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Harbeth HL-Compact 7ES-2
3 Reviews
rating  3.33 of 5
Description: <ul> <li>2 way domestic monitor loudspeaker</li> <li>Frequency response: 46Hz - 20kHz ± 3dB</li> <li>Impedance: 6-8 ohms</li> <li>Power handling: 150W programme</li> </ul>


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Reviews 1 - 3 (3 Reviews Total)

User Reviews

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by hendrik a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: May 28, 2014

Bottom Line:   
there must have been something wrong with the audio setup of Brit (former review).
first... this is a bookshelf model you have to place on good stands.
these speakers a by far the most natural and balanced speaker i have ever owned.
beautiful and deep bass with enormous presence, the midrange is unbeatable and the treble is very smooth and never aggressive unless the music is recorded that way.
in comparison with the proac response 1sc this speaker is far ahead !

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2007

Overall Rating:1
Value Rating:1
Submitted by Brit a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: June 10, 2011

Bottom Line:   
Overall I agree with the review from Krug22. I also hate to be negative about these famous speakers! And, I could be incorrect though my reactions mirror those of Krug22. I'll make mine short. THESE LACK DYNAMICS AND, FOR ME, COMPARED TO THE QUAD 22L2'S AND ELECTROSTATICS, THEY LACK CLARITY AND A "THEY ARE HERE" IN MY ROOM QUALITY. For me there seemed to be "a haze" over voices such as in a Willy Nelson 'srecording of "Good Heart(ed) Woman": In the song "Good Heart Woman" where there are two male voices and a thumping bass note that repeats over and over, with the Quad 22L2 and The Totem Hawks the voices are seperated slightly while with The Harbeth the voices seem to be coming from the same place almost as ONE voice. Also, the bass wasn't "all there" with the Harbeths as compared with the Quads and the Totems. The Willy Nelson cut has a "thumping" bass note that repeats over and over and with the Quads and the Totems there is "air" around the note and an "in the room" feeling. With the Harbeths the "in your room" thumping was "homogenized" and less forceful and less "there". So, I couldn't get excited about the Harbeth's. PLUS, THE PRICE OF THE HARBETHS IS ABOUT TWO TO THREE TIMES THE PRICE OF THE USED TOTEM HAWLS AND THE QUAD 22L2'S. At $3700 for The Harbeths they seem to me to be too expensive for what you get.

The above is what I heard and believe. YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY LISTEN FOR YOURSELF TO THE HARBETHS FOR YOURSELF IF YOU CAN FIND A DEALER IN YOUR AREA. At $3700 new and perhaps $2700 used THE HARBETHS ARE EXPENSIVE from my perspective. SO "TRY BEFORE YOU BUY" IS MY SUGGESTION. You may LOVE them as many people do! But not me! The dealer on the West Coast is Gene Rubin Audio in Ventura, California. Go over and talk with him about the Harbeth's. Maybe he knows something about them that I don't. Sorry Gene!

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2010

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by kugs22 a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: October 18, 2009

Bottom Line:   
I had these speakers for a couple of months after being seduced into buying them by a series of female vocals I played at the dealer showroom. Wonderful stuff. However, the 7's ultimately proved rather mercurial and confounding in my listening room, and I decided to sell them. I have owned over 20 sets of speakers in 35 years of this hobby, so it's not my "first real pair of speakers" by any stretch. I have enjoyed electrostatics, planars, esoteric designs, and good boxes all. The Harbeths were another creature entirely.

They are as clear as rainwater, and the RADIAL driver is a great technical feat. The inner detail is at times staggering, without being etched at all (I mean, I could hear what people in the audience at Sara McLachlan's Afterglow Live concert were saying - people waaay in the back!). And the harmonics for the mids and treble were, in my listening experience, about the very best I've ever heard. Very natural, very believable. Also, I agree with reviewers that these speakers have an uncanny ability to put the music in the venue in which it was created (although the soundstage in absolute terms was not as large as many lesser speakers). All of these comments track the reviews.

Where my experience differed was in two areas. First, bass response. Although the bass was wonderfully defined and free of mid-bass bloat, it a) didn't appear to be sufficient in volume to match the rest of the spectrum - it was all there, but seemed to lag several decibels behind the mids and treble, which means that on a lot of music there wasn't sufficient drive, and 2) was somewhat on the "woody" side, especially with electric bass. As to the first area, I will say that this was not always true; which is why I can't really say that the speaker was voiced wrong or anything - but on more than half of my collection, the bass was of deficient volume, although of good quality. I used them with dual subs, so it was not the depth of bass that was off, but the amount in the (I'm guessing) 60 -200 range.

