Although my Monitor 30's present lots of problems in my room from hell (see below), they perform better than most speakers I have had in this all but impossible room. Fore me, the most vexing issue is toe-in.
I am m trying to position my speakers for fairly nearfield listening. They are 64" apart and I sit 64" away.. For the most part, the side walls on my L shaped living room are very reflective, although I have a few bookcases and wall hangings to ammediorate the hardness of the plaster/concrete/cinderblock construction.
Pointing the speakers at the listener, yields a very intense and focused sound and a very compressed soundstage-almost like looking through a fish-eye lens, However, there is good tonal accuracy, for the most part. The sound can get a bit over the top and fatigueing at 75-85 db. I sometimes have to lower the volume. While center-fill is excellent, some images just hang around the speakers.
Pointing them straight ahead, gives a wall to wall rectangular sound stage, with slightly diffuse images-although relaxed and easy to live with and non-fatiguing. loss in transparency and tonal accuracy, but not significant.
Surprisingly, an intermediate level of toe in, seems to combine the worst aspects of each approach. Midrange becomes hard and compressed.
Trying to get them further apart and therefore closer to the bookcases/sidewalls makes them sound worse still-very recessed, thin and vague.
The nearfield placement, as described above seems to work best, but I am bafled about the toe-in.
Under these circumstances, if you had to chose between pointing the speakers at the listener and no toe-in, what would you chose?
If you haven't already, you should pose this problem on the Harbeth Users Forum, which you can find a pointer to at the main Harbeth site.
Have you played around with your 64" dimensions? You may want to try a "T" configuration, in which you are 64" from the center point between the two speakers instead of 64" from each speaker. Or is that what you have now?
I have posted this on the Harbeth users group. Alan Shaw suggested a very slight amount of toe-in (a few degrees), just to sharpen things up. Even with that, the sound stage begins to narrow, quite a bit and sound moves forward of speakers.
Is that what is supposed to happen with toe in?
Other than AS, not much in the way of suggestions from my last post on HUG.
If you like the sound of the speakers pointed straight ahead, but for a bit of diffusion created in the sound stage attributible to the nearby side wall, try crossing the speaker axis well in fron of the listening position. Actually use the same degree of angle of the speaker to the ear that you use when they are pointed straight ahead. I assume this would be 22 to 23 degrees. Doing this will allow closer placement to the side walls, i.e. widen the spread, just move your listening position back accordingly. I've never done it with Harbeths but I have will several other dynamics and I always got a better (more focused, and IMHO accurate image (but you loose a bit of the reflected sound from the side walls which can give the impression of a wider stage (more 'airy' some feel - :-). Everything has tradeoff's. Give it a try.
Have you tried different stand heights, as well as different height seating position? Experiment here if you can. It may be that you are sitting at or near a null and differing degrees of toe-in fail to improve the sound at your listening position.
Another M30 listener! Excellent. (And I think we've exchanged posts perhaps in the past.)
The dimensions I'm working with are different: About 19 x 14, with the speakers on the short wall. The speakers are about 6 feet apart, and I'm about 10 feet away. Both the speakers and I are at least 3 feet from the walls behind us. I get very nice imaging with the speaker modestly toed in (so that I can still see the inner sides--it's not directly toed in, and therefore, the axis wouldn't cross in front of me--it would cross behind). If I point them straight ahead, I lose some of the image. If I point them straight at me, it's a bit too much.
I'm thinking that if there is a way that you can get further back from the speakers, you might like that. In my room at least, they seem to like to have a bit of space to breathe.
In spite of all the bruhaha floating around about the Harbeths, I was very disappointed to have the experience--as you describe--of finding them fatiguing...or, I should say, capable of being fatiguing. Like you, I had some wall reflexion problems--windows, really, and I seem to have resolved those to a fair degree with some Marigo dots on the windows. That seemed to help. I've also found that (contrary to what I expected--perhaps foolishly) the Harbeths are very sensitive to whatever I feed them. They can be kind of punchy, and they can even be...if not exactly "bright", at least, as you say, fatiguing. So they seem to like more laid back gear feeding them. I'm in the process of experimenting with electronics, etc. to get to the right place with them.
