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  1. #1421
    Founding Wammer SSM's Avatar
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    lolololololhahahahahaha You're suffering from a worse case of smallboxtitus than moi, Drood. I've frozen my credit cards in the fridge and not due for another dosage of new speakersalami until January.

    Congrats on the Harbeth ownership. This is the one vital Beeb-box brand I'd neglected to check out (twice): when I bought my Leema and when I bought my Spendor. So I will really look forward to reading your thoughts on the shootout between the P3ESR and SA1. I might not opt for the SA1 come Jan as it may be quite as samey as the S3/5R. The additional of a Harbeth to my collection of toys may increase the diversity of sonic flavours!

    P3ESR, I keep seeing this word as PEESIR, mmm...


    pSS: your SA1's gloss piano black is more metrosexual on the eye than the incoming P3ESR's maple, IMO.
    Last edited by SSM; 20-07-2010 at 03:34 PM. Reason: Vanity;-)
    CONRAD-JOHNSON HD3 & ET3SE > SUN SV-2A3 L.E. 25th Anniv. SE Class A | NAIM DAC V1 > C-J CLASSIC 60SE PP
    PRIMARE DAC30 > AYRE K-5xeMP > 6V6GT SE Class A | audiolab M-DAC
    > ICON AUDIO LA4 MKIII > EL84 SE Class A
    MUSICAL FIDELITY X-T100
    (modded valve pre) > GENESIS Advanced Tech. M60 (& I60) PP | PRIMARE A34.2 Class D
    OMEGA SUPER ALNICO & 3i Monitors |
    PRECISION 6.2, ELAC BS244, ATC SCM11, S3/5R, Alnico, XERO, DM 2/6, Q 2020i
    SS relics: REGA ELICIT, ARCAM A38, Musical Fidelity X-A2, NAIM NAP 100, QUAD 909, SONY TA-F246E | MiniWatt N3

  2. #1422
    Wammer
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    pSS: your SA1's gloss piano black is more metrosexual on the eye than the incoming P3ESR's maple, IMO.
    I agree. Even more so, now the SA1s sit atop Spendor's proprietary stands.
    No doubt this factor will add to the angst of the next couple of months :-(

  3. #1423
    Founding Wammer SSM's Avatar
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    NAD C326BEE - the Moratorium

    This is the third and quite possibly the last NAD integrated amplifier I will ever own. With two more MF amps coming in, I'd thought I could carbon-freeze the C326 in the attic for emergency situations (what will those be) where some quick amp watts are needed. However, it got put up for sale and was snapped up by an eager punter almost as soon, with a handful more people on the reserve list. I never had any problem flogging off my NADs. They are the budget equivalent of Naims on the second-hand market.

    I bought the C326 at the start of this year on a whim and out of affectionate memory of the previous two NADs I had had which offered stellar service. The C326 continues NAD's acclaimed tradition of producing inexpensve amps with real world speaker driving ability. It may only be a 50-watter but it was able to generate prodigious sound levels from my trio of insensitive monitors (SCM11~80dB, S3/5R~82dB, Xero~84dB) without sounding strained at all. Particularly impressive were its ability to keep up with the SCM11's dynamism during difficult loud orchestral music, and its ability to generate a clean fluent sound from the S3/5R that esncouraged the ears to keep listening. It had good rhythmic timing too, albeit not as emphatic as the Creek EVO I had (hmmm, maybe shouldn't have sold that PRaTster), but nevertheless it could hone in on all the fun in dance music.

    Unfortunately the C326 had a Achilles heel. Its punchy delivery with up-tempo music is a result of a mid-bass that has been humped up a bit. While it didn't offend with such music, with orchestral tuttis where the percussion and double basses were diving into the deepest registers, it produced honks in the mid-bass that sounded hollow and wobbly. This was opposed to the tight grip my Musical Fidelity X-T100 had on the deep bass at all times. The effect was not so audible through the smaller cones of the S3/5R and Xero, but it stuck out on the SCM11's larger and heavier woofer. I can only surmise this blip is the result of the C326's voicing. The NAD engineers obviously envisioned that it is going to to be paired with small bookshelf speakers within its own price category; speakers that are usually weak in the mid-bass and need a bit of a boost there from a partnering amp. In that case, they were being market-savvy but their decision to voice the C326's mid-bass performance in this manner limits its ability to draw out the best from more expensive and more capable small monitors.

    Budget speakers usually come with cheap, shrieky tweeters and the C326's inoffensive treble is tuned to cope with those screamers. While it never sounded anything less than clear with the Spendor S3/5R's excellent soft domes, I had a bit of a shock when, after five months of this partnership I replaced it with a Musical Fidelity X-A2. The X-A2's design is almost a decade older than the C326 yet it compelled the S3/5R's treble to produce an exciting dynamic performance that stayed clean at all times. The C326's sounded static and less open by comparison. The X-A2's close attention to harmonic detailing also made it seem like there is a slight veil over the C326's midrange.

