"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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Limited Edition - P3ESR 40th anniversary model in olive wood

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  • #16
    Actually, the driver still functions in that it moves backwards and forwards even years after manufacture. The issue is that the frequency response irreversibly changes year on year, always resulting in the growth of the 1kHz resonant peak.

    To engineer such a boost in sound output in a brand new, just minted speaker (i.e. a peak in the frequency response around 1kHz) you have to deliberately introduce some element in the drive unit that rings or resonates at the frequency you want. Just like blowing across a beer bottle, a tiny amount of puff and you generate a distinctive, lingering note.

    Without doubt, somebody associated with the design intentionally manipulated the mass, compliance and damping of the cone and/or surround to make it super-efficient but in a very narrow band of frequencies around 1kHz so that for a constant power input (like blowing across the bottle) there is a dramatic additional output, but just in one narrow band of frequencies. You can see that is what was done by looking at the waterfall plot.

    Some skill is required in achieving this narrow peak by 'decoupling' the normal, safe damping, and the long-term consequences on sound quality (and measurable frequency response) could not be estimated except under industrial accelerated ageingcondistions - unlikely to have been afforded.

    Then there is the matter of the boosted tweeter - perhaps +3dB up on a natural, flat balance? That's huge, and no doubt introduced to give the illusion of 'greater clarity' etc. A well worn marketing trick and trap for the unwary consumer.

    For a microphone, speaker or phono cartridge designer to deviate significantly from a flat response should be justified intellectually, and where needed, in public. Otherwise it's done to hook the novice consumer because peaks in output in the lower presence region will fool the ear.

    P.S. We have spent some months FEA analysing speaker cones in 3D software. It's suprisingly difficult to wreck a balanced woofer design to introduce deliberate peaks in the response just by trial and error or by bad luck, hence such a peak really cannot be a QC fail. It's intentional.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK


    • #17
      My brief career in engineering was spent partly in trying to detect destructive resonant frequencies in heavy equipment on oil rigs. Rigs are to some extent a big lego kit, legs with lots of bits clicked on top, whether machinery, accommodation units, etc. Until you click them together, or change something, you never know how it's going react with other parts of the rig. I remember one trip testing a pump - a very big pump - attached to a turbine and some motors to drive the thing. Actually the motors were four Avon jet engines in enclosed chambers and guess who drew the short straw to get locked in the chambers with a handful of transducers, some Araldite and an 8-track tape recorder. All the working parts were operated at a wide range of speeds from idling to full whack, looking for resonances. They had occurred from time to time and one shortly before that trip had killed a few people. A similar problem was how machines changed over time hence the maintenance had to be tip top. Most commercial engines and the like are test bench run for months at a time. It's a matter of potential liability, big with inanimate moving objects enclosing live human beings, whereas consumer products often have built in obsolescence.

      I'm not against some speakers with extended bass because some consumers want that. Not everyone listens to Led Zeppelin one day and Hildegard von Bingen the next. With Harbeth such tastes are satiated. It's the rising treble / added clarity thing that I think is a complete con, and probably very common. It's like sharpening photo images, they look good for a few minutes and then your eyes start to hurt - and they certainly don't look natural.

      p.s. I viewed the Spitfire Audio factory tour video a few days ago. If it doesn't have a thread, it should have, also the one involving bricks and lumps of metal on cones. As to the latter, I am curious that paper has largely stood the test of time. I also saw that Falcon have recently gone very modern with a part-graphene driver, but at a stratospheric price. Ever the accountant, it was interested to hear that your rather more costly to make drivers are still cheaper than buying in from third parties.


      • #18
        I would add that some products that are effectively flat, like Quad amplifiers and Harbeth speakers, are often described as rolled off at the top end. Are they just saying they are not bright like other units that are not flat? Clarity without brightness is the goal, which ESL's are rather good at. I've also heard people be dismissive of mini monitors with dome tweeters as being bright. Not Harbeth. Reichert again:
        Quad's approach is a ribbon tweeter, explained here, with reference to ESL. Apparently a very good and successful design for the price (about half that of P3ESR).
        I suppose it's about having design principles and objectives and sticking to them over the years.

        p.s. The active bluetooth P3ESR target date should be 2027. The ESL-63 took 18 years and the Sagrada Familia is planned to be completed after 100 years, so I don't think it's too much to ask.


        • #19
          Comments from Steve Guttenberg (aka 'The Audiophiliac') on the P3ESR 40th Anniversary edition. Also note his remarks about near-field listening.


          • #20
            Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post

            I'll let you know in a few days when my pair arrives..
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            I believe I've purchased one of hifi_dave 's early pairs . Excellent service from hifi_dave ! The purchase, delivery and VAT refund process is seamless.

            I really love the olive wood veneer where you can really feel the wood grain and texture, don't think the standard edition has such finishing. Sound wise I can only compare with my original HL-P3, this sounds fuller and the bass is punchier. This speaker is definitely a keeper!

            Btw Happy New Year HUG!
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