Harbeth P3ESR or Monitor 30?


I’m leaning strongly towards a (used) Harbeth upgrade, and was focussed on the P3ESR until I noticed a pair of Monitor 30s available for around the same price.

My room is far from ideal. Hard floors, about 15'x18', with a further, narrower extension on one side of the longer dimension, and a small window bay on the other. The speakers are set up on one side of the 15' space, and I sit on the other.

I have done some searching and read a few opinions, but if anyone has experience with both, or any thoughtful opinion, I’d welcome your thoughts.

Cheers,

Tony
whipsaw
I have owned the compact 7 which is a ported type like the 30. I also have the P3ESR's.
My room size is 20'x15'.
The P3's with its smaller size and sealed woofer just blew the larger 7's away.
I can't comment on the 30's but I presume they are close to the 7's.
I have owned many of these type of speakers and think the P3ESR is the best of the lot!
Thanks very much, yogiboy, that is quite helpful!

I have been leaning in that direction all along, especially since heavy bass is of little importance to me, and the reviews of the P3ESR are almost uniformly very positive.

What are you driving yours with, assuming that you still own them?
Agree with Yogiboy on this one .  Having owned both the P3s and the C7s, I found the P3s to be clearer and more open sounding.  The C7s, were a bit muddier though the midrange due to the port and the box resonance.   Both are beautiful speakers, but the P3 is a startlingly good monitor.  And the bass was more than enough in my 12x15 room.  Can't imagine you'd be disappointed in any way by going with the P3s.
Thanks smrex, much appreciated.
Whipsaw,
I still have them and I drive them with 70 watt tube Quicksilver amps! This review says it all!
http://www.hifizine.com/2011/12/harbeth-p3esr/

Yep, I think the line "For those who tell you that these little monitors do not deliver bass below a certain frequency I say stop listening to Hertz and start listening to music" says it all.

I bet they sound fantastic with the Quicksilver amps.  I found that they sound good with damn near anything, but high-quality amplification really brings them to another level.  
Thanks, you guys are making the choice easy. The speakers will be powered by a re-capped, and very sweet vintage Accuphase E-303 integrated amp (180w into 4ohms).
Tony,

Let us know how it sound when you get it all hooked up - I think you'll be amazed, especially when paired with such a great amp.
Sure will – thanks again!
The plot thickens...

I am very close to making a decision, but have received some strong, contrary opinions on the Harbeth forum. Not that the P3 isn't held in very high regard – it is. But that the M30 is a better speaker overall, and that the advantages of the other are limited.

To complicate matters, I currently have a choice of either speaker at roughly the same cost.

hmmm...
Since the M30 is 3 times the price of the P3, why not get both and keep the ones you like and sell the ones that you don't ?  Otherwise you'll be spinnin' your wheels  til the cows come home !
I wish I could give you further input, but I haven't heard the M30s, only the C7s.  Yogiboy makes a good point - you could compare them side by side, and then keep the one you prefer.  A bigger investment up front, but Harbeths sell very quickly used.  And you'd never doubt your choice if you compare them.
I have had the Compact 7s and now have the M30.1s. I have heard the SHL5s in my room. I have heard the P3s twice in a dealer audition. My room is a bit smaller than yours, 12x18. I highly recommend the M30.1, or M30 as stated in your original post (used, I presume). They should fill the room without overwhelming it. I have read some of the posts in response to your question on the Harbeth forum. It seems to me that the general opinion on HUG is go with the larger speaker due to its larger midbass driver. I agree.
In response to the above posts about the C7s' bass being muddier than the P3s, yes, that is true. But definitely not the case of the M30.1. You will get the "larger" sound of the C7 with the clarity of the P3. 
Thanks guys. A head-on comparison would be ideal, and I haven't ruled one out.

@valinar Yes, the helpful contributors on the HF, including Alan Shaw, were fairly persuasive in recommending the M30.

I have little doubt that I would be happy with either, but given that I have plenty of good power, and enough space, I do expect to be giving the M30s a try fairly soon.
The plot thickens...

I am very close to making a decision, but have received some strong, contrary opinions on the Harbeth forum. Not that the P3 isn't held in very high regard – it is. But that the M30 is a better speaker overall, and that the advantages of the other are limited.

