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linden518
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Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

Does anyone have experience with Harbeth HL 7ES 3 or Spendor S3e? If so, can you compare them for me? I do mostly classical listening, with a good measure of jazz and indie music thrown in. The room is approximately 15' x 20'.

It would be doubly helpful if you can contrast these with some of the more recent bookshelf models that are popular, i.e. NHT classic 3, etc. etc... Thanks.

P.S. - I was also interested in ATC SCM 12 or Revel M20... sorry for being all over the map. STILL in the process of building my 1st system!

struts
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

selfdivider,

I have experience of the Spendor S3e although none of the others you mention so I am afraid I can't offer any comparisons. I suspect you meant '...and...' rather than '...or...' when you asked the question, but I'll offer what I can.

I have been extremely happy with the Spendors which make lovely music in my kitchen which is probably about that size. They lack really low bass, need good supports yadda, yadda, but you didn't need me to tell you that. IMHO they are a great example of an extremely musical, easy-to-listen-to, high resolution mini-monitor that I would expect to fully reveal the quality of any decent upstream system.

Other bookshelf models that have impressed me a lot are the B&W 805 and Dynaudio Contour although I have never heard them in environments similar enough to compare.

Have fun putting that system together, the journey is half the enjoyment!

jackfish
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

Not to complicate things further, but if you are planning on spending $1400/pair on bookshelf loudpseakers I'd surely consider the HUMAN 81+ loudspeakers at $745/pair. At 25"x12"x14.5" (HxWxD) they are a little larger than bookshelf speakers. However, I think you would be satisfied with the fuller sound that can be delivered by these handmade beauties. I think they blow away anything you have considered to this point. I'd call Huw Powell at 603-659-5335 to see how you might get a listen to them. His shop is 260 miles from NYC in Lee, New Hampshire. http://www.humanspeakers.com/human/index.html

I've heard the 88-41 and 81 and they are very good loudspeakers that sound better than some costing many times more. The 81 (18.25"Hx11.5"Wx7.5"D) is better than any bookshelf speaker I've heard regardless of price. The 81+ with its bass extension to 32 Hz (+/- 3dB) must sound even better.

linden518
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

Thanks for the word on the Spendors, Struts. I'll get to audition them over this week, so I'm excited about that...

Jackfish: Thanks for the link to Human Speakers. I wish there was a way for me to audition them in NYC, though, can't really get out to NH. Really tantalizing... especially at that price point! I really must ask, though, jackfish, how would Human 81+ compare with Harbeth Super HL5? Might not be a fair question, b/c price differential, but seeing that Human 81+ are bigger than the usual monitors...

I'm going to Audio Connect in Northern NJ to audition some Harbeths & Spendors this week... does anyone know a shop that carries both in NYC so I don't have to get out to NJ?

jackfish
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

The Harbeth Super HL5 is really quite a bit larger than what I would consider a bookshelf speaker as it is about the same size as the HUMAN 81+. I haven't heard the Harbeth Super HL5, but at over $4000/pair I think there may be many contenders which could be considered. Even the HUMAN 88-41 are only $2200/pair and I think they sound as good as some that cost five times as much. He11, $4000/pair would get you into Vandersteen 3A Signatures, a speaker I think is very good when matched with the right equipment.

The Harbeth Super HL5 certainly gets accolades and I'm sure sounds very good. I'm sorry I haven't heard them to give you any comparison to those I have heard. But for the money the HUMAN 88-41 ($2200/pair), Vandersteen 2Ce Signature IIs ($2000/pair) and Vandersteen 3A Signatures ($3600/pair) are some of the best I've heard.

While you're at Audio Connection you owe it to your self to listen to the Vandersteens. I know you may be avoiding floorstanders, but you may wish to make room for the Vandersteens once you've heard them.

You can hear them at EARSNOVA and Sound by Singer in NYC.

linden518
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

Jackfish: yesterday, I actually remembered you recommending the Vandersteens and told the salesperson about it. I guess he thought they wouldn't suit me or something, b/c he didn't exactly endorse them for me. Weird, eh? I'm still curious about their sound and will audition them @ Audio Connection.

