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I will be curious what you ultimately decide as I have been fascinated with both of these speakers. In college my brother-in-law owned a pair of SP1 which I truly enjoyed. I have heard smaller Spendors at shows and again I liked. I have never heard the 40.2, or Classic 100. These speakers are on my short list - if and when I make a speaker move.
It would be helpful to know what ruled out some of the contenders. I like a lot of the speakers you mentioned. I notice that they mostly fall in the warmer side of the the coloration spectrum, and tend to deliver rich, well saturated, timbre rather than sounding lean and detailed. This is my kind of sound too. But, the tricky aspect of this sound is avoiding a sluggish sound that lacks appropriate micro dynamics. Tell us what you want more of that some of the contenders did not deliver, or what they did that was somewhat off-putting.
Both the Harbeth and the Spendor have quite similar sound. They can both over power small and medium sized rooms with their bass and sound a bit boomy. They both need a bit of power and may not be suitable with very low-powered tube amps. I know that the Harbeth is quite sensitive about the kind of amp it is used with and can sound lifeless with the wrong amp (I have very little recent experience with the SP100).
If you like the Harbeth/Spendor sound but want something with greater dynamic agility and higher sensitivity you may want to take a look at Daedalus Audio. I had the Spendor S-100's for many years as well as a pair of Compact 7s. I've also heard the rest of the Harbeth line. Personally, I just love the Harbeth/Spendor sound--instruments and voices sound so real and natural. There is zero listening fatigue. They just sound "right" to me. The Daedalus speakers build on this with greater resolution, inner detail and dynamics--they sound easily as "real" but simply more alive. You may like....
I owned SP-100 speakers for nearly 20 years and found them very satisfying on a wide range of music. They are truly a "music lover's speaker." I seriously considered some of the speakers on your list as possible replacements for the Spendors including the Devore O/96, Audio Note E, and Harbeth 40.2, as well as the Daedalus speakers mentioned by another poster. Of those the Harbeth 40.2 was the most satisfying to my ears and would probably have been a worthwhile improvement over the SP-100 but not by a substantial margin.
I ended up going with a custom open-baffle speaker using vintage drivers, but I suspect I would have been very happy with the Harbeth as well.
Thanks to all. With the Daedalus, I guess we're talking the Argos or the Ulysses, right? I've read about them but never been able to listen. They have quite a following on Audio Circle. I think I saw they were coming to the Capital AudioFest in November. Hmmm.
@larryi Good question. As far as I can tell, this: not only do I not like speakers that are generally acknowledged to hew to the brighter side of the spectrum, but I have recently found that I'm not too keen on brands that have traditionally been middle of the road or even more forgiving, but which in recent models have, to my ears, tended to try to "modernize" their sound. The D7 and D30 would be good examples of that tendency.
I gather the 40.2 tames some of the potential bass boominess of the 40.1, and honestly, in my room, I've never been able to produce an excess of bass--quite the reverse.
I'm far from dissatisfied with my current PMC Twenty.24's, but there's always that itch to be scratched: more holographic, more natural, a bit more bass...
This has been very helpful so far; keep the suggestions coming...
A friend whose home I have been to at least a dozen times has the Harbeth 40.2 speakers with Skyland stands and a Prima Luna Dialogue HP Integrated amp with 4 KT150 tubes outputting over 100wpc & it sounds sublime. He is using a Palmer turntable, not sure of the mc cartridge but I know it was way up there in price. He also has a tubed Line Magnetic CD player.
He has the type of sound I really like, and it is a system I could probably live a very long time with. It sounds best with the turntable, excellent with cd player and very good with his MD tuner. The main thing that stands out is how effortless and smooth sounding the system is. I am very impressed with it.
Both excellent choices. I’d like to try some Spendors in the future. Meanwhile, check out the Triangle Signature Thetas just to compare. I believe Triangle is going to be back in the game here sooner than later. The Thetas are unbelievable. I have a pair, and I’m using a Belles Aria integrated. The soundstage and imaging are truly amazing. They do scale quite well so they fill a larger listening area? Great base too for a standmount. The “brightness” they have been associated with in the past; I don’t hear it. Good luck with your journey.
I'm on my second stint with Harbeth 40.1's. I had my first pair of 40.1's about seven years ago and regrettably sold them to try a pair of Daedalus Ulysses. Daedalus cabinetry top notch and Lou Hinckley (Daedalus owner) is a very accommodating and generous with his time, but they just did't do it for me like the big Harbeth's. The Ulysses bettered the 40.1's with regards to speed and dynamics, but the 40.1's won handily in the areas of tone, texture, weight/fullness and midrange magic. The 40.1's will never win a beauty contest and they don't sound sexy... but they just sound right to me.
