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My Harbeth speaker selection search continues...

peterk

New member
My Harbeth journey continues....I went to a local dealer (Adirondack Sound in New York). Harbeth should be proud of him (Jason) as he truly understands the Harbeth products, goals and applications.

I heard the 30.2 Anniversary model using a Luxman solid state amplifier. The speakers were setup in a large open space approximately 12 -18 inches from the rear wall. I enjoyed the sound except for what I would call the mid-bass. In several recordings (cd) I heard a thickness/fatness which I don't like. Does anyone understand and encounter what I've just described? I have a good ear and was disappointed with this aspect of the speaker's sound.

From other posts in other Topics I'm now leaning to buying the Super HL5Plus 40th anniversary. I have no way of borrowing this model to hear at home (NY dealers are not that user-friendly). So I'm inclined to buy them, and worse case, sell them if the mid/bass - bass isn't sufficiently neutral. At my home I would have them at least 18 inches from the rear wall, with some flexibility to add a bit to that spacing. Appreciate your insights!
 

tIANcI

Member
peterk said:
My Harbeth journey continues....I went to a local dealer (Adirondack Sound in New York). Harbeth should be proud of him (Jason) as he truly understands the Harbeth products, goals and applications. I heard the 30.2 Anniversary model using a Luxman solid state amplifier. The speakers were setup in a large open space approximately 12 -18 inches from the rear wall. I enjoyed the sound except for what I would call the mid-bass. In several recordings (cd) I heard a thickness/fatness which I don't like. Does anyone understand and encounter what I've just described? I have a good ear and was disappointed with this aspect of the speaker's sound. From other posts in other Topics I'm now leaning to buying the Super HL5Plus 40th anniversary. I have no way of borrowing this model to hear at home (NY dealers are not that user-friendly). So I'm inclined to buy them, and worse case, sell them if the mid/bass - bass isn't sufficiently neutral. At my home I would have them at least 18 inches from the rear wall, with some flexibility to add a bit to that spacing. Appreciate your insights!
Until you get a set of speakers into your own room, you can never know for sure of it’s sound. All rooms are different. The sound you get from a set of speakers will more often change from room to room.

I had a pair of ProAc Tablette Anniversary. Was so so in my living room. Sold it to a friend. He has a small dedicated hifi room. The ProAc sounded so sweet and good in his room. It was a smaller room with a lot of book shelves with books in it. That made a huge difference. Ok ... he also has a much better CD player than I do.

Nothing beats testing the speakers in your own room with your system, as that is what you will be living with.
 
One of the characteristics of Harbeth is imo a full bodied sound. When I bought my Harbeth initiallly I had to get used to this sound because all the other previous speakers I have owned spunded thinn with more pronounced high tones.
Could it be that this thickness in de mid-bas is a true reproduction of the recording which makes the sound natural ? (If you like it or not). My reference is sound and speech in real environment in stead of typical high end sound reproduction.
 

kholuap

New member
I've never heard the SHL5 Plus 40th AE but, from what I've read in some forums, it has a fatter bass compared to the standard SHL5 Plus. So, take this into account, maybe the standard version could suit you better. But it's just my guess, I think other fellows can help with more propriety. But you'd better listen to both and compare them.
 

hifi_dave

Well-known member
Forums are dangerous places with all manner of mis-information and lies. The Anniversary SHL5+ is cleaner and flatter than the standard version. It's not a night and day thing but an evolution which is appreciated by all those who hear them. They never fail to impress on audition.
 

MikeM

Active member
hifi_dave said:
Forums are dangerous places with all manner of mis-information and lies. The Anniversary SHL5+ is cleaner and flatter than the standard version. It's not a night and day thing but an evolution which is appreciated by all those who hear them. They never fail to impress on audition.
David is absolutely right and no Harbeth speaker exhibits any nasties throughout the frequency range. Whilst visiting to check out other things with him, I had the chance to listen to the P3ESR Anniversary edition. They did not make my standard P3ESR's suddenly sound 'broken' at all, not in the least in fact. The differences that did exist were, to me, quite subtle, and could best be described as a slightly better integration between the tweeter and bass/mid drivers. I would imagine this to be similar between other standard and anniversary Harbeth editions.