    Those mild sins of omission are certainly forgiveable given the C326's value-for-money rrp. The one factor that made me opt to sell it off was the unbelievable amount of heat it emitted from the ventilation slots atop its chassis. This is an A-B output tranny with a Class A preamp stage. The heat coming from those Class A modules is SCARY, even when there was 20cm of free space in the shelf for the dissipation. By comparison, the Class A-ish Cambridge Audio 840A V2 I demoed didn't feel as hot as this little NAD fooker. I once held a marshmallow on a toothpick over the C326's vents and it had a crisp coating after three minutes! A Subway cookie in its paper bag softened to melting chewiness within three minutes. These were startling, albeit delicious, experiments. It didn't help either that I remembered reading a disclaimer on NAD's official website several years ago warning customers who owned its Classic pre-power combo not to put the preamp directly on top of the power amp or give them insufficient ventilation, because there were cases where it "caught fire". My previous two NAD amps never ran that hot, so I dismissed that disclaimer as over-cautiousness on NAD's part. Now, having owned a new generation NAD amp, this C326, I'm not so sure if NAD pays that much attention to build quality issues on its post new-millennium models.

    That is just my personal misgiving. It's possible all C326BEEs can motor on for years despite this insane heat output, but I myself have no confidence to retain my little NAD oven.

    Anway, thanks NAD, for all the amp fun you provided me during my student days.


    NAD C326BEE
    : clean and powerful sound
    : good rhythmic timing
    : nice streamlined styling (compared to the C3*0 models)
    : its protuberant mid-bass limits its compatibility with better-designed speakers

    : treble could be more open and incisive
    : there is a slight veil over its midrange
    : runs hot enough to function as a snack grill






    Last edited by SSM; 18-09-2010 at 06:55 AM. Reason: Vanity;-)
    CONRAD-JOHNSON HD3 & ET3SE > SUN SV-2A3 L.E. 25th Anniv. SE Class A | NAIM DAC V1 > C-J CLASSIC 60SE PP
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    > ICON AUDIO LA4 MKIII > EL84 SE Class A
    MUSICAL FIDELITY X-T100
    (modded valve pre) > GENESIS Advanced Tech. M60 (& I60) PP | PRIMARE A34.2 Class D
    OMEGA SUPER ALNICO & 3i Monitors |
    PRECISION 6.2, ELAC BS244, ATC SCM11, S3/5R, Alnico, XERO, DM 2/6, Q 2020i
    SS relics: REGA ELICIT, ARCAM A38, Musical Fidelity X-A2, NAIM NAP 100, QUAD 909, SONY TA-F246E | MiniWatt N3

  4. #1424
    Wammer Hornucopia's Avatar
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    Did anyone ever mod them?
    Tolerance is not a Sapiens characteristic.

  5. #1425
    Founding Wammer SSM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornucopia View Post
    Did anyone ever mod them?
    Nah. I was the first owner.
    Just did a google. There are a few other peeps on the WHF forum tawking about their C326 hotcakes. Good luck Naddies.


    SS


    ps: may I add that the headphone socket on the C326 has very good sound quality (for a non-dedicated headphone amp, that is). I mucked around with several cans, and they played with nice clarity through the C326.
    Last edited by SSM; 18-09-2010 at 11:44 AM.
    CONRAD-JOHNSON HD3 & ET3SE > SUN SV-2A3 L.E. 25th Anniv. SE Class A | NAIM DAC V1 > C-J CLASSIC 60SE PP
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  6. #1426
    Super Wammer Jimmy Moff's Avatar
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    Hello Solid,

    I enjoyed your moratorium on the NAD C326BEE. I'm running one with a Meridian 506 cd player and Royd Sintra II speakers. This was supposed to be a second system for listening to in the back room whilst studying but I find myself listening to it more than my main system these days. It's just a great little system and so enjoyable to listen to. Must be some strange synergy going on :-)

    I agree that the NAD is a particularly good amp for the money and I would suggest that a less critical listener than yourself (me for example!) would find abolutely no fault with it at all. Like you, I have found the headphone socket to be perfectly fine too.

    They do get a bit warm but if you really want to cook on your hifi equipment, I recommend you check out Sugden's products.

    By the way, compared with my Sugden A21a the NAD is slightly less extended in the treble but I can't detect much difference in bass performance. By the way I do generally listen to rock, soul and jazz (plus a little classical). Up-tempo music by and large.

