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Harbeth c7es3 vs ATC SCM11

BluePotato

New member
May 30, 2012
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Spent a couple of hours demo'ing these 2 speakers today to lay some markers to build a new system. Both were tested using a Naim 5si amp and Naim CD player. Have to say was really impressed with both speakers on first listen. Will need to go back for another. The clairty, punch and soudstage of the ATC's really impressed me, the c7es3's had a larger, deeper, more refined sound (to my ears) - different but both really impressive. I'd also add there was just something very special about the Harbeths, appreciate it's secondary to sound quality but they look great. Quite a difference in price between the 2. Imagine I would be pleased with either speaker, gut feel at moment is though that the Harbeths are more likely to be speakers for life (well a good while).

This was also my first experience with Naim gear, must say if these bits of kit sound anything like this in my room (5mx3m) I would be very pleased.

Interested to hear the speakers with a Rega amp - likely the elex, also, the naim amp has got me wondering what additional benefits the Naim XS would bring!

Also need to consider DAC vs streamer to supply music from my NAS.
 

Macspur

Well-known member
May 3, 2010
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I've owned both Harbeth and ATC and for my taste Harbeth, as you say, is a brand to keep for a long time. For my taste, the ATC speaker is to dry and neutral, but I will say sounded great with electronic music.
If possible, get a home demo of both.
Mac
www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
 

BluePotato

New member
May 30, 2012
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Thanks Macspur. I listened to the ATC's first, the the Harbeth 3's, then the 7's. A ten track cd 3 times running so am concious that the ATC's grabbed my initial attention and by the time I got to the 7's must admit I was getting a bit of general fatigue probably trying too hard to recognise the differences etc.

Have said I'll compile a fresh CD and go back again hopefully today/tomorrow but focus on the 7's first this time, then the ATC. Like you say, ultimately I want to get to a point of home demo as its effectively the shop floor I'm listening on. Dealer wasn't particularly forthcoming on that one but can't see how I can make a final decision without.

I plan to use a DAC in my setup (or a streamer but not that keen on giving up itunes and getting tied to the streaming company software unless I believe there is a good sound upgrade involved in going the streaming route). I notice you have an MDAC+ - top of my list to trial once I have sorted a system, how do you find it with the Harberths out of curiosity?
 

davedotco

New member
Apr 24, 2013
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In both cases.

A general observation for both brands is that they respond very well to higher power amplifiers. if you value dynamics, then try them with more powerful alternatives.

One thing to definitely try is the cheaper speaker with a more potent amplifier compared to the more expensive speaker with the Naim. Try and keep the overall cost (amp plus speakers) more or less the same, see what happens.

Then think carefully about what you want from a streamer, it might be better to integrate that into your current thinking rather than see it as a source to be added later. I have a general fondness for the Unitiqute when used with external power amplifiers, this could provide a more 'integrated' solution.

In a similar manner, the Cambridge CXN streamer pre-amp could be used to drive, say, ATC power amplifiers, though pretty much any power amp will match. I heard the CXN with the now pretty old 851 series power amp, a formidable combination.

Some very decent equipment around at this kind of level, have a good look around at some of the less obvious models, you may be surprised.
 

BluePotato

New member
May 30, 2012
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Thanks for the responses. I went back to for another demo yesterday of these speakers, fresh music. Started with the Harbeths this time. Differences felt clearer this time around. The ATC's I would say very precise and clear, the Harbeths, provided a 'larger' sound (potentially cabinet size comes into play here?) and were what I would describe as more musical. This was still using the Naim 5si amp. Harbeths clearly more expensive of the two but in terms of sound and that sense of pride of ownership must admit I was really, really taken.

Out of interest then spent the last 30mins with another amp, the Sugden A21SE. I've no previous experience with Sugden but this thing was built like a tank. Wow, music came alive with the thing, just felt like more 'current' getting through to the Harbeths, an amp those speakers deserved.

Unfortunately that little prince would literally leave me with next to no money for a turntable (no phono stage in the Sugden I don't believe) or a dedicated DAC, I hear the Airport Express does a pretty good job on that front :). A good exercise though, ruled out the ATC's (for now) and now need to look at amps in more detail along with get to a point where home demo is planned in.