Elk
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

Vandersteens are very nice. Perhaps he steered you away from them since you were stating a preference for a rich sound.

VinnieVeedivicki
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

I own recently purchased Harbeths and Spendor monitor speakers perhaps a slightly different version than you would consider. Harbeth Monitor 30s with subs and Townshend super ribbon tweeters as add ons in the "big" room and a small pair of Ls3/5 type Spendors as monitors in an upstairs second system.

I can tell you the Spendors have their "bextrene" main driver and it has a distinctive coloration that is sortof hard to describe...sort of a "purring" sound comes along with the ride. But my god they are so complete sounding they are extremely easy to listen through because without much effort they let you hear the WHOLE presentation as an EVENT. And man are they CUTE in their rosewood finish. Real sweethearts I could listen to forever.

However that said the Harbeths are what I look for in a speaker---the damn things are invisible once you get them placed perfectly into your room's sonics...they DISAPPEAR.

Yes there are BETTER speakers if you want a more impressive thing to point to and say "look what I bought." Your civilian friends might not be impressed. I used to be a Manhattan salesman for Martin Logan, Sonus Faber and many other lines. But I hear the glory of the recording on the Harbeths like it is wired into my soul.

I am embarrassed to admit it but I am not unfrequently weeping tears of joy when I listen to great masterpieces whether symphonic or popular. Damn that hasn't happened for I don't even remember how long. It is like all of the music is coming from inside my soul outward. Being pulled out in excruciating joy.

An extremely unassuming looking plain jane bookshelf speaker---hahaha. Then you turn it on. Good God Almighty...

Pretty easy to drive too but get lots of clean power as they don't like much less than a Bryston 4B or something else with sufficient control. Don't know why but I went from one Parasound amp to running two (vertically bi-amping in the process) and the speaker's presentation was dramatically improved as though it needed to breathe. And breathe it does.

Lord knows what speaker will make you happy. I could see myself running Quads if I had a Manhattan apartment and wanted to turn it down a notch. Maybe be a bit more detailed without losing the "soul." But meanwhile the Harbeths are doing a BIG job of putting me in the total ZONE. It is addictive. I never want to leave the house!

linden518
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

I know what you're talking about rooty: I bought the Super HL5. Just amazing. Have you heard Gergiev's live account of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring"? I used to take the CD with me to audition speakers - very revealing - so I kind of know how certain speakers handle the music, and it's remarkable how the Harbeths duplicate the live experience of the disc. Pretty heart-stopping. Go buy the disc if you haven't already!

VinnieVeedivicki
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

Congrats on finding your way into a pair of Harbeth Super HL5s my dear Divvy. Did you have John Rutan sell them to ya?

My Harbeth 30s did benefit from bi-wiring and then really went to another level using two Parasound A23 stereo amps, one per side vertically bi-amped. Bit of a hassle getting it all dialed in and honestly I could live with these "as is" and be content just to shut up and enjoy them stock... But HiFi is an ADDICTION, ya know?

But with any solid amp and a good front end they are such satisfying performers you really don't need to do diddly to have a ball with them. Which is the idea I was after...buy them once and keep them SOMEWHERE in the house FOR LIFE! Screw UPGRADES!

It is honestly a bit BORING not to have to keep swapping junk for other junk. You know, to just start LISTENING to music and going out to clubs with all your free time. Oh, Gee, now I will have no excuse not to have a life!

I happily blame my predicament on the Harbeths. They just keep going, and going, and going...

What stands are you using? I bought the Skylans and filled them up with sand and spiked them.

I also ran a zero toe setup for a while and was happy. Then a little toe. Then a little more. And now I have them toed so I can see just a touch of the inner sides (almost 90 degree equilateral triangles).

I can clearly "see" every instrument in the orchestra on a good acoustical recording---exactly as to its position left to right and front to back. Amazing. Especially at the room they are in is way less than ideal. But goodness how they have "hooked up" anyway!

We were taught (in the trade) to move main speakers around until vocals get hooked up into the room and deepest bass extension happens. That took months to get perfect---God forbid I EVER move them accidentally.

They really LOVE where they are finally. While never sounding actually bad anywhere else it is amazing how much more they can offer for the trouble it takes to "dial the set up position" in...quarter inch by quarter inch...

