Best Tube/SS Amps for Harbeth 7ES-3


Hi, I just bought a pair of Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 - beautiful sounded speakers. Very natural and musical.

Now I need to get an integrated or Pre/Power combo to drive it. Budget is about $3-4K new or used. I read the 7ES-3 is easy to drive. Which amp works better with the 7ES - Tube or SS?

What amps do you use for your Harbeth 7ES? How much power output do I need to drive the 7ES to its full potential?

Would a 20 watt per channel tube amp drive the Harbeth?

Now that I've settled on the speakers, I can focus on getting the amps :)

Thanks.
r0817
I'm using an Audiomat Opera. 30wpc class A el34 based tube integrated. Simply magic with the C7's.

I also 'tested' the Harbeths with the little LFD mkIV integrated. Also a very nice match.

These speakers are relatively amp friendly, but different/and better amps as well as cables make a huge difference. They sound good with pretty much anything, but they can sound magical with better stuff up the chain.
From personal experience, I can say that I've especially liked my Harbeths when driven by Bel Canto amps, and by a Naim Nait 5i (though the Bel Canto is more refined and musical, at least to my ears.) Even a Rega Brio worked fine as a backup. I can't see why one would want to drive such accurate speakers with a low-powered tube amp -- that seems to me to be asking for trouble.

Alan Shaw, the designer of the Compact 7, looks very skeptically at the question of "best amps" for Harbeths. You can find his comments on the Harbeth user forum. For example, he has posted as follows: "The question of 'will this amp work with these speakers?' seems to have a life of its own. I just cannot fathom out why there is so much anxiety about grabbing any competent amp and hooking it up to your Harbeths and making great music. It seems to me that the fundamental essence of a good amp, well designed and working to original specification is that it must be relatively load-independent and the essence of a good, well designed speaker is that it must be amplifier-independent. So what's the anxiety about then? Who has planted the fear in the minds of an entire generation of hifi consumers that the amp/speaker interface is super-critical to the musical experience? With Harbeth it isn't."
That's funny stuff...
The difference is they can go from dull, boring, sleepy, to engaging, musical, and pleasure-giving... That's all.
I was driving my large Harbeth M-40.1's with a VAC Renaissance 30/30 MKIII, which I've just listed today. It would easily power you compact 7's and would sound phenomenal. I'm only selling it because I've moved up to the 30/30's bigger brother, the 70/70 Signature.

Also, go with tubes if you want to get the best sound out of your Harbeth's. I also had very good success with the McIntosh MC 275 MKV with upgraded tubes.
Don't bother about Alan Shaw's comments on the Harbeth forum if one believes that amplifiers will make a difference. In his mind all amps sound the same.

Tube vs SS - a matter of preference

Which amp - ditto above

How much power for the C7ES3 - this would depend on your listening levels. Manufacturer's minimum recommended is 25W. A good 20W tube amp will do fine unless one listens at head-banging levels.
For tube - Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum sounds amazing with the C7's and it's a very popular combo for hifi shops. This match was at the Montreal show this year and was well received. It was enough to sway me into buying the C7's a few months ago. I'm extremely happy and so is anyone who's heard it.
Thanks for the comments so far.

Anyone uses the Parasound JC2 pre-amp with the C7 ES? What amp to match with the JC2 for C7 ES?

Thanks,
You're going backwards... Speaker and amp first...
Quick survey of C7 users, using a variety of amps: Do you feel that Harbeths "rock". And if so, what amplification is best to help them along on that goal? Thanks...
7ES-3's strength IMO are smaller ensembles and voice, not large orchestral or rock music (I have found those who listen to mostly pop/rock prefer other brands of speakers). I have owned three different models of Harbeths and presently power my 7's with a LFD NCSE, but have had tube amps, line/power, and other integrated's (including Pass and Moon). If you find a used LFD Zero Mk III LE (even better with phono stage) to pair with the 7's (and you can live without a remote) I believe you'll be quite surprised at how good that combination is, and you can put the money you save into more (LP's/SACD/Redbook) source material.
"..and you can put the money you save into more (LP's/SACD/Redbook) source material."

or downloads (c;
11-20-11: Donjr
For tube - Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum sounds amazing with the C7's and it's a very popular combo for hifi shops.

I heard this combination at a dealer last week and I have to agree. I have no idea if you will like it or not.
I have heard them with Bel Canto and they sounded fantastic. I have been wondering how they would sound with McIntosh? That would be a classic looking system.
This is at the opposite: I asked to the man who made by hand the Leben integrated 300 what speakers he suggest to match his beauty integrated. He told me without any doubt and without any other: " I love the Harbeths Compact 7.".. I already bought them, they are coming
SS - Luxman 505u
Tube - Rogue cronus Magnum II

