To Doug Schneider,

I read with interest most of what you write and I’m learning quite a bit about hi-fi through your knowledge. I’m looking to improve my sound system, but can’t change things all at once. I’ve decided to start with my speakers.

I currently own PSB Image T6es and have been asking around some hi-fi stores around my city (Montreal) about what suggestions they may have. I then turn around and read up before I go audition them.

Two names keep coming up: Harbeth and Revel. When I ask salespeople to describe the differences, I get, “They both sound really good and have great timbral control.” This is all very well, but they can’t go any further in their explanations. So, I’m turning to you for an opinion.

If you were to choose, in terms of timbral quality and, more generally, in terms of neutrality, how would you compare, generally speaking, the sound put out by Revel and Harbeth? Where are they similar and where do they differ?

Thanks for your time and attention.

Yvon P.

Those are two good brands that are definitely worth considering, but I’m really surprised the salespeople can’t tell you more than what they have. The speakers each company makes are more different than alike, not only in the way they sound, but in the way they look, though it’s probably the former you’re most interested in having my opinion on.

The Harbeths I have heard and reviewed have had a balanced sound overall, so you could say they’re reasonably neutral from top to bottom -- they’re certainly not unnatural sounding at all. In fact, quite the opposite. However, I’ve found them to be a little warmer sounding than most speakers I like, somewhat loose in the bass, and a touch forgiving up top. I have found their designs have consistently had a pleasing and engaging sound, particularly through the midrange, which I know many like, but I wouldn’t call them highly resolving or ruthlessly accurate. In sum, Harbeth speakers consistently have a good sound, but a bit of an old-school one, which is in line with their looks.

On the other hand, Revel’s speakers have modern looks and are always neutral, highly resolving, and extremely accurate, right across the audioband. I also find their speakers’ bass performance to be tighter and their highs to be airier and cleaner than the Harbeth models I have heard. If you want the best examples of what the company produces for reasonable prices, check out the F208 and F206 models, which are in the Performa3 series. They retail in the United States for $5000 and $3500 per pair, respectively. Roger Kanno reviewed the F208 and I reviewed the F206. The main difference is that the F208 can play deeper in the bass. Both of us still marvel at how refined and sophisticated they sound for their prices. In fact, I would put the F206 up against speakers costing $10,000 per pair or more, and I’m sure Roger would do the same with the F208.

So, yes, both “sound really good” and I guess you can say they have great “timbral control,” though I’m not completely sure what the latter means. Regardless, I hope that I provided you with a little more information than what the salespeople did. . . . Doug Schneider