To complicate matters, I currently have a choice of either speaker at roughly the same cost.

hmmm...


You will certainly receive contradictory opinions since everyone's taste and listening preferences are not the same. I have listened to all Harbeth speakers in the line. My least favourite speaker is the M30. No doubt the tonal quality is very rich, but the overall sound is thick and shut-in. All the other speakers P3ESR, C7ES3 and SHL5s are airier than the M30.

If you like an airy and open sound, you are better served with the P3ESR. But if you can listen to both M30 and P3ESR, that is of course the best option.
Thanks ryder. I am close to making a decision, and will update extensively when finished.


I run the C7s and I personally love all of the Harbeth speakers.  You cannot go wrong with any of them.  The M30  however is a reference quality monitor closely linked back to the BBC LS5/9a.  I was also a huge fan of Rogers so quite familiar with that spec.  I personally prefer the M30 as it is more appropriate for a home setting.  The M30 is quite revealing and the bass is lacking at low listening volumes.  Resolution is very good - much higher than P3 or C7 but I liked the added warmth of the C7.  Now one way to fix the slight mudiness of the C7 is through cabling - I use a full loom of Nordost Blue Heaven and Purple Flare.  

So for the OP, if you are using high powered/high end amp and like the resolution ,get the M30 (and the custom stands). Otherwise the P3 is a superb mini for listening a reasonable levels (they don't play loud). 
Also, the P3s are not suited to all kinds to music. They do excel in some, but if you push them too much all you can hear is congestion. If I were you, like others said, I would go for the 30
I was looking to buy a pair of Harbeth speakers and decided to ask the manufacturers what they thought would work in my room.  Alan Shaw himself replied.  In the end he suggested the particular speakers I was looking at wouldn't work.  He did suggest a smaller model in the range that would work though.  These guys make great speakers and are passionate about sound - they lost a sale but gave me the right advice.  I thought that was brilliant.  So perhaps send an email to Harbeth if you haven't already.  Good luck and enjoy the music! 
Please don't buy into the P3ESR fad. Over priced and there Is a multitude of better performing speakers out there and more musical. Fritz, Merlin, Dynaudio...heck The "Continuum" by Jeff Bagbydiy speaker for $350 out performs it. I have built it.......and it sounds BETTER! The PS3ESR build quality is a joke too for what you pay, after the $300 in parts. Hit me up if you are thinking of buying this and I can get you a better sounding version for $1000 less. 
OK, sorry for the belated update.

I ended up auditioning both, and have gone with the P3ESR. While both speakers predictably have strengths and weaknesses, let me begin by saying that the assertions in the above post are ludicrous. I don't mean to suggest that the other speakers mentioned aren't contenders, but the rest is hyperbolic nonsense.

Now, with regard to the two Harbeths, I have chosen the P3s primarily because of what some earlier contributors have noted, namely that they are more open sounding than the M30, and this is especially important in my current, less than ideal space.

I have little doubt that in a room with fine acoustics, and with the right associated equipment, the M30s would be first-class. The highs and mids were superb, even in my space, but they lacked the openness of the smaller speakers, and at times sounded 'boxy'. They also required a more specific and narrow listening position in order to be fully appreciated, while the P3s are quite flexible in that respect.

Having said all of that, I am not as enthusiastic about the P3 bass response as some others on the thread. My expectations were realistic, but I have been a bit underwhelmed. To be fair, I haven't yet done much experimenting with positioning, nor have I tried a different set of spikes, which I will do. So it is still early, and my opinions may evolve.

I do like the speakers quite a bit, but am not sure that they will be with me for years to come. For some perspective, I was more impressed with the bass response of the previous (small) speakers that I was using, a pair of Von Schweikert VR-1, which cost all of 350€.

In any case, thanks for the earlier feedback, and if you have any further thoughts or questions, fire away!

Regards,

Tony C.
Tony - It has been my experience that the bass response of the Harbeth P3esr speakers, if new, will get better with time.  I have also found that the bass can further improve with proper set-up and a well-matched amplifier. Depending on the set-up, I’ve heard the P3 bass sound modest or powerful, and presentation sound detailed and forward or rounded and mid-hall. The P3’s always sound good but can be stellar with some added “effort” and expense.    

