Uniti Atom - not enough punch. Is it my Harbeths?

I may be crazy but I just can’t get settled with the combination of Harbeth 30.1s and my Uniti Atom. There’s just not enough punch - i.e. dynamics and bass definition. Just for fun I connected the Atom as a preamp to my 1979 Marantz receiver (30 watts) and there was the punch I’d been missing. Not particularly refined punch, but punch nonetheless.

So chicken or egg? Are the Harbeths too polite for the music I like (Classic Rock, Soul, 50s Jazz)? Do they need more power than the Atom can provide? Or is this just a bad sonic pairing? I’m not sure if I need to look for better suited speakers or a higher-powered amp/streamer combo.

I should also mention that I’m in a small condominium but the speakers shoot the length of the unit, not the width. My listening chair is about 3 metres (10 feet) from the speakers, but I have another 4 or 5 metres behind me. Ceiling is 2.7 metres (9 feet) and the width of the room is 3.4 metres (12 feet).

Help!

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I have used both 30.1 and 30.2 and they like power to really come alive, something like a 250DR. And your room is larger than mine. They sound good with less power but I wouldn’t describe it as punchy.

Your room is so much different than mine I can’t really recommend anything, I suggest talking to the dealer and try som demo-speakers at home. I have an Atom in my bedroom and dont find it lacking - but that is in a much smaller room and with long discontinued small Naim nSat speakers.

A user here (Slamdam) upgraded the 250DR to 300DR on the Harbeth SHL5+ and informed that the 300DR is the minimum requirement for the Harbeth. It’s another way of saying the speakers sounded poor with the 250DR.

The M30.1 / 30.2 are known to be even more difficult to drive than the SHL5+. If the Atom is less capable than the 250DR I would be inclined to think that the Atom is the culprit to the lacklustre sound you are getting from the Harbeth.

I think that the Harberts are not the easiest speakers to drive. They just need power to reveal their quality. The Naim Atom isn’t the right amp for them. A bigger Naim would be a better combination. I.m.h.o.

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You answered your own question really.
The punch was there when you added the Marantz receiver so that shows there’s a mismatch with the Atom.

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There might be two factors that come into play here:

  1. Sitting in the middle of the room, more or less, typically reduces bass response at the listening position
  2. If your speakers are power hungry, the Atom might not be capable enough to provide enough current

In my case (and in most cases for rectangular rooms) having your listening position at 38% from the front or back wall will provide the best listening position as most room nodes are cancelled.

With my Atom driving my Dynaudio loudspeakers I experienced the same as you described: a very nice coherent sound, but not the tightest bass delivery. I first added a NAP200 power amplifier. This did improve things, but not to the level I wanted. I then tried a Purifi based power amplifier from a friend and in my case that worked perfectly. Especially for bass punch and definition it was a quantum leap. So I decided to build my own Purifi power amp and I am very happy with my setup now. The ease of use and nice looks of the Atom combined with a really powerful and capable power amplifier (hidden in a cabinet).

Well for starters Harbeths are not punchy speakers per se, I think you’ve also got a classic system mismatch thing going on with the Atom and the Harbs, my thoughts would be to change speakers to something with better synergy or considerably upgrade your source and amplification

The Atom is an EXCELLENT source. The power amplifier might be the limiting factor here.

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Thanks to all for confirming my worst belief. I sometimes question if I’m an audiophile at all. I really don’t enjoy chasing down equipment for $$$$ in order to find the sound I expect. I just want a simple, high-quality experience.

Not wanting to go through the machinations of auditioning tons of equipment, I made what I suppose was an uneducated guess…audition and buy a top speaker and pair it with a similarly priced and highly reviewed source/amp. Of course none of my dealers sold both brands, so I took a flyer.

Now I’m back to the search. My decision will have to be to either keep the Atom for convenience/capability and find more dynamic speakers or keep the Harbeths and start another $$$$ journey into separates. Ugh. For me, this process isn’t the hobby - the music is the hobby.

Thanks to all for your wisdom. I wish it was easier to learn these things before laying out the cash!

