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New happy user of a 40.2 Anniversary - inital questions on improving performance

Allears79

New member
Dear Harbeth fans,

I am joining this community after having just acquired a pair of 40.2's Anniversary. I've put some 150 hours on the speakers already and I find them magical: very balanced, neutral reference sound.

My current system is:

Source: Chord Hugo TT2 / Chord Mscaler (connected to UltraRendu streaming from Roon)
Integrated Amp: Gryphon Diablo 300
Speaker cables: Nordost White Lightning
Power Conditioner: Shunyata Denali

I have a few initial questions for you while I am trying to improve my system. Overall I like clarity, bass depth (with definition) and neutral / organic sound. I feel that my system is producing satisfactory performance but I wonder if soundstage and bass depth can be improved by:

- Adding a subwoofer (and which model have better synergy with 40.2). I am afraid of messing the balance of Harbeth with extra bass, so would love to hear others opinions here...
- Choosing better speaker cables: how sensitive are Harbeth to cables / materials? My dealer recommended silver cables. Do you have experiences to share here?

Any other tips for a new Harbeth user will be highly appreciated :)

Cheers,
 

Don Leman

Member
My advice is to focus on other things like your listening environment and speaker position. These will yield the greatest gain at this stage.
 

MikeM

Active member
Hi Allears 79 and welcome to the Harbeth User Group.

I seriously agree with Don in #2 above.

You have a pair of what are considered by many as one of the finest speakers to listen to your music through, connected to a hugely expensive 300wpc into 8ohm integrated amplifier and yet you are speaking still of 'trying to improve' your system (no criticism is intended here). For me personally, I cannot ever imagine spoiling the 40.2's by the addition of a subwoofer. As for soundstage, I believe that if it isn't in the original recording mix then it isn't meant to be there. I spent many foolish years chasing this old audiophile classic and, up to a point, I believe the same with perceived bass depth, of which you're 40.2's should have all the low end quality and depth you desire if it is there on the recording.

Besides the obvious of getting the most out of your listening environment and speaker positioning, you may also want to investigate and invest, if required, in room correction software that other HUG members on here have far more expertise and experience with than me. Any or all of these three things will improve things over anything else I feel.

As for other tips and things I've learnt from the HUG over the years:

1. It is always important for Harbeth speakers to have the tweeter at ear height and there are many speaker stand manufacturers that can make them at your preferred height to get your speakers sited properly

2. I gave up all my fancy and extremely expensive cables and now use only professional industry standard and tested cables: For my speakers I use 4mm Van Damme that Alan Shaw has told me is more than enough. For my interconnects, I currently use balanced XLR Canare professional cable with Neutrik connectors. Both these cable brands offer technically superb cable at very sensible prices.

Enjoy those fabulous speakers!
 

Allears79

New member
Mike, Don,

Thanks for your feedback. I do get the point of quality of speakers and amplification and agree with room positioning as well. I've played a lot with positioning and currently I found a sweet spot with speakers being 1,9m apart from each other and 2,30m away from the listener position. They are 80cm away from the front wall, but my sofa / listening position is close to the back wall.

I think that room correction might be a good solution in my case but I have no experience or knowledge with such devices and would be happy to take opinions.

And Mike, I know that asking tips to improve such system might sound a bit exaggerated. Fact is that I bought the speakers and the amplifier together, so I had no previous reference from these 2 pieces acting separately before. That is tricky because it is hard for me to identify which component is doing what for the system.
 

SCPB1967

New member
Hi Allears79 & congratulations.

The 40.2s are beautifully voiced speakers & the rest of your system should certainly not be a source of concern at all. I have no experience with the amplifier but am sure it is a well engineered & powerful unit & can personally vouch for the TT2 as I too use one. I would suggest you have all you need to enjoy many year's of musical magic.

My experience is similar to the above post's in that your biggest bang for the buck is to use the room to best advantage if possible as it's 2nd only to the speaker's with regard to perceived sound quality.

