Harbeth 40.2 40th Anniversary with Simaudio mono blocks


I would like to report my findings on driving my pair of Harbeth 40.2 40th Anniversary speakers with Simaudio Moon 400M pair of mono blocks, 390 Moon pre-amplifier and 260D CD transport.

I have a decent size room 25 X 35’ but irregular in its shape - it a condo so portion of the roof is high and whole construction is open between my room, living room, kitchen, and stairs - volume wise it is close to 1350ft2.
It is important to mention that the whole place is very well damped with several double decorative carpets, many record and book shelve units, tables, and heavy curtains.
Speakers are 10’ apart and 12’ from the listening sofa. Front of each is 5’ from back wall. There is no wall behind the sofa.

I have initially tried several amps from 30 - 650W a channel and have to say that I truly do not understand why would anybody even think about running 40.2s (and other Harbeths) with low powered amplification. I do not listen to music loud - 85dB at my listening spot is the loudest I go.
I am actually amazed how those large monitors came to life with Moon 400M - the scale, dynamics and sound staging is unbelievable!!! How can it be that those large boxes, set not that far from back walls, throw such an enormous, deep staging and lifelike imaging? Listening to Anna Maria Jopek, Allison Krauss, Patricia Barber, Nina Simone, Shirley Horn, transformed me to the concert club - first row seats!
Amazing Jeff Hamilton Trio "Live"album - track number 8, "Yesterdays", will challenge your speakers, amplification and room’s acoustic. Listening to that track on 150W amp was like driving BMW 750i on lowest octane gas - There was no depth to the sound, most of the Hamilton’s drumming sounded like me with a little stick hitting plastic box.
When 400W(8Ohms) a channel with 80.000uF capacitnace a channel got connected, the difference was night and day - way far from subtle. The performance gave me a goosebumps.

I have seen several Harbeth owners being disappointed by the sound of their speakers while driving them with 30W amplification. Can Fiat 500 outperform Mercedes S560? Or can you buy that S560 to feed it with 87 Octane gas?
All I am saying - next time you will be at your Harbeth dealer - ask them to hook up powerful amplification. Take the step even further - compare the powerful amp (300-400W) to the 50W one at lower (80dB) level and hear the difference for yourself. You do not need to drive 200MPH, to appreciate the 470HP of S560....

I have tired many speakers and amplifiers in my room - Pass Labs, Dartzeel, Hegel, Ars Sonum, Accuphase, Luxman, Cary Audio, Leben, Shindo, Wilson, Dynaudio, Reference 3A, Merlin, Spendor, Kiis, ProAcs, DeVore, Raidho and what I have accomplished now is by far the most pleasurable experience from them all....

If you want to know specifics, just ask and I will try to do my best to answer.


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Hi Arthur,Good to know that you finally found "the pair" of speakers you were looking for. With your photography skills, I would love to see your system posted here.Congratulations on the great setup! And enjoy your music.
Yes Sir- I wouldn't hook up my Shindo mono amps to my Harbeths, and they sit within 2 feet of each other. So I understand that. Actually your entire point is direct and easy to understand. I'm stubborn, and still want to try mid power (60-80 Watts) tube monos on my 7 ES3's. So I hate to admit, I may not heed your're well informed advice quite yet. Others advice given to me so far was all above the P3's will do nicely with tubes. It would be interesting to hear which amps you tried and liked with the 40.2, along with your Sim's. Thanks for sharing.
I heard Shindo separates with DeVore 0/96s that I had in my dedicated listening room for 1.5 year. Obviously, P3s are little speakers and do not need 200Ws. The little driver can move only so much air before producing major distortion. 
I have several friends who drive their Harbeths with tubes but not a single system is up to my liking. I remember there used to be one individual in Canada recommending Audio Noto to SE (10W) with 30.1s.....quite sad. 

I really liked Hegel H590 and Gryphon Diablo 300 with my 40.2s.....I had both amps at home for a month to compare. Gryphon was perhaps too polite and warm for already warmish Anniversaries. 
H590 was truly SPECTACULAR!!!! As a matter of fact I would blindly recommend that combo for any 40.2 fans out there. If you on the budget H390 would do as well but I did not heard the combo myself.
Luxman L509x run out of stem on material that required drive and control.
Dartzeel LHC208, was close to clipping as well and the combo sounded too syrupy and warm for my taste. 