Any suggestions on a good amp for the Harbeths?
 

jonathanRD

Well-known member
Jan 27, 2011
175
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18,670
BluePotato said:
Any suggestions on a good amp for the Harbeths?
What amps in the £900 to £2000 range does your dealer have? (the one demoing the Harbeths)

Also, do you have any other dealers close by, and what have they got?
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
266
151
19,070
Worth a read of Harbeths own forum. There are many threads stating the essential belief that most amplifiers working within their capacity sound identical. Tube amps are considered too variable.

There is a lot of sense on that forum, but it is clear to me that quite a few contributors - including some good dealers - don't agree with the above sentiment.

Youve heard how good the Sugden is. I suggest selling your soul to buy it! Or, more realisticly, look on eBay!
 

Macspur

Well-known member
May 3, 2010
77
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BluePotato said:
Thanks Macspur. I listened to the ATC's first, the the Harbeth 3's, then the 7's. A ten track cd 3 times running so am concious that the ATC's grabbed my initial attention and by the time I got to the 7's must admit I was getting a bit of general fatigue probably trying too hard to recognise the differences etc.

Have said I'll compile a fresh CD and go back again hopefully today/tomorrow but focus on the 7's first this time, then the ATC. Like you say, ultimately I want to get to a point of home demo as its effectively the shop floor I'm listening on. Dealer wasn't particularly forthcoming on that one but can't see how I can make a final decision without.

I plan to use a DAC in my setup (or a streamer but not that keen on giving up itunes and getting tied to the streaming company software unless I believe there is a good sound upgrade involved in going the streaming route). I notice you have an MDAC+ - top of my list to trial once I have sorted a system, how do you find it with the Harberths out of curiosity?
Hi Blue Potato,

I love the M DAC+, sounds very analogue in my system.

I'm not surprised how much you liked the Sugden Harbeth combo... other brands of amp to consider are; Primmare, Exposure, Leema, Electrocompaniet, or even Naim.

Keep us posted on your journey.

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
 

ChrisIRL

New member
Apr 12, 2014
36
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0
I would imagine ATC SCM19 would be a better competitor of the Harbeths. May give everything you like and more about the 11s and the bigger sound of the Harbeths. Still a bit cheaper too allowing funds go to a more suitable amp. I'm running the 11s with an Elicit-r and it's heaven.
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
361
136
19,070
davedotco said:
In both cases.

A general observation for both brands is that they respond very well to higher power amplifiers. if you value dynamics, then try them with more powerful alternatives.

One thing to definitely try is the cheaper speaker with a more potent amplifier compared to the more expensive speaker with the Naim. Try and keep the overall cost (amp plus speakers) more or less the same, see what happens.

Then think carefully about what you want from a streamer, it might be better to integrate that into your current thinking rather than see it as a source to be added later. I have a general fondness for the Unitiqute when used with external power amplifiers, this could provide a more 'integrated' solution.

In a similar manner, the Cambridge CXN streamer pre-amp could be used to drive, say, ATC power amplifiers, though pretty much any power amp will match. I heard the CXN with the now pretty old 851 series power amp, a formidable combination.

Some very decent equipment around at this kind of level, have a good look around at some of the less obvious models, you may be surprised.
I've never been impressed with Cambridge Audio stuff (although I've only heard their older entry level amps and the CXA 60), but indeed the CXN is VERY good, sounded pretty analogue-like to me, full sound, music had a very coherent presentation, but also detailed.

@op: if you don't mind buying second-hand, you might be able to fit a Naim Nac n172xs + Nap 200 (non-DR version) in your budget.

The Sugden is also a great sounding amp, but if you listen to stuff like progressive rock etc, it won't have the Naim boogie factor / forward momentum (imo). Otherwise, it has a very nice 3d soundstage, and it sounds very sweet indeed.
 

stevebrock

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Nov 13, 2009
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I own SCM11s - my Primare amp has no problem with the dynamics - everything is snappy taut well defined I'm very happy with the combo
 

BluePotato

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May 30, 2012
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Just a quick update. The Sugden A21SE with the Harbeth 7's has me sold but there are a couple of challenges. A) price, to buy the Sugden new is nearly £3k which is too much. The dealer has offered me the unit I heard instore which was ex-demo and has been owned and sold back by a customer so is approx 8 years old now at a saving of approx £1k. Can't see any on Ebay to compare against. That price is still stretching me over and above what I set out to pay and there is no phono stage on that amp as I understand it (believe I am getting a Rega TT for xmas Planar 3/ RP6 2nd hand) so a phono amp would add further to the cost. An altenative option proposed by the dealer was a new Sugden A21 which apparently I can get with an inbuilt phono amp for similar money to the 2nd hand A21SE - not heard that amp in the flesh though and they don't have in store.

