Harbeth P3ESR Vs. ProAc Tablette 10 Vs. The World

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Funny, just came across reference that Peter Qvortrup, owner of Audio Note, doesn't even LIKE the LS 3/5a. Yet so many fans of their speakers, are fans of the LS 3/5a and nearly every maker of small speakers goes to great lengths to somehow tie them to the venerable BBC small location monitors, even when the comparison is as ridiculous as Kef somehow claiming lineage to them with their LS-50.

I love the drama of audio. Such passions about things that most people don't even think about as anything much beyond an appliance.
 

airdronian

Junior Member
I wish I had better access to a Proac dealer. I'd love to compare the Tablet 10 to the Tablet 10 Signature, as they seem to be quite different. Proac says it has a more forward midrange (the signature) with a more pronounced soundstage... which I would love.
A local dealer I visit had ProAc for a while. Gorgeous speakers, I think they are relatively efficient, and if memory serves they mentioned the designer voiced them using tube amps. They ended up dropping the line as price hikes and exchange rate made them quite expensive and a tough sell in their shop.
 

Richard Austen

Junior Member
Yes I forgot that Audio Note had a rather significant across the board price hike back last August which pretty much followed Harbeth who virtually doubled their prices a few years ago and folks were complaining on audioasylum.
I am surprised that the AX Two would be listed at $1300 US - but it does "sound" better than my $1500 KEF LS-50 which is world class build quality in comparison. Audio Note may be banking on the fact that audiophiles shop for sound quality and not spending the money for how great it looks.
 

Richard Austen

Junior Member
And then you start getting into a used Harbeth Monitor 30.2. Which, though bigger than what I was looking for here, is simply, in my opinion, a world class speaker regardless of price. And perhaps the AN-K/lx is as well, I haven't heard them. I admit to the whole attitude around Audio Note, that I seem to forget until I get interested in them again and start reading, is a huge turnoff to me. And I say that as a Harbeth owner... another brand which has a set of unfortunately rabid, our way or no way, fans. I get enough of toxic tribalism in daily life, I can only take so much of it in my hobbies.
The Harbeths are all fine speakers but IMO the AN K/Lx is in the same ballpark sound quality wise as the Harbeth 30.2 and Stereophile lists the 30.2 at $6495/pair so it is more than 50% more expensive than the K/Lx and nearly $4k more than the K/D.

The two are on par sonically! (Which in itself is no small feat) but there are some differences - the K being sealed the speaker has a faster roll-off in the bass. It sounds more taught and in some respects leaner than the Harbeth in the midbass. I prefer the AN K as an all rounder. The fact the AN K only needs 5-7 watts and can be positioned pretty much anywhere (including on their sides up against a wall or mounted to a wall) and still sound good are advantages. Although the 30.2 is not a difficult speaker for tube amps to drive, the AN K can better utlize the 8 watt SET variety. One minor thing is that the AN K comes with a 2 year longer warranty than the 30.2.

But the bigger issue here for me is that it is the Audio Note J/LX (not the K) in terms of price is a match for the 30.2 and the AN J/Lx is in another league. I like the sound of Harbeth - I could listen to most of them all day but for me the value proposition isn't as strong in terms of sound quality for the buck. I was fortunate though to be able to audition the AN K/LX, Harbeth 30.2, Super HL5+ back to back to back in the same room. And to be fair people do get used to the sound they are accustomed to hearing so we tend to notice the things the new speaker to the test does wrong more than what it does right in relation to our preconceived standards of what correct should be.

Lastly one other thing is that it also depends on the area you live - if you buy the Harbeth and you don't like it - it is probably the easier speaker to resell because of the British Studio sound - the name is bigger in speakers. Although I did own my AN J/Spe for 13 years and sold it for nearly 20% more than I originally paid for them. So I usually point out the net cost of a thing over the initial cost of a thing. Like paying $2k more for a Honda over a Chrysler but selling it for $4k more in 7 years. The Honda overall cost less total dollars over time. In my case I had an AN J/Spe speaker that basically cost me nothing. (other than some inflation). For the same $2500 I spent on them I was going to buy the Reference 3a MM De Capo or B&W 805. I saw the former in a shop in HK second hand asking $700 US in perfect condition.

