You are reading the older HTML site

Positive Feedback ISSUE 48
march/april 2010


Our readers respond…we respond right back!

Send your comments to either or

Hi Jeff,
I have followed your speaker progression. What is the difference between the Avantgards, Harbeths and Tannoys? Are they all smooth and musical just better executed?


Hi Jeff,

Thanks for your message asking about my experiences with the Avantgarde Duos, Harbeth Monitor 40.1, and the Tannoy Westminster Royal Special Edition loudspeakers.

They really are three very good and very different loudspeakers, and I think they will appeal to different listeners based on an individuals needs and tastes.

For example, room size is an important consideration for these speakers to perform at their best: for a Westminster Royal SE to perform at its best you need a room that is at least as long as a 18 Hz half-wave (the West's bass extension), or about 30ft. For the Harbeth Monitor 40.1 to be at its best it needs to be in a fairly small room, reasonably close to the size of the standard BBC room of 3x4 meters, which is what it was optimized for, or its bass tends to become unbalanced and boomy. The Avantgarde Duo is more flexible due to its tunable bass module, so it can be optimized for a larger variety of rooms size-wise, but still it prefers a larger room to a smaller one like the Harbeth would be happiest in.

Then there is sensitivity and amplifier choice: The Avantgarde has > 100dB sensitivity, which means you can use any of the low power SETs with it of 1 watt or more and get adequate sound pressure levels for most people. Next is the Westminster which has a 99dB sensitivity, which I have found to work best with amplifiers of 5 watts or more, which excludes some of the smallest SETs like those based on 45 and 2A3 tubes. Then there is the Harbeth with 85 dB sensitivity, which means you must have more powerful amps to get adequate sound pressure levels. Even though the Harbeth has only 85 dB sensitivity it is a little misleading, as it is easier to drive than its sensitivity rating would suggest, but still for most listeners that means amps in the 30 - 40 watt range at a minimum.

Then there is the consideration of cost: the Harbeth is around $12K, the Avantgarde Duo is double that, and the Westminster is triple that.

Then there is the voicing of the loudspeaker, and which one is preferential will be largely a matter of a given listener's taste: the Harbeth sounds like a classic monitor, and when used as intended in a small room for near field listening it is evenly balanced, detailed, and tonally neutral but not fatiguing, assuming your associated electronics are not.

The Avantgarde is a bit tricky to integrate completely for a coherent sound because it uses two different technologies: two horn loaded drivers that are very fast and a powered bass module that isn't quite as fast. When optimized it can sound quite good, kind of like a highly sensitive Harbeth Monitor 40.1 perhaps, with a detailed, neutral, and very dynamic sound. Tonal balance will largely be dependent up associated equipment, which can range from warm and lush to cool and detailed depending on the equipment.

Then there's the Westminster, which uses a Dual Concentric driver that behaves essentially like a point source, making it by far the most coherent and balanced top to bottom of these three speakers. It is quite a different experience because of this than any multi-driver loudspeaker in my experience, and allows music to take on a level of naturalness of presentation that is unprecedented in my experience. The Westminster sounds big, and more like live music than the other two speakers, and presents a visceral experience that is unparalleled in my experience - it can quite literally rattle your ribs in your chest with certain music. The Westminster is unique in that you not only hear it, but you can also feel it over your entire body, even at moderate listening levels, which is something unique in my experience.

Which one do I prefer when optimized in a way that brings out the best of their performance? The Westminster by far. As listener after listener to my listening room have said, the Westminsters are really something special and are a couple of levels above either the Avantgarde or Harbeth in performance (or as my friend Chad puts it, the Westminsters are in a totally different league than the other two). But they should be considering the price differential, so at least in this case, you really do get what you pay for. Using the Stereophile rating system which places the Avantgarde and Harbeths in Class A, the Westminsters are simply off the rating scale above Class A.

As my friend Ron said after hearing the Westminsters, "Where do you go from here!" Well, for me, nowhere. I'm done on the speaker front. The Westminsters are the end of long journey through loudspeakers, and in them I've finally found 'my' perfect loudspeaker. I like everything about them, and can't imagine living without them. I hope I never have to.

Keep an eye out at Positive Feedback Online, the review of the Tannoy Westminster Royal Special Edition is almost done and should be appearing there in the next few weeks.



Nice to see W4S getting reviewed.

I have been extolling the virtues of the MC 250/500 driving my Maggie 3.6Rs on AAs MUG until I was blue in the face. I finally gave up and just enjoy my system, which includes the Raysonic 228—a worthy product to review—directly into a Behringer analog XO, eliminating the 3.6 stock passive XOs. Bass is handled by a SVS Ultra powered sub, positioned horizontally with woofer firing at the front wall, within 3". It is resting on a Harbor Freight mechanics floor creeper, which has 4" rubber wheels.   

If I may, another overlooked player is Clear Day Cables. He makes solid core silver ICs and speaker cables, absolute bargain products: an 8ft pair of double shotgun spkr cables is only $400, with 30 day money back guarantee.  

