Cube 1s & 3s / Harbeth P3ESR / Usher S520 + ??? Durham

Room to arrange and discuss bake-offs
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CN211276
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Re: Cube 1s & 3s / Harbeth P3ESR / Usher S520 + ??? Durham

Unread post by CN211276 » Sun Oct 08, 2017 3:56 pm

Read with interest. I think the Cube 3s are something very special. In my room I found that they work best 5ins from the rear wall.
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Re: Cube 1s & 3s / Harbeth P3ESR / Usher S520 + ??? Durham

Unread post by Simon Hickie » Sun Oct 08, 2017 4:08 pm

Given that there were speakers both of the point & squirt and semi-omni varieties, I'd be interested to hear the perceptions people had of the differences between the presentational styles, as opposed to tonal balance.
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Re: Cube 1s & 3s / Harbeth P3ESR / Usher S520 + ??? Durham

Unread post by Toontrev » Sun Oct 08, 2017 5:50 pm

Thats a good question Simon. The traditional speakers have a narrower area where you get to hear all the nuances or sweet spot as many call it. Did not seem to be an issue where you sat with the semi-omnis. Not the best analogy but I was thinking the effect is similar to a home theatre set up. Paul was keen to have the listeners hear the Cubes in different parts of the room.

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Re: Cube 1s & 3s / Harbeth P3ESR / Usher S520 + ??? Durham

Unread post by Simon Hickie » Sun Oct 08, 2017 6:32 pm

Interesting comment re. HT setup Trev. I've noticed on my TV 5.1 setup that if I take out the rear speakers, the sound is much 'flatter' even though the rears don't seem to be doing much and in my system are set at a lowish level. I feel a pair of smallish TV cubes coming on after the house move.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw.

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Re: Cube 1s & 3s / Harbeth P3ESR / Usher S520 + ??? Durham

Unread post by savvypaul » Sun Oct 08, 2017 7:27 pm

Trevor, Chris & Peter,

Thanks for sharing interesting kit, insights and experiences. A well enjoyable day. There will be more in the pipepline.

Warm regards,

Paul

Date of bake-off: Saturday 7th October 2017

Time: 1000 to 1600

Attendees: savvypaul (Paul), herbie07 (Peter), Hemmo1969 (Chris), Toontrev (Trevor)

Venue: Paul's place - approx. 8 miles west of Durham City. Room size approx 16' x 14'.

Equipment:

Vinyl

Well Tempered Lab 'Versalex' Turntable & tonearm
Transfiguration Axia S Moving Coil Cartridge
Graham Slee Revelation C phono stage
NVA SSP MK2 I/c to preamp

Digital

Vortexbox Lux NAS / Server
Sonore Micro Rendu Streamer w/ linear power supply
Van Den Hul Ultimate usb cable
Chord 2Qute dac
NVA TIS MK1 to preamp

Amplification

NVA P50sa preamp
NVA SSP MK2 I/C
NVA A80 MK2 Monoblocks

Speaker Cable

NVA LS6 single wired

Speakers : NAV Cube 1, NVA Cube 3, Neat Motive 3, Elac 510, ProAc D15, Harbeth P3esr

Music played

Richard Hawley
London Grammar
Credence Clearwater Revival
The Undertones
Hank Mobley
Elvis Costello
Adele
The Unthanks
Pentangle
Henry Mancini
Lisa Knapp
The Clash
Martin Simpson
Rachel Sermanni
Dvorak
Shostakovich

Mixture of Vinyl, Hi-Res downloads and Qobuz CD quality streaming.

We listened to a 'core' of 6 or so tracks with each speaker and threw in other pieces as and when we wanted to hear / test a particular quality in a speaker, or just to freshen up the listening routine.

Played around 6 tracks on the Cube 1s first as they were already in place, then came back to them again at the end.

First 'guest speaker' up was Trevor's NEAT Motive 3, made in Bishop Auckland, about 8 miles from the bake-off venue. Started off with them fairly close to the wall but quickly realised that they wanted a good amount of room behind the rear firing ports. My first impressions were; a bit of a midrange honk, an upper bass hump, a bit down on transparency and a bit tinkly up top BUT still pretty good fun. Nicely voiced, likeable immediacy and scale (helped by the upper bass hump), and not trying to do anything 'fancy'. Would I want to live with them full-time? Probably not, but I would definitely have a right good snog with them 'round the back' after a few beers and a kebab!

