When auditioning loudspeakers, be aware of these crucial issues:
1. When this speaker was being designed, what replay loudness did the designer have in mind?
Did he intend the speaker to sound natural, warm, detailed and full bodied when played at a normal level? Or did he intend that the speaker should be played LOUD to sound correctly balanced - especially in the lower frequencies? Implicit in playing LOUD is that the listener sits far from the speaker. Implicit in playing at a normal level is that the listener sits relatively near to the speakers say, 1-3m away.
From a designer's viewpoint, the closer the listener sits to the speaker the greater the 'amplification' of the speaker's defects and the more challenging the design task. To accept a design brief that the speaker must sound natural and sweet even when close enough to touch makes the design task much more difficult but underpins the design of Harbeth/BBC monitors.
2. How will this speaker sound at home, playing late at night when you are concerned about intruding upon the neighbours?
In Harbeth's case, the answer is that every one of our speakers is a professional tool trusted to monitor speech and music in a broadcast studio which shares many characteristics with the typical domestic listening room:
- Similar size
- Similar reverberation time
- Similar listening level
- Similar distance from the listener to the speakers
- Same need to sound full bodied but not to annoy the neighbours/other studios
That's why a Harbeth sounds so 'right' even when played relatively quietly. And they doesn't need a huge power amp. Attached is a range of very typical BBC-style studio's from 1930's to date which show how close the user sits to the speakers - broadly similar to how we use our Harbeth's at home.
Evaluating louspeakers: a word of advice ....
A Harbeth speaker sounds natural when you are next to it or when it is 4m away. This is very unusual. Most speakers sound good only when they are far away and as you sit closer they sound hard, fatiguing and unnatural. When you are evaluating speakers be sure to also listen to them closer than you normally would. This will emphasise any problems in the speakers such as colouration and irritating fatigue. If you listen to a speaker in the far-field and it seems to reach out and demand your attention be sure to double-check that speaker's performance in the near-field. Great speakers don't shout at you. They gently pull you into their smooth wide sound stage and astonishing clarity.