Harbeth comparison?


Hi all,
I’ve been using the Harbeth p3esr for years and enjoy them very much. I have tried the Compact 7s and preferred the boxless sound of the smaller P3. I have been seeing many M30.1s listed at very reasonable prices.
Has anyone compared both of these speakers and if so how do they compare?
I use the P3s in a 20x15x8 size room with a JL sub and Quicksilver 70 watt tube amps.
Thanks much!
yogiboy
If you can swing a used pair of 40.1's, you can sell your sub and get off the speaker merry-go-round.  I use 40.1's in a room of similar size (26' x 14' x 7.5') driven by VAC 30/30 MKIII Signature... or when I want a different flavor, change over to a Music Reference RM9 MKII.  

You should have no problem driving them with your 70 wpc Quicksilver amp... although others insist upon driving Harbeth's with stout solid state amps.  I've tried eight different amps with the 40.1's, including three solid state amps, but the two amps I have now are the best I've heard. 

Yogiboy ,

The Harbeth M30.1 are very nice speakers. They have that Harbeth sound with the fantastic midrange.

 You would get a bigger soundstage with the 30s compared to the P3 and of course more bass. The M30.1 does have the silk dome tweeter , which is different from the P3 and will have a slightly different presentation. Whether you would prefer the 30s over the P3 would be up to you. It is something you would have to try.

It is always best if you could audition for yourself and make the comparison at a local Harbeth dealer. If you do not have a local dealer , than trying a used pair would be you next best option. You probably could turn around and sell a pair of M30.1 for close to what you paid for them.




@timo62
Thanks for the reply. My plan was to buy a used pair and sell them if I preferred the P3. BTW, I did that with the Compact 7. I have no dealer in my neck of the woods so that will be the route that I will take!
@pdreher 
Thanks for the reply. The M30 is the one I am interested in. The M40s are out of my price range. I do agree that Harbeth sound great with tubes!

Yogiboy ,

That is a good plan!  The best way to audition is at home ,in your system and listening room.

You will like the Harbeth 30.1s. Whether you prefer them over the P3s will be up to your preference. Both are good speakers.

Keep us updated on your experience! I am curious to find out what happens with your comparison.

I also have P3ESRs, in the desktop system in my study (driven by a 2x100 watt Quad 405-2). I think they are wonderful, and I know nothing better in that size. But they have their inevitable limitations: they lack deeper bass, and they cannot pump out enough sound in a larger room. Out of curiosity I decided to try them in our large living room, driven by the 2x140 watt Quad 606-2 that I normally use there. It still sounded great, but its limitations were also a bit more obvious. So I added the B&W PV1d subwoofer (plus DSpeaker Antimode 8033 room eq) from my main system. Bass extension was immediately of a different order, of course, and integration was perfect. The experience of such deep bass seemingly coming out of these little speakers was uncanny. The combination also produced a larger sound bubble, but not quite large enough to be completely convincing in this large room. For that I would clearly have needed larger main speakers (i.e. the M30.1s). So that is the main difference that you will experience if you move one size up.
I have never heard the P3ESR and the M30.1 back to back, but by all accounts they are very similar in character. My son is saving up to buy a pair of M30.1’s (he is currently borrowing my LS3/5as) and once he has bought them I will be able to compare directly, but not yet. He did consider the P3ESR but decided he needed a bigger speaker for more dynamic music.
I have two more observations to make about your system. From my own experience I would suggest that it can be improved considerably for little money by using a DSpeaker Antimode 8033 room eq unit. My second observation is that Harbeth’s designer Alan Shaw clearly prefers powerful solid state amplifiers (he designs them using various Quad amplifiers). Harbeths have a relatively flat impedance curve, but even so solid state amplifiers are likely to give a more neutral/flat response that many tubes. From my own experience I also observed that these speakers like a bit of power. My 2x100 watt Quad 40-5- would be my minimum choice. Of course the M30.1 is more efficient than the P3ESR but even so, 70 watt is not that much. At the upcoming Bristol Hifi show Alan Shaw will demo the P3ESR with a 2x100 watt Yamaha AS701. I recently gave my son a 2x250 wat Yamaha P2500S to be used with his planned M30.1s.

Yesterday I sat down and listened to the 30.2 and they would be a nice improvement in a room your size. They had the same ability to disappear completely, tuneful bass, and the top end was brilliant. I preferred them to the Super HL5 +
If possible, look or try Graham ls5/9
As a tubehead in terms of amplification preferences, I find that Harbeths are one of the very few speakers that can draw me in and keep me seated to listen, without tube amps.  They are naturally organic sounding.
Hi Yogi,

Don't know if my experience can help, but I have both the P3ESR and the M30.1s in my house. My primary listening room is 12x17x8, so a bit smaller than yours. I bought the P3ESR first and enjoyed them a lot in my mostly Naim system. I then bought the 30.1s, hoping for more resolution and scale and that is pretty much what they provide.

