How small of a room? Chances are you won't get the big sound you're looking for with any speaker. Try a really good pair of earphones and dedicated amp
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I heard a few pair of the Devore speakers this weekend and thought I would like them, but I just didn't. I heard them against some much better sounding speakers at half the cost (they were the big wide box ones with a tweeter and woofer). Honestly, they sounded boxy, hallow and slow as heck. No detail at all. I have Vandersteen Treo's with Ayre and AQ cables. I also use a nice Basis TT. I personally fell in love with the VAndersteens as they do it all. I have used Proac Towers and monitors over the last 25 years, but they too were a bit lean. I have noticed that most folks feel a speaker is lean, when it's often the amp being a bit underpowered or just not the right amp/pre. With the rest of your system, I don't think you'd have a problem driving the Harbeths...I have heard a few of their upper line speakers recently and they were nice. If you are down to just those two, I'd personally go Harbeth, but that's MY ear and in the rooms I heard them in and with the front ends...you get it. You really need to get them both into your room and chose what you want and take the other ones back. JMHO
You have obviously thought this through carefully and have narrowed the field to two VERY good speakers that nearly hit the mark in every area important to you. I owned the Compact 7's for many years and enjoyed them greatly. I've heard just about every other Harbeth as well and they are all fantastic speakers, particularly through the midrange which is where the Quads shine and probably why you dig them so much. I've heard several of the Devore speakers as well--I wouldn't rate them as high as the Harbeth's but they are also a very solid, balanced design. Not to try to send you off the rails but I would suggest you consider Daedalus. I spent two years listening to a wide range of floorstanding speakers to replace my C7's, which were too small for the room when we moved to a bigger house. The Daedalus were the only speakers that were as convincing through the midrange as the Harbeth's AND could rock the house like no Harbeth could ever imagine. Lou has a number of smaller models (Athena, Pan and Muse) which might work well in your room. I heard the Muse recently at the Capital Audiofest and they are OUTSTANDING--certainly better than my experience with any DeVore's and way better than the Monitor 30.1's which were also at the show that day. If you like the Harbeth's you will LOVE Lou's designs. There is a guy in the UK who has a pair of Darma's (older standmount) who may be willing to do a demo for you--he posts here from time to time. If you do a search you can find him I'm sure. Best of luck with your search!
It's certainly personal preference, but just one point on the DeVores. It seems to me the gibbon/Silverback are often bunched in the same conversation as Orangutan's. IMHO, you have to approach the two series as a different thing.
I have heard the Harbeths on a few occasions, and I liked them very much.
In comparison to the Orangutan's, they may be more forgiving of upstream components. The O's however, will allow you to delve in to low power tube amps, including SET.
I too had a pair of DeVore speakers, in my case the Gibbon 8. I too found the midbass to be quite lean. If I were spending the money, I would get the Harbeths. I think they are a better overall speaker. DeVore speakers are not that great on rock which is the reason I sold them, and they never put out a big sound. I believe they are more suited to small Jazz Combos. When I retire in another year or two, I plan on Auditioning the Harbeth 40.1, as that is what I have my sights on for my last set of speakers.
Different people have different tastes in speakers, no question about that. I have to take exception to Dodgealum's comment about the Harbeth 30.1 and the Daedalus heard at last year's Capital Audio Fest. I was at the CAF as well for both Fri and Sat and heard the same rooms Dodgealum visited. For what it's worth, in my opinion, the Harbeth 30.1 is a superb speaker and is indeed a worthy option for someone coming from Quads. Neither the Daedalus nor the DeVore speakers have ever sounded as musical, as real, as the 30.1 in the half a dozen times I have heard each one. So clearly we all have different tastes.
Thanks for the ideas everyone. Dodgealum, your experience is fascinating, since you've come from the same original point as I have. The Daedelus speakers looks really interesting; 3 way, superbly constructed cabinets, efficient, natural driver materials - plenty of plus points already. However I fear that even the smallest designs would overload my room. The Pan is larger than an LS3/6 cabinet, and larger than the Harbeth SHL5. It's not a lossy box design like the BBC monitors, so I suppose that would help, but I'm still cautious about that size of cabinet in my room. (Mind you, I've had Klipsch La Scalas in the room, but that was a month of madness!). Still, you've peaked my interest and I'll try contacting the UK Deadelus guy.
