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Harbeth Monitor 40.1 specific

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  • S100 to Harbeth upgrade

    The first reaction you will feel is why did I wait so long to replace the Spendor's. I cannot speak audiophile terms but this Harbeth post sums it up perfectly:

    "The M40.1 is as clean as a whistle, with tight, deep, punchy bass that only appears when it's needed. Unlike a lot of large speakers it doesn't constantly drone and boom, just gives you a kick when called for. Naturally, the mid and top are as good as it gets. IMO, these are one of the very best speakers available and should be on every enthusiast's short-list".

    I have long coveted Harbeth's but the budget was not there. I first heard the 40 at a dealer friend who bought them and whose ears I trust. He used DSP for the bass problem in his home. I was struck by how similar the 40's looked to the Spendor SP-100. I was very close to asking him for a deal on a pair but I waited instead. Am I ever glad I did. My hat is off to Alan Shaw for all of his hard work on the 40.1. Again, these were out of my budget but a pair appeared on a used site citing minimal use so without blinking I bought them sight unheard. Art Dudley's review in Stereophile helped things along also but the skirmish that occured between John Atkinson and Alan Shaw did not deter me.

    I have long believed that you treat the room first as you can see in my pictures. What you see in the pictures for the ASC Tube Traps was a lot of work. When I immigrated from Canada to California I carted 4 Tube Traps with me. I met a person through a local ad that had 66 for sale. My wife and I recovered many that you see in the pictures. There is no bass problem here and I should note that in the back corners of the pictures you can see a small subwoofer. I used two REL Storm III's to augment the bass of the Spendors to good effect.

    With the 40.1 I knew that I could remove the subwoofers, relegate them to home theater duties, and use the 40.1 full range. This did not disappoint.

    One thing that really struck me with the 40.1 is how much easier they are to drive compared to the Spendor SP-100. I can tell by the volume control on my pre-amp and playing very familiar recordings. Although I received a great deal on mine my first reaction after a day was the 40.1 was worth every penny on full list price here in the USA. They are that good and you will be thrilled.


    Originally posted by Haddock View Post
    Very nice .... i've ordered the M40.1 s very recently and should get them by the end of november.

    What are your first impressions of the Harbeths, coming after SP-100's?

    Comment


    • S100 to Harbeth upgrade

      Thank you for the comments ... i'm not surprised you waited so long to replace the Spendor's, as i took me 15 years now to decide to go for the Harbeth M40.1's, my Spendor S-100 still sounding so good, so musically involving, that they put to shame most hi end speakers i have listened recently. I guess the Spendor S-100's were not Component of the year in Japan, Diapason d'or in France, and Dudley's reference speakers for so long for no reason, while even Martin Colloms thought they had hidden depths.

      I should receive my Harbeth M40.1's today or tomorrow, and i'm thrilled but also a bit scared as i can not really imagine how they could be better still than my S-100's, which by the way i found easy to drive (they look like your SP100's but are they exactly the same?).

      I switched to the Harbeth because i saved up for the eventual replacement of my Spendor's, still sounding great but they won't live forever and there are also some signs of ageing ....

      Comment


      • S100 to Harbeth upgrade

        I have a pair of Spendor S100's and have directly compared them to Harbeth speakers. To me, and I mean this in the kindest way, the S100 seems less alive than Harbeth speakers. Dynamics seem more limited, etc. The comparison only took a short time, so perhaps I jumped to conclusion but I have not wanted to return to the S100's since.

        John

        Comment


        • Coloration and a personal journey

          Originally posted by John Geisen View Post
          ...To me, and I mean this in the kindest way, the S100 seems less alive than Harbeth speakers. Dynamics seem more limited, etc. The comparison only took a short time
          I think what you are referring to is that difficult-to-grasp concept of loudspeaker coloration.

          A speaker can be smooth and well integrated, can have a well controlled on and off axis response, can go loud, no obvious bands of excessive energy, have acceptable efficiency but despite all these positives, can sound foggy. Since all loudspeaker listening is a substitute for the real thing, many casual listeners can accept the veiling of a conventional loudspeaker provided that the nothing nasty jumps-out from the overall presentation.

