REVIEWS Harbeth P3ESR Loudspeakers


The Harbeth P3ESR mini-monitor traces its origins to the iconic BBC-designed LS3/5a although it’s anything but a legacy product. In 2017, the Harbeth loudspeaker company is celebrating its 40th anniversary, a testament to the sonic staying power of the still independent UK company founded by the late Dudley Harwood who was then head of the BBC’s legendary loudspeaker R & D team. Since the mid-1980s, it has been singularly steered by Alan Shaw, also a former BBC employee, intent on radically advancing the art of loudspeaker design while building on traditional BBC advanced learning.

In 2017, Harbeth has a small but stable line up of five UK built studio monitors of which the 2-way P3ESR is the smallest. Each model is distinguished by its use of proprietary UK-manufactured RADIAL2 driver technology. But to treat this speaker as ‘entry level’ is to grossly underestimate its sonic performance in many musically important respects. For people into music with small to medium-sized rooms and/or who value vocals and acoustic music, in particular, the P3ESR may well be, like its venerated LS3/5a forebear, an end game product at a very reasonable price.

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The diminutive ‘shoe-box sized’ LS3/5a was originally designed by the BBC for outside monitoring of speech in vans and other cramped conditions where headphones (of the day) were unsuitable. Bandwidth limited, it was nonetheless soon found – and to many listeners including myself is still found – to be surprisingly musical and engaging in a domestic application with uncoloured mid band neutrality and musicality that, on a well preserved sample, can leave most modern rivals in the dust. Ironically, the number 3 as denoted in many subsequent iterations of the LS3/5a platform, is BBC code for a product designed to be used remotely rather than the studio. Make that my own home then.

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