I've owned quite a few Dynaudio setups, all of the way up to the C4's... however, I prefer Harbeth. I'd be in the camp of Harbeth M-30.1's (or SHL5's) and a REL subwoofer, paired with either NAIM separates or LFD integrated & an Ayre CDP. LFD cables or Clear Day cables provide good bang for the buck.
You seem to have a healthy budget. I would get out and audition a lot of different combinations of speakers and amps.
You can't go wrong with Dynaudio, Harbeth or Sonus Faber. The Penaudio I am not familiar with.
I own Harbeth 30.1 and have previously owned Dynaudio Focus 160, should be not too far from C1. Dynaudio has a deeper and fuller sound, but on the other hand, it can be too much of it in a small or acoustically problematic room (like mine). The Harbeth's are really fantastic with vocals, so natural! But they are just like the Dynaudio's quite demanding when it comes to amplification, especially if you want a very distinct and clear bass for rock etc. Good luck and don't forget to listen in your own room!
What amplification and source do you use with you 30.1?
Valinar, I use and have used three very different amps for the Harbeth 30.1's: Naim 5i was ok but not very exciting, it's now sold. Still own and use: Jadis 30 watt tube amp, it is great but not a very punchy sound. Accuphase P-300 vintage solid state 150 watts, gives a big full and very nice sound. For fun, I would have liked to try a lot more amps, as they indeed do make a big difference in my opinion.
For the Dynaudio's (Focus 160) I used to own (I miss them a bit to be honest, but as I wrote, they didn't work very well in my room) a Rotel and tube McIntosh, very different from eachother, the Rotel was more clean and the McIntosh gave a richer sound but was a little "slow" in the bass.
I also own the small Harbeth P3ESR that I like very much and I don't need a sub at all! It's a very "versatile" speaker, suits every genre music is great fun with them. For vocals, the Harbeth 30.1 speakers are extraordinary, so real!
Egoben, I'm interested in how you would characterize the difference between the P3ESR and the 30.1. I'm sure the latter goes lower, but are there differences in the midrange and treble that you notice? I agree with you about the P3ESR being very versatile and suiting all genres. Is this as true of the 30.1?
I liked the 30.1 more than the P3ESR when I auditioned them at a dealer. Just a fabulous speaker, the 30.1. The P3ESR exhibited the limitations of any minimonitor. If looking around the price and size of the P#ESR, I'd go with the KEF LS50. Deservedly praised.
If you're looking at Harbeth, you should also throw in PMC on that list..
Drubin, sorry for late reply but here is what I think are the biggest differences between the Harbeth M30.1 and P3ESR. First, of course the bigger 30.1 model goes deeper and the sound is fuller and gives a more atmospheric sound in the room. I like that, of course. The bass on the small P3's, while not as deep, is on the other hand more clear, you can hear and follow bass lines easier, it's almost like they are lifted in the sound mix, which gives the impression that music is very rythmic, and actually quite rocking!
The mids are different between the speakers aswell. While the bass seems a bit lifted on the P3's, the mids seems a bit lifted on the 30.1's, which gives vocals a lot of presence in the room, and there is no bass that "covers" the vocals, that might be the case just little bit with the P3's.
The highs on both speakers are very smooth, not overly bright or sharp or anything like that. That means some details might get lost compared to some other speakers, but personally I much prefer smooth highs instead of anything else, on the long run. That is why I got Harbeth's in the first place.
The P3's are easier to drive, I have used three different amps and they sound great with every one of them. The 30.1's are more demanding, but I haven't tried the speakers with a modern big power amp, I might do that later, maybe I will gain some more bass control, that I already have with the P3's. Both speakers are very easy to integrate in the room, there's no booming bass and I can place them pretty much anywhere, compared to many other speakers that requires a lot of space behind them. The P3's are great all round speakers, works great with every music genre and movies aswell, and they are great near field monitors, if you want to put them on a desk, that would work fine. But I like them best put on speaker stands or on a shelf. The 30.1's are very soft, warm and nice in the sound, I like them a lot aswell. If you have a small room, the P3's are perfect, the 30.1's are good in any room.
I have only heard the Harbeths and Auditors (I own the original non M version). Harbeths do sound very good, warm and inviting. If you are just lounging around enjoying a cup of coffee the Harbeths will produce great music. At the end of the day, I felt it sounded a bit too colored and overly warm for my tastes. They were paired up with tube amps though. The Auditors sounded more transparent with just a touch of warmth I was looking for. I also felt the Auditors imaged better, with more precise placement of musicians. And frankly, I loved the way they looked compared to the Harbeths.