Is 8 years old a concern for an amp? The thing looked and felt bullet proof. I've been offered a home demo so might give that a go next.

Then to finish would have to pick up a cheapish DAC on ebay.
 

Al ears

Moderator
BluePotato said:
Just a quick update. The Sugden A21SE with the Harbeth 7's has me sold but there are a couple of challenges. A) price, to buy the Sugden new is nearly £3k which is too much. The dealer has offered me the unit I heard instore which was ex-demo and has been owned and sold back by a customer so is approx 8 years old now at a saving of approx £1k. Can't see any on Ebay to compare against. That price is still stretching me over and above what I set out to pay and there is no phono stage on that amp as I understand it (believe I am getting a Rega TT for xmas Planar 3/ RP6 2nd hand) so a phono amp would add further to the cost. An altenative option proposed by the dealer was a new Sugden A21 which apparently I can get with an inbuilt phono amp for similar money to the 2nd hand A21SE - not heard that amp in the flesh though and they don't have in store.

Is 8 years old a concern for an amp? The thing looked and felt bullet proof. I've been offered a home demo so might give that a go next.

Then to finish would have to pick up a cheapish DAC on ebay.
To my mind if the amp does not fulfil all you needs without having to add extra boxes then it could possibly be the wrong amp to start with. If you are sold on the Sugden then the one with inbuilt phono stage and adding an additional external DAC would be the one to go for

Eight years is nothing when it comes to Sugdens.
 

Macspur

Well-known member
May 3, 2010
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BluePotato said:
Just a quick update. The Sugden A21SE with the Harbeth 7's has me sold but there are a couple of challenges. A) price, to buy the Sugden new is nearly £3k which is too much. The dealer has offered me the unit I heard instore which was ex-demo and has been owned and sold back by a customer so is approx 8 years old now at a saving of approx £1k. Can't see any on Ebay to compare against. That price is still stretching me over and above what I set out to pay and there is no phono stage on that amp as I understand it (believe I am getting a Rega TT for xmas Planar 3/ RP6 2nd hand) so a phono amp would add further to the cost. An altenative option proposed by the dealer was a new Sugden A21 which apparently I can get with an inbuilt phono amp for similar money to the 2nd hand A21SE - not heard that amp in the flesh though and they don't have in store.

Is 8 years old a concern for an amp? The thing looked and felt bullet proof. I've been offered a home demo so might give that a go next.

Then to finish would have to pick up a cheapish DAC on ebay.
As well built as they are, 8 years old is a bit on the old side, especially at that price and having to fork out for an extra phono stage... I sold my Sugden Masterclass for £1850 a couple of years ago

and that's a way better amp than the SE.

Might be worth haggling with the dealer, if your mind is set on it though.

What other brands do they stock?

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
 

tino

Well-known member
Sep 29, 2011
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If you need a powerful amp:

A Yamaha A-S2100 might be a good choice but this would need a separate DAC.

Or something like a used Gato DIA 250 with integrated DAC but would need a separate phono pre-amp.
 

ellisdj

New member
Dec 11, 2008
377
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If you like the sound of something then thats what you want to buy imo - otherwise if you buy something else you will always wish you had bought the one you loved - always buy the one you like the sound of in my opinion rather than taking a punt.

However it would be a good idea to use this as your now benchmark and continue to try other products just to make sure - then go back to it and see if it still holds the same to you.

Use your other testing as a bargaining chip with the dealer to get a better price if you can,

Otherwise if you really really want it you might have to stump up the cash or be patient and see if you can pick another up used when one comes available
 

radiorog

Well-known member
Jan 1, 2013
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I don't know much about second hand HiFi market, but personally, I'd feel slightly robbed if paying more than£1200 for anything (HiFi or non HiFi) that was worth £3000 new 8 years ago.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
266
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After 8 years I'd expect it to be more like half price even from a dealer. There's a private sale in eBay for a Se signature with 30 hours use, a month old, for about £600 off list. No phono preamp that I can see though. When I looked the other day, there were a couple of non SE models for about a grand.

I think the point above about sticking to what you like is a good one. Ditto offering £1500!
 

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