Now I Know What All the Fuss is About
I've always wanted to hear Harbeth loudspeakers, but never before had the opportunity. All I knew about them was that they were quintessentially English, whatever that was supposed to mean.
Walter Swanbon of Fidelis Audio Video brought the first pair of Harbeth’s Monitor 40.1 (left, $10,995/pair) ever exhibited in the US to RMAF. As the speaker favored by the BBC for monitoring classical music, the Harbeths provide full-range sound, extending down to 25Hz. Although their cherry finish is quite lovely, these speakers and their $495 stands are coveted far more for their sound than for their looks.
With a sensitivity rating of 86–87dB, and presenting a 6–8 ohm load, the Harbeth is said to need a good 40W to truly shine. Here the speakers were mated with a complete system from Tim G. Ryan's SimpliFyAudio.com that only provided 23W of power. Specializing in minimalist, "less is more" systems from Harbeth, Resolution Audio, and DNM, SimpliFy's choice of electronics included Resolution Audio source equipment ($6419 total), and the DNM pre- and power-amps ($19,995 with speaker cable). The entire set-up requires only one power cord, and uses 25-pin connectors that eliminate the need for interconnects.
I could not believe how warm and rich this system sounded. Soprano Kate Royal sounded amazingly rich on her new EMI recital, and my Channel Classics Revueltas SACD exhibited marvelous solidity. All I could manage to write in my notes was that the system's "very neutral, full sound" was "pretty damn amazing." To be perfectly honest, if I had bucks to spare, I'd be listening to the Harbeths in the large living room of our 80 year-old Oakland carriage house tomorrow. I loved, loved, loved the sound of this system. I hope everyone attending RMAF 2008 gets the opportunity to hear how full and rich the Harbeth Monitor 40.1 can sound.