imo the Harbeths wake up and sound amazing with these 100 W amps.
@r0817         

So what amp did you go with?   I just purchased the same speakers. Now it's amp hunting time for me.   I've been eyeing mc152 and rogue medusa as amps go.  The hypex technology definitely has me intrigued.  Anyone have any experience with either of these?   
Alan Shaw never said that all amplifiers sound the same. Amplifiers can sound different for a number of reasons. The first is if the input sensitivity is too high, as is all too often the case. This may sound impressive, but what you are hearing is clipping and the concomitant compression. The second potential problem is insufficient power. The requirements can vary enormously depending on room size, speaker efficiency and music type. However, more is always better. Alan Shaw recently demonstrated the M40.1s in Hilversum in the Netherlands (there is a Youtube video somewhere on the web) and the amplifier had big digital power meters so one could see what it was being asked to deliver: at times more than 500 watts.
The third problem is a load dependent frequency response. Stereophile has these very useful graphs of frequency response under simulated real conditions, and the results are sometimes really bad, especially with tube amplifiers. Here solid state is clearly better and often by a wide margin, but tubes are not the only dispointing amps. Some  boutique solid state amps can be almost as bad. This matters, because any deviation of more than 0.2 dB is audible. The solution is a powerful amplifier with a beefy (and hence expensive) power supply. In the absence of proper measurements, you could select your amplifier by weight. The good news is that mainstream Japanese manufacturers all have this under control. If you are looking for big power of high quality, there is little to beat a pro audio amplifier like the 2x250 watt Yamaha p2500s that I recently gave to my son (for use with a Harbeth M30.1), or its bigger family members. The 2x350 watt P3500s was tested (i.e. mesured on an Audi Precision test bench) in a French publication and it was as perfect as could be, and better than many audiophile amps.
As a pre amplifier you could go for a DAC with multiple inputs and variable output (including XLR) like the Pioneer U-05.
The Vinnie Rossi LIO integrated is an ideal match with Harbeth and gets best of sound at every show no matter which Harbeth is being used.
A little over your budget. I upgraded to PrimaLuna Prologue Premium pre-amp and Prologue Premium mono amps  . 70W/ch EL-34 tubes. With 7ES-3s getting plenty dynamics, bass, tube glory without the ripeness that can blur resolution and transient attacks.
I used to own a pair of 7ES3s powered by a Rogue Cronus Magnum 2.  It was a great combo.  I also heard them powered by a LFD and Vinnie Rossi LIO and both were excellent matches.  Also, if you're looking for a tube amp and a step up from something like the Rogue, take a listen to the Leben CS600, it just sounds wonderful.  I was all set to upgrade and buy a Leben and a pair of SHL5+ but ended up going in a completely different direction.  Other amps that many consider a good match include Luxman, Naim, Hegel, Sagden and exposure....just to name a few.  Btw, the best bang for buck in my opinion is a used Hegel. 
I have found that the C7s sound better with more power.  Some say they are dull speakers, but when they are provided with sufficient power they can sound dynamic and agile.  I'd suggest 100 wpc as a good minimum.  So, something like the Cronus Magnum 2 or the Primaluna Dialog Premium HP (w/KT 150s) would be sufficient power from a tube amp.  Harbeths sound quite good with solid state power as well, and there are many solid state integrated amps at 100 wpc and above.  A tube preamp and a powerful SS amp would also be a great match with the Harbeths. 

Good luck!  Scott
They have been designed using a variety of bog standard Quad power amps. Alan Shaw, their designer, agrees with Peter Walker that a good amplifier is just a straight wire with gain. His criteria for choosing an amplifier are, first, enough power (the more the better), second, a load independent frequency response (few tube amps are good enough on this score, see the graphs in Stereophile), and an input sensitivity that matches the source (many modern sources output more than what many input stages can handle, with clipping as a result). None of this needs to be expensive. In fact, many audiophile amplifiers are worse than cheaper mainstream ones. They don't have enough power, they are load dependent, and some also have ridiculously high input sensitivities (e.g. full power at only a quarter of the volume dial). He has many great demos of all this on the Harbeth User Group forum.
So far I'm loving my new C7's.  I gotta say even with my 20 year old amp b & K 7250 and preamp ref 30 they sound excellent.  I've been playing so much music it's crazy.  Overall I still want upgrade my amp and pre though.  A friend of mine is gonna bring down his mc2125 amp this weekend. Just to get the Mac sound vibe in my place. I might also audition the Cary integrated or rogue sphinx too.  I love to try the Rossi, but the way I'd want the lio will definitely cost more than I intend to spend.    
@biscorbit - When I was considering the SHL5+ my dealer suggested Belles Aria as amp option as well.   Never heard the combo, but apparently they sound great with Harbeths.  I definitely would also recommend also auditioning a Hegel and the Rogue Cronus Magnum II.  CM2 is more expensive then the Sphinx but well worth the upgrade if you ask. 
OT - I’m sorry for hijacking your thread, but I’m in the same boat but thinking about 30.1 or SHL5+. And can’t help wondering how a class A or SET amp would sound to these speakers. Loves a warm, detailed sound.

I have a few amp on my list:
Line Magnetic 518, Leben 300/600, Rogue Cronus,Vinnie Rossi LIO, also been recommended Croft integrated-r and LFD.

Im looking for comparisons between these, everything is appreciated!