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"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound, realisable by controlling the confounding variables between tthe microphone and the listeners' ears.

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. To reproduce the sounds captured by the recording microphones, as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would naturally select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

Identifying components for their system neutrality should, logically, start with the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance, as any and every deviation from a measurably flat frequency response at any point along the serial chain from microphone to ear is very likely to cause the total system to have an audible sonic personality. That includes the contribution of the listening room itself.

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, HUG cannot be really be expected to guide in the selection, approval, endorsement or even discussion of equipment that is intend to introduce a significantly personalised sound to the audio signal chain. 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 electronics offered there. There is no on-line substitute for that time investment in a dealer's showroom.

If you desire to intentionally tune your system sound to your personal taste, please consider carefully how much you should rely upon the subjective opinions of strangers. Their hearing acuity and taste will be different to yours, as will be their motives and budget, their listening distance, listening loudness and listening room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you.

Alternatively, if faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over your speakers is your audio dream, then understanding something of the issues likely to fulfill that objective is what this forum has been helping with since 2006. Welcome!"


Jan. 2018
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Harbeth HL Compact 7ES-3 specific

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  • #91
    Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

    Hello,

    I am a new member in the usergroup (location Athens, Greece) willing to buy a pair of the C7ES-3 speakers. I am not a native English speaker, so I apologize for any language errors.

    I have contacted some people owning the specific model in order to have some comments on how they perform and I get as an answer that their performance depends heavily on the stands used. More specifically, I have been told that the bass reproduction is very much dependent on the stand material and the speaker height. The problem is that they get either booming or dry bass.

    Some other persons told me that the rectangular where the speaker will be based on the stand has to be empty inside, so as the speaker will be rest only on the four corners of this rectangle. This helps the speaker to perform as it was designed (without resonances).

    Therefore, I would like to ask you if you have experienced similar problems.

    Comment


    • #92
      Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

      I am very please that you joined the Harbeth User Group. Welcome. You are able to get the facts directly from us here at the factory in the UK.

      Stands: whoever provided you with such 'information' has a vivid imagination. I makes me annoyed to think that this sort of misinformation is being handed out by self-appointed experts especially when the result is confusion of would-be customers. So, as the designer, in my opinion here are the facts ....

      1. The construction of the stand has 0.1% influence on the sound quality.
      2. You can use a pile of bricks, books, or plant-pot stands (like the IKEA ones mentioned here before).
      3. Whether the speakers make a point contact with the stand using spikes, rubber feet, BluTak or similar has 0.0001% effect on sound quality.

      When I am designing Harbeth speakers I can assure you that I pay no attention at all to the construction of the stand. But I do take care over stand height. In the case of the C7ES-3 the entire design was undertaken on the Ikea plant-pot stands.

      Check the facts. Enjoy the music. Don't be nervous!
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

      Comment


      • #93
        Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

        Hi Alan,

        What about the effects of stand materials? Although I've never tried different stands with the same construction but with different materials like wood, metal and concrete, I've heard from those "self-appointed experts" that materials make audible effects.

        mike

        Comment


        • #94
          Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

          In that case you should ignore what the designer says, and listen to the experts as their advice and opinions must be of superior value.

          You will note though that I never, ever give advice that involves the needless expense of money. For me, since I became interested in hi-fi as a boy, the real kick is to get the most sound for the least expenditure and then to get on with enjoying the music. The music is supreme. As I said, the IKEA plant pot stands (about $14 each) are good enough for me to enjoy the music and to actually design the speaker. They were just the right height which is the critical thing, not the material from which the stand is made.

          As an example, the excellent Noel at Skylan sell stands made of filled plastic. They look great, they are very elegant, reasonably priced and easy to ship around the world at low freight cost. I guess that more Harbeth users globally use those stands than any other type - and we only hear praise about their sound and appearance.

          Of course - my opinion is only one of many. The difference is that I have no commercial interest in stands - or cables.
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • #95
            Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

            One of the members of the group asked me earlier for some advice on the Harbeth HP3-2ES loudspeakers, following my enthusiastic comments over the past two years.

