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The lower one goes, the softer the bass becomes but it never lost its content or contours. Yet this was not a voiced contoured sound. Certain elements related to plastic diaphragms could be noticed similar to Dynaudio and Vienna Acoustics speakers. I refer to a slight rounding of the attack and a subjectively warmer sound than one gets from coated paper diaphragms. But I say ‘subjectively’ on purpose because in reality that sound is more natural and congruent with our experience than the contoured sound of many woofers. It is ideally connected to the midrange and treble.
The treble is slightly stronger than in the earlier version of these speakers or even the Spendor SA-1 that continues the BBC license in some way. The vocals are not sharpened, the sibilants retain a proper relationship with the rest of the spectrum but you can hear more of the upper midrange and treble than before. Looking at Stereophile’s measurements we see that the frequency response is more even than before which would confirm my findings. This is a further step in the direction of an accurate sound reproduction. Paradoxically it also requires more from ancillary electronics and cables. They need to be skillful. The Spendor sounds better with electronics that are more expensive than itself but also fits seamlessly into systems of the same price level or even a less expensive one. With the Harbeth it’s not the same. The P3ESR will sound good with any system as long as the speaker won’t betray its weaknesses too much. Those will become apparent first in the upper midrange. When the speakers are paired with a sub-par system, the voices of vocalists like Sinatra will arise too much from the throat and not the diaphragm. This will thin out the voice to negatively impact the tonal balance as the whole. The bass won’t be highlighted of course as these are true bookshelf monitors but instead simply point at the lower part of the spectrum.
With a good system we will get amazing resolution. I mentioned the slight rounding of the bass and the midrange but those are just hues and nothing serious. The treble here is almost as good as the best speakers I ever heard. The cymbals even hidden behind a vocalist like on the cut "Ill Wind" from the Moore disc were clear and I could hear how they were hit. At the same time they were not emphasized or extracted. They were simply well behind the singer.
I was very aware of treble quality and could no longer pretend that the cymbals on the Kings of Leon disc aren’t rather lousy, washed out and without a clear edge. On the other hand I could confirm again the skills of Mr. Lipinski who mastered Savage’s Tonight. This disc sounded unbelievable. Nonetheless these loudspeakers did not underline mastering flaws. I didn’t really understand why as their precision should have shattered my remaster of Peter Gabriel’s So which did not happen. I can only suspect that the slight rounding of the woofer attacks and the slight warming of the lower part of the spectrum could have had something to do with it but that’s mere speculation and wasn’t heard directly. The Peter Gabriel disc was a bit light and too bright but no tragedy. Surprising dynamics and clarity in the midrange/bass transition allowed this locomotive to start as a locomotive which got faster and faster regardless of the tempo of the individual numbers.
These are startlingly good loudspeakers with a genealogy longer than most champions’. One can pair them with very good electronics far more expensive than the boxes - not that they are underpriced. I think they are priced fairly. With them it simply seems that a lot of electronics are overpriced. With Quad’s Classic integrated, the sound was magical. But you do not have to spend that much to get satisfactory and in some aspects perhaps even superior results. The Leben CS-300 X(S) or even better the Linear Audio Research AI-30T should be ideal. You should also try the Harbeth with the Audiomatus AS-250 or AS-500 ICEpower amps. But don’t forget a good preamplifier like the Manley Jumbo Shrimp. You could also try the Audiomatus with a CD player with built-in preamp—the Isem Audio eGo Phase3 or for less the Ayon Audio CD-07 come to mind—and add an external preamp in the future though you won’t have to.