Spendor s3/5 SE, Harbeth HLP 3

Has anyone had a chance to compare the special edition Spendor with the small Harbeth?

Also, outside the issue of bass (and realizing that it's twice as expensive), how do these compare to the deCapo(i)?
harbeth hlp 3 by a nose over the spendor, with sufficent power...the decapo is nice with a smaller amp but once again its the harbeth for the real deal.
agree with Jrd on this....the Harbeths by a nose....maybe Pinnochios nose though! But seriously, you simply cannot go wrong with either. They are both wonderful and simply amazing for their size. I'm not familier enough with the
deCapo to comment on them although they have gotten nothing but praise as far as I have heard.
The Harbeths over the spendors. the decapos do not sound natural or as good as the spendors. Harbeth and Spendor are both magical speakers that really get the voice right.
I owned both Spendor 3/5s and de Capos. I also owned Spendor 2/3s over a long period of time. I haven't heard the current HLP 3s, but did audition the older version 6 or 7 years ago. I have also heard other Harbeths in a home environment a few times. I strongly disagree w/ the above assessments. I would chose the Decapo over either of these in an instant. The Decapos are much close to full range, far more dynamic and extended, but still musical. Particularly w/ jazz or classical, these speakers can be eerily realistic in the right setup. The Spendors may sound more "magical" w/ voices, but you would be giving significant fullness of sound and resolution. Of course, the real comparision to the de Capos would be the 1/2s or Compact 7s/5s. I heard the 1/2/De Capo comparision a number of times with various amps & sources in a dealer's shop, and it is a very close call. I probably would have taken the 1/2s at the same price, mainly because my prior experience w/ Spendors, but got a good deal on a demo pair of De Capos. I replaced the de Capos w/ Living Voice Auditoriums, and much regretted the choice, even though the LVs are an excellent speaker that bests most in their price range. JMO, of course.


After thinking about what I wrote yesterday, I thought I should add a few comments. First, after re-reviewing my comment above, I feel compelled to say that the Spendor 3/5s are an incredible speaker; they just didn't have enough LF response for me. Second, I think the Reference 3As are very demanding of amp, source, cables, etc., because they are so resolving, so that if you don't have or don't plan to spend the $$ and effort to get them right, it probably would not be a good purchase. Third, if you listen mainly to vocalists (whether DK or Sinatra), rather than jazz/classical, you might well prefer a Spendor or Harbeth. Personally, I think the Spendor 3/1 (which I also owned) is an unsung gem of the line; if you're thinking of spending a little more than the cost of a 3/5, I would highly recommend that speaker as well. It doesn't play as deep as the de Capo, nor is quite as dynamic, but I think it would satisfy most people in a small to moderate sized room. The 3/1s were the first Spendors I owned; my previous speakers to the 3/1s were Vandersteen 1Cs and Meadowlark Kestrals, and I had absolutely no regrets about the change.

Great subject dealing with some of my favorites. I have owned in the last three years the following speakers. In order; Martin Logan Aerius i, Spendor S3/5, Spendor SP3/1P, Harbeth HLP3ES-2 (25th Anniversary). In each case, I had the last and next speaker together for a minimum of two weeks comparison. My room is relatively small 12'x12'x9'high. I am able to bring speakers 4' off the back wall and 2.6' from the side walls measured to the front middle of the speaker driver. Amplification has been integrated; Cary 300 sei, McIntosh 6500, Mark Levinson 383, and presently Audio Refinement Complete.

