KEF LS50 or Harbeth P3ESR for desktop system?


Spendor S3/5
SVS SB-1000 sub
McCormack modified Micro Power Drive
McCormack Micro Line Drive
HRT Music Streamer II DAC connected to the PC
AQ cabling

Speakers are 5' apart on the desk.  2' from back wall, no side walls within 6', vaulted ceiling.
Near field - I'm 5' away from them.

Piano jazz, movies on the PC, podcasts.  I don't try to break my ears.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the current setup, but, well, you know...

KEF LS50 (not wireless), or Harbeth P3ESR (maybe even Anniversary Edition)?

LS50 sounds OK on the desktop (58" wide) but it is no where close to the sound quality on stands and about 7-8+ feet apart. I have the LS50 for years now and have listened both ways. The LS50 on stands is something I plan to keep until it falls apart.

The new KEF replacement for the XA300A is a better candidate for the desktop over the bigger LS50.
Steve Guttenberg compares both of these directly and speaks candidly of them. Sounds like he likes the Harbeths better. 

2 minutes in he starts talking about the kef in the link below.
I prefer the KEFs to the P3s, the latter of which have a cooler tone without being any more detailed (that's speaking of the non-anniversary edition)

I find the Spendor house sound is a little more natural than either. 
As good as the LS50s are, this is a non question. 

The Harbeths are generally agreed to be an improvement upon the legendary LS3/5s. 

Having the Harbeths as part of a desktop system must count as one of life's luxuries. 
It's taken me most of my life, but I have finally come to grips with the idea that I deserve luxuries.  Thanks for pointing that out.
I have not heard Harbeths, but I have had a pair of LS50s for a few years and have used them in a similar setup on my desk. I agree that they will sound better on stands, but I still enjoyed them on my desk. The great thing about the LS50s is that they will fit whatever space you have (generally). I have used them as nearfield monitors on my desk and on stands in larger rooms and they perform well in either scenario.

I just came across a post on Reddit a few days ago with an impressive setup with a pair of LS50s and a small sub in a large room

I have also seen them in a setup much like what you’re describing and generally used with a pair of IsoAcoustics stands

I would think these show how versatile the LS50s can be.
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I've heard the LS50 and Harbeths and found both to be less alive and airy than ATC SCM7 or SCM11.
I would say Harbeth for tonal accuracy. The KEFs are more metallic sounding. KEF has the advantage of being close to a point source (coherence) and brings more weight to the party in the lower mids and bass.

My vote Harbeth but with the added condition of a REL T5 sub. 
Thanks, everybody!  Bought the Harbeth 40th Anniv. edition.

We'll see if I crank up the existing SVS SB-1000 sub currently on the Spendor s3/5s.  It's all part of the fun.
In my opinion no speakers can sound good on a desk without a proper room correction system. It´s just impossible with all reflections from desk and pc monitors. Recommend e.g. the Paradigm PW AMP with Arc2 correction for this job. Difference is phenomenal. ATC monitors, Kef 201/2 and Audiovector SR1 Arreté personal favourites for the moment. Just tried the Strada 2 with subs, which I had hopes for, pleasant but weak in mid resolution (and needs to xo very high).

please, let us know your opinion on the small Harbeth as a desk top speaker. 
Will do.  It won't be for a while - they're backordered until April.

So I wait.  (Im)patiently.

Cheers to all!
I 've lived with the p3's 40th for a few months now they replaced my thiel scs4. Shortly after I recived them my beloved a/d/s pb1500 subwoofer (circa 1980) finally failed me and is currently in the shop. So I've been forced to listen to them on there own, bar from missing my sub theses speakers are magical! Like you see in almost of the reviews the mids are to die for and the highs are airy and delicate is the only way I can describe them. But if you really want to blow your mind with these speakers go on e bay buy a carver c9 sonic hologram take it to your local stereo shop and have rebuilt to a higher standard. I run a Rogue amp and preamp with nos mullard and rca(tectonics) tubes which already provides a great soundstage...the c9 puts it on steroids! Now I know the criticism about signal processing but I don't care I know what I'm hearing. With near field listening and in the sweet spot I am hearing things from the Beatles I've never heard before! Things like Ringo's bongos that was lost in the background now come out to the forefront and you can almost hear every individual finger hit the skins... Crazy! Another one is Norah Jones come away with me, bought this cd 10 plus years ago skipped though it wasn't impressed. Dug it out the other night and holy crap! You can almost feel her breath and you differently can hear it! The one and only criticism if you want to call it that is if you want any kind of volume levels they need power. My st100 is putting out around 70 watts per and it struggles with some of the pre sound war recordings. Other then that enjoy these little gems there awesome! O and if Steve Guttenberg is reading this get off your horns and finish the review on these already! lol

