Last week a customer called up asking to listen to our set of Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 speakers. I happily arranged the demonstration for him. Truth be told, I often overlook the C7ES-3 speakers, but for good reason and at the same time, to my discredit. You might be asking why I wrote that, let alone admitted that. The reason is simple, with speakers in the Harbeth range like the M30.1 (only about £340 more, depending on the finish) and the Super HL5plus (just around £1,000 more, depending on finish), I sometimes forget how truly wonderful the C7ES-3 is with presenting music to the listener. It’s an easy speaker to overlook when you have brethren like that, but yet when it’s playing, there is no ignoring how beautifully they reproduce your favourite music.
To match the customers’ system, I setup the demonstration using the Naim Uniti2 – if you are not familiar with this product, it’s an all-in-one unit that has amplification (pre/power), CD player, network player, Bluetooth, and DAB/FM tuner – just add speakers and speaker cables and you’re up and running. And that is exactly what I did...
With the system warmed up, I sat back and had a listen and, for a while, forgot that I was actually working as I went through song after song. During this “quick” listening session I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, at how good these speakers are.
The C7ES-3 reproduced Joe Morello’s outstanding cymbal work on ‘Take Five’ by the Dave Brubeck Quartet with such easy charm that I shout my eyes as the cymbals floated perfectly without any harshness or splash – truly wonderful. With the use of the Radial2 drive unit for the mid/bass, you can expect to hear that very natural midrange Harbeth speakers are famous for – which is some of the best (in my opinion) at any price point. The low-end also packs quite a bit of punch to it, which makes sense when you see their stats on paper. They are able to reproduce frequencies faithfully down to 45hz; of course your room acoustics will have a say in how they perform with the low frequencies. I don’t feel I need any more to hear the depth of a double-bass, though with a little organ played through them, there’s a little to be desired; but never once would you think the size of these speakers could produce the lowest of low frequencies – if that’s your fancy and if money permits, check out the M40.2 by Harbeth.
The Compact 7ES-3 are certainly musical and lean a little on the warmer side, especially when compared to the more analytical sound of the M30.1. They allow the voice, like all Harbeth speakers, of your amplification and source to be heard. However, I would say that these are the least flat-response speakers Harbeth produces and I would classify them as a domestic speaker rather than a studio monitor – so when considering that the M30.1, M40.2, and P3ESR (also known as the M20.1) speakers could happily be placed in a recording studio (as they are throughout studios around the world in Harbeth’s “Pro” versions), the C7ES-3 is happiest in a living room (which is most people’s domestic listening room) where reproducing your favourite music for hours on end in a very musical and enjoyable way is its only job. These are one of the least fatiguing speakers I’ve listened to in a long time.
Though it is easy to overlook the C7ES-3 speakers with their brethren being so highly accomplished – I bid you not to as there is something very special about how they present the music to the listener.
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