And talking of forums being dangerous places for mis-information (The HUG excepted, of course!), a world renowned british electronics own forum has some mind blowing mis-information for anyone who cares to listen to it from, frankly, extremely ill-informed individuals. A current example of this is regarding the placebo effect, with some members stating quite bluntly that they do not ever succumb to this and do not need any form of blind a/b tests to absolutely know what they hear to be correct regardless of what 'science' (their use of the emphasis) tells them - which of course ALWAYS means that the product they are evaluating as a new component in their system invariably ALWAYS is better than what they already have in place! That forum is so full of angst - thank goodness for this place which has been a haven of sensible, down to earth and properly proven advice for me.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
I'm just catching up with this.

OK, here is my honest view. The only time I spent with Harbeth (or indeed any) speakers 12-18 inches from a rear wall was when I was obliged to do most of my critical speaker listening in a small spare bedroom at home when the children were growing up and needed more space. The Compact 7 was under development at the time.

Frankly, placing (any) speakers that close to a boundary (that's what a wall is after all), will significantly disturb the (air pressure) sound waves radiating from the speaker. They expect to be able to flow unimpeded 360 degrees away from the speaker and clearly that's not what will happen if there is a hard boundary just behind the speaker. They will (approximately) not radiate into 360 degrees but a hemisphere of 180 degrees.

What will happen? Simple: the low-middle frequencies will be 'bunched-up' around the speaker and their loudness will proportionately increase (even double) relative to the mid/top frequencies. Consequently, the overall balance of the speaker will, subjectively, tilt towards the bass end of the spectrum. The bigger the speaker, the more this could be an issue, the smaller, the less so.

There are solutions: the speaker could come away from the wall, orplace an absorptive bookcase stuffed with books (spines to the wall is best) behind the speakers. Or the entire sonic imbalance could be redeemed if your amplifier has a tone or tilt control. Sniffy about tone controls? Do not be. They are your best friend and do not degrade fidelity - they give you the opportunity to perfect the sonic combination of your speaker and it's far from optimal listening conditions. As I've said before, when the revolution comes Comrades, it will be the anti tone control brigade first up against the wall.

An internet search for 'QUAD tilt control' brough this.

Also here. Note the potential combination of tilt and bass step function.

It is so blindingly obvious that to achieve the best possible fidelity in imperfect listening spaces. i.e. domestic rooms, the driving electronics should have a means of adjusting the overall balance of sound, especially in the bass frequencies where the speaker designer has to make sweeping assumptions about the absorption of energy in listener's rooms. A far cry from the dead acoustics of his anechoic chamber. So, no tone controls? You are unlikely to ever achive the hightest level of fidelity unless you employ acoustic architects to sort out your listening room regardless of the system and speaker that you have. Or don't change the room, change the amount of energy you pump into it, especially in the bass frequencies where wall and surface absorption is normally very poor (which is why you hear your neighbours through the walls).
 

EricW

Active member
A.S. said:
Frankly, placing (any) speakers that close to a boundary (that's what a wall is after all), will significantly disturb the (air pressure) sound waves radiating from the speaker. .... the low-middle frequencies will be 'bunched-up' around the speaker and their loudness will proportionately increase (even double) relative to the mid/top frequencies.
When I used to visit my Harbeth dealer, he always had the speakers well out into the room, and they sounded unfailingly balanced and natural that way. Every model. In the case of your dealer, I'd wager that bringing the speakers even a foot or two closer to you and away from the walls would have made a noticeable difference.

If you have to have the speakers close to the wall at home, I'd consider the P3-ESR. With its earlier rolloff in the bass frequencies, you should be able to get it closer to room boundaries and still have a reasonably balanced sound. It will give you the same quality of sound as the larger Harbeths, just at a reduced output level and with less bass. But if you want more bass (i.e. a larger Harbeth) and still want the speaker to sound balanced, then you have to give it some room - literally.
 
Of course the distance fron the rear wall is not ideal but often a fact in normal living circumstances. The question is now is do harbeth speakers need more space ? Is this thick mid bas response in this situation different from brand B?
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
martin1305 said:
Of course the distance fron the rear wall is not ideal but often a fact in normal living circumstances. The question is now is do harbeth speakers need more space ? Is this thick mid bas response in this situation different from brand B?
The answer is contained in my post #7:

A.S. said:
Frankly, placing (any) speakers that close to a boundary (that's what a wall is after all), will significantly disturb the (air pressure) sound waves radiating from the speaker. They expect to be able to flow unimpeded 360 degrees away from the speaker and clearly that's not what will happen if there is a hard boundary just behind the speaker. They will (approximately) not radiate into 360 degrees but a hemisphere of 180 degrees.

