Question After upgrade thoughts.

skutters

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Feb 10, 2013
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Hi All,
New to the Forum so go easy:) I have had my main components for a good number of years now consisting of a pair of Harbeth P3esr's, Sonneteer Alabaster Integrated amp, Arcam irDac and a bit more recent a Cambridge CXC Transport. I have a room to myself away from the wife😂(she doesn't listen to music) that is approx 4x3. I had been thinking for a while about changing the P3esr speakers as much as I love them there were times when I just wished they had a bit more weight and depth to them. Anyway I came across a number of YouTube videos of people saying that you should add a Subwoofer to a small speaker set up, so after watching more videos and reviews on the subject I treated myself at Xmas to a Bluesound Node and a Rel T5x Subwoofer. This has now thrown a spanner into the works the Rel has made a significant difference to the sound it now has more weight and body with a definite increase in sound stage depth but retaining the detail. So now I'm thinking should I keep the Harbeths and go for a Amp and Dac upgrade, the speakers I was thinking of going to listen to were the Spendor 3/1, so now I'm thinking what about the Exposure 3510 or Naim XS3 with the Chord Qutest Dac.? What do you guys think might be the best upgrade still change the speakers but keeping my current Amp/Dac will the Splendors or that ilk of Speaker be a lot better than my Harbeths? or keep the speakers and go the Amp/Dac route. Cheers Kev.
 

WayneKerr

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Jan 21, 2022
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Agree with Matthew. I've got the same speakers as you in the same size room but never felt the need to add a sub as they are the sweetest speakers I've ever heard in my room... but this is all down to personal preference.

Personally, I price match components, I notice your source players are from a lower range than your amp, maybe this is an area to investigate instead of an amp change?
 

skutters

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Feb 10, 2013
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Take a breath. What's missing from your system now that you have addressed your concerns about weight and depth?
Well I suppose not a lot really, it's that dreaded upgrade bug because I have now made the P3esr's sound better I'm now thinking could I get even more soundstage/detail from a Amp /Dac upgrade. But yeah maybe leave it for a while and let the dust settle.
 
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skutters

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Feb 10, 2013
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A properly integrated sub paired with your Harbeths is a stunning combo. You would need to spend significantly to better this.

The Alabaster is well regarded (although I've not heard one).

The Node has a weak DAC stage as written about extensively on other forums. Your transport is fine.

If you must spend some cash, personally I'd be improving your DAC.
Thanks, yes I didn't like the Dac in the Node I am by passing that and using the irDac, and yes it took me a little while to sort the REL sub but it has made a big difference. Yes maybe just look into a Dac change.
 

skutters

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Feb 10, 2013
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Agree with Matthew. I've got the same speakers as you in the same size room but never felt the need to add a sub as they are the sweetest speakers I've ever heard in my room... but this is all down to personal preference.

Personally, I price match components, I notice your source players are from a lower range than your amp, maybe this is an area to investigate instead of an amp change?
Thanks, yes it's quite difficult to know exactly what route to go down hence the post, I think I will speak to my dealer where I have bought all my equipment from and get there take on it. It might just be a case of a better Dac or possibly Transport.
 

skutters

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Feb 10, 2013
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Yes, that's what I meant. The iRDAC can easily be bettered. This would improve your transport and streaming sound. Two birds with one stone and if you buy a decent DAC a significant jump in sound.

Your speakers will take limitless upgrades to the rest of your kit and do not need thinking about changing.
Thanks again, yes maybe I have been over thinking it, if I go for just a Dac change I could get a quality Dac something along the lines of the Hugo2. But I would need to do some research as I don't know much about the different Dac's out there.
 

MeanandGreen

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Dec 26, 2012
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You’ve made one the biggest improvements you can make by adding a sub and spending time integrating it.

Anything else you do from here is going to be subtle at best IMO. I would live with it for a while and get used to how it is now before rushing into buying anything else.

I also find that sometimes even after those first few weeks of sub integration you may still need to make very small tweaks with settings until you get it exactly how you want it while you are becoming accustomed to it. I’d allow a couple of months of normal usage and time to adapt before assessing any weaknesses.
 
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skutters

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Feb 10, 2013
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You’ve made one the biggest improvements you can make by adding a sub and spending time integrating it.

Anything else you do from here is going to be subtle at best IMO. I would live with it for a while and get used to how it is now before rushing into buying anything else.

I also find that sometimes even after those first few weeks of sub integration you may still need to make very small tweaks with settings until you get it exactly how you want it while you are becoming accustomed to it. I’d allow a couple of months of normal usage and time to adapt before assessing any weaknesses.
Thanks, yes what you say makes sense i have only had the Sub for a month so maybe just take my time and don't rush in and make an expensive mistake.
 

