Castle Acoustics Harlech Floorstanding Speakers

4.46/5 (13 Reviews) MSRP : $1999.00

Product Description

(2)6.5" Woofers and 1" Tweeter

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Reviews 1 - 5 (13 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

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

Date Reviewed: June 10, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I have the new S2 version in natural oak, featuring amongst other things improved drive units. They sound very different to the original version. I'd heard the originals many times and without exception had thoroughly enjoyed their superb, effortless room-filling sound. I could best describe the S1 sound as rather like a normal, smaller speaker with a sub. They could however be critised for being too warm and 'radio 2' (UK readers will know what I mean)if you're used to revealing speakers.

The S2 have now settled down after being fairly harsh and bass light for the first 3 or 4 weeks. Now the powerful bass is emerging and the treble has become much smoother. The biggest improvement is the rythmic nature of the sound and the exceptional clarity, a total contrast to the originals. The down side is that they do not, as yet have the room filling scale of the originals. They are now more a speaker to sit in front of when before just being in the room was sufficient !

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Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

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

Date Reviewed: April 11, 2001

Bottom Line:   
My Harlechs are the newer S2 versions.
Uh, I could conclude my review now with just one adjective for these handsome Castles:


Then again, I think I'll rave on a bit about 'em. :)

First off, devotees of hard rock music can forget about including these sexy Harlechs on their shortlist. This is not because of any technical deficiency on their part in reproducing such music, but because - imho, of course - the very act of playing such trashy and riotous "music" on these Castles constitutes an insult to their innate refinement and poise. No, no and NO. These speakers were made for jazz, acoustic & the classical repertoires. The music of these genres simply shine and shimmer through the Harlechs.

Now, at a price-point such as these, it would be innane to go on and on about how deliciously the Harlechs reproduce well-recorded pop or jazz music discs. Any competent floorstander costing a fourth of the Harlechs' price can do that too. It suffices to say that the music of my fave songstresses Sade, kd lang, Bjork, Madonna & Sheryl Crow take on an alarmingly tactile, vital and 3-dimensional quality when heard through the Harlechs. Gorgeous!

The classical and operatic repertoire is the arena which separates the big boys from the little kids, and here the Harlechs have proven that they belong firmly in the big league. Recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies - made with standard-sized orchestras - are reproduced on a grand scale with no hint of any congestion. I think much of this success has to do with the inclusion of those unique upward-firing woofers on the speakers' tops, coupled with the downward-firing QuarterWave bass system. The soundstage on offer here is very spacious and airy indeed, yet there is no lack of midrange "body" or low bass-slam.

Even when the stakes were upped to the densely-orchestrated tone poems of Richard Strauss, the Harlechs did not blech either. The massive Alpine Symphony - which includes cowbells, church-organ and a howling wind-machine - truly came alive at the hands of the Harlechs. Its thick orchestral textures were unravelled and illumined perfectly; thanks to those two very revealing soft-dome tweeters. (NB: If there is to be any caveat about the Harlechs, it would be this very explicit quality of their tweeters. On some of my 1960s and 1970s classical CDs, the inevitable background tape hiss was made very apparent; but only during the quieter musical passages.)

I am delighted to report to fellow opera fans that the Harlechs are true superstars in this genre! Their aforementioned qualities of spaciousness and excellent soundstaging does wonders for recordings which feature huge musical forces: big orchestra, an equally massive chorus and of course, those lovely screaming soloists. :)

Leonard Bernstein's live recording of "Tristan und Isolde", at last, finally came across like the real thing itself: Tristan and Isolde copulated lavishly on the centre of the stage; surrounded by that massive orchestra left, right and to the back. It was just so perfect and palpable... all of that musical sexiness simply sizzled out of the Harlechs.

Karajan's atmospherically-recorded "Parsifal" was equally impressive too. The gradual zoom-in to the chiming of the distant bells in the Transformation Scene was wonderfully realized. Here, the Harlechs showed that they had amazing depth to their soundstaging.

And I finally understood why Solti's recording of Strauss's "Die Frau Ohne Schatten" is the most expensive opera recording to date! This is a very dramatic score, containing many violent transients; but none of them managed to unsettle the Harlechs. The Flight down to Earth, the whipshots, the earthquake and the floods of Act Two, the manifestation of the Voices in the Heavens - all of these scenes were accurately recreated through the Harlechs; allowing me to appreciate the intricate miking techniques employed in the recording. Of their many strengths, I must say that the Harlechs' soundstaging prowess is their greatest.

And the final icing (on an already very delicious cake) is the Harlechs' ability to bring life to even the most despondent of recordings. Lorin Maazel's "Otello" set is one of my favourite opera recordings ever, but it has the worst possible sound quality. On my old system, the whole project sounded as it if was recorded in a gas-station's toilet --- so horribly murky and closed-in. Through the Harlechs, miracles of miracles, it sounded like a different shebang; a lot more spacious, dynamic and life-like. There was now true blood and thunder in voices of the La Scala chorus, more body and timbral bite to the stringed instruments, and more heft to Placido Domingo's animalistic growls. Soundstaging prowess again! These speakers really make music come alive. Grrr!

