Harbeth C7ES3 vs Spendor SP2/3R2


I recently acquired some beautiful Harbeth C7ES3 stand mount speakers and some Sound Anchor stands.

I normally wouldn't purchase speakers unheard, but I went against my own advice this time and let all the internet hype sway my risky decision.

The Harbeths are currently in the break-in period, and so far I'm not terribly impressed. In fact, the only trait I prefer over my MA Silver 8s is the midrange tone, everything else is inferior thus far.

I realize that comparing some medium sized, metal cone floor standers to BBC style 2-ways is apples to oranges, but I was really hoping the Harbeths would captivate me, if by completely different merits. 

I hope that some break-in will change my view in the coming days. However, the dealer I bought these from claims that the Spendor SP2/3R2 might be the better speaker for my room and preferences. The Spendors are another $500 on top of the Harbeths which already stretched my budget.

Anyway, I'm curious if anyone here has compared these two models and can give me some feedback.

I think I'd be very pleased with the Spendors if they offered better bass extension and dynamics over the Harbeths.

I know this is all subjective, but the dealers near me have trouble accommodating in-home trials. They're nice guys but very busy. 


helomech
Bit of a sideways move going from Harbeth to SP2. Problem us that you have moved from big punchy speakers to a more delicate speaker with less bass. The midrange is excellent in the Harbeth as well as tonal balance, color, timbre etc. Perhaps the Harbeth is exposing some weakness in your chain...
They don't seem to be exposing weaknesses that I can discern, though I'm not sure how I could tell unless I had a reference for comparison.

I'm willing to sacrifice some bass and dynamics for the tonal improvements, but I still like some good hard rock once in a while. I'm trying to be patient with break-in. 
A few years back I replaced the Harbeth P3ESR with the C7ES3. I had the same problem with them lacking bass. I sold them and went back to the smaller P3's. For some reason which I can't explain the smaller sealed P3 has a tighter more accurate sounding bass than the larger C7. 
Yogiboy,

The P3ESR may have tighter bass but I can't imagine they could fill a room as large as mine with realistic levels. I think the C7 cabinet volume is probably the minimum I can get away with and still achieve loud, uncompressed sound. The dealer claims the Spendors can dig a little deeper despite their contradicting specs.

Break-in seems to be yielding. improvement, either that or I'm just becoming used to their sound.

If I could manage just %10 improvement in bass, I think one of these BBC monitors might have a future in my house. I'd like to avoid attempting to integrate a sub.
 @helomech,
My room is only 20x15. Hope the 7's work out for you.They just never did for me!
The Spendors are a fine speaker. I have SP2/2 since they came out in my DVD rig and they sound great. 

For the heck of it, I removed the Harbeths from my system and hooked up my Epos Epic 2s in their place, on the same Sound Anchor stands, same positioning.

I was astonished by what I was hearing. My $400 Epos Epics, despite being considerably smaller, with a smaller woofer, have stronger and better defined bass. Not only was the bass superior, but the midrange and every other aspect of these speakers held its own against the $3800 Harbeths. I am now having a hard time deciding which of these is the better speaker! The Harbeths seem to have the better midrange tone, but only by a small margin. Of course the Harbeths aren't broken-in yet, though I've got about 20 hours on them now. It's too bad the Epos' look so bland. I'm "slack jawed" as the reviewers like to say.
Don’t kill yourself, your Harbeths are better speakers than your $400 Epos. I’m not sure of the break in time of the Harbeth but most speakers need at else a min of 100 hours. I think most manufacturers say 300-400 hours of breakin. I think you need to be a little more patient. Also, I would consider @noromance's point, you may have a weakness in your chain. What makes up the rest of your system? Include cables make. 
@helomech Your room may be too big for these speakers which are designed for more near-field listening than filling a large room with rock. Look at the Tekton Double Impact. Huge bang for the buck. It is clear to me and from ready your ither posts that the Harbeth route may not be to your liking.
helomech,
I bought a pair of C7’s used , they were well broken in. I had the same problem with them lacking bass. I had them set up for nearfield listening. What size room are they in? I think that if the room is not that large you would be better off with the P3ESR or a Spendor 3/5R2 ( I own both ) would be a much better choice! You did say you like the Epos better than the 7’s!
Donvito101,

I'm not yet ready to claim I like the Epos speakers better, but they do seem to have more of the type of bass that I like. To be fair, the Epos speakers have a reputation for bass that beguiles their size. It's doubtful that the smaller BBC sizes would match them in this regard.

My room is 25.5' x 15.5 x 8 and the rear opens to a hallway.