            Let me say at once that I regard the P3 as a superb ?speaker. They astonish everyone who hears them with their weight, clarity, and musicality: and that in a large room of about 20 x 15 feet and 9 feet high, driven by a 1960s Sugden solid-state class-A amp of about 18 watts. I?ve been very happy with them since I ordered them (without hearing them first!) from Alan two years ago to replace my Martin Logan Aerius i electrostatics. They didn?t have the last bit of clarity in the mid-range of the MLs, but were much better balanced and integrated, and were much easier on the eye. I play classical music (including large choral and symphonic works) and jazz.

            I happened to have had some Spendor 3/5s on demo when they arrived. The Spendors sounded veiled, coloured and recessed compared to the P3s. I've heard nothing better in this size. But ?they don?t have RADIAL drivers and that fact kept worrying at me. Could there be something better?

            I?ve been so intrigued by Alan and others? comments on the superiority of the RADIAL driver that I have finally got (again, without hearing them first) a pair of Compact 7 ES-3s. If I thought (and still think) the P3s are good, the C-7s are in a different class. What?s the difference?

            It?s clear that the two ?speakers belong to the same family: they have the same kind of weight, the same sort of sound, the same type of clarity and musicality. But the C-7 simply offers much, much more information, and if that word is too "cold", they offer much more pleasure.

            This is especially clear on piano recordings. Pianos are very complex things: each note is accompanied by a myriad of micro-tones and overtones related to the weight of the hammer on the strings, the soundboard, the room acoustic and the pedalling. A good loudspeaker will give you an inkling of all this?a great ?speaker, like the C7, resolves these transients, reverberations, and dying acoustics not quite like the real thing, but sufficiently well to give one the strong illusion of the real thing. (I have a baby grand in my living-room, and I?ve tried to match its sound to the C-7s: there was no contest with the P3s, whereas with the C-7s it?s not a totally crazy idea, provided one plays softly. My wife, who is contemptuous of hi-fi coming anywhere close to the reproduction of live music was surprised by this near match.)

            The same is true of other instruments, but it?s not quite as obvious. One?s sense of the special acoustic of an orchestra or jazz ensemble or string quartet is immensely enhanced, as is the sense of the expression with which the instrument is played. Its interaction with other instruments, instead of being a blurred suggestion, is absolutely articulate and clear.

            All this renders the emotional impact of the music much more immediately. It also means that one can play the music at low volumes and retain that impact, rather than keep turning it up in a vain attempt to force involvement from the ?speakers. What one usually gets when one turns the volume up to hear harmonics, timbre and space is usually a hardening, not a broadening or deepening, of the sound; and this hardness gets worse as one desperately tries to get more out of the system by turning up the volume even further. With the C-7s this doesn?t happen. They are absolutely satisfying speakers.

            Presumably, what I?m finally hearing is the RADIAL difference, which is radical. It's also utterly enchanting. Now I'm imagining what a RADIAL P3 would be like?

            BTW: in relation to the discussion of stands for the C7s, I've been trying out different things, precisely to achieve the right height that Alan mentions in his post. I can confirm absolutely what he says (but if you don't believe him, why should you believe me?) I started off on with some metal stands: too high. Then some sturdy coffee tables: too low. So in desperation I put a volume of my Shorter Oxford Dictionary under each 'speaker to raise them about 4", thinking that a book would be absolutely the worst thing to use.

            Guess what? They improved with the extra height and the books don't seem to have detracted in any way from the performance. So I'd believe Alan when he says you could use a pile of books if you want to. Perhaps we should all stop reading Hi-Fi magazines and start listening.

            David

            Comment


            • #96
              Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

              Originally posted by David Schalkwyk View Post
              .... Perhaps we should all stop reading Hi-Fi magazines and start listening.
              David
              Agree completely!

              Lately I've been guilty of doing more Hi-Fi reading than music listening. And I got it in my head that I wanted to trade my C7-ES2 for a non-Harbeth speaker. Had the deal all setup. Then I decided to listen to my Harbeth's for one last time. Listened to a couple of favorite CD's... And you know what? I couldn't bring myself to do it. I've decided that even though I will most likely buy different speakers one day, I will always keep a pair of Harbeths as well.

