Harbeth 40.2 Anniversary vs Focal Sopra N2 with PS Audio gears


#1

I would like your impressions with the pairing of Harbeth speakers, especially the 40.2 Anniversary edition, with PS Audio gears.
I currently have Focal Sopra N2 with PS Audio DS DACjr, BHK Preamp and Amp 250. Even though I appreciate the pairing, I actually recommended the pairing to someone on this forum previously, but found that I had listening fatigue on albums with lots of treble notes. Therefore, I am thinking about changing my system. First approach is to change the speaker, my guess is that most of the treble brightness comes from the Focal N2 beryllium tweeter. However, I still want an extended, airy, detailed treble, just not bright and fatiguing, and not rolling off too much.
I auditioned at my dealer Megico A3, liked it, but not enough to make the switch (smoother but less airy treble, overall more darker sound), liked S3 mkII better, which I think I will need to switch out my BHK Amp 250 to better match the S3 mkII.
Harbeth 40.2 was recommended to me, along with Luxman 509X for pairing. I don’t want to change my whole system right away. Thus the question here to seek your advice regarding pairing Harbeth speakers with PS Audio gears.
Thanks in advance for your guidance.


#2

Great question. Two speakers I’m considering as I downsize my life!


#3

I really like the Focal N2 90% of the time. The other 10% the time, not too much, especially albums with lots of top-end energy, the issue is that even though I listen mostly classical music, I do like to listen to other music genres.


#4

Two thoughts, first if the 10% you don’t like consists of rock, pop and soul albums then a change of speaker won’t make those albums sound any better. Some recording engineers place unnecessary influence on the top and bottom octaves to draw attention and while it sounds fine on iPods and most car stereos that the majority listen to it on no home audio system of reasonable quality won’t exhibit many of the tendencies you find offensive. Second the two speakers you are talking about are on opposite ends of the spectrum voicing wise so if you mostly like the Focal the Harbeth may not be your cup of tea regardless of the equipment you use them with. If you want to make a change away from the Be tweeters then I would look for something voiced in the middle but try anything before you buy. My 2 cents.


#5

Great advice by dawkinsj on source material.

Also, you could postpone a decision until PS Audio launches their new line of speakers sometime next year (and listen to as many different designs as possible in the meantime). I don’t prefer designs with BE and diamond tweeters either, and was tempted to recommend an electrostat like the Sanders, but they have other issues that may not be to your liking, given what you are considering.

The PS Audio design approach based on a ribbon tweeter and midrange line source holds a lot of promise.


#6

I can only speak to PS gear with the SHL5+. It’s great, and you would not have the fatigue issue. Never feel like I’m missing treble. I would guess the 40.2 retains the family resemblance. I have not really heard any Focals I like - too tilted toward the top end.

Also, the Anniversary is a nice improvement in the SHL5+.


#7

I have heard (not with PSA gear) and really liked those Harbeths at the High End fair for their natural, well balanced, lively sound. But they are not full range.

I’m sure they would also match to what you expect as neutral, unfatiguing treble other than many metal dome tweeters.

You just can’t expect the level of airy and refined sound of something like an AMT ribbon.

(meant as reply to the original poster, not hthaller, sorry)


#8

I’ll second this opinion. Sound quality from the PS DS DAC in conjunction with the Harbeth SHL5plus Anniversary model is superb.
(I use a Primare A.60 power amp with volume control via the DAC.)


#9

Thanks.

I am wondering how BHK Amp 250 controls Harbeth’s bass.


#10

There is no reason to think the BHK will not control the bass on a Harbeth speaker any less than a Luxman. Also if the person making the recommendations for all of these changes happens to be someone who sells the items he is recommending but not all or only part of what you own I would listen to the combos first before doing anything. Personally I would be more likely to buy Harbeth than Focal, though I prefer Reynaud over Harbeth, but I also recognize they have very little in common so if you like one you would not automatically like the other. In fact you personally could find it too far in the other direction.


#11

Hi Dawkinsj,
Which JM Reynaud do you have? Which one I should look into that will provide close to full range sound in my relatively small room of 15’X13’X9’? Assuming that I will drive it using my current PS audio gears (BHK pre, BHK amp 250, DSjr). Maybe I should keep my tradition to have French speakers, my previous speaker before Focal was Triangle. Thanks.


#12

I no longer own Reynaud’s in my main system though I continue to use a pair of Twin Signatures in my Office system with a Kora (French) hybrid integrated. They are the last of the four Reynaud models that I have owned. I currently use Verity Audio, from Quebec City, speakers in my Main rig with my BHK gear. If you are interested in the Reynaud line contact Bob Neill the former reviewer from Soundstage and Positive Feedback. He is the owner of Amherst Audio north of Boston and the US importer for Reynaud. The current models that would meet your guidelines are the Abscissa and the Orfeo. You could also check with Paul Manos of High Fidelity Services in Boston and see if there is a Verity dealer somewhere near you. But again before you go wholesale into swapping gear for 10% of your listening consider that it is the mastering of that 10% and not your gear. In fact give us some examples of the 10% and let the rest of listen to it on our gear and if we hear what you hear then you are good as is. Now if you just have the itch to swap out gear which I have done to a point recently then that is another story.


#13

Thanks for the information and advice. I will think about some troublesome albums for my system to list later. I will seek Bob Neill out for the Reynaud. Just looked up Verity Audio, it’s rear ported, will have trouble in my small room 15X13? Due to other factors, I have to put the speakers along the long wall, so not too much space behind the speakers, at most, 35ish inches from the front baffle to the front wall.


#14

I am driving the harbeth 40.2s anniversary editions with the ps audio DSD, BHK 250 and P5, and they sound magnificent over the entire frequency range.


#15

After much tweaking within a certain budget, I settled on Harbeth 40.1’s driven by a Primaluna Dialogue Premium (with Brimar CV4003’s and Gold Lion KT88’s) and a DS DAC. I also have a sub-woofer.

In my opinion, this setup sounds amazing, specially considering the relatively low sensitivity of the 40.1’s, with no fatigue and beautiful coverage of the entire frequency range.

It reproduces many types of music extremely well, in particular acoustic music and vocals, but also punchy rock and delicate classic. I would imagine the 40.2’s to be perhaps a step up.


#16

I have Thiel 2.4s and Thiels have a reputation for being somewhat bright. I can tell you that the Directstream seems to ameliorate that a bit or at least doesn’t add to it so apart from just being an awesome dac I’m glad it doesn’t sound in any way hard or brittle. I also found that among numerous different power amplifiers that I tried, I found that Pass Labs power amps (the .8 series) are open and extended in the high end but again not hard, brittle or bright even on my Thiels. You might give a Pass Labs amplifier a chance in your system if you have an opportunity. You could try the 150.8 stereo amp.


#17

The 40.2 was mainly a redesigned crossover based on the vast amount of work on the SHL5+ crossover that was so successful. Basically, revoked the speaker from a studio monitor to a domestic consumer speaker. The price increase was mainly because the M40.1 price had not kept up with the materials and build cost.


#18

Assuming that you’ve tried tube substitutions before you change speakers?


#19

Actually I haven’t tried tube substitutions. Will consider. I think the treble settled down a little, maybe the Focal N2 need more burn-in (having about 150-200 hr playtime). I also removed the Synergistic Research HFT Xs closest to the tweeter while playing the albums with too much top energy, it actually helped quite a bit. SR’s accessories keep amaze me.


#20

this is why you might want to reconsider valves with Harbeth M40