Harbeth M40.1 vs. M40.2 vs. M40.2 Anniversary Edition vs. M40.3XD

Anyone have experience with the multiple iterations of big Harbeths? I'm thinking about replacing my Wilson Sasha W/P with something leaner on the top end and overall more pleasant. I like to listen at 90dB+ occasionally and want impact without fatigue. From what I've gathered, some people have found the Anniversary and XD versions a bit too analytical, less of that relaxed Harbeth sound.

Amps are ARC Ref 160M's, PrimaLuna EVO 400 preamp, Holo May KTE DAC

For context, I've lived with and LOVED Harbeth P3ESR's in another system for years. Love the midrange beauty, they've always just sounded right to me. 


i have had every iteration

if you are coming from wilson audio sashas, i suggest you go for the xd’s/40 annos (which are sonically identical)

Ha! Every iteration! @jjss49 , you are a treasure of knowledge on these forums! After your recent thread listing your highly impressive number or past and present dacs it only comes natural that you've had (not just heard, but actually owned!) every iteration of the famous top of the line Harbeth M40.x! Of course! I cannot stop smiling...


Would you kindly share your impressions on the differences between the M40.1, M40.2 and XD / 40 anno, respectively? I have recently compared the 40.2 Anniversary to my beloved Spendor 2/3R2 and, apart from the size related differences, the Harbeth had a bit better detail and more controlled bass but their tweeter was a bit too forward and "white-ish", for lack of a better word, and the overall sound, as the OP aptly put it, was (comparatively) a bit on the analytical side. Do the previous versions have the warmer and I'd say more natural midrange that I love in my Spendors?

Appologies if this is derailling the thread a bit!


@audio_bidder : my impression is that if you want to listen at 90dB+ and are expecting good impact the big Harbeths will need and appropriate (in size and treatment) room and especially an amplifier with an iron grip in the bass. My Accuphase E470, while truly great in several ways, was only ok in the bass, while the owner's Parasound controlled the bass better and had more punch / impact. I have no idea where your ARC amplifier stands in this regard. On the other hand, I think it also depends on what kind of bass reproduction you need - the requirement above is more important for bass driven rhythmic music such as rock and less for, say orchestral music in which the force comes from scale, extension and weight, not necessarily so much from punch (a bit less tight bass could still be ok). All IMO, YMMV etc.


@jjss49 You don't think I'll be put off by the upper frequencies of the Anniversary & XD editions? That's the primary reason I want move away from the Sasha, I've tried, with some success, to tame the top end. Tube amps, room treatment, R2R DAC have all helped to varying degrees. They're just too fatiguing and I do NOT want to spend $10k on Transparent cables just to roll off high frequencies.

@donquichotte Not sure if the ARC amps are the best match, but I have found some folks in forums that love the combo. Also some claiming you need high power solid state to make Harbeth sound the best. We will see. Great questions regarding different M40 versions that I was also curious about.


@audio_bidder : your question is not addressed to me; nevertheless, I’ll try to add my 2 cents. I’ve heard the M40.2 Ann. twice and, more importantly, I’ve owned the smaller M30.2 Anniversary for about an year. The tweeter is not at all fatiguing in my experience, it’s obviously refined sounding, somewhat soft (not as in rolled-off, it’s decently extended, but in a soft dome kind of way, lacking the ultimate aggressive rendering of cymbals, trumpet edge etc.) and at the same time quite present. So neutral or even a little bit more forward than neutral, while at the same time not sharp or piercing at all. If this is going to verge on the fatiguing side for you... I cannot tell but if I had to guess I’d say "probably not".


By the way, the above mentioned softness is probably a huge blessing for any loud listening sessions.


sorry, i lied... :)

i never had the 40.2 anniversary model... i had the original 40’s, then 40.1. then 40.2, then 40.3xd (the anniversary series are identical to the .3xd sonically except the badging, the model designation was changed when time passed the actual anniversary year...)

the original 40’s i had were a pair of the pro version, with britex vinyl cabinet veneer and metal side handles, this generation had very hard-to-tame bass, quite boomy especially in the midbass, a somewhat wooly midrange and a laid back tweeter -- but had that big, life sized sound and a magic with certain voices and acoustic instruments (it got solo piano right!!)