Proper stands and placement are essential. The tweeter should be at ear level, which is usually 26 -27” in height. Adding filling material to the stands will change the character of the sound.   Lead shot will sound clearer, more open and bright, while the opposite with kitty litter. The more material added the more noticeable the change.  I use both, with lead shot in the bottom.   Bass response and overall sound quality improved further when I switched from Blu Tack to Herbie’s Audio Lab’s Big Fat Square Dots between the speakers and stands.   I was skeptical but these things really work!  As for speaker placement, each room is different so trial and error is important. My P3’s are about 4’ from the wall in 13’ x 19’ dedicated listening room.  And the bass is stunning for such a small speaker. Tried a sub, but without was best.

You didn’t mention the amplifier used but that too makes a difference.  As you probably know, Harbeth speakers are easy to drive and sound quite good with most suitably powered amplifiers. This would include certain British solid state integrated amplifiers. I have used the P3 speakers with Naim Nait XS2 and SuperNait2 integrated units. The SN2 added some needed warmth and bass response but I still wasn’t satisfied.   I recently tried three other high quality integrated amplifiers, two solid state and one tube. The clear winner was the LFD Zero Mark IV, which had much better bass and PRAT than any other amplifier I have tried. The LFD also had a more natural, mid-hall presentation that sounds as close to real as I’ve ever heard in a stereo system.   The LFD/Harbeth combination is truly extraordinary.   The lack of remote was initially a turnoff, but I use a Logitech WiFi remote to control my source and it works great.

 

 

 


Hi Kendrick,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

There were demos, so they should already be broken in.

I am powering them with a re-capped, vintage Accuphase E-303 amp, which is both high-quality and plenty powerful. I will, in the coming months, be importing my main amp, which is currently in storage in the U.S. That will make a difference, as it is a Jeff Rowland Concentra, and is outstanding.

I am using open architecture stands, which seems to be the preference of most P3 owners. They are not heavy, though, and it would be interesting to hear the difference between them and a more substantial design.

My listening space is currently quite limited, and in some ways, the P3s work very well in it. Their openness is a big plus, and they even sound pretty good when I sit almost between them at a desk while on my computer.

They are limited in termms of how far from the back walls they can be placed, as my (high-quality) speaker cables only extend 6ft.

In any event, your response does suggest that I should do plenty of tinkering before arriving at any final conclusions, and that is both encouraging and logical. So, thanks again!

Tony C.




Tony -  Glad to share a few thoughts.  Both of your amplifiers are certainly high quality products, so the "issue" may be more about synergy than anything else.   I glanced at a few reviews of the impressive Rowland Concentra, which seems to be highly regarded and have presentation qualities that are well suited to Harbeth.  It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the combination at a later date. 

So open stands are fine... but so much for my suggestion about filing material!  The pads from Herbie's Audio Labs might be worth trying. They are  only about $80 and easily returned for full credit.  My guess is that heavy stands benefit more from the pads because they are higher in mass and more likely to ring, but you never know until trying.  

Cheers,
Bruce   

  
Thanks Bruce.

I have used Herbie's products in the past, and am using something similar at the moment. I doubt that a change in that are would confer any big changes.

I'll update when I have further thoughts.

Tony C.
Perhaps the lack of bass could be attributed to a 4" driver in a sealed shoe box sized cabinet?
Only if my expectations had been unrealistic, and they weren’t.
Post removed 
I ended up auditioning both, and have gone with the P3ESR. While both speakers predictably have strengths and weaknesses, let me begin by saying that the assertions in the above post are ludicrous. I don’t mean to suggest that the other speakers mentioned aren’t contenders, but the rest is hyperbolic nonsense.

Now, with regard to the two Harbeths, I have chosen the P3s primarily because of what some earlier contributors have noted, namely that they are more open sounding than the M30, and this is especially important in my current, less than ideal space.

I have little doubt that in a room with fine acoustics, and with the right associated equipment, the M30s would be first-class. The highs and mids were superb, even in my space, but they lacked the openness of the smaller speakers, and at times sounded ’boxy’. They also required a more specific and narrow listening position in order to be fully appreciated, while the P3s are quite flexible in that respect.