Now, as to the speakers. I first purchased the Spendor S3/5 to find something physically sized more appropriate to my small room than the Logans. I was spoiled by the excellent midrange of the electrostatic Logans and wanted something that captured human voice correctly. The S3/5 fit the bill for its ability to disappear in the room, image superbly, and allow me to listen for hours without fatigue. The sealed enclosure seemed to integrate better in my room and to measure (using a db meter and Stereophile test CD) more flat without any suckouts or serious peaks. I was so happy with the S3/5 ability to present the music that I became curious to how Spendor's other Classic speakers would perform. I purchased a pair of Spendor SP3/1P expecting to hear more low-end. I had tried the S3/5 with and without subwoofer and could not decide which was better. The SP3/1P did provide more low frequency and with it, I had no desire to use a subwoofer. But, the biggest difference with the 3/1P came in the high end. I felt it was much more refined than that of the S3/5. I felt it was a better speaker in every way, except possibly its ability to disappear like the S3/5, although, it still was fantastic. I still think the SP3/1P is the killer Spendor that no one seems to know about. I have read reviews that state the S3/5 is the best Spendor. No-way! The reviewer never could have listened to the SP3/1P. When I had the SP3/1P, I thought that the S3/5 would have been a better speaker had it had the tweeter of the SP3/1P. I have never heard the S3/5 SE, but the tweeter is the same one in the 3/1P.

When you become a Spendor fan, you can't help but learn about Harbeth. I read a review of the P3 vs. the S3/5 which stated "When the Harbeths first entered the system, following directly on the Spendors–the first hmph–the music sounded more present, assertive, pushy even, and seemed to have less body. After my aural memory of the Spendors had faded a little, the Harbeths became incisive, lively, and informative." (Bob Neill, Positive Feedback Online) I concluded that characteristic was not something I would ever desire over my Spendors, I concluded the Harbeths were not my taste and almost never tried them.

I found a great pair of HLP3ES-2 for sale from a seller on Audiogon, who was looking for a turntable for trade that I just happened to be selling. I couldn't pass the chance to try the Harbeths for myself. - LESSON LEARNED - Trust your own ears! Although the review of the P3ES-2 was very positive, and the reviewer ultimately preferred the Harbeth, I found the speaker to be not as it was described. First the low end. The Harbeth I felt to be just as full in the low end than the SP3/1P, but tighter! Lots of body. I had no desire to add a sub, and I still do not. There is more detail, but NEVER in a pushy way. These speakers are lifelike, but smooth. The quality of speech is exceptional. They are sealed and disappear in the room to the 9th degree. Depth is unbelievable. I get soundstage that is more realistic than anything I have tried before. I hear more in recordings that I never noticed before. But this speaker is not harsh. It just feels right and opens a window to the performance. It works with all types of music, but I don't listen or expect high 90db levels with peaks above 100db. The highs are refined!!! The bass is dynamic and will startle you at times.

Will I live with them forever? Maybe. I'm going to try one more sealed speaker that is designed in the monitor/speech philosophy like the Harbeth. Next week I'm having delivered a like new pair of Merlin TSM-M in red ruby finish. They should fit perfect on the pair of Sound Anchor Stands I had made for the Spendor SP3/1P.

To be continued...
Since I first posted this thread, I found a great deal on a used pair of Harbeth Compact 7s. Wonderful speaker but obvously more placement sensitive than some smaller ones. (I find that it still benefits from the use of my sub, but even with my Spicas and the Spendor s3/5 I had on loan, I've always found it best just to run the speakers full range with the crossover set to its lowest point with the gain fairly low.)

I'm very curious as to how the P3ES would compare to the C7 in my room. I wonder if it would have an overall lighter tonal balance.

Having the C7s hasn't made me appreciate my Spica TC-50s (which I now use in my bedroom/TV stereo) any less, though. Despite their limitations, the Spicas capture a certain texture of live music that I've never quite heard in any other speaker. And their imaging is such that I feel no need to have more than 2 channel for TV/DVDs.

Thanks for the responses.
the p3es is more like the tc50
I have listened to the Spendors, love their tonal balance but am always thrown off by their imaging

the sound seems to eminate backwards and down from the speakers like it's being supressed or coming from the back of the speaker

do owners put them considerable distance from the wall?

I do a long wall setup that wouldn't work with them

Finao1- Did you get the merlins? How do they compare to the P3?