Next up were Peter's German-made Elac 510s. AMT 'jet' tweeter and foil doped 'long throw' bass / mid driver (I think I have those details right, Peter?). An immediate consensus that these are brightly lit. I found them uptight on the Dvorak (cello concerto) and Elvis Costello (Motel Matches) but enjoyed them on a vintage Blue Note Hank Mobley jazz piece (Soul Station) where they kept time very nicely, with plenty of projection and separation, and the tweeter lapped up the hi-hats and cymbals. I suspect they would also do well with electronic music. They do throw it at you quite forcefully. In my smaller than average space I found them to be impressively detailed but unnaturally 'in yer face'.

Then Chris' Proacs...easy on the eye, and easy to listen to...”but also easy not to listen to”. They seem to apply a 'niceness filter'. Clear and sweet with simple well recorded acoustic music (Martin Simpson, The Unthanks) but not really keeping up when the going starts to gets lively. I would tire of the all-encompassing loveliness but I understand why many might not.

The Neats, Elacs and Proacs are all ported designs...and I could tell this to a greater or lesser extent with each. We missed a trick here...we should have experimented with stuffing the ports. One for next time.

The Harbeths succeeded only in unanimously disappointing all present. Emaciated and un-involving. It sounded like someone had told the jazz quartet to make less of an effort. Couldn't wait to take them out. “Like going from wide-screen to a 25 year old portable” was the gist of one comment. To think that I paid £1500 for these a few years back... :(

The Cube 3s have the same size driver as the Harbeths (and look even smaller) but sound way bigger. They have a seamless clarity and unforced presentation. They manage well in my room but the Cube 1 beats them for scale and effortless dynamics, most obviously with symphony music (Shostakovich). After hearing the Cube 3s, I think it was Trevor who said that he might prefer them to the Cube 1s in my room. When I put the Cube 1s back in he then said along the lines of 'ah, hang on, now I get why you would take the Cube 1s over the 3s. They go bigger without going louder (i.e. no stress) – like when I changed from the A60 to the A80s.

I've listened to the semi-omni Cubes for over a year now and their presentation seems completely correct and unforced. Putting the Cubes back in was the point where I mentally registered 'yes, there is all the emotion, there is all the musical information, there is the correct scale and there is only the music; the physical speakers getting right out of the way.' I value that I don't have to be in one particular 'hot spot' to hear the best from them and that they are inherently neutral; no obvious peaks or troughs or 'flavouring' that could be appealing in the short term but be wearing over time.

The Cubes timed properly with The Clash, gave a believable acoustic and body on concertos and symphony, made the hairs stand up for The Unthanks and Elvis Costello and took me right inside the set up and interplay of the Hank Mobley jazz quartet.

I don't violently dislike 'normal' speakers, each of the other speakers had traits that I would thoroughly enjoy, but having lived with the semi omnis for a good period of time, when I listen to 'point and squirt' it's hard for me to un-hear the 'forced' effect. I guess I've found what works for me.

Hope the above is helpful.

Planning a phono-stage bake-off next.
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Re: Cube 1s & 3s / Harbeth P3ESR / Usher S520 + ??? Durham

Unread post by Simon Hickie » Sun Oct 08, 2017 8:22 pm

The fact that the Cube 1s did well with the Shostakovich is greatly encouraging. Indeed I'd not be interested in anything which did not do classical properly.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw.

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Re: Cube 1s & 3s / Harbeth P3ESR / Usher S520 + ??? Durham

Unread post by SteveTheShadow » Sun Oct 08, 2017 8:29 pm

Motel Matches - Elvis Costello...cool.

Loved the Get Happy album. Still have it on vinyl.
I remember what my LP12/Akito/K18. did to it.

"Fallin' for you without a SSSSSTTTTTHHHHH econd look, :shock:
Fallin' out of your open pocket book,
Givin' you away like motel matches"

Happily my Lenco/Mayware/ Goldring E3 combo handles it perfectly. :grin:
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Re: Cube 1s & 3s / Harbeth P3ESR / Usher S520 + ??? Durham

Unread post by Quarknosis » Sun Oct 08, 2017 9:56 pm

Having borrowed Paul's Cube 3s for a few weeks before the get together I can say that they are a really good speaker. I've also heard his Cube 1s for a short time at his place and from memory I would say that they go deeper and have greater scale than 3s when needed. The 3s sound great but the 1s sound greater. In my room I didn't seem to get the benefits of the Semi Omni presentation though. Perhaps with more time I would have come to appreciate them more but after 3-4 weeks I felt that they should go back to Paul even though he was happy for me to hold on to them for longer.