If you are a lover of jazz and the classics, who want to recreate such music on a grand scale in your living room (or bedroom; as mine are!) look no further than these mighty Castles or their bigger bros - the flagship Howard S3s. My Harlechs are hooked up to a NAD C370; an amp with seemingly limitless reserves of power. The more I crank the vol up, the "bigger" my room seems to get --- such is the unforced room-filling ability of the spacious Harlechs.

I have achieved my loudspeaker audio-nirvana already. :) Now I can only wonder how much better the Harlechs will become when I upgrade either the CDP or amp! :P~~~

My current setup:
Denon DCD-835
NAD C370
Castle Acoustics Harlech S2
Van den Hul D102III (for Denon to NAD)
Van den Hul PB5 (linking the C370's pre-out to main-in)
QED Silver Anniversary speaker cable

PS: Although the instruction manual does not specifically recommend it, it is absolutely essential to attach the supplied spikes onto the base of the plinth. The plinth seems to act as a sounding-board for the downward-firing bass port; so there should be some space between the plinth and the floor. The deep bass was diminished when I forgoed the spikes and planted the plinth directly onto the floor.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Chris a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: December 12, 2000

Bottom Line:   
I was looking for speakers suitable for new Musical Fidelity A3 components and had been encouraged to try Dynaudio. Three different stand-mounters spent time in my house of which I most liked the Contour 1.3 Mk2 although there was a seaming lack of transparency to my ears.
During this process I got a lot of icy looks from my wife.
Then a local dealer revealed that he had a new pair of Harlechs at his mother's house as the store was full and invited me to try them for "at least two weeks".
On arrival my wife was surprisingly enthusiastic, maybe because the amount of visible cherry veneer matched the room so well. She later even moved things around to place the speakers to their best advantage.
These are the new S2 version and have completely new drivers. Even Castle's web page has not caught up with them yet (mine are serial no.52) so I phoned the factory and spoke to a technician.
The tweater is a home grown soft dome, five years in development, in place of the metal dome which was in fact bought in from Vifa.
The woofers are carbon fibre in place of polypropelene.
I guess that makes them mini Howards.
I could have a listen to the old version but it would take too much effort so I shall simply report that the technician said the new ones are a distinct improvement.
So how do they sound after two weeks of almost constant use?
Well, rather nice actually.
The rest of the family have put up with them remarkably well even when played at their optimal realistic sound level - not loud mind, I want to protect my hearing.
Modern rock I saved for when I was alone but I have to say that the Harlechs did a balanced job and all in all I found myself listening to CDs which had been gathering dust and actually enjoying them.
It's clear to me that you can spend a lifetime looking for perfection, so you may as well spare yourself the heartache and go for the first one you really like - a bit like getting married really.
Are the Harlech S2s perfect? No, but nor are the people we marry.
I suppose my ears have adjusted now but I believe some people might initially find them too laid back, they are too polite to shout at you.
An important plus point for me is that the treble sounds well controlled, probably a feature of the soft dome tweater.
The combination of MF and Castle has lent a degree of clarity which is now revealing which of my CDs should go in the bin. The quality of production has been shown to be sometimes shameful.
If I don't give them a 5 it's because nothing is perfect.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Khaled a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: December 3, 2000

Bottom Line:   
These loudspeakers are characterised by their dynamic mid-band. The treble is clean but they are not bass-killer. Overall they are well-balanced and look beautiful too.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1998

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Steve Petch a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: August 20, 2000

Bottom Line:   
I have been using the superb Casle Harlech's for six months now and have been very pleased with their performance. In order to control the treble of the metal dome tweeter I changed my speaker cable from Naim NAC A5 to Kimber 4VS. This was a significant improvement and transformed them from being an already good speaker into an excellent one. The most dramatic improvement came when my freind and i re-wired them with Kimber 4VS. After this procedure was carried out we sat down to listen to the fruits of our labour, and WOW!!! The diffrence was unbelievable. I would urge any Harlech owner to carry out the above, as when you actually see the cable inside you will wonder why you have put good quality cable from your amplifier to the speakers. Even without the above improvements i would nominate the Harlech as the best Casle speaker in their whole range and thats including the well reviewed Howards, which sound slow and stodgy in comparison. Despite needing careful placement i have found that they will work in both large and small rooms alike and blend well with the decor. They are exquisitly made. Despite being fairly easy to drive i would advise anyone concidering the Harlechs to make sure that their amplifier will give them its best. One final tip! If you want to stand them on anything, make it very thick and inert like paving slab not 1" marble,wood or glass. Buy with confidence and enjoy.

Arcam Alpha 8 CD player.
Musical Fidelity A300.
Michell Gyrodec/Incognito modified RB300/Ortofon MC20 Supreme.
Quad FM3 Tuner
Castle Harlech Loudspeakers.
Kimber 4VS Speaker cable.
Assorted interconnects.

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Used product for:   3 months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1996

Price Paid:    $1999.00

Purchased At:   Hi-fi Reflections

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