Harbeth P3ESR Vs. ProAc Tablette 10 Vs. The World

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
So, I've been bitten by the LS3/5A-style bug. The promise of unrivaled vocal performance and world class "tone" has really got me interested. First I was considering the Falcon LS3/5A, but in the finish I wanted along with local sales tax would have come out to nearly $4k and that's just too damn much. For that kind of money, regardless of their performance, I could do "better". However, when falling back on option B, Harbeth P3ESR I saw that they have the new 40th Anniversary Edition and it's quite nice. I've heard the regular P3ESR a couple of times and always loved their sound. There's something addicting about the midrange and the tone of them.

Digging around it seems theres a few people around the internet that feel the ProAc Tablette 10 is comparable to the P3ESR, and possibly even "better" in certain aspects. I've never heard ProAc speakers so, while they cost significantly less than Harbeth, buying a pair is pretty dicey for me.

While asking someone on another forum who has vast experience with multiple versions of the LS3/5A and ProAc what their guidance would be, he suggested that Harbeth need a bit of room to breathe, so not suited well for desktop listening (which is the only listening I do(no stereo at the moment in the house)) and that the ProAc would be better suited to a near-wall / desktop environment. This same guy also suggested a speaker I've seen raved about recently, the Buchardt Audio S400. This company seems to be founded by some pretty bright folks and the reviews are generally very positive. It's within the theoretical price range that I've considered and on their site says they can be placed directly against the rear wall, though doesn't suggest if they're good or bad for desktop listening.

With the Buchardt's big waveguide giving some distance between woofer and tweeter and I've seen a couple people mention that they need at least 1m from listening position to really blend well, so this might not be the most optimal solution at the moment for me, but could possibly be the speaker I end up with for the long haul in another future stereo system. However, with life going the way it is, I don't actually foresee any sort of situation where I'd have an actual dedicated listening space like I used to have in the past. Limited to office desktop or possibly small bedroom system. Which is why I've focused all my time and energy on maximizing office/desktop performance.

Another thing I'm considering is possible resale value. Harbeth seems to be the Lexus/Toyota of audio in terms of resale. Easily recouping a high percentage of original retail cost if I do end up passing them on. ProAc, Buchardt and especially DIY probably don't carry this sort of luxury if I decide to bail. And of course there's the pride of ownership thing that I seem to feel towards owning a Harbeth product. It seem once you go Harbeth it's very difficult to not stay in the camp. The couple times I've heard the P3ESR I was just astounded at how natural things sounded. At that time I didn't know about their BBC-style history, thin walled cabinets or anything about true Hi-Fi, yet I was able to recognize that they did midrange better than anything I had heard at the time. During that time I was in vast exploration and heard some pretty mighty sounding (and priced) (and sized) stereos including stats, horns, etc. and always came back to the Harbeths for their ability to strangely capture the human hand clap realistically... weird, I know but one of the things that impressed me among the midrange realness and body of acoustic instruments.

So here I am, I'm not necessarily trying to replace the DIY speakers I just built, because they're pretty stinkin' fantastic so far, I just think that along with my curiosity in these types of speakers also comes the possibility to save a lot of space with some LS3/5A sized cabinets instead. And maybe gain a little more cohesion?

So what do you guys think? Has anyone been down this path already? Anyone with LS3/5A experience in the extreme nearfield/desktop situation? Are they worth the price of admission or would I be better suited looking elsewhere? Any input on these questions or possibly anything I've missed would be greatly appreciated.


Also... one speaker I keep thinking about as well is the Omega Audio Compact Alnico Monitor. Some that have heard these really do speak highly of them, even compared to full sized speakers. My fear with this is that, with it's sensitivity of 94db it might just tempt me to fall back into the tube audio world... and I'm not sure if I really want to go there again.


Cheers,
StevenZ
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Mind a passenger on this trip? I just sold my powered desktop monitors and am anxious to replace them with something around the size of the P3esr. I almost bought a pair of P3es2 over the weekend but read one too many remarks that the ESR is a significant step forward, despite them being, used, nearly double the $$. I've never heard of the Buchardts but they look interesting, though like you I'm not sure they'll be coherent at desktop listening distances. Add to that, these speakers, in my use, are going to spent much of their life here as actual reference monitors in a small home recording setup so I value a neutrality in the presentation. The Harbeths are my natural choice but there may be others, perhaps even another stab at powered monitors...though my previous two tries at that world both ended up the same. Momentarily wowed and then rather annoyed at them in the long term.