With near field listening and in the sweet spot I am hearing things from the Beatles I've never heard before! Things like Ringo's bongos that was lost in the background now come out to the forefront and you can almost hear every individual finger hit the skins... Crazy!
It's not really crazy. What's happening is that other frequencies are being turned down so things like Ringo's bongos will come forward...even though they were supposed to be in the background. Audiophiles are often times audio-voyeurs, so I can imagine the fun. ;-)  
I’m not quite sure if I agree with the above assessment of what I’m hearing with the Harbeth p3. As far as other frequencies being turned down I’m not sure if you’re referring to the speakers or the effect of the carver c9. I will say compared to my Thile scs4 the p3s are much more relaxed at the high end of the spectrum. Possibly this may contribute a bit more to the detail  to Ringos bongos but much more is going on here. First of  probably should have desc
As I was saying before I accidentally pushed post. Lol. I should have described Ringos bongos not to be so much in the forefront but more to say in his own space in the soundstage to were he doesn’t blend into the background. I believe this happens due to the high resolution of the p3s and there synergy with the C9 processor. Even though my scs4 have a concentric driver and are a point source speaker on paper they should be better  with the C9 but there not.  And as far as any frequency manipulation from the Carver that’s  not what it does. What the C9 does is crosstalk cancellation buy playing both channels in each speaker which has nothing to do with frequency. Basically the processor gives you a headphone effect though you speakers,only difference is instead of the music to be in the midd
And again with the button lol... as I was saying the with headphones the music is in the middle of your head with the C9 you get same basic effect of headphones but with the music not in your head but coming towards you were it belongs.
Just a little interested in what Beatles song you're referring to. Don't punish me for not knowing...
HELP is the cd “Your going to lose that girl” is the song and no punishment here...
@ kevinkoc64

I can confirm your observation. Definitely not background. You can almost see him. For this test I used Quested H108 monitors in a nearfield setting. Great monitor. Tidal as usual. :-)
These newly remastered Beatles albums are really good in details and sound. Especially I like the voices. Very clear and natural but not "edged" or "screaming" as they often are in new recordings (just too many bad singers today maybe that only can whisper...).
Check out the active JBL and Yamaha studio monitors...also Focal and Adam in this size range. Give them a listen at a local high end music instrument store. 

Im using the JBL with 5” woofer (LS305) for my office desktop system with a Schiit preamp and Dragonfly dac, Mogami cables on my MacBook Pro.

Not a total high end system but the sound is actually really really good. A lot of recordings are engineered on these speakers so I gave them a try....I’m extremely satisfied 
Thanks for the advice - others will surely benefit and I'm glad you like your setup so much.

As previously posted, I bought the Harbeths, to be delivered late April.
I am using the LS 50 on my desktop. The Harbeths were a consideration. There is no dealer in the vicinity. So, I bought the Kefs from a local dealer where returns are easy. I've used two different amps with them, A Threshold 400A class A/ cascode and an ancient 25 watt per channel Stromberg Carlson tube amp with the tone and volume controls bypassed. (The power switch on the Threshold failed recently after 30 years of faithful service. So, I brought the Stromberg out of storage.)  Front end is a Mac into Anti Cables USB going into a Schitt Jotunheim multi bit dac with Anti Cables interconnects, etc. The Kefs are sitting on Isoacoustics desktop stands. The stands make a big improvement in imaging.
This desktop system is so good I get lost in the music while working. I can't believe how good the LS 50 sounds in this set up. The amazing to me is how three dimensional they sound with the SC, maybe even better than the Threshold. 
I listen primarily to acoustic jazz and some bluegrass - Tidal or ripped cds on ITunes through Bit Perfect. 

bbarlow690, any updates on the Harbeths?I’m interested to know what you think as I’m still undecided about buying them. 
the LSR305 setup is very good... i had one and no complaints, great value. best positioning I found was me seated center of sofa with the speakers at each corner of sofa arm-rests, rotated at aboot 75-80 degrees toward me earholes
If desktop speakers are not on isolation stands like Isoacoustics already, I’d put them on those ASAP first and go from there as needed, always keeping the isolation stands.