Ultimately I have found that I can live with my IMF transmission lines very happily even though the Cube 3s do a lot of things better, bass being tighter and more tuneful and not that far off in depth considering the difference in size between them. A word of praise for Steve the Shadow's Flatback's here as in my opinion they are definitely the best speakers for midrange tone of those that I have heard recently. I've also been able to listen to a pair of Epos M5i recently which I enjoyed immensely, falling somewhere between the Cube 3 and the Flatback's.
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Re: Cube 1s & 3s / Harbeth P3ESR / Usher S520 + ??? Durham

Unread post by savvypaul » Sun Oct 08, 2017 10:30 pm

I'd like to hear the IMFs sometime, Quark. Ooooh, and the Lenco that I've just spotted in your sig... :grin:
"Supercalifragilisticborussiamönchengladbach"

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Re: Cube 1s & 3s / Harbeth P3ESR / Usher S520 + ??? Durham

Unread post by herbie07 » Sun Oct 08, 2017 11:02 pm

Better late than never......

Firstly a big thanks to Paul for hosting - excellent listening venue (not small in the audience opinion), great scran and nice cups of tea a plenty. In addition it was great to meet Trevor, Chris and Paul of course in the flesh.

My comments pretty much concur with those made by Trevor and Paul. Paul has some excellent equipment and a very good set up allowing us to hear the speakers at their best.

First listen - Cube 1s. Very musical, expansive, fast, detailed, treble -sweet and revealing, bass went very deep but still accurate - a very high bar was set here. I made sure to get up and walk around the listening room to test Paul's assertion of the absence of a sweet spot. It didn't matter where I stood I still hear a sweet spot. Paul has his Cubes with one edge virtually touching the wall so they do not encroach on living space (easy to live with). Paul's music choice included some very challenging pieces - Dvorak cello and Pentangle with a couple of bass notes that rattled the front window (is that the correct music Paul?).

Next the NEATs. The smallest speaker by some way and thereby did not go as low as the Cube 1s but otherwise very nice and musical, fast, detailed an excellent small speaker. After a couple of tracks, I suggested to move the speakers away from the rear walls (over 1 ft) and this allowed the sound to bloom and become more expansive - very nice.

Following on, the Elac 510s (spot on with the drivers Paul) again away from the rear walls (large rear ports). I would agree they are brightly light, fast and detailed. Chris commented they might get fatiguing over extended listening and most commented they were very forward in their presentation (almost analytical). I have always regarded them as exciting and engaging and have not found them fatiguing but they suit my listening preference, which leads nicely to a different interpretation.....

The ProAcs. Easy to listen too, musical, laid back but not very exciting after the Elac's and I found I was missing oomph from the tweeter in particular.

So far all of the speakers heard were very obviously of high standard, with sometimes obvious strengths and weaknesses (except the Cube 1s).

Then we got the Harbeths :shock: (I really wanted to hear these). They sounded as though Paul had replica recordings where the musical instruments were full of wadding and the singer's mouths full of cotton wool; Trevor and I looked somewhat incredulous with a "where has the music gone" looks on our faces. Chris I think made the comment about the TVs - very apt. (sorry Paul :oops: ).

The Cube 3s - surprise surprise sounded just like the Cube 1s little brother. A very positive impression after the Harbeths. However, substituting the Cube 1s, I thought made the music sound effortless - a worthy improvement.

Overall, 2 key take homes for me (and these have occurred to me as I have ruminated post bake-off).

1) Paul's digital system sounded superb, I have never heard better. It has shown me that I am way behind the times and may need to consider a revamp (Paul - could I pick your brains on this?).
2) Semi-omni vs directional. After listening to directional speakers for nearly 40 yrs, semi-omnis are a bit of a shock. The way I'm trying to process this - the lack of a directional quality leaves you feeling there is something missing but when listen and analyse the sound - there is nothing missing! It is, somewhat disconcerting and very intriguing........ :think: :think:

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