    All the best

    Jim
    Last edited by Jimmy Moff; 19-09-2010 at 05:34 PM. Reason: I am a numpty

  7. #1427
    Founding Wammer SSM's Avatar
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    Hey Jimmy, long time no see

    How nice it is that we both use the C326. I hope you don't misconstrue my report on it as the nit-picking of a golden-eared audiophool 'coz I'm not one. I still hold the C326's sonic abilities in high regard. Like your own experiences in your second system, I have found the C326 to make very persuasive music with my sympathetic S3/5R so much so at one point in time I hardly listened to my main rig for a month. However, the C326's mid-bass hump didn't go down as well with the SCM11 - which has always been a merciless revealer of any foibles in the equipment chain upstream. Here it became apparent where the NAD designers have tweaked its bass response to stray from neutrality. The SCM11's heavy woofer requires more grip. Compared to the two MF amps and the Creek EVO, the C326 made loose bass sounds with the SCM11. I guess this is a case of poor synergy.

    I would have been very happy to keep the C326-S3/5R combo going if it weren't for a chance purchase of the X-A2. That substitution showed the difference in treble clarity between the two.

    So cheers to you and your C326.

    SS


    ps: I can send you a bag of pink marshmallows for toasting if you like.
    Last edited by SSM; 19-09-2010 at 05:56 PM. Reason: Vanity;-)
    CONRAD-JOHNSON HD3 & ET3SE > SUN SV-2A3 L.E. 25th Anniv. SE Class A | NAIM DAC V1 > C-J CLASSIC 60SE PP
    PRIMARE DAC30 > AYRE K-5xeMP > 6V6GT SE Class A | audiolab M-DAC
    > ICON AUDIO LA4 MKIII > EL84 SE Class A
    MUSICAL FIDELITY X-T100
    (modded valve pre) > GENESIS Advanced Tech. M60 (& I60) PP | PRIMARE A34.2 Class D
    OMEGA SUPER ALNICO & 3i Monitors |
    PRECISION 6.2, ELAC BS244, ATC SCM11, S3/5R, Alnico, XERO, DM 2/6, Q 2020i
    SS relics: REGA ELICIT, ARCAM A38, Musical Fidelity X-A2, NAIM NAP 100, QUAD 909, SONY TA-F246E | MiniWatt N3

  8. #1428
    Super Wammer Jimmy Moff's Avatar
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    Hmm, would probably end up with a sticky pink sugary mess all over the insides of my amp. Will just stick to warming pies on the Sugden.

  9. #1429
    Founding Wammer SSM's Avatar
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    Musical Fidelity X-A2 integrated amplifier - the original and the modified version
    (a retroreview for the titillation of all MF fanboys)


    The first MF 'X' amp I owned was the X-A1. It was a lovely amp with an iconic design and can still hold its own against the current crop of 600-ish amps IMO. I regretted selling it, a regret exacerbated by the collector's item status accorded to the original 'X' series today. So it was with great delight that I managed, after vying with another MF devotee, to nab this X-A2 the replacement model for the X-A1. I shall never sell this precious 'X' lozenge, ever!

    The X-A2 is not a X-A1 successor with lightly fluffed-up internals and a change in the LED colour of the power indicator (from red to blue). Its design is the same as the 1000 X-A100R, but minus the remote control and priced competitively to wreak havoc on then 500 rivals. Herein we see the original design ethos of the 'X' series before audiogod A.M. had a brain fart with the subsequent X series. The power transformer of the X-A2 (same one used for the A-100R) is housed in a separate black box and linked to the lozenge-shaped main unit via a single cord. It was designed thus to be placed on the floor and "as far away from the X-A2 as possible", to thwart EMI (not that record company which specializes in classical CDs with sewage-quality sonics, but ElectroMagnetic Interference). Innovative thinking.

    Well then, er, in the succeeding v3 X series, of which I had the X-80 and X-150, the power transformers were housed inside the same chassis as the amps. Then in the 3rd generation of X components (mystifiably designated the v8 series), of which I still own, the X-T100's power transformer is once again made separate but this time housed in a box with matching aesthetics so it can be positioned next to the sensitive main unit. Errr...

    I reckon the original X series' design which completely isolates the power transformer makes more sense. I do wonder what will happen to the power transformer should there be a fourth X series; likely v9 (coming soon, especially if the current MF ranges flop.)

    The X-A2's rated power is 75W. MF has a tradition of understating its amps' power specification and IIRC the first review in HFC measured it to as being closer to 95W. In use, it certainly feels like a high current 100-watter. The X-A2 has more than enough firepower to set my trio of insensitive monitors (80,82&84dB) ablaze.