          The mental anxiety and the need to change to a Harbeth commences when the listener hears a speaker where the conventional veiling or fog has been removed and then switches back to the conventional speaker*. That's when he appreciates for the first, shocking time what has been buried under the fog that he's tolerated for years or decades. But there is no going back - once the listener has experienced more clarity, higher resolution and absence of masking (from the Harbeth RADIAL? cone compared to conventional speaker cones) he has to have it.

          Which is why once a listener finally gravitates to Harbeth, there is no upgrade path except to another Harbeth model. This gravitation is a personal journey which can take thirty or more years depending upon many factors and cannot be hurried. You have to hear the absence of coloration to be able to make the metal contrast with a normal, colored speaker. You have to replace your spectacles when an eye-test reveals how accustomed you've becomed to slightly blurred vision. We can't hurry that process, nor should we. That's why word of mouth is the most effective communication channel for our customers.

          *The shock of borrowing and hearing a pair of the early Harbeth Mk4s is the reason I'm here today. Having been used to the smooth but lacklustre sound of another speaker the shock of hearing what I had been missing led me to understand all about Dudley Harwood's concepts and hence, to taking-over the Harbeth company in 1986.
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • Re: Harbeth Monitor 40.1 specific

            We look forward to your reaction when the M40.1's are settled in their new home.


            Originally posted by Haddock View Post
            I should receive my Harbeth M40.1's today or tomorrow, and i'm thrilled but also a bit scared as i can not really imagine how they could be better still than my S-100's, which by the way i found easy to drive (they look like your SP100's but are they exactly the same?).

            I switched to the Harbeth because i saved up for the eventual replacement of my Spendor's, still sounding great but they won't live forever and there are also some signs of ageing ....

            Comment


            • M40.1 - opening the cartons, warming up.

              When they arrive - and I think they'll be on your doorstep tomorrow - do carefully inspect the cartons upon arrival and be sure to sign the driver's log with your signature and the word "Unexamined" right next to it. Far better - if the driver will wait - is to open the cartons should there be anything suspicious (such as a puncture hole) and then, get him to record your findings. Again, if in doubt take photos because this strengthens our argument with them in the case of a dispute. Of course, this is all very rare but best to be prepared.

              The M40.1 are very heavy. You should sit the speaker carton on the short end and carefully remove the tape and staples, remove the extra polystyrene protection from the long panels and slide the speaker still in its blue packing caps out of the carton. As the weight far exceeds the European handling limit you really should ask for the assistance of another person beyond this point as you will find manhandling one M40.1 on its own very difficult and potentially dangerous.

              Finally, once they are in position, leave them to warm-up to room temperature over an hour or two and then they're ready to go. As with all Harbeths we really don't think that there is any 'run-in' period, other than stabilising the temperature.
              Alan A. Shaw
              Designer, owner
              Harbeth Audio UK

              Comment


              • Monitor 40.1 have arrived!

                Hello,

                i set up the M40.1's yesterday evening . As i shall receive my Skylan stands next week only, i put them on my dedicated Spendor S-100 wood stands, which were turned by 90 degrees, as they have the same depth as the Harbeth's width (430 mm). They are just 3 or 4 inches to high, but otherwise the match is good .... i listened to my favorite cd's until very late into the night, i was so drawn into the music. For the sake of being complete, let me mention that i use a complete YBA 1 eletronics and cables system , and also EAR acute cd with nos Siemens tubes plus LFD zero integrated).

                So, the king is dead (Spendor S-100), long live the king (Harbeth M40.1)!

                I don't intend to be disrespectful, quite the contrary, when i write that my first impression was "these sound just like my Spendor's, just as lively, engaging with great timbre and tonality, but more refined, revealing and even less colored". It's a bit like 2 bottles of the same great wine, but one comes from a better vintage ...

                It believe that it is a feat to improve on the S-100's without losing their musical magic and their engaging way with music, making the musicians intentions and play obvious and so enjoyable ... none of the speakers i auditioned at length this year to replace eventually my ageing S-100's came close (BW 802, Wilson Watt/Puppy, Avalon Eidolon, Kef 207 ...), except perhaps the Quad 2905, but somewhat thin and sterile sounding, and the Sonus Faber Amati Homage, but then again, it was less coherent, balanced and neutral than the Harbeth.

