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View Full Version : The change from M30 to SHL5



Double D
23-06-2012, 01:18 AM
Well, as the saying goes, the only thing better than a Harbeth, is ??? another Harbeth !, and so with that in mind, today I pulled the trigger on a beautiful pair of SHL5's in Rosewood. These will be arriving on Sunday afternoon. So.. why the switch from my M30 to SHL5 ? and why did I decide to not wait for M30.1 to arrive at my dealer ?

Well, it breaks down like this. I had been listening to SHL5 on a few occasions, and something which is rather difficult to put into words, but "something" just told me that the tonality of piano via the SHL5 sounded "truer" to me. Also, voices had a bit more body as well. Also the bit of extra weight in the bass versus M30 was something that was on my list.
I would have loved to pursue M40.1, but concern for my enjoyment of them interfering with my neighbours led me to shelve that idea, that plus I don't really think my room would favour M40.1 very well, despite listening in a quasi near field situation.

So, this brought me back to my consideration of waiting on the new 30.1 .. but - and I thank Alan for being patient with my poking in another thread for more info - despite what no doubt will be another exceptional evolution of the Harbeth line, it will still be of the same physicality that my existing M30 is, and therefore wouldn't have put me where I wanted to be, despite the gains I'm sure it will bring to the M30 concept.

This brought me round to SHL5 again. It embodies all that I value in the Harbeth brand, the lucid tonality, the "speaking in one voice" which Alan has just covered off in another thread regarding the marriage between drivers and the crossover (this is a key value to me, as I've spent many years with electrostats .. and once you get that "one voice" aspect branded into your head, it leads you away from MANY other traditional cone driver type speakers). It also will physically be just "right" in my space.

So, SHL5 it is, and as with any Harbeth it is a coming home of sorts, a return to something I had forgotten, but was part of my audio DNA. I grew up with classic BBC monitors around me, I owned and loved Rogers Studio 1's and Mission770s (the good variant !.. that speaker had more changes than a runway model ! hehehe) and a lovely charming pair of Keesonic Kubs (which I still have in a cupboard.. can't bear to part with them.. they were my first "serious" speaker), my one audio friend had HL1MkIII's and another had KEF104ab's and despite the parade of speakers that I have owned over the last 30 years, I never felt quite the same connection and enjoyment of music as I have with the M30 over the last couple of years, so the purchase of SHL5 is a final yet subtle refinement, and acknowledgement that I have recognized the quality in sound that I've been seeking all these years and should probably not drifted away from in the first place.

I will post some further thoughts after things get settled in. I know more than one query has been posted in the past about those considering a switch from one Harbeth to a different model, well I guess I'll be able to post a few thoughts, at least as far as how it works out for me.

DSRANCE
23-06-2012, 12:15 PM
Were there EVER any "good" Mission 770's? PLEASE excuse me, I'm being very cheeky here, but knew them all and sold plenty and do appreciate a good pair of series ones and twos were good as long as the tweeter was held in check :-)

I've recently had the extreme pleasure of comparing the LS5/9 with the M30 (similar but the M30s Harbeth RADIAL shines through) and then the M30 with the SHL5. I think I totally agree with what you're saying, as the smaller cabinets do slightly curtail the bass extension, which may be a good thing for some rooms I reckon. For me as a general "rock music" lover, albeit at very modest volumes these days, the SHL5 with its extra half to one octave of bass extension, just seems to "flow" more convincingly at modest volume levels, which I believe to be part of the design brief for the "voicing" of this speaker.

To me, all current Harbeths sound similar and the main difference is in the cabinet size and subsequent room-interaction - I love them all and deeply respect the care and "love & dedication" that went into them, if you see what I mean by my clumsy terms.

By the way, the 40.1 isn't necessarily "better" than the SHL5. You gain some and lose a little too in my opinion. The "size" of the presented soundfield is superb when properly driven, but the midrange on the SHL5 just gains a tiny bit for me, maybe (and it's purely speculation, so sincere and respectful apologies if due) because there's no crossover down there to split the output between the bass-lower mid and upper-mid? drivers. Given the room and funds, I'd have some 40.1's like a shot though, but they do like plenty of clean power, go pretty loud effotlessly and a well respected vintage 175WPC pro amp of yore was happily blinking its clipping lights at what didn't seem like high volume - until we went back to the SHL5's ;)

Nah, you enjoy the SHL5's. great to know that the BBC Legacy is being developed forward so well without deviating from the strengths of former models from the 1970's

Double D
24-06-2012, 03:10 AM
Yes DSRANCE.. there were a "few" good 770's.. laff, mine were Series 2 with the tweeter mounted higher on the baffle and larger dustcap on the woofer, but I digress, and this isn't the place to discuss vintage speakers. But I know exactly what you mean, it seemed that pretty much every pair was slightly different.

So, in a twist of fate, we decided to pick up my new SHL5's today, as scheduling permitted re-arranging some plans. So, after some listening here at home, I'm convinced I've made the right choice in switching over to SHL5, and largely for all the reasons you've highlighted DSRANCE.

I suppose M30 has a special quality with the way it manages voice, that much is VERY true, it is perhaps ever so slightly more articulate, but we're talking differences that are small, not major. Nevertheless, the family sound is still here, and either speaker are simply brilliant in the conveyance of music.

One thing struck me rather surprisingly was the ability of the SHL5 to float along with the ebb and flow of subtle dynamic changes within the context of the music, both large and small scale it seems are better served here. This was something I really wasn't perhaps expecting, but hey.. I'm not complaining ! So, overall I'm smitten, it was - for me at least - the right thing to do.

Ok.. off to listen a bit more, then time for some sleep. Thanks Alan !

DSRANCE
24-06-2012, 12:55 PM
You've got it :)

Just experiment with positioning a little as the extra bass extension will determine a slightly different final position I think, then kick back and enjoy the music.

You know, some audio manufacturers just don't get this. It's the MUSIC that really counts here and, since no HiFi system can ever be truly "accurate" - the speaker-room interface especially, my current view is for the playback system is for the listener to be able to "suspend disbelief" as much as possible. THIS is the secret of Harbeths and the best examples of their distant cousins over the decades and even the original HL models do this if they've been cared for.

Oh yikes, I'm sounding like an arch fan-boy here, but the continued success of this brand and the fact that so few Harbeths ever seem to find their way onto the used market must say something good for them?