"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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P3ESR + sub? Or C7ES-3

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  • P3ESR + sub? Or C7ES-3

    For a while now I've been thinking about getting a pair of Harbeths. I currently own a set of Kef R300's, hooked up to an Atoll IN200se amplifier.
    I use these primarily for music, but also for movies (about 70/30). The bungs are in place in the bass reflex port, because otherwise the bass can be a little overwhelming in my 4.5x4.5m room. I got the R300's over the LS50 because the R300 was a bit warmer sounding and a little more forgiving. I've had the LS50 on demo in my living room and they just missed that bit of warmth.

    My speakers are positioned about 60cm from the rear wall, about 2.5 to 3.0m from each other, and my listening position is also about 3m away.
    I prefer a sound that is rolled of at the top. I don't want enormous bass that shakes the room, but I do want to be able to hear it.
    I have the budget for the P3ESR, and I can save up for a sub like the Rel T5 and get that later this year... Or... should I wait and get the C7 instead? Which one would suit my taste and needs better? There is a dealer not far from me, so auditioning them is no problem, but I don't want to go in and audition speakers I can't afford yet.

  • #2
    I cannot speak from personal experience, but I've been told by someone I trust that one of the items you mention was swapped with a pair of P3ES as an experiment. For the very reason you mention, it was, interestingly, rejected by the wife who demanded the P3s be reintroduced after a short listen. As I say, I have not listened, but it would be easy for me to do so.

    It's suprisingly common that modern speakers are chasing chasing the marketing departments concept of 'clarity'. Often, usually in fact, this translates into bass shy, toppy, harsh over analytical and totally uninviting sound.

    If the designer dared to play speech over the speaker - say the voice of a male colleage recorded outside on a still day - the unbalanced sound would be blindingly obvious.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK


    • #3
      You might be pleasantly surprised to find that the P3ESR gives far more bass and scale than you would expect for the size and price. I have often demo'd them against far larger and more expensive speakers and the customers preferred the P3ESR.

      I have never enjoyed any sub/sat system at any price - two subs are better but what's the point, when a larger pair of speakers will do a better job ? The results are usually vague imagery and fat, coloured vocals.

      In your situation, I would suggest you try the P3ESR and if they don't quite fit the bill, then save a little more for the C7ES3 and the M30.1


      • #4
        I've auditioned some more mainstream brands like Dali and Monitor Audio among others, and they aren't able to convince me. With most of them I get the impression that the treble is tipped up to give the impression of being very detailed.
        I've only heard the P3ESR for a very short moment, but it was able to impress me, especially the fact that they seem to be able to sound right at a moderate volume. Since I live in an apartment, and listen to a lot of music when working from home (which is most of the time), this is also a big plus for me.

        PS: please forgive my spelling errors, I'm not a native speaker...


        • #5
          Thing is, with many modern speakers, they are designed to maximise profit margins above all else, have price brackets to fit into and are designed to be bright and relentless in order for them to stand out in a quick demonstration. Many will become tiring very quickly.

          The Harbeth range is far more natural and neutral with a full, balanced mid band, which is what you enjoyed. As you say, they are able to do this at moderate volume levels - they don't need to be thrashed.


          • #6
            With your preferences I think Harbeth is an excellent choice, but the question was and is, of course, which one? Your room is quite small so you do not want speakers that are too physically imposing, and you do not want them to go too deep. That would only excite room modes and give a boomy sound (you already experienced that problem). This will be all the more a problem because the room is square so the room modes appropriate for those two dimensions would be at the same frequency.
            I love my P3ESRs in a slightly smaller study. Bass is remarkable for such a small box, and it is very good as well. But inevitably it does not go very deep. Unlike with any of the the larger Harbeths you are indeed missing out part of the frequency spectrum and inevitably there are also dynamic limitations. All of those limitations effectively disappear with a C7 or an M30.1. My hunch would be that either of those two would work well in a room of your size, but the square shape does bother me a bit, so I cannot be sure. If this would be a problem you could of course use some room equalization to cure the peaks. Measure the room response with the free REW software (using a cheap UMIK-1 calibrated usb microphone) and you know the situation. You can already do that now. If you are using a computer as a source, all you need is the free Equalizer Apo (with Peace interface) software to apply a correction curve. With other sources you may need to use a minidsp unit.
            The alternative, as you suggest, is to use the P3ESR and add (preferably two for a smoother response) small subwoofers but only if equalized with a DSpeaker Antimode 8033. This will give deeper bass than a bigger Harbeth, but potentially also more issues to deal with, particularly given the size and shape of the room. I have experimented with my P3ESRs in our large main living room, and supported by a mid sized subwoofer, and the result was pretty stunning, with deep bass seemingly coming out of such small boxes. Integration was not that hard to achieve, and my Antimode tamed the room modes. The most obvious limitation was that the combination could stil not fill that large room. In your smaller room that dynamic limitation would be less of an issue, but it would be if you will ever move into more spacious accommodation. And in your room potential room mode issues would be bigger than in my large room, of course.
            In short, I am not sure what would be best. Let me finish by saying what my student son decided to do: save for the M30.1. He expects to be living in rooms such as yours for the next few years if not longer, and he decided that my P3ESRs do not quite have the low end extension that he wants. His guess is that in most rooms/appartments that he will be in for the foreseeable future he can make the M30.1s work, and if he ever has a rather larger room he will only need to add subs for a bigger sound.