So how are things going over at Chez Divvy?" What amp are you driving them with? Wasn't that on your list too at one time? I admit I just started reading these forums---now that I finally have free time due to the Harbeths, lol.

Tell me what you are doing with your new purchase. I am all ears. And I really think you have hit on a "classic" to mess around with.

linden518
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

Hey, Rooty! Glad to have a fellow recent-Harbethian. You're right, we totally picked the classics, it seems. I can't believe the music I'm hearing these days. As we speak, I'm listening to the Rene Jacobs' recording of Figaro. Amazing.

I wish I could have bought from John Rutan, as I think he's a class act, one of the best audio people I've met, but didn't. When I went to visit Audio Connection, I only heard Vandersteens & ProAcs, didn't get to audition Harbeths. Back then, my budget was limited, so John showed me appropriate speakers. Then shortly there after, I lost my mind and just went crazy, shredded up my planned budget.

The Super HL5 have been just perfect for me, exactly the speakers I've been looking for. Just the right blend of luminous warmth and clarity, presents music with utter naturalism. Nice, musical bass.

It's impressive that you found your spot after experimenting for months! Make sure never to call in a maid to clean the house, man. As for me, I'm not as fussy. Maybe I'll make a poor audiophile. Since I live in a Manhattan apt, I can't have the Harbeths stationed in one place, need to move them around to make room. But one of the things I really like about my speakers is that they are not too fussy about placement, even. It's easy for me to find my sweet spots in my apt., for some reason.

My Skylans are on the way, the 18" ones specifically for the HL5s, but in the meanwhile, I have them on wooden Ikea chairs. And you know what? They sound fantastic to me. Sure the bass has a tendency to bloat sometimes, but nothing to weep over. When the proper stands finally get here, I'll just go for kitty litter or sand. I don't want to damage the rods inside the Skylans w/ lead shots. And once again: I'm a lazy listener, so I'll most likely order kitty litter from Amazon so someone can drop them off right at my door.

Amp-wise, I have both Plinius 8150 and Leben CS600, but I gotta admit, the Plinius hasn't seen much light of day since the Leben came in the house. Leben matches up perfectly with the Harbeths... the Harbeths kind of "tame" the Leben, which can sound a bit too bright with wrong speakers. But this combo is just really musical. Dynamic, fluidly musical, makes the recordings sound like they're lit from within. Just intense, clear & soulful, this combo.

I might let go of the Plinius, maybe trade in for a turntable. I might also just keep it... I'm moving to a 2 bedroom, and I might match the Plinius with Maggie MMG or (if I have any $ left!) Vandersteen 2CEIIs, which I LOVE, too. I'd keep that in the living room, and move the Leben/Harbeth into my private study, which will double as my listening room.

Yeah, I don't know about the upgrade path. Maybe later for me. I'm pretty happy with what I got now, amp/speaker-wise, and I'm pretty burnt out from the constant auditioning & researching, although I learned SO much in the process & it helped me become a better listener actually. There is a slight chance I might trade in the Plinius for LFD Zero if I am not hurting too much from the turntable purchase, which will happen, hopefully, soon. (In the process of getting my system together, met a LOT of fantastic people who have basically been amazing w/ their advice/help. Walter Swanbon @ Fidelis AV, especially so. He might bring down an LFD when he visits NYC, & I might snag it if it really really moves me.) Then, I'm done for years and years, am just going to stock up on good records. I'm just going to listen.

VinnieVeedivicki
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

I had a great time talking with I think his name was Alan from Skylan. He was sick for a couple weeks and called to apologise how long the stands were taking.

I called him back to say don't sweat it I have my then new Harbeths on cheap stands, and then we talked about music for an hour (he's in Canada but I got THAT big a kick out of his personality and wisdom).

Anyway I put sanitary sand in mine so it wouldn't attract mold or go rancid. They call it "kiddy rated" sand. Not just flower bed rated. More pure than that.

The difference the Skylans made was not night and day but I will say the wood in an upright bass became MUCH more realistic and less boomy. Ditto James Jamerson's Fender bass and Ampeg amp. GREAT stands and a perfect match for the style speaker IMHO.

