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Harbeth HL Compact 7ES-3 specific

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  • #46
    Harbeth Compact 7ES3 vs. Spendor BC1

    Alan, after enjoying living with and listening to a pair of Spendor BC 1's for almost three decades, I am now thinking of buying the new Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3. I hope this will bring me a step forward. I am using a Lua 6060 RC Diva tube amplifier and a Lua Cantilena CD player. My listening room is fairly small, 4x4 meters approx. Could you, from your point of view, say a few words about similarities and differences in performance between the BC 1 and the new Harbeth Compact 7? To me, both philosophies sound very similar and listening to my BC 1 at home and to a pair of ES-2 at my favourite dealer did not produce major differences (but this is hard to compare because listening circumstances were far from being identical). Maybe you understand that an investment of ? 3000 is worth to be thoroughly considered. Thanks for your attention.
    Best regards,
    Andreas

    Comment


    • #47
      Re: Harbeth Compact 7ES3 vs. Spendor BC1

      Originally posted by Andreas Molitor
      Could you, from your point of view, say a few words about similarities and differences in performance between the BC 1 and the new Harbeth Compact 7? To me, both philosophies sound very similar ...
      I have the highest respect for the BC1 and its designers and a good specimen still performs well if not fully to the original published specification. I owned BC1s for many years and these are my personal feelings about them. As we review the history of the BBC's speaker project and we should remember that the BC1 was the product of a particular time, to meet a very specific BBC need. It was luck indeed that the BC1 'leaked out' into the domestic market. In contract, the Harbeth Compact 7ES3 is a modern speaker designed in the 96k digital era with wide application in modern listening environments, wide musical tastes and with high resolution to get the best from modern equipment, ultra-quiet sources and wide dynamic recordings.

      As I see it, the BC1 was designed in the (hissy pre-Dolby) analogue mid-60s for near-field operation in smaller BBC control rooms where the sound engineer could reach out and touch the speakers. This implies that the listening level was low. In turn, according to the way that the human ear operates, listening at a low level implies that the bass frequencies are subjectively reproduced at a lower level than ideal. The designers were aware of this issue and to some extent compensated for this in the design. However, the BC1 was not designed for far-field listening at higher sound pressure levels where self-evidently it 'runs out of steam' in the bass register. Remember - in the mid 1960's when the BBC were developing the LS3/4 (which became the BC1) rock/pop music was in its infancy and the elitist BBC did its very best to ignore it; there was no Radio 1; the Light Programme served up 'popular entertainment' comprising big bands, folk, jazz and classical music. This pre-pop era was one of soft bass and low sound pressure levels, a much less demanding duty for the loudspeaker to perform. I myself burned-out two or three BC1 bass units on pop music and I was not playing that loud!

      The 'BC' name refers to Bextrene Cone, a first generation plastic (polystyrene actually) and this material has well-documented sonic colourations, typically of a 'quacky' or beaky sound. During the plastic research phase the BBC discovered that if PVA (wood glue of a particular type) was generously painted onto the front and back of the cone by hand, these colourations could be tamed - but - at the cost of somewhat increased cone mass (PVA is heavy) which pressurises the bass unit's loudness/mass/excursion/colouration/hangover/efficiency issues. As you can see, taming the colouration leads to other spin-off problems.

      In time, the BBC concluded that Polypropylene (second generation cone plastic) was a better material being far lighter than bextrene and not (they said) needing the PVA dope treatment. At that point - 1977 - Harbeth was founded by the BBC's Head of Speaker design (Dudley Harwood) and the polypropylene- based HL monitor was born with an undoped PP cone. Harwood held the patent on PP cones under a deal with the BBC who had by that point decided to replace their BC1 stock with new BBC-designed speakers (LS5/8, LS5/9) which could play much louder and with lower colouration and by about 1988 apparently all BC1s had been decommissioned. The BC2 with its 1.5" voice coil was designed to offer a lounder/more efficient BC1 but this trade-off changed the overall acoustic signature. Speaker design is all about compromises.