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They are not the easiest to drive but their designer goes a long way to have a relatively constant impedance across the frequency range. Unless you want to get to above 95-100db the Atom should be fine. I would rather get your expecations right about the speaker you are using and what you are expecting.

Also maybe adding an active sub is an idea.

Hmmm. I get the plan. It seems reasonable. Honestly I’m not sure on the execution. You are pairing a source/amp combo with a pair of speakers that costs double. I don’t know if it’s power per se but I think you need a better amp. Cambridge makes a nice integrated/DAC combo for around 5K. You can sell atom and get inexpensive streamer like a node. The p3esr probably would be a better speaker match but I don’t know if they are going to give you the sound you want

Can you say a bit more about your speaker setup? How far are they from the front wall and side walls? You mention your room is only 3.4m wide. This means that your speakers should be around 2m apart tweeter to tweeter to get them from the side walls properly. Hence 3m is a bit too far away, try to get closer. Start with 2m and work with 10cm increments backwards by playing a track with a steady bass. Use this track over and over until you get what you feel is the punch you want.
Of course having half of the room behind ist not so good but you need to experiment.

Especially for the bass and the punch you really need to find the best distance from the speaker.

When changing the amp or the source it is sometimes necessary to make small adjustements, so it may be that your marantz had better sonic caracteristics all things beeing equal.

I really really suggest that you spend 2 or 3 hours on the setup. I am pretty sure your combination can work together brilliantly. Dont blame the components and do no try to change them before making sure your setup is the best you can do.

I think a pair of Focal 906 speakers on their right stands might bring the fun back, for not a huge amount of $$$s when compared with your Harbeths.

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Sorry to tell you this,but I just packed my harbeth m30.1 away, they were run with 282hcdr and 250 dr and the bass and punch were still lacking. The harbeths do some things very well but ultimately they are just too “ polite” and don’t dig down low enough. I switched to a pair of dynaudio confidence20’s. The bass (foundation) is suddenly there. Any sort of large scale music is also handled better , not as confused. I was aiming for the dynaudio Heritage Special, but these became available,used, for slightly less

You have some nice speakers! Dynaudio makes just incredible speakers! I love my contour 30s :metal::metal:

I’d love to know what you think of a Nova plugged in. And I totally empathize. Plus I don’t want lots of connections, wires and endless upgrades. I bought an Atom with Focal Chora 816s and have a Nova on order. Not because the Atom isn’t driving the Focals, but the Atom’s screen was weirding out and they wanted to replace it. I decided to step up just as I had the opportunity. But either is such a great solution. And I don’t know what an “audiophile” is but with Naim we are listening to crisp, wonderfully reproduced music.

My suggestion is to look for new speakers to replace the M30.1. In my experience and opinion, if you are staying with Naim you need NAP 300 as a minimum to wake the 30.1 up and make them sing. Benjy had confirmed that the 282/250DR is not enough for the 30.1. I too own the 282/250DR and this is the minimum requirement for the SHL5+ to my standard. There are others who regard the 300DR to be the minimum for the SHL5+. The M30 monitor series are more difficult to drive than the Harbeth domestic models and will sound lacklustre and dull if driven by underpowered amps.

Consider Proac, Dynaudio or speakers which are an easy load for your current Atom.

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Again, I think the Harbeths do some things remarkably well, but I don’t think any combination will get deep bass (I’m not talking floor-shaking) out of them. I think another speaker might be better suited to your desires. I’m a fan of Dynaudio’s despite this being the first I’ve owned and I went way further up their ladder than I had intended. I’ve still yet to hear the Heritage Special, and I’m still leery of a speaker that size having sufficient bass, but (if you can swing it) I’d certainly try to hear them and the contours are no slouch, and I’d even try for the evoke line. Not being an audiophile has nothing to do with finding the one right piece. I’m of an age, where I am trying to put together a final system , with no more up-grades. You might also want to check for speakers that would normally be a stretch as you don’t want to change later.

Dynaudio will be well suited Witt the atom …

New focal chord range sounded very good also

I know this is going to sound strange

I recently listened to a pair of Bryston mini T speakers (yes…they make speakers). $4K US…I thought they were wonderful. Large for “bookshelf” Nice sound on Charlie Haden double bass