I look forward to see where this goes. If I can sell some things I might just buy the Harbeths.
 

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
Mind a passenger on this trip? I just sold my powered desktop monitors and am anxious to replace them with something around the size of the P3esr. I almost bought a pair of P3es2 over the weekend but read one too many remarks that the ESR is a significant step forward, despite them being, used, nearly double the $$. I've never heard of the Buchardts but they look interesting, though like you I'm not sure they'll be coherent at desktop listening distances. Add to that, these speakers, in my use, are going to spent much of their life here as actual reference monitors in a small home recording setup so I value a neutrality in the presentation. The Harbeths are my natural choice but there may be others, perhaps even another stab at powered monitors...though my previous two tries at that world both ended up the same. Momentarily wowed and then rather annoyed at them in the long term.

I look forward to see where this goes. If I can sell some things I might just buy the Harbeths.

Absolutely, tag along! The more the merrier!


Perhaps if you're going to be doing home recording a look at the JBL 705P might be worth it? A buddy of mine really seems to enjoy them and has suggested them to me quite a few times, especially since they offer a lot of room analyzing things to deal with my super small space and odd placement. However, they may measure as "accurate" but how enjoyable will they be when it's all said and done? I'd imagine they'd lose out on a little bit of the magic but this is purely speculative.
 

MikeO

Active Member
The Spendor S3/5 variants may be worth a look. It's price seems to keep soaring with each new model but you can occasionally still find versions from the early 2000s at an affordable price. I believe even the latest R2 models are still cheaper than the Harbeths.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Absolutely, tag along! The more the merrier!


Perhaps if you're going to be doing home recording a look at the JBL 705P might be worth it? A buddy of mine really seems to enjoy them and has suggested them to me quite a few times, especially since they offer a lot of room analyzing things to deal with my super small space and odd placement. However, they may measure as "accurate" but how enjoyable will they be when it's all said and done? I'd imagine they'd lose out on a little bit of the magic but this is purely speculative.
Those look very interesting. I'd looked at the entry level JBLs, as they get a lot of praise, but didn't know what they had farther up the line. The previous speakers I had were Yamaha HS-7s, which had a 7" woofer. They were extremely detailed but lacked any sort of presence/weight and didn't image well even sitting right between them. They were, being all white with white woofers, at least nice looking....

At $2k for a pair the JBLs are getting up to used Harbeth territory so that may be too hard a pill to swallow unless I find a pair on Reverb or another used site. I tend to mix on headphones and then do sort of a control/reference listen on my monitors. I"m so familiar with the Harbeth sound that I maybe should go that route....but the door will be open for awhile as I don't have the cash at the moment, having just spent a bunch on a new audio interface.

Good luck on this adventure!
 

TubeHiFiNut

Administrator
The LS3/5a was designed as a BBC monitor to be used in cramped recording vans: "the BBC specifically set out to design a speaker to achieve natural overall sound quality and good dynamic range for monitoring broadcasts in tightly confined spaces".
 

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
The LS3/5a was designed as a BBC monitor to be used in cramped recording vans: "the BBC specifically set out to design a speaker to achieve natural overall sound quality and good dynamic range for monitoring broadcasts in tightly confined spaces".

Yep, and this is why I'm kind of scratching my head as to why the guy I talked with suggested NOT putting them nearfield on a desktop.
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
Why not gently used Rogers LS3/5A’s? Mine are surprisingly small and were intended for near field listening. Oh and yes the rumors are true; the midrange is hypnotizing!
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
The LS3/5a was designed as a BBC monitor to be used in cramped recording vans: "the BBC specifically set out to design a speaker to achieve natural overall sound quality and good dynamic range for monitoring broadcasts in tightly confined spaces".
Looks like you are the faster typer here! Great minds think a like.....Thanks for turning me on to them!
 

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
The Spendor S3/5 variants may be worth a look. It's price seems to keep soaring with each new model but you can occasionally still find versions from the early 2000s at an affordable price. I believe even the latest R2 models are still cheaper than the Harbeths.

Looking at Spendor's site I don' tsee the S3/5 variants. Perhaps they're not called "Classic"?
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Not to be difficult but in my opinion the Harbeth PSesr and to a lesser degree the current similar sized Spendors are significant improvements upon the speakers they’re descendants of.
 
