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The Harbeth User Group is the primary channel for public communication with Harbeth's HQ. If you have a 'scientific mind' and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - audio equipment decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual Science of Audio sub-forum area of HUG is your place. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and should be accessible to non-experts and able to be tried-out at home without deep technical knowledge. From a design perspective, today's award winning Harbeths could not have been designed any other way.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings area is you. If you are quite set in your subjectivity, then HUG is likely to be a bit too fact based for you, as many of the contributors have maximised their pleasure in home music reproduction by allowing their head to rule their heart. If upon examination we think that Posts are better suited to one sub-forum than than the other, they will be redirected during Moderation, which is applied throughout the site.

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{Updated Oct. 2017}
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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

            Comment


            • #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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