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Since its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition has been to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless. Knowledge is human independent and replicatable. However, we live in new world where thanks to social media, 'facts' have become flexible and personal. HUG operates in that real world.

HUG has two approaches to contributor's Posts. If you have, like us, a scientific mind and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual area of HUG is for you. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and can be easily understood and tried with negligible technical knowledge.

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New Harbeth P3ESR

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  • Re: New Harbeth P3ESR

    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
    Why would this be a concern to you? Did anyone hear this effect in the P3ES? I use whatever tools and techniques I have available to create a holistic, involving, natural sound regardless of how the thing measures in the laboratory.
    Alan, I'm sure it will not pass through the American Audio Authority, J.A. will give just a restricted recomandation...

    Comment


    • Re: New Harbeth P3ESR

      We do what we believe to be correct, drawing on decades of speaker design experience. Others may indeed have opinions about this or that.

      Visitors to art galleries can and do comment on what they see. Some pictures they like; some they don't. That is to be expected. But it is a rare visitor who has actually picked up a paint brush, mixed some paints and stood in front of a completely blank canvass and created something of lasting value out of nothing.
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

      Comment


      • Re: New Harbeth P3ESR

        Originally posted by A.S. View Post
        We do what we believe to be correct, drawing on decades of speaker design experience. Others may indeed have opinions about this or that.

        Visitors to art galleries can and do comment on what they see. Some pictures they like; some they don't. That is to be expected. But it is a rare visitor who has actually picked up a paint brush, mixed some paints and stood in front of a completely blank canvass and created something of lasting value out of nothing.
        Alan, this was missing in my previous post:

        http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Smiley.svg

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        • Harbeth P3ESR v ESL63?

          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
          Why would this be a concern to you? Did anyone hear this effect in the P3ES? I use whatever tools and techniques I have available to create a holistic, involving, natural sound regardless of how the thing measures in the laboratory.
          Most of the reviewers of earlier P3 models have noticed it, though no-one disliked it. It is part of what makes the P3 rather special.

          Despite having lived with 1st gen P3s for a few months, I only noticed the effect a few days ago in a direct comparison with Quad ESL63s. However a few weeks ago when I had the opportunity to hear P3ESRs the sound was rather different from what I had expected - at the time I put it down to different room and electronics. This comparison with the Quads have set me thinking that it is more that my expectations need reprogramming, and what I should expect is a good bit closer to the sound of electrostatics!

          But these are my perceptions... and in hi-fi land perception and truth can be quite different things. Hence the desire to ask someone who knows! The underlying reason is that for some months we have been saving towards purchase of P3ESRs, and the above Quads have been unexpectedly offered at a price that would come within our budget (spoiled for choice, I believe this dilemma is called).

          Of course in an ideal world I'd have them both...

          P.S. JA loved the P3ES-2

          Comment


          • Harbeth P3ESR v ESL63?

            For what it's worth, in the early 90s QUAD's Ross Walker and I found ourselves staying at the same hotel in Tokyo. Over afternoon tea I asked him if he'd supply me with a pair of the 63s at a reasonable price upon my return to the UK. He agreed and they duly arrived. I excitedly opened the cartons.

            I'm sorry to say that they proceeded no further than the office, and never made it home. The reality of what I perceived as an extreme lack of high frequency detail and shallow 'drum skin' bass was just not for me. Probably the undamped office environment was a factor, but I was used to crisp, detailed harmonics which these just couldn't give me. The disappointment was immense. I understand that the later models have reset the HF balance in favour of the modern brighter sound.

            You must audition before you buy as electrostats are specialist loudspeakers that behave in a completely different and non-intuitive way compared to 'point-source' conventional coned speakers. The room is hyper-critical to the overall effect, and of course, the internal parts do age. Whist I can say with a high degree of confidence that the P3ESR will work in all rooms, large or small, undamped or heavily furnished with all electronics, all types of music and will sound wonderful today and in ten years, that cannot be assumed for a dipole electrostatic. It's a totally different animal, and as a dipole has no direct analogue in nature. It is an acquired taste.
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK

            Comment


            • Re: New Harbeth P3ESR

              The P3ESR has great 'prescence' . Does that qualify ?