What will happen? Simple: the low-middle frequencies will be 'bunched-up' around the speaker and their loudness will proportionately increase (even double) relative to the mid/top frequencies. Consequently, the overall balance of the speaker will, subjectively, tilt towards the bass end of the spectrum. The bigger the speaker, the more this could be an issue, the smaller, the less so.
When you see numbers like 180 or 360 degrees, and terms like hemispheres and sound waves, you know you are in the domain of physics. Harbeth speaker operate with the confines of physics. Other brands may not (apparently).

Panel speakers repond differently to being operated in real rooms. They have exactly the same issues with the proximity of a rear wall, but (at least in theory) the sound energy when listening (or measuring) exactly perpendicular to the side of the panel is zero. So they sound very different becasue they radiate sound so very differently, and take some acclimatisation to.

Indeed, you could use a panel speaker - say, a Quad ELS - to demonstrate the sort of sonic effect that close proximity to the rear wall has on the overall sound of any louspeaker. Obtain a 2.4m x 1.2m (8 foot by 4 foot) panel of MDF, chipboard or similar. Bring the ESL well out into the room, clear of the rear wall. Ask a friend to introduce the wooden panel behind the speaker at various distances as you listen to the disturbance of the otherwise 'flat' sound. It makes quite a mess of the fidelity.
 
This phenomena ( wrong placement) is described on this side by the topic -user guide-. My recommendation would be always compare at least two speakers with (more or less) the same specs.There has to be some sort of reference to judge...
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Preparing for a valid audition at the dealer store ...

martin1305 said:
This phenomena ( wrong placement) is described on this side by the topic -user guide-. My recommendation would be always compare at least two speakers with (more or less) the same specs.There has to be some sort of reference to judge...
Good plan. Consider this though. It's very important.
  1. Should the two pairs of speakers (pair A and pair B) be arranged simultaneously in the listening room, with only one driven at a time?
  2. How close should left A be to left B? And right A to right B i.e. how close should the driven pair be to the side of the undriven pair?
  3. Is it obvious that the frequency response of A or B pair will be dramatically altered by the physical proximity of the other pair of speakers, whether playing music or not, such that neither will measure (or sound) as intended by their designers?
  4. The skewing of the frequency responses of adjacent A and B pairs will be influenced greatly by the area of their baffles such that two standmount speakers of very similar dimensions, pairs A and B, will be approximately equally disturbed by the other's presence, but if one pair is a standmounter and the other a tall, thin floorstander, the effect will be magnified
And how should the four speakers be arranged: Left A, Left B >>>>>> Right B, Right A ? or Left A, Right A >>>>> Left B, Right B? Or what?

So even preparing to give a fair listening to any A and any B is far from a trivial matter that needs careful planning, let alone the actual listening.
 
Is it really necessary to compare two pairs of speakers? In an environment totally different from your own the informations on room-speaker-interaction might not be so useful i.m.o.. As far as I understand: the whole imaging and stage thing relies on postions and positioning of speakers, listeners and walls. May be matched pairs of speakers are relevant (the ability to build identical speakers). But the quality of the chosen drivers, the crossover, cabinet resonances, naturalness of sound, the ability to reproduce a believable copy of an acoustical event should be demonstrable with a single speaker. The second speaker reproduces a second signal, similar but different. The test of two speakers in combination is more dependent on recording quality than a single speaker test. A mono recording can do, or an amplifier with a mono/stereo switch.
 

ProAudio68

New member
100% agreed. Just moved and the living room is now 38sqm while the previous had been 28sqm. Harbeth SHL5plus were great in that old living and but now they are spectacular. I have them 1,5m from the back wall and 1m from the side walls. But as the width of the new living room has increased by 0,8m, the inter speakers distance has increased as well, which gives them more body, more stage while keeping the (based on my experience) required distance to side walls. As a further result, bass has become tighter. I believe, in a 50sqm living room they might even sound better....

So, test your speakers in your room, nothing else matters.
 

BAS-H

Member
Totally right. I've just switch my living room furniture around 90° to get my SHL5s on the longer wall. I've got rid of a large table I didn't need which has created so much more space around the speakers. Gone are bass boom and standing wave issues and the imaging is like being in a concert hall again.
 
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