March
2022

Country of Origin

Canada

C7 L1

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Sonnet Pasithea, Soundaware D30Ref SD card transport & USB bridge; Preamp: icOn 4Pro w. 80Hz hi/lo-pass filter; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, Enleum AMP-23R; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport; DAC: Denafrips Terminator +; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro SE w. 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Goldmund Job 225; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dynaudio 18S sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: COS Engineering H1; Headphones: Final D-8000; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 120
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl SD-9 transport; DAC: iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Simon Audio; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: starting at €3'450/pr, built to order in Canada

If Popeye were Canadian, he would have never swallowed watery spinach. Instead he would have gotten reared on properly macho Harbottle juice. Gulp. That's because wherever dreams of big and brawny, loud and low go pegging subwooferian lust meters in the Great White North, Harbottle Audio Co. want to be your final destination. The picture of their photoshoot makes the point. The smallest these guys allow themselves to get is 18 inches. The bigger sub goes to a 24" woofer; all of their own making [see woofer motor in overlay below]. This clearly is a case of the dragstrip lads having gotten deep-bass audio religion, then deeply busy with rolling their own.

There's no replacement for displacement. For these men alas, ultra-low distortion rules in parallel. It's so not about noise, grime and dirt but squeaky-clean performance. Drag strip meets lab might be the elevator pitch.

As my news announcement in early March 2022 put it then, "the Canadian subwoofer firm just added their first monitor. The ported C7 comes in three performance levels relative to Solen/Mills, Mundorf or Duelund xover parts. It's always a 7-inch 2-way with 22mm tweeter in a chamfered then trapezoidal carbon/baltic-birch composite cab with Furutech posts [raw Ply cabinet prior to carbon lam at left]. The tweeter orientation can be ordered to face left/right or centered. Specs are 47Hz to 20kHz bandwidth ±2.5dB, 87dB sensitivity, 8Ω impedance, dimensions of 44x30x22cm HxWxD and 9kg of weight."

A few days later the firm's Cody Hiebert solicited this review. In keeping with his self-deprecating credo—"we suck at marketing but are OCD about building the very best products possible"—I hadn't any inkling of driver/filter specifics. The site just then furnished no such goodies. So the name drops of Mundorf and Duelund had to do the heavy cred lifting. Agreeing to this gig, I'd learn more soon enough. And extrapolating from their existing subwoofers, Harbottle's 'corporate' culture seemed clear enough: take no prisoners on parts or build quality. Hitting up a currency converter, the day's C$ value made the base price €3'450/pr, level 2 €5'755/pr. Pricing for level 3 didn't come up yet.

Regardless, the Harbottle site already was very specific about a +6-year R&D cycle having preceded the release of today's carbon-laminated monitor speaker with down-firing port. Considering origins from a firm clearly obsessed with very low loud bass which is extra tough on cabinetry, what type of sonic profile would the C7 cut in a classic 2-channel music not home-theater environment? Considering this review's origins—we'd been solicited for it after all—clearly this Canadian team were keen on letting our readership know. Mad Max or Sense & Sensibility? Then there was this: "Our black satin carbon finish is getting colorized. This is a custom option that will make your speaker pop." Complete domestication was thus part of the C7's project brief. Learning more meant asking Cody for the skinny. Since this was the first Harbottle sighting in our pages, I asked for brief company history, the connection with Nathan Funk of Canada's Funk Audio, then driver, filter, port tuning and other specifics of today's speaker. I also requested a few shots of his shop, men at work, raw drivers and such.

"I started in audio as a business consultant. I have a skill for finding processes that leak time, money or both then fixing them. At the time I was a welder/fabricator for a yacht company. The machinist and a welder noticed that I was good at creative problem solving of work-flow issues at the welding shop. The machinist asked for help and hired me to consult on his business. Through him I met Nathan at then Funky Waves Audio. Nathan saw what I did with his brother in the law business and eventually hired me to help his company. I started by pitching a renaming to Funk Audio and discovered that he really knew audio.

"As a drummer I had a keen ear for tuning by ear and knew what music should sound like. Nathan made things that sounded like a real band. He taught me everything I know as a way of helping him grow the business into an entity that suits the skill set first, market share second. After getting fired from the welding shop because I wasn't an asset, getting married then trying some of my own speaker designs, my wife Caitlyn [left] suggested that I start my own company. An opportunity presented and Harbottle was born after her family name. She was the inspiration behind the C7 [C72 L1 at right]. She has a natural ability to hear very well and express it in terms that are more organic and meaningful. You have no idea how much that helps R&D when the minutiae is removed and facts remain.

"We began by selling raw subwoofer drivers of our own design to EU OEM. Eventually my idea of a carbon-fiber speaker was born as a massive 24" sub. As I have grown in designing, I've developed my own personality in how I feel speakers should behave. This is largely because of Caitlyn. Her intuition is correct in a way that is more connected to the experience rather than measurements. So all of our speakers are designed to be squeaky clean down low and present a unified front in performing better up to the limits of their drivers. This means that the customer gets every last scrap of quality audio the speaker is capable of in a unified and consistent presentation.

"The connection with Nathan is odd. We started off as a hired service to help his company, became friends then mentor/mentee and now are a hybrid of all of those things. Sometimes I teach Nathan about audio or business, sometimes it's the other way around. At other times we talk about trucks, camping and working out. We use each other as a collective pool of information and support where the other has weaknesses. From there we treat each other as divorced partners. All of our product comes out of the same shop. It's all made by the same people. The difference is that we design differently to maintain our own companies and clients. Funk and Harbottle are not interchangeable entities. For example I design speakers very different than Nathan does because I like a nicer critical-listening speaker with better imaging and soundstaging, then push its dynamic envelope so all components approach their limits together in unison. Nathan does the exact opposite. Good dynamics and output ability come first, then he addresses imaging. The end results are very close, with just the right amount of bias towards the sound character we each prefer."