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My Harbeth experience in a large room - an in, out of, in love story.

PaulF70

New member
I'm going to post a little narrative here that doesn't quite have a thesis. It's just a narrative, which as yet doesn't quite have an ending.

Around 18 months ago I purchased my first pair of Harbeth speakers, in the gorgeous tiger ebony. After a decade or so of owning many speakers, most in the high-efficiency camp including various Lowthers, front horns, vintage Altecs, and more, I REALLY loved them. They were so revealing of musical nuance, so coherent, and had just perfect tonality and balance (the achilles heel of HE speakers generally).

After a few months of being quite happy with them (powered by a Luxman Class A integrated amp - 550AX) I had a biz trip to NY and visited the Village Vanguard as I am sometimes lucky enough to be able to do. Upon arriving home, I suddenly found my system (and I listen mostly to 40s-60s jazz) to just be too dynamically flat. I was missing the jump-factor of live acoustic music - and this discovery REALLY bummed me out (I longed to return to blissful ignorance, frankly).

(Please note that my room is very large, which was a factor here - it’s an open-concept house. I’d sit about 10’ from the speakers but with no rear wall for bass reinforcement you have very large acoustic space. My point is that I am not saying the speaker is simply un-dynamic by nature.)

I pulled out my very large JE Labs open-baffle speakers with Altec 604 coaxial drivers mounted. These are wide, squat baffles very similar in shape to the Quad ESL (which I've also owned). Boom - there's my dynamics! And along with that the weaknesses of this vintage driver and the baffle: uneven frequency response, some treble glare. Can't have it all!

I was, next, a bit hasty. I got an offer to sell my Harbeths for a very good price, and did that.

I enjoyed the 604 baffles along with their weaknesses for some time, then acquired a pair of Lowther-equipped Beauhorn speakers, which are probably the best Lowther implementation ever made: They front-load the driver along with the rear horn, which brings up the lower-mids and gets rid of the awful, thin sound of most Lowther-based horns. I've lived with these for about a year.

At some point I recalled a conversation I had with a well-known American audio designer who listens to Harbeths (40s) in a near-field configuration. I'd never before given serious consideration to near-field listening mainly because I prefer my system in the living room where the family is and we have small children. However, this is the light bulb that went off for me, suddenly: Near-field listening might well cure the only criticism I had of the SLH5+, which is that it was not dynamic enough (in my setup).

I picked up a pair of Compact 7s and have been listening to them in a near-field setup - about 6’ from my head, toed-in to point directly at me - and I’ll be darned if they aren’t jumpy as all hell. Yes, they ARE dynamic. Listening to “Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section” this morning, I was startled again and again by hard snare hits - that’s what I’m talking about!

Furthermore, they reveal more information in the mid-bass and the treble than the Beauhorn. (The lack of a tweeter explains the latter, and the time delay of the rear horn probably explains the former.)

They are really killer speakers, all-around. They are wonderful. I had planned, if this experiment was successful, to move up the line, but I’m not even sure I want to.

Amplification might be a factor here as well. I’m now using a solid-state Einstein amp that I know can dump a lot of current. Yes, the C7s are an easy load, but for powerful dynamic peaks at jazz-club levels (which is loud, but not that loud), you need it. I’m not sure, in retrospect, the Luxman integrated had the balls to manhandle the SLH5+ from across the room, as good as it was.
 

PaulF70

New member
Using my Harbeths in the very-nearfield

Using my Harbeths in the very-nearfield

Anybody else doing the near-field thing with Harbeths?

The great thing about these speakers is they WORK for near-field just superbly for a couple reasons (I can think of):

- They are PROPERLY balanced meaning they do NOT need help from the room (room gain) in the bass - at all

- They are so coherent (at least the two-ways I'm familiar with) that they still sound like a point source sitting right in front of them.

I've got the Compact 7s in front of me again (6' from my head) listening to Freddie Hubbard and this is the closest to sitting at the 3rd table at the Vanguard I've had yet.

NO need for subs AT ALL like this. Move them 3-4' back then, yes, the low end goes missing (in my huge space). That would be because, like all direct-radiating box speakers, the power response is much more omni in the bass. But that is not a "problem" in that the solution is just to put them where they sound best.

I'm pretty stoked with this setup now. I can even sell my pricey REL subs (and these are truly great subs) and get some $ back.
 

willem

Well-known member
Proximity of desk surface

Proximity of desk surface

I use the P3ESRs as desktop speakers. I could not be happier. The desk surface does boost the bass a bit, however. So I raised them to ear height for the tweeters, and I used a bit of equalization to reduce bass output.
 
Up close with the C7s

Up close with the C7s

Anybody else doing the near-field thing with Harbeths?
I like to sit on my comfortable couch and the distance to the speakers is about 4,5 meters, one of the reasons I bought the compact 7 was I liked them most in this situation.
They fill the room ( 36 m2) with ease with all the dynamics I need ( only not for orchestral music but never heard a speaker who could deliver the concertgebouw in my room).

Once I tried these speakers in a small room near field and I have to say it is a complete different experience but I can imagine you prefer it this way. The focus and sound stage is better, more detail and indeed the sound is very balanced and coherent. But I suppose the SHL5+ would bring you a (small) step closer to the music although there is something special with the compact 7.
 

Milosz

Active member
Different and equally enjoyable

Different and equally enjoyable

Anybody else doing the near-field thing with Harbeths?
I am using P3ESRs in a very small room in the near-field setup and they work just superbly. It is a completely different experience to listening to my SHL5+ in a big room in the far-field. I like both to be honest and couldn't tell which I do prefer.
 

Ned Mast

Member
Up very close .... and Blumlein

Up very close .... and Blumlein

I sit 4 to 5 feet from my M40s. If listening to Blumlein stereo recordings, I'll sit even closer to get 90 degrees of separation.
 

PaulF70

New member
Super-up close and personal with M40s

Super-up close and personal with M40s

I sit 4 to 5 feet from my M40s. If listening to Blumlein stereo recordings, I'll sit even closer to get 90 degrees of separation.
It's amazing the big three-way gels at that distance. But I believe it. In fact, I know personally of two other individuals doing the same thing with 40.2s, one of the the owner of a very good audio company (electronics).

Lots of advantages to near-field listening! You hear so much more taking the room out of the equation. You get less distortion from both the electronics and the transducers because you need less power and less cone excursion. I am still really digging this after a few weeks!
 
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