So 13 years later I got $2950 for my Audio Note J/Spe that I paid $2500 for. Had I bought the De Capo - I would have got $700 (-$1800) - and that is only assuming they get their full asking price! Ouch. As an aside I also got more for my Audio Note TT2 Turntable than I paid also to the tune of 20%. Maybe because people are impatient and don't want to waid 4 months for a new one :)

Indeed, I am hopeful that the AX Two price is $1300. If it is - I shall easily be able to sell my pair for more than I paid just a few years ago. :)
 
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Richard Austen

Junior Member
A local dealer I visit had ProAc for a while. Gorgeous speakers, I think they are relatively efficient, and if memory serves they mentioned the designer voiced them using tube amps. They ended up dropping the line as price hikes and exchange rate made them quite expensive and a tough sell in their shop.
This is a real problem - the margins have to be there for the dealers AND they need to move them. You need a dealer big enough to be able to have space for the lines they LIKE not just the lines that they sell to keep the lights on. I always liked Soundhounds in Victoria BC because the place was huge and they carried so so many lines and different kinds of product that they could carry smaller outfits and let the B&W and Magnepan sales sales keep the lights on. They sold one line - fairly popular in high end circles but they told me that had not sold a single speaker in the 5 months that they had brought the line in. This is a brand that has TWO Stereophile Class A models listed in their pages!

The outfits that struggle a bit against very good competition then seem to try and move into the big box chains like Best Buy where the rooms suck - the competition is weak and they have a better chance of impressing.
 
(...) 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. (...)

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. (...)

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.
I took a long journey beginning in 2017 to find the best LS3/5A that would work in two different listening rooms that I use regularly. I move systems around quite a lot, cycle gear in for extended auditions, review for friends and others.

I’ve been a fan of the Harbeth P3ESR since they showed up in Canada. Before that, I loved the original high-impedance (16 ohm) Rogers version and listening to them often at the home of one of the people in my music listening group. At TAVES 2017 in Toronto I heard the then-new Falcon Acoustics LS3/5A and was completely blown away by another incrementally better version of the BBC design.

I still like the Falcon Acoustics version best - more than the latest Proac Tablette across the useful frequency range, far more than the lamentable Spendors now discontinued as already noted (IMO - dull-sounding and completely uninspiring), a bit better than the Russel K ported ‘take’ (the Red 50 and the Red 100) although the 100 sounds very different than any true LS3/5A and should be auditioned if possible, and just a bit more than my previous favorite the P3ESR (which themselves are a significant improvement over the preview Harbeth P3ES2).

On re-sale value I can’t comment, ever. Basically, I make purchases and recommendations based on how well a speaker reproduces music and I’m personally uncomfortable about making any purchasing decision that compromises that given a specific budget. I don’t think anyone can go wrong with the P3ESR, even though I now like the Falcon Acoustics a bit more.

Placement of acoustic suspension LS3/5A speakers is easy. I wouldn’t shove them into a bookshelf mind you, but getting the best out of them is still relatively easy. I personally prefer a lively room that has a very short reverb/echo. I set up room that way using artwork on the walls, comfortable furniture, area rugs, bookshelves containing plenty of reading materials and collections, curtains/drapes on the windows or walkouts, and so on. In a normally populated room like that, I’ve found that to my ears the best listening distances with LS3/5A speakers is between 5’-10’. I’ve found no audible benefit to have the speakers any more than 3’ from the wall behind them - anything from 1.5’-3’ works great. Keeping the speakers at least 18” from side walls is also a very good idea. I also much prefer them in rooms smaller than 12’x16’x9’

Beyond those basic positioning and room size guidelines, the P3ESR and the Falcon Acoustics in particular are very versatile. Neither speaker is a bad choice in any way. They’re both superb choices actually. Wonderful speakers.
 

Richard Austen

Junior Member
For reference, taken from an AN dealer just days ago.

