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Mini-monitor doubts started by a Spendor demo.

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  • #16
    I have actually compared the Spendors to the Harbeths, in a manner of speaking, although it was some years ago. A new agent for Spendor delivered the 3/5as for me to try in my system when I was looking for some mini monitors influenced by the BBC. I tried them out for about a week, but was very disappointed. (I was wanting to replace some middle-of-the-road Martin Logan hybrid electrostatics. Why? I loved their transparency but couldn't bear the missmatch between bass and electrostatic drivers any more, so I decided to do without bass.) The Spendors were lack-lustre: slow, soft, uninvolving. I took a gamble (goodness knows what prompted me to do it after the experience with the Spendors) and ordered a pair of the pre-radial HP3s directly from Alan. They were wonderful--better than the MLs, I thought, and that was without the new Radial drivers: they had presence, punch, dynamics, clarity and musicality--everything lacking in the Spendors. So don't let a poor experience with the Spendors put you off, especially now that the HP3Rs are available.

    David

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    • #17
      Hi David,
      Your description of the Spendor fills in the gaps from my description, post no.6. I was very disappointed to say the least, especially as I had read some glowing reviews raising my expectations. Boring sums it up.

      I dem'd Harbeth to a customer just last week who, the previoius day, had heard the Spendors. He was knocked out and ordered a pair of P3ESR. Job done !!!

      David

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      • #18
        Nice to have it confirmed again that i was not the only one who found the S3/5Rs too warm and soft. Seems to be a pattern emerging. I still find it quite shocking that the Spendors managed to pull off this trick on the end of a Naim CD5i/Nait 5i system!

        At the moment I am still enjoying my N-Sats (at least the S3/5Rs served to give me a new respect for the N-Sats, which was not the intention but a positive outcome nonetheless) but I still want to explore the 'limits' of a small infinite-baffle box. I don't mean volume limits or dynamic limits or bass limits. No. My 'quest' is for the best I can get - affordably - in terms of presence and 'thereness' and immediacy (goodness I am bad at this! I will never be a reviewer). Imagine listening - as I do - to the BBC Drama CDs of the recent 'Complete George Smiley' series. One of the adaptations is 'A Murder of quality' and stars Simon Russell-Beale and Geoffrey Palmer. There are a number of conversations between their two characters in different acoustic environments like Smiley's flat and Fielding's study (with coal fire spitting in the background) and this is all faithfully portrayed on my Naim NSats in way that is profoundly different to the old Rega R3s I had until before last Christmas. It became so much more 'intimate' as if you were almost really 'there' with the protagonists.

        I now want a speaker that will refine this difference further and take the 'almost' out of the last sentence from my previous paragraph.

        You see, for me it is not all about 'slam' and cavernous bass and 'fireworks' but the suspension of disbelief. Closing the eyes and finding (with a good recording) that some clever so-and-so had worked out how to make the size of my living room shrink and expand from a study to a pub to the open air to the inside of George Smiley's Rover 2000 to...... etc (hopefully you get it even if from my lame attempt to explain what I mean). It is not just a matter of a 'holographic' image, because that in itself can just manifest itself as a hifi artifact that gives the game away by distracting attention to itself. It is simply being there in the same way you are 'there' with a good book or 'there' with good acting and the artifice or technology just disappears.

        Comment


        • #19
          Originally posted by TSH59 View Post
          At the moment I am still enjoying my N-Sats (at least the S3/5Rs served to give me a new respect for the N-Sats, which was not the intention but a positive outcome nonetheless) but I still want to explore the 'limits' of a small infinite-baffle box. I don't mean volume limits or dynamic limits or bass limits. No. My 'quest' is for the best I can get - affordably - in terms of presence and 'thereness' and immediacy (goodness I am bad at this! I will never be a reviewer).

          You see, for me it is not all about 'slam' and cavernous bass and 'fireworks' but the suspension of disbelief. Closing the eyes and finding (with a good recording) that some clever so-and-so had worked out how to make the size of my living room shrink and expand from a study to a pub [...] It is simply being there in the same way you are 'there' with a good book or 'there' with good acting and the artifice or technology just disappears.
          As someone equally inept at using hi-fi adjectives, I can really appreciate your down-to-earth description!