But I want to emphasize this: As someone who has been disappointed with a lot of high end gear, generally because I think most things overly emphasize treble, and slam, and a rather in-your-face kind of sound, I've found the Harbeths to indeed have a really fine mid-range, great for voices and strings and other mid-rangy things we tend to like, and, generally, to be pretty friendly speakers. I'm finding their care and feeding at least much easier than for my former Vandersteen 3a sigs. Yes, I'm thinking about a sub-woofer, but I'm starting to think I might be able to stop worrying about speakers pretty soon. For a change.
It was great to hear iof similar experiences. I am beginning to re-try a modest amount of toe-in, as per Alan Shaw's s suggestion (about 5-7 degrees actually.
Eweedhome, I would like to sit further back, but my living room does not allow it. There is a separate sitting area behind the back of the couch (my room is semi open-plan), so I can't get the couch much further back.
Theoretically, I could move the speakers closer to the wall behind them, but my room's concrete and cinderblock construction (plaster over cinderblock), hold on to bass like a sponge. Getting any speakers significantly clser to the wall behind them, yields distracting undefined bass..
Very modest toe-in does yield some promise, but reduces soundstage width. So many trade-offs.
Jay - You're right, there are trade-offs, as with all audio gear, I guess. I've been listening this evening as we've been grilling and eating, and I'm reminded that the Harbeths do seem very oriented toward having a "sweet spot"--if I'm in the right place, they sound really good, but if I'm wandering around, the tonal balance gets kind of lost, especially the low end. The Vandersteens sounded really great--when I was one room away--and I kind of miss that. And the Harbeths don't have the detail in the highs, although I can goose that out of them somewhat if I use a transister amp...but it's the age-old problem (okay, maybe the one-generation old problem) of lots of treble detail exposing all the faults in so much of the source material that I want to hear.
For whatever reason, in my room, the sweet spot is very specific, to where I can move my head a couple of inches, and get a different perspective. I don't know if this helps much, but it was over 5 or 6 weeks of occasional tweaking that I found the right positioning. Small shifts matter (at least in my room)...and a slight toe-in--but not too much--really matters. For example, my listening position is about a foot off-center, just because of the way the room is laid out, and I had to break my visual tendency for order by toeing in the left speaker more than the right speaker before I got the image to center just right. But once I did that, my ears got happy.
I'll add, too, that I noticed (as apparently you did), that volume level is pretty important...and that backing off the volume a notch can make a surprising difference in how much I enjoy the sound--as can bumping it up a notch, too, depending.
The buzz about the Harbeths makes it seem like they're not very particular, but if you're using them for "audiophile" purposes, that just doesn't seem to be the case, in my experience. For what it's worth, here's what I'm using with them: A Linn CD12 or GNSC modded Wadia 860, a GNSC modded ARC LS15, and an ARC VT100 MKIII, all wired together with Cardas Cross cable. Without the mods, the Wadia and the LS15 would be too analytical and trebly (for my taste).
This discussion may be too detailed for everybody else, but feel free to email if you want to bounce around more ideas.
Robert Greene, technical director of TAS uses 40's but I don't know how big his room is. A customer of mine uses Spendor 1.2's, a speaker closer in size to yours and he, also, listens in a narrow room altho one side is semi open. I made some thick wool felt fascias with a 2.5" cutout to surround his tweeters that extend out to the width of his cabinets to damp waveform reflection from his baffles. He reported back that it improved focus and image wander and removed some tizziness from his tweeters. He said that he no longer thought he needed to treat the closed side wall of his room and that he could listen comfortably at higher volume. Sounds like a recipe for you to me. Contact me if you like at email@example.com