What Is So Special About Harbeth?

SLike probably all of you, I just received notice from Audiogon of a 20% discount on Harbeth XD. I clicked on the tab and found that the sale price is about $2700. I have read so many glowing comments here about Harbeth — as if just saying the name is the password for entering aural nirvana. I admit, I haven’t listened to Harbeth speakers. But looking at these, they just look like smallish bookshelf speakers. I’m not questioning how good others say these speakers are, but HOW do they do it out of an ordinary-looking box?

Is it the wood? Is it the bracing? Is it the crossover components? Is it the cone material? What is the reason why these Harbeth’s are such gems compared to other bookshelf speakers? What is it about the construction or technology that makes these speakers a deal at $2700 on sale versus the $800, 900 or $1,000 that others normally cost? What is the secret that makes audiophiles thrill to get such a costly bargain?

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Are you looking for a certain sound, or an accurate representation of the music as recorded? How many professional live performances have you attended in a proper acoustically balanced environment have you attended?

i own a pair of 30.2 XDs connected to a Belles Virtuoso power amp and have can tell you that what is so special about them is that they present the music, not a brand’s house sound. If you like a brand’s house sound you should buy that speaker, because our hearing can be subjective if we don’t know what we really are supposed to be hearing, not what you like hearing.

My 30.2XDs are accurate, and never tiring to listen too. I used to enjoy a pair of top-tier B&Ws and thought they sounded great, until I retired and had the time to sit and actually listen to them for long periods of time- they turned out to be bright and fatiguing. I found similar fatigue when auditioning many other speakers.

Love my Harbeths.


My C7ES3’s are a very nice second system speaker option to my Shindo/Altec’s. They get the all important (to me) tone correct, and are engaging at low/moderate listening levels. When fed properly, they do not get lost in my med/large listening area. That is a 23 X 12 ft room with 8 ft ceilings, with a large opening to the dining room. If I do part with my C7’s, the low-ish efficiency/impedance will be the main reason. I am planning on a return to tubes after a short run with the Luxman 550, and prior to that, a Croft phono int amp. The latter was actually quite good, but lacked the depth of tubes.

to me, the stark reality of the matter is that all speakers have a sound, and of course, any speaker in a room then has even more of a sound -- this truism is absolute and unavoidable

people like to say xyz is ’accurate’ - but no one really knows what 'accurate' it is... it is subjective, not objective... it is what we hear, as what we can measure to be ’accurate’ is woefully incomplete in explaining what we hear, how we feel a sounds different than b

that said, all experienced folks in this pursuit understand that speakers by far, by far, produce the greatest distortion (i.e. variation) from input to output, than any other part of the signal chain -- even based on rudimentary measurements of frequency and phase response -- so speaker choice is naturally the most intensely personal

what we can do (and should do), though, is hear real things (human voice, piano, acoustic guitar, drum set, cymbal shimmer, bowed bass, cello) and ideally hear them in the same or a similar room, then try to remember that sound, and compare to what similar reproduced sound/music of the same sounds like, and judge how close, how truthful it is to the real thing

when done in this way, many who judge harbeths feel they do quite well, and better than most