Ctsooner, Vandersteens look interesting to me, but I don't think they've got a distributor over hear at present. I know one or two people on the UK forums have used them but they are very rare here, which is a shame.
So many designs from the US don't seem to make it over here. I think distributors are very conservative about what they think people want for UK living rooms. And British speaker design has been dominated by polite, skinny floor standers. We have small living rooms, and there seems to be a 'better heard not seen' design philosophy.
I've never been too keen on floor standing designs, but the Devore Gibbons have been one exception to that. What Fjn04 says about the Orangutans does also apply to the Gibbons to some extent too, I think. Devore are just very picky about amps in general. They can sound mediocre with the wrong amps, but thrive with high quality valve designs. A couple of us took some amps over to try on our friend's Nines and it was bemusing. Some amps that sounded great with Harbeths or Proacs didn't sound good at all with the Devores. But with our friends VTL amps, the Nines are wonderful - a beautiful tonal richness, a huge sense of space, great dynamics, and all of these qualities are well balanced.
The big selling point about Harbeths is that they can sound very good with quite modest amps. I went to a session Alan Shaw hosted when he launched the SHL5+ recently and they were using a Quad cd player and QSP power amp. The whole system would be little more than £6k here, but like my friends Devore/VTL system, it was just wonderfully balanced - superb, especially with orchestral and choral music.
So it's easier to get the best out of Harbeths, but I think the Devores can deliver more when you give them the amps they want. They are just rather demanding.
I think I could live happily with the Monitor 30.1 in my small room, but if only they had that extra half octave. So then there is the question of subs, and the endless frustration of trying to integrate....
That's really too bad they don't distribute there. They were the only speakers in the under 10k range that I found to be coherent, detailed, neutral (piano sounds like it should), non fatiguing and dynamic. You need all the proper equipment around it, but that goes for any good speaker or it should. I have liked the Harbeth, but I just miss the deep bass on that type of speaker. They do a great job for what they are designed to do. The Devore I heard with the 30W tube integrated was the Orangutang 96. I just didn't like it and neither did the guy who brought it into the store to listen to it vs the speaker the store was selling. Both to me were just hot and thin in the mid bass. They were hollow...When he told me how much they cost, I was in shock. I know many of you guys loves these speakers, but I don't understand as there are so many great speakers in that range. I get different ears and all, but when I bet if most folks heard them against other options that were really good, you'd hear the difference. Again, JMHO. I wish you luck in your search. Sounds like there may be some other options that are bought up as we all talk about what WE own or want to own, lol.
As both a long term owner and admirer of both Harbeth M30 and M40.1s (owned for over 10 years combined) with a room a little larger than yours ( 16' x 14'. I'd recommend you try to listen to Gradient Revolutions . I've owned a pair of the active version for the last year or so and they perform wonderfully especially in the bass. ( my musical tastes are all genres and periods of classical music )
Its a toss up which I prefer the M40.1s or the Gradients but in my room I'd give the nod slightly to the Gradients.
A second hand pair may not be much more than the M30.1s. ( my favorite mid sized monitor.)
I have heard the Devore Super 8s sound lovely with warm sounding Leben electronics, but the 88 is also a little lean IMHO. Dynaudio Focus 260 by comparison had a more even tonal balance but lacked the quickness of the Devores. Harbeths with the Leben had a lush, romantic presentation when auditioned at a local retailer a
few years ago.
"I was between Devore O'96's and the Harbeth 30.1. As I run an all Shindo front end I went with the O/96's as they are more efficient and John Devore uses Shindo (and others) to voice his speakers. It's an amazing combo for me. If i had a solid state rig I'd probably lean towards the Harbeths."
+1- Both nice speakers, but should be thought out as a system.