                Here, out of the box, on less than perfect stands and with no tweaking, the music is there in all it's glory, and the sonics are as good as it gets. It's bit artificial to chop the sound/music in categories, as the whole is more important than the parts but the highs are delicate, refined and have tremendous harmonic richness and impact. Cymbals and harpsichord are gorgeous, there's no unwanted sibilance on female voices.

                The mids are just fabulous and i understand why Harbeth is so proud of its RADIAL unit: there's a tremendous resolution that's so warm and real, not in your face, not artificial but deeply rooted in the sound and in the music. Medium and high piano notes, voices, sax, flute have a resolution, texture and harmonic richness that is simply unbelievable.

                The combination of tweeter and mid unit make up for perfection in the attack, decay, fundamentals, and gives a tremendous harmonic richness, tone and natural timbre and texture, just like real instruments and voices. The music and the instruments have the rawness of live reproduction (trumpets and sax have a rich raspiness, piano has the right attack, fundamentals and decay, with perfect timbre and tonality), just like the S-100's, but with more refinement, balance, resolution, richness and not the barest trace of coloration. Spatial reproduction is on par with the Spendor, that is exceptionaly natural in its perspectives ...

                Bass level is well balanced, it reaches a bit deeper than the S-100's, is a bit more powerful and weighty, not too damped which is a good thing, but not quite as precise, tight, tuneful, plain, tender and textured at the same time .... it seems a bit slower, with a bit less clarity and pitch rightness, less overtones and richness. That big unit needs probably more time to unfold its strengths but the quality of bass of the S-100 is also reference standard as well in my opinion.

                So, you can imagine that i'm as happy as can be, and my wife had the exact same impressions right away.

                We thank Mr Shaw and Harbeth for allowing these speakers to be available to the music lover!

                Comment


                • Re: Harbeth Monitor 40.1 specific

                  Haddok,

                  Wow!!... I'm glad that you and wife are very happy. It's good to know that your wife also share the love for music... wish that all our wife do.

                  Please post pictures of your set-up and thanks for sharing.

                  Comment


                  • My M40.1s - day two report

                    I'll post some pictures when i have sorted out how to transfer the pictures to the message attachement ...

                    While at work yesterday, i let my system play the whole day on the repeat mode at moderate volume. I was again drawn into music for the best part of the night. My wife is just as enthusiastic about it and it's the first time this happens. Music and sound is even better than what i reported "out of the box", after a long transport with speakers resting on their side in their packaging. It was now even more detailed, coherent, lively and the bass improved notably. There is now a sort of juicyness, fruitness to the timbres when required, and brass is even more raspy, with delicious bite and body at the same time...

                    Listening to some lieder was breathtaking, as if the artists were in the room! Just the right proportions between piano and singer, with a great interplay, perfect timbre and tonality on both piano and voice. Had some Barri?re cello and double bass ... very expressive and quick, with the right amount of attack, body and wood quality to these instruments ... the music bounces!

                    Carreras's voice in Ariel Ramirez' Misa Creola brought tears to my eyes and vocals in general are absolutely fabulous in their naturalness and expressivity. The decay and atmosphere on gregorian and madrigals make you think you're there ... then i hit Coltrane's Ole and Transition, just fabulous as well ... the trumpet coming out suddenly, blaring, almost crying in Ole's first part is to die for.

                    Some of Elvis's gospel numbers made me think i was in heaven or he was alive again ... unbelievable. Same with Jimmy Jones, the great bass singer from the Harmonizing Four singing Motherless Child and Go down Moses ... wow. I will have to listen to the Statesmen and the Blackwood Brothers this evening...

                    I ended with some Mingus and Ricardo del Fra's walking bass playing ... perfect body and resonance from the instrument, with a "plain" bass quality added to the special texture.

                    I can't wait to get back home and listen to music again tonight, as i have the impression to somehow rediscover my favourite music.

                    Comment


                    • Re: My M40.1s - day two report

                      Originally posted by Haddock View Post
                      ... very expressive and quick, with the right amount of attack, body and wood quality to these instruments ....