I really love the midrange tone (just sounds correct) of the C7s. I'm considering stretching my budget to try the SHL5+, though I've read conflicting opinions on the differences of the bass between these models. I would imagine the larger cabinet size of the SHL5 would yield better bass.

I'm currently running a Parasound Halo integrated, Yamaha Aventage universal blu-ray player, and an Acoustic Signature Wow XL turntable with Shure M97xe/SAS cartridge. My cables are simple OFC 12 gauge with high quality bananas. I'm not a big believer in cable differences.

The C7s are about 6 feet apart, about 15 degrees toe-in, and I'm sitting 8 feet from them. They're 25 inches from my forward wall and about 4 feet from the side walls.
Just re-read my last post here and it may sound a bit patronising. Apologies for that -it wasn't my intention. So you are near-field listening. Yes, if you could try the HL5, it would be interesting to see what you think.

Noromance,

I didn't take your post that way at all. I've been tempted to try Tekton, but I just can't get over their relative ugliness. They look much better with a premium finish, but I just can't bring myself to take the risk.

I did some swapping between the Epos and Harbeths again last night. The Epos definitely have the superior bass. Both speakers have about equal resolution. The Epos has a cooler midrange, that's not quite as sweet with female vocals and piano. I almost want to convince myself that the Harbeths are worth keeping for that trait alone.

I was also considering Spendor floorstanders, the D7s, but the dealer told me the floorstanding configurations just don't have the midrange magic. I'd like to believe that somewhere out there is an affordable speaker that can match a Harbeth-like midrange with fast, punchy, and deep bass, that doesn't look like a high school shop project.
It sounds like you found a great dealer. He is giving you a home trial and allowing you to tryout others.Is he charging you for shipping and restocking? I sure would like to find a dealer like that!
ATC SCM19...

Donvito,

No kidding. Most dealers near me expect customers to buy without a demo, or a demo in poor set-up conditions, with their gear. I've read many posts from people who apparently have dealers that allow in-home trials. I thought stingy dealers were the exception...apparently not.

I think the dealer is working with me for the fact that I'm a repeat customer and have already spent a fair bit of coin with them.  
I've read a lot of unflattering remarks about ATC. I'd also like to avoid speakers with foam surrounds as the climate here can be rough on foam.
ATC have nice mid range and timbre (like Harbeth) but also give you great dynamics and high clean SPL with critically damped bass (tight) for rock.  However the 19 have limited bass extension as most two ways do. The MA Silver 8 are exceptional value and only the more expensive SCM 40 would get you closer to equivalent bass extension.

Harbeth bass is not clean and punchy in the way you desire. Spender will be a sideways move leaving you again lacking.

I would not worry about surround longevity or unflattering remarks. If great mid range is what you are after and clean higher SPL with dynamic punchy bass for rock then ATC are a pretty good fit.
helomech,
I must say you found a real gem of a dealer.Do I understand this correct? He ships new speakers to you,lets you try them out,then takes the returned speakers and has to resell them as used? Can you please share with me who this dealer is?
Thanks!
No shipping involved, they're local.

No foam surrounds on atc...i went with atc 11 originally...cause i needed stand mount for smaller listening room...knowing myself i went up the rung to the 19...sound anchor’s stands.I have always wanted to try atc's and have never sat down with them...im nothing but happy I did...

These things are f’in amazing sounding...i dont know who is PR’ing bad press and bs...they must be deaf or have crap gear cause im sold on atc...done.

I don't know why I thought they used foam surrounds, something I thought I read somewhere. My local dealer didn't have any ATCs in stock.

I picked up the Spendors today. The Harbeths were just not cutting it. My first impressions will follow soon. 
Interesting...spenders are a great speaker...look forward to your impressions...
I'm about three hours into the Spendors. So far, these have the most amazing midrange I've ever heard in my system. In fact, it was about only 20 seconds into the first song that I realized these are something special. The dealer had some Spendor SP100s (older ones) in their showroom and these are sounding very similar. The bass started off somewhat anemic, but it's already improved significantly. These definitely have a warmer tone than the Harbeths, but despite this, they seem to have just a bit more detail. I prefer the imaging of these as well. They sound a bit less "open," than the Harbeths but they're somehow superior in performing the disappearing act. The midrange is simply captivating.

Also, the cabinets have the best veneer finish I've encountered, absolutely flawless!
You may like the polypropylene driver retro FM radio 80’s sound. Mission first started the great trend in this tyoe woofer. Polypropylene can be a bit nasal because of low resonance ringing (rigid drivers) but Spendor and others found ways to control that with the way the surround and voice coil are mounted.

