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"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound, realisable by controlling the confounding variables between tthe microphone and the listeners' ears.

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. To reproduce the sounds captured by the recording microphones, as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would naturally select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

Identifying components for their system neutrality should, logically, start with the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance, as any and every deviation from a measurably flat frequency response at any point along the serial chain from microphone to ear is very likely to cause the total system to have an audible sonic personality. That includes the contribution of the listening room itself.

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, HUG cannot be really be expected to guide in the selection, approval, endorsement or even discussion of equipment that is intend to introduce a significantly personalised sound to the audio signal chain. 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 electronics offered there. There is no on-line substitute for that time investment in a dealer's showroom.

If you desire to intentionally tune your system sound to your personal taste, please consider carefully how much you should rely upon 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, listening loudness and listening room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you.

Alternatively, if faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over your speakers is your audio dream, then understanding something of the issues likely to fulfill that objective is what this forum has been helping with since 2006. Welcome!"

Jan. 2018
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Harbeth HL-P3ES2 specific

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  • #91
    P3(ESR) sitting on a table? OK or not?


    Im new to this forum and do not even own a Harbeth speaker yet.

    But I plan to use a P3 in my new living-room stereo setup. It is a rather big room (45m) but i intend to use the speakers in a corner mainly nearfield.
    My problem is that i will have to put them onto a table. Will that be (I know its not ideal) a big issue even if you consider the nearfield-use and rather low listening-level?

    In my bureau I use an LS3/5a in a rather similiar way and it works fine for me.

    (I guess I have a wooden ear, as we say in Germany. For example the coloured LS3/5a sound quite natural to me...)


    • #92
      My current set-up

      As nobody answered until now I try to make my issue more interesting by using some photos of the mentioned setting.

      Right now there is something like a test-setup using a Yamaha Pianocraft mini-stereo and Dynaudio Contour 1.1 speakers. Later there will be a vintage Sansui 9090db receiver (really great sounding and looking machine) and some cd-player as well as vinyl.

      One photo makes an impression of the room as a whole and two show the beforementioned corner. The Dynaudios so far sound ok for background but lack lots of detail when listening carefully.
      Attached Files


      • #93
        P3ESR placement suggestions

        The P3ESR should be fine, but I would try and do the following:

        1. Raise the height so the tweeter is level with your ear.
        2. Move them forward to the front edge of the bookcase
        3. Reposition the wicker thing behind the listening position
        4. Try and damp the left wall at the first reflection point
        5. Locate your listening position at the midpoint between the two speakers


        • #94
          Listening at home ....

          Thanks for your suggestions.

          1. The tweeters are quite perfectly at the same height, so this should be fine.
          2. I usually do that for intensive listening. Surprisingly (I guess because of the really low listening-level, which is clearly below the usual tv-watching-level !) with not much difference.
          3. & 4. I even thought this wicker-thing could act as a living-room friendly help for the first reflection. After experimentation: Also not much influence on the sound. On the pictures it seems nearer to the speakers than it really is.
          5. I do that when I really listen.
          I believe that it is mainly because of the really low volumes and the extreme near-field (1,5m) that the room and the placing did not make a big difference. Is it true that the room-influence ist not only based on the frequencies, but also on the volumes used???
          What I need from the speakers is much more resolution at my listening levels! I will try the Sansui in the next days and see if the amp muffles the sound as well.

          I have to say that I also have a dedicated listening-room with Quad electrostatics and Atmasphere OTL tube-amplification. So there is no need to make it absolutely perfect up in the living room. (right now I dream about trying the SHL5 in that room and make it acoustically perfect using room treatment an such). Unfortunately, because of a big house-reconstruction, this room now serves as something like a storage room with fridge, freezer and loads of cardboards and so on. And listening to music while working in the bureau [study] is not the same...


          • #95
            Low listening levels

            In my setup the P3ESRs do not work as well at low listening levels as the early (1992) HL-P3s that were my introduction to Harbeth (I suspect this is due to the flatter frequency response of the P3ESRs). On the other hand the P3ESRs may compare surprisingly well with your electrostatics.