K/D $2690 (Black ash veneer only)
K/LX $4035 (8-10 week delivery but could be MUCH longer)

Prices have gone up.
I am wondering if you have the MSRP of the AN K/Spe speaker.

I have the chance of picking up a second hand one from a a guy who is about to buy the top of the line Audio Note J/SEX which was $20,000 a few years ago.

I have already made an offer but just checking to see if I am offering enough. Thanks.
 

StevenZ

Active Member
I am wondering if you have the MSRP of the AN K/Spe speaker.

I have the chance of picking up a second hand one from a a guy who is about to buy the top of the line Audio Note J/SEX which was $20,000 a few years ago.

I have already made an offer but just checking to see if I am offering enough. Thanks.
Sorry, I don't. Please keep us posted if your offer is accepted though!
 

Richard Austen

Junior Member
Funny, just came across reference that Peter Qvortrup, owner of Audio Note, doesn't even LIKE the LS 3/5a. Yet so many fans of their speakers, are fans of the LS 3/5a and nearly every maker of small speakers goes to great lengths to somehow tie them to the venerable BBC small location monitors, even when the comparison is as ridiculous as Kef somehow claiming lineage to them with their LS-50.

I love the drama of audio. Such passions about things that most people don't even think about as anything much beyond an appliance.
Generally I think, like the LM speaker dealer in Hong Kong, that an 8 inch driver couples to the room the best. Which is why LM sells 8 inch single drivers and IMO the best single drivers from Teresonic are also 8 inch drivers.

I can't speak for Peter - though If you would like I can ask him some questions as I will be moderating a panel discussion with Peter at the July California Audio Show.

AN speakers are designed more for far and midfield listening - Rogers is typically for nearfield monitoring. AN speakers are actually US based speakers (Snell) so unlike British speakers companies like KEF, Spendor, Harbeth, ProAc, Castle etc that are all trying to emulate the BBC sound - AN speakers are not. So it stands to reason that you might like one or the other. Personally I have liked the BBC speaker sound as well and would be quite happy with a number of the speakers of the BBC approach.

The new Rogers I15 ohm speaker in beautiful Russian Birch walnut I heard yesterday was superb. And apparently Peter is working on a dedicated LS-3/5a amplifier for the Rogers speakers. An exact amplifier mirror image amplifier for the LS-3/5a characteristics. And since Andy Whittle works for both companies this should be an intriguing pairing.

Still - I personally prefer more bass and impact and a larger presentation - Rogers is working on the LS 5/9 currently. For me this will probably be more to my taste.

Lastly it should be noted that Peter is a pretty straight up guy. Few manufacturers will admit that there is better stuff than what they make. But Peter acknowledges that while he likes some things more than his own products that they are not commercially viable. Like the Snell Type A - the company can't get the drivers made and the cost to produce that speaker is so prohibitive that they can't make money on them - ditto for the Klangfilm.

Peter isn't a big fan of the 300B SET amplifier. He told me that the best SET tubes are 211, 45, 2a3 and a distant fourth - the 300B.

And yet he sells more 300B SET amps than the others! He recognizes that people have their preferences.

Yesterday I auditioned the AN Jinro $27,000 211 amplifier being run from an M6 Signature two box preamp ($40,000) and compared directly against the Empress Silver Monoblocks ($10,000) and I preferred the 2a3 Empress - regardless of price I just liked the sound better.

I would like to get a pair of the Rogers in - I think I like it more than my AX Two. Something I could not say about the P3ESR or the Audio Space LS-3/5a or the original Rogers. My worry is how much will the new Rogers be? I know it's more expensive than the Falcon.
 

StevenZ

Active Member
Changed course and cancelled my Omega order. Quickly realized that the speakers are just too large (a bit larger than my already large speakers) to have on my desk.

Placed an order this morning with Gene Rubin for a pair of the Harbeth P3ESR 40th Anniversary. These should be a much better physical fit.
And now we wait. I was told there's a nationwide shortage and nobody has stock currently. There's a 2 week wait time for Harbeth's next shipment to hit the distributor and then from the distributor it takes a few days to hit my doorstep.
 
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