Having said all of that, I am not as enthusiastic about the P3 bass response as some others on the thread. My expectations were realistic, but I have been a bit underwhelmed. To be fair, I haven’t yet done much experimenting with positioning, nor have I tried a different set of spikes, which I will do. So it is still early, and my opinions may evolve.

I do like the speakers quite a bit, but am not sure that they will be with me for years to come. For some perspective, I was more impressed with the bass response of the previous (small) speakers that I was using, a pair of Von Schweikert VR-1, which cost all of 350€.

In any case, thanks for the earlier feedback, and if you have any further thoughts or questions, fire away!

Thanks for the update. Good to hear you have settled with the P3ESR. It’s a wonderful speaker indeed and have the capability of sounding "huge" despite its small enclosure. Perhaps you might want to give it more time to determine if the bass performance will improve. It would be interesting to know how the P3s would sound like with the Jeff Rowland.

I share the same thoughts on the M30, though the comparison is mostly with the C7ES3 and SHL5. The M30 sounded fairly shut-in and less open than both the C7s and SHL5s. Due to the "restrained" quality, the M30 sounds slightly boxy next to the C7s and SHL5s which sound more open in comparison. Having said that, the M30 being a monitor speaker is voiced to have more control, hence the apparent lack of "openness" when compared to other Harbeth speakers which are more suited for domestic applications. The M30 has a much richer tone than the C7ES3 and SHL5 which gives instrument and voices a more palpable feel. Folks who value this trait more than transparency and openness will find the M30 a "better speaker".

You didn’t mention the amplifier used but that too makes a difference. As you probably know, Harbeth speakers are easy to drive and sound quite good with most suitably powered amplifiers. This would include certain British solid state integrated amplifiers. I have used the P3 speakers with Naim Nait XS2 and SuperNait2 integrated units. The SN2 added some needed warmth and bass response but I still wasn’t satisfied. I recently tried three other high quality integrated amplifiers, two solid state and one tube. The clear winner was the LFD Zero Mark IV, which had much better bass and PRAT than any other amplifier I have tried. The LFD also had a more natural, mid-hall presentation that sounds as close to real as I’ve ever heard in a stereo system. The LFD/Harbeth combination is truly extraordinary. The lack of remote was initially a turnoff, but I use a Logitech WiFi remote to control my source and it works great.
Interesting that you find the LFD Zero Mark IV to have better bass and PRAT than the Naim Nait XS2 and Supernait2. I have tried the LFD Zero Mark III with the Harbeth and there is certainly a great synergy in this combination. I have listened to the Nait XS with the Harbeth and share the same sentiment that the Harbeth sounds nicer and more sublime with the LFD. Apart from the bass that is more prominent with the LFD, the midrange and highs of the LFD have a certain tube-like glow to it. Somehow the Nait XS didn’t possess the same verve and rhythmic drive when compared to the LFD and took a flatter / monotonous sound. A caveat is I did not have a Hicap connected to the Nait XS when I listened to the amp. Nevertheless, there is no denying the fact that the LFD gives the best of both worlds in combining tube-like warmth with speed, slam and dynamics of solid-state, a rare feat to achieve indeed. In this sense I agree that the LFD/Harbeth combination is unique and remarkable.

I am currently using Naim NAC202/NAP200 + Dual Teddycap with the Harbeth SHL5s and I can vouch for this combination as well. The Naims may not have the wonderful tube-like glow of the LFD but the rhythmic pace (PRAT) is on another level compared to the Nait XS. Music has a certain groove to it as the crescendos from silent passages are all delivered remarkably well (good macrodynamics). After living with the Naims for more than 5 years, I now have an NAC282 on the way after being influenced by the group on the Naim forum just recently. Initially I did not have plans for an upgrade but the enthusiastic group on the Naim forum appears to have succeeded in convincing me to go up the Naim ladder. Maybe I should stop visiting forums so that I can stop buying new gear.

I have just recently come to the LFD-Harbeth match, and I think it's astonishing.  I have the P3esr paired with the LFD LE V and an LFD LE/SE phono stage.  It's hard to believe this is not a tubed system with the dimensionality and tonal purity that it produces.  I am tempted to audition the C7s or the M30.1 to get a little more bass and a slightly higher volume range.  I had the C7s a while back paired with a Naim 5i-2, and it was a wonderful sounding system.  However, it didn't produce much center fill - I was always aware I was listening to two separate speakers.  If nothing else, I have discovered I am a huge fan of the British sound - I have really enjoyed every product I've tried by Naim, Exposure, Harbeth, Spendor, LFD, and Croft.  