          Disclaimer:

          Before I offer my comments, I should probably warn you that I'm relatively new to the hi-fi game. You can view that in one of two ways:

          (1) I don't know what I'm talking about (true, to an extent)
          (2) I have not yet been contaminated with excessive hi-fi BS

          Anyway, I currently have the P3ESR paired with the Naim Nait 5i/CD5i combo that you mentioned. Although I can't claim to listen to BBC Drama, my requirements were/are very similar to yours. I tend to value a natural, organic presentation that is highly musical. Like yourself, I think the best systems are the ones that allow you to feel the music - ones that actually take you to the concert/venue (or, rather, take the concert/venue to you). Being relatively young has also given me a great appreciation for affordability!

          Given your requirements, I really do think the P3ESR would be an excellent fit. What surprised me most about the P3ESRs were their ability to realistically reproduce vocals. Seriously. It's almost uncanny how realistic they sound. They are so good, in fact, I really can't imagine any other speaker sounding better (at least not in the same price range). Next, the P3ESRs perform admirably with a variety of musical genres - I've tried everything from folk to rock and I've never been disappointed. At first, I thought the bass was a bit underwhelming, but with sufficient burn-in time, the P3ESRs really come into their own. I know AS may disagree with the burn-in period, but I definitely noticed a difference after a month of use. Although the P3ESRs are amazing in their own right, there really is something special about the Naim/Harbeth combo. I have yet to hear any comparably priced system that comes close to achieving this quality of sound.

          Finally, if that's not enough to convince you, consider the 'affordability factor'. Yes, Harbeths are rather expensive up front (be honest!), but they do retain a remarkably high resale value - not that you would want to sell them. Also, I find that most Harbeth owners remain Harbeth owners. In this respect, try to think of it as an investment.

          To put the point more forcefully, I willingly ate rice/pasta, almost exclusively, for a full month in order to afford the P3ESRs. I would have to be mad to do that for mediocre speakers (but only half-mad for truly exceptional speakers). I hope this alleviated some of your worries, but again, take it with a grain of salt.

          Do let us know how everything turns out!

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          • #20
            I ate rice and pasta to afford P3ESR ...

            Originally posted by jferreir View Post
            To put the point more forcefully, I willingly ate rice/pasta, almost exclusively, for a full month in order to afford the P3ESRs.
            We hare at Harbeth were shocked to read the level of commitment you showed and just wanted to say "thank you" and welcome to the Harbeth family.
            Harbeth PR,
            Harbeth UK

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            • #21
              Slight setback today.

              I am trying to arrange a demo of some P3ESRs in London in a couple of weeks time. KJ West One are listed (by Harbeth) as a dealer and I could conveniently combine a nice day out in london with a demo. That was the plan.

              I tried calling KJW1 on both of their two telephone numbers on a few occasions throughout business hours today, but both numbers were constantly engaged all day. Combined with the 'holes' in their not very well updated website I am wondering if they are still operating.

              Maybe the KJW1 website is out-of-date (along with the contact numbers) or maybe they were actually busy on the phone all day.

              I have found out that there is a dealer in Guildford (en route to London from my place) who list Harbeth speakers, but they don't list P3ESRs and I cannot find them on the Harbeth website as an official UK dealer so I think I will leave them alone rather than take any chances.

              Comment


              • #22
                UK dealers and availability

                KJ are most definitely alive - or they certainly were a day or two ago when I overheard them place another order. The currently active dealers are listed on the Harbeth website.

                I'm not sure whether it is good news or not - I think in these difficult economic times that it must be read as such - but our order book is now 100% full to mid March 2011. Some customers have orders far beyond that. Now, I've said that we have - and will - keep a capacity in reserve for UK sales which are entirely unplanned, ad hoc and impossible to predict by model or veneer. But even that has now crept out to about four weeks turnaround. The upturn in the UK market this past year has been most remarkable. But we have decided, to protect our existing dealers and minimise overall lead times that we will not take-on as formal dealers any new UK outlets. So please don't expect to see any expansion of the dealer base. Those we have are generating an order level that we can just cope with in reasonable response time and we very much appreciate their hard work and customer service.
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

                Comment


                • #23
                  and thank you Alan, Andy and the team for such great speakers. If the speakers weren't so good, we wouldn't be able to sell them.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                    ...

                    I'm not sure whether it is good news or not - I think in these difficult economic times that it must be read as such - but our order book is now 100% full to mid March 2011. Some customers have orders far beyond that. Now, I've said that we have - and will - keep a capacity in reserve for UK sales which are entirely unplanned, ad hoc and impossible to predict by model or veneer. But even that has now crept out to about four weeks turnaround. The upturn in the UK market this past year has been most remarkable. ...
                    I think this is fantastic news but it doesn't altogether surprise me. I've said it before, but I think one consequence of the economic upheavals of the past couple of years is that people have become focused not only on spending less, but also spending smarter, and that means among other things getting off the merry-go-round and investing in real longterm quality. That is Harbeth to a T.