      By about 1983, Harwood/Harbeth was made aware of a new, third generation cone material candidate being investigated by Audax, France, and convinced by the performance, he decided to dispose of his PP patent (now seemingly owned by Sony via many changes of hands), abandon PP and started production of the HL Mk4 with the bought-in Audax TPX cone. At that point I became involved with Harbeth. I had used BC1s (and the PP-based SP1s) daily for about 10 years and I knew their sound very well but the new TPX cones were a revelation. I liked their clean, transparent sound so much that, well, I bought Harbeth and gave up my day job at NEC Corp..

      Now, the Harbeth HL Compact 7ES3 uses a fourth generation cone material we call RADIAL (Research And Development Into Advanced Loudspeakers) and which was developed in collaboration with British Governments funding. We manufacture the RADIAL woofers in-house here at Harbeth. Unlike all the previous materials mentioned, our RADIAL is injection moulded in our own (expensive) tool because it is a compound of granules, not a general-purpose sheet material bought on a roll from a plastic company as bextrene or PP. It is engineered for its acoustic properties and every cone is just like every other. The cost is high but so is the performance.

      What does this translate into? Well, the inner-clarity of the C7ES3 is really astonishing as you would expect for a 4th generation material and it is as if a thin veil has been removed from the speaker: the balance will be instantly familiar to you as the 'BBC balance' but you'll enjoy hearing micro-details that were absorbed (as heat) in the earlier materials. The bass handling, maximum spl, extended HF and cosmetics are all enhanced too and the frequency response is flatter.

      Hope this helps.
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

      Comment


      • #48
        Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

        Hello, all-

        I'm about 3 weeks into 7ES-3 ownership, paired with my McIntosh equipment (MA6900, MC201, MR85) and I could not be happier! I was a little bit afraid of lacking bass presentation and mid's overshadowing highs - no concern at all! Speakers are placed on custom 18" wood stands (incorporated 10# of deadload sand) and the height seems right. I have a fairly live room (12' x 16' x 7.5') with wood floors over a basement. Have actually decoupled with sorbothane and Vibropods with very good success. Anyway, I'm listening to music now after 20+ years of boom boom boom.

        Sephiam

        Comment


        • #49
          Re: Harbeth Compact 7ES3 vs. Spendor BC1

          Alan,

          thank you so much for your detailed answer which absolutely meets my latest practical experience. My dealer gave me a pair of 7 ES-2 for listening at home and so I had the opportunity to compare them to my BC 1. What you say is perfectly true. A Bach cantata, played at low volume level, reveals some differences, to be honest, but they are on the "micro-level": the Harbeth brings a bit more clarity and easiness, the music is being "unchained" from the speaker. This small gap between the two speakers grows to a canyon after switching to Jazz (Jan Akkerman Live At Montreux 1978) and Rock music (Ryan Adams, Van Morrison). The more I moved the volume knob to, let's say, eleven o' clock, the more the Spendors got into trouble. Congratulations! After almost 30 years I will have to say Goodbye to my BC 1's. They're like a an old car, a real Oldie, wonderful in its time, but not the right vehicle to be driven at 120 mph on the left (in Britain right) lane of a motorway. What will I do? I will return the 7 ES-2 to my dealer tomorrow. And tell him to order a pair of ES-3. For the next 30 years. This is my "project continuity and renewal".

          Best regards,

          Andreas

          Comment


          • #50
            Re: Harbeth Compact 7ES3 vs. Spendor BC1

            My colleague here, Derek Hughes, whose father designed the BC1 has corrected my earlier comment that the LS3/4 begat the BC1. It's a rather amusing story: Derek says the BBCs need for a compact monitor speaker in the late mid/late 1960's created a bit of a dilemma for the top brass. Derek's father, Spencer, a serving staff member of a public corporation could not be selling speakers to his employer - that was not the done thing. Called to a meeting at Broadcasting House in London (around 1967?) it was politely suggested that Derek's mother be nominated the director of his start-up manufacturing company neatly avoiding the conflict of interest between his father and the BBC. In time he retired from the BBc and devoted all his time to manufacturing.

            As for the name, it seems that 'BC' was not as I said 'Bextrene cone' but 'Bextrene Celestion' referring to the HF1300 tweeter.

