"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. Deviations from a flat frequency response at any point along the signal chain from microphone to ear is likely to give an audible sonic personality to the system at your ear; this includes the significant contribution of the listening room itself. To accurately reproduce the recorded sound as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would be best 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 will alter the sound balance of what you hear. This may or may not be what you wish to achieve, but any deviation from a flat response is a step away from a truly neutral system. HUG has extensively discussed amplifiers and the methods for seeking the most objectively neutral among a plethora of product choices.

HUG specialises in making complex technical matters simple to understand, getting at the repeatable facts in a post-truth environment where objectivity is increasingly ridiculed. With our heritage of natural sound and pragmatic design, HUG is not the best place to discuss non-Harbeth audio components selected, knowingly or not, to introduce a significantly personalised system 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. Our overall objective here is to empower readers to make the factually best procurement decisions in the interests of lifelike music at home.

Please consider carefully how much you should rely upon and be influenced by the subjective opinions of strangers. Their hearing acuity and taste will be different to yours, as will be their motives and budget, their listening distance, loudness and room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you. Always keep in mind that without basic test equipment, subjective opinions will reign unchallenged. With test equipment, universal facts and truths are exposed.

If some of the science behind faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over Harbeth speakers is your thing, this forum has been helping with that since 2006. If you just want to share your opinions and photos with others then the unrelated Harbeth Speakers Facebook page may be for you. Either way, welcome to the world of Harbeth!"

Feb. 2018
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My new pair of P3ESRs - first impressions

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  • My new pair of P3ESRs - first impressions

    Following on my earlier thread where I announced my intention to audition the P3ESR, I have finally managed to visit the dealer and buy the smallest of the Harbeth range. They arrived this week and I've had some hours to listen to them. My impressions may benefit others, therefore I thought to provide some follow up. For those of you who already have Harbeths this probably doesn't provide anything new.

    I've got a rosewood pair, which is beautifully finished, super smooth polished and a lovely dark brown color. Incidentally the dealer mentioned that Harbeth would in the future no longer offer rosewood veneer. I'm glad I managed to snag a pair. The speakers are heavier than I expected; I had Dali Zensor and Amphion Ion before which were a similar size but significantly lighter. The general appearance is of a luxury piece of wooden furniture. To be honest, I'm surprised that Harbeth manages to produce these speakers for such a modest price, given the obvious quality of production.

    The speakers are in a near-field listening set-up, on my desk (where I work), approximately 1 meter (=3 feet?) distance from my ears. I use monitor pads to slightly raise the speakers and tilt them to point upwards, so the tweeters aim at ear-height.

    Now to the musical experience. It's not a night-and-day change, but there are clear differences. I noticed that voices and solo instruments in particular have a much more immediate presence. It really is like the singer is standing in between the speakers, while before it was more like I could recognise that the singer was supposed to stand there. This is noticeable also with instrumental effects, for example the beginning of Killer Queen or Beatles songs. It is quite amazing. When listening more closely I believe this may be due to a better representation of microdynamics (this is how I believe mr. Shaw once called it), and (possibly related) the representation of the recording environment (the sounds have a sense of space, it seems like I can hear the reverbation/echo of the room or concert hall).

    Furthermore the various instruments and voices have a clearly defined position. This may be what is commonly called soundstage or separation. As a consequence I find it much easier to follow the various melodic lines (which is one think I enjoy doing while listening to music). I can finally hear all of the music instead of only the main melody. The speakers do have a clear 'sweet spot'; if I move my chair too far backwards the immersion is lost (although the music still sounds very nice).

    Surprisingly I find the bass much more present than before. Some reviews state that the monitors are fairly bass light. I guess they mean that they don't provide belly-thumping bass. That kind of bass doesn't interest me, actually I kind of dislike it with pop concerts. However, bass is clearly present and audible. I can easily follow the bass melody in a variety of music, up to the very low notes. I can even feel the vibration of deep notes on the desk.

    One other remark: the speakers are very smooth to listen to, which may induce me to turn up the volume higher than I normally would. Sometimes one reads opinions that other speakers would be more exciting. Possibly excitement refers to stress which may arise when listening to lesser speakers? The precision of the P3ESR to me does work relaxing in the sense that my mind doesn't have to work to fill in lost details; it simply presents the music that there is.

    To sum up, the P3ESR are remarkable speakers. The effect for me is somewhat akin to having gone to the optician and getting better glasses (or cleaning one's dirty pair). In this analogy, I still perceive the same objects as before, but my perception is sharper and more focused. For people without glasses it may be compared somewhat to moving from normal DVD films to Blu-Ray or similar higher resolution video.

    Thank you, mr. Shaw, for creating these speakers and adhering to your principles. I'm very happy to have finally joined the ranks of Harbeth owners.