Harbeth loudspeaker 'In Your Words' featuring Steve Paines

In your words feature from Harbeth owner, Steve Paines:

I first heard about Harbeth from the November 2007 edition of Hi Fi News. They ran a feature on the history of Harbeth. The article covered the company’s history including the loudspeaker cone research project which resulted in the creation of Radial cone material. I always thought a custom designed and manufactured driver cone was a good idea and always held the project in the back of my mind.

Fast forward eleven years and I was attending the Bristol HiFi show this year. This gave me the opportunity to visit the two Harbeth demonstration rooms. What struck me particularly with the little P3 was how the presentation drew me into the music like a hook.

The experience was enough for me to purchase my first P3ESR in Rosewood. However, my wife correctly observed the Rosewood did not match the light wood of Russ Andrews Torlyte stands. I have now replaced then with P3 Anniversary that came in the lighter olive wood.

Why change to Harbeth? My previous speakers had an upgrade option to the latest specification. I contacted the manufacturer and gave them details of the options I wanted. Manufacturer said I must go through a dealer. The distributor for the UK was also copied in on the email but never responded to my order request. I think this demonstrates the importance of customer service and to have effective support available when you need it.

I spent an amount of time researching speaker placement recommendations. I did not mount and leave but experimented with different speaker positioning. I found that a placement close to side walls with a large spread between speakers was not the best. I settled on a position where the distance between the speakers was 83% of the length of the sides of the triangle from ear to speaker baffle. This gave the best imaging and then toe in was used as a tone control to fine tune the treble presentation.

In terms of Hi Fi and audio equipment speakers are so important. They are the ‘window’ of the system and subject to personal taste. System synergy is critical and measures how components interact with each other. Get it right and the result is greater than the contribution of each individual part.

On running in Alan Shaw has said that your Harbeth’s will be nearly there in terms of sound quality when you receive them. It is a case of your ear’s getting accustomed to the sound. I am of the view that the internal wiring to the drive units, crossover components and woofer driver basket all need to be run in. My personal notes state that at 70 hours the sound fell into place. This was particularly in relation to bass performance and the ability to reproduce the lower end of the spectrum.

Sound quality observations are as follows;-

What I love is the low listening fatigue. You can listen to these for hours. The treble is sweet and extended. It integrates very well with the Radial 2 midrange/woofer. Offering similar resolution and never fierce like a Wilson metal dome.

The mid range is where the real magic is. But then is a speaker principally about mid range reproduction? Vocals are full, crystal clear and extended. You here detail never heard before with everything presented in a natural unforced way.

The bass has had me genuinely surprised how low a speaker of these dimensions and cabinet volume can go. I thought I would be sacrificing a lot of bass information but this has not been the case. Playing Trentemoller Evil Dub it’s all there including the deepest bass notes. Physical Fraction by the same artist is another good test of detail retrieval because of the sheer amount of information packed into the mix. Great to hear this speakers ability of reproducing micro detail. Another track I really enjoyed on the Harbeths' was Rain on the Jimmy Sommerville Read My Lips on vinyl. There is one bass note deeper than the rest one third of the way through the track. It was there in all its glory on the Harbeths.'

Others that have heard the Harbeths’ said, ‘The scale of the sound and size of the sound stage is impressive considering the speakers size.’ ‘You don’t really need a sub woofer; the bass that’s presented is ample considering the size of the speaker.’

I really like the Anniversary range for its collective appeal, increase in sound quality and the special Olive Wood finish in this case. One of the cheapest speakers in my listening room but as an all-round package my favourite.


You can also read the review here