Mcslipp- off subject, but which Shindo are ya running there?
Having heard all three of your finalists, I would definitely go with the Harbeth 30.1's. They sound terrific with either tubes or solid state. They are extremely musical with an overall wonderful warm tone. And, I find that whenever I'm listening to the Harbeth's, the time just passes. You will spend hours of fatigue free listening.
I am pretty close to deciding on the M30.1 now after some experiments today. I'm currently listening to my P3ESR and they sound great, so I'm looking forward to going back to a mid sized Harbeth. I've got some old HL5 upstairs in a larger room so it will be a nice little family if I have the M30.1 too.
I finally decided against the Devore Super 8, since although I do love Devores I realise I would have to retune my system quite seriously, and anyway I find the mid bass too lean.
A friend brought around a VTL IT85 today - a cute little integrated with good tonal qualities. I switched from my Unico Pre/DM to the VTL with the Devores and it was immediately clear that the Devores like a pure valve amp. They were ok with the Unicos, but I have a feeling they don't have the greatest synergy with mosfets, for some reason.
However even with the IT85 I was not getting anything like the clarity and scale my friend has with his Nines and VTL 2.5/150. And I was not getting anything like the bass of the Nines. So I realised that there was no point trying to go half way towards my friend's excellent system. That is an organic whole that he has worked towards for years. Every part is essential. The Super 8s are not the Nines - those side firing bas drivers really do bring another dimension.
My system is tuned towards Harbeths, and I know my amps have a great synergy with them. I've tried a lot, and Crofts are another favouritet; Harbeths love mosfet/valve hybrids). I put the VTL integrated on the P3ESR this afternoon and it was fine, but I was missing something - both presence and scale. With the Unico amps back it was all there. So the Devores got greater warmth and presence from the VTL and the Harbeths got greater warmth and presence from the Unison Research.
As always, synergy is the law.
I feel like I've come to the end of a long and very complicated but circular journey, with a hell of a lot of time wasted. But that's ok, it will be good to get back home.
I think the main factor that will decide if they are a long term keeper is whether I get the itch for more bass. I would be prepared to spend good money on a very good sub, but my jury is still out on the use of subs without an active crossover.
One other nagging thought about 30s is that they are ported. After a year with electrostats I've started to hear the mid-bass humps and bloated port output that you get with a lot of box speakers. The Compact 7s had this. Perhaps this is why Yogiboy found the P3s so much more satisfying? As the only non-ported Harbeth, they can seem a lot more agile in many rooms.
With the 7s I found their were certain ways of keeping the bass tight. When I was experimenting with Croft amps I found that the pre-amp was crucial. A regulated pre-amp was so much tighter.
With the 30s it will be more about sins of omission. However I spent a couple of evenings listening to them in a room of similar size to my own recently and I was just entranced. And the mid-bass was rich and fruity, even if the lower bass was missing.
Yogiboy, regarding the Jansens - I heard these at a show about 18 months ago and thought they were very promising, but dismissed on the grounds of price. However I didn't know they had produced a smaller and more affordable version until you mentioned it. Thanks for this. I'll let you know what I think when I get to hear them.
I heard a very good system this weekend with ANE/SPe and some nice 300B mono blocks. It did pretty much everything right and worked well in a small room. It had a wonderful airiness and clarity - very revealing in the most natural way, and it was an extremely flexible system that could play all kinds of music. Curiously, though, I'm not sure it is the path for me. Perhaps at a later date. My 63s, in comparison, sound thicker and more opaque, not the traits we would normally associate with ESLs, but this weekend, I am loving them.
The AN E speakers have a discontinuity between the drivers that I find annoying and distracting. It's a shame because they have many other very nice qualities. I've noticed that some people are bothered by the discontinuity and others are not. This may account for the different reactions to AN speakers.
I have heard AN-E speakers numerous times at a nearby dealer. At various times he's had the hemp woofer model, a less expensive version, and a ridiculously expensive version with outboard crossovers and silver wiring. I didn't keep track of the specific model numbers. I have also heard them at a number of RMAF and CAF shows including AN's own rooms.