              Comment


              • Re: Harbeth P3ESR v ESL63?

                For the last 20+ years I've been a certifiable panel speaker nut, despite all the associated joys of room placement for dipole speakers.

                For all that time I've had small Magneplanars (the SMGa model), but must admit that it was quite a challenge getting them to work well in a British living room. Despite hearing many impressive systems with box speakers, the Maggies were just the job for long listening sessions - open, unfatiguing, wonderful midrange, scale and presence. However hearing a Quad system circa 1989 (66/606/ESL63s) left a lasting impression - it did all of these things, only better in most regards. Until quite recently, that is the only setup that has tempted me to change speakers.

                The Maggie chapter closed rather abruptly in September, when our four year old managed to tip one of them over, The next day I went to help a friend sort out his deceased uncle's hi fi gear, which is where the [previous generation] P3s were discovered. Maybe I have had a deprived childhood, but I didn't know that an enclosed speaker could sound so natural, uncoloured, and transparent.

                Not just that, but the midrange is even better than that of Maggies. The slight "presence" boost is certainly one of the reasons that I like the [previous generation] P3s, especially as it helps a lot with late-night listening. But it is something that one would need to bear in mind when evaluating other equipment, i.e. to avoid gear that has its own emphasis in that band.

                I have been able to listen to the ESL63s at home - I must say my first impression was one of disappointment (after all those years of expectation), tempered by the knowledge that the room setup was very sub-optimal and a suspicion that the amplifier might not have been up to the job. The areas where they outdid the [previous generation] P3s are pretty obvious - other than midrange detail which is limited by the old [previous generation] P3's polypropylene midbass, everything else falls into the category "you can't cheat the laws of physics".

                I suppose I need to look at this as a "can't go wrong either way" decision. However Mrs Honman's views on the subject are easy to guess...! For my part I try to understand the effect of the compromises made in each design so as to make an informed choice, to know in advance that it is possible to live with those limitations.

                Comment


                • Source size and panel speakers

                  Another thing about panel speakers that takes some getting used to (if ever) is the size of the source. A conventional cone loudspeaker produces sound from its bass/mid cone and nearby tweeter that are fused together and can be considered an (almost) point source. Certainly from 1m or so away. The coned loudspeaker regenerates the original instruments by reversing the microphone's role, by "blowing up" the sound waves that pressed onto the tiny microphone back into the size of the original instruments, in your listening room.

                  This is not at all true of a panel speaker. They radiate from all over the panel, and this may be considered a good or bad thing. If you are used to orchestral music in a middle-row or back hall seat it's not an issue as you are familiar with a wash of sound with few directional cues. But if you play a vocal track, this is a problem for a panel speaker; the singer's mouth is the size of the panel. My subconscious based on millions of years of evolution tells me that a real voice is a point sources and reject this huge overblown presentation as unnatural.
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK

                  Comment


                  • Re: Source size and panel speakers

                    Magnepan deal with this by using long thin tweeters. High-end models use ribbon tweeters (not my cup of tea, they demand high-powered and very clean sounding amplifiers), the entry-level models have a single panel with a tweeter section about 40mm wide along the full height of the panel (see pics).

                    Quad's solution for the 63s is the concentric rings on the stator, with a delay line between rings so that the wavefront produced by the speaker is an approximation to that produced by a point source located behind the panel. There is no such artifice on the ESL 57s, which have a separate treble panel.

                    Panels can image well, but the sweet spot gets ever smaller as the size of the treble radiating area increases.. and therein lies the rub (and the jokes about needing to have your head in a vice to get the best out of ESL 57s).

                    Magnepan have their own tweaks to enhance the illusion of "being there" - one is the rivet about 2/3 of the way up the panel (1.2m high) which spreads out the resonance frequencies and fakes a third dimension to the soundstage.

