Dedicated Harbeth P3 Thread


There aren’t many threads here dedicated to specific products and I thought the Harbeth P3s might be a good one to share our experiences, likes and dislikes. It is a far from perfect speaker and, IMO, is best suited toward the seasoned compromiser who appreciates what it does and accepts what it can’t do. I have owned a pair of P3 40th Anniversary since May 2020 and I have never heard the other versions. Just by way of background, I have owned the SHL5s and Monitor 30s, so I feel competent to render an opinion on the P3 within the context of the Harbeth brand.

First - contrary to Alan Shaw’s opinion, ie, any amp, any wire, plop them down anywhere, no blu-tak, etc, I have found them to be fussy little bastards that demand good setup and associated equipment. BTW, I am using them as stand mounts on 24:" Target 4-post stands in a smallish living room, approximately 8 feet from my listening position, with my couch against the back wall. The speakers are set on the sides of my rack with the back of the speakers 16" from the front wall. I have never heard them in a desktop setting, so I can’t speak to that.

I was using a pair of Fritz Mini-Monitors prior to the Harbeths. They are a tribute to the Totem Model One, with a Dynaudio-type woofer and a Morel tweeter. They sounded great with Blue Jeans 10 gauge cable and I began to fall into the "cables are bullshit" camp a little bit. Well, I put the Harbeths in the same system and they sounded horrible. Strings were steely, alto saxophones were screaming and bass was very light, which is something I expected, as the Fritz have fantastic bass. In short, I hated the P3 and figured I would hold onto them until the pandemic dies down and sell them. Chalk one up to buying without audition.

But before I carted them up, I thought I might try them with another pair of speaker cables I had around from my Viva amp. They were some plain cables that the Viva designer used for himself and there was quite a difference.They were still harsh and bass light, but better. Hmmm. I was never one to try to "fix" a speaker with cables, but every rule can be broken, so I thought to give it a try. After shopping around, I decided to go with Purist Poseidon speaker cables because of their "warm" reputation. BTW - the speakers were very lightly-used demos, so they were at least somewhat broken in.

I hooked them up and put on the Stereophile Test CD just to make sure I had the wiring correct. It tests left and right with a Fender bass guitar and from the moment it started, I was in absolute shock. I hate to spout cliches, but the whole speaker sounded twice the size. Bigger, fuller, deeper bass, but with a clear midrange and high end which sounded like a window to the source. Absolutely natural and not dark or veiled in any way. It was a total transformation. Say what you want, that’s what I heard. Combined with the Poseidons, the P3 developed into a speaker that did certain things amazingly well within it’s limitations. Of course, it took a month for the cables to break in, but the big, clear, natural sound only improved.

What I like about the speaker reminds me of what I like about single-driver speakers. It’s not what you get, it’s what you don’t get. With single drivers you don’t get phase anomalies and crossover distortion and once your ear gets attuned to this, it’s very hard to accept it in other speakers. The P3’s have amazing coherence and naturalness, especially with the voice. Like many single-driver speakers, it does favor simpler music, string quartets, solo piano and guitar, guitar/bass, piano/bass. But it sounds great on James Taylor, Shelby Lynne and other pop records with simpler instrumentation. For me, living in an apartment, I have always favored smaller-scale music anyway and most of my music collection consists of stuff I can play at night without disturbing the neighbors.

Like Steve Guttenberg suggested, I tried moving them closer to me (I installed some casters) and they sounded good in the middle of the room, but I still found placing them with the back of the speaker 16" from the wall gave me the best balance of bass response and vocal clarity, although there is a bit of thickness in the vocals that comes with the bass reinforcement of the speaker that close to the wall. I never thought a non-ported speaker could have such a full bass response, but this one does. Plus, the bass is pitch defined, so you can hear the actual notes, not just a billowy boom going on at the bottom. Really something,

Again, IMO, I think this is not a speaker for everyone, but I would recommend it for who I referred to above as a "seasoned compromiser" who knows what they like and are willing to experiment with associated equipment to tune the speakers to their system, room and taste. 

Sorry this was a little long, but it is the first post, so I thought I would get it started. Please feel free to chime in with your experiences with the various iterations of the speaker and your suggestions for getting it dialed in.
Be healthy.
chayro
@chayro
I’ve owned many stand mount and floor standing speakers and I always go back to the P3. I prefer it to some of the larger Harbeths that I have owned. This guy really likes the P3. BTW, you can check out the Harbeth users group (HUG) if you want to discuss that speaker with other owners!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqFIaiPT_kY
This guy too!
 https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=harbeth+p3esr+review&docid=608045663042407607&mid=5D7EB...
I have Super HL5 Plus 40th Anniversary and the P3ESR Special Edition.  I'm using the P3ESR in a small room nearfield (about 4' from my listening position) with a SVS SB-12 NSD subwoofer and I find them nearly as enjoyable as the KEF Reference 1 speakers I have in my main system. 

I've tried a number of speakers in this room and they've been too bright, too much bass, too big, etc., but the P3ESRs are the Goldilocks speakers.  They work great in the nearfield setup and present a lot of detail and dynamics without being bright or fatiguing and are very musical.  Because of the nearfield placement, they are more like headphones in terms of imaging and soundstage, but it's the best option I've found for the space I have available.

I have heard them at a friend's house in a larger room in a more typical and configuration and they sound wonderful that way as well.
I no longer own the P3's, and now own the C7's. I have a fair sized (12 X 23') room, and use a Croft phono integrated, I have a Luxman 550 AXii on the way, so in transition. No question the 7's fill my space better where the 3's got lost in the room. The Croft also has an easier time with the 2.5 db increase in efficiency the 7's have over 3's. The 7's also have the Ton Trager stands, while my 3's had Sound Anchors. I'm expecting a big jump in performance, and even though I'm a tube guy, I believe the all class A SS Lux with the warm blooded 7's will be a pretty sweet match. Many have agreed. What is the retail on the Purist Poseidon SC's. (-: Less than the P3's I hope (-: