"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound from microphone to ear, achievable by recognising and controlling the numerous confounding variables that exist along the audio chain. The Harbeth designer's objective is to make loudspeakers that contribute little of themselves to the music passing through them.

Identifying system components for their sonic neutrality should logically proceed from the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance. Deviations from a flat frequency response at any point along the signal chain from microphone to ear is likely to give an audible sonic personality to the system at your ear; this includes the significant contribution of the listening room itself. To accurately reproduce the recorded sound as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would be best advised to select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

For example, the design of and interaction between the hifi amplifier and its speaker load can and will alter the sound balance of what you hear. This may or may not be what you wish to achieve, but any deviation from a flat response is a step away from a truly neutral system. HUG has extensively discussed amplifiers and the methods for seeking the most objectively neutral among a plethora of product choices.

HUG specialises in making complex technical matters simple to understand, getting at the repeatable facts in a post-truth environment where objectivity is increasingly ridiculed. With our heritage of natural sound and pragmatic design, HUG is not the best place to discuss non-Harbeth audio components selected, knowingly or not, to introduce a significantly personalised system sound. For that you should do your own research and above all, make the effort to visit an Authorised Dealer and listen to your music at your loudness on your loudspeakers through the various offerings there. There is really no on-line substitute for time invested in a dealer's showroom because 'tuning' your system to taste is such a highly personal matter. Our overall objective here is to empower readers to make the factually best procurement decisions in the interests of lifelike music at home.

Please consider carefully how much you should rely upon and be influenced by the subjective opinions of strangers. Their hearing acuity and taste will be different to yours, as will be their motives and budget, their listening distance, loudness and room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you. Always keep in mind that without basic test equipment, subjective opinions will reign unchallenged. With test equipment, universal facts and truths are exposed.

If some of the science behind faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over Harbeth speakers is your thing, this forum has been helping with that since 2006. If you just want to share your opinions and photos with others then the unrelated Harbeth Speakers Facebook page may be for you. Either way, welcome to the world of Harbeth!"

Feb. 2018
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Harbeth M30.1 - A new entry in my life

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  • Harbeth M30.1 - A new entry in my life


    Music is part of life for most of us. For few, it also plays an important role in shaping their thoughts. For me, music has a major impact on my way of looking at the world and it will be always part of my journey.

    During my childhood, I was provided a daily time slot for listening to music and the audio equipment was an old Philips radio set. Around that same time (early 80s), there was a composer by name Ilaiyaraja who was becoming highly popular in the southern part of India and his songs occupied most of the time slot in the radio broadcast programs. So I grew up listening to his music on the old Philips radio set and developed a deep emotional connect. To put in simple words, his compositions are highly intimate.

    As time passed by, I had to replace the old audio system and set in search of a new one. Though I bought new audio systems, I was never impressed with the sound quality and I was struggling to find the right one. If someone is familiar with the music composed by Ilaiyaraja, he/she would have noticed the way guitar and bass guitar are beautifully used. Most of his compositions were heavily dominated by those instruments and I somehow missed them dearly while listening with the audio systems I bought.

    While I was in the search of a good audio system, I heard about Harbeth and curious about their claims on reproducing natural sound. I was concerned if those speakers could reproduce the bass guitar sound (in Ilaiyaraja's music) to my liking. I was missing that magic sound for a long and did not want to wait further. I immediately called Mr. Prithvi of Absolute Phase (Bangalore) for an audition. He arranged a superb audition for all the Harbeth speakers (except for M40.1/40.2). I took all the necessary CDs and the audition went for close to 4 hours.

    During the audition, I was looking for the evasive magic sound in Ilaiyaraja's songs and finally I got to the place which I was searching for years. Yes, all the Harbeth speakers not only produced the magic sound I was looking for, but also exceeded my expectations. I would simply say this - Listen to intimate music on Harbeth speakers only. I would like to say a big thanks to Mr.Prithvi and he never pushed me to buy the speakers from him. In fact, he was very generous to provide another round of audition for the next day as well. I was originally looking for C7ES3, but fell in love for the beautiful M30.1. For details on why I preferred M30.1, please refer this link:

    Impressed with M30.1, I placed the order and finally got it a couple of days back. The last 2 days with my new M30.1 was absolutely terrific and enjoyed every moment. I am getting the same emotional connect that I had during my childhood and it is a wonderful experience. To describe the sound I hear from M30.1 - Great clarity with loads to details, highly smooth and cohesive, and fatigue-free. As of now, I am sitting just 2 to 3 feet away from the speakers and they are fully toed in. In the past, when I did the same with my old speakers (while trying to hear the magic sound), I got ear fatigue. After that, I never had the courage to sit very close to the speakers until the arrival of M30.1. Sitting that close to M30.1 and listening to music means attaining Nirvana. I think Alan Shaw is not only a businessman, but also a very passionate guy in what he is doing and that is how he is able to produce highly intimate speakers. Thanks to him and his entire staff at Harbeth.

    For me, Harbeth has done its job for me and my job starts now in getting my room acoustics corrected for making the best out of M30.1. My Best wishes to Harbeth for many more success to come.

  • #2

    I need some clarification based on a couple of observations I have made :-

    1. For the first 2 days, the speakers were little shy in the low/mid bass department. After that, the bass performance started improving a lot and I can hear a significant difference now. Of course, the bass lines are crystal clear and the mid-range does not get muddled. In the FAQ section, it is stated that the resin-doped cloth suspension (that centres the neck of the radial cone) will undergo some sort of 'burning-in' and get settled in within the first few hours of playing music. Am I hearing the difference due to this ?

    NOTE: It must be noted that my seating position was always at 3 feet away from the speakers for the first 3 to 4 days and it was during this time when I started seeing the gradual improvement in the bass department. I guess the speakers are well settled now.

    2. After the speakers got settled, I went for some experimentation on the speaker placement and the seating position. When I sit at 3 feet away from the speakers, the low frequency energy is mild. This seating point is also the middle of the room. As I move my seating point away from the speakers (and getting closer to the rear wall), the low frequency energy becomes strong. I have read that the low frequency frequency energy is less in the mid point of the room. Is that the mid point between the front and rear wall ? Or is that the mid point between the speakers and the rear wall ?


    • #3
      Room modes

      As for the room interaction, well this looks like room modes. They are at the resonant frequencies of the room's dimensions, and they produce big peaks and dips in bass response, much bigger than other deviations from a flat response, seriously degrading sound quality. Google 'room modes'.

      The result is different for different locations in the room. The problem is bigger the smaller the room and the lower the speaker goes. Harbeth speakers are relatively good in this respect, but not immune.

      Predicting room modes precisely is difficult if not impossible, but you can measure in room response with a program called REW. In practice, what you can do is experiment with speaker placement, reduce low frequency output with tone controls on your amplifier, or use dsp room equalization with units like the DSpeaker Antimode dual core.


      • #4
        My marvellous mids on M30.1

        Thanks willem for your reply. It was informative for me.

        After spending more than a month with M30.1, I am getting more and more attached to the music. I wanted to share few thoughts on the sound of M30.1. We all know how great the Harbeths are when it comes to mid-range. How does M30.1 perform in the upper/lower frequency range ? My ears are very sensitive in the treble region and always had problem listening to music which is bright and forward. With M30.1, the surprise is that the treble is ultra smooth and I never missed the details. I guess it is the combination of the soft domed tweeter and the crossover circuit. I would say the higher frequency presentation with the M30.1 is so natural and realistic rather than being bright and forward.

        Having said that, I cannot stop myself from praising about the vocal/voice presentation. Most of the tracks I listen are vocal based. The singer's voice is a delight to listen with M30.1. Rather than believing me blindly, one should actually go and listen the vocals on M30.1. The voice is so organic and you feel that the singer is in front of you. I never experienced this with my other speakers.

