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... Keith Jarrett, The Köln Concert, ECM/Universal Music Japan, UCCE-9011, gold CD; Leszek Możdżer, Komeda, ACT Music + Vision, ACT 9516-2, CD; Lisa Ekdahl, Give Me That Slow Knowing Smile, RCA/Sony Music, 46663-2, Opendisc;  Madeleine Peyroux, Standing On The Rooftop, EmArcy/Pennywell Productions [Japan], UCCU-1335, CD;  Miles Davis, Seven Steps To Heaven, Columbia/Sony Music/Analogue Productions, CAPJ-8851, SA, SACD; Pat Martino, East!, Prestige/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2018, SACD/CD; Project by Jarré, Geometry Of Love, Aero Prod, 4606932, CD; Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends, Columbia/Sony Music Japan International, SICP 1484, CD;  Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto, Verve, 24/96 FLAC; The Doors, The Doors, Elektra Records/Warner Music Japan, WPCR-12716, CD.

Reviewing audio equipment involves judgment calls. Sure one must verify the operating parameters of a component under review but the final outcome is mostly based on what we hear since measurements even when properly conducted can't tell us everything about the sound. That's why most people don’t consider audio reviews to be completely objective. I think that's basically true. Nothing is 100% objective, not even measurements. One can always question technique, methodology, interpretation and so forth. From my experience one gains more information—importantly more precise information—from listening than from plain dry measurements. To make myself clear I'm not against measurements per se. They are a basic tool for acoustic modeling. But that tool must go hand in hand with listening. In a perfect scenario measurements support/explain the listening impressions. It doesn't happen too often but when it does the final conclusion is far more credible than when it comes exclusively from listening sessions or measurements.

Hence I was really happy and grateful to John Atkinson who took the measurements of the M40.1 for Stereophile’s review by Art Dudley. Those confirmed most of my own subjective impressions though to be honest there were some things I heard which were not reflected in those measurements. While I try not to do this in my reviews, I must start by disagreeing with some of the things Art wrote. Here you need to know that he is one of my favorite Stereophile reviewers. I usually start reading this magazine with his Listening column. The point is that from my sessions I concluded that the Harbeth has stronger bass especially at the very low end and that it has slightly less extended though very sweet treble. Oh and I could hear that the upper midrange was slightly rolled off. I'm not going to claim that Art Dudley was wrong. I simply assume that in his system, in his room and based on his particular expectations these elements were not as important to him as they were for me.

To properly understand what Harbeth's top monitors are, you need to envision what appears to be the typical loudspeaker sound, then turn that on its head because the M40.1 doesn’t sound like any other speaker I know. The nearest competitor is not even another dynamic loudspeaker but rather a magnetostat like Magnepan models 3.7 and 20.1. It is a somewhat similar sound then - very rich and saturated. Its tonal qualities are of course very important but the key feature is how the Harbeths energize the air around them as they play the music.

Almost all other loudspeakers create their soundstage in front of them, between them or behind them by casting several sound spots or sources of sound which our mind then connects into the big picture. The soundstage can be deeper or wider depending on the performance of the whole system but the sound is always presented as a series of ‘point-sound’ sources which together create the total image.

Harbeth speakers and Magnepans for that matter create sound in a quite different way. The energy is transmitted not only towards the listener but in every direction. That creates an effect where the sound arriving at the listener comes not just from the speakers but from many different directions. The listener is surrounded which is more or less how it also is during a live concert. And it is not just about space. It is about how the energy dispersed by the speakers propagates through the listening room. The Harbeths surround you with sound and don’t merely dispatch it from some small spots somewhere in front of you.