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MikeO

Active Member
Just meant older generation S 3/5. I believe the S3/5 was an early 2000s era speaker and was listed at around $1000 USD. I think there may have been another generation before the current. S 3/5 R2. I occasionally see used pairs of the S3/5 for well under $1000 USD.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Just meant older generation S 3/5. I believe the S3/5 was an early 2000s era speaker and was listed at around $1000 USD. I think there may have been another generation before the current. S 3/5 R2. I occasionally see used pairs of the S3/5 for well under $1000 USD.
Those are indeed very nice. A pair of S 3/5 helped greatly in getting me to consider more modern speakers. Those little dudes image really well, too. I think the Harbeths are a bit more open/neutral and the Spendors a bit more colorful. As is usually the case it seems no matter the size. My trying to be the friendly contrarian comment was in regards to LS 3/5a especially given what they go for.
 

MikeO

Active Member
Those are indeed very nice. A pair of S 3/5 helped greatly in getting me to consider more modern speakers. Those little dudes image really well, too. I think the Harbeths are a bit more open/neutral and the Spendors a bit more colorful. As is usually the case it seems no matter the size. My trying to be the friendly contrarian comment was in regards to LS 3/5a especially given what they go for.

Hi John. I think my post appeared immediately after you posted so I was replying to the question above yours whether there was a speaker called the Spendor Variant. I was just explaining that by variant I meant different generations of the 3/5. When I posted my response and saw you had replied I between I think it confused my comment. Guess I should have quoted the original in my reply. At any rate, I do agree that these speakers do seem to get better with every generation, at least to my ears.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Digging around it seems theres a few people around the internet that feel the ProAc Tablette 10 is comparable to the P3ESR, and possibly even "better" in certain aspects. I've never heard ProAc speakers so, while they cost significantly less than Harbeth, buying a pair is pretty dicey for me.

I have the Tablette Reference 8 Signature, and when I bought them the only other speaker that nearly edged it out in that (2004?) buying decision was the Harbeth HL-P3ES. Both are fantastic small monitors, you can't go wrong with either one, though they are different and one might certainly favor one or the other based on personal preference and/or partnering equipment.

I've sometimes wondered whether I made the "right" decision, usually when hearing one of the newer versions of the P3, Harbeth speakers are truly special and have that effect on lots of people. Musical is the only way to describe them, along with that trademark Harbeth coherence that doesn't sound like separate drivers and a crossover in a box.

In the end my decision was based on a couple of factors, first was I do listen to a fair amount of rock music and music with bass, the Tablette does dig deeper there than the P3 and it will also play somewhat louder without strain. The P3, while a wonderfully musical and coherent speaker, doesn't rock quite as hard nor have as much bottom end as the Tablette despite them both being shoe box sized.

The other big factor was the availability of ProAc's Response ER One subwoofer, which is a nimble articulate bass partner for this kind of speaker, 10" carbon fibre composite woofer, with a 150 watt class AB amp design that was co-developed/shared with REL. My logic was it would probably be easier to match/blend the sub and monitors of one brand rather than mix and match. This was before the advent of things like the DSPeaker room correction unit, back then you had to move the sub inch by inch around the room hunting for an ideal location, tuning the crossover frequency and phase by ear.

So my decision was one of ability to play louder and deeper. However that doesn't mean I don't still to this day wonder whether I made the right choice or not, or for that matter could have saved a lot of money (I have 2 ER One subs) by forgoing the deepest bass, opting instead for the Harbeth C7, or the ProAc Response Two for instance. In many smaller rooms that's all you'll really need.

If I had to sum up the difference between the P3 and Tablette beyond the above, I'd say the Tablette is more detailed, dynamic and incisive than the P3 (one review called the Tablette electrostatic-like but I think that's a bridge too far) but lacks the P3's overall full rich musical midrange character and uncanny coherence.

The above are generalizations however, for instance the Tablette can sound undeniably warm and rich with something like a Sugden amp, or a small C-J tube amp just as a couple of examples, and the P3 can be made to sound more detailed/dynamic and quick with certain solid-state amp partners. They both like a good amount of solid-state juice, however that doesn't mean they aren't also delightful with smaller tube amps, assuming a smaller room size or lower SPL requirement. Neither speaker is particularly amp fussy, but quality is rewarded and for sure quality over quantity (of watts).