        For any speaker, I try to see how it performs in the vocals, lower mid-range and upper bass. As I said, M30.1 does an outstanding job in the vocals. How about the lower mid-range and upper bass ? Again, it is outstanding. With M30.1, the music is not robbed of body or warmth in the lower mid-range. One can feel how hard the percussion instruments are struck by the musicians.

        Most of the tracks that I listen employ Indian based membranophone percussion instruments like Tabla, Mridangam, Khol, etc.. All those instruments sound with lot of body behind it and they sound very much realistic. For example, Tabla is a hand drum and I have listened to it in few concerts and so I know how they sound in live. The Tabla sounds so organic on M30.1 and I can really feel the way the musician is hitting it.

        I heard many talking about the bass performance in M30.1. I would say it never lacked in the upper bass department. It is very tight, clean and never lacked in the amplitude as well. The kick drums sound so clean on M30.1 and it has lot of energy/body behind it. To put in other words, it has dynamics and superb timing. Let me try to describe my observation about the mid bass sound in M30.1. There is some sound signature attached to the mid bass produced by M30.1 and I find it very different from the way other speakers reproduce. Does that sound signature look bad ? Certainly, not. This typical sound signature is very pleasant to my ears and I just find it very different from others. Is that something to do with the thin walled cabinet ? Do other users of M30.1 also observe the same ? When It comes of lower bass, I can still hear it with reduced amplitude.

        I am not a bass head and so I do not see this as an issue at all in the very first place. At the same time, I would say the mid and upper bass performance is too good to ignore a speaker like M30.1.


        • #5
          Lovely compromise

          What I love about 30.1's is that although the bass extension may not be as 'weighty' as it is in the bigger models, it seems to roll off more gently than you'd think (subjective judgement) so very deep bass notes are still reproduced, just slightly lower in level than with say, SHL5's. For me in the UK, a lovely compromise I think.


          • #6
            Natural, non-fatiguing sound

            I am also the happy owner of a pair of M30.1.

            What attracted me was the naturalness of the sound I heard from them. Not fatiguing, not bass heavy, nothing. Just natural sound.

            Before the M30.1’s, I had a pair of speakers from a UK brand famous for their transmission line designs. I thought they sounded OK and I was moderately happy with them.

            One day I came across a new pair of M30.1’s. I asked my dealer for a home demonstration. Needless to say, they never returned to the shop. I bought them.

            Of all the positive aspects the Harbeth’s had in comparison with my previous speakers, the most important one was my wife telling me that with the M30.1 she did not mind listening to music at home, because it was not irritating or fatiguing anymore, as it was before.


            • #7
              Regaining my musical emotion

              I've had my M30.1's for a week now. They've replaced an old pair of C7ES's. For those in need of guidance about replacing either their old Harbeths or other manufacturers speakers I offer this.

              Listen to them in your own home, as I was fortunate to do (courtesy of a fantastic dealer - Guildford Audio). For no dealer's listening room will let you know how they will sound in your own home, or how they compare to your existing speakers. After a week of listening to a loan pair, it was not a difficult decision to take.

              These things are amazing, just absolutely mind blowing. In the user manual, it talks of a "curtain of sound". That's just what they sound like, a curtain of highly detailed & crystal clear 3D sound.

              I won't bore you with all the usual hifi magazine clichés. There're not cheap, but they cost an awful lot less than many other high end brands offerings. But for me, you just can't put a price on re-gaining that emotional connection to music you felt the first time you got into it. And that's what the M30.1's have done for me.


              • #8
                Another Harbeth investment?

                Reading these comments is making me a tad jealous! When I bought my beloved little P3ESR's it was a toss-up between those and the 30.1's. A combination of price and worries over bass boom made me settle on the P3ESR's, which do sound gorgeous coupled with a very low volume sub.

                If I do ever invest in more Harbeths, it'll be the 30.1's, which to me seem to be the natural upgrade for a small-medium-sized listening room.