As for what I mean by "discontinuity" I hear the transition from the woofer to the tweeter. It's not a smooth handoff from one to the other. There is also a recessed area, like a suck-out, in the transition area that diminishes the liveliness of the speaker.
As I said this apparently doesn't bother everybody since lots of people like and own AN speakers, but it would bother me if I owned them.
I personally don't like the AN speakers either. Just not for me for the same reasons you guys are bringing up. I was discussing this with an owner of the J's I think it was and I heard it on their top of the line electronics and they turntable with three separate motors etc. I let him listen to my Vandy Treo's with entry Ayre integrated and Basis with Benz cart/Heed phono. He was shocked with what he hear. Said it gave him a real stage, imaging and musicality he loves, but it sounds like a single speaker and is so subtly detailed compared to his. I've had my Ayre on AN'e' with silver wiring etc... It sounded better than the AN amps, but still had suck out and lacked continuity. The mids can be magic and the dynamics are great cause they are so efficient, however it's not a whole speaker in my mind. I can sit and listen to them all day long as long as I'm not being critical...
And I have heard speakers that do things better than the E's. Some that have more presence, richness, accurate, etc. but when it gets down to it after a long day the E's simply make beautiful music in my listening room with 8 watts that connect with me. Somehow they just suck me in, connect the dots and let me enjoy the music.
Out of the spkrs mentioned here, the Harbeths are probably your best bet -- BUT the model you choose does not have much bass... Pity you can't go for the bigger monitor 40.1: it;s a very good speaker.
Anyway, I think you can dispense with the AN, they are strange compared to what you seem to like (good frequency response & details).
Which leaves us with the Janszens & the Devores: between the two, I'm guessing you'll prefer the J: they give an impression of speed, i.e. more of the immediacy of the music will come out.
But you are the boss, as always!
Jet, as I said, I can listen to them all day long (the Harbeths). I decided to go for the Vandy's as they do everything well. I have listened to the 7's with Richards own amps recently with a lot of guys at Audio connection. I loved the sound, however some of the guys kept going in the other room as the 5's were just blazing hot. Best I've heard them sound....The 7's were simply like live music. You really had to listen hard to 'get it'....It was just so easy to sit for hours and listen to album after album. Simply the best sound I've ever heard. The leading attack and trailing edge...the midrange bloom, the kick in your gut bass when it was there. It was the most neutral fastest system i've ever heard. I only share that because that's what I listen for. Sometimes I may make a post and it doesn't come off the way I meant it. Nothing I have posted is to cut the Harbeth. Again, enjoyable, but for ME, I felt for the cost of the 40's, the Vandy's did more. It's audio and all about taste...that's why asking what someone else likes is just that...their tastes. I feel badly for folks who buy what others like and not what they have heard.
Forget both of those and go for the JansZen hybrid electrostatic speakers. These are superb speakers that give an incredibly natural and very clear sound. It is as if the performers are right in front of you in the room. Go to www.soundsetup.co.uk and have a look and also google Janszen Loudspeaker for reviews. These speakers are designed by David JansZen, in the USA and he is the son of Arthur Janszen, the designer of the very first commercially electrostatic speaker.
The beauty of the Janszen ESLs is that they can be placed right back against a wall so will go where other ESLs just cannot possibly go. They are ideal for smaller rooms as well as large ones. They are unique in that they fire forwards only which is the reason they do not need to be placed out into the room. Just launched are some very compact stand mount ESLs which are quite unique called zA1.1
If he's into the Harbeth sound I'd really doubt he'd be into a stat. I personally have yet to hear a stat that I could live with. Most ribbons drive me nuts too for many reasons. I'm only heard a handful that I like and they have been very expensive to do it right. I have a ton of friends who love the panels type speakers, but have no use for the Harbeth's or any box speaker. Different tastes.
