Harbeth has a cult status in the audio world. Some love them, some just shrug. Somehow the link with the BBC gives them something extra for some people. To me they just look old fashioned, but somehow stylish.
I listened to them for a while. I think the first music I heard played on them was Diana Krall… The ultimate speaker audition cliché. They sounded ok, but a bit dull. Later I would learn that probably had a lot to do with the Hegel amplifier.
Before I ever got to listen to Hegel amplifiers I thought they were the best a modern amplifier could offer. After all I had read so many positive reviews about them and I love their minimalist design.
Then one day I was listening to some speakers. Dynaudios and KEFs on a Marantz amplifier. It sounded ok, but I thought these speakers had more to offer. So I asked if they could hook up a Hegel.
The shop had a very convenient system where they could not just switch speakers electronically, but also amplifiers. As soon as the Hegel was hooked up all life in the music was gone… Not musical, not very dynamic.
It shocked me. That day I learned reviews and other people’s opinions don’t mean anything. It’s only about what you think that matters.
The guy helping me then hooked up a Rega Elex-R. This amplifier was by far the best amplifier I heard that day.
After I listened to the Elacs I had a chance to listen to this speaker, half of the Kii THREE BTX system. At over 30.000 euros, not exactly attainable for everybody.
The owner of the shop wanted to impress and played some loud pop music with a lot of bass. I have never heard such a loud and tight bass. The floor was shaking.
I could hardly give a serious impression of this speaker as I just heard it for a short while, but it sounded quite detailed and in control despite the high volume. But at a little over 30K it should be exceptional, shouldn’t it?
When you are looking for active speakers online, you quite quickly run into the Elac Navis ARB-51. I like the ideas behind it. You can use them wirelessly with the Discovery Connect module, but you can also turn off all the wireless bits in the speaker and feed them with an analog cabled source.
The speaker is very well executed. It looks gorgeous and is well built. I particularly like the ones in the Emara finish.
I had the chance to listen to a pair of these, but cannot say I was very enthusiastic. They were displaying a lack of control. I do not know why this was, as this speaker generally gets quite favourable reviews. Maybe it was not run in yet or maybe it was the Discovery Connect’s power supply. Hans Beekhuyzen talks about it in his video about this speaker.