    Sound Quality

    The sonic signature of MF amplification has several defining characteristics that remain identifiable even when it evolves subtly with every new range. While the X-A2 doesn't sound exactly the same as my X-T100 or the X-150, it shares a common penchant for presenting all music genres in a smooth, flowing and full-bodied manner. This is the archetypal MF sound. Big and rich, yet not lacking fine detail. When orchestral instruments are playing, you get the impression that all the complex harmonic content of their tones is fully reproduced. All MF amps are great with classical music and the X-A2 is no exception. Being an older design than the X-150 and X-T100, I half-expected it to lag in dynamic expression. The 50W X-A1 and X-80 could falter when reproducing large-scale finales in Wagner's operas, specifically his huge, dense Ring. Surprisingly, the X-A2 coped better... much better. In fact, the dynamic slam it could muster across the registers at high playback levels shocked me on several occasions. I guess the 50% hike in power over the X-A1 and the uprated circuitry make the difference. In this respect it is equal to the X-T100 and X-150.

    This dynamic ability meant the X-A2 could control the ATC SCM11's heavy woofers with the same authority as the X-T100, whereas the NAD C326BEE faltered and the Creek EVO blinked on occasions. What the two smaller amps have in advantage over the X-A2 is their agility in the mid-bass; they pump out synthesizer bass lines with more PRaT than the X-A2 can muster and are consequently more toe-tapping with pop music. The X-A2's midbass is timid by comparison. While it can still shape mid-bass notes cleanly, it isn't as prominent or as emphatic in its reproduction. In this respect, it is less entertaining with fast-paced, beat-driven music.

    That Achilles heel is offset by the X-A2'a ability in the treble and lower bass. In the former, it is more open, clean and extended than either the EVO or C326BEE. The X-A2 was purchased with the intention of replacing the hot-running C326 as partner to the Spendor S3/5R. The C326 didn't disgrace itself in the Spendor's company but when the X-A2 was slotted in, the S3/5R's treble performance went up a couple of notches. The brilliance of the X-A2's upper registers enhanced the spaciousness of the already well-aerated Spendor sound. It also had this exciting yet disciplined attack that made orchestral brass perorations very thrilling. And the slam in the lower bass! It drew out all the bass the S3/5R had and made it sound much weightier than with the C326. Double basses grumbled and timpani rumbled with a new-found gravitas. The diminuative S3/5R stopped giving any impression that it was a mini monitor with limited low-end grunt. Within my study, it had seemingly transformed from Bruce Banner to the Hulk. Smashing.

    Discussed separately on forums, MF and Spendor often cop the derision of being 'pipe n slippers' brands. I honestly cannot see how that can apply to the X-A2 and S3/5R. Paired together they are electrifying with symphonic and acoustic music. It is quite an edge-of-the-seat experience. (For pop and rock though, a Nait5i-Epos M12i pairing can outpace them IMO.) In absolute terms, I reckon the X-A2 is tailored with a couple of decibels boost to its frequency extremes. The S3/5R meanwhile seems to have a mild mid-bass boost. Thus they complement each other very well. The sound is impeccably smooth yet detailed, underpinned with very fulsome bass that belies the size of the S3/5R's five-inch woofers.


    X-T100 prevails...

    MF detractors who parrot on about how MF only reboxes its amps with each new range will be disappointed to know that the X-A2 and X-T100 don't sound the same. The latter is a hybrid design and bathes music in a burnished lustre. The X-A2 is less luscious in the midrange and not as taut in the bass, conceding the last ounce of control to the X-T100. It thus sounds fuller in this region and casts a bigger soundstage, but at the expense of imaging of which the X-T100's is better. The X-T100 also has superior resolution. When listening in a critical mood, it can be discerned that the X-A2 casts a slight opaque pall over the lower registers of female singers, whereas the X-T100 illumines that area very clearly. And that is with the X-T100's stock tubes. After a second bout of tube-rolling, it surges ahead in midband clarity. It is the X amp I would bring to a desert island.


    X-A2's knob needs more tweaking...


    If you're in the market for a pre-loved X-A2 yourself, you need to know that the gain setting on its volume knob is much more gradual than newer MF amps. Whereas the X-T100's already cooks at 9 o'clock and reaches ear-drum melting levels at 11, even with the inefficient SCM11, the X-A2's juice only begins to flow at 11 o'clock. I was initially concerned by this seeming lack in power but allayed such fears after a conversation with a fellow X-A2 wammer Alex_A (thanks gingerboi). He has jacked his knob past 3 o'clock on a few occasions (is that proper Inglish), yet it stayed clean at all times. So take note. Good times with the X-A2 start after 11 o'clock.