Well Ctsooner, you may have noticed from my OP that I've been living with stats for a year, and I love them in many ways. However my ESL63s have limits that I've been trying to overcome. One of those limits is that they have difficulties imaging an orchestra when they are pushed to close to each other, and in my room there is not much space between them, and I'm quite close to them.
Earlier this week I heard some Vivid 1.5 again. I heard the little V1s a while ago and liked their smooth but extended, rich and open sound. They didn't have much bass so I asked to hear the slightly larger 1.5. Curiously they didn't satisfy me when I first heard them - there was a nasal edge at the upper register of saxophones that annoyed me. It turned out this pair had a defect in the crossover, so I went back and heard a good pair this week. Very smooth this time, and perhaps the closest to the combined naturalism and speed of the ESL63s I've heard in a modest 2 way box speaker.
But, I reflected, I had heard the M30.1 sound just as open, smooth, and extended with a soprano sax, and have perhaps more guts with a tenor. And all in all, I suspect the M30.1 might have as much all round resolution.
So the next phase. Yesterday I borrowed some Monitor 30 from a friend locally. Not 30.1 - the old version. It's been a few years since I've heard them. My first impression was great - a homecoming at last! But after a day I'm not so sure. They are surprisingly muscular and assertive after smooth speakers like ESL63s and Devore Super 8s, and indeed my Harbeth HL5s. And they feel so much bigger and more effortful than my P3s. They don't have the ease and naturalism of the SHL5+.
And yet I heard the M30.1 twice recently in a room smaller than my own and found them beautifully poised, without any hint of being too assertive.
Can the 30.1 be so different to its predecessor? Or is my room more live, or are my amps more assertive, than I had imagined?
I now have good options on ex-demo M30.1, Vivid V1.5, and also (another contender), Sonus Faber Olympica 2 (although I suspect these are too big for my room).
I suspect the Janszen demo is going to have to wait until the New Year now. Heavens, give me patience... patience I need...
Andrew, at least you are listening to find what you like. I hate hearing folks just buying and selling... It keeps the site going, but it's not what high end audio should become IMHO...at least I hope it's not like that. I do wish you could have had a chance to listen to the Vandersteens as well as a few others as there are just a ton of great choices at this price range.
The 30.1 are that different than the old 30, that said I think the 30.1 with a REL sub would rock, the REL's integrate better than any other subs I can think of.
Next if I were you I'd try and get a listen to the new Kef Reference 1
And lastly try and get a listen to the Proac D30R.. The ribbon sounds amazing and the Carbon fiber woofer goes fast and deep, overall the speaker is extremely well balanced and very human sounding, they just sound like music...
Erik, you read my mind, I've been pestering a dealer to hear the KEF Reference 1 for a while. They've just got them in and burned in, but it will have to be after Christmas for a demo now, I think. Unless I go today! My feeling was that if they can keep that organic and simply enjoyable quality of the LS50 whilst giving much more extension and resolution they could be stunning. The early reports have been wildly enthusiastic.
A few people have recommended the D30R, including my old Harbeth dealer. I'm just a bit wary because I know the D28 well and whilst I admired some of its qualities, it just wasn't my style. Hard to say why. Perhaps the ribbon will give greater refinement, but that's not really what I was looking for. However the KEF dealer also have Proac, so I guess that is where I should head.
Ctsooner, I'm pretty sure there is no Vandersteen distributor here now. There are lots of great options from the US that we just don't get. It's quite frustrating. Equally there are a number of European designs that we don't have here, such as JM Reynaud, which I've always been fascinated to hear due to Bob Neil's poetic descriptions on his Amherst Audio website.
There was the suggestion that an M30.1 plus sub would be ideal. I've wondered about this for a while. Someone on the UK forums has been trying to do this but having problems with integration. Will he ever succeed?
When you have a small room, getting the bass right is like finding a suit that fits perfectly off the peg. In all likelihood you are going to need the trousers shortened or something taken in.
I suspect what is really needed is an active crossover, so that you can covert a two way into a proper 3 way. I learnt this when trying to integrate a sub with the 63s, with little success. Then I got the Gradient sub-woofers, with active crossover, using a separate power amp for the subs. It massively opens up the 63s and gives controlled deep bass in a small room. However it was visually overwhelming, and sonically I really needed to be further away for it to properly work.
