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REVIEW: Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3 Speakers

Model: Compact 7 ES-3
Category: Speakers
Suggested Retail Price: $3,900
Description: Harbeth Monitor
Manufacturer URL: Harbeth
Model Picture: View

Review by bullethead on August 01, 2009 at 18:08:23
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for the Compact 7 ES-3

Note $3,800 is for the Eucalyptus wood, I believe the other finishes are a little less in cost.

I am a proud owner of the Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3 Loudspeaker now for about 4 months, and have finally found the sound I am looking for. Natural, real and smooth. The ES-3 would tend to sound "warm" for someone who's used to listening to speaker after speaker, however the way this speaker is voiced you really have to hear the detail and accuracy to believe it. It's not "warm" but rather "natural". The ES-3 has a sound about it which is in a rare class of esoteric speakers coming out of England that have the goal of a BBC tradition for the quest for the "perfect transducers". The ES-3 uses the Harbeth signature "Radial-2" cone as well as the new "Open Weave" tweeter. This separates this model from the older models. I can't compare what I've heard to the older models but the Harbeth's really bring out the life in the music.

Everything sounds absolutely fantastic and they are relatively easy to drive. Using a Bel Canto S300 amp rated at 150watts/8ohms I can drive the speakers to really loud levels without distortion. However medium levels are where the speakers shine their light and emit into the room atmosphere and class like no other speaker I have heard. Silky smooth midrange, decent bass and realistic clarity in the high frequencies make this a speaker worth listening to in the sub $4,000 space. Listening with proper stands is recommended, I went with a company out of Canada called "Foundation" for the stands. Anywhere from 19" to 22" of height in the stands are recommended for optimal imaging and soundstage realism.

I have to say I've found my pair of speakers for the long term, and I'll keep them for a long time. After switching speakers in and out of my system like changing socks I've finally come to the conclusion that the Harbeth's are here to stay.

Product Weakness: boxy looking, but the sound is world class
Product Strengths: Realism

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Bel Canto S300
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Bel Canto DAC3
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Bel Canto CD-2
Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3
Cables/Interconnects: Kimber
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz, Classical, Rock, Techno, BM
Time Period/Length of Audition: 4
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): PS Audio
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3 Speakers - bullethead 18:08:23 08/01/09 (63)


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