Electronics for Harbeth, Especially Monitor 40 series

Has anyone tried matching "fast" solid-state to the big Harbeths. Something like Goldmund, Soulution, Spectral, etc. The speakers have great tone but can be a little stodgy. I was wondering if this would open them up a bit. Also, has anyone tried using an LDR passive such as Tortuga or Lightspeed for the same reason
Wojciech Pacula, a well known Polish reviewer (6moons, etc), has a pair of 40.1 with Soulution 710 in his reference system.
Maybe it's no coincidence. Perhaps a pair of Job mono amps would be the poor man's equivalent. Harbeth dealers generally seem to pair them with British integrated amps, and I know that Vinny Rossi shows with Harbeth, but those both sound very different from fast solid-state.
Try Chord or Exposure separates; both would count as "fast." 

Naim would be worth a try also; but you'd probably need a 282/HicapDR/250 combo. 

I've heard all three run big Harbeths (and Spendors) very well. 
I don't have the big Harbeths but for my office system P3ESRs I am using a Rega Brio-R, Apollo-R, and a DAC-R.  Works well together.
Someone had large Spendor monitors with Prasound JC1s & JC 2 Pre, at the RMAF. I thought it was a very good room. It did have very high end analog source material though.
I understand fully why dealers pair them with British amps. That have sonic trademarks typical of British sound generally, speakers, amps. Harebeth being one of the biggest standouts. And they love amplification that share similar attributes, naturally. Something that shares and further brings out there strong points, as with anything else. LFD, Sugden, Exposure, Roksan. Someone coined PRaT and it stuck for good reasons, real reasons. Reasons I dont stray too far away from British sound, or away from at all.   
I spent quite a bit of time in the Harbeth room at the last Newport show. They were driving the 40.2's with Naim electronics. Very natural sound. Organic and emotionally involving, just as Harbeth always is. 
We have customers who really like their Harbeths- this particular model is quite tube-friendly.
They have been refined and defined, sold a ton, several tons since 77’ perhaps. It may be a safe assumption by now to say R&D has all but paid off on more than a couple of their more current designs. So when is cost going to come down on Harbeth speakers? :p
I never thought about at atma-sphere but it makes sense now that Ralph brings it up. They are fast and clean. If the speakers are impedance friendly and that's the sound you want, they are fine amplifiers in my experience.
I have been using Spectral pre and amp with the M40.1 and have been very happy for the last 7 years. The M40.1 are somewhat amp friendly but have a lower sensitivity 84-86 db/1 watt/1 m. I do sit close to near field ~5-6 feet. I listen at about 75 db with peaks in the mid to high 80's max. 
I have 40.1's and I've tried many amps and integrateds.    Tube amps are superior in my experience.  Rankings as follows:

  1. VAC PHI 200 (current amp)
  2. VAC 70/70 Signature (130 pound beast, great on vocals and jazz)
  3. McIntosh MC275 MKV (fun, gutsy classic amp)
  4. VAC 30/30 (incredible amp with midrange to die for, but could use a tad more power)
  5. Plinius SA-102 in class A (best solid state I've owned)
  6. Bryston 4BST (decent value at used prices)
  7. McIntosh MA2275 (too soft and mellow)
  8. Musical Fidelity M3 Nu-Vista (awful gear... will never buy MF again)

Perfect time to chime in,
I do prefer solid state. Tubes a little to laid back for my ears.
I have 40.1 and by far my two favorites are
Plinius 103 and the new Bryston 4 cubed.
Imo they need a little muscle.

@dan31, Vinnie Rossi told me at Newport that he listens to all Harbeths in the same near field type set up. Six-foot equilateral triangle. I've never heard them set up that way, but anything that would keep the tonality and frequency distribution while increasing imaging and jump factor sounds like a step in the right direction to me

I have heard that Glenn Croft is voicing his amplifiers with Harbeth.

I have matched Harbeth with Croft and love it.They are hybrid design .


If you can, try this:

I have my 40.1s approx. 60" apart (tweeter to tweeter) and about 43" from ear to tweeter.   You really need to get it measured down to the 0.5" or better.  Yes, this is "sweet spot" listening - so it sounds incredibly good in the listening chair, but is not optimized to sound as good out of the chair. 

I face one corner of the room, but my head is a good 12 feet from the corner.  So the speakers are well pulled out and are also away from side walls. 

