Castle Acoustics Harlech Floorstanding Speakers

Harlech

(2)6.5" Woofers and 1" Tweeter

User Reviews (13)

Showing 1-10 of 13  
CH Shih   an Audio Enthusiast [Dec 10, 1997]

I've had the Harlechs for well over a year now and these beautifully assembledspeakers from the UK is a bargain considering the poor state of the local currency. The build of the speaker is good and it has looks which puts most other speakers in this price range to shame.

So they look good, but how do they sound?

Well, I've paired these speakers up with several different accessories throughout the year and the better the accessories, the more you become amazed at how well the speakers can perform. The amps I used ranged from the Audiolab 8000S, Rotel RB/RC 9780BX, Hafler DH200 & 101 and an Accuphase E207.
The speakers were clearly pushed to the limits with the Accuphase. This amplifier gripped the speakers and made it sing majestically with deep & thumping bass along with soundstaging and transparency that is truly breathtaking at this level. The Haflers & Audiolabs also performed well.
The Haflers persented a rich warm sound while the Audiolabs gave an overall neutral sounding, detailed presentation. The Rotels, however really struggled
to make the Harlechs perform. The lows were sluggish and the treble was edgy.

Conclusion? Give the Harlechs a chance and partner it with decent powerful
amplification and it will show its true colours. (The source is also
important of course. The Marantz CD-63KI was used with most of the amps.)

Under good cicumstances the Harlechs are very nimble and its bass is agile and tight enough to handle most rock & pop music. The mids are very smooth
and clear and the highs are crisp and detailed. The soundstaging is accurate, very expansive and deep, but the extra up-firing cone which gives the Castles
their characteristic soundstaging can also throw instruments slightly awry at
times. Overall, the speakers are friendly with all kinds of music, but it's
with Jazz, Instrumental and Vocals that they really shine.
















OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
Robin Wyatt   an Audiophile [Dec 18, 1998]

I think these are the best value speakers out there. They have the best finish. (i also have Sonus Faber Extremas $10 000). I use mine with Rogue Audio M120 monoblocs (KT 88's Triode), and they sound fantastic. My wife loves their looks.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
J Vona   an Audio Enthusiast [Jan 05, 1999]

I purchased the Harlechs used, paired them w/ Adcom components and am very satisfied. They are beautiful tower speakers, the rosewood finish is glorious, and the sound in our cavernous living area is suprisingly full and warm. I would highly recommend them to anyone to give them an audition.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
Mike Hanson   an Audiophile [Aug 08, 1999]

This is actually a very nice speaker. Its best quality is probably its ability to disappear into the soundstage. This can likely be attributed to the extra, upward-firing woofer. I didn't get the impression that this dual-firing approach (reminiscent of Bose) was detrimental in any way. The image of the music seemed cohesive, and the whole demeanor was tight and refined.
The trebles were sweet and natural, and there was just the right snap in the upper bass. Vocals were particularly lovely, allowing the musical message to really flow through. To top it off, the bass extension was amazing. These speakers do go very low. Internally they’ve got two folded pipes (somewhat like a transmission line speaker). One pipe is used for each of the woofers. Both pipes are ported between the plinth base and the speaker body itself.

I don’t know whether it’s because of this piping system, but I found these speakers to rather boomy in the lower bass registers. This was present in both the dealer’s auditioning room and in my own living room, although it was much more prevalent in my own space. I suspect, though, that this behavior is room-dependant, so the moral of the story is to listen to them at home before you buy. Other than this one downfall, I almost purchased these speakers. (I ended up with Royd Albions instead.)