I was close of keeping the H590 BUT unfortunately I am very picky about the manufacturing processes and quality. The H590 I had has several quality issues - case misalignment, cheap metal used for enclosure, cheap RCA/XLR connector, not balanced construction.Made in China when you look at $12k amp is unacceptable for me.

Simaudio is fully balanced, 10 years warranty, beautifully built like a tank. I also tried their 600v2 and 700v2 integrateds but was not impressed with their sound.

The mono blocks with preamp and separate transport make for amazing system at a really good price point.
I know that the general consensus is that they a fair bit of power, but something seems amiss when a minimum of 400 watts is required to bring a speaker to life ...
I have heard that the 40.2 responds well to big power but there are also some real happy campers running Vinnie Rossi amps that are around 75 a channel and the LFD NCSE which I am running which is also known to play well with the 40.2's.

I don't need to be concerned with numbers to help me to understand that if I'm getting 85db peaks and am between 9 and 10:30 on the volume dial that I'm good and have no need to think that I need some monster amp to get these babies to sing.

You definitely need something with some drive and get up and go to make them move some air but part of the appeal of Harbeth to me is that they seem to be fairly amplifier friendly.

As with any speaker you don't want to under power or they'll sound flat and lacking in drive but I couldn't be more pleased at how well a well designed 70 Watt amp does - you'll know it as soon as you hear it that's for sure...
Remember that i am using rather large room that is heavy damped. Much depends on the room acoustic. I tried Vinnie Rossi‘s monoblocks and honestly could not understand what is the hype about. They sounded very nice with DeVore Super 9 but far from acceptable with 40.2s in my room. 
9 or 10 o'clock Volume knob position has nothing to do with available power and more with pre-amplifier (section) gain. 
Like I said before it is perfectly fine to drive Fiat 500 in the city traffic...but trying to convince 250ib 6.1’ guy that the drive will be more comfortable than S560 is a weak argument. 
With power you have easiness, flow, and enormous dynamics on tap. If you look at the 40.2 test (german magazine - google it) you will see that they are becoming linear around 80-85dB sound pressure. So In large, heavy damped room, 15’ from speaker, playing dynamic music, 100W will not be enough. Several individuals might think that it is more than enough, driving amp in clipping and complaining about systems’ sound (especially tube amplification)  
i know that many here are die hard low power tube amp users - but try your favorite Harbeth with powerful amp - lets say Hegel H390 or H590...

i used to know individual who drove HL5plus with leben CS600. We spent countless hours on the argument until he borrowed powerful integrated from our local dealer....he was sold overnight and his 4 years old CS600 ended up here on audiogon. 
All I am saying - be open minded and experiment!
Post removed 
I heard Shindo separates with DeVore 0/96s that I had in my dedicated listening room for 1.5 year.

I'd really like to hear about your experience owning the Devores, and also compared to your Harbeths.

I've been enamored by the Devore 0/96 whenever I auditioned them and Harbeths are one of my favourite speakers as well.  I owned the SuperHL5plus for a little while, and I've heard the 40.2 sound spectacular sometimes.

The Devore O/96 speakers did for me a lot of what the Harbeths did - beautiful, big, rich organic tone, but with an added "fun" and "boogie" factor that gave more dynamic life.

What is your take on the Devore/Harbeths?
Thanks.

I’m relieved to read that audio satisfaction can also be had when one chooses to spend well over $30,000....😆

my guess is your current set up may be just another transient stop on the merry go round. 

the 40.2s are exceptional for sure.
saw a cool review where a guy drove them with mono block benchmark Ahb or whatever model amps and thought it sublime.
prof2- what amp was driving the O/96 when you heard them. My guess is the O/96 and 40.2 are closer in efficiency than specs might indicate. A cavernous room is what it is, and any speaker will need more current to fill a large space. 
You're a lucky man. They are in the top three of the best speakers I have ever heard. They must be sublime with all of that power.
@prof 

I had Devore 0/96 in my smaller but dedicated room for 1.5 years. I have tried at least 20 different amplifiers starting from Shindo separates ending with Dartzeel LHC208 integrated. Luxman L509x proved to be the best match to my room and tastes. 
Judging from experience, 0/96s are nowhere close to their specified rating of 96dB....I would give them probably 89-90dB which still makes them for pretty efficient design.