My room is very similar in size (6mx3m) & although I have the smaller M30.1s I have the freedom to try every placement option that is available.
In my case, for soundstage reason's & to combat sidewall reflection which can have major effects on width/depth perception, I have chosen to place the speaker's on the long wall firing across the room with 1.8m between speaker centres & roughly 1.9m to my ears. They tow in so I can see maybe an inch of the inside edge.

Based on room measurements & the solid science of room acoustics to which I own huge thanks to Google I have speakers & my 52 year old ears a fifth of the room width away from both front & rear wall.

Because of wall proximity I have acoustic treatment covering the wall directly behind me from settee height to ceiling & about 1.5m wide overall which absorbs a good percentage of rear wall reflection.

The treatment flipped the already great presentation of the M30.1s to at times becoming almost palpably real (clearer, sweeter, even more natural sounding) & gave my ears & brain a much easier time when it can to creating a soundstage in my head.

I have a good friend who owns the 40.1s & agian in a room the same general size as yours. Although his fire down the length of the room he gets wonderful result's but is looking into possible treatment options for side/rear wall.

Apologies for the rather long post (it's my first). I hope it helps a bit. You have one of the very best speakers out there. I would humbly suggest taking some time to allow them to work as intended by Mr Shaw & am sure you will hear music created more realistically than you ever imagined.

Could I also just please thank the Harbeth community for the goldmine of sensible & grounded advise they give to us all.

Cheers
Simon
 

Don Leman

Member
I agree with Simon that you should try sitting closer to your speakers, say about 2m. Here is a picture to give you some idea of my setup.

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Allears79

New member
Hi Simon,

Thanks a bunch for your comprehensive feedback. I really feel home being part of this community already. I understand that you are using an equilateral triangle setup for a sort of close range monitoring. As I am applying the same positioning (along the "long wall") I have to set up also for close listening. However my speakers are bigger than the 30.1's and my back wall consists on a side of a staircase - this makes it more complicated for me to apply room treatment behind me, which I think it would help a lot.

Even with these non ideal conditions I am enjoying these speakers each day more and more and I feel somehow obsessed by improving the experience, but maybe and giving my room limitations, I have to stop wondering and switch to a more relaxed state of mind.

Let me know your impressions on the TT / Harbeth synergy and which amp are you using. Do you have your Chord device on AMP or DAC mode?

Cheers,

Felipe
 

Okayove

Member
Hi and welcome!

Great choice of speakers. All I want to add is “sit in the boat”.
It take some time to adapt to new equipment......

Best!
 

Ned Mast

Member
I agree with what has been said above. I own M40s and find the soundstaging always satisfactory and sometimes superb, depending upon the recording. I also feel no need for subwoofers. I have used various amplifiers and speaker wires (always copper) without noticeable effects to the soundstage. Position in the room is important, I believe, as is the room itself (hardness vs softness). (I prefer near-field listening; with my speakers slightly less than 7 feet apart, I sit about 4 feet from the front plane of them. Instruments/singers fill different areas of the 7 foot alcove behind the speakers nicely). Good luck and enjoy!
 

willem

Well-known member
Congratulations on a nice system. As far as I am concerned expensive cables and power conditioners are an audiophile waste of money but they do not hurt.

I see people referring to your modest room size but I at least see no actual measurements. If the room is indeed only modest in size I would never add subwoofers. I love them but not in small rooms. They would add even more room modes than you already have and thus make the bass woollier. The room is always the biggest obstacle, and particularly for clean bass below the so - called Schroeder frequency.

My advice would be to start measuring response below 500 Hz. All you need is a cheap calibrated microphone like the Umik-1 and the REW software. Only this way will you know the shape and size of the problem. The Audiosciencereview website has a nice introduction on how to do this.

The next phase, once you have recovered from the shock of seeing real life response, is to ponder solutions like moving the speakers and seating position, room treatments and bass traps in particular (ugly), and dsp room eq.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
You are so right when you say 'recover from the shock...'!