Ceand

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Jan 26, 2021
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Putting the DAC issue to one side, it would be interesting to audition the Exposure and the Naim so try to get a home demo of both. Only then will you be able to experience the difference. Try to change just one element of your set up at a time to avoid confusion!
A third option would be the Lyngdorf TDAI 1120 which is in effect a power DAC. It solves two problems in one hit and makes sub integration a breeze... Good luck in your search.
 
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skutters

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Feb 10, 2013
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Thanks for the replies folks, I think I will speak to the dealer where I have bought all my gear from and see what arrangements can be made to possibly bring equipment home to try. Do you think the budget Cambridge transport I have would be good enough if I end up getting a quality Dac, is that not so important or can it make a significant difference.
 
Thanks for the replies folks, I think I will speak to the dealer where I have bought all my gear from and see what arrangements can be made to possibly bring equipment home to try. Do you think the budget Cambridge transport I have would be good enough if I end up getting a quality Dac, is that not so important or can it make a significant difference.
Yes, the transport should be fine. Upgrading it would be quite expensive....
 

twinkletoes

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Nov 16, 2021
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Thanks for the replies folks, I think I will speak to the dealer where I have bought all my gear from and see what arrangements can be made to possibly bring equipment home to try. Do you think the budget Cambridge transport I have would be good enough if I end up getting a quality Dac, is that not so important or can it make a significant difference.
hi their, the amps you have listed will be a side step not an upgrade just a different flavour, if you can even hear the difference in flavour many can't. Where you go from here would up I'm afraid and you won't notice any serious improvement in sound till spending more and a lot more. And from what I've read it seems like the Harbeths need just a little more power to make the sing and that you will notice.

If you want to play with amps id get an amp with some serious grunt on tap as those baby Harbeth aren't the easiest to drive and will enjoy all the control and juice you can throw at them. Think i start my journey looking at a Hegal 190 or 390. Both of them have amazing DACs on board by the way and can stream as well.
I believe it's what Harbeth use Hegal in-house to tune there speakers.

I think you have rushed out a bit to quickly before exploring your options the sub in a no-brainer but if you even had the slightest thought of upgrading the amp i would have waited on the blue sound.

And yes the transport is enough i use a NAD c540 in to a qutest. And yes there is a difference in sound/presentation but it's not night and day as some will have you believe. If you really want you can use old DVD players they have much better laser units and can be had a dim dozen these days on the bay. Look out for pioneer players they were :poop: back in the day.

as you say have a talk to your dealer but i wouldn't be in a rush to go out and get something new
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Thanks for the replies folks, I think I will speak to the dealer where I have bought all my gear from and see what arrangements can be made to possibly bring equipment home to try. Do you think the budget Cambridge transport I have would be good enough if I end up getting a quality Dac, is that not so important or can it make a significant difference.
It’s worth noting that Alan Shaw, owner and designer of Harbeth speakers, insists that adequate power from a solid-state amp is all you need. He denies there are differences in sound other than self-delusion from mis-matched volume levels or frequency response anomalies.

Nevertheless, he uses Hegel amplifiers, so much as I admire the Exposure I’d suggest trying to hear a Hegel. The Naim still has bit of a ‘shouty’ quality, which you either will like as energetic and musical, or dislike as coloured and fatiguing.
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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I'd ask you this; you've added th sub and noticed a significant improvement, are you happy with the overall sound, does it give you pleasure listening to music, does it excite / soothe you when expected?
If it does, then upgrading will add little to that experience, and only cause depression financially; unless hifi, not music is your hobby. There is a difference!
 

MeanandGreen

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Dec 26, 2012
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I agree with you partially. A properly integrated sub to these Harbs is exquisite. It will take serious cashish to make strides in this area.

However, I disagree that other changes will be subtle. The DAC is the clear weak link here imo. This also underpins the two sources that are being used, a transport and a node (with a weak inbuilt DAC and being bypassed). As above, two birds one stone. Up the DAC and reap results. The OP also has good enough speakers to easily notice this change.
What is wrong with his Arcam irDAC?
 

skutters

Well-known member
Feb 10, 2013
29
6
18,545
hi their, the amps you have listed will be a side step not an upgrade just a different flavour, if you can even hear the difference in flavour many can't. Where you go from here would up I'm afraid and you won't notice any serious improvement in sound till spending more and a lot more. And from what I've read it seems like the Harbeths need just a little more power to make the sing and that you will notice.

If you want to play with amps id get an amp with some serious grunt on tap as those baby Harbeth aren't the easiest to drive and will enjoy all the control and juice you can throw at them. Think i start my journey looking at a Hegal 190 or 390. Both of them have amazing DACs on board by the way and can stream as well.
I believe it's what Harbeth use Hegal in-house to tune there speakers.

I think you have rushed out a bit to quickly before exploring your options the sub in a no-brainer but if you even had the slightest thought of upgrading the amp i would have waited on the blue sound.