            Also, it seems that once the BBC were buying the BC1, they applied the BC1's bass/mid unit to the LS3/4 design.

            Hope that's completely correct now Derek - not that you were concerned but out of respect I thought I'd set the record straight. Facts are facts.
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK

            Comment


            • #51
              Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

              Not to simply reply to myself, but the review in the April/May issue of The Absolute Sound is very complimentary, to say the least.

              Comment


              • #52
                Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

                FYI - finally loudspeakers in eucalyptus finsh arrived in my home in Belgrade :-)))

                Regs,
                Sasa

                www.hificafe.net


                P.S. Sephiam, can I get on my e-mail address scanned copy of AS review that you've mentioned in your last post?

                Comment


                • #53
                  Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

                  Sasa-

                  Sorry I don't have a scanner, but the review should be available at The Absolute Sound website after the next issue. Or, you can purchase it online.

                  http://www.theabsolutesound.com/

                  Are others as impressed with the 7es3 as I am? Coupled with what source and power? Set up (stands, placement, cables)? Music? Mr. Shaw, what feedback are you receiving from your distribution network?

                  Sephiam

                  Comment


                  • #54
                    Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

                    Thank you for your report. I have purchased ther review online - it is, as you say, very flattering.

                    Good reviews are important to the user to give an external third-party objectivity to our products but they do not drive the design or marketing process, nor should they. I have given 100% of myself over many months or years to a design and when I commit to production I am truly convinced that even given an infinite amount of extra time, I could not improve the design with the tools, materials or knowledge available at that point.

                    So, the arbiter of the entire process is you, the end user. I measure how effective we have been by the order book - which in the case of the C7ES3 runs into 2008 - nine months ahead. That validates the design.
                    Alan A. Shaw
                    Designer, owner
                    Harbeth Audio UK

                    Comment


                    • #55
                      Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

                      Before I've made final decision to order 7ES-3 model, I've spent more than 20 hours listening 7ES-2 in Pear Audio shop in Ljubljana, Slovenia (Peter Mezek is distributor in that region).

                      As my previous experience is mostly "based" on Scan Speak and/or Vifa sound, in 7ES I've heard something that I've defintely didn't hear before in that price class.

                      Now, with Audio Analogue Maestro Settanta int. amp, Denon DCD 3560 CD player (fully upgraded), Analysis Plus (interc.) and Chord cables (speakers) and Shunyata 6 filter, want to believe that listening to the music will reach much higher level of satisfaction than before, for a long period of time.

                      Regs,
                      Sasa

                      Comment


                      • #56
                        Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

                        For those with access to the magazine The Absolute Sound, check out Paul Seydor's review of the HL Compact 7ES-3 in the April/May 2007 issue (#171). A totally positive review, with special mention of the speaker's "beauty of truthful timbre." In mentioning this, I think he hits upon a main strength of all of the Harbeth speakers!

                        Comment


                        • #57
                          Warm up periods for C7?

                          Question for Alan as well for all other who can provide some "best practice": are there any recommendations and/or required "warm-up" period of time for a new speakers ?

                          Regs,
                          Sasa

                          Comment


                          • #58
                            Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

                            Hi,
                            Just bought my first Harbeth C7ES3 yesterday, very happy with the sound even though I'm using fairly old and cheap amp. One small comment, my pair (cherry) seems to be using ES2 cabinet ( top binding post is blanked off with screws, website picture of ES3 doesn't show this ) or maybe I just got an early production pair, serial no is C7 274 R/L. Wonder if any ES3 owner have the same thing? thanks

                            Comment


                            • #59
                              Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

                              You have one of the first production pairs, as also sold to (and reviewed by) our many friends in Japan - so you are in good company!
                              Alan A. Shaw
                              Designer, owner
                              Harbeth Audio UK

                              Comment


                              • #60
                                Which Taps for the 7ES3?

                                Hi,
                                The Harbeth web site states that the 7ES3 are 6ohm. Which taps are recommended for best performance, the 4 or 8? My amp is a 75w tube amp if that makes a difference. Thank you.

                                Comment

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