What such an experiment proves is that the brain works continuously and effectively at making sonic sense of the acoustic mess that is loudspeakers blasting sound into a box room i.e. the typical untreated domestic room. It should be no surprise then that different individuals will have more or less sophisticated neural processes at work performing this task with greater or lesser success and against a personal metric of 'good enough for me'.

Which is just another reason why consumers should be mighty careful about reading too much into reviews of audio equipment, especially loudspeakers, when not a single fact is known about the reviewers hearing acuity, room dimensions, materials and absorption and of his personal 'good enough' thresholds.

I'd say, based on decades of observation, that the single biggest improvement in the fidelity of any audio system is some basic attention to the acoustics of the room. That means that the occupants will have to make a decision to prioritise acoustic functionality over style (few are willing or able to) and hence all but a handful of listeners experience nowhere near the full potential I know our speakers are capable of.

The finest domestic listening room I've been in was deep inside Indonesia, and the best professional listening room that of StereoSound magazine in Tokyo. The room contribution to the overall sound was practically zero - the audio system really shone, and the illusion of being there was fantastic. Why? How? The walls of the room absorbed sound. Not all sound, but the troublesome echoes that linger on top of the music with a horrible, hard 'twang'.

Go prove how good your own listening room is. Stand up somewhere in the middle and clap your hands together palm on palm to generate a sharp, clean crack of sound. Listen. Move around. Repeat until your hands sting. What do you hear? I bet you find that at some places in the room you can hear a distinctive echo. Kill them and your fidelity will greatly improve, regardless of what audio system you have.
 

willem

Well-known member
As always, Alan has very good advice. All I want to add is that it pays to distinguish between sound above and below the Schroeder frequency (100-200 Hz in most domestic rooms). Above that frequency, damping material usually works pretty well, although the lower the frequency the harder it gets. Below that frequency, the real problem is room modes, and these are a tougher cookie, and demand different measures like ugly bass traps or room eq.

But begin with measuring: you should not be surprised to see peaks and dips of at least +/- 10 dB, or often more, particularly at lower frequencies. Compared to the small deviations from a flat response that good speakers themselves are capable of, this is an altogether different magnitude, and hence more important to address.
 

Allears79

New member
First of all, I am really glad to see the mastermind behind these amazing speakers getting so close to the customers - Alan Shaw, being available to listen & interact with the final users of your designs is as critical as your talent to develop such precise and lifelike products. All engineers and designers should have the same attitude. But I guess that this is what makes Harbeths so special!

I remember reading through a text when A.S. mentioned the concept of sound being reproduced over several boxes: monitors in studio > studio room > recording monitors > loudspeakers > domestic listening room. I guess that my next big improvement lies on the last box in the chain - my listening room.

However, and as Alan nailed in his comment:
"occupants will have to make a decision to prioritise acoustic functionality over style" - post 12 above
Given that my system is in my living room today (7m x 4.5m), positioned along the long wall and considering that I don't have a spare room to transform in my own personal listening room, I need to share the space with my family and unfortunately won't be able to apply dumpers or move the speakers to a position where my kids can accidentally bump in. This way, we tend to find the "easiest" path to sound nirvana through reviews and expensive accessories that magically increase resolution, detail, bass response.

This thread showed me the obvious solution and was an eye opener to me. And I really appreciate the sincerity and feedback. I am aware that I have a really capable system but I will have to make the most out of it given my current room limitations and hope that one day I will be able to move to a different house and finally experience the full potential of my 40.2. It doesn't matter how long it takes, because these speakers will be in the family for a long time.

Given the context above and considering that there are no additional tweaks that my room (or my wife...) would allow, I am inclined to test some digital room correction and would like to know if any of you have experience with hardware and software with reliable DSP. And how "harmful " DSP can be for the sound. I tried using Roon DSP but don't like the final result, which apparently reduce edges but also makes the presentation more congested.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
... Given the context above and considering that there are no additional tweaks that my room (or my wife...) would allow, I am inclined to test some digital room correction and would like to know if any of you have experience with hardware and software with reliable DSP. And how "harmful " DSP can be for the sound. I tried using Roon DSP but don't like the final result, which apparently reduce edges but also makes the presentation more congested.
Noted your interest in DSP.