Robert Hart

Hi David,
IMO modifications to the excellent Sony XA5400ES player are a total waste of money if the HDMI output is used. [This is] especially [true] into the Sony receiver DA6400ES, H.A.T.S. enabled for lowest jitter, & receiver bi-amped. Provided the speakers are not a too-difficult load, the sound is just as good as from many so-called High End separates, especially for MCH SACD. The Sony receiver even has D.L. L. for improving the sound of early RB CD.

Best regards,

Gerald Bearman

Hello Gerald…

I haven't had any opportunity to hear, much less evaluate, the stock Sony XA5400ES/DA6400ES tandem…even less any modified version of the 5400. So I'm afraid that I can't comment either way on your point of view.

The 5400 does look like a feature-rich player at its price point, however.

All the best,


Hello, David Robinson,
I read your review of the Jena Labs guitar cable and bought one as a result.

It does sound a little richer and warmer, and maybe more even throughout the spectrum, than does my Phil Jones Bass cable, which is a very good cable (I play through the tiny Phil Jones Cub guitar amplifier). I was a little taken aback by the bulky Switchcraft plugs (these were not present in the photo I saw of the cable), but Jennifer gave me a thorough and rational explanation as to why she chose them (still, I'm thinking of sending them back to get a Neutrik silent plug installed on the guitar end).

I'm wondering if you ever tried the van den Hul guitar cable and/or the analysis plus guitar cables? I'm haunted by the thought that I might like these better than the Jena. The van den hul in particular seems to be universally liked by reviewers/players (of course, it's even more expensive than the Jena cable).


Peter Arnold

Hello Peter…

Sorry for the very tardy response, but home base has been very hectic in January for me.

Thanks for the comments. I'm glad that you were able to try the JENA Labs guitar cable; I love mine on all six of my guitars.

The plugs don't bother me at all, but everyone has their own feelings about such things. I'm more concerned about the sound, and like the JENA Labs guitar cable much better than any other I've heard. I'm not familiar with the Phil Jones cable, and haven't had an opportunity to try either the van den Hul or the Analysis Plus cables, so I can't comment on those.

Now, if van den Hul wants to send me two cables to try, that would be just fine with me…

Enjoy the ride!


The Higher End

About the "expectation of privacy" and those emails to Positive Feedback Online

Ye Olde Editor

We do like hearing from you, our readers. It adds a great deal fun to what we do, encourages our editors and writers, provides information we may have missed, and correction that we may need. This is all to the good.

Your communication with us these days is almost always via the highly rational path of email. And we do read it, responding to the constructive correspondence—which is most of it, really—as quickly as possible. (The destructive stuff is routed directly to the bit bucket. Didn't yo' mama teach you better than that?!) Dave Clark and I are generally pretty rapid in getting back to you if a response is needed from us, or in re-directing inquiries to the appropriate person at PFO if it needs to go to an editor or writer.

By the way: please understand that the writers and editors at PFO are helpful folks, eager to assist their fellow audio/music lovers, or they wouldn't be doing what they're doing. Nevertheless, PFO is not an audio consulting service. Please do not clog the gears with complex requests for assistance with the sourcing of audio gear in your personal setting. Remember too that PFO is not, and has never been, an audio ombudsman. If you are having problems with a particular vendor, company, or dealer, please avail yourself of the normal channels for such resolution; no audio publication has the time or resources to take on such a responsibility for consumers. Enough said.

With an increasing flow of emails to Positive Feedback Online, and upon evidence of some recent confusion on the part of our email correspondents, it's become necessary to re-state the ground rules by which we operate here. So gather round the campfire, friends…

Any time an email, or an exchange of emails, is both constructive and of potential wider interest, we exercise the reserved right to publish it in "Reverberations," the letters section of PFO. This is, after all, a publication, a "journal for the audio arts." We are seeking to further educate and entertain our readership in our common love for fine audio, and contributions in the form of emails/letters from our readers are one way that we accomplish this goal. When you write to any of us… our essayists and reviewers included… we assume that you are aware of our nature as a publication, and that you write to us in the light of that knowledge.

This means that—unless you request confidentiality explicitly in your email or letter—there is no expectation of privacy here at Positive Feedback Online.

To put it another way: Any email or letter sent to this journal will be considered fair game for publication, unless you state in the document itself that the contents are private/confidential.

So… our default is PUBLISH.

The reverse is also true: the editors do reserve the right not to publish an email or letter. We are not obligated to publish your letter or comments simply because they are submitted. And hostile, negative, sarcastic, destructive emails or letters are never published.

So…sometimes we DON'T PUBLISH.

Finally, our subtitle for "Reverberations"—"Our readers respond—we respond right back!" is not a guarantee that we will always respond to an email or letter that is published. Often we do; sometimes we don't… usually when we don't, it's a case of res ipsa loquitur.

So finally… sometimes we PUBLISH WITHOUT RESPONSE.

I think that makes things clear. Having said all of this in the name of clarity, keep those cards and letters coming in!

All the best,

David W. Robinson