Scott
whipsaw.....wondering about your Harbeth P3's and where you're
at with them ? I'm getting close to a P3 purchase after an audition
but have not had a listen to much else   ... my current and long time
speakers are B&W dm303's  w/B&W asw300 sub. Amp is McCormack DNA 1.
 Pre amp Modwright 9.0 swl , ss rectifed.   My room
is 12x20 living room. I actually love the 303's but getting upgrade bug. Any feedback would be appreciated,as would anyone with other
suggestions as well. I've read just about everything available about
these speakers and Harbeth speakers in general . I see yogiboy is a Harbeth guy so would be great to hear from him also.  Thanks 

Hi offnon,

I have been using the P3's for close to two years now, and am very happy with them. As suggested in the original posts, my listening space here in Lisbon is quite poor, yet the Harbeth's have performed really well. 

It's not just the well-documented accuracy and natural sound that they produce, but their openness has helped to mask some of the problems associated with the room. As absurd as it may sound, when I sit at my desk and work on my computer, I am essentially between the speakers, and yet they still sound good! Remarkable, really.

I have upgraded my amp from the Accuphase E-303 to the E-303x, and it was a substantial upgrade. I am still using my EMC 1-UP CD player as the primary source.

I haven't yet been able to place them optimally far away from the back walls, and so the soundstage is compressed to some degree. Nevertheless, I am very happy with them, and look forward to hearing them under more favorable conditions in the not too distant future.

I can't really comment on the B&W comparison, as I haven't owned them. My previous speakers were Green Mountain Audio Calistos, and the Harbeths compare very favorably.

As a final note for now, I do listen to a variety of types of music, including funk and soul. And while the P3's are obviously not going to bring the house down with bass response, I have found them to be impressive in how they punch above their weight.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask!

Cheers,

Tony
whipsaw....thanks for your reply. I'm pretty sure I will buy these
.....just in a bit of indecision limbo. I found a great dealer here
on Long Island who's been super helpful with me. For me it's the usual " is this the right move ? will they be a $2,000 improvement on my speakers ?   etc.   but I gotta jump in somewhere, and 2 grand
is my limit . Anyway,thanks again and I'll get back in here if I do get
them and once I've been listening awhile.

Great! Please do report your impressions.

Oh, and if the dealer is as good as you say, then get them to make a simple concession: you get to audition the speakers at home before consummating the purchase. As you know, system synergy is crucial.
whipsaw......I've been home-auditioning the P3's for three days now as per your advice. Actually the dealer offered so I took him up.
Very lengthy sessions,with back and forth between B&W's and P3's
all w/cds . There's a long version and short version of this story so will see what it goes. For starters,I had my B&W's set up in less than ideal conditions.....on either end of a wood homemade record cabinet
loaded with maybe 500 lps. My electronics are in between,and a 42"
tv in front of this on a stand,so that the speakers just edge out fully
on each side of tv. I know....  also used a B&W asw300 sub to good
effect on floor in right side. So this is how I started with Harbeths.
Played lots of music this way for first day.Had some difficulty dialing
the Harbeths and sub. On second day I pulled both speakers off record cabinet and onto makeshift stands of two wood chairs each
with books stacked and leveled at 24" to bottom of speakers. Listened this way all day yesterday without sub. The P3's improved and bass especially without sub.That being said,the B&W's also improved,getting out into the (living) room...much better soundstage
like they could breath better. The B&Ws have been holding their own
without question.....more of a testament to their strenhths than an
indictment of P3s. The P3s are without a doubt right up my alley
sound wise. As we speak I have them playing Willie Nelson & Friends...Stars & Guitars  Live ,after playing this with B&Ws. I''m not
much of a critical listener nor am I very tech proficient so will spare
attempts to sound knowledgeable. The two speakers sound very
close in quality to me,which has surprised me some.I have always
enjoyed music w/ the B&W 303s but figured they would pale in 
comparison to P3s. Perhaps if I was auditioning them both from
scratch,say my first pair of speakers I would choose P3s for a slightly
smoother presentation and a more clear definition of instruments.Hard to say. The cost is a factor as well,since it would be
a $2,000 lay out. I find I'm hearing that voice on my shoulder saying the Harbeths must be so much better....the B&Ws cost $300 some years ago,but letting my ears alone be judge, I think at this point I'll
stay with B&Ws as strange as that may sound. I will be looking to keep them out in the room on stands,so this experiment has given
me insight in several ways. Trust your ears,audition at home if possible, and best of all the speakers will now be free from a less than perfect placement. And if you like Willie,the Stars & Guitars cd
has great sound.....right now Patti Griffin singing Angel To Close To
The Ground....wow ....those sad songs just kill you. 
Sorry if this was a worthless ramble but wanted to get back with my
experience. See my post above for my rig specs.

