It’s been a few months since we received our Harbeth 40th Anniversary Super HL5Plus and M40.2, so when the announced they were going to do a limited edition version of the P3ESR (possibly our favourite small sealed speaker) we were on the phone straight away to find out when we could get a set to test. You can read our reviews of the non-limited edition 30.1, Compact 7ES-3, 40.2 and SHL5plus speakers, but this is our first written impression on any of the 40th Anniversary models.
Firstly, I should declare a slight interest. Two of the five team members in our Edinburgh store use Harbeth speakers at home; one in a living room and one in a studio, and we have been selling them for over ten years, and that’s why when you call us we know the product inside and out. As a result, we have every model on permanent demonstration in both stores with custom made “Something Solid” speaker stands to bring each set to the optimal listening height.
The first thing you will notice about the Anniversary P3 vs the standard P3 is the finish. The 40th anniversary comes in a rather nice olive wood veneer, as opposed to the standard P3’s rosewood, black, eucalyptus and cherry. The next thing is the price; a whopping £845 more than a standard finish set of P3s which in relative terms, is a lot. I’m not one for “limited edition”, I personally wouldn’t pay a premium just because it’s more exclusive, so it’s important to me that the performance is genuinely better and justifies it’s increased cost. And last but by no means least, the gold Harbeth badge, bling!
Let me explain. If you look at the specification sheet for these two models, you will notice they are exactly the same. The 19mm ferro-cooled tweeter is the same, the 110mm Harbeth RADIAL2™ bass/midrange driver is the same, and the cabinet construction is the same. So effectively, they measure up identically. So, what’s with the extra £845? Well, the first thing of note (aside from the finish) is the WBT-Nextgen binding posts. These are expensive in comparison to others, look better and are supposed to sound better than standard binding posts.
Externally that’s it, so having received our demo samples I did something I probably shouldn’t have done and took a screwdriver to the speaker to peek inside. We can now see some drastic component differences. The internal speaker cable is vastly improved - Harbeth call this cable “Harbeth’s 40th Anniversary Ultra-Pure OFC internal cable”. Cables always make a difference, despite what the critics say. The “British-made audio grade poly-capacitors” are vastly different and more expensive than the ones found in the (still very good) P3ESR model. I should add, I’m not an engineer - but I am suitably impressed with the different components which can be seen. It’s obvious from the dissection that the engineering improvements for the Anniversary model are marked; as shown below.
Our demo anniversary models are clocking up their first 100 hours of play-in time and the sonic improvements are already immediately obvious. As with the other anniversary models we have tested, the sound is vastly cleaner, and you are able to follow music more easily. Vocals are more neutral than before, and the image seems more focused and neutral. They handle layers of music better than their class leading peers. If Harbeth were profiteering from a limited edition model I’d be the first to shoot them down in flames, but they have made genuine audible improvements, which, in my opinion, suitably justify the extra cost. These speakers now take the mantle from the P3ESR as our favourite sealed standmount speaker.
The 40th Anniversary P3ESR is on permanent demonstration in our Edinburgh store and Falkirk store, along with all other Harbeth models. We will be testing them with a range of amplifiers and speaker cables to find the best combinations. In the meantime, if you are interested in booking a listen please contact us, where our friendly team of specialists will give you expert advice, a price to trade-in your old speakers, and further tips on setting these up in your room to get the best performance from your system.
For more information about Harbeth click HERE
For availability of the P3ESR Anniversary model click HERE