The phantom image really is 12 feet back into the corner and beyond, and the layering of the music is spooky real.  These speakers really EXCEL in the near field (makes sense as they were designed for this in the studios).  The performers sound so real and you get that "reach out and touch" effect.  Ella, Louis, John Lennon, Elvis, MJ, etc - it sounds like they are still alive and in the room with you.  Many who have listened to this have made this comment.  My girls (6 and 9 yrs old) ask me if they listen to MJ Thriller and other favorites and they tell me their hairs stand up and you can see their goosebumps.  They love it!

Bass is much tighter and controlled this way as well, as your ears are hearing the sound well before the room reflections cause smearing or serious peaks/dips.   Transient attack is also better and they sound 'faster' than they do when put into the room. 

I run them with the LIO DHT Integrated (directly heated triode in the linestage, MOSFET output stage that delivers 35wpc into 6-ohms).  And being in the near field, I can play them very loud and clean w/o breaking a sweat.  But what is most important is the level of realism that is conveyed, even at lower level listening. 

I think many people don't realize just how much the room comes into play when you listen, and going more near field really (but not completely) reduces the room's impact.

Is it for everyone?  No.  Some can't do it because they don't have their own listening room and they can't get away with it in their living room (SAF issues I guess).   And not all speakers even sound good in the near field.  Harbeths really do!

In a smaller room, you can do something quite similar with the P3ESRs and it works well (I have a pair of them as well).  But the funny thing is that set up the way I describe above, the 40.1s actually image and "disappear" better than the P3ESRs!    I never experienced a large 3-way as coherent from top to bottom as the 40.1 / 40.2.  Even with your ear just 24 inches away, it is difficult to hear the 3 drivers.  It sounds like 1. 

I'll end this post by saying (based on my experience), until you hear the 40.1s / 40.2 properly set up in the near field, you haven't heard what this speaker is all about ;-)   YMMV based on other factors (your room, your equipment, etc).  I hope this helps!

Have fun,

Thanks Vinnie! Very interesting. I never thought a three-way could sound good at 24 inches - that's really close. Nor did I think that the 40s could get by with only 35 watts.
Well, my point was that they still sound very coherent even at 24 inches away.  By this I mean the sound still appears to come from one speaker and not 3 separate drivers. 

And as I mention above, I have my 40.1s approx. 60" apart (tweeter to tweeter) and about 43" from ear to tweeter ;-)

As far as 35 watts... if you have high current behind those watts and are listening near field, I think you will find it to be plenty with the 40.1s (even at louder playback levels). 

My son just bought A used 40.1 n runs it  with Naim electronics n a Kuzma tt  the previous owner ran it w CJ 350 n loved it he now has the 40.2. To me the 40.1 has great midrange but disconnected mid bass . He tried all kinds of tube traps n bnot much help.  I bought the HL 5 plus n have. Rel stentor 3  n also a pair of JL 113 n run with my CJ 350 SS or my VTL 450 mono lock with audio aero prestige sacd or AMR 77 cd or clear audio master dolbey and micro Sieki vFG 1500 tables with EAR pre preamp .  The Hl 5 s plus with subs has better overall sound  than 40.1 I do have splendor Bc1. Quad 63 monitors . Focus 888  
 My Harbeths 5 with subs are second only to my 
Gershman black Swan  my preamp is CJ act 2 
i have Minn orch center 14 th row season Tickets for  25. Years and none of any systems I have heard anywhere comes close to the live performance have 500 sacd 4000 vinyl with many direct to discs  I used to buy2 copies at the shows and have many unopened ones  
I would like to listen to the 40.2 sometime the midrange is great 

Hi Vinnie, how much toe-in do you have with your 40.1s in the configuration discussed above?

Also, a LIO with DHT linestage sounds really interesting. I've owned one of your RWA 30.2 amps, I really enjoyed it. 

Hi Jason,

I have them toed in so they cross at my head (not in front of it, not
behind it). 

And as you'll see from my measurements above, the two speakers
are separated farther apart than the distance from each speaker to
ear.  I believe they cross at my head to form an approx. 90 degree angle. 
This works very well for near field listening.

The soundstage is very wide with a strong center image, and the depth is also excellent.



I experimented a bit this weekend with this config; it worked really well with my SHL5+. 

The depth of sound stage and the presence of the performers is really amazing. I also have three Argent Roomlens (one in between the speakers, approx. 6' behind, and one flanking each speaker). 

Thanks for the insight, I can see why an "off the grid" amp would perform really well this close to the speakers (I can hear some noise that I couldn't previously hear from 7' away). 


Hi Jason,

oops - i gave you the dimensions above that I wrote down for the P3ESR's.

For the 40.1's, it should be:
71" tweeter to tweeter
50" ear to tweeter

I double checked this last evening ;-)

Of course feel free to experiment!

have fun!