And yes the transport is enough i use a NAD c540 in to a qutest. And yes there is a difference in sound/presentation but it's not night and day as some will have you believe. If you really want you can use old DVD players they have much better laser units and can be had a dim dozen these days on the bay. Look out for pioneer players they were :poop: back in the day.

as you say have a talk to your dealer but i wouldn't be in a rush to go out and get something new
Thanks for your input, I haven't really been thinking about changing the Amp just put it out there wondering if it would be worth considering. Yes I must admit I didn't put enough thought into the Streamer the Dac and App are pretty rubbish. I will probably just see what difference a more expensive Dac makes and take it from there.
 

skutters

Well-known member
Feb 10, 2013
29
6
18,545
I'd ask you this; you've added th sub and noticed a significant improvement, are you happy with the overall sound, does it give you pleasure listening to music, does it excite / soothe you when expected?
If it does, then upgrading will add little to that experience, and only cause depression financially; unless hifi, not music is your hobby. There is a difference!
Thanks, yes I am happy with the sound but you know what it's like I added the Sub which has made a difference so then you start thinking I wonder if I chance the Dac to something supposedly better I can get even more improvement. I will probably try it and see but after the Bluesound mistake I won't be rushing into anything.
 

skutters

Well-known member
Feb 10, 2013
29
6
18,545
hi their, the amps you have listed will be a side step not an upgrade just a different flavour, if you can even hear the difference in flavour many can't. Where you go from here would up I'm afraid and you won't notice any serious improvement in sound till spending more and a lot more. And from what I've read it seems like the Harbeths need just a little more power to make the sing and that you will notice.

If you want to play with amps id get an amp with some serious grunt on tap as those baby Harbeth aren't the easiest to drive and will enjoy all the control and juice you can throw at them. Think i start my journey looking at a Hegal 190 or 390. Both of them have amazing DACs on board by the way and can stream as well.
I believe it's what Harbeth use Hegal in-house to tune there speakers.

I think you have rushed out a bit to quickly before exploring your options the sub in a no-brainer but if you even had the slightest thought of upgrading the amp i would have waited on the blue sound.

And yes the transport is enough i use a NAD c540 in to a qutest. And yes there is a difference in sound/presentation but it's not night and day as some will have you believe. If you really want you can use old DVD players they have much better laser units and can be had a dim dozen these days on the bay. Look out for pioneer players they were :poop: back in the day.

as you say have a talk to your dealer but i wouldn't be in a rush to go out and get something new
Hi, would I be able to play the Bluesound Node through the Hegal 190?
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Hi, would I be able to play the Bluesound Node through the Hegal 190?
You would, and indeed you can choose between analogue or digitaloutputs from the Node because the H190 has its own DAC too. Isn’t it actually a streamer too? They say so here…

 

skutters

Well-known member
Feb 10, 2013
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You would, and indeed you can choose between analogue or digitaloutputs from the Node because the H190 has its own DAC too. Isn’t it actually a streamer too? They say so here…

Yes it is but it's not wireless and I would not be able to hard wire it to my router so would not be able to play Amazon music which is what i use. So thinking of using the Node to stream through the Hegal Dac which with the much better Dac and being a more powerful and better Amp than my Sonneteer I would have thought it would be a winner all round, but that's open to debate and listening to.
 
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skutters

Well-known member
Feb 10, 2013
29
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The Harbeths the OPs owns will take almost limitless upgrades. The OP could chuck loads of cash at the rest of kit, before these speakers need changing. The transport is, a good enough transport, the streamer has a weak DAC, but this is getting output to the Arcam. All good imo.

Change the DAC is the biggest impact here, imo. Spend well here and see a leap in performance. Additional to this the speakers are easily good enough to see this change and respond very well.
Thanks for your inputs, yes i am going to see what difference a lot more expensive Dac brings to the table, just a case of deciding which one's to try.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Yes it is but it's not wireless and I would not be able to hard wire it to my router so would not be able to play Amazon music which is what i use. So thinking of using the Node to stream through the Hegal Dac which with the much better Dac and being a more powerful and better Amp than my Sonneteer I would have thought it would be a winner all round, but that's open to debate and listening to.
Ah, yes, I’d overlooked the connectivity. As it happens my generation of Linn streamer is Ethernet only, but I’d forgotten the Node is principally a wireless device. Wiring it to the Hegel DAC should be worthwhile.

I notice a couple of used/open box models on eBay with bit of a saving, if you don’t want a home demo and all the dealer support.
 

skutters

Well-known member
Feb 10, 2013
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Further to my post about trying a quality Dac I was thinking of the Chord Qutest it does get good reviews but quite a few reviewers say it is over priced and also the power cable that comes with it needs chucking and a linear one used. This then makes it even more not very good value, so anyway I have seen that my dealer also has a Dac just slightly more expensive the Pro ject Dac Box RS2 I couldn't find many reviews for it have any of you guys any info or experience of it, there doesn't seem to be much choice around that price. Cheers.
 

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