    Modern alternatives

    Being a sucker for shiny new things, buying a pre-loved amp wasn't the first priority when I started to look for another partner for the S3/5R. I demoed three models in the 400ish range: Cambridge Audio 650A, Rotel RA-05SE and Yamaha A-S700. All are competent modern designs but I sought a particular attribute which eluded them: a wonderful upper register that will accentuate and not subtract from the S3/5R's own smoothness and openness.

    The 650A's treble had artificial brightness while the RA-05SE's was a touch synthetic and lacked the supple, flowing quality I sought. Yammy's A-S700 looked retro-cool. It had the cleanest treble response of the trio but wasn't detailed enough. It also lagged behind the outgoing C326BEE for dynamic punch and could create the dreaded 'pipe 'n slippers sound' with the S3/5R, I feared.

    So should I be smug or alarmed that the cultured-sounding X-A2 can do what the above modern amps cannot? Mags constantly wag about improvements in the technology of today's affordable amps, how yesteryear's 1k performance can be had for modest rrp, but I couldn't find one with a superlative treble performance. (I would like to, because I wouldn't have to spend crazy money to get another impeccable amp to fix up with my next pair of mini monitors.)

    If I were to extend the comparison to the more expensive amps I had looked at for my main rig, I'd say I prefer the X-A2's treble to the Rotel RA-1520's(bright), the Roksan Kandy K2's(slightly truncated; to offset previous Kandys' shrillness?), the Naim Nait 5i's(shut-in) and the Nait XS's (without the Flatcap add-on).


    On the horizon... a Thouch-up

    At the time of penning this part, the X-A2 has been despatched off for a bout of modification to improve its sonics. After scouring the classifieds for free-lance tweakers I settled on a dude (such thick eyebrows) who used to service Thule amplifiers. I specified the changes I want for the X-A2's sound: leave the fine treble as it is, improve clarity across the midrange, quicken the mid-bass response and tighten up the lower bass. Having heard the zippy quicksilver sound from a Thule amp once I reckon the X-A2 will return like a phoenix arisen from the ashes, with a new-found ability in PRaT. Basically, the sonics I'm after is MF for the top half of the frequency spectrum and Naim Nait-esque for the bottom half (audio-hell if it were the other way round). I'd given some consideration to taking the X-A2 back to the MF dealer for refurbishment but desisted as the good Sodbury said the MF tune-ups are just expensive little tickles which amount to putting new rubber bands around the capacitors.

    This is the first time I have sent an amp for personalized modification and if the results are sensational, I may source other vintage MF amps for the same treatment (the X-150 with its huge knob will be highly desirable. SQUEEEE!!!). After years of having to shortlist, demo, buy and then live with new amps that have a few quirks not to my liking, perhaps the customized modding option is what I really need. Watch this space...



    Musical Fidelity X-A2 (original form)

    : powerful, weighty sound
    : open, detailed treble
    : good slam in the lower bass
    : mid-bass is a touch laidback
    : the volume knob's slow gain gives the impression of a lack of power
    : the X-T100 edges it for resolution



    [UPDATE]

    The X-A2 is back and its main unit feels slightly heavier in my hands. After a fortnight of anticipation I finally found out if this modding adventure had a happy ending.

    My initial reaction after the X-A2 was first fired up was to shed an invisible tear. That was because the original sound of the X-A2 had perished. Gone is the comforting MF house-sound that has a slight warmth in the bass. But the tear turned to elation when my ears became attuned to the new sound of the X-A2. There is a new-found swiftness in the bass and improved clarity in the midrange. Just what I had hoped the commissioned technician would effect. The first test material I played wasn't a CD but the Clash of the Titans (2010) DVD, fast-forwarded to the scene of the Kraken's emergence. It was the last thing I played through the original X-A2. Now, the sound of its tentacles bursting out from the sea cracked with greater impact. And when it opened its jaws to roar, there was this resonance in the X-A2's upper registers that showed a widening of left to right imaging. The overall presentation is also more forward and vital.

    The midrange has also improved in clarity as a test of several Celine Dion songs revealed. Where on the original X-A2 her lower register was slightly veiled, now her voice shot out with laser-like clarity that was as wonderful to hear as the Kraken's roars. The mid-bass has gained sharper articulation and speed which makes the X-A2 quite a PRaTster now. It doesn't have the grunty ruggedness of a Nait (but of course... if I want that particular quality I should invest in a Naim amp), but it no longer makes the X-A2 a liability with fast-paced pop music. It can rock out.

    The downside to this keener articulation is a fractional loss of weight in the low bass. It doesn't underpin orchestral tuttis like the massive boulder it was, but the overall presentation still remains weightier than the X-T100's. I guess this is a trade-off for the gain of that agility in the mid-bass. It is most acceptable.