              Now, I wonder if I should upgrade to the new ES3... hmmm

              Comment


              • #97
                Harbeth versus a more intense (high-Q) sound ...

                One thing to be very much aware of is that the 'Harbeth sound' is very easy-on-the-ears. Technically, I'd describe it as 'low-Q' or 'low intensity' - a curtain that hangs in space, and is very unique. Almost every other loudspeaker I've heard over the years is more 'exciting', more intense and as a result very fatiguing. I've covered my experiences here.

                --------------------

                I've been trying to think of a way of explaining 'coloration', intensity and the consequent fatigue. In the supermarket I had an idea .... You know that you can self-select donuts or fresh fruit into those very thin (and sometimes difficult to open) polythene plastic bags that you tear off from a roll? When I get home I can't resist trapping the air inside the empty bag and then bursting it - you get a nice soft pop. Clearly an impulsive sound, but with a low-Q, just like the Harbeth sound . Now, conversely, trap the air in a crisp packet and burst it and you get a high-Q explosive sound. Same volume of air. Same hand clap energy to burst it, but an unmistakeably harder sound.

                Remember when your children were small how you'd invite their friends round for a party? Remember how fatiguing it was when they were all whooping and shouting, just having fun? Those young voices also have a high-Q, both high pitch and intense, attention demanding (thanks to evolution). Imagine them discovering the fun that can be had from bursting plastic bags. Can you hear in your mind the cocopheny of sound of ten crisp packets being popped versus ten polythene bags? I know which I'd rather let them loose with!
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

                Comment


                • #98
                  Re: Harbeth versus a more intense (high-Q) sound ...

                  Remember? I'm still living it now with a 2 and a 5 year old daughter!

                  My 2 year old can pop my ears with her screams of laughter,

                  I really ike your analogy though.

                  Comment


                  • #99
                    Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

                    David,
                    A very informative account of your experience. Having heard and loved the P3, I'm struggling with the purchase decision between P3 and C7. I haven't yet been able to hear the C7, and may not have the chance before selection. Your post sets out the considerations nicely, thanks.

                    -Paul-

                    Comment


                    • Re: Harbeth HL Compact7ES-3 specific

                      Perhaps Alan can help me out.

                      I don't have to opportunity to demo a C7ES3 at home. A rather lively room, marble floor with carpet, curtains, cushions etc.. The room is 13.5x17.5 ft and I intend to place the long wall. My problem is that the speakers need to be close to the wall and I know that increases the bass and messes up the midrange.

                      I worry that it will get worse because I sometimes play loud (bass boom?). So I would like to know what is the minimum acceptable distance before the midrange and bass starts screwing up..... is 8-10inches OK?

                      It is a lot of money to pay, so I want to be careful. It will be driven by a Nait 5i.

                      Comment


                      • Re: Harbeth versus a more intense (high-Q) sound ...

                        As usual, Alan has come up with not one, but two, wonderfully evocative ways of thinking about the nature of sound, reproduction and the place of Harbeth in the middle. The underwater cricket-ball is brilliant; and so are the two different popping packets, which give respectively high and low-Q sounds. I concur completely that Harbeths are low-Q, and marvellous for being so. But I'm troubled by a question:

                        Let's imagine that we make our two different pops: the satisfying low-Q one with the polythene plastic bag, and then the irritating loud, high-Q one with the crisp packet. We record both, and we play them through a pair of loudspeakers. How do we capture most accurately the DIFFERENCE between the sounds? With a low-Q speaker, or a high-Q one; or one somewhere in between?

                        This leads me to a further observation to add to my earlier comments about the differences between the P3s and C7s. I was always startled by the P3s' reproduction of percussive sounds, especially on jazz drums. They are immensely immediate and present, catching the leading transients of drums with disconcerting energy. This was so apparent that at times I'd feel there was a slight mismatch between the reproduction of drums, say, and piano or saxaphone. Compared to the P3s, the C7s don't have that startling, impressive, but slightly jarring reproduction of percussion, but they do reproduce the other instruments with greater ease, naturalness and richness. In short, they're better balanced. Do we see a degree of difference between the Q factors of the two speakers at work here? And is this due to the different Q factors of the RADIAL drivers?