Also gotta point out the ls50's are also  "generally agreed to be an improvement upon the legendary LS3/5s".
And in addition to Isoacoustics a proper digital correction system. PW AMP with ARC recommended. You'll be highly awarded.
Also gotta point out the ls50's are also  "generally agreed to be an improvement upon the legendary LS3/5s"
That's because they are, and by a wide margin. However, they require a very good (not necessarily expensive) amp to hear the improvement. 

I really can't fathom how some prefer the standard P3s to the LS50s, if a competent amp and source is used. I can't help but suspect it's a matter of aesthetic bias affecting the auditory senses. 
I’m scheduled to audition the P3 anniversary model next week. I’ve already heard the LS50 several times and was impressed so we’ll see what happens. Since the P3 is more than double the cost of the LS50 they’ll have to sound significantly better to me. 
The thing that concerns me with the Kefs is the potential for listening fatigue as they are quite forward sounding. 
The thing that concerns me with the Kefs is the potential for listening fatigue as they are quite forward sounding.
That's a common misconception. They're not at all forward sounding if positioned as KEF intended: stands no more than 24" tall and zero toe-in. 
@bilitz I listen to the KEF LS50 all day in my home office with a Peachtree Nova 150 class D integrated. I have no fatigue and I am easily susceptible to fatigue from bad sound. I need to acoustically treat my room, because it is small, but any speaker would have been fatiguing without the treatment.
That’s very good to hear. I’m going to give the Harbeths a listen just to satisfy myself that I don’t prefer their sound, otherwise I’d always have doubts. 
I’ll let you know. 
On Wed I had some time to kill in Los Angeles so I went to hear some gear I am about to buy, specifically Luxman m900u amp and I was deciding on the c900u amp.

First thing I did was wait for the dealer to finish with another customer. So he gave me the controls to a $16K speaker driven by brand a brand new tube integrated. It sounded good and I am not a tube fan.

When the dealer was free we went to the all Luxman gear and hooked up a $5K Harbeth Anniversary edition speaker that is suitable for a small room (we were in a large room). I was shocked at how the $40K in electronics made the $5K Harbeth sound. It sounded way better to me than the $16K speaker I had just listened too. I played the same tracks on both systems.

So my mind was rather blown and my idea of choosing speakers first before the electronics was changed, especially for my small room. So now I have decided to buy the m900u and c900u and buy whatever speaker will fit into my treated room WITHOUT room correction. The small Harbeth showed me that FOR MY NEEDS the electronics trumped the speaker.

The dealer mentioned that there were a few folks like me that decided to buy the Luxman first and figure out the speakers later. One of his customers uses the KEF LS50 with the $30K amp + preamp. I may do the same since I have a LS50. Though I have some other more expensive speakers in mind. A lot of his customers buy the bigger Harbeth's with Luxman.

The Harbeth was really good with the Luxman but I like the clarity I get with the LS50 a little more. I especially liked how the Harbeth speaker cabinet vibrated with the tunes. Consider me a fan of the Harbeth and it is also not fatiguing.
The KEF ls50s are not forward sounding at all in the modest sized 12X12 room I run them in.

They are however distinctively quite dynamic with a lot of detailed energy through the mid-range. The jump factor is surprisingly good for a speaker their size which I find to be a very positive attribute.

I feel the p3s work well close, providing a coherent, balanced sound, however unless one is absolutely in love with the sound I'd say that the 3's (at least after import) are expensive compared to probably many other suitable speakers that will work similarly well.
Really? Can you name a few? I presume you have listened to the P3 compared to others!
donvito, I own the 3’s but when heard other small speakers like the ls50 I still find them competent (however I did not hear the 50 at home so the comparison might well be moot) I just wonder if the harbeth is the best value proposition when considering only $ cost vs performance. Eg. at almost 2x the price is the p3 value good compared to the ls50? Of course for the OP the price may not be a factor in any case.
I now have the Harbeth P3 40th at home for a trial audition. I was hoping that I would prefer the LS50's and save $1500 but so far I'm loving the P3's and they're not broken in yet. I'll give it a little more time just to be sure but I think I'll be keeping them. 

Blitz - how is it going with the Harbath's?  Any change in opinion?  I am wrestling with making a change to P3s.
No change. I still really like them. As compared to the LS50 I would describe them as more subtle, precise, maybe more delicate with more inner detail. And as everyone says, the midrange is great. Voices especially. They really come into their own with high quality recordings.
The question is, are they worth more than double the price of the LS50? I'm not sure bout that. If my budget was tight I'd say no. The LS50 is really good. But I do prefer the Harbeths and so I'll be keeping them.
I'm running them with a subwoofer by the way. Without it they might not quite do it for me.
Hope that helps.