                    My only question (and I know the past history, and therefore the reluctance to overcommit), is there ever any point at which Harbeth decides to "bite the bullet" and invest in more capacity? Or perhaps take on a licencee? Or have a separate facility e.g. for driver manufacturing, to increase capacity? Having a one-year order book is mighty impressive, but surely there's got to be a point at which you're comfortable that the market will absorb a bit more production. Or are the risks simply too great?

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Given the nature of the Radial technology, the finite amount of raw material to make it, and the painstaking 'recipe' and production of Radial, then having a 'licensee' could be disastrous (even assuming it was remotely possible.)

                      From what I understand the Radial raw material production is an unrepeatable process (due to some of the ingredients being impossible to ever make again.) When it's gone, its gone. In Alan's position I would never let the stuff go out to someone 'outside' the Harbeth team. (More likely to mess it up).

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by TSH59 View Post
                        Given the nature of the Radial technology, the finite amount of raw material to make it, and the painstaking 'recipe' and production of Radial, then having a 'licensee' could be disastrous (even assuming it was remotely possible.)
                        Well, wouldn't that depend on what they were doing? Back in the day, there were a number of producers of the LS/35a, for example, and they all seemed to be capable of assembling them to a reasonable standard.

                        Besides, almost anything could be disastrous. Implementation is everything.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Eric, who wants a 'reasonable' standard?

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Precious RADIAL™ and the sales process

                            This is a very interesting (to me) thread and you've raised some interesting questions and observations.

                            We have, as noted, been at this commercial point before exactly twenty years ago (as I discussed here recently) and I'm extremely reluctant to double-guess the next twist of the economic cycle. After all, if governments couldn't have foreseen the economic turbulence that touches every one of us as citizens and taxpayers, I think that it's remarkably arrogant of me to sit down and map out our future, and hence our overhead structure. It's overheads that kills businesses - many perfectly good, respected audio brands have closed or changed hands because the overheads (and/or director's remunerations) have been disproportionate for what is most definitely a non-essential product as all hi-fi is.

                            Today I arranged a sack of the RADIAL™ cone material to the moulder and reminded him that we cannot waste even a single gramme. Even the chap who actually does the moulding on the shop floor is acutely aware of the value of the base material - any cones that he lifts from the injection mould tool that are slightly misshapen or otherwise unusable are ground down and added back into the hopper. That's yet another advantage of injection moulding the RADIAL™ cones; the traditional vacuum forming process, when cones are made from thin sheet (called film), means that any dud cones are completely useless and have to be scrapped because the moulded film cannot be reused.

                            Part of the boom (but only part) has been the success of the P3ESR. It was obvious to me as the most severe critic of what we produce that this was going to be a rip-roaring success, based on the actual product performance and without the oxygen of publicity. To my slight disappointment, back last spring when the design was finished, I made our key export customers aware of the impending launch and urged them to place early, adequate and sustained orders to be sure they had the stock to meet the demand. Some did. Some waited. Some didn't react. And now, entirely predictably, there are significant differences in availability of the P3ESR across the globe. We are "order takers", not "order getters", and it is not and never has been our role to twist orders out of customers. We are entirely reactive to orders arriving and leave being our distributors alone to proactively manage their local markets about which they are in intimate contact. This surely must be the best way to run a business - the orders we have reflect what our distributors truly believe that they can sell without a molecule of sales pressure from us. We don't have a sales operation - we have a production department who very gratefully receive sales orders daily from our team of dealers.

                            As one of our overseas distributors told me on the phone this week Harbeth is in a completely different class of commercial operation to any brand he has ever dealt with - no pressure, no hassle, no cajoling, no targets. We just save our energy for making the product and doing our very best to deliver a quality, long lasting product on time.
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              A 'reasonable standard' about sums it up. Have you compared the various brands of LS3/5A ? They weren't all of the same quality. IMO

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                I think Alan is wise not to over-stretch his resources. Most experts agree that the first rule of a successful business is to keep overheads low. I have seen many Hi-Fi companies over the years, disappear when they stepped up production, took on larger premises and employed more staff. Then when the downturn came, they simply couldn't survive.

                                None of my customers complain about waiting for a pair of Harbeth speakers. All good things are worth waiting for.

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