HARBETH: From Quad to Harbeth

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My last house move left me with a loudspeaker problem; my Quad ESL-63’s really wouldn’t fit properly into the room in which they had to be. I’ve lived with the problem for a while and have jigged and rejigged their position, but it simply hasn’t been working out. So, time to bite the bullet and look for replacements.

I’ve been looking around t’interweb (including lurking here and at other hi-fi forums) for quite a while trying to pick up ideas of where to start looking; it’s been a while since I had a serious look for any new kit and the audio landscape is just as confusing as it ever was. But I did pick up on a consistent theme that Quad exiles should take a listen to Harbeth speakers. So I have been.

Since space is the main issue forcing this change, I thought I’d work my way up the size range starting from the smallest and stop when I got to something that satisfied. So, I got in touch with the local dealer (Audio Republic in Leeds) and arranged to audition the shoebox sized P3ESR. After very diplomatically suggesting that I might be setting my sights too small, they kindly lent me a pair to try for a couple of weeks at home. I’m not sure quite what I was expecting to hear from such a small pair of speakers, but what I did hear amazed me; extraordinarily good clarity, musicality & stereo imaging. They were also remarkably good off axis and at low volume for late night don’t-disturb-the-children listening. When the audition time was up, I really didn’t want to let go of them; they really are lovely little things!

But they weren’t the right thing for my main listening room; in the end, lack of low end extension removed them from consideration. Now don’t get me wrong, what they had in the bass they handled very well – but there simply wasn’t enough for me in that listening space. They would be perfect for a small listening room; maybe someday I’ll find an excuse for getting a pair for a second system!

So on to the recently introduced Monitor 30.1. These are a 2012 update to the Monitor 30 series which appears to have been going for donkey’s years as an LS5/9 replacement. This was more like it; the same musicality as the P3s, almost a “sweetness” of sound that I could listen to for hours on end. But this time, plenty of well controlled bass. So, to cut a long story short, my quest for ESL-63 replacements was quicker and easier than I thought it would be – the order for a pair of 30.1s has gone in. Perhaps I should have tried a few different speakers from different brands – but I found that what I was listening to was perfectly satisfying; if I had found beauty, why go on?

So, for any other ESL owner finding themselves lacking space, do not despair; there is life after ESL!

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