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Harbeth speakers - valve or SS amp?


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I've recently joined the Harbeth 'club' having bought a pair of 7ES2s and Skylan stands for my second system.  I'm naturally keen to find out more about people's experiences with these speakers and Harbeths in general.  One would think that the Harbeth User Group would be a good source of  information but it is very heavliy moderated (quite often by Alan Shaw himself), so quite often you are getting the 'Harbeth' line.

 

My main interest is in three things:

 

1   what are people's experiences of  valve versus SS amps with Harbeths.  I have both and really don't mind which type I use. I'll probably end up alternating between the two.  However, my initial impression is that the 7ES2s are so smooth (not a cricitism) that certain types of valve amp (I'm thinking of EL34s in particular) might end up being too creamy.  I am about to take delivery of Cafad's Sonneteer Campion and in the meantime have been using an Ampino, which injects a little more sparkle as well as having better bass control. 

 

2   I've read of people using low-powered valve amps (300B integrateds etc). I have a Melody H300B (8 wpc) and a Melody H2A3 (18wpc).  I imagine these are great at modest volumes with less complex music, but what about more demanding music - orchestral, electronic etc.

 

3  do people prefer to use the 4 or 8 ohm tap on their valve amps.  I think I can anticipate the response to this - 'whichever sounds better' - but surely there ought to be an electronically correct answer.    

 

I normally listen at 70 - 75dB average SPLs in a small room, so my power requirements are not great.  However, I'm thinking about 30 - 40wpc would be ideal.

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20 or 30 W class A solid state perhaps?

 

Agreed - and I have one (an F5 clone about 33wpc into 6 ohms).  Trouble is, it takes an hour to 'come on song' and I usually listen to my second system when I get home from work, so I need an amp that can perform within about 10 - 15 minutes.

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Ive owned the 7ES2s and 3s. I only had solid state gear with the 2s (which was a while ago now), but more recently the best amplification combos I had with the 3s were the Leben 300 (despite a recent thread which thought it over rated) and probably my favourite was the ME25/850 combo (after a full recap and service). The Harbeths are a more laid back presentation (dare I quote Mr Darko "pipe and slippers"), but they are wonderful speakers. Would have liked to have tried higher powered tubes given the chance, but I suspect the ME gear was presenting them to their full potential.

Edited by danter
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"Pipe and Slippers" for sure. Good speakers no doubt, but more for baby boomer reviewers like Ken Kessler and Art Dudley et al

 

Maybe when I am 60 :)

 

As for amps, something with current ,watts and attitude would do the trick

Edited by Phantom
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Not sure about the 7s but two weeks ago, Holliswhy brought over his supernait and we connected the P3ESRs like this:

Sonos > Synchromesh (reclocker) > Schiit Bifrost (DAC) > Herron VTSP-1A (pre) > Naim Supernait (as power) > P3ESR

What we heard was no 'pipe and slippers' :P

The bass was so deep we could feel it vibrating the floorboards but the mids were so liquid every note was dragging me into the music. I am not sure if it was the Naim, the Herron, the Harbeths or we just got lucky with the matching. Lucinda Williams never sounded better!

We are going to give it another go this Friday just incase we were dreaming. :)

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There is absolutely nothing wrong with the bass presentation of the 7ES2s or 3s.  I am currently running Spendor SA1s which would be one of the best small standmounts I have heard - but damn I miss the bass response of the Harbeths.

 

Pipe and slippers is very tongue in cheek - Darko just enjoys hanging sh#t on my set-up. I lent him the 7ES2s for a few weeks and he was quite taken with them.

 

Just a thought - Victor (vmhf) on SNA had them for a while too - and he always has a plethora of quality amps to play with (as well as a great ear) - he may be worth a pm.

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Harbeth's are made for valve amps IMO - I suspect its something to do with their thin wall technology which synergises with the 'euphonics' of valves - the Leben Harbeth synergy is well known.  In the past I would have suggested the Leben 300XS which I owned for quite a while but Earl Weston Topaz's simply blow that amp out of the water and would be my suggestion.  For vocals that amp will simply make your eyes go wide.  Admittedly it was not on Harbeths but I was recently at a comparison of the Topaz's to Mac 501's and played Peggy Lee Fever.  The person I was with simply couldn't believe how real and palpable the vocals were - the Mac's were simply not in the hunt.  On other material though such as Rage Against The Machine the MAC's were easily better but I am not sure if that is the material you are into you would get Harbeth and listen at 70-75db.   On more complex music - yes SS gear is better - and obviously so - even if its not Rage Against The Machine.  If you listen at 70-75 db even an 8W SET will work fine but having compared the Topaz's to one of the best 8W SET's about these days, a Trafomatic Experience 2, its no contest, the Topaz is better - and cheaper.

