My first ever Harbeth listening experience = Instant P3ESR sale!
On Saturday just gone, I travelled down to see David Wren at Radlett Audio in Essex, UK. Specifically, I went to demo the P3ESR. It was my first ever time for hearing Harbeth loudspeakers. Since I've been very enthusiastic about Harbeths just from what I'd read here on the HUG and elsewhere, I was looking forward to the session immensely.
I took with me plenty of suitable CDs to test the speakers - a few favourites plus a few difficult and interesting CDs too. Yet from the first few tracks I knew I'd found an amazing speaker (in the P3ESR), that lived up to everything that's written here about it and even living up to my huge expectations too, and more.
Throughout the listening session, it is no exaggeration to say that I was repeatedly shocked and astonished by what the P3ESR was capable of. As some HUG members may have read, I am an LS3/5A owner and I thought that that would make me reasonably prepared for what I would experience with the superficially similar sized P3ESR.
I did not prepare me one bit! I played a Capitol Records CD of Frank Sinatra (Come Swing With Me) and the voice was delivered with such grace, human warmth, impeccable timing and rhythm, amazing detail and emotion that it brought a tear to my eye. Dave wouldn't know that as he was sitting behind me in the room! In short, the P3ESR finally gave me a personal Holy Grail of hearing Frank Sinatra as if he were singing in the room with me. I thought the LS3/5A had come close, but the P3ESR shattered that pretence and delivered resolution and emotion on a whole new plane of fidelity. I have been searching, hoping for such an epiphany for years and finally Harbeth have delivered.
I was also amazed at the P3ESR's performance with rock/pop material. I had expected magic from jazz, classical and vocals but in a way the P3ESR's grasp of rock/pop like Donald Fagen and REM was even more astonishing because I hadn't expected it. Their rendition of Fagen's The Nightfly was the best I have ever heard it on any speaker and that includes speakers at yes, 10 times the price! That shouldn't be right - but it is!
Time and again I would get a sudden feeling of surprise as a particular musical moment would pass by with an uncanny and alien lack of harshness and distortion. But it was a wonderful and thrilling surprise each time. I was shocked at how Donald Fagen's vocal on I.G.Y. was no longer recessed in the soundstage and covered up by other instruments forcing it to get lost in the mess that is (relatively) every other speaker I've heard, including the LS3/5A.
I also played REM's Automatic For The People on LP and again it was easily the best rendition I've ever heard. Michael Stipe's vocals were so clear and were delivered with real feeling that I've heard hints of before, but nowhere near as powerfully as Saturday afternoon with the P3ESR.
I took along a piano recording of some solo Mozart works because I'd read that Alan considered piano sound to be the crowning glory of the Harbeth sound. Well, I have never heard Mozart's piano sonatas played in such a riveting, exciting way that keeps you interested and draws you in as it goes along. The P3 succeeded in making solo piano almost like a small orchestra by the amount of musical colour and brilliance it seems to bring out of the piano. Not colouration! But some kind of colourful essence of the music I'd not had access to before with other speakers.
Another shocker was the scale and bass power from the P3ESR. I played an RCA Living Stereo SACD of Liszt'z Hungarian Rhapsody no.1 and was actually open-mouthed at the depth and presence of the bass strings section. I - involuntarily - said aloud "How can they do that? I joked with David about subwoofers hidden in the cupboard behind the speakers, but I could have been fooled. It sounds over the top to say that, but the sense of bass fullness and power is something to behold with these little marvels. Those who haven't heard the P3ESR may doubt this but believe me they really deliver quantity and quality in the bass region - enough to satisfy me indefinitely.
Needless to say, I placed an order immediately for a pair in Rosewood and left smiling knowing that I'd saved myself thousands of pounds by not buying any of the contenders I had been lining up costing up to £9K instead, that don't sound as good as this insane give-away bargain of a speaker!
David Wren's room and setup at Radlett Audio were perfect and allowed me to really hear what is so special about the P3ESR and he deserves praise for putting up with my classical and jazz that maybe weren't quite to his tastes!
I can now understand why Stereo Sound Japan gave Alan and the P3ESR the Grand Prix Award. It's marvellous and just about perfect! Well done Alan and all at Harbeth and thank you for giving us such a dream speaker at such a very fair price.
Latest look from my listening chair with the Skylan stands and the grilles in place.
Radlett Audio's demo setup
Would you be able to share what amp was this P3ESR being demoed on ?
Originally Posted by GregD
Moving on and upwards
@Dave_Shaw; very nice finish! We use Santos Rosewood ESR's here, but that silvery grey could be very appealing (I might be tempted).
A bit less sparkly would be fine but a too flat, dark grey could actually deter the group of customers that Harbeth HQ wishes to address/attract... The glossy sheen works surprisingly well on the elegant ESR cabinets, it is probably preferable to matt.
Ferrari/Alfa Romeo silver-grey was once used by Monitor Audio on their anniversary Studio 20SEC; a good finish, not at all overly bling.
@GregD; thanks for sharing your findings; I also used to own LS 3/5a's (several pairs) and loved them to bits but post-ESR, I cannot say I truly miss them... Even the QUAD ESL's that resided in our livingroom for ages have since moved on to another owner.