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
Steven Noonan   an Audiophile [Aug 06, 1999]

Outstanding can be the only way to describe these, they have completely revitalised my existing system, for £900 (UK Pounds) they are brilliant. Firstly my initial budget was £600, the Castle 7's fitted this, the Harlechs however moved the goalposts far apart, the budget was changed!The bass is amazing, playing Pink Floyd, I have never heard it sound so good, the subtlities in the drum beats, are easily identifiable, deep proper bass, perfectly matched treble, cable does make a large and easily identifiable difference, this allows easy tuning to your personal preference of Bass/Treble. Quite simply brilliant, and from a Yorkshire Company as well.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Ivan   an Audio Enthusiast [Feb 16, 1999]

Like the others who have gone before me, the Harlech's are almost brilliant, and certainly the best speakers i could have bought for the money that suited my room conditions. They're a bit forward in the treble, though not overly harsh and this is allied to a crisp midband that is lively and at once engaging. The bass is deep but a bit detached, especially when using them well out into the room. (so don't pull them out too far!) Also, they are at times overwarm with rock tracks, and their revealing nature tends to rip rough recordings apart. I use them with the following : DENSEN BEAT B100, ARCAM ALPHA6 with Nordost cables.

I've heard them with Chord amplification and they were totally devastating. Now here's a speaker with giant-killing potential!

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
Steve   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 10, 2001]
Strength:

Exceptional Clarity, Solidity of sound, Timing, rythm and Furniture like build quality.

Weakness:

None for the price

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 !

Similar Products Used: Naim SBL, KEF 104/2, Linn Keilidh
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Guoxiu   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 11, 2001]
Weakness:

They have terminated my interest in keeping tabs on future developments in the loudspeaker market.

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

***MAGNIFICENT***

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.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Arthur K.   an Audiophile [Nov 01, 1997]

I have just returned, from an audition of these speakers, at my friendlyaudio dealer.
These are really beutifully made speakers, you wont have trouble convincing
your other half, to have them in your living room.
Sound wise, they are a mixed bag.
The bass is solid and taught, and given good Amplification, they will
"rock".
The midrange, is also fabulous, with the female vocals, profecting real
power and authority.
The one point that I found them a bit lacking, is the treble, where the
high notes, appear to be somewhat "harsh.
This makes them unforgiving of bad recordings, in fact some early CD's
were almost unlistenable.
They also have a great ability, to project great ambience, and a three
dimensional sound stage, with lots of front to back image.
I listened to them, driven by a ROTEL 970 BX, and that might have
something to do, with the "hardness" of the high frequencies.
Also the fact that they were practically new, less than a week out ot the
Box, must have contributed to the "hard" treble.
All in all, a very nice speaker, that in my opinion, will appeal more, to
people listening to Jazz and Rock music, rather than Classical.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
Peter Cash   an Audio Enthusiast [Sep 25, 1997]

Having spent a long time trying to find a pair of "bookshelf" loudspeaker with which to replace my old and ugly behemoths, and having a budget of up to £1,200, there was a lot of listening to do! Sadly, whilst there was pin-sharp treble a-plenty, and mid band accuracy although less common could be obtained, giving excellent reproduction of speach and small-scale acoustic music, bass was always inadequate and the focus was poor. All music needs its foundation, and poor foundation will always give an unsatisfactory sound.
So why not go back to floorstanders thinks I. Many models give a small footprint, and are not much more imposing than stand-mounters. This was probably the best Hi-Fi decision I have made during this episode of upgrade-itis. Again much listening gave, to my ears, a clear winner in the under £1,200 range; the Castle Harlech. If you haven't seen them, they are beautifully made, fairly compact; less than 10" wide and 13" deep, and sound amazing!

A word of warning, if your dealer has not run them in ask him to do that first, they sound very average straight out of the box. As these outstanding speakers are used their sound begins to focus and soildify. Mine continued to improve during the first four weeks of use. Also do not partner them with poor components they will make you weep for better!

With the Marantz CD 63-II KI and Audiolab 8000S, they sound totally fab. Bass is real solid and accurate, for once with (fairly) budget components a double bass sound like it should, not a generic low level "farty" emmission! This is true at any level. The accuracy does not diminish with volume, but the Harlechs can rattle the windows when asked. Moving up the octaves the bass integrates almost perfecly with the mid-band, giving grand orchestral sounds true weight and realism. The treble is as one would expect from what has gone before, high-lying female vocals and percussive sibliants are handled with breathtaking ability. Althought treble is silghtly forward, the stereo image remains rock solid. In fact one of the Harlechs best features is their ability to convey an accurate image even when listened to well off-axis.

In the UK they are £850, and speaking as someone who does not like parting with money, it could be the best £850 I have ever spent!


OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Showing 1-10 of 13  

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