HARBETH: The potential quandry

After having a "simplification" of my system last year, and downsizing to my Naim Uniti and Larsen Model 4 speakers, I have come to really appreciate it a lot. The Larsen choice was a bit of a wild card, and I love what they do.

I have had in the past quite a few speakers with Naim electronics, Rogers LS3/5a's, Linn Kans, etc. While I have never owned Harbeth, I have listened to them on quite a few occasions and was always taken with the P3's and Compact 7's, have heard the monitor 40's-although way out of my league.

I have also watched with interest, the Stirling Broadcast LS3/6, similar box to the BC1 and other varieties of the classic BBC monitor. They have been out a few years now, and the opportunity to even hear these I figured would be slim to none. Last week however, that opportunity came, and to say the least, I came away with an admiration, and even a desire to possibly own a pair.

When listening to them, to me, they have all the right/similar qualities that the Harbeth brings to the table, that ability to give wonderful tone and body to acoustic instruments and voices, and just make music feel live and very real. While they do not plumb the depths with bass, what they have is very full and right. When I say good enough, it is not to slight them, as so many speakers I think try to do too much and in the end, ruin the balance, these seem to be "just right".

I do not know how to put a comparison on with the Stirling and the Compact 7, but I would say they are definately similar on tonal and drive characteristics. Not having them side by side, and admittedly, it has been a couple years since I have had the pleasure of listening to the 7's, I still remember what a lasting impression they made on me.

I was able to spend a few hours with the Stirlings on an older Naim rig, but one that I know fairly well as having owned one myself, save for the CD player. It was a Naim Nac 72/Hicap/Nap 140 with Meridian Dac/Transport. While I know the Meridian to be a bit on the polite side of things, the 72/140 combo is definately a nice setup, one that I had for several years. Its ability to just get to the heart of the music, yet get out of the way of itself was one I always enjoyed. The Uniti that I have now, while definately a more modern machine with the various goodies/sources, still has the typical Naim sound and drive, should be a good match for the Stirling.

My quandry right now is that the price(gently used, walnut veneer) on the Stirling comes in a bit lower than what I could buy a new pair of Harbeth Compact 7's if I was going with the standard finishes. I already have a line on stands for either pair of speakers-if I even choose to purchase either one, so stands are not an issue.

I think obviously, the Harbeth is the better known speaker, and one that is held very highly in general-not that I care much about these types of things, I usually buy what my ears tell me and what my wallet can afford. After all, I did purchase a pair of Larsens, probably I have maybe the 5th pair in the whole USA? So I tend not to get hung up on the fanboy/product of the month club. But...Harbeth barring some kind of total disaster will or should be around for a long time, spare parts etc. will be available for them down the road. The Stirlings, maybe one of those not so well known and what is the potential for buying something that may or may not be supported down the road, or the long haul. I am looking at the long haul here, as I just cannot afford to do the things I once could do with selling, trading, upgrading etc.

The timing is as good as it will be for me to potentially go with either one of the above speakers. I am not unsatisfied with my Larsen's at all, so it isn't one of those things that I must move on. The Larsen is just a different kettle of fish, one that I do enjoy and will keep, yet I would also love to have one of the above classic speakers as well.

I know probably very few-if any, have heard the Stirling, and probably several have listened to the Harbeth's, but if there are any of you out there that might have compared, or have listened to the above, I would appreciate any of your input. I have read the review in Absolute Sound when it came out last year on the Stirling, not that reviews do much for me in general, but nice to get a take on them.

My musical choices is very wide open, typically jazz, pop, classic rock, alternative stuff, I just love music! Deep bass is not a priority, although I do own a pair of REL T-3 subs if needed, but most of the time I find I can and do live without them most of the time. My room is 15' X 16.5', 8-foot ceilings, and this room opens to a kitchen and dining room area via half-wall, so open for the most part. It tends to be slightly more "live" than not, sparsely furnished, area rug. It has been a fairly decent room to get good sound in.

Anyway, sorry for the blather, just appreciate any input. Fortunately, this is a decision I do not have to make quickly, if at all, but one I am highly interested in to say the least! Tim

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