As for the best spot it is an obsession of mine. Harbeths get a perfectly wonderful sound just by using the usual setup dimensions on ear height, backwall, first reflections and the like.

But adding two subs and two super tweets gave me a full measure of work to make them actually sound BETTER with all the extra crapola. It was initially hard to take how the simple speaker mostly sounded BETTER alone!

But eventually my, ahem, talent won out (he said, modestly) and the set is bigger, tighter, stronger and more like a pair of Sonus Faber Amatis in a proper room. In other words they leave me speachless.

Definitely one of the most rewarding products I have worked with in many many years of doing this...

linden518
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

Yeah, I think his name is Noel, the Skylan man. He's such a good guy. He knew I was on limited budget so he was actually trying to get me to try Ikea Lack stands, which Alan Shaw from Harbeth also recommended, btw, before Ikea changed their dimensions. Anyway, he was just really folksy and charming, and as you say, full of wisdom. He gave me a break on the shipping, b/c he knows my budget as a student. Although I somehow ended up with a non-student caliber system...

I'm not expecting night & day difference w/ the stands, but I thought, I already got the Harbeths & it would be a shame if I didn't get that extra juice out of them. As I mentioned, they already sound damn great on the Ikea wooden chairs, but 1: they look like crap, and more importantly, 2: the bass gets away from the music sometimes.

It sounds like an impressive thing you've accomplished w/ your Harbeths! Congrats... so you managed to integrate subs, supertweeters, all the while biamping & biwiring? Whoa. I just got dizzy just thinking about the process.

VinnieVeedivicki
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Re: Harbeth and Spendor Bookshelfs...?

Noel, that's him.

It all happened a year ago and I got him mixed up with Alan Shaw at Harbeth. Fraid I only remember the names of pretty blond girls, lol. But of course I owe both those guys a debt or I wouldn't be so happy with what my speakers sound like now.

The "curse" of having to screw around with someone's perfectly fine design and modify it comes from thinking like this...Hmmmm. I can't be content with ANYTHING less than a pair of Sonus Faber Amati Homage but they are only able to shine in a really BIG room where you can get back far enough to integrate their drivers... (I used to sell these and they were my favorite "all rounders").

My current room is only slightly larger than an apartment and it has a lousy way of holding bass as it opens out into separate rooms on BOTH ends...yikes. So I need to be able to tune in some bass using a radio shack meter and some test tones. I really NEED a large speaker but the room is going to fight a monster sized pair something fierce.

On the other hand when I am all done if I sell the house and move back to Manhattan into an apartment I can just break down the set and run only the Harbeths and hopefully not lose my lease over playing too loud in the building---OK PERFECT. Harbeth mains, a pair of 12 inch subs and maybe some super tweets to compensate at the other frequency extreme for adding deeper bottom. THAT will do what I want. Now let's feed them, wire up a slick rack full of gear and start listening happily ever after.

It took the better part of a year to learn enough about the room and the speakers and then finally hear the rack's components and do a little adjusting there to get it purring like a kitten.

But dreams DO come true. Wow! This is WAY better than anything at any price that I ever built for a customer. Maybe not in how IMPRESSIVE it all is. It is after all only 20k worth of gear and I sold hundred thousand dollar systems!

But in sounding COMPLETE and MUSICAL and ACCURATE all at the same time... Yup. All the boxes are checked off on my list. And now all I am doing is listening to the greatest artists I can get my hands on.

And it proves what I allways have said. "IT ain't the GEAR, it's the GUY." If I had to build a similar set for a customer what would I charge for a year's worth of daily labor? Would they let me live over at their house so I could check the response early in the morning when my ears are freshest? Impossible!

In my opinion the great artists WANT to be listened to as they gave their lives over to creating magnificent expressions of human pleasure and emotional "bridging" of all the gaps that annoy and disappoint in this life.

And who am I to not play along and at least listen to what they have to say...? Only seems fair to get a kick out of life while you are HERE.

So glad to make YOUR aquaintence Divvy. I am probably a LOT older than you as it has been 40 years since I was a student in college. As an old tired survivor of the stereo wars I would like to think the passion for great music continues on to yet another generation. Best of luck to you.

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