Small speaker shootout - KEF, Harbeth and Neat

Further to recent threads on comparisons between KEF, Harbeth and Neat, I tried KEF LS50 against Harbeth P3esr (Already own) and Neat Petite SX. 


Partnering kit is a DAC/282/250/Hicap DR. 


I found the Neats the least interesting. I knew from first listen that they weren't as good as the other two. They didn't do anything wrong, they were fine - nice and detailed, vocals were good and they had a good balance overall. But, bass sounded a bit boxy and uncontrolled and the weren't the most revealing speaker I have heard. My P3ESR sounded much better.


When switching to LS50 there's an instant upgrade in the listening experience, compared to the Neats. Bass goes deeper, elements are articulated better and there's more detail. They also do really well to create a more convincing soundstage. Overall they sound like a much higher quality speaker and are quite remarkable for their size. If I had any criticism it would be the in my small room with neighbours above and below, I have to watch the bass as they are quite 'large' sounding.


Trying them against the Harbeth P3ESR, it's tough to say which I prefer. I really like both and will probably keep both. The LS50 have a deeper bass and more separation, whereas the P3ESR have a lighter but very articulate sound. The Harbeths have a bit more presence and sparkle too, although the LS50 are more immersive and 3d sounding. 


I have tried other models too, such as Proac, B&W, PMC but didn't like their sound as much as the above. 


Has anyone tried the KEF LS50 and the Harbeth P3ESR? The LS50 are not run in yet, so hard to judge properly at this stage. Did anyone try these and opt for something else? 


Original Post

I have a friend who had a demo of the KEF LS50 and the Sonus faber Toys monitor, he much prefered the later and he is about to order them.

I listened myself to the LS50 with a Qute and thought they were pretty good.

I need to demo the Toys monitor now!



I am demoing the LS50 on Saturday along with the Kef R300, which use a similar Kef uniq driver. I have heard the R300 before and was very impressed at their sound quality producing a broad 3d soundstage. I would love to hear the Harbeth but no dealer close to where I live.
Originally Posted by Jonn:

Are the Harbeths nearly twice the price of the KEFs? In which case the KEFs appear to be good value.

Yes, they are good value and this is partly attributed to them being a mass produced item. I think they are essentially in the same league but with Harbeth you pay for the handmade approach, nice wooden cabinet and the premium for a smaller operation? 

Nice, keep us posted!
Originally Posted by maze:
I am demoing the LS50 on Saturday along with the Kef R300, which use a similar Kef uniq driver. I have heard the R300 before and was very impressed at their sound quality producing a broad 3d soundstage. I would love to hear the Harbeth but no dealer close to where I live.

The LS50 are game changers. I haven't heard them, but I've talked to many folks and they were amazed at how good they were and ended up buying them. They are being partnered, in many cases, with way more expensive equipment. KEF really did a fantastic job with them. A good example of engineering and design. For sure, they will sell in large numbers.

Jumped back to the Harbeths tonight... wow, they are good. 


They do seem to have a bit more control and even balance to the sound, whereas the KEFs are much more bold and dynamic. Tonally, there's not much between them, although the Harbeths are probably more natural sounding. 


The trial continues...

Hi Audiokid, All

With Audiokid's permission, may I extend the scope of this thread slightly?  If not, I'll start a new one.


Very interested to read of this comparison, as I'm starting a new music system for the study.

While the main system is a classic LP and CD system, this one will be different, an experiment if you will.


At its heart will be a DAC-V1 + my freshly serviced 140 power amp.  The source is a Synology NAS drive, full of CDs ripped using dBpoweramp and AIFF codec, feeding the DAC-V1 via either a windows XP computer or a 2012 mac mini (I have both).


The speakers will complete the NAS-computer-DACV1-140 system and be wall mounted above the study desk, either side of the 24" computer screen.  They therefore must work well close to a boundary (being wall mounted) and should be in the £500-1000 price range.  For obvious reasons, floor standers would not be appropriate, which rules out a pair of used SBLs, IBLs, Allaes etc..


The KEF LS50 seems to be the speaker of the moment, though is rear ported so may be unhappy with wall mounting?  Harbeth make great speakers but do they work close to a wall?  Neat Iota would also be an obvious choice at circa £650 with rave reviews to match.  Rega RS1 is another possibility but is rear ported and a little on the large side.


As there must be many other forum members who are looking to do something similar for an office/study system, any views or insights would be appreciated.  Note that I'm not going for a Unitiqute (another obvious system choice), as the Qute is for the dining room.  It is a DAC-V1 for the study.


Best regards, FT

Foot tapper,


This should gives you an idea how Harbeths will work in very close field environment. It has recently become the audio standard for UK's National Film & Television School.



The smaller P3esR should work happily close to a wall since it is a sealed box design.

However, larger Harbeths are recommended to place some distance from walls to sound best.






Listened to the LS50 and the R300 today. The LS50 are a lovely listen and the mid and treble are very similar to the R300, similar uni q drive, but the R300 just had the edge in the bass for me. The LS50 seemed to have too much bass for the cabinet size and came over as bloated, the R300 being more controled and cohesive so I have a pair of R300's on home dem to try out for a week or so. Both speakers are able to give true hollow graphic 3d imaging. It's also very easy to hear the strands of players playing together, like when a sax and trumpet are playing the same rif, very easy to follow either instrument. Ditto with vocals, especially multi tracked vocals you can tell how many times the vocal has been multi tracked. The 300's are also a very weighty speaker for their size and look great in gloss black. I need to do a bit more fettling to get more out of them, but I do like what I hear so far.
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