After all that time spent with Monkeys, I have to say that I could never get imaging right - soundstage was wide but shallow and, even with $30k Shindo separates, scale was simply not there. Because of low (relative to the floor) tweeter placement, all vocals were really low positioned without any projection into the room. 

I am nut if it comes to the instruments and players positioning - I like speakers to throw large and holographic soundstage with depth and hight. Devore 0/96s were exactly opposite - anytime I played them, there was a large wall of sound hitting me with imaging being vague and smeared. 
If you like real live music in a small venue where you can feel drum on your chest - perhaps you should give the 0/96 a listen.

Another major issue that finally caused monkeys departure from my place was the quality of female vocals. They were very shouty and unpleasant (all of that using Auditorium A23, Audience 24SX, Cardas Clear Beyond speaker cables).

My summary - greatly overpriced BUT beautifully made boxes reserved for narrow market segment that values equipment locally made in US. 

Interestingly enough, I also had Super 9s for 7 months and I can honestly say that I enjoyed those MUCH more then 0/96s. But vocal shoutness disqualified them for me once again.


Thanks for the detail arturgorniak!

Very interesting.

I'm used to owning speakers that really disappear and image/soundstage well, so that was one of my concerns with the Devores.  I never could get depth with the smaller O/93s but for whatever reason the O/96s seemed to do it quite well.  Still, they are generally known for the "wall of sound" imaging.

I've been very interested to hear the Devore Super 9s as well!

When I was looking to see if I could replace my big Thiel 3.7s with a smaller speaker I bought the Harbeth SuperHL5plus and had them for a while.  I'm a huge fan of the Harbeth sound and loved the tone of the SuperHL5s.   But in the end, strangely I could not get the image depth from them that I every other speaker has been able to reproduce in my room.  And I found my Thiels superior overall (though the Harbeth squeaked by with magic for vocals!).

I'd heard the Monitor 4.2s a few times, store demos, and really liked them.  But the last time I heard them,  about a month ago,  there was a track playing - vocalist, muted trumpet, bass - that completely astonished me.  I don't know that I'd ever heard such a combination of 3D dimensional imaging WITH the corporeal, round sense of life-sized body, to the vocalist and the horn player!
@prof 

I heard 0/96s, 0/93s, Super 9s in 6 different rooms and system. The sound signature I described above maintained itself across. On the top of that, 96s sounded dark and recessed in my room while fatiguingly bright in my friend's live room....go figure :)

It is worth to mention that I have tried both HL5s Plus and 30.2s in exact same room I have 40.2 set-up - I could not get them to sound involving, no matter what I did. 
As a matter of fact, I almost gave up on Harbeth because of that. When my local friend and Harbeth dealer ordered pair of 40.2 Anniversaries, I borrowed them with intention of trying Harbeth one more - last time.
Magic swap me out of my feet!!!! I could not believe how good those puppies sounded !!!! How large and detailed images they were throwing into the room. (And the voice reproduction is simply unmatched by others) 
Like I said initially, I have tried MANY speakers in my room - some close to $40k...but nothing came close to my current 40.2 Anniversaries and I did not even mention the unbelievable Olive finish!!!!!

Keepers for sure!!!

I simply can't live with a "dark" sounding speaker and in fact one of the things that impressed me in auditioning the O/96 was how open and airy it sounded, in two different AV stores!  Go figure!  There must be something about their design (tweeter/big woofer?) that makes them change personality for different rooms.   The measurements taken by JA do seem to suggest they could sound rolled off in the "wrong" room.

The Harbeth 40s would be on my list if only they were not the size and shape they are.  I have some limitations, ergonomic and aesthetic in my room, that make them a hard sell.  (Though they work well in nearer listening, which is a plus in my room).
@prof 
That's why every piece of equipment should be auditioned at home. Harbeths have warm sound signature for sure and 96s can sound bright and fatiguing in the very live room. 

I agree - dark speakers can suck the excitement out from music making for very boring experience.

Many "modern" designs nowadays tend to gravitate to opposite - large, full, show-off forward sounding that simply make my ears bleed :) Initially they stealing attention to tire you beyond belief, in the end. 

I can't even count how many disappointed owners of Spendor D7, D9 and Focals I have met......
Thanks Artur for your detailing experience with the 40.2's.  The 40.2 is on my very short list for my my next speaker.  I see above you have listened to Pass Labs was that with the 40.2's?
I can’t even count how many disappointed owners of Spendor D7, D9 and Focals I have met......