Twoleftears, the bass response of the 40.1's is strong, but that is part of their allure for me. If your listening room is not problematic with regards to dealing with bass, you can save yourself a lot of money by trying a pair of 40.1's vs. buying a new or used pair of 40.2's.
Lou and Daedalus will be at CAF in November. I believe he is bringing the smallest of the Apollo series (called the "Apollo"). He is building a pair for me as I write. The Apollo would be the closest to the large Spendor/Harbeth's you are looking at--they are also a three-way design with a large woofer with a BIG sound in a relatively small package. (One that is IMHO far more attractive than the large cube you get with the British brands). The Argos would be another I would recommend exploring. You will never hear me bashing a pair of Harbeth/Spendors. I have heard the Harbeth 40.1's on many occasions and they are unfailingly musical. Compared with the Daedalus Ulysses that @pdreher owned, I would give a slight nod to the 40.1s--they just sound bigger and more robust (I have a buddy who had the Ulysses in a great system and heard them many times). However, Lou's Apollo series speakers are in a different league from the Ulysses, which is dated at this point. The new 10" driver is incredible and Lou has significantly improved the crossover network, which is now isolated in the cabinet. There is also a new tweeter as well as custom mounting fixtures for both the mid and woofer. The cabinets are much more significantly braced. I could go on but the bottom line is that the Apollo series are a significant step up from the Ulysses, which was a great speaker in its day. I flew out to Ferndale to visit Lou and hear the new design and we did a direct comparison to two earlier models. The difference is not at all subtle. I came back and sold my beloved Daedalus DA-1.1s and ordered the Apollos. If you can get to CAF to hear the new Apollo's, go for it!
Dodgealum, that is interesting indeed. I will make a point to listen to the new Apollo at CAF in November. I have heard the Ulysses a number of times and some of the other models less often, but only at shows, and frankly I was always disappointed by the sound. Given all the rave reviews, I expected better. Maybe this year the Apollo will be different.
@riaa... Plain Jane. That was what was in the showroom. I like the extra "air" from positioning well away from boundaries, and doing that to the AN's just loses too much of the bass reinforcement. Plus I really don't need high sensitivity. But as I say, the honest, natural, true-to-life timbral presentation of the AN's was very, very impressive.
Mountainsong - I owned the original version Dynaudio C4 for a few years, but replaced them with Harbeth M40.1’s. I found the C4’s to be fast and exciting, but they could not compete with Harbeth M-40.1’s with regard to tone, timbre, weight and musicality. It wasn’t even close for me.
I’ve not heard the 40.2’s or the KEF Blades... but those would be the two I’d most like to hear with the Luxman amps.
Don't know that I have a technical explanation for this, but between the Harbeth and Spendor, I like Spendor better. They just seem to have more "magic" and the lifelike presentation of well recorded acoustic instruments is very natural. I'd still have my SP1/2Es if my wife hadn't kicked them out due to their 70s boxy appearance.
I don't know if I would rule out the bigger ProAc speakers based on hearing their smaller models. Certainly someone who likes Harbeth, Audio Note and Spendor would at least be a candidate for ProAc speakers.
I don't know how easy it would be to find, but the JM Reynaud line would also be worth looking into. It has been a while since I heard them, but, I liked their warm, harmonically dense sound.
Someone mentioned the Triangle speakers, which is an interesting recommendation. They tend to be, perhaps, a little "brighter" sounding than your listed candidates, but, not in a bad way--they are vibrant sounding without being harsh or shrill; I like them.
I think that in this price range, it would be worth while making a trip to New Jersey to hear the Charney Audio speakers. They make absolutely amazing sounding speakers--vibrant, clear, coherent and harmonically rich. They come with different driver options (I like the AER driver the most) with the particular model I am interested in ranging from about $12k to $17k (depending on driver and finish). They are also very high in efficiency (above 100 db/w) and present an easy load so they can be driven by low-powered amps (the best kind, to me). I own a pair of speakers with midrange drivers that are twice as expensive as these whole speakers, and I am thinking about replacing them with the Charneys.
My speakers have a Jensen-Onken cabinet for the twin 12" woofers, with the midrange compression driver/horn sitting on a cradle above this box (bullet tweeter on a cradle below the horn). It was easy to just replace the compression driver and horn. I did this by getting a matched pair of Western Electric 713b drivers and a pair of 12025 Western Electric horns. These days, it is hard to get matched 713b's, and with the horns, the price now exceeds $30k. To me, the 713b is one of the best sounding midrange drivers around, although it does have its own shortcoming (somewhat restricted in frequency range compared to some other vintage drivers, such as the 555, a low impedance that makes it harder to match with easier load tweeters and woofers).