I sold the Gradients last week with a heavy heart. If I had a big loft apartment, that would probably be my ultimate system.
It has left me wishing that it was easier to implement this kind of active crossover system with more conventional speakers.
I know a couple of guys in the UK who have developed an active bass system that is meant to work with small monitors in the LS3/5A mould. It is a tower sub-woofer that sits perfectly under a mini-monitor, and they have built an active crossover and power amp for the subs. So you can use you own amp on the monitors, and it makes the main monitors more efficient, so you can use a valve amp with LS3/5A easily.
They demonstrated this system a couple of years ago at a show with some Spender LS3/5A and the Murphy CAOW1. It completely floored me how open and rich this sounded. They played a master-tape copy of Sonny Rollins' 'Saxophone Colossus' and I've never heard such ghostly realism in the reproduction of a tenor. So it was as much about how it liberated the mid-range as supported the bass.
The problem is that they have only built 2 - for themselves! It's not been marketed as they are both very busy.
It has left me wondering how you might use an active crossover with a superb 2 way like the M30.1 and a pair of subs. The key would be setting the crossover above the port output, which is where everything gets muddy. The guys that developed this system are firm believers that ports are the worst compromise in speaker design, and after a year with electrostatic panels I'm coming round to that way of thinking. Saying that, I suspect I will accept a compromise, like most of us do.
Andrew I was up at Bob's a few weeks ago listening to those as well as some from Germany. They are nice, but for the cost, there are more that I like better. Bob's a great guy and he has a nice set up for his gear. It does sound good.
I"m a Proac guy and was going to upgrade my Proacs when I went on my quest last year. I ended with the Vandy's, but the Proac 30R and 40R were the only ribbons I hear in the last year that sounded good. I personally am not a KEF guy either, but again that's me. Go listen to the Proacs as the ribbon is just a different turn for them. I heard them on GREAT tubes and top of the line analog.
Andrew with reponse to your last post. You should check out this show report ( see top # 1 room)
The comments from both the room orgainiser simpfi ( who also at the time sold Harbeths) and other listeners ( via audio blogs) was that although the Harbeths plus active Gradient bass panels worked very well together.
the Active Gradient Revolutions still sounded the best.
The room orginiser has also used the M30.1s with the Gradient subwoofers but still prefers the Revolutions.
This echos with my recent experience with the Revolutions even having owning ( and loving ) both the Harbeth M40.1 and M30s for over 10 years.
As you already have experience with both Gradient (working well with your Quads )and Harbeths you really should try to listen to Jorma Salmi's enduring masterpiece . Its easily and often overlooked which is a big mistake in my opinion.
Good luck anyway.
Ctsooner, are we thinking of the same people? It is Dave and Mike that developed the sub system I'm talking about. Anyway, I'll be sure to follow your advice and give the Proac ribbons a listen before this quest is concluded.
Pcoombs, thanks again for the Gradient nudge. I had thought the Revolutions were monsters but looking at the specs now they are fairly big, but perhaps not overwhelming. Do you think these could work in a room of my size; just less than 15 x 12?
So the listening list now is:
Kef Reference 1
I think that's probably as much as my speaker testing stamina can take. I am starting to get bored of my demo cds.
Andrew, They are actually quite small. Smaller for example than my Harbeth M30 ( or M30.1s ) on Skylan stands.
But the active version go down to near 20Hz.
Due to the way they work ( trying to remove the room) they have the best chance to performing well in small spaces plus they can be placed against the back wall.
Although not necessary I use them with the DSPeaker dual core 2.0 which helps gives me a very flat fequency range.
Ok so how are they for sweet spot? The directionality and head-clamp narrow sweetspot of the ESLs is something I'm trying to get away from so that would be one concern. Otherwise they sound hugely promising, and yes, looking at the M30s on stands in my room at the moment I keep thinking that most floor standers will occupy less space than this.