I auditioned the Spendor D7s with hopes they retained the Spendor magic sound in the mids. I was very disappointed. The Spendor Ds were actually among the most fatiguing speaker I auditioned! Spendors!

@bobheinatz 
I did not have an opportunity to audition 40.2s with Pass Labs. I tired the INT250 with Dynaudio Contour 60s and the sound was dark and rolled off in my room. Unless you have live and open room, I would be careful with pairing warm sounding amp like Pass Labs are with romantically sounding speakers like Harbeths..

BUT what does not work for me can be perfectly acceptable for you in your room - when possible, always try equipment in your own room. 
@prof 
I am a good and close friends to local dealers and distributors and it is safe to say that 85% people are buying equipment because of the favorable magazine's review or simply to show off. I have not seen that many who are actually based their choices on listening sessions or demoing equipment at home. 
This trend is particularly amplified by DeVore speakers - it is almost a trend to buy 93s or 96s to impress friends. 
I have seen several individuals buying those speakers to be placed in 10 X 12' rooms with Shindo electronics! All of those systems sound really bad but it does not matter!!! Its like driving expensive German car - all that matter that one owns it.

If you follow my drift, you will see the emerging pattern - once you buy Devore Speakers, you NEED to own Shindo Amps because that is what Mr. Dudley from Stereophile has, and of course - Auditorium A23 cables.
I tried that  combination in several system/houses and each case showed me to never trust somebody else opinion - systems sounds FAR from what I would consider acceptable considering their $40k price tags...

I am not even going to mention that the distributor of Shindo, Leben, Sugden, Auditorium, and Line Magnetic (all those amps heavily recommended for Devores) and John DeVore are buddies and friends.....that is exactly how marketing scheme is developed and people pay major $$$$ cashing out their 401k accounts :) 

I gave 0/96s and Super 9s a fair try and they failed me miserably. Because I know people in industry - I had a chance to hear all Devore line in MANY different private and commercial houses.....not even one impressed me BUT all of them looked very nice and "Artsy"...

Fair enough.

In my case I auditioned the O/96s numerous times, in two different stores, and I came away really loving them, both with tube and solid state amplification.  (No Shindo or anything  - as I remember: Nagra, Pass, Leben).

I auditioned a huge number of loudspeakers and for me the Devores grabbed me more than all of them, excepting Joseph Perspectives (I ended up buying the Joseph Perspectives).    The main issue I had was if the Devores would work in my room due to several issues (for one, they tend to sound best at 8 feet or further away, but I need them a little bit closer.   That's where Harbeths are more flexible).
@prof 
I had a chance to listen to those Josephs at friends house but not in my own. Based on what I remember, I would say switching from Perspectives to 96s would be a downgrade especially in the near field listening. Honestly, based on my experience, no large speakers will perform at their best in near field listening - the drivers need room to integrate. I will even take it further - if you need your speakers closer than 8', I would look for good monitors like TAD MA1S or Dynaudio Confidence 20, perhaps Harbeth 30.2s.....

Yes, Nagra is beautifully made and sounds phenomenal too....I tired their Classic Integrated and was floored how beautifully it was made and how gorgeous it looked - probably the nicest amp I have ever tried.....sound wise - very good BUT not exceptional - Dartzeel LHC208 smoked it BY far......
@prof  You should try auditioning the Spendor Classic 100--very different experience to the D series (if the 100 were available anywhere in the US for audition...)

Hi again art.

As a fellow audiophile with long experience, I’ve come to some of my own conclusions. I have found the mantra "big speakers for big rooms/small speakers for small rooms" hasn’t necessarily been the case.Depends on the room, the speaker design, the set up, etc.   (One of the most impressive audio experiences I ever had were MBL 101s in a hilariously shoe-box-sized room, that was treated to make them work well).

My room is 13’ wide and 15’ deep at it’s deepest, though has a wide room opening and overall the acoustics are excellent (I also had it renovated a while back with an acoustician). Every speaker, from full range floor-standing to monitor-sized, has worked beautifully in my room. Until recently I had big Thiel 3.7s (now I have the slightly smaller Thiel 2.7s as well as the Josephs. I only downsized for the aesthetic/ergonomic reasons, not due to any sound problems with bigger speakers) and I could place them between 6 and 7 1/2 feet away and they produced the most even, coherent sound I’ve ever heard. I would definitely not restrict myself to smaller speakers (though I own a bunch of those too).

But some designed won’t work as well of course. There seems to be something in the crossover/tweeter/big woofer design of the O series that require that 8 foot distance to snap in to focus (tonally, imaging, etc).






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OP - I agree with you regarding the Harbeth 40.2 liking power.  I have a tube preamp with a pair of Gato Audio PWR 222 monoblocks.  The Harbeth are quite happy!
@greginnh 
 Oh wow - I truly like how those Gatos look!!! How do you like them? How large is your room?

BTW, I am posting this pretty interesting, experienced based analogy by Alan Shaw...

"I could have a V8 car with an engine that has enormous horsepower potential which I could never conceivably strain, which will only ever be running at perhaps 50% of its power potential. I will just purr around confident that no matter what situation I find myself in, I have sufficient power reserves at my instant disposal. 

But I reject that choice. For the same or perhaps more money I chose a car with a 1ltr. engine which has a far smaller power potential of which I will sometimes use at maximum revs, 100%. I accept that this may limit my ability to overtake safely, and I accept that I will be occasionally working the engine flat-out. I accept that there is a connection between how hard the engine is being worked and its ultimate reliability but the thrill of nipping around with a small engine, running at high revs is something that appeals to me emotionally.

Let's see if we can apply some equivalents from the world of motoring, which should make sense to anyone who has driven a selection of motor cars over their life. In an idle moment I lost count at at about 30 cars that I have owner-driven over my adult life.

These are my personal conceptual power equivalents based not on science but on a lifetime of experience with listening to music and observing the technical measurements under lab conditions of audio passing through power amplifiers....


 - 500cc engine
5W audio power
perfectly adequate for listening at a low level in small room to music of low dynamic content, with sensitive neighbours or at night, perhaps whilst you are reading a book or working on your computer

- 1200cc (1.2 ltr) engine
30W audio power
fine for general purpose running around - listening close to the speakers playing moderate dynamic music at a moderate level in a small listening room (say, 3m x 4m) where you are giving some attention to the music

- 2000cc (2.0 ltr) engine
75W audio power
better for long journeys on mixed terrain so there is power in reserve - the experienced driver's minimum out-of-city preferred power choice - listening further awy from the speakers in a larger room (typical UK living room for example). You will definitely appreciate that music is playing, and you will be giving it your full attention. Its hard to believe that your attention could be divided to listen at this average loudness and, say, reads a book.


 - 3000cc (3.0 ltr) engine
150W audio power
rarely working at full power output - huge power reserves - overtakes effortlessly when dynamic conditions demand. Best value for then consumer who is not on a budget, who listens in a larger room (say, 5m x 5m) at some distance from the speakers. The music is taking your entire focus, and would be described as loud to very loud. You would not have the mental capacity to listen at this level and simultaneously read


 - 5000cc (5.0 ltr) engine
300W audio power
so much power available that engine idling under al practical terrain conditions - nice to have but probably never called on except in a moment of extremely high drama. Mandates a responsible owner (both driver and audiophile) and no possibility of kids disco use as the destructive power is latent in the wrong hands. The music is playing at an average loudness that could be described (for a pop concert) as 'concert realistic loudness'. It is bordeline thrilling and terrifying, and would be heard even through closed windows many houses away.

Personally, I cannot abide small engines where there is no power even when you stamp you foot to the floor, the same with a hifi amp that is under powered. But its all relative: if your daily musical journey i the equivalent to driving 200m to the corner shop for bread and milk, the 500cc is all the power you will even need.

Hope this helps.

P.S. At the Bristol show (02.28.20), in a room full of people (soaking up sound), the 3ltr. engine is an absolute must for a realistic hifi experience with dynamic music.

P.P.S. Remember: it is the listening loudness at you ears (in decibels) that draws power from the amplifier. The amplifier DOES NOT push power into the speakers: the speakers pull power from the amp according to how loud you wish your speakers to play. Your hand on the volume control is exactly the same power gate as your foot on the throttle peddle.

So - if you have an amp the equivalent of 5000c but are playing light jazz at 2am, you may only need 1W of power to move the speaker cones: in effect, the amp is idling. You are NOT paying for the unused 299W unless your amp is tube or class A, which are running at full revs all the time - very inefficient and producing a little bit of irradiated waste product at the power station and/or lots of needless CO2."