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"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound from microphone to ear, achievable by recognising and controlling the numerous confounding variables that exist along the audio chain. The Harbeth designer's objective is to make loudspeakers that contribute little of themselves to the music passing through them.

Identifying system components for their sonic neutrality should logically proceed from the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance, since deviations from a flat frequency response at any point along the signal chain from microphone to ear is likely to create an audible sonic personality in what you hear. That includes the contribution of the listening room itself. To accurately reproduce the recorded sound, as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would be advised to select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

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. This may or may not be what you wish to achieve, but on the face of it, any deviation from a flat response - and the frequency balance of tube amplifiers are usually influenced by their speaker load - is a step away from a truly neutral system. HUG has extensively discussed amplifiers and the methods for seeking the most objectively neutral amongst a plethora of available product choices.

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 and pragmatism, HUG cannot be expected to be a place to discuss the selection, approval or endorsement of non-Harbeth system elements selected, knowingly or not, to create a significantly personalised sound. 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 offerings there. There is really no on-line substitute for time invested in a dealer's showroom because 'tuning' your system to taste is such a highly personal matter.

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If faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians in your home and over Harbeth speakers is your audio dream, then understanding something of the issues likely to fulfill that intention is what this forum has been helping to do since 2006. Welcome!"


Feb. 2018
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P3 sound quality v. other Harbeth speakers

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  • P3 sound quality v. other Harbeth speakers

    I have been working on upgrading my system for a few years. One thing I have learned from dealers is that the smallest unit in a given manufacturers lineup of integrated amps is often the best sounding of that group. For example, a 50 wpc integrated may sound better than a 250 watt amp from the same manufacturer. In effect, you're paying for more oomph if you will, as opposed to sound quality.

    My question is does this same philosophy hold up for Harbeth speakers. That is, does the P3 sound as good or better than some of the larger products in the Harbeth lineup? Does moving up to a higher model only get you more loudness or qualitatively is the sound better? Thank you in advance.

  • #2
    I think your dealers have been wrong. Good amplifiers operating witin their design specifications do not have sonic signatures. The advantage of more power is quite simply that there is more to cope with dynamic peaks. If you don't have that power the signal will be clipped/compressed. So more power often equates to more sound quality. How much you need then depends on room size, speaker efficiency and type of music. Personally, and for a speaker like the P3ESR, I would prefer about 2x100 watt rms (it is not a very efficient speaker). For the larger models, and in larger rooms, I would advise rather more, even though these ported models are more efficient. Some time ago Alan did a demo of the M40.1 in Hilversum in the Netherlands. During dynamic peaks the amplifier's output was more than 500 watts per channel. The good news is that these days watts are cheap (see the other current thread).

    A similar argument applies to speakers. If you want to play dynamic music such as a symphony orchestra at remotely realistic levels and with somewhat realistic dynamics, the speaker will have to move a lot of air, far more than a small mini monitor can do. In addiiton, only large speakers can reproduce the lowest frequencies.

    On the other hand, if you use a really big speaker in a small room, you have a problem, and not just with the speakers' physical size. The smaller the room, the higher the so called Schroeder frequency below which you will begin to experience room interaction/room modes. So, the P3ESR is a wonderfull speaker for a smallish room (I use them in my study), but even though it sounded glorious when I tried it in our large living room as well, it could not quite fill that room.

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    • #3
      Sonic signatures?

      Originally posted by willem View Post
      I think your dealers have been wrong. Good amplifiers operating witin their design specifications do not have sonic signatures. The advantage of more power ....
      We should clarify this.

      It is most probable that under non-controlled conditions (i.e. in a retail environment in the absence of any test equipment to be sure the comparisons are absolutely fair) that me, you, your dentist, gardener, postman, wife, a passer by, the dealer, the store staff WILL experience a 'sonic signature' when 'comparing' amp A versus amp B under non-controlled conditions. There is no doubt that that would be a universal experience. I've heard it myself many times. It's not an issue we can or should disagree over.

      Unfortunately, in a very human way a conclusion is jumped to that A is definitely superior to B (or vice versa) - in other words, that the true nature of A or B has been revealed. This is a sadly almost always a procedural fault in the method of comparing A and B. The proof is that by manipulating the comparison, precisely the reverse sonic signature can be obtained. In other words, if your initial opinion is that A is superior sonically to B, B can be made to sound superior to A by the slightest manipulation of the loudness of the amplifiers. Try it.

      You probably don't believe this, but I can assure you with 100% confidence that is the truth. I've proved it many times and as we know, this has been well understood and documented by investigators for about fifty years.. I'd go so far as to say that under non-controlled conditions, you might as well flip a coin or more sensibly, just buy the amp you like the look of.

      This issue also impacts the comparison of loudspeakers under non-controlled retail conditions. A speaker that is just fractionally louder (more sensitive) than its competitor will have a huge advantage under non-controlled conditions such as in a retail store or in the hands of a non-technical reviewer, where compared against a quieter model, the listener really will sense 'greater dynamics', 'fuller sound', 'more engaging'. 'greater depth', 'wider image', 'toe-tapping'. 'rhythm and pace', 'more involving' etc. That listener could well include me. This is behind the desire by manufacturers to nudge-up the efficiency of their speakers. A 1dB increase in sensitivity is a sure-fire way to win the demo, and the sale.

      The issue of proper comparison of audio events should not be allowed to be as casual as it is if the consumer really cares about finding excellence for the $$$ spent. But there again, were the procedures tightened up, the really great products would be quickly sifted and sorted, and 90% of the audiophile industry would disappear shortly thereafter. Overall, would that be good for the economy?
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

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