            • #96
              I believe there is some confusion regarding the rooms.
              The P3 are intended for the living-room (nearfield an low levels)

              The room in the cellar (dedicated to music) is the one with the electrostatic and as well the one which now acts as a storage room. I think I will try the SHL5 against the ESL57 one day because, alltough i like the quads, they do not have enough headroom to work with a lot of music (which maybe should be playd loud or has deep synthetic bass for example)

              I am surprised about your feelings that early P3s may work better at low listening levels than the newer ones with Radial cones. I thought that one of the strengths of this material should be a better resolution than polypropylene (as used in former generations P3 i guess). I also guess that low volume needs the best possible resolution for the music to retain intact.

              {Moderator's comment: this is just one single user's opinion with unquantified variables.}


              • #97
                No confusion, actually... just that a comparison of P3ESR and ESL57 would be very interesting.

                As the moderator has noted, the comparison I've made was 18-year old HL-P3s against new-out-the-box P3ESRs, and as discussed elsewhere the most likely way in which the HL-P3s have deteriorated is the surround of the midbass unit, which does feel stiffer and "dry". (the HL-P3s belonged to my friend's deceased uncle, and were kept in an "Aladdin's cave" of hi-fi about 2m x 3m in size, containing enough gear for 4 complete systems (including speakers!!) but all wired together - so probably a pretty well heated environment!).

                By the way the HL-P3s were wall mounted on pivots at around head height, and as my friend's uncle was pretty deaf (retired jet engine mechanic - perhaps not the wisest career choice for someone who loves classical music) it could be that this arrangement was a form of DIY Harbeth headphones.

                Whether by ageing or design, those particular speakers present a vivid central image and the "forward" presentation is pretty much as described by Mr Shaw in this Tech Talk (though much less extreme and without any element of fatigue):
                In this design, the phantom image in the middle of the sound stage is pulled out of the plane of the speakers towards the listener. This may be the result of a deliberate design decision and/or from latent colouration in the drivers and/or from peaks in the frequency response. Consequently, as vocals are normally presented centre-stage, the listener's attention is now riveted to the overly-vivid phantom image to the detriment of a smooth left-right spread across the sound stage.
                A tell-tale confirmation of this over-intensity is that as the overall replay volume is reduced, the phantom image barely decreases in strength
                By contrast the P3ESRs are very neutral but in our living room I found it more difficult to achieve a well defined central image with small-scale music, especially at low volumes (careful positioning was needed). It would have been really interesting to hear the HL-P3s when new...


                • #98
                  Vintage Sansui 9090 receiver!

                  Further testing gave me the result that for the purpose my old speakers are ok for me when fired by the Vintage Sansui 9090 Receiver.

                  Because of the unbelievable miracles that old machine does I am looking forward in trying it with some SHL5s in my main listening room. I suggest trying that receiver for everyone, its the best sounding amp I ever encountered. I mean: regardless of price (and including tubes as well).
                  I am sure that, if combined with something like an SHL5 and in a well treated room it is must be something like audio-heaven.

                  The journey once again continues. I wish my listening room would not act as storage room (for ca two more months). I will then try Harbeth with the Sansui and post something about my experiences.


                  • #99
                    P3ESR + new amp

                    Originally posted by honmanm View Post
                    By contrast the P3ESRs are very neutral but in our living room I found it more difficult to achieve a well defined central image ....
                    Just an update - after a change of amplifier, the system has become a lot less sensitive to positioning & with much better defined image. Listening levels are still probably a bit more than Mrs H's would ideally like...

                    {Moderator's comment: Neither I nor Alan can understand at all your comments about central imaging. What defines the P3ESR is its astonishing, rock-solid, vivid central imaging and that should be even more totally obvious at the higher listening levels that you say you are playing at. Something is not right somewhere we feel. I wonder what speaker you were using before and became acclimatised to?}


                    • P3ESR - rock solid central imaging

                      {Moderator's comment: ... What defines the P3ESR is its astonishing, rock-solid, vivid central imaging .... }[/QUOTE]

                      I have to agree with this - the P3ESRs image superbly.