                        Cheers

                        David

                        Comment


                        • Re: Harbeth versus a more intense (high-Q) sound ...

                          Originally posted by David Schalkwyk View Post
                          ...How do we capture most accurately the DIFFERENCE between the sounds? With a low-Q speaker, or a high-Q one; or one somewhere in between?
                          Ah, now that's the sort of question than makes me call out to my wife (now in bed, at the end of her long day) that I won't be long as I settle down to the computer to concoct an answer!

                          Ok, so we're clear that the bursting of the bags produces a difference in intensity of sound - and also of tone too. Now, before we can record those sounds we need to think through the process of recording to be sure we can draw valid conclusions on playback. First then, the choice of microphone. Most microphones are a little 'ringy' somewhere in the treble region - and that's deliberate and very much promoted by the mic sellers (and recording artists/producers) as 'sensational clarity' ... 'super clean' etc. etc.. In our terms, we'd say those mics were highish-Q, especially in the upper frequencies. If you want a low-Q mic you probably have to look backwards in time a bit to the very microphone designed by Dudley Harwood (our founder) when he was at the BBC. It's a ribbon, and unlike a modern capacitor microphone, it has just a strip of corrugated kitchen foil hanging limply in a very strong magnetic field. Yes, it is fragile and easily damaged, especially by wind. Modern mics have a plastic diaphragm pulled very tight and then welded under tension to the capsule case .... and, almost inevitable that tautness is their downfall - it causes peaks in the treble response. But they are very tough and durable. And produce a much higher output voltage than the ribbons. And they are less hissy too. You get an idea of microphone construction here (suggest p56). On page 63 you can see that a capacitor microphone is inherently peaky and entirely relies on some sort of internal damping to bring that peak down to an acceptable flatness. How well this actually works depends on such minute mechanical details of construction that only a few experts really understand how and why. (Such as B&K)

                          So, we'll take care over the selection of the mic. How about the room in which we record the bag popping? If the room is acoustically hard, like my kitchen or bathroom, then the reflections of the explosion off all the hard surfaces is going to greatly colour the sound picked up by the mic. So we really should go outside ..... but we will have to take great care to use our ribbon mic on a windless day. Finally, playback on the speakers. As we don't want the speakers to impart resonances (always associated with high-Q) we need our trusty low-Q Harbeths.

                          Incidentally - I was at the BBC anechoic chamber recently and took along and measured some 'modern' speakers not of our manufacture. I truly didn't appreciate how wonderfully low-Q and easy-on-the-ears our Harbeths are until I measured these others. The peaks in the response around the crossover region put these 'hot selling' 'must have' speakers in the super high-Q category and explain at a stroke why I cannot bear to listen to them or more than a minute or two. I hesitate to publish the frequency response curves because you probably wouldn't believe that any consumer (or professional) with normal hearing could buy them (and live with them) and the manufacturer would certainly recognise the tell-tale high-Q peaks in the response. Quite a shock I must say.
                          Attached Files
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK

                          Comment


                          • Re: Harbeth versus a more intense (high-Q) sound ...

                            Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                            Finally, playback on the speakers. As we don't want the speakers to impart resonances (always associated with high-Q) we need our trusty low-Q Harbeths.... The peaks in the response around the crossover region put these 'hot selling' 'must have' speakers in the super high-Q category and explain at a stroke why I cannot bear to listen to them or more than a minute or two. I hesitate to publish the frequency response curves because you probably wouldn't believe that any consumer (or professional) with normal hearing could buy them (and live with them) and the manufacturer would certainly recognise the tell-tale high-Q peaks in the response. Quite a shock I must say.
                            Thanks, Alan. You've established what I was angling at: whether preference for low or high Q was a matter of subjectively liking this rather than that, or accuracy of reproduction. So a low-Q 'speaker (and mic!) will reproduce a high-Q sound more accurately... That's interesting and counter-intuitive for the lay person. Surely, one would think, if I want to hear the brash resonances of a rock band, I need a speaker that is also brashly resonant. (I know there's a different thread on this.)

