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HUG - here for all audio enthusiasts

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.

Questions and Posts about, for example, 'does amplifier A sounds better than amplifier B' or 'which speaker stands or cables are best' are suitable for the Subjective Soundings area only, although HUG is really not the best place to have these sort of purely subjective airings.

The Moderators' decision is final in all matters and Harbeth does not necessarily agree with the contents of any member contributions, especially in the Subjective Soundings area, and has no control over external content.

That's it! Enjoy!

{Updated Oct. 2017}
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My new love....

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  • My new love....

    A couple months ago, I moved my P3ESRs into my smaller office and added M30.1s to my main listening room. I auditioned them briefly in a showroom and fell hard for them almost instantly -- primarily because I heard the same intangible qualities that make me love my P3s so much, only with greater weight and power. I doubt anyone needs to hear me offer up a steady stream of overused superlatives to describe my new M30.1s, so I instead want to note that when reading reviews of hi-fi speakers, there is a tendency of some reviewers to make excuses for the Harbeths, as if they need an explanation for why they sound as they do. The assumption on the part of some, I assume, is that hi-fi speakers should sound like hi-fi speakers -- capable of insane SPLs, overwhelming (and over-hyped) detail, and the ability to produce bass at depths and levels normally reserved for solid-fueled booster rockets at liftoff. I'm not sure if reviewing hi-fi gear makes one jaded to the way music actually sounds, or if modern "smile-curve" remastered CD reissues have given everyone the impression that extension and volume at the extremes of the frequency response range is desirable (let alone natural), but I've rarely heard actual live music that sounds like typical "hi-fi" systems or indeed many recordings.

    The last several orchestra concerts I've attended confirm that real musicians in real halls don't produce the kind of hyped low frequencies and boosted "air" frequencies that many recordings emphasize (and hi-fi systems try to exploit). My Harbeths (provided they're fed quality recordings) sound like real music. That said, they offer a universe of inner detail, depth and width, and the kind of tonal accuracy that I am particularly sensitive to (with good recordings, my 30.1s provide the "blatty" quality and weight to low brass I crave -- nay demand!)

    To each his own, surely, but it's not the first five minutes of listening the Harbeths were designed to dominate (as I suspect some hi-fi systems are designed to do); it's the hours and hours that follow. It's that overwhelming sense of being a party to an actual performance occurring in a real space. It's noticeable immediately surely, but it reveals itself more and more with each successive listening session. I call it "open eye" imaging: I don't have to close my eyes, suspend disbelief, and try to imagine myself in the room; turn the volume knob and -- bang -- they are there. I don't find myself trying to forensically examine each recording for heretofore inaudible details (not that my Harbeths haven't revealed many of those also). Instead, I sink into my chair and listen to music. There is no need to coldly catalogue the specific details revealed in each recording; the speakers knit together the audible information into a unified whole.

    I can't give any higher praise for a set of speakers. They're not larger-than-life, they are exactly life-sized. To my mind, that's the harder thing to accomplish. It's also the thing that makes Harbeths so coveted, I think. I know I covet mine!

  • #2
    Threewire, many thanks for your very interesting write up (and I TOTALLY understand where you are coming from with your accounts of some of the 'flavour of the month' speakers that could break glass from ten yards at the extreme of their high frequency range) - but oh how I wished that i had not read it!!

    I too currently have the fabulous P3ESR's that I liken to Dr Who's TARDIS - I am constantly amazed by what is able to come out from these tiny boxes! They are a masterclass in speaker design by Alan Shaw.

    However, for a few months now I have had thoughts to maybe listen to the M30.1 as these will then almost certainly be my last pair of speakers. All the things I have been considering of what the M30.1 could add to the mighty little P3's seem to be borne out in your account of them.

    Threewire, if I do end up listening to the M30.1 and Hi-Fi Dave 'relieves' me of my money, I shall hold you responsible ​​​​​​​

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    • #3
      Mike -- I'll gladly take some responsibility if you find yourself relieved of your money in support of a new pair of M30s, but in fairness I think the esteemed Mr. Shaw should bear the greater share! Glad you enjoyed the write-up. I'll be interested to hear what you end up doing.

      Comment


      • #4
        I agree with what's be said previously. There is something special about the Harbeth 'sound' which draws you in.
        As I visit live music venues, as well as attempting to achieve a good sound with my PA gear, I totally agree with the
        OP's view on Hi-Fi v. music.
        I was drawn in by the hype surrounding the LS3/5a and ended up with more than one pair.
        Only after living with the P3-ESRs did I appreciate the progress Harbeth had made.

        Comment


        • #5
          I did the same thing around six months ago THREEWIRE, and can produce the same superlatives you produce about the Harbeths. I use the P3-ESR for near field listening of solo- and small ensembles/chamber music. The bigger stuff like orchestral works, oratoria and opera on the M30.1 in the livingroom. But than I stumbled upon a new problem.... D/A conversion! Playing CD's is on both systems I have, as good as it can get. But I needed an extra Dac for the second set up. And that is where the trouble with what you call 'over-hyped' HiFi Sound began.

