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"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, since deviations from a flat frequency response at any point along the signal chain from microphone to ear is likely to create an audible sonic personality in what you hear. That includes the contribution of the listening room itself. To accurately reproduce the recorded sound, as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would be 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 potentially will alter the sound balance of what you hear. This may or may not be what you wish to achieve, but on the face of it, any deviation from a flat response - and the frequency balance of tube amplifiers are usually influenced by their speaker load - is a step away from a truly neutral system. HUG has extensively discussed amplifiers and the methods for seeking the most objectively neutral amongst a plethora of available product choices.

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 and pragmatism, HUG cannot be expected to be a place to discuss the selection, approval or endorsement of non-Harbeth system elements selected, knowingly or not, to create a significantly personalised 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.

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If faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians in your home and over Harbeth speakers is your audio dream, then understanding something of the issues likely to fulfill that intention is what this forum has been helping to do since 2006. Welcome!"


Feb. 2018
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Some questions before auditioning Harbeth

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  • Some questions before auditioning Harbeth

    Having lurked for a while and learning a lot by reading earlier discussions, I'm planning to audition speakers at my local audio dealer who also has Harbeths. I'm already set at auditioning only Harbeth at first. However, before actually making an appointment (the dealer is still closed for the holidays) I have a few questions which others may possibly help me with.

    - I have set my sights on the P3ESR. Reasons: price, size, and the fact that I will be listening in nearfield. At present I have my speakers (Amphion Ion) on my desk. This is positioned in the middle of my study, 5mx4m, ceiling 3 m high. I'm sitting approximately 1 m distance from the speakers. As far as I understand the P3ESR would be suitable for this kind of setup. Even though larger speakers at a larger distance seem tempting, this is not a realistic setup for my circumstances. I might, though consider other Harbeth speakers for the living room in the future. At present my listening is mostly confined to the study, though.

    - Given the discussion of amplifiers and amplifier power, I have come to the understanding that although one requires massive amounts of power (and preferably the larger speakers) if one would like to emulate concert hall conditions, this is not at all required for more modest demands on performance. I haven't objectively measured my listening levels but I believe I do not appreciate going above 85 dB except for brief peaks. I'd feel worried about the neighbours.
    Now my question is: does the P3ESR perform well at low levels? This is sometimes asserted, but often ignored. Most discussions seem to focus on what is needed for high levels. While it is important for me that the speakers provide all musical details and the 'color' of instruments and voices, I do not mind that lower levels/smaller speakers will lead to a shrunken sound stage. I read a review where the reviewer claimed that the P3ESR made him prefer chamber music to Mahler, but I tend to take that with a grain of salt. I would, however, be disappointed if my choice of speaker would indeed steer me away from larger scale music merely because it doesn't perform well.

    - Are there any tips or recommendations to listen for while auditioning? I'm still considering what playlist to take with me, my preference being classical music but liking some pop music and jazz as well. I often read people praising the midrange of Harbeth speakers, so that's something I would be attentive to.


  • #2
    P3ESR, like all Harbeths, sounds remarkably well, full bodied and rich in detail when listened to at low levels. It was one of the reasons I bought them for my studio, since it's close to the bedroom so when I'm listening late at night I don't want to disturb my family but still enjoy the music. I listen in near field, in a small room and usually not very loud so I don't need a whole lot of power for the P3ESR. My solid state amp that is capable of providing 70W into 8Ohms is all I need. I very much doubt you would need anything beefier either.

    As for the music selection for your listening session I'm afraid I can't recommend anything more than bringing music that you normally listen to at home, that you know very well and as varied choice as possible.

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    • #3
      A loudspeaker that cannot play relistically at low, medium and (relatively) high levels cannot in any sense call itself a fulfilling high fidelity device.

      I'm sure that you've seen the pictures of the 'back bedroom' at my home which for many years was the den in which Harbeth speakers were developed. Actually, this week we've pulled together a decade's worth of videos that I've made, set-up a dedicated PC for editing and intend to accelerate our uploading of historical 'spy cams' recordings that I've made over the years.
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

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      • #4
        In your situation, the P3ESR is the perfect choice. Now, being a relatively small speaker, physics dictates that it can't handle very high power and can't produce very low bass frequencies. This isn't peculiar to the P3ESR, it's the same with all mini speakers and to be fair, the P3ESR performs better than the majority in these regards.

        Something the Harbeth range does do very well is the ability to play at very low volume levels if required. Of course, they can also go loud if required but to play at a whisper and still sound balanced is unusual with quality speakers. That plus being amplifier friendly and room agnostic makes Harbeth a popular choice.

        Amplifier choice is up to you and your dealer should be able to demonstrate a few suitable models but for your needs you don't require a very powerful amplifier.

        You mentioning that Harbeth "requires massive amounts of power" is simply not true for the majority of owners. This is one of the things I have been unhappy about as this 'forum myth' has become 'forum fact'. True, if you are someone who likes to play at something approaching realistic volume levels and you have a larger Harbeth in a big room, then a powerful amp is needed but in my dealings with the public every day of the week, I don't often encounter customers with this requirement.

        Take along to you dealer, music you actually listen to and enjoy. No need for special test music and the like. It should be an enjoyable experience.

        BTW. Where is the World are you ?

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        • #5
          Thank you for all your replies, which confirm what I already suspected given Alan's dedication to faithful reproduction of sound. Indeed, as Alan states, one should expect a high fidelity loudspeaker to also sound well at low volume levels, but this is something what is rarely discussed in audiophile fora. Therefore it is good to have this positively asserted for Harbeth, in particular as I find this hard to assess properly during an audition.

          I'm also glad to hear that my intended set-up is not entirely misguided.

          hifi_dave: I live in The Netherlands. While there are not many Harbeth dealers over here, the Dutch distributor has been quite active and the number of dealers has steadily grown the last few years.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by quibus View Post
            Now my question is: does the P3ESR perform well at low levels? This is sometimes asserted, but often ignored. Most discussions seem to focus on what is needed for high levels. While it is important for me that the speakers provide all musical details and the 'color' of instruments and voices, I do not mind that lower levels/smaller speakers will lead to a shrunken sound stage. I read a review where the reviewer claimed that the P3ESR made him prefer chamber music to Mahler, but I tend to take that with a grain of salt. I would, however, be disappointed if my choice of speaker would indeed steer me away from larger scale music merely because it doesn't perform well.
            See this post: http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/f...=7819#post7819

            When you shop for an amplifier, you might want to look for one with tone controls (and possibly a so-called loudness - not to be confused with volume - control) to help compensate for the effect described in this post: http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/f...=6111#post6111

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            • #7
              For best dB efficiency use an integrated amp with digital input and integrated DAC to feed it directly with digital sources. Digital audio always provides the highest signal level at 0 dBFS. You loose lots of dB with analog RCA and therefore you'd need more amplifying power.

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