Having had the latest Penaudio Rebel (3), I think you should definitely try the Cenya. The Rebels, although quite a bit less expensive than the Cenya, were capable of creating a very pleasant and believable soundstage, presenting the music in a highly detailed but non-fatigueing manner.
Egoben -- thank you for the detailed comparison. I have the P3ESRs, which I got just to see what all the fuss is about, They have completely won me over, such that I've barely listened to my much larger Dunlavys in months. My room is 17 x 23 and I am driving the Harbeths with a Sanders Magtech, a very high-powered amp I doubt anyone would think to recommend for these little speakers. The combination is magnificent!
Stil, of course, I want more. Based on your description, it's not clear to me that the 30.1 would definitely be better for my tastes, but I do need to hear the two models in comparison, which I plan to do soon, perhaps starting at the upcoming Newport show.
I know exactly what you mean about the clarity of the bass line on the little ones and that could be a hard thing to give up, even in exchange for more heft and extension. As for the mids, if they are more forward (you didn't say that, but I wonder about it), that might be a problem for me.
Surprised that you did not comment on any differences in the treble since, if I understand correctly, the 30.1 uses a different and presumably better, more expensive tweeter. What puzzles me is why the 30.1 costs nearly 3x what the P3ESR does. Larger RADIAL driver, better tweeter, larger cabinet -- sure, but that would not seem to equate to 3x the price.
Anyway, thanks again.
Thanks everyone for your interesting insights. I will now audition the two noted Harbeth speakers. I understand that Penaudio has lost its distributor in the U.S. which is a shame. One point that no responded to. Do you think the Oppo 105 player will do justice to the system I am considering or should I be prepared to spend the $3-4k on the cd player?
I have now tried to add a 2x250 watt class D power amplifer to my tube pre amplifier, to see how the speakers, Harbeth 30.1, react. And as I thought, the bass becomes much more clear. Some midrange lushness and richness might get lost, but not that much. The whole soundstage sounds a little bit thinner and clearer. I like it quite a lot for a change. It's fun playing around with different electronics to speakers and especially the Harbeth's.
Sonus Faber audito M has no match with tube.
What I feel that music consist of 30Hz to 15kHz but our ear starts from 18 Hz to 20 KHz.
Different ear have different response and depends upon the structure of the ear. Heavy ear flaps obsorbs HF and pushes LF to ear canal. The structure of the canal also varies. So there is not necessarily that all the hardware fit for all type of ear. There is another factor that ear follows log 10 base response. So it also varies from person to person. HF response becomes poor as we aged but ear is very sensitive when we are in young age.
So there is no hard and fast rules about the listening of music on certain equipment. May be Sonus does not make happy to old man who lose his ability to listen HF as compare to those who are relatively young. Young ears are more responsive to HF and LF. Old ear become less responsive to HF but remains normal at LF.
So how can we set criteria over the other. Very simple go and listen to music of you choice. Which you feel good will always a good choice. There is another factor that is tones quality of the system. Suppose you purchase new system and install at your location and will feel very pleasant but after extensive listening you start feeling that something else would be better than that I have at the moment. I mostly state that girlfriend in the beginning feel you very charming but after certain period you start looking arround. Same is with your hi fi equipment.
I did lot of experimentation with audio with my friends. Nearly after one year every one start thinking that some new idea must be change the quality of music and become impatient to do that. Some got IBS due to anxiety.
This is musical electronic equipment and can never able to perform like a real instrument. Loss and distortion is the inherent property of electronics. So the best way to listen live like sound is to go through time machine and enjoy live when the it was performed.
I power my Auditor Ms with an Audio Research VSi75, and the match is spectacular!
For amps I will never go less than 150 watts...just like the control the a higher watt amp has on speaker....
As for the oppo I might get one too...in another thread I said im done going with expensive.From all the reviews ive read they can compete with some upperend players.
I was a dynaudio guy for some time...but I know now there is life after them...big arena for speaker choices.dyn c1 w/have bass though and is always top tier.
(There,s a sim 600i on the block now)That's always been eye candy for me...
I have listened to the Harbeth 30's at friends house who is very picky regarding sound. He listens mostly to classical, jazz and vocal. I thought they sounded very musical and smooth. He was using a small subwoofer from Linn I believe and it blended very well with the system. He tried many amps with these speakers and finally settled for an older Rowland integrated 150 watt per channel amp. The treble many not be as extended as some others, but that didn't bother me. I haven't used the Oppo but an very happy with the Modwright products since I have Dan's Sony 5400 modified player. At this point I have no desire to change my digital source.