                      Wow..I am not alone...I always emphasize to friend the wood quality from Harbeth you had mentioned... I call it "wooden timbre"....that give the exellent presence feeling of the performance..
                      "Bath with Music"

                      Comment


                      • Re: My M40.1s - day two report

                        Originally posted by keithwwk View Post
                        Wow..I am not alone......I always emphasize to friend ... I call it "wooden timbre"....that give the excellent presence feeling of the performance..
                        This is absolutely intentional in our design process. It is the direct consequence of using the BBC's 'thin wall cabinet technique' where the cabinet is treated as if it is a musical instrument. That is, it can be carefully teased into harmonious correlation with the lower tones in the music, yet be inert in the middle and upper tones. The exact opposite in fact of a rigid cabinet.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • Some feedback on the M40.1 after a week

                          I had one last listening session with my previous Spendor S-100's on the week end, and it's now even more obvious than before that they do not possess - by a significant margin - the M40.1's clarity, accuracy, vibrancy, neutrality and richness of tone and timbre. TheSP100 are very engaging and subtle musically though, with a lot of life and contrasts, and are of the M40.1's kind - not sounding like most other hi end brands - if not as accomplished, mature and refined. I must say that i had tweaked these S-100's (driver tightening adjusted by ear) and after that i remember that they sounded more lively than from the factory or than other s-100's and sp-100's that i have heard over the years in different set ups, or at my original dealer.

                          The Harbeth M40.1 are a delight and i'm amazed each time at their absolutely unrivalled combination of richness with accuracy and clarity of tone. It's a fantastic package, incredibly lifelike and natural.

                          Mr. Shaw must really be in love with the human voice, the piano, trumpets/brass, flutes and saxophones, their sound and music playing has no peers that i know of, it's simply as close to the real thing as it gets ... listening to various saxes is a revelation. And i forget the cello and double bass, just so real as well!

                          Yesterday evening, i could not help notice Iona Brown's Stradivarius when listening to Vivaldi's winter, and Biondi's Amati on the same piece.... so obvious and musically meaningful. Same with different piano's, it takes a whole different meaning.

                          So, thank you very much Mr. Shaw and Harbeth for helping me take that difficult upgrade step from the S-100's. The M40.1 are also incredible value. Couldn't be happier and more satisfied and i wonder how Harbeth will ever manage to better these one day ...

                          Comment


                          • Re: Some feedback on the M40.1 after a week

                            Originally posted by Haddock View Post
                            ...Mr. Shaw must really be in love with the human voice, the piano, trumpets/brass, flutes and saxophones, their sound and music playing has no peers that i know of, it's simply as close to the real thing as it gets ... listening to various saxes is a revelation. And i forget the cello and double bass, just so real as well!............
                            Can not agree more...
                            "Bath with Music"

                            Comment


                            • Re: Harbeth Monitor 40.1 specific

                              i wonder how Harbeth will ever manage to better these one day ...
                              Thay could always knock a couple of grand off the price!



                              Kidding

                              Comment


                              • Re: Harbeth Monitor 40.1 specific

                                This query is for Alan,

                                I have owned the SHL5 for a few years and have sold them off & upgraded to M40.1, the sound of the 40.1 is good in many areas BUT one important area (for me at least) is lacking, that is the drive & attack which in turn affected the pace, rhythm & timing to certain degree! This was not so apparent on the SHL5s. My local dealer have informed me that the midrange driver is sealed off in it's own enclosure. I suspect that this may be one of the factors limiting the drive factor. He has asked me to toe in the speaker further (presently in a slight toe in position) & to plug up one of the bass ports on each speaker. The reason given by him, will tighten up the bass output & free up the mid range driver even further.

                                Listening position, speakers are 6 feet apart, ears on tweeter level at 6 feet away. The 40.1s have been only driven for 6 hours so far..does it really need more running in time? I have always reckoned that fully run in speakers will only give a smoother response!! I am a little disappointed that these speakers will not present rock music that well. I am using Dynavector 17D3, Naim Aro, Linn LP12 (Full Funk Firm Upgradeds), Naim 52/Supercap/135 monoblocks, Naim NAca5 speaker cables. Please advise!
                                Regards.

                                Comment

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