 

What would I do?  I listen mostly to stuff like Peggy Lee so for me it's valves all the way.  But if I listened to a wider variety of stuff I would go SS.

 

Thanks

Bill

Edited by bhobba
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That's a kick arse pre/power set up these B4. Although the whole system sounds like it would be great, I am positive the Heron/Naim pairing is the big factor :)

 

Thanks Phantom. We checked-in again last night to make sure we weren't dreamin... 

It really is a kick-arse system but I also think we were VERY lucky that the speaker/DAC/Pre/Power/Room just seemed to work!

We did quite a bit of swapping around and the larger speakers just didn't work in the room either.

DSCF0106_zpsa849f59c.jpg

 

Unfortunately the Naim is not mine so the hunt shall begin to find an equivalent Naim NAP that sounds the same as the power section of the SuperNait (without spending a fortune)

DSCF0108_zps990b0727.jpg

 

To answer the questions (my opinion at this stage):

1. Valve Pre + SS Power

2. Low powered valves - yes but best suited for sultry quieter listening (and certain genres) and IMO the nuances are very enjoyable but not for those who dig PRAT

3. Can't answer this one as I usually just match the speaker spec and have not really played with it

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  • 4 weeks later...

Only just noticed you have been posting photos of my better half on sna b4sound :) jk.

I think the supernait equivalent would be a naim nap 200.

B4sound was not dreaming. That combo some how just worked. The sound was very open, detail/ real, had deep bass, and, very importantly, very engaging and emotional. It is not very often that components would just work together like this.

Having said that, the Leben is also a great amp. That fluid, delightful sound cannot be replicated by other amps. It's like a water bed which you can ooo zzz into.

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  • 2 months later...

Hello, I just stumbled upon this conversation... am I late for the party?  *ahem*... this is my first post...

 

I own Harbeth compact 7 es2s, and have tried them with a range of SS amps. I love them, definitely not a pipe and slipper amp if mated to the right electronics. Originally I used them with a full Burson setup (PP-160, Da-160 and soloist) but damn that power amp is just too ice cold. It was fatiguing. 

 

I dragged them around town connecting them to a good few integrateds, trying older SS amps, new class D beasts, and krells and brystons. They had the best synergy with a Simaudio Moon i3.3 (same as the moon 340i), which I bought on the spot. It's a fantastic pairing that brings out the best in the Harbeths. The first 5 watts are class A, then become push pull AB thereafter. I'm not sure how it's done but I mention it because it really works well (to my ears at least). 

 

I listen to a wide range of music, from Choral to Metal, and I think the amp has both the muscle and delicacy to bring out the best across a broad range of music. I also use a sub, though depending on what I'm listening to I adjust the crossover point and level. Less and lower X-over point for rock and heavier, more for jazz, orchestral etc. The dac that comes in it is quite good (I've heard better) , but really takes off when running an audiophilleo into the coax from usb. 

 

I find it an easy speaker to set up, and works well in my room, even when I'm not directly before it. I've tried quite a few speakers at the Harbeth's price point (about $5-6k new), and sorry, I cant find anything that (to my ears :) ) comes close. 

 

Oh my room is smallish, about 4 x 4.5 m. In a larger space they may get a little lost? 

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  • 5 weeks later...

Just found this topic as well....

I know Bronal mentioned the HUG forums and mentioned getting the Harbeth line. He's sort of right and wrong. Alan Shaw (owner and designer) has his own very interesting views. Considering he designs them, I take his points but there are various questions asked about amps on HUG with different opinions..

I was fortunate that I owned a Earle Weston Tempest prior to buying my Harbeth and its a great match..

Just out of interest here's a quote of one Alan's views in a post replying to someone else's question about amplification for his speakers.

His view isn't posted to start any long debate which sometime can get boring but out of interest to others who might want to read it...

Sometimes his views and others on the HUG forums can be of fun to read but can also be very long winded.. :)

"Could I interject a note of caution here? My experience over three decades of experimentation is that these fantastical, seductive and mouthwatering 'differences' between amps that get you all hot and bothered may not, under carefully controlled tests, reveal themselves to a blindfolded listener. Let me put that in simple language: you believe that these differences exist and that the subject is worth chewing over in forums like this eternally. But what would you say if I said that under controlled conditions you would be most unlikely to be able to differentiate amp A from amp B.

