"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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Mini-monitor doubts started by a Spendor demo.

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  • Mini-monitor doubts started by a Spendor demo.


    My local dealer recently started stocking the Spendor S3/5R and I arranged for a demo of them. They were set up by the dealer with a Naim Nait 5i/CD5i system the same as I use at home. (Except that at home I also use a NAT05 tuner as a prime source too.)

    My eventual plan is to purchase a pair of P3ESRs to replace my Naim NSat speakers but I cannot afford to get there except 'incrementally' because of a tight budget. So I thought the Spendor S3/5R might represent a good 'staging post' en route to the Harbeths. The Spendors are thin-wall, sealed box, mini-monitors evolved from the LS3/5A by a company also rooted in the BBC tradition so I assumed they might give me at least a 'flavour' of the P3ESRs.

    Sadly I was not 'taken' with their sound. They seemed too polite and warm and soft in all parts of the audible spectrum. From my own NSats I know that I cannot expect massive bass and nor do I desire it. That was not the problem. The problem was vocals and instrumentals (everthing from A capella music to a BBC Drama CD of 'A muder of quality' by John Le Carre and an acoustic recording of Bluegrass). I expected a speaker like the S3/5R to absolutely 'own' the midrange region and display presence, clarity, and realism here especially.

    With a lack of UK Harbeth dealers (any at all within a hundred miles or so) the Spendor demo concerned me that buying P3ESRs without listening to them could be an expensive mistake.

    Has anyone compared the S3/5Rs with Harbeth P3ESRs? Has anyone also found the S3/5Rs too soft and warm and lacking in clarity in the midrange?

    I should add the Spendors used had been out on the shelves for a few weeks and used in demos so were not fresh from the box and they were being demo'ed - appropriately - in a small room at the moderate/reasonable volume levels I tend to enjoy. All the music/voice content was provided from my own CDs and good stands and Naim NACA5 cables were used just like I do at home.


  • #2
    Hi TSH59, I have never heard the Spendors you are referring to, though I know about them. What I can say is that my P3ESR's are definitely NOT polite or soft. They are very vivid, clear and engaging. Are they warm? To my ears not at all, but I have read enough reviews of hi-fi equipment to know that one man's cold is another man's warm. What they are is very revealing of the recording, which I presume is why they sometimes sound warm to me and at other times really quite cool. They are monitors, but wonderfully musical ones.


    • #3
      What you heard was the soft, blurred focus of the polypropylene cone material. As if a blanket had been thrown over the sound. Smooth - yes! - but oh so veiled! The RADIAL™ cone of the P3ESR is what you crave for. Where abouts are you in the UK?

      That the size of the P3/P3ESR/LS3/5a etc. are similar tells you not a jot about their sound.
      Harbeth PR,
      Harbeth UK


      • #4
        I wrote a big reply but your website told me to log in again. When I did, it 'vanished' all my typed text.

        Thanks for your reply.


        • #5
          I'm really sorry about that. I did mention here just a few days ago never trust the internet. Please, when building up a big post, cut a copy to your clipboard every few minutes. Then you have a backup. When you are typing a long post, the system thinks that you are inactive and it logs you out. There has to be a time limit (we don't yet know how to reset it) for security reasons.

          Even when I make a long posting, and the system thinks I'm inactive, providing that I give the correct user name and password first time it always remembers my typed post, and then accepts it. Doesn't it do that for you?
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK


          • #6
            Hi TSH59,
            The Spendor S3/5R was the very first speaker I played after my move to the country and an unknown demo room. They were brand new and so I gave them a good thrashing for a few days before I finally sat down to listen to them and the room. Disaster !!!

            From the first few notes I thought that I had made a huge mistake in buying a timber-frame house as the sound was dire. There was no bass, no sparkle, no prescence no involvement, no interest. I tried cranking them up a bit but was thwarted by the bass drivers banging on the end stops. What a mistake. So I dragged out the only other speaker I had, the little Rega R1 and breathed a big sigh of relief as the music came back and filled the room. I took no time in packing the Spendors up and sending them back for credit. The Rega is 1/3 the price.

            Since then I have got the wonderful Harbeth P3ESR and, believe me, they are on a different planet to the Spendor. We're talking a big sound-stage, amazing deep and tight bass, air, space, sparkle and a mid-band you can reach out and touch. They are huge fun, even for a 'rock' fan like me and I am amazed every time I demo them to customers.

            To my mind they are the best mini-monitor there is !!!

            If you're anywhere near Saffron Walden you are welcome to come along and hear them.


            • #7
              If you're looking for "presence, clarity and realism" coupled with an articulate midband, I don't think there's a speaker anywhere to touch the P3ESR for those attributes. That's exactly what they do well.

              By all means try to audition, but I wager you'll find that they are nothing at all like the Spendors.


              • #8
                That is all very re-assuring Dave. (Thanks Alan. I am now typing everything in notepad first.)

                A word or two about how I use my system and the room....

                I work from home 90 percent of the time and about 75 percent of my listening is some form of 'radio'. FM radio (Naim NAT05 with roof aerial), Freeview radio (connected with optical digital to a DAC) for BBC R7 and World Service, and BBC iPlayer for convenience. (Also connected to same DAC.) All these 'radio' sources are pretty good quality (even iPlayer is now AAC) so I tend not to distinguish between them. As far as my system is concerned I doubt I will ever need DAB.

                Next in priority is stereo sound from DVD replay (connected from the same Panasonic DVD/HDD/Freeview recorder with optical to my DAC). I have no ambition to go 5.1 surround and I am not a fan of 'Boom Crash' SFX style movies anyway. (In two years time we will get FreeviewHD in our area and I will then invest in a Panasonic Blu-Ray/DVD/HDD/FreeviewHD recorder.)