I have only heard the 40.2 with tube amps.  It sounded particularly good with a new re-build of the old Western Electric 124 amp.  This amp puts out about 12 watts; I don't think high powered amps are a requirement with these speakers. 

If speakers sound stodgy and lacking in speed or life, I don't necessarily thing solid state is the way to go.  Yes, solid state can deliver a lot of power, but, that means playing the speakers at much higher volume to bring them to life.  With good tube amps, you get a livelier sound at lower volume levels.  If the sense of speed and liveliness is a priority, you should also look into output transformerless tube amps.

I don't get the "speed" thing. I think tube amps are generally snappy, and am amused that somehow the term "speed' has been co-opted by reviewers and others who apparently have run out of adjectives. Like "metal drivers are faster"…no, they're not…expensive SS amps might have characteristics some find appealing, but actual music doesn't rely on horsepower or torque or sticky tires. When SS guitar amps attempted to worm their way into the Pro Guitar Player world, many tried them (including me) as they seemed interesting after decades of worrying about tubes exploding or needing replacement or whatever. To a man (or woman) pretty much everybody I knew, except bass players who need gigantic amounts of headroom, noticed a weird lack of instantaneous "picking" feel…I'm not sure why…but there was something just not kosher happening, even with the supposed Good Amps (Lab, Yamaha, Fender "London Reverb" stuff)…tubes feel snappy…that's maybe the most descriptive term I can come up with for an electric guitar player's feel requirements along with the usual tube "roundness," "grease," "they glow," "chicks dig it," (not 100% on the last one, but I digress), and tube amps simply continue to dominate the picker's world..snappy...
The best review of my Accuphase E-600 was done by someone with the Harbeth M40.1. The Accuphase is expensive but it's not over priced. 
I own the 40.1. I love them. I use both the naim nait XS along with a flat cap and get very musical results. I also use a Plinius Hautonga that I like even better

I hardly ever think of solid state amps as "fast" sounding.  To me, most of the better solid state amps sound just a touch lifeless when played at lower volume levels.  Speed and lower level dynamics are not the strengths of most of the better solid state amps I've heard. 

The 40.2s I heard were set up something like 10 ft from the wall and a little more than 3 ft from the side wall.  In that kind of wide open free space, the imaging was fantastic.  A lot of depth, decent center image specificity and a quite large and enveloping soundstage.  There is something about physically big speakers; they deliver a big sound--large soundstage, sound that seems to fill the room, and a kind of weight that works particularly well with large classical works.


In an interview accompanying his recent TAS review, Paul Seydor says that he is always found Harbeths to be "notably coherent" and Alan Shaw replies that coherence is primarily a crossover issue. It doesn’t take much of a mismatch in level or phase for the listener to become aware that the sound is coming from three drivers. He has also said that the BBC got so many things right long ago that his recent work has focused on improving drive units (Radial) and crossovers. Guess that’s why they sound so good in the near field.
Hi Paullb,

Yes, that is one of the main reasons why they sound so good in the near field!   In nearly every room that I've heard them in, I much prefer to listen to them this way.


Recently, Will Vincent built for me a set of "Super Baldwin" mono amps based on the 6l6 output tube. 25 to 30W per channel based on output tubes used. I use these amps into the new Falcon acoustics LS/3/5A BBC monitors. Similar, I believe to the P3sr speaker by Harbeth. Incredible match-in the near field. I do what red wine does when listening, felt with a 2-way. Point-check out Will Vincent tube amps-incredible build quality, sound quality, reliability, plus-no SS amp will ever sound as satisfying as a tube amp.
I heard the 40.1's powered by LFD NSCE Mark II and it sounded great. I then bought it from that guy and now it is used to power 30.1's. Without that amp, I would have sold my Harbeth's.

I have it powered my Harbeth 40.2(40th Anniversary Edition with Ton Trager stands)) with a VAC Sigma 160i SE(85W/ch and Brimar and Tung Sol NOS input tubes and Golden Lion power tubes) along with a REL sub(T7i) for the super low end and I love it. I have tried the Pass labs Integrated 30A and the Hegel 390 with it and I found the dynamics was unimpressive at lower/mid volumes.  I also own the McIntosh C2600 preamp paired with the Audio Research Ref 75 power amp and the VAC goes toe to toe with these separates. Driving these with Auralic Vega G2.1 and Lampizator Amber DAC, Kimber cable 12TC speaker cables  and  Nordost Odin Interconnects. Room size is 30' x20'. Speakers are set 12' apart and listening position is 12' from each speaker in an equilateral triangle..