            • #7
              Thanks for all the helpful and knowledgeable replies!

              As luck would have it, a pair of Harbeth P3ESR in rosewood has shown up on a secondhand site, for 1300. They are just under one year old, and I've mailed the seller if I can have a listen. To me this seems like a great deal, and I don't think that I'll loose much money if I ever decide to sell them on and perhaps move on to the C7 or M30.

              I didn't know REW or Equalizer Apo, but I'll try to get my hands on a calibrated mic to try out your suggestions, to get some insight in my room acoustics.
              I mostly play vinyl. For online radio I use my Chromecast, and for my ripped cd's, I use my Oppo 103 for playback.


              • #8
                In addition to the excellent advice given by Willem, perhaps I can give my own experience as I too have the wonderful P3ESR's in exactly the same sized room (by the way, that room size is regarded as quite generous in most UK homes).

                I did initially think that the P3ESR would struggle to fill the room with a believable enough scale as I had previously had very expensive larger speakers from other brands, but oh how wrong could I have been! Classical is the only music genre that I don't really play, but they are absolutely superb with Jazz, Rock, Folk, Country etc. These speakers have been the single most satisfying product I have purchased to enjoy my music. I have also heard the M30.1's recently and, if my room had been able to be more accommodating for them, I would have had them in a heartbeat. They were like a bigger brother to the P3ESR - not just in size but scale and dynamics.


                • #9
                  I have made a decision! After careful consideration, and taking in account the advice I got here, I'll go with the P3ESR. I auditioned them, and in a large room, I did find them lacking a little in the bass department, but I did not feel that this took something away from my actual listening experience. And since my room isn't exactly large, I have the feeling I won't be missing out on anything.

                  I'll probably go for a set of new ones since I think these are keepers, but I'm waiting until the pricing on the P3ESR 40th Anniversary is known here in Belgium...


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Raccoon_79 View Post
                    I'll probably go for a set of new ones since I think these are keepers, but I'm waiting until the pricing on the P3ESR 40th Anniversary is known here in Belgium...
                    Great choice, the P3ESR in our new 40th Anniversary Olive wood veneer really is stunning!

                    Our Belgium distribution is handled by The Audio Ingang in The Netherlands. You can find their contact details on our dealer page on our website:


                    I will contact the guys there and point them to your post now.


                    • #11
                      I have just ordered my P3ESR's in Eucalyptus! They should arrive on friday so I'll be able to enjoy them this weekend.
                      Unfortunately, the 40th anniversary were just a bit to expensive for me.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Raccoon_79 View Post
                        I have just ordered my P3ESR's in Eucalyptus! They should arrive on friday so I'll be able to enjoy them this weekend. Unfortunately, the 40th anniversary were just a bit to expensive for me.
                        Thank you from everyone here for your confidence and your order. I am sure that you will be delighted with them.

                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Raccoon_79 View Post
                          I have just ordered my P3ESR's in Eucalyptus! They should arrive on friday so I'll be able to enjoy them this weekend.
                          Unfortunately, the 40th anniversary were just a bit to expensive for me.
                          Hope you enjoy them.We have the same .Eucalyptus aswell,stunning speakers.The samw being that i live in a flat,so volume is kept to lower levels.But when the neibours are out can turn them up.Use tellurium q black mk 2 speaker cables.Very good with p3 esr,and whan you can turn them up,seems to take a little high end fizz out,so sounds powerfull.


                          • #14
                            Here another appartment dweller with P3ESR in eucalyptus. While my room is not so small, 3.70x12.00 meters (app 12x40 feet) I've to put the speakers on the long wall, and the bigger speakers I used to own all gave bass issues. Not so the P3ESR. They are able to fill the room, as long as I don't want to hear a full symphonic orchestra, and they do rock good enough. I also use them for movies and while you miss the big booms you get in the cinema the spaciousness is delicious. Frankly, it always surprises me that on HUG even for small 10x10 feet rooms and rooms with problematic bass the first advice is often one of the larger models, where the P3ESR would perfectly fit the bill.
                            Love my P3ESRs


                            • #15
                              I have them for two weeks now, and I haven't found any downsides yet. They really manage to engage me more in the music than any other speaker I've previously heard. I'm pretty sure I've made the right decision to spend my hard-earned cash on the P3's
                              Here they are in their new home :
                              Click image for larger version

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