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Jim Tavegia
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JA/Harbeth Review

First, after looking at the in-room response of the Harbeths at JA's Brooklyn home I was surprised that he was not raving about their sound. I can understand the issues at AD's home, even with the Audio Notes. but AD loves his Audio Notes, as JA did. Even taking that into account, the photos show the stand heights for both seem approx. the same, but the Audio Notes woofer is considerably higher, more removed from the floor boundary.

The questions I have are:
1.) Do we agonize to much over keeping the tweeter at or near ear height? I know that with the new Triangle Cometes AD reviewed they were so bright he could not do it and enjoy them.

2.) I would love to have seen the Harbeth's measured on stands of at least 20", I know, that is defying the manufacturer's recommendations. My old AR 58's with their 12" woofers at that 14" height are just too bass heavy for me. My heavy, plaster pedestals at 24 inches in height sound so much better "to me" with the tweeters firing just over my head. Would a similar arrangement for the Harbeths help smooth out the bass response?

3.) Since no one lives in an anechoic chamber I am sure there is some reason designers manipulate their speaker response to be flat in that enviroment, but what is the point? When we get their speakers home we then have to deal with real-world placement.

I guess that it is just me, but at these price points I expect more, or something that I am just missing.

Let the games begin...

ethanwiner
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review


Quote:
Do we agonize to much over keeping the tweeter at or near ear height? I know that with the new Triangle Cometes AD reviewed they were so bright he could not do it and enjoy them.


The main reason for having tweeters at ear height is to avoid the off-axis response, which is not just less bright but often riddled with peaks and nulls due to beaming / lobing. But I agree with you that expensive speakers should sound great out of the box.


Quote:
Since no one lives in an anechoic chamber I am sure there is some reason designers manipulate their speaker response to be flat in that enviroment, but what is the point?


Just to clear up a common misconception, a room does not have to be totally dead sounding to avoid comb filtering and other problems caused by early reflections. Just having absorption at those key places solves that problem completely. Adding more absorption then makes the room more dead sounding for sounds you create in the room such as conversation.

--Ethan

dbowker
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

I kind of had the same feeling too--- not much to really learn about because most of the gear was SO far out of my experience. I had nothing to even realate any of it to. But how about the LETTERS section? Now that's what we call entertainment!

I don't know if Theodore Kaczynski is a Stereophile subscriber, but obviously a Mr. Fuxa from FL is filling in in case he doesn't have time for a proper uni-letter. It's been noted before that Stereophile has an almost masochistic tendency to give print to irate readers who love to denounce content, bias or subject matter right before they dramatically cancel there subscription. But did we really need three and half columns worth of this guy's media server tirade? We have truly the BEST combination of neo-Marxist, aging hippy, anti-technology paranoia I have seen in a long time.

While it is naively laughable he thinks the Government and his neighbors are looking to hack into his files via iTunes, it is a little sad he needs to spew out so much invective over what was a review he could just as easily skipped. On a fact check note regarding his little Cat Stevens aside: Mr. Stevens, while espousing love and togetherness in his early career, is on record as having publicly sided with the Iranian fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie's death for having written The Satanic Verses. And Mr. Fuxa says the "artist" today has no power...

Jim Tavegia
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

I thought it a little over the top myself. I kept waiting for something to be added by Fox Mulder (X-files). Now, if the government would just "bail me out" of my less than class A audio system. Its the least they could do. A free Sooloos music server for all! It might be a better way to spend $700 billion.

tom collins
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

Jim: you are on to something with the tax credit. A $10,000 tax credit for stereo gear. It would keep more people at home listening to music rather than driving around.

Elk
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

It would beat yet another credit/deduction/payment to pay for other peoples' children.

[/rant mode]

linden518
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

Read JA's take on Harbeth & Audio Note yesterday, very briefly. I've not heard the M40.1, but from JA's description that they seemed to have a hump in the mid-bass, I gather that M40.1 also has a Harbeth house sound with tipped up mid-bass.