    The new sound has certain traits in common with that Thule Spirit amp I heard; namely a swiftness in the upper registers and an upfront wide screen presentation. I hereby christen it "Le SSpirit"!

    Darn, I think I'm loving the X-A2 more than the tube-rolled X-T100 at the moment.


    Musical Fidelity X-A2 ~ "Le SSpirit" (modified form)
    : scintillating speed and clarity
    : improved rhythmic timing
    : punchy mid-bass
    : low bass is a smidgeon less fulsome than the original
    Last edited by SSM; 19-11-2010 at 02:09 PM. Reason: Vanity;-)
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  10. #1430
    Super Wammer stewartwen's Avatar
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    What excellent prose Solid! A veritable feast of information in that piece. I have owned, and sold, quite a few MF amplifiers. I have found that the early amps had something that the new stuff doesn't even begin to display. Although I am wary about sending my ancient B1 to MF for rebuild/service.
    Thank you for a really great overview on Anthony's eqpt.
    S
    I am just a soul boy at heart.

  11. #1431
    Founding Wammer SSM's Avatar
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    aww Stew, you are too kind. Had no idea you are such a lovestruck MFian too.

    Hang on to your B1 and don't ever sell it! I am unfamiliar with its topology but have no doubts it, along with the original X series and the famous A1, are true icons from MF's halcyon days. You can, at your own leisure, scout around for a freelancing grease monkey to soup it up someday.

    cheerSS
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  12. #1432
    Super Wammer stewartwen's Avatar
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    I also have an original A1 as well Solid, I bought them both at the same time and used them for about 6 months.................... as you say I am not about to sell them. Must run them up soon and see if they still work.
    I am just a soul boy at heart.

  13. #1433
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    Mighty Mini - Harbeth P3ESR

    2010 is winding down and the workload of my 9-5 job (with 'optional' weekend workdays, which actually make it a 7-day fwack-me-up) is lessening as the bulk of deals gets sewn up. The time has come to traipse the audio malls in search of this year's cute little speaker reward for me, me, me.

    The one marque I made a beeline for was Harbeth. It gets mentioned in tandem with Spendor so often that any self-respecting audiophool in the market for a Beeb-box needs to check out both brands' rival offerings. I was also stoked by Droodzilla buying the P3ESR to add to his Spendor SA1. He has since disappeared from the Wam and I would be so eaten up with jealousy if it was because he died of transducer ecstacy whilst listening to the P3ESR.

    The P3ESR has the sexiest back I have ever seen on a mini monitor. Ten shiny screwheads hold down the flush-fitting rear panel so that the whole surface is flat like an aussie surfer's washboard abs save for the binding terminals that protrude like a pair of small golden phalluses. It is any beebbox fancier's wet dream. I was not so besotted with the front though. The shiny plastic woofer looks quality but when matched with the wire mesh encased metal tweeter unit, the appearance is reminiscent of my ex-speakers the Mordaunt-Short MS10i Classic and Epos M series standmounts which had occasionally sibiliant treble. So I was expecting the P3ESR to suffer from the same vice too. (Generally, I don't warm to speakers with metal tweeter units; hear hear B&W and Monitor Audio).

    Thus I was pleasantly surprised when my ears weren't assailed with spiky treble. The P3ESR's treble has been tuned to match the same high-end quality offered by Spendor's soft domes. It is free from nasty metallic resonances. As for the overall sound, all of the forum goss are right, Harbeth is every bit as proficient as Spendor in continuing to preserve and improve upon the hallowed LS3/5a sound. The P3ESR is as impeccably smooth as Spendor's SA1 and S3/5R and matches their out-of-the-box panoramic imaging. The one significant difference I could detect is the P3ESR truly recreates the effect of, pardon the cliche, music notes emerging from an inky black background. In my experience of Spendor's minis, I don't feel that inky-black background silence as much. Not to say the background is noisy, but rather it seems silverish in comparison to this Harbeth.

    I sure chose the right sample music to experience the P3ESR's espresso background; the third movement of Tchaikovsky's 3rd Symphony - Andante elegiaco. The P3ESR reproduced it to perfection! The first half of this movement has the strings and piccolos playing quietly while cellos occasionally interject a few growly low notes. These sounds emerge from the P3ESR's superbly black background like golden filaments of light. This is the most beautiful and sensual reproduction of this music that I have ever heard, and when all the strings joined in unison for the recurrence of the main romantic theme I shuddered with delight. When the piece ended I nearly wanted to reach out and press replay. I was already envisioning many endless evenings listening to symphonic adagios on these wonderful monitors.

    So I'd thought the P3ESR had dealt the death blow to the SA1. Then I skipped to the fifth movement, Allegro con fuoco, to hear the orchestra launch into the brilliant Polonaise.

    Hmm...