                            As to why people would want massively high-Q 'speakers, this intuition, propogated time and time again by the hi-fi press in their distinctions between a 'speaker's capacity to "rock" or not, is probably one reason. The other is more difficult to express, and may be conveyed by a story of what has happened to alcohol levels in wine over the past 30 years.

                            Thirty years ago, red wines (say, claret from Bordeaux) had alcohol levels of between 11 and 12.5%. With the influx of new world wines from hotter climates and a desire for more obvious fruit and softer tannins that make a wine drinkable soon after it is made, alcohol levels have increased to between 14.5 and 15.5%. That's close to port!

                            So the wine is now supposedly easier on the palate, it's softer and juicier. Only it's not. The added alcohol actually makes the wine more difficult to drink with food (the main aim of drinking wine), it makes it more difficult to drink more of it, and it finally deadens the palatte, not to speak of adding a whole unit per glass in the calculations of whether it is safe to drive home or not. And yet heavier alcoholic wines are what customers appear to want, despite their detrimental affects at every level except possibly a bit more rasperry flavour. Even clarets now contain 13-14% alcohol, and it's becomming impossible to get an Australian or South African Shiraz at less than 15%. I had a rose for lunch the other day that had 16% alcohol.

                            We seem to have a strange drive to convince ourselves that what we want or like is in fact what is horrible or bad for us. Go figure, as they say in the US. I've been wanting to establish a low-alcohol pressure group for wines. Perhaps they should give free membership to the low-Q club for 'speakers.

                            Cheers

                            David

                            Comment


                            • Re: Harbeth versus a more intense (high-Q) sound ...

                              Originally posted by David Schalkwyk View Post
                              ...We seem to have a strange drive to convince ourselves that what we want or like is in fact what is horrible or bad for us.
                              Before I comment I should just clarify one point .... when we say 'high-Q' or 'low-Q' this is a technical term relating to an electrical or mechanical systems behaviour at and around resonance frequencies. It should not be casually assumed that the subjective acoustic Sound Quality is necessarily bad with a high-Q speaker and necessarily good with a low-Q speaker. What we've been talking about is the intensity, the 'shrillness', the incisiveness of high-Q speakers. If you were tasked with designing a PA system for, say, the evacuation of an underground railway station, high-Q speaker with their punchy, attention-grabbing sound would be absolutely ideal and our trusty BBC-monitor low-Q sound so soft and relaxed that lives could be at risk. So, the speaker and the application have to be matched.

                              More general comment following your interesting notes on wine ..... (I didn't realise alcohol levels had increased, but then I am the sad, marginalised individual who likes Piesporter which you can rarely if ever find in restaurants or bars these days it is so far out of vogue...)

                              Two of the quirks of evolution that have brought us to the top of the food chain are curiosity and boredom. Curiosity about the environment (and people) around us and the boredom from repetition: we do like the buzz of things and people a-new. However, we are now being tantalised by a constant stream of tasty new goods, foods, clothes, music and sexy exciting people with one consequence: our nervous systems have withered through over-stimulation. Generation after generation we need more of a high just to get the juices going and we're hooked on this process. Just to think how one hundred years ago the Victorians could get a real high from a musical soiree around the piano with a few conservatively dressed friends!
                              Alan A. Shaw
                              Designer, owner
                              Harbeth Audio UK

                              Comment


                              • Re: Harbeth versus a more intense (high-Q) sound ...

                                Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                                (I didn't realise alcohol levels had increased, but then I am the sad, marginalised individual who likes Piesporter which you can rarely if ever find in restaurants or bars these days it is so far out of vogue...)
                                One of the good things about German Riesling is that they've always had very low alcohol levels. In part that's because there's not enough sun to ripen them properly (i.e. produce lots of sugar in the berry), so they tend to be softer and sweeter, but with enough crisp acidity to balance the sugars. They sometimes have alcohol levels as low as 10.5%, and the really sweet ones can go down as low as 9%. These wines don't rock, but they're wonderfully rich, subtle, and give immense amounts of pleasure, just like Harbeths!

                                David

                                Comment

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