I have the Super HL5s, which I love dearly. But as the cliche goes, no speakers are perfect & the particular deficiency I find in my own speakers is what JA mentions... the bass can seem a bit boomy or bloated. I compared the Super HL5 with smaller monitors at my house, the Bluenote Ducales, and the Ducales, despite the less visceral low-end impact, carried out the bass notes with more agility and tunefulness. This quality gets addressed somewhat when I use Plinius 8150's SS 150 wpc to control the bass information, but again, you lose that magic touch of tubes in the music, the fluidity & effortlessness of the sound which the Harbeths reproduce so well. There is ample power in Harbeths' delivery of the bass, but they do so in broad strokes, even when subtlety is needed. This all said, I don't find the Harbeths' bass performance to be a dealbreaker, either. Maybe I've become acclimated to how the Harbeths present the low-end, but I never found it to deviate significantly from what one may regard as "musical" or "truthful." Still love these suckers.

As for stand height, I generally trust what Alan Shaw recommends. For Super HL5s, I tried the higher stands, but eventually found out that the 18" tall Skylans presented the music optimally, low-end or otherwise. So I can't imagine the bigger M40.1s to sound better on even higher 20" stands...

Jim Tavegia
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

In JA's room you are perfectly right. But at AD's place with narrower walls I think the floor did play a significant part. I would certainly try other heights, including the 18" height you experimented with. I think that JA's place has carpet on the floors and AD has beautiful hardwood floors.

Every room is different as we all know. I would not rule any placement out without trying and measuring. The manufacturer's recommendations would be a good place to start. My AR's suffer from bloat too low to the floor, and where they are now are still strong into the 30hz range. If I moved them to my larger living room with a vaulted ceiling and one side wall totally open it would take a whole new set of placements to make it work.

linden518
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

I'd be curious, too, on AD's take on this if he still has the Harbeths... I guess they went back to the distributors, though, so if he hasn't tried different heights already, it may be a lost cause. (Perhaps JA can verify for us on whether AD has tried them at different heights or not?) My basement listening room, btw, is similar to AD's dimension-wise, I think, and it's also hardwood-floored. But it also has a lot of sheet rock material in the ceiling/walls, so I bet that helps. I did try my HL5s in my big living room, on higher wooden stands... probably around 20-21 inches? And I still noted the slight boominess to the bass, so I think that might be inherent in how the Harbeths sound. I don't have vaulted ceilings, though, but maybe that will help... I think it's interesting that JA ended his comments with the caveat that he'd prefer the Audio Notes both in his room and AD's room over the Harbeths. Which means there are still other rooms in which the Harbeths would work better than Audio Notes, which would only corroborate your speculation further, Jim. I WAS more than a bit surprised that the M40.1 review took place in AD's listening room... since they're much bigger than even the Super HL5s, I thought they'd require a much bigger space for them to really breathe properly.

JIMV
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

Still awfully pricy for a speaker with such placement quirks.

linden518
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review


Quote:
Still awfully pricy for a speaker with such placement quirks.


Okay, JIMV. I think you keep misreading the posts & imposing your willful interpretations on it. Not to mention you keep sounding one point over & over, that something is too pricy for being quirky - WITHOUT HEARING A COMPONENT YOURSELF!!! Please, you need to stop judging things before listening yourself, JIMV. It's easy to, I know, especially in forums, but just don't.

As for this thread, Jim brought up an excellent point about raising the speakers to possibly rid of the bass issue that AD & JA found with the Harbeths. I don't think it's too difficult to figure out that he was doing so hypothetically, trying to test out his theories and see if it POSSIBLY has an effect on the bass performance.

Now, I own a pair of less expensive & smaller Harbeths, and have tried different heights. My feeling is that the particular sound of bass that Harbeth goes for is different than some other brands. Harbeths' bass is more about ambience & impact, whereas other brands go for more detail & delineation of notes, which can make the Harbeths' bass sound less detailed than others.

Being a Harbeth owner, I can testify to the fact that these are some of the easiest & most benign speakers as far as speaker placement goes. VERY room-friendly. That's all there is to it, and I can confidently say you are off the mark about placement quirks.

Second of all, ALL speakers need to be carefully positioned. The more expensive or technologically finessed the speakers are, the more care you need to take in placing them, to get the optimal performance. I think JA's article on speaker placement should be as clear as day about this.