I happened across the CD cabinets in a Home Decorator catalog and bought 2 of them. I have over 3000 titles (that equates to several thousand discs) and I don't intend to rip them to a hard drive so I needed some way to store them and have easy access. I'll put up more pics later as I'm settling out a few things with my setup.
Latest with the Rega Brio-R and Apollo-R.
Nice! Great looking system!
Harbeth and Rega... yummy.
Art, love the looks of your system, simple, elegant, and I am sure very satisfying. I do have a soft spot for shoebox sized components. There are a bunch of Naim half width boxes around here, NAC72/NAT01/HiCap/NAP140. How do you like the new Brio & Apollo? Some have favorably compared the Brio to the much loved NAIT2, high praise indeed! I would suggest a dedicated equipment rack. They do make a meaningful difference and are relatively low cost compared to most Hi Fi components.
Happy Listening! Cliff
Brio and Apollo
I really like the Brio-R and Apollo-R sound. I've owned a Mira 3, Apollo (and in fact just picked up an Apollo last week again) and Saturn and the new ones just sound different. I think there is a bit more raw energy with the new Rega pieces. Very much to my liking..though I enjoyed the older Apollo immensely last weekend.
As Dave said Rega and Harbeth are quite nice together, although I like his way of saying it better...lol!
Cant help but have to say it again. Really like your CD display.
Here is a pic of my setup with P3ESRs in Maple. Rest of system is a Squeezebox attached to Metrum Quad DAC, lp12 and Rega Brio-R.
A serial Harbeth user!
Some lovely setups here of the P3ESR. I just picked up my own set of P3ESR's in Rosewood yesterday from my local Harbeth dealer.
They are settling in nicely on my secondary vinyl system, which consists of a modified SL1200mk5 (Origin Live RB300 arm) Blue Circle Level 1 power supply mods, and an Ortofon Rondo Bronze. Phono stage is a SIM 110LP and the amp is a SIM 250i which does a lovely job of making the P3ESR make music. Radio in this system is a restored vintage Luxman T12 (FM only) brought up to spec by RadioXTuners in the USA. It's a wonderful sounding unit, and this system is crazy intimate and a joy to listen to the small space room (12'x10') it inhabits. Pix will follow when I get some good lighting.
This is my second pair of Harbeths.. the other is a wonderful pair of SHL5's that "moved in" to my main system last summer.. apparently they're staying for the duration.. I don't think I'd be foolish enough to let them go.
One thing that definitely seems true about a Harbeth, the only thing that can follow up a Harbeth, is another one !
Appreciation of the P3ESR at Radlett Audio
Please let us know how your experience when installing these at home compared to the demo room - just as good? Did you use a source and amp in the demo to match those you have at home?
Originally Posted by GregD
NB. Lots of fans of the Brio R here despite its lack of balance and tone controls - you must have perfect listening rooms to not need any tweaking!
P3ESR and QUAD 34/306
Dear Forum Members,
I am from Malaysia and am very pleased to share 2 pictures of my pair of P3eSR with stands. I purchased them new in cherry veneer.
For amplification, its just a Quad 34 and Quad 606 and a Marantz CD95, to spin the disc.
Many thanks to all the wonderful people @ Harbeth for designing these great sounding and affordable speakers. I can now explore and appreciate music of my favorite artists and their performance in the comfort of own home for many pleasant years to come.
Cheers to all Harbeth Speakers users all around the world.
A bit messy but here are my Harbeth P3's with some CD's all around, with my silver front cover Cambridge Azur 840 CD Player, and my black modified transistor Best Buy $300 Stereo Integrated Amplifier WITH tone and balance controls----all on the floor, and I'm also using LFD Spiroflex speaker cables (made in England by one Dr. Bews) , Morrow silver coated copper interconnects made in The USA., and one Definitive Technology Pro 800 Subwoofer cost about $300 which adds lovely bass notes to the Harbeth P3 Speaker output.
The pictures on the back wall are "An American Girl in Italy 1951" by photographer Ruth Orkin (black and white photo--the girl looks more like a Swedish dish to me!) and "Heaven" or "La Disputa" by Raphael, an Italian 16th century painter-----real name: Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (April 6 or March 28, 1483 – April 6, 1520), . Maybe try clicking on the small photos to enlarge them?
AND AS FOR THE P3 SPEAKERS, in case you are wondering if they are "any good", YESSSS.....they are small and cute and they sound VERY GOOD with a BIG SOUND belying their size---- but I like 'em with a subwoofer to get those lovely low notes.....and their "WAF" (wife acceptance factor) is very good also because ladies seem to like small speakers over BIG speakers....but maybe you already know this? John Boland, USA [email protected]
PS: If you wanna listen to some very tuneful/melodic and interesting Viennese music composed by an unknown genius, Carl Michael Ziehrer, check him out on amazon US at
There are actually 12 different CD's but the above CD might be a good place to start exploring his music------- with full orchestra and some vocals which sound GREAT on the P3's!!!
And....here's another set of music that sounds VERY GREAT on the P3's...Johann Strauss II BOX SET of 54 CD's for about $94 with hundreds of "concert waltzes and dances" all with hundreds of lovely melodies that haven't been heard for over 100 years....beautiful! Worth every penny! THIS BOX SET PROVIDES ESPECIALLY GOOD IMAGING AND PLACEMENT OF INSTRUMENTS: