Moving from Quad ESL 63's to Harbeth Compact 7ES3s - thoughts?
To make a long story short, I've decided to move from my Quads to Harbeth 7es-3's. Can I get some opinions what might be lost and what might be gained soundwise (net is I moved to a small apartment)? I had an earlier version of the Compact 7's and I remember them fondly (that's why I chose the new version, on order should be here soon). I've been living with the Quads for a few years now, very very nice speakers.
Harbeth v. Quad ESL-63
Hi Steve, noticed that you hadn't got a response yet, so thought I would share my experience which might be helpful. I haven't listened extensively to the 7ES3's although I auditioned them alongside the SHL5's, before I finally chose the 5's. Anyway, a close friend with whom I often listen to music has the Quad's and I prefer listening to music through the SHL5's. I hear more detail through his ESL 63's, and image size and scale is larger (they are big panels after all!). Those are the 2 things that would be lost soundwise, but the SHL5's (and 7es3's) still enable you to listen deep into a recording, just not with quite the same micro detail that big electrostatic panels give, and it could be argued that panel image size is somewhat overblown in the ESL's.
What I think you will gain in switching, in my person opinion of course, is a sense of musical wholeness that is intoxicating. With my Harbeths I feel more immersed in the musical performance, with the Quads I feel a little bit as if the music is being dissected in front of me. I exaggerate the difference, to give you a sense of my own experience. Hope that is of some help.
My experience with various QUAD speakers v. Harbeth
I used to have the63s (even with the gradient sw63), the 988s and the 2805s for more then two decades and recently switched to the M40.1.
I did not listen to the 7s in my place, but I can tell what i didn't like with the QUAD 63, 988, 2805:
a). slightly 'tin' tonality, as something is missing in upper bass-low middle freq.
b). high frequencies on some material 'out of control'
c). the image height is low (if the 20-25cm stand is used then the a). worsened
but even with these negative qualities of the Quads, no other speaker
(before Harbeths) can match their positive qualities :
1. the 'wholeness' and
2. low level linearity
Conclusion: switch to Harbeths but reconsider the model, If I were you, I would go for the 30s instead of the 7s, ! (altough 20% pricier)
P3ESR v. Quad electrostatics
You might not have seen Magneplanar 3s - the first time I saw Maggies I though they were room dividers! But jokes aside, I'm still very much a fan of panel speakers and last year I was faced with the dilemma of used (but fairly recently serviced) ESL63s vs. P3ESRs (the only Harbeth product even remotely affordable to me). Unfortunately I wasn't able to make a direct comparison, but did have the opportunity to have the ESL63s at home at the same time as a pair of 1990s HL-P3s.
Originally Posted by tozen
To my surprise I found that even though the ESL63s were clearly more accurate (BTW Mr Shaw has remarked that these particular HL-P3s may have deteriorated since their manufacture) it was the HL-P3s that I turned to to enjoy music. This was a particular "problem room", 5.5m x 2.7m with windows at the ends and cupboards on one side, so placement of the ESL63s was definitely sub-optimal and these observations are only really valid for that place and time.
When the P3ESRs arrived I was delighted to find that their midrange and top-end was of the same class as the ESL63s. Positioning does affect their sound in various ways (and rather belatedly I've realised that positioning rules are distinctly different to panel speakers) and they do need to be kept away from room boundaries - but don't need a huge amount of space behind them.
Depending on your preferences (and funding), you should probably check out the C7ES3, Monitor 30, and SHL5 (from reading this forum, I get the impression that the Monitor 30 has the more analytical take on things).
Piano didn't sound quite "right" to me on the Quads (slightly "tin" tonality)
Well how interesting! And thank you for the responses. Actually I went for a pair of the C7 es3's (my budget sweet spot...) and have been listening to them for a couple of days now. Tozen - exactly what you say, I find. At first, I noticed the smaller soundstage (between the speakers now) and and the lack of "micro detail" - that is exactly right and I wasn't sure what to make of this new reality (like maybe I made a mistake). But the more I listen the more I find that I understand and enjoy the "organic" sound of the Harbeths.
I was beginning to think that piano didn't sound quite "right" to me on the Quads (slightly "tin" tonality as you say Dragan). Piano sounds more like an instrument to me now than a "sound" if that makes sense. I listen to a LOT of jazz guitar, piano, and I listen for long periods of time; jazz quartets, vocals (like Sinatra at The Sands - what a great album), low to moderate level, all music acoustic, and the Harbeths sound gorgeous. I still hear Keith Jarrett grunting as he plays, but now his piano sounds more like what I know a piano to sound like so its ok (true). I also find the bass on the C7's to be somewhat deeper and more controlled. I don't need a subwoofer like I did with the Quads - the bass is just fine without one; I'm happy to get rid of that box.
I love this hobby. I change things out every once in a while and don't think I'm ever going to have a "final" setup (final seems a pretty scary thought). Maybe in a year or two I'll check out the SHL5's or one of the other Harbeth models. Or not. Sitting here listening now, the C7's sound damn good.
Thanks again for the responses, this is a great forum.
Harbeth v. QUAD
Wow, this is the first time I've read of a Harbeth winning a face-off vs. Quad-but I'm hardly surprised!
I use the Compact 7 ES-2 and the Monitor 30's, so I'm familiar with your new sound. Glad you're enjoying your 7's, welcome to Planet Harbeth, Steve.
State College, PA
Listening to Harbeths at last!
Hi to all. This is my first recent post on the Harbeth forum (though I was a member of the forum years ago). I have been interested in Harbeths for many years though I hadn't heard a Harbeth speaker for many years ... until today!
I spent the afternoon with Tim Nguyen, owner of Tone of Music in San Francisco. The system included a Simon Yorke S10 turntable, CAT pre-amp, Luxman CD player, and AirTight 35 watt tube amp. Speakers were Harbeth Super HL5's followed by Quad ESL-2805. I highly recommend Tim as a dealer, by the way. He was very patient with my questions, generous with his time, and knowledgeable.
Both speakers sounded great but quite different. I think Tozen (above) did a great job of describing the differences that I heard between the speakers (though we each listened to different Harbeths and Quads!). The Harbeths came first and the music sounded natural, integrated/of one piece, and easy on the ears. My sense was that I could listen to the S-HL5's for hours without fatigue.
When Tim moved the Quads into position and cued up the same tracks, the pristine clarity of the Quads was evident. As Tozen said, the Quads presented more detail, beautifully really. However, there was a bit more of that audiophile sense of dissecting each instrument, voice, etc. The Quads commanded my attention -- made me listen to each piece without distraction. The Quads were more immediately "exciting", however, over an extended listening period, I found myself relaxing more into the Harbeths.
Another difference relates to soundstaging. Despite that I just said the Harbeths sounded more of one piece, their imaging was more precise -- that sense that the voice is here, the guitar is there, and the bass is there. Oddly, each instrument stood out more through the Quads -- instruments were so clearly presented that you couldn't help but hear eacg detail, tone, inflection, etc. But the location of each instrument was slightly more diffuse through the Quads -- not a bad thing at all, just different.
Which is better? I don't know and didn't listen long enough to justify an opinion. They sounded quite different though -- more different than I thought they would. Regardless, both set-ups were musically satisfying. If pressed, I'd say that the Harbeths would be easy to have in the home, with music playing throughout the day. For a brief, yet intensive listening session, especially if I were trying to assess the impact of another component, I might choose the Quads.
I have probably broken one of the unwritten rules of posting for the first time (at least in a long -- I believe I was a member of this group years ago), that of expressing an opinion right off the bat. I hope this doesn't rub anyone the wrong way. I have had a great deal of respect for Alan Shaw for many years and been interested in Harbeth for a long time. My current system includes c-j tube electronics and Aerial 10Ts (previously owned Dunlavy SC-IVs). My goal is to find a better match for my 70 wpc c-j 11A amplifier and have heard that c-j and Harbeth work well together.
I welcome any input you may all have on the differences between Harbeths and Quads, two very fine speakers!
Cannot go wrong with Harbeths (v. Quad ESL63s)
Like Steve Ashe, I too went from ESL63 to Harbeth (P3ESR), mainly because of acoustical issues (small, all concrete room).
In my current listening-room, the 63's unfortunately produced a very unbecoming bloated and at times even boomy bass-reproduction that could not be tamed (this particular room won't work with any speaker that even approaches 'full range' extension). An EQ did help somewhat but did not solve all of the acoustic trouble so the ESL's were sold.
The Harbeths do indeed have a different character overall but they share two very important traits with the legendary delayline FREDs; true midrange purity (one could call it honesty too) and a complete absence of the feeling that a transducer is 'at work'.
In other words, the reproduction of the Harbeths is truly effortless, completely relaxed and remarkably natural with voices, acoustic guitar, piano, etc., just like the QUADs were.
The spatial scale of the ESR's reproduction is impressive but the ESL63 does create an even more enveloping atmosphere with incredible depth-perspective in which one can take a sound-bath of sorts -if that makes any sense. The P3ESR's are less fussy about setup, listening position and bass reproduction -which is not just taut but very tuneful and supple as well.
In the upper mids, the QUAD FRED (Full Range Electrostatic Doublet) has -as others have pointed out since the original Stereophile review of the early '80s, a >slightly< tinny, sometimes strident quality but it is not constant; it becomes more apparent during rather energised/forceful musical moments.
On the plus side, the ESL63's have a lovely silky smooth high frequency response that is almost unable to become harsh. This means that with typical 'hot' (CD-) mastering, one can still enjoy most types of music, if played at the right replay-level. With the Harbeths, the HF response is in fact more open, direct and focussed but also less forgiving of some source-programme. After all, Both the ESL63s and Harbeths are meant to tell the truth and the whole truth but they do it in different ways when it comes to the frequency-extremes.
Hope this helps.
In any way, one cannot go wrong with either a Harbeth or a good/stable pair of QUAD ESL as far as musical immersion is concerned. In my humble but experienced opinion, the original Peter Walker designed gear (until early '90s) is the most enjoyable stuff QUAD ever made. With Harbeth, we are fortunate to still have a man like Alan Shaw who personally designs his unique UK hand-made, highly evolved BBC-tradition transducers.