But please don't pounce on every issue as a platform to claim, yet again, that somehow because of the high price, something should be an easy panacea. That might be true for some audio system on Fantasy Island, but that's surely not the case in the real world. And seriously, reaching a conclusion based on some conjectured listening you do in your head is not the way to go... listen before you judge.

JIMV
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

Did you actually read the review? Almost half of it is specific to speaker placement in two rooms. In my world that is most assuredly a quirky speaker. As it is also a pretty expensive one, I feel characterizing it as a pricy quirky speaker is not out of order.

linden518
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

I read both AD's review & JA's follow-up. ANY reviewer worth his mettle SHOULD fret over placement, to achieve optimal level, regardless of what speakers are under review.

There IS a problem with you characterizing the M40.1 as pricy quirky speakers because you HAVE. NOT. HEARD. THEM. What can anyone say to have you stop fantasizing that you can actually hear what they sound like based on your reading of a few pages of a review? Please let this not be a trend. Obviously, I have not heard the M40.1 either, but I do own HL5 speakers, the next biggest model, and the issue with bass/mid-bass they describe is symptomatic of the Harbeth sound I recognize. So I do have some tangible and provable basis upon which I can postulate.

Do us all a great favor and base your conclusions on something experiential rather than guessing based on printed words. Music, last time I checked, is something you hear. Sorry if I'm coming off too strong, but you've been striking this one note persistently of late, and frankly & personally, I find it a bit annoying.

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Re: JA/Harbeth Review


Quote:
Did you actually read the review? Almost half of it is specific to speaker placement in two rooms. In my world that is most assuredly a quirky speaker. As it is also a pretty expensive one, I feel characterizing it as a pricy quirky speaker is not out of order.

Excellent point.

Almost half the review was about the improtant-to-every-audiophile subject of optimum speaker placement!

JIMV, try the same article with a 300 dollar speaker substituted for the Harbeth and the same great discussion about speaker placement remains germane!

Comparing two different speakers in the same room, and then adding frequency response curves is fascinating!

Why kvetch based on the price of the speakers when the review(s) are so rich in information?

Those two articles are audiophile platinum material!

Take price out of your head for a few minutes and give the articles another run through - the content is universal!

Plus, now we can harangue JA to compare these speaker curves with AD's Quads, Lowthers, or any piece of speaker kit he tosses into the room. A whole new vista was just presented to us, and I will be happy to lead the charge to make JA go visit AD more often for this kind of data!

JIMV
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review


Quote:
There IS a problem with you characterizing the M40.1 as pricy quirky speakers because you HAVE. NOT. HEARD.

But the reviewer HAD HEARD THEM and wrote of the experience. The speakers might be absolutely magic when installed in a proper setting BUT they ARE quirky and expensive....Geeze, this is not rocket science.

JIMV
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

I did not claim the things were broken or that they sound bad, just exactly what they are, quirky and expensive. The recent review of the Avalon Acoustic Indra speakers had 2 paragraphs on placement even when noting they are hard to move around and set up due to size and weight. At almost $20K the reviewer seemed, based on the review, to convey that they worked pretty darned well favorably comparing them to Wilson's, at a much higher price point. While I am sure I have, I do not recall having read another review of speakers where half was devoted to placement yet problems remained.

I used two perjoratives...quirky, which they most assuredly were in the rooms the reviewers tried, and pricy...at over $12K, that is another spot on descriptive.

I fail to see your problem with my posts. I was not even expressing an opinion but merely reducing several pages of review to two salient points.


Quote:
Why kvetch based on the price of the speakers when the review(s) are so rich in information?

Perhaps I expect more from $12K than you do. Is having a speaker at that exaulted price not work well in 2 different rooms not of interest? The reviewers thought so.

Let's reduce it to its simplest terms...do you expect a $12,000 pair of speakers to have so many placement problems? I do not and was glad the reviewers noted the difficulty. There are simply too may speakers out there at that price, or less, that do not have the problem yet also sound good....

I do not understand this issue. Here I am not speaking of the review, which I did find interesting and well written, but of the speakers being reviewed.