          Like you I want to hear a natural sound as close to the real instruments as possible, also when I listen to streamed music from my Mac. The old Dac I already own, does the job flawless (max 24 Bit/44.100KHz). Everything above can -in my view- be fed to the Hypers.
          So I began to audition several Dacs....... The problem I faced was that most of these damned (excusé le mot) Dac designers mess around in such a way that they 'colour' the sound in how they seem fit, using Gawd knows what kind of theories or algorithmes from the shelf. They add filters and/or juggle so much with the jitter bandwidth that they f**k up everything that in the end comes out of the merciless revealing Harbeths. How difficult can it be to build a D/A convertor that only does what it should do: convert signals in a no-nonsense way and pass it on 'as is'?

          (I'm sorry if I hi-jacked your topic. In that case the moderator can move it to a new topic, if this is an issue more people have.)

          Comment


          • #6
            I did the same thing as OP and Winfriend, since I use the P3ESRs in a small room for near field listening. The only difference is that I use the SHL5+ instead of the M30.1 in the living room for listening to bigger stuff. I also needed a DAC for my smaller system to accept streams from PC and Apple equipment. I opted for the TEAC UD-501 and couldn't be happier ever since. I don't think it colors the sound in any way, however it does have a few switchable filters. I don't hear a difference when I switch them to be honest, if there is one, it's very tiny. TEAC Dacs are not expensive and highly recommended by me.

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            • #7
              If all you need is a usb DAC, I can strongly recommend the ODAC. It is quite cheap ($149 in the US), and designed to be completely transparent, which I think it is. It certainly measures in an exemplary way: http://nwavguy.blogspot.nl/2012/04/odac-released.html If it has to be really cheap, the Behringer UCA 202 is another very good DAC (for the money: $30). The Behringer has a somewhat lower output, which may have its advantages with sensitive amplifiers). See here: http://nwavguy.blogspot.nl/2011/02/b...02-review.html

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by winfriend View Post
                I did the same thing around six months ago THREEWIRE, and can produce the same superlatives you produce about the Harbeths. I use the P3-ESR for near field listening of solo- and small ensembles/chamber music. The bigger stuff like orchestral works, oratoria and opera on the M30.1 in the livingroom. But than I stumbled upon a new problem.... D/A conversion! Playing CD's is on both systems I have, as good as it can get. But I needed an extra Dac for the second set up. And that is where the trouble with what you call 'over-hyped' HiFi Sound began.

                Like you I want to hear a natural sound as close to the real instruments as possible, also when I listen to streamed music from my Mac. The old Dac I already own, does the job flawless (max 24 Bit/44.100KHz). Everything above can -in my view- be fed to the Hypers.
                So I began to audition several Dacs....... The problem I faced was that most of these damned (excusé le mot) Dac designers mess around in such a way that they 'colour' the sound in how they seem fit, using Gawd knows what kind of theories or algorithmes from the shelf. They add filters and/or juggle so much with the jitter bandwidth that they f**k up everything that in the end comes out of the merciless revealing Harbeths. How difficult can it be to build a D/A convertor that only does what it should do: convert signals in a no-nonsense way and pass it on 'as is'?

                (I'm sorry if I hi-jacked your topic. In that case the moderator can move it to a new topic, if this is an issue more people have.)
                No worries -- happy to talk about DACs! In the main listening room with the M30s, I have the Sony HAP-Z1ES, which is more than just a DAC, but the heart of the unit is it's DSD up-sampling DAC. I can't speak to hearing the huge difference some claim between native DSD recordings and PCM, but the Sony sounds great on all sources. It does sound best when up-sampling everything to DSD, however. Take that for what it's worth.

                On the office system, I'm using the Schiit Bifrost Uber (no multi-bit upgrade...yet). The Schiit is not up-sampling. It plays everything in native resolution up to 24/192. It doesn't do DSD. I've also used Apogee DACs, as well as the onboard DAC in my old NAD C341i CD player. I've heard quite a few others. To my ears, the Sony is the clear winner. Highly resolving, engaging, great soundstage -- no flaws. The Schiit is amazing for the money I paid (around $350 USD). The use a direct-sale model, so that helps keep the price down. Slightly less resolving than the Sony. The Sony seems to allow the Harbeths to open up and reveal everything there. The Schiit is slightly veiled, but still highly musical and satisfying -- never heard anything at that price that competes. The Apogee DACs are fine, a click below the Schiit. The NAD is almost 20 years old and sounds it. Not a knock on NAD, it was entry-level 20 years ago, so it figures it would round out the bottom of my list.

                Never tried the TEAC, Milosz, but had considered it before settling on the Sony.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I,too, got off the try-another-speaker roundabout when I purchased the P3ESRs. May I recommend the Schiit Bifrost Multibit with the Saga preamp - quite extraordinary in natural sound quality. And very cost-effective - tremendous value. With them, the P3s absolutely disappear, and Claudio Arrau's magnificent Beethoven stands in 3D in the middle. Or Bill Evans' piano to the right, not speaker-bound, Scott LaFaro's bass to the left, not speaker-bound, and Paul Motian's kit energizing around and among, with true timbre. Simply amazing - best I've heard in 50 years pursuing sound good and true. But of course, being a creature of habit, I wonder about the Compact 7 ES3, and what a pair of those would bring to the table...

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