You'd really have to listen to both using your amp (or something very similar to your amp) to know for sure which one is more your cup of tea, but both are truly outstanding, as are the various somewhat similar Spendor small monitors. There is also the similar but not identical ProAc Response DB1, or on the used market, older versions of it such as the fabulous Response One S or One SC.

I also just liked the Tablette's copper phase plug and choice of signature veneer finishes, looks actually count for at least a little something. I chose bird's eye maple.
 

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
I have the Tablette Reference 8 Signature, and when I bought them the only other sneaker that nearly edged it out in that (2004?) buying decision was the Harbeth HL-P3ES. Both are fantastic small monitors, you can't go wrong with either one, though they are different and one might certainly favor one or the other based on personal preference and/or partnering equipment.

I've sometimes wondered whether I made the "right" decision, usually when hearing one of the newer versions of the P3, Harbeth speakers are truly special and have that effect on lots of people. Musical is the only way to describe them, along with that trademark Harbeth coherence that doesn't sound like separate drivers and a crossover in a box.

In the end my decision was based on a couple of factors, first was I do listen to a fair amount of rock music and music with bass, the Tablette does dig deeper there than the P3 and it will also play somewhat louder without strain. The P3, while a wonderfully musical and coherent speaker, doesn't rock quite as hard nor have as much bottom end as the Tablette despite them both being shoe box sized.

The other big factor was the availability of ProAc's Response ER One subwoofer, which is a nimble articulate bass partner for this kind of speaker, 10" carbon fibre composite woofer, with a 150 watt class AB amp design that was co-developed/shared with REL. My logic was it would probably be easier to match/blend the sub and monitors of one brand rather than mix and match. This was before the advent of things like the DSPeaker room correction unit, back then you had to move the sub inch by inch around the room hunting for an ideal location, tuning the crossover frequency and phase by ear.

So my decision was one of ability to play louder and deeper. However that doesn't mean I don't still to this day wonder whether I made the right choice or not, or for that matter could have saved a lot of money (I have 2 ER One subs) by forgoing the deepest bass and instead opted for the Harbeth C7, or ProAc Response Two for instance. In many smaller rooms that's all you'll really need.

If I had to sum up the difference between the P3 and Tablette beyond the above, I'd say the Tablette is more detailed, dynamic and incisive than the P3 (one review called the Tablette electrostatic-like but I think that's a bridge too far) but lacks the P3's overall full rich musical midrange character and uncanny coherence.

The above are generalizations however, for instance the Tablette can sound undeniably warm and rich with something like a Sugden amp, or a small C-J tube amp just as a couple of examples, and the P3 can be made to sound more detailed/dynamic and quick with certain solid-state amp partners. They both like a good amount of solid-state juice, however that doesn't mean they aren't also delightful with smaller tube amps, assuming a smaller room size or lower SPL requirement. Neither speaker is particularly amp fussy, but quality is rewarded and for sure quality over quantity (of watts).

You'd really have to listen to both using your amp (or something very similar to your amp) to know for sure which one is more your cup of tea, but both are truly outstanding, as are the various somewhat similar Spendor small monitors. There is also the similar but not identical ProAc Response DB1, or on the used market, older versions of that such as the fabulous Response One S or SC.

I also just liked the Tablette's copper phase plug and choice of signature veneer finishes, looks actually count for at least a little something. I chose bird's eye maple.

Wow thanks for the great write-up! Very helpful
 

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
I'm being pointed in the direction of another brand by a friend of mine while I'm waiting on ProAc pricing from the local TX dealer and wondering if the Harbeth P3ESR 40th Anniversary is worth the extra coin. ATC SCM11 V2 is what I'm looking at. Seems to be compared to ProAc a lot and is very favorably reviewed. Doesn't come in any pretty finishes like Harbeth or ProAc though and is kind of a larger monitor, though not as big as my current DIY speakers. ATC does have a smaller speaker, the SCM7 V3, however I just can't seem to find availability anywhere in the states and MusicDirect shows not stocking anymore.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
That's an interesting turn, and a well regarded speaker. I think somebody here has ATCs? I could be wrong. And I do believe there's a cherry veneer option. Hopefully at $2k its real wood veneer (?).
 
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