Thanks offnon! Not worthless at all, and a very interesting read.

You have highlighted the most important variable of all – listening at home with your associated components. There is no substitute.

As I am using an integrated amp from the '80s, and consider it to be outstanding, I am open-minded about the quality of older components. B&W certainly made good speakers, and they clearly sound very good in your system. I applaud you for being objective enough not to been seduced by the speakers that are, at least on paper, superior.

Oh, and thanks for the CD recommendations. I have eclectic taste, and will give them a try.

Cheers,

Tony
Is it possible the different Harbeth models under consideration will sound radically different in different rooms, with different amps, etc.?

I ask because a single comparison in a single room with a particular amp would not be sufficient to judge one model superior to another. Different results might be found in other cases with a different setup in general.

I am not very familiar with Harbeth models and their sound, but in general I would lean towards the larger model with larger drivers that probably also costs more retail and then work to optimize the sound.

OP has very good powerful amps. That alone should help assure either model is performing optimally. What sounds better to any one person then is a totally different story. But size and performance usually does matter, at least in larger rooms. I would only rely in general on a smaller model alone in a smaller room. The laws of physics are the one thing you can always bank on.
@mapman 

Well, if you were to ask the designer of Harbeth speakers, Alan Shaw, he would downplay the importance of the amp. There are actually some very interesting related threads on the Harbeth forum.

However, while Shaw has forgotten more about audio than I'll ever know, I, and most audiophiles, would disagree with him on that issue.

Harbeths, like any speaker, can certainly change based on room acoustics and associated equipment, but given my experience, I'd say that the P3s are probably the most forgiving. I tried one of their larger speakers before settling on the P3s, and found them to be less open, and they suffered more from being placed fairly close to a back wall.
Whipsaw what speaker maker wants customers to sweat what amp is best?   None I know.  Same applies largely to amp makers. 

I am currently auditioning both speakers in a similar sized room. In my mind I was convinced it would need to be the 30.2 but the little harbeth stole the show at this house. 

@offnon57
I’ve have owned many speakers large and small. I always go back to the P3ESR. They just do it for me in my listening room. BTW, this review says it all!
http://www.hifizine.com/2011/12/harbeth-p3esr/
@offon57
Don’t ruin the Harbeths with those ported B&W subs. Not a good match!
donvito....I hear you.In my particular case,I ditched the sub after
the first day of listening and as I said,then pulled both the Harbeths
and B&Ws out into my living room on makeshift stands.That's how I listened for the next two days. My experience was essentially all
about what i was hearing with my own ears. That the B&Ws were
comparable to the Harbeths was my own judgement and ,as I told
the dealer today when I returned the P3s, the P3s certainly sounded
beautiful to me,but side by side with B&Ws were not enough to get
me to buy them. I put to the test the old adage "trust your own ears"
 as is often stated here on Agon and it is true. Trust what you're
hearing,even if it seems ludicrous on paper. Otherwise I think we can
get lost,lose sight of our instincts. Anyway,I'm glad I got a chance to
listen to the P3s in home and returned them with a very high regard
for them. For me,the B&W dm303s proved to be very good,as I always felt they were. Go figure, I paid $300 for them at least 15 years ago. To others ears I'm sure their experience would be different. I did invite the dealer over for a listen,so hoping he will take
me up on the offer.I'd like to get his opinion. Until next time.........