    The Polonaise is a dance number set to quick rhythms during which the orchestral strings and brass work overtime with frequent excursions into high notes. The SA1 had dazzled me with it. Allegro con fuoco, oh yes the music truly caught fire through the Spendor. The SA1's inherent speed underlined the fleetness of the string playing, generating considerable frisson. Although there were lots of high-frequency sounds, they all sounded feathery, well-differentiated and well-aerated. The SA1's lightness of touch also brought out the balletic elements very vividly. It was a tour de force of the SA1's capabilities.

    That same music did not quite take off when played through the P3ESR. Here the Harbeth sounded earthbound and literal, and could not tease out the typically Tchaikovskian balletic lightness. In effect it was exercising its strengths as with the slower Andante elegiaco - highlighting the rosiny violin tones against a silent background - but this approach did not serve the Polonaise well. Causing dismay was its handling of the multitude of rapid high notes from the strings and brass. The metal tweeters stay free from sibilance but there was none of the feathery suppleness I heard from Spendor's soft domes. The expression was clear, but a tad stiff and staid. Indeed, when I got home to rehear the Polonaise on my S3/5R I found it more adept than the P3ESR at reproducing the electricity of the frenetic string playing. I can only surmise that as far as my ears are concerned, soft dome tweeters are more musical than metal tweeters when reproducing rapid-fire violin tones.

    Do I still lust for the P3ESR? Oh yes. Its not inconsiderable price may just be worth it for the thrill of listening to every adagio and andante in the symphonic repertoire played to perfection. It is subtly better than Spendor in this aspect. But the SA1 holds the aces when it comes to orchestral music that has sharp accelerations and dynamics. It is the faster, more exciting mini monitor.

    A couple of years back I saw a pic of a Beeb-box fanatic's collection of LS3/5a-inspired monitors. They were stacked into a mini wall, and I sniggered then. What idiot would waste time, money and space gathering such a collection when the purpose for buying a pair of mini monitors in the first place is to maximise sound whilst freeing up room space? Now I have surveyed three brands only but I'm already on the precipice of increasing my own stash of Beeb-boxes from two pairs to four. All because I could discern the differences in musical expression between two brands! What have I gotten myself into? Why do I keep tramping around checking out these different brands? Argghhh!!! Stupid stupid stupid!

    Now if I buy the SA1 at Xmas I can't be 100% happy with it as I know which areas the P3ESR surpass it. Vice versa if I bag the P3ESR instead. So the only sane solution is to buy both (2650, what a bargain) then scrap my Xmas amp choice for another one that has speaker A-B outputs which are selectable via remote control, so I can switch from Harbeth to Spendor when moving from slow adagios to fast finales. Problem solved. (Only caveat is I will have very little floor space left after the second pair of stands come in. Plus, a rather big hole in my audio funds.)

    What a blood-sucking hobby this is.


    Harbeth P3ESR
    : peerless reproduction of the tonal nuances from acoustic instruments
    : the SA1 edges it for speed, high-frequency expansiveness and dynamics
    Last edited by SSM; 28-11-2010 at 04:39 AM. Reason: Vanity;-)
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  14. #1434
    Moderator HoopsOnToast's Avatar
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    So out of all the mini-monitors that have passed through your system, are the SA1's still out on top? I am interested as an owner of the SCM7's, the Harbeths seemed to be the next step up and always interested me. Dynamically, how do they compare? As i have heard the S3/5R's and SA1's and found them lacking with more complex, louder rock music, where the ATC's had really good attack.
    TBC / SME M2-9 / AT33PTG / Trichord Dino - Yamaha DVD-S1700 - Benchmark DAC1 HDR - DIY 2-Way Actives
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  15. #1435
    Founding Wammer SSM's Avatar
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    Playing rock and pop music on such exquisitely-voiced mini monitors is never on my agenda, Hoops. I've got my trusty SCM11 to handle the loud and rude stuff.

    Ramming Rammstein through a Spendor or Harbeth? Sacrilege.

    My audioquest here is to get as close as possible to the most perfect reproduction of the soprano voice and violin. Based on that demo, I reckon the P3ESR is the supremo where violin sonatas and soprano Lieder are concerned. The SA1 is no slouch either, a respectable second. Actually, if I shut off my critical, nitpicking audiophool mind I think I can settle down nicely with either one.

    Where orchestral fireworks are concerned though the SA1 and S3/5R edge the P3ESR, IMO.

    I'll have a couple of Nespressos and think this over. Parting with 1.3k in this economic climate is no trifle.