The first thing I noticed when I replaced the P3s with the M30.1s was that I had to lower the volume. The 30.1s are easier to drive. The difference isn't huge, but noticeable. They are more efficient, which I guess makes sense - the sealed vs ported thing.

The next thing I noticed was that resolution went up by a noticeable degree. The tweeter in the 30.1 is more refined. The P3 is no slouch, but the resolution of the 30.1 incrementally extends everything the tweeter does - soundstage depth is deeper, there is more observable detail, initial transients are a shade more natural sounding and there is a sensation that harmonic information is just more saturated, so to speak. I would think this would sound terrific with your tubes.

The third thing I noticed - again a bit of the sealed vs ported thing - was the box. The punchy bass of the P3ESR was replaced by a less punchy, less taught, but deeper bass - at least initially. I say initially because I had originally situated the 30.1s roughly where I had the P3s, about 5 feet from the back wall and 4 feet from the sidewalls. As I moved the 30.1s closer to the sidewalls I found I could tune the mid bass punch. Makes sense, they are bigger boxes and they react with the room more. When I got them on some solid open stands that improved again. The 30.1s respond to placement a lot more than the P3s. This can become a problem if you have to put them on shelves or don't have the freedom of moving them about the room, so that's a consideration. Your room is bigger than mine, so I would think anything in the Harbeth line is fair game for you if you have the liberty to move them about. The bass in my room from the 30.1s runs down to about 60Hz I would say. I cross my JL subs over at 50Hz and find that the subs and the 30.1s seem to cross over and blend just right that way. The tonality of the 30.1s I found blended seamlessly with my JL110s. I can't tell where one ends and the other begins other than the frequency. The P3s made useable bass down to around 75Hz in my room, so I crossed the subs over at about 65-70Hz for them but I could never get as good a blend with them as I can with the 30.1s. In both cases the subs are directional because they are cut over higher, but with the P3s, it may have been that the JLs were simply putting out a lot more of the bass content of most of the music I play, so I became more aware of them.

The 30.1s also seem to respond to power, which is in perfect keeping with what Shaw says. I think your Quicksilvers are plenty, as is my Naim XS and my Naim SN2, but the bass in these speakers changed in just the step from the XS to the SN2, so I have a suspicion that these speakers can be more dynamic than people think if they get enough power. I have not dipped my toe in those waters yet, but I'd love to hear what a brute could do with these.

Lastly, the 30.1s simply sound bigger. Duh, right? The volume of air it moves is simply larger and in my smallish room you notice that pretty readily. What I didn't expect was that the 30.1 can fill the room rapidly as volume goes up and when playing loud can pound the room pretty hard. As I raise the volume on the P3s, it certainly got louder and they aren't wallflowers, but I could tell where the energy was coming from if that makes sense. The sonic images scaled to a point and then just got more intense. With the 30.1, when you turn them up, the sonic images seem to get larger and louder together to a greater degree than the P3s and with more harmonic overtone evident. They are simply more enveloping.

I still love the P3s, so I hung on to them to use them in another room, but I have to say, I haven't been tempted to put them back in the listening room. I feel like I've only scratched the surface of the 30.1's potential. Makes me really curious to find a used pair of the 40.1s : )

I think the advice to pick up a used pair of 30.1s or even SHL5 pluses (might be closer to large P3s in nature than the 30.1) and try them out would be the right approach for you if you could swing it. I was where you are. I knew I loved the P3s, just wondered if more would really be more or just more money. I figured I could swing buying the 30.1s and then just selling them again if it didn't work out. That gave me a few months to suss out a feeling for each before arriving at my not so responsible decision to keep 'em both!
vsollozzo- Excellent write up. I enjoy my P3's quite a bit, and you have certainly wet my appetite. Cheers -Don
@vsollozzo
Thanks much for your comparison regarding the two Harbeths. I have a pair of M30s on their way to my house and should receive them this week.
 I have tried the Compact 7s and preferred the P3s over them. I have never had luck with ported speakers in my listening room but the proof will be in the pudding!
Thanks again,
Yogiboy

@fjn04  - Thanks Don, still enjoying the P3s myself. In their place in my house, they still rule supreme!

@yogiboy - Perfect! Try ’em on, see if they fit!

After my post last night I tried putting the P3s back in the main room to see what thoughts I could offer on the inverse, replacing the 30.1s with the P3s instead of the other way around. Yeah, no way I’m going back.

I was surprised at the degree to which I had got accustomed to the 30.1s. Kind of the opposite of when I switched out the P3s initially. Now the P3s sound atmospheric in that room, but small, like I want to pull them into the near field.

The 30.1s just have more body in the sound. They have more presence and a sense of corporeality to voices and bigger images. The density of sound in comparison is very noticeable.

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts man, keep us posted!