Great to hear you found what works for you. I have an old pair of Energy Pro 22 - my first serious speaker - love that sound (Energy stitched the surround to the polypropylene cone and it worked well to limit resonance- although I can hear it compared to say ATC)

Cool...good to hear "pun"...spendors would have definitely been a short list...knowing there pedigree...it is something that i would have like to try as well...

Its nice to know right from the start that you have entered into something thats going to be right match for you.

...what model did you end up with?...curious
The SP2/3R2 
Sounds like you have some good synergy going with your amp. I have enjoyed both Spendor 3/5R's, and Harbeth P3esr.  At the moment, the latter is singing with a Croft phono integrated amp. Silly good at it's price point. Congrats on a great speaker.

Friend had same speaker some years ago...nice choice...alot of "not so little speaker"...should be getting some lowend out of those...Handfull of little English made stand mounts are to beat...

Kind of ashamed to admit I have the atc 19's for some time...until recently I removed the grills thinking that these things aren't clothed and how much difference could it make anyhow since they are perforated...holy shtuff...

Wow...its like a wayyy! different animal...what took me so long...doh

Thanks fjn04, these British monitor brands are great.

Digsmthd, 

The lower cycles fill the room with ease, but the midbass can be somewhat anemic still. I need to experiment with placement. I think my room is difficult for most speakers in one way or another. With my MA Silvers, it was a fine line between bass boom and too little bass, so my hunch is that I've got some null effects going on. These speakers are worth moving my system to one of my auxiliary bedrooms if necessary.

That’s why i went with atc/no port...lower end im little room way boomy...placement and room treatment is everything...got mine placed as well as im ever going to get...friend came over for a listem his jaw dropped...right from the start he commented that they were placed really well/even toned it sounded...do have bass traps in each corner of the room/no side reflection...thats it since i have axis pointed pretty much right at me...fwiw.enjoy!

Will add that my room is the smallest room (12.5’ by 10’) I have ever had to work with...I was cursing the audio death sentence...much to my chagrin...could not be more surprised.

as it is right now its the best sound stage I have ever had...its all there...really satisfying to nail it as close as I did...

I have the C7s since last May and went through the same thing you are.  
Not quite a year later and NO BODY is taking these things from me. They are speakers for life and amaze me on a daily basis.   Give them some time, the bass does get much better and appreciate what they offer in the mean time- an impressively natural and realistic sound.  
You can read about my trials and complaints here-

http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/new-harbeth-c7es-3-some-questions.536298/ 
You have a relatively big space if you liked the MA S8 the logical think to do is to upgrade to the higher level MA Platinum 200 II ,really great speakers with great bass extension that can fill your room easily with huge soundstage. 
I  think that moving from floor standing to stand mounts for your big room is a huge mistake. 
Avanti, 

You're correct, the bass has improved quite a lot. I'll probably still invest in a couple good subs, maybe some Rythmiks or Velodynes. I might also try placing them along the long wall. 

itzhak,

The MA Silver 8s are superior in the bass but that's the only advantage they have over these Spendors. They're a great speaker but they still produced mild fatigue after a couple hours, even with my smooth and warmish amp. There's something organic about these British monitors that is missing in the MAs, and fatigue is completely a non-issue. These stand mounters just reach out and stir the soul. They are quite the opposite of a mistake, I love these speakers.





Helomech

If the Spendor can fill your listening space their sound is better than the MA overall more organic,natural and effortless  I certenly agree with you but it’s a pity that you have to add a sub maybe it’s better to buy one of Spendor’s floor standing speakers for bass extension to avoid additional sub to your system ?
I was prepared to put down the cash for some Spendor D7s, but my dealer said they sound quite different from the Classic series, and they don't have as nice a midrange. He claimed there's some level of detriment to the midrange that comes from a floor standing cabinet. I could've had him open many pairs of new speakers, but at some point I had to consider his position, in that he would be left to sell the rejects as "open box." He spent a lot of time working with me on finding the right pair. In the near future, I might have some young teenagers living in the house and the system will likely be moved to a dedicated bedroom of much smaller size. Hopefully they wouldn't overwhelm a 12.5 x 11 room, but I suppose the front facing ports are an advantage in that regard.
Historically, if you appreciate non-exempt tonal accuracy and overall " concert hall" balance SPENDOR will do it a bit more realistically than the Harbeth, generally speaking. Since the original BC1 in 1970, the midrange, even with the New Company models are hard to resist in a BOX loudspeaker!