    SS
    Last edited by SSM; 19-11-2010 at 03:25 PM. Reason: Vanity;-)
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  16. #1436
    Wammer
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    I was also stoked by Droodzilla buying the P3ESR to add to his Spendor SA1. He has since disappeared from the Wam and I would be so eaten up with jealousy if it was because he died of transducer ecstacy whilst listening to the P3ESR.
    Hi Solid

    I haven't left the Wam, but you're not far from the truth in the above comment. I stopped posting simply because I stopped worrying about speakers, having found a peace of mind I was beginning to think only the grave would bring :-) Something about the Harbeths just sounded right straight away, and that impression is undiminished several months later. I agree with everything you say about their virtues, especially the stunningly natural reproduction of timbre. Bass is fluid and surprisingly deep, while treble is refined and has bite, without being the slightest bit harsh. As far as pace and timing is concerned, I find them less laid back than the S3/5Rs, but not nearly as fast as the SA1s. Compared with the SCM7s, they have less dynamic slam, but more euphonious - and they sound equally good at low volume so they are far better suited to late night listening sessions than the SCM7s.

    Overall - and I understand this may sound dull - I think they are almost perfect all rounders. I can't think of any CD played through them that hasn't sounded good, and jazz and classical chamber music sounds stunning. They're also very good with solo piano music, which makes up a significant proportion of my classical music listening - both the SA1s and the SCM7s fell short, for me, with this repertoire. Finally, although I have a feeling this will not impress you, they perform admirably - better than any other mini-monitor I've heard - with Bach's organ works. They don't sound like huge speakers with this music, but everything is in proportion, and they sound big enough in my small room. They've opened this wonderful music uo for me in a way that no other small speaker has been able to.

    Does this mean I will never part with them? Not quite. But I have a feeling that if I do, it will be to move up through the Harbeth range. At which point I will have to start my own thread, as the other Harbeths are not really small speakers, but have gloriously retro large standmount proportions.

    Having agonised over letting my SA1s go, I understand the pain you're going through, and wish you well in your decision making :-)

    Regards
    Nigel

  17. #1437
    Moderator HoopsOnToast's Avatar
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    Nice comaprisons (Solid and Droozilla) I might have to have a listen to the Harbeths at some point, Nigel, are you going / coming to scalford hall?
    TBC / SME M2-9 / AT33PTG / Trichord Dino - Yamaha DVD-S1700 - Benchmark DAC1 HDR - DIY 2-Way Actives
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  18. #1438
    Wammer
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoopsOnToast View Post
    Nice comaprisons (Solid and Droozilla) I might have to have a listen to the Harbeths at some point, Nigel, are you going / coming to scalford hall?
    Sorry Hoops, no plans to go to Scalford, but you're welcome to drop by for a listen if you're ever in my area.

  19. #1439
    Wammer
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    Wow... Thnks droodzilla (Nigel), that description made it even clearer... I need to get Harbeth

  20. #1440
    Founding Wammer SSM's Avatar
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    Nigel, I'm happy for you. It seems your speaker quest has ended beautifully on the doorstep of Harbeth. Congratulations and thanks for sharing with us your experiences with the P3ESR.

    As for the vacillating consumerist tart that is me... It does seem the attributes I seek in a high quality mini are split between the SA1 and P3ESR. I have already abandoned any attempt to check out Sterling Broadcast's beeb-box variant lest I find out that it does a third musical aspect better than the Spendor and Harbeth, in which case I will be trapped in a torrid love triangle.


    re: solo piano and Bach's organ
    I'm a little surprised at your finding that the P3ESR does better with piano than the SCM7. IMO my SCM11 holds the advantage in piano music where its considerable dynamic clout eclipses those two LS3/5a specialists. Maybe where tonality is concerned Harbeth trumps ATC, but I confess I didn't listen to enough subtle piano music when I demoed the P3ESR. A slice of thundering Tchai yes, and I liked it better on the SCM11.

    As for your Bach organ verdict... I listen to his organ muzak as many times as I have diarrhoea in a year, so the P3ESR's superiority over the SA1 in this area means nothing to me.

    I doubt I'll be embarking on the career of building my own wall of LS3/5aers so I can only buy Spen or Beth. In the areas of performance where one lags behind the other, it doesn't do too badly either so I'm sure my ears will adjust over time - where my memory of the forsaken brand will fade.

    Now which voice in my Geminian head will I listen to???

    SA1!PEE!




    Does this mean I will never part with them? Not quite. But I have a feeling that if I do, it will be to move up through the Harbeth range. At which point I will have to start my own thread, as the other Harbeths are not really small speakers, but have gloriously retro large standmount proportions.
    I shall look forward to your thread - "droodsblog: dowdy middle-age-sized fugly Harbeths on trolley stands". How retrosexual.


    cheerSS
    Last edited by SSM; 26-11-2010 at 01:38 PM. Reason: Vanity;-)
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