Second, and much more importantly, there was (to me) a homogeneity to the sound, together with a lack of mid-treble snap and general lack of energy that was in direct conflict with the analytically perfect presentation. For example, Stevie Ray Vaughan's well-recorded Tin Pan Alley track should have a slight electric guitar metallic "catch" at the leading edge of his notes on his solos - it's what gives the piece its drive and fun. It was completely lacking with the Harbeths. Yet in terms of absolute treble extension, the Harbeths were wonderful. They were, for me, a mystery.

The closest analogy I can think of is taking your amplifier and running it through a line conditioner. Does it sound "better"? Usually, yes. But what is the cost? The cost is usually a loss of involvement. Now the reviews of the es3's do talk about the fact that speakers this analytical can often sound dead and uninvolving, but they all say that the Harbeths retain their musicality. Well, I disagree in part. I agree that they retain their musicality in the sense that they are not dry or etched (they have wonderful tone), but I do not agree that they avoid the pitfalls of ultimate boredom. In the end, as beautiful as the notes were, I was looking at my watch. On two separate nights of classical listening, I fell asleep. Literally.

I could find no "jump factor" with these speakers. We all have favorite cuts we like to play for the spooky "wow, that's in the room with me" effect. Well, on my rendition of those cuts, as clear and precise and beautiful as they were....they just were not in the room with me at all. Frankly, this isn't that important to me, but it again demonstrates a certain lack of energy in the presentation.

Similarly, I didn’t find microdynamics portrayed particularly well. If a trumpet was supposed to go “TAH da da da” in a phrase, it sounded more like “ta da da da.” The phrasing was off because the energy was off…the notes within a certain range tended to sound the same. They sounded beautiful…but they didn’t portray the meaning of the music.

It is hard for me to agree with reviewers that the speakers are neutral. As I noted, I don’t believe they have proper bass weight (spectral balance). Whatever I did with the subs, at the point where the crossover or volume was too high, they let me know - it just wasn't happening with the mains. To avoid typical midbass room doubling, these speakers erred, I thought, on the side of too little midbass – “’baby with the bathwater” kind of thing.

Although it doesn't matter much to me what a speaker designer says on his website about speaker design (it is wonderful that there are so many different slants on making speakers), I will say I found the Harbeth website slightly cult-like. If you visit there, you will find that Mr. Shaw does not believe 1) that the quality of you gear and ancillaries will have much of an effect on your listening experience (as Harbeths are just that good); 2) there is no such thing as burning in speakers (we all just adjust to sound over time) and 3) it doesn't matter much what stands you stick you Harbeths on - including inverted plant pots. I don't agree with any of that stuff, but would gladly fuggedabowdit if the speakers were truly that good. But as I didn't find them to be involving or fun, I have to say I was slightly put off by these positions, which are clearly not shared by the vast majority of audiophiles. I will say, though, that the “sameness” I found to the sound of track after track of music may be what Mr. Shaw sees as lack of distortion, unchanged by ancillaries or stands or whatever. That is, what he and others hear as a strength, I hear as an ultimate weakness. I like forgiving speakers, but not this forgiving.

As these speakers have received universal praise, I expect my comments to be taken skeptically. And that's fine. Look, the 7 es3's have tremendous strengths - I mean, tremendous! And many people rightly love the things. But electrostatic clarity and quickness I can get from ....an electrostatic. What I crave in a box speaker (because I see it as a box speaker's strength) is moving air in a realistic way – i.e., a good sense of pace, drive and dynamics. This is as important for a pianoforte as it is for a blues solo. If the only adjective left to a depict a performance is "nice," the heart hasn't been moved. Other than for female vocals and some massed vocals (which were, within the voice range, really riveting), I found the Harbeths simply that – “nice.”

Of course, your results in your room with your equipment may be entirely different, and as I said, even if you agree with me, you may not care about the areas of my concern. Many don't. I would suggest, however, that if you're considering these speakers, you audition them with a large variety of music for at least several hours. They make a wicked-good first impression, which stays for many, but wanes for some (such as I). You need to get past that and listen for a while to make certain the wonderful strengths of these speakers are enough to keep you in the game long term.

I understand that my review may engender responses and defenses, which are always welcome on this forum. These speakers deserve more comment here one way or the other anyway. They are remarkable in what they do well. Although I can’t say I’ll miss them, I can say I’ll remember them.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2009

Reviews 1 - 3 (3 Reviews Total)

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