                      They do have some bass and loudness limitations, due to their size, but within those constraints they're hard to fault, really.


                      • Something is (was?) wrong...

                        For 21 years I had small Magneplanars (the SMGa model), then after our 3 year old accidentally damaged one of them, my friend kindly loaned the HL-P3s from his uncle's collection of gear. The P3s were here for about 4 months, during which time there was a 2-week period when we had Quad ESL63s on loan.

                        So I went straight from the 18 year old HL-P3s to brand new P3ESRs. Unfortunately a change of amplifier was also involved, as my Quad 33/303 was sold to help fund the purchase. The stop-gap amplifier is lower powered, a minimalist design but within the recommended power range for the P3ESRs.

                        To an extent I was taken aback by the difference in presentation between HL-P3 and P3ESR, especially given Alan's care in consistent voicing of the various Harbeth models.

                        However the owner of the ESL63s allowed me to try the P3ESRs in his own system, and there they did very well (albeit in a big room and a lot louder than I thought they could stand!).

                        Sometimes I wonder whether the difference comes from the genesis of the original 1990 HL-P3 as a direct LS3/5a alternative - with a similar design brief and possibly similar tweaks to the frequency response - whereas as I understand it the P3ESR is designed to have the same classic "BBC monitor" presentation as the other current Harbeths.

                        If Alan has the opportunity to do so, it would be very interesting to see a comparison between the frequency response curves of the LS3/5a, HL-P3 and P3ESR and learn what has changed over the years, and why...

                        The two practical things that have helped low-volume listening with the P3ESRs are an unobstructed wall behind them, and (paradoxically) amplifiers with more generous headroom.


                        • Lfd le iii

                          Originally posted by Cyreg View Post
                          Now from Cyrus pre/power/psx to integrated or combi >>> Naim?????????Arcam(withMM)?????

                          Any way I am glad about the ES2's going out of the way >> always sounding NOT there? Grtz Han
                          Ok so the next step has been made to a new audiosetup with less equipment, less connections and smaller dimensions ;-)

                          I did buy an LFD LE III with MM stage > sound is developping quite good after 3 days 24/7 ontime. I'll tell you more about the soundresults in a week!


                          • Some experimentation... room daming = best upgrade ever?

                            This weekend a friend went to have a look and listen at some used Monitor 20s that were for sale locally, and I tagged along with the P3ESRs.

                            The person selling the speakers had Luxman electronics, ... so that made for an interesting comparison, especially in the large room - about 5m x 9m (speakers on the short wall), solid brick walls, and lots of windows. So a hard but spacious environment.

                            Back at home the first thing to do was listen again to my own system - despite the amplifier change which cleaned things up a bit, there was still excess HF and fairly weak imaging.

                            So a mattress was dragged into the living room and that made a "best upgrade evah" change when placed against the wall behind the listening position (coming soon - a subjective comparison of different brands and models of mattress, complete with a matching set of audiophile adjectives). The imaging became what it should be, although with so much reflected energy having been absorbed the vertical height of the image was about the same as the height of the speakers.

                            The challenge now shifts to introducing enough damping into the living room without triggering "room treatment rage" on the part of the lady of the house. Storing unwanted bedding in the living room appears to be out of the question...


                            • A matress for damping?

                              A mattress? Now I've heard everything! How did you get away with that on the domestic front in the first place?

                              By the way, how did the Monitor 20's fare in comparison to the P3 ESR's? I never understood the difference between the M20's and the HLPES 2's.


                              • Craftsmanship

                                Originally posted by KT88 View Post
                                I never understood the difference between the M20's and the HLPES 2's.
                                Hi Bob, pretty sure they're the same speaker, except that the M20 as the "professional" version would have different finish and connectors.

                                Cello, absolutely incredible workmanship on your P3ESRs, I agree. I own a relatively early production pair in rosewood, and while they're very very nice, recent posted photos suggest to me that the workmanship is getting even better over time. Amazing.