Actually, the box-in-box idea started with the microphone (a sort of box itself) being in the studio (a box), monitored in the control room (a box) over speakers (boxes) and replayed in the listening room (a box) by loudspeakers (boxes). Each one adds a little (or a lot) of its own acoustic character to the sound.

Remember what I said about hand clapping in your listening room here:
Go prove how good your own listening room is. Stand up somewhere in the middle and clap your hands together palm on palm to generate a sharp, clean crack of sound. Listen. Move around. Repeat until your hands sting. What do you hear? I bet you find that at some places in the room you can hear a distinctive echo. Kill them and your fidelity will greatly improve, regardless of what audio system you have.
DSP will not solve echo problems in your listening room. Those sort of temporal issues are best fixed by mechanical means i.e. acoustic absorbers, heavy curtains, carpets, drapes, decent well padded fabric furniture (not leather ideally).
 
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willem

Well-known member
I am not familiar with the room eq in Roon but I would suggest to give it another try. Avoid any room eq above about 200 Hz and be careful not to overdo it.
 

SCPB1967

New member
Hey Felipe, you are more than welcome.
My setup isn't quite a triangle. I prefer to be just a bit further away from the speaker's than they are apart.
One advantage for me being just less than 2m away is less energy has to be pumped into the room to get the volume I need at my ears. Easier life for speaker, amp, ears & just less sound bouncing around in the room.

The energy thing should aid you more so than me . As I mentioned above, a good friend owns a pair of M40.1s & they are capable of producing A LOT of energy.
Having said that my impression when listening to his system is of natural delicacy & intimacy, particularly the mids which I'm guessing is a consequence of the 200mm Radial driver having a more focused job than my M30.1s where it's tasked with lower frequency work too.

As the advice above, Just take the time to enjoy & become familiar with your excellent system.

If curiosity does get the better of you & you have a good 15 tog duvet lying around, pull the curtains, lock the doors & try hanging it on the wall behind you to see if you perceive any difference. You'll never have to tell anyone what strange things we music lovers get up to in pursuit of better sound & best of all it's free.
The TT2 is my 2nd Chord DAC & replaced Qutest. I like the flexibility it gives me in that I can use it as a standalone DAC with my current Cambridge CXA80 amplifier, as amp & DAC driving speakers directly using the balanced outputs, discovering music on YouTube via Bluetooth or to listen to headphones.
From a technical point of view it's outstanding & sounds great, although it should do, it costs a fortune !!! I like it a lot.

Just for clarity though, driving the M30.1s directly is 'interesting' but do remember it's fine at maybe 75dB listening levels but headbanging is out.
I find the designer (Rob Watts) quite open & willing to share knowledge & answer questions he must have been asked a million times. Very much reminds me how much patience Mr Shaw must have when it comes to amplifier questions.

By the way, if you do hang the duvet, try Alan's clapping suggestion as you walk up & down the room, it's surprising how it damps echo/resonance but please don't let anyone see you :)
 
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Hondo

New member
When I purchased my 40.2's, I had two HSU VTF-3 subwoofers that were used with a previous set of speakers. Initially, I did not use them with the 40.2's. After several months I connected the two subwoofers. I reduced their crossover point and level to a point were they were not noticeable, but add to my systems low frequency response. I initially used sound level measurements and then my ears. I listen primarily to classical music and try for balance.

One listeners response was-- You're not using your subs, are you? When I turned them off he said --- You are!

I like my sub's, but dislike sub's in almost all other systems that I hear. When I can detect there presence, I generally don't like them.
 

psjvf

New member
1st locate the right position of the speakers in the room, and as stated in the post above, place the speakers around 2m apart and listen near field. If you have enough room length, try place the speakers into the room (away from front wall) and toe-in. Then look into room tuning (room treatment).
 
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