They ARE quirky and expensive...statement of fact, not opinion, unless the reviewers got it completely wrong.

Buddha
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

Hi, JIMV.

I don't expect anything from either of those speakers.

I agree about them being quirky and pricey, but that is something one can only find out after auditioning them.

The catch-22 is, if AD didn't write about them, we wouldn't know! Hence, my defense of their inclusion in the pantheon of reviews.

I haven't heard the new Harbeth, but I've heard the Audio Notes, and, no offense to AD, can't imagine why he is so fond of them.

I even got to hear the Audio Notes with an Ongaku amp...the only way they sound good is if you sit in front of them long enough to get cochlear fatigue!

So, yes, quirky and pricey, but, to me, review worthy, if only to find that out!

JIMV
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

That was my point, or was to be. The reviews were well written and covered the gear warts and all. They did not slam them and then give them a rave final paragraph nor did they kill them entirely. They wrote an accurate review of an expensive speaker. I was happy with the review and surprised by the defense of the speakers on the grounds I had never heard them...True, that is why I subscribe to this magazine...to read about stuff I do not hear (the price breakdowns of the reveiws are a separate issue). If the fellows doing the reviews write a coherent review listing placement issues, perhaps it would be worth while to note those issues.

My mentioning them is not beyond the pale.

Buddha
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review


Quote:
That was my point, or was to be. The reviews were well written and covered the gear warts and all. They did not slam them and then give them a rave final paragraph nor did they kill them entirely. They wrote an accurate review of an expensive speaker. I was happy with the review and surprised by the defense of the speakers on the grounds I had never heard them...True, that is why I subscribe to this magazine...to read about stuff I do not hear (the price breakdowns of the reveiws are a separate issue). If the fellows doing the reviews write a coherent review listing placement issues, perhaps it would be worth while to note those issues.

My mentioning them is not beyond the pale.

Right you are.

You know, for Sam and Art, I kind of look at their columns as "The Further Adventures of..." so I might skew more toward not caring what price range they are writing about than others.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review

I don't mind quirkey either. There was a dealer up north of GA who had a nice showroom with multiple rooms even carrying some of the speakers and amps I sold back in the day. Every room had the speakers way out in the room away from every wall, floor standers and bookself.monitors on stands all got the same treatment.

I was talking to the salesmen about what their point was as no customer or friends I have had over the decades of my interest in this hobby ever would do such a thing in "their living space". This might happen in a dedicated listening room living large and, maybe, single. Certainly there were no wall influences to any great degree, but the sound was certainly "disconcerting" to me and it would have taken a great deal to time for me to be aclimated to that sound. I doubt living in an anechoic chamber would either...maybe.

Without taking that trip back down 901 lane, it just seems that trying to work out the room/speaker boundary issues as much as you can holds merit. I just would have liked to have seen the harbeth's at AD's up a little...strickly in the name of science. I think the carpet at JA's might have been the measurement difference.

I am sure that if I was about to lay out, what, $13 large I could probably love the Harbeth's as well as others. I am sure with all the gear they have coming in an out agonizing over everything gets old after awhile. This is no slight in light of the great effort JA puts into his measurements. With Stereo Review gone, JA might be the last of a dying breed. No one appreciates his efforts more, even driving to upstate NY to do it.

linden518
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Re: JA/Harbeth Review


Quote:
This is no slight in light of the great effort JA puts into his measurements. With Stereo Review gone, JA might be the last of a dying breed. No one appreciates his efforts more, even driving to upstate NY to do it.


The thing is, I'm a bit younger, and I sure appreciate JA doing so. Even when I got into this hobby last year, I knew that JA was upto something special that no one stateside was upto. In fact, I could care less about the measurements, but when I read JA write about the chord progressions of Rachmaninoff's piano sonata, I knew that this man LOVED the music as I do, and as many of us do. I sure as hell knew that I could trust him not only as a techinician of sound, but a musical advocate as well.

When we went out to our 1st Analog Drunkards Tour last year in NYC, I told SM how much I loved reading JA's measurements, how JA's measurements got me REALLY into this hobby. I purely love reading JA "geeking-out." Without JA's take, this magazine won't be the same.

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