I couldn't tell a $200 integrated from a $$$ North American unit of considerable fame when I tried recently providing that the levels were extremely carefully matched and I was operating within the power limitation of the cheap amp.

Please think about it before influencing others with arousing prose. I could continue to do my job as a speaker designer on a desert island with whatever amp happened to float in on the tide from the wreckage of my boat. And that includes a $200 integrated unit.

We navigate our lives by preconceptions. That allows us to structure and anticipate the complex world around us, to reduce and simplify sensory input to within the processing capacities of our tiny brains. Our eyes are fundamental to that process. Deprive us of that all-important vision stimuli and our preconceptions are useless. It reminds me of a time as a young man that I went to a disco with a friend. I don't recall out exact preferences at the time but he had a big thing about really dark, even jet black girls hair, and quickly sorted by eye the various girl according to this preconception, brushing-off approaches from girls who didn't conform to his stereotypical preconception. You can probably guess what happened. The lights failed, and when they returned some minutes later, perched on his knee and clearly enjoying their company was a platinum blonde. You should have seen the expression of confusion and shock!"

Don't buy with your eyes.

Alan A. Shaw

Designer, owner

Harbeth Audio UK

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 It reminds me of a time as a young man that I went to a disco with a friend. I don't recall out exact preferences at the time but he had a big thing about really dark, even jet black girls hair, and quickly sorted by eye the various girl according to this preconception, brushing-off approaches from girls who didn't conform to his stereotypical preconception.

I'm sorry Alan, but the above quote proves you are stretching credibility.  As a young man, I cant recall any young men brushing off the advances of any female - even the female equivalent of an old $200 integrated. Unlike our equipment preferences now, young men are not quite so discerning. 

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Just found this topic as well....

I know Bronal mentioned the HUG forums and mentioned getting the Harbeth line. He's sort of right and wrong. Alan Shaw (owner and designer) has his own very interesting views. Considering he designs them, I take his points but there are various questions asked about amps on HUG with different opinions..

I was fortunate that I owned a Earle Weston Tempest prior to buying my Harbeth and its a great match..

Just out of interest here's a quote of one Alan's views in a post replying to someone else's question about amplification for his speakers.

His view isn't posted to start any long debate which sometime can get boring but out of interest to others who might want to read it...

Sometimes his views and others on the HUG forums can be of fun to read but can also be very long winded.. :)

"Could I interject a note of caution here? My experience over three decades of experimentation is that these fantastical, seductive and mouthwatering 'differences' between amps that get you all hot and bothered may not, under carefully controlled tests, reveal themselves to a blindfolded listener. Let me put that in simple language: you believe that these differences exist and that the subject is worth chewing over in forums like this eternally. But what would you say if I said that under controlled conditions you would be most unlikely to be able to differentiate amp A from amp B.

I couldn't tell a $200 integrated from a $$$ North American unit of considerable fame when I tried recently providing that the levels were extremely carefully matched and I was operating within the power limitation of the cheap amp.

Please think about it before influencing others with arousing prose. I could continue to do my job as a speaker designer on a desert island with whatever amp happened to float in on the tide from the wreckage of my boat. And that includes a $200 integrated unit.

We navigate our lives by preconceptions. That allows us to structure and anticipate the complex world around us, to reduce and simplify sensory input to within the processing capacities of our tiny brains. Our eyes are fundamental to that process. Deprive us of that all-important vision stimuli and our preconceptions are useless. It reminds me of a time as a young man that I went to a disco with a friend. I don't recall out exact preferences at the time but he had a big thing about really dark, even jet black girls hair, and quickly sorted by eye the various girl according to this preconception, brushing-off approaches from girls who didn't conform to his stereotypical preconception. You can probably guess what happened. The lights failed, and when they returned some minutes later, perched on his knee and clearly enjoying their company was a platinum blonde. You should have seen the expression of confusion and shock!"

Don't buy with your eyes.

Alan A. Shaw

Designer, owner

Harbeth Audio UK

 

A bit harsh me thinks.

I wonder if he feels the same way about speakers.

Could he pick similar equipped less expensive speakers in a controlled blind test?

 

 

 I could continue to do my job as a speaker designer on a desert island with whatever amp happened to float in on the tide from the wreckage of my boat. And that includes a $200 integrated unit.

 

Same. :thumb: Doesn't prove that differences don't exist between amps or speakers.

 

Cheers, Earle.

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Alan A. Shaw

Designer, owner

Harbeth Audio UK

 

Note to self.

 

Avoid this guy like the Black Plague. Has Cranium ensconced in rectum.

 

Mr Shaw that is....... not you Kensell 21 :)

Edited by Phantom
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