                    However one of the things that I've really appreciated about the [previous generation] P3s compared to panel speakers is that while the panel speakers are very "needy" when it comes to amplification (some combinations just don't work) these [previous generation - 1992, 6 ohm] P3s make music regardless of the electronics, and without masking the strengths and weaknesses of the other equipment.
                    Attached Files

                    Comment


                    • Re: Source size and panel speakers

                      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                      This is not at all true of a panel speaker. They radiate from all over the panel, and this may be considered a good or bad thing. If you are used to orchestral music in a middle-row or back hall seat it's not an issue as you are familiar with a wash of sound with few directional cues. But if you play a vocal track, this is a problem for a panel speaker; the singer's mouth is the size of the panel. My subconscious based on millions of years of evolution tells me that a real voice is a point source and reject this huge overblown presentation as unnatural.
                      Totally agree on that. That's why i was never brought into the panel sound. Probably i am used to the box sound but i still find that a well designed box speaker like Harbeth sounds more correct & natural.

                      Comment


                      • Re: Source size and panel speakers

                        Originally posted by honmanm View Post
                        ...one of the things that I've really appreciated about the [previous generation] P3s compared to panel speakers is that the latter are very "needy" when it comes to amplification... some combinations just don't work.
                        If you mean that the earlier P3ES(2) speakers needed a bigger, more powerful amplifier then this was true.

                        However, my design brief for the current P3ESR mandated that they must be easier to drive and usable with smaller amplifiers, yet achieve a similar or better efficiency and a smoother frequency response - a challenging balance of features. All these technical requirements and more were simultaneously achieved in the P3ESR. If you have a chance to audition the P3ESR please try to do so - I think you will be most agreeably shocked by the big box sound.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • Re: Source size and panel speakers

                          What I meant is that it's the panel speakers that drive one crazy with amplifier selection. Quads have a capacitive load with nasty impedance dips, Maggies have a nice flat non-reactive impedance - but it is low... 4 ohms in the case of the "small" ones!

                          The [previous generation] P3s are "early Shaws", the 6 ohm type with foam grilles. Haven't found an amp that doesn't agree with them. (I'l try to make my previous post clearer).

                          Comment


                          • Re: Source size and panel speakers

                            Originally posted by honmanm View Post
                            The [previous generation] P3s are "early Shaws", the 6 ohm type with foam grilles.
                            Actually, the previous generation P3-P3ES-ES2 were really nearer to being classified as 4 ohm speakers.
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

                            Comment


                            • Crossover frequency - high?

                              Dear Alan, looking at the impedance curves of my P3ESR, I think the crossover point is probably quite higher in frequency than P3ES2, maybe 4-4,5KHz. Is this true and does this contribute to the feeling that I am listening to a fantastic single driver speaker (the higher the crossover point the better, provided the woofer can reach up that high with good linearity)?

                              Comment


                              • Crossover frequency - high? And wavelength ...

                                Originally posted by Paris Kotsis View Post
                                ...I think the crossover point is probably quite higher in frequency than P3ES2, maybe 4-4,5KHz. Is this true and does this contribute to the feeling that I am listening to a fantastic single driver speaker ...
                                You cannot deduce the crossover frequency exactly from the impedance curve! As I recall, the crossover frequency is typical for Harbeth at about 3.5kHz.

                                Actually, about your second point that that a higher xover frequency may create a more holistic 'single driver' sound, actually the complete opposite is true! The reason is that at, say, 3.3kHz the wavelength of sound is 10cms. At 4.5kHz this becomes just 7.3cms. Now, a wavelength is equal to 360 degrees (a full cycle) so a small movement of your head - say 3.6 cms up or down - equates to a half wavelength or 180 degrees at 4.5kHz. And as we know, 180 degrees represents complete cancellation of sound between the bass unit and tweeter. As frequency lowers, the wavelength lengthens, so that small movements have a less significant effect.

                                But we have to strike a design compromise - if the crossover frequency is set too low, whilst this may help with the above issue, it introduces two others: it erodes the power handling of the tweeter's tiny voice coil and it operates the tweeter where it tends to 'bark' from too much cone motion. As with all matters concerning speaker design, the art is in knowing what to compromise on and what is of primary (sonic) importance.
                                Alan A. Shaw
                                Designer, owner
                                Harbeth Audio UK

                                Comment

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