40.1 revision somewhat tightened up the midbass (slightly reduced efficiency too) and midrange wooliness, this resulted, i suspect, from crossover changes and some subtle changes to the cabinet panels so they became less resonant

40.2 further deepened the deep bass and pulled back the midbass and further cleaned up the midrange wooliness, treble brought forward a noticeable step in this version from the .1 - a more balanced speaker was my takeaway

40.3xd is very very close t0 40.2... i was expecting a significant change, but could hear none... if blind a/b-ed i could not confidently pick one over the other with confidence... perhaps the treble ever so slightly livelier... but once again, if there is a difference it was so subtle i could not be sure even with very concentrated comparison - these speakers remain with a laid back treble relative to midrange and bass (thus their wonderful easeful presentation over all)

in each and every case, i felt that tube amps could not sufficiently control the woofer and bass presentation, irrespective of placement -- in my view, these big harbeths require high level high-ish power (sweet sounding non grainy) solid state amplification -- which deals with lower efficiency, controls the woofer for deeper deep bass and cleaner midbass, slightly leans out the midrange (and makes it less diffuse and larger-than-life sounding), and slightly brings forward the highs, thus enhancing imaging

to the good point raised by @noromance

important take here... https://highfidelity.pl/@main-1106&lang=en

i would concur that these two are the pinnacle of this type/size of speaker

.......excellent suggestion noromeance as the Spendor 200's would be an excellent choice. I also think Spendor has made some recent changes to the original version of the Spendor 200.    

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I owned 40.1's twice, spanning approx 8 years and also owned 40.2 Anni's for approx. 2 years.  I found the 40.2 Anni to be more transparent and balanced, but looking back, I found the 40.1's to be more enjoyable, warm and full bodied, excelling on female vocals, acoustic music, jazz and classical... never fatiguing.  If I had to pick one, I'd get the 40.1's.

i would agree with paul/@pdreher -- in my experience as well, the 40.1 to 40.2 update was a substantive change, much moreso than the ones after the 40.2 (which are largely cosmetic and marketing driven, imo, with trivial sonic impact...)

i think the t-a-s review of the 40.2 from 2017 is illuminating with its in-depth interview with alan shaw -- worth a read



@donquichotte it seems from your assessment, I’d likely be safe with any iteration of M40.

@jjss49 i can’t thank you enough for the comprehensive comparison. I scoured forums for days and I’m glad I asked. I read in one review of the XD, that they are much more “tube friendly” than previous iterations. I was hoping to keep my ARC REF 160M’s as I do love them.

@noromance will investigate Spendor

@pdreher 40.1s sound like my kind of speaker! Would save $ too:)


I read in one review of the XD, that they are much more “tube friendly” than previous iterations.

i wouldn’t think so... the differences, if any, are minute

my sense is that alan shaw has become quite a shameless spin-meister in his old age, i must say

UPDATE! @pdreher @jjss49 

I picked up a pair of M40.1 in cherry. Not the rosewood I preferred but still nice. 

I’m loving them! They give me that familiar glorious midrange that my P3ESRs have. Vocals and acoustic instruments just make me fall in love. And there’s such authoritative bass, I’m not used to this. They’re sounding bottom heavy but that might be because my other points of reference really struggled to produce much, if any impact. 

Really appreciate all of your guidance. This is the most satisfying my system has sounded. I thought there were inherent issues with my room but now I believe my room is just fine. I’ll eventually get some 40.2 Anniversary in here and keep whichever I like more. But for now, content. 

@audio_bidder Congrats on your purchase.  If I had to do it all over again, I would have kept my 40.1's and passed on the 40.2 Anni's, as the two are very similar and I think I found the 40.1's more enjoyable than the 40.2 Anni's, 

Congrats. I've heard the 40.x in the New York Audio Show and they were pulled halfway into the room to tame the bass. Suggest you try the same.

i agree that one of the main issues/challenges in most conventional sized listening rooms with the mon 40’s is placement relative to room boundaries to dial in a smooth and articulate (and not overpowering) midbass and bass response vis a vis boundary reinforcement at those frequencies

proper stands matter in this regard as well