                Lastly, I play CDs sometimes (on the Naim CD5i) and my tastes are predominately Reggae, Soul, Funk, Ska, cheesy 1960s/1970s pop compilations, Be-Bop jazz from the 1950s, lighter classical (not huge choral/symphonic) and voice/drama/documentary CDs. No heavy metal or concept/prog or 'club' music.

                The room is about 21ft x 14ft (8ft ceiling) with solid carpeted floors. I listen across the width of the room from around 8ft - 9ft distance with the speakers about 6ft apart and about 8 inches from the wall on 60cm Partington Trophy stands.

                I rarely listen 'on-axis' especially when working from my desk or tootling on the internet.

                I may 'bite the bullet' one day soon and boil down all of my CDs to 256kbps or 320kbps AAC on iTunes and just store the discs away safely and sell the Naim CD5i (to help afford the Harbeths maybe ) It is not really earning it's keep.

                Obviously the FM tuner is on 'shakey' ground because FM may only have just less than 6 years left. Any speculation about 'slippage' on that target is less secure today than before, given the recent BBC announcements of slashing radio stations. (Who knows? They could be equally cavalier and just 'slash' FM on the whim of the DG too!)

                So that may get sold very soon whilst there is still some demand for a good NAT05.

                So everything (except the Nait 5i amplifier) is 'fluid' right now and even contingent on the BBC's decisions to some extent. This is why it is so attractive an idea to have a pair of loudspeakers that will be an 'anchor' for any future system configuration and will not need to be changed or upgraded for many, many years.

                I live on the South Hants coast about 2 hours train journey from the nearest Harbeth stockist at KJ West in London so I fear I might have to order the P3ESRs 'blind' (deaf?) from a dealer and just pray that they will work well in my system and in my room.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by TSH59 View Post
                  I live on the South Hants coast about 2 hours train journey from the nearest Harbeth stockist at KJ West in London so I fear I might have to order the P3ESRs 'blind' (deaf?) from a dealer and just pray that they will work well in my system and in my room.
                  I wonder if you could find a dealer who would give you 30 days to try them at home, and let you return them if you didn't like them? In your circumstances that seems not unreasonable.


                  • #10
                    I'm pretty sure some dealers would do the equivalent of a home dem... reserve the funds on your credit card, let you try the equipment, and refund you if you return it in good nick.

                    Not that it's at all likely you'll be asking for a refund once you've heard just how good the rest of your system is.


                    • #11
                      Thanks everyone. Apologies to the kind member who sent me the PM. I have replied twice but cannot see my replies in my 'sent' folder so maybe you will get them and maybe you won't.

                      I don't think the software here likes me (standard XP Pro/Firefox set-up here) so I will not persevere against the odds. Maybe I am too 'new' to be allowed to reply to PMs. I cannot tell. (The software should make that clear if it is the case and save me a lot of tpying.)

                      Thanks again for the help.


                      • #12
                        Hello TSH

                        I've purchased two different models of Harbeth, without hearing them beforehand. Just do it-it'll change your whole way of thinking about listening to music.

                        Blind faith-there's nothing like it!



                        • #13
                          Originally posted by KT88 View Post
                          Hello TSH

                          I've purchased two different models of Harbeth, without hearing them beforehand. ...


                          Come to think of it, I've done the same. I just didn't think all those people could be wrong. And they weren't.

                          There are no guarantees in life, but this is one of the safer bets.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by EricW View Post
                            Come to think of it, I've done the same. I just didn't think all those people could be wrong. And they weren't.

                            There are no guarantees in life, but this is one of the safer bets.
                            This is like an AA's meeting. i feel shy to say this but i also bought the SHL5's without listening. There is no dealer in the country i live. Nada, I knew i wanted a Bbc monitor neutral sound, as im quite familiar with Spendor and Rogers speakers, but i wasn’t prepared for the Harbeth sound.

                            If I could, in all humbleness, generalise and put speakers on a sliding continuum, to try and explain ourselves out of TSH59’s conundrum of what makes a better speaker from a good one, we might help him (or maybe deepen the dilemma).

                            The great ones find the middle ground. On the left corner we have the charming ones (of say old Tannoys), slow, old warm sounding, but the bass and drum of some, sound like they were affected by musicians smoking something legal only in Holland. They bottom notes don’t seem to keep up with the rest of the band. The get irritating after a while eg. listen to a Bose lifestyle series appliance and you’ll know what I mean. Some transmission line speakers ive heard seem to be like this as well.

                            Then on the right corner of the ring, we have the “fast” tight, sounding ones, which almost always wow you on a first listen (some horns are like that). The cabinets are “tight”. They may have what is perceived as “super” resolution, but they get irritating after a while (actually they make me aggressive, no kidding).

                            Imho, Spendors and Harbeths successfully find a very nice middle ground somewhere in between, but based on your listen, and I do concur with you, in general Spendors (the ones ive heard) are slightly left of centre on the continuum. But I must say though, that there is a certain charm associated with the Spendor softness you mention. The can be unobtrusive and not demand any of your attention unless you give it so. You can leave speakers like that running in the background the whole day, but if you want a serious sit down listen, but also get up to the ironing board to do up a shirt for an important meeting, the Harbeth serves up both those roles for me now.


                            • #15
                              The only downside to Harbeth ownership that I can see is lots of late, and I mean very late nights. Once again, I was up until way past 4am playing "just one more" :)