could glean from a switch-over comparison between the smallest and largest Harbeths would be a reminder of their capacity to play loud(er), some differences in sensitivity (83-86dB), extension at the bottom end with the M40.1 (obviously) being the most extended and capable of playing loudest. The sonic essence of the designs are the same, as you'd expect from a single common designer and the same core technology. As my design skills grow over the years naturally I can and do apply new ideas to new models. So a more intellectually satisfying comparison (for me) would be between the P3ESR and the last speaker I designed: the C7ES3 which shares some technology with the P3ESR.

                            When operated - and I stress this point - within the performance envelope they are designed for commensurate with their driver area etc. etc. they all have the trademark Harbeth clarity, imaging, naturalness and warmth.

                            When I designed the C7ES3 to replace the same sized C7ES2, I concentrated on enhancing the ES2's performance. I wasn't interested in the comparative performance against the SHL5 or M30 or M40. Each model is in a different mental compartment, with a slightly different design brief, satisfying a slightly different consumer and with different cabinet sizes and volumes.
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              P3ESR - a dealer tricks the customer ...

                              I'd just like to say that the P3ESR is the best 'mini monitor' I've heard. I spent all Friday afternoon listening to my new demo pair playing loads of old favourite vinyl and CD's with not a thought of putting on a larger pair of speakers.

                              On first listen, I was amazed at the amount of and quality of bass from this tiny but beautifully formed cabinet. I even managed the trick of demo'ing them to a customer who thought he was listening to the much larger speakers in the room.

                              Obviously, a prospective customer should hear them for himself and they could well be all the speaker you will need.

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