"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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SHL5plus compared to 30.1

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  • SHL5plus compared to 30.1

    I will shortly be a Harbeth user – SHL5plus in rosewood ordered after auditioning alongside 30.1 at home. Some thoughts and observations, all IMHO, and in the context of my listening room.

    My listening space is roughly half of a 17.75ft x 10.75ft (5.4 x 3.3 metre) room; speakers 5ft apart on the long wall. Having decided 30.1 performed well in this situation, I felt I also had to listen to SHL5plus. I intended this speaker purchase to be my last.

    The SHL5plus is a large speaker for my small space, but Alan has written on HUG that he designs in small spaces. I live alone, so only me to consider the visual impact. On correct sized stands, 30.1 and SHL5plus are similar in height, and I decided I could prefer the additional area of rosewood veneer of the SHL5plus on a shorter stand, to the reduced HWD of the 30.1 on a taller stand. Existing speakers are floorstanders 940x240x270mm, 2-way, 8 inch bass/midrange, designed for close to wall placement.

    I started with the 30.1, thinking it likely be the most appropriate size for my room, but found the SHL5plus so good that I had to have it. With both speakers I may have been hearing a bit of bass bloom, but I’m prepared to work with that.

    While the qualities of both 30.1 and SHL5plus can be described in similar terms (more similarities than differences), I felt the perceived differences were more marked than I’d expected. In very broad terms, the 30.1 sound is warm; the SHL5plus sound ethereal. It wasn’t simply the same sound but larger scale from a bigger box.

    I liked the ‘warmth’ of the 30.1 on classical, jazz, and vocals (all on CD), but found it too warm on speech via BBC FM Radios 3 and 4, the only two stations I listen to (quite a lot). Music on Radio 3 was fine, it was good.

    After swapping out the 30.1 for the SHL5plus, I went straight to Radios 3 and 4 and was immediately very taken with a clear, natural, ‘right’ sounding rendition of speech. A quick listen to music on R3 also revealed a ‘quality’ and ‘classy’ presentation, the best I’d ever heard on that station. Then, moving on to the CDs that I’d been playing through the 30.1, I was surprised at the difference - so much so that initially I was concerned I was losing the pleasing warmth and body of the 30.1! That concern was short lived. As I listened further, and checked back with the other two sets of speakers, I soon ‘got’ the attributes of SLH5plus. Others have described it as ‘beautiful’ sounding, a very apt description I feel.

    To focus on one quality, from my perspective, I’d pick the way in which the SHL5plus presents orchestral music, with such ease and grace. Quiet passages are easily heard clearly and when the music builds up to louder passages there is a true sense of contrast in loudness and scale. I can more readily imagine being at a live concert. With my existing speakers there could be the urge to increase volume to hear further into a quiet passage at the start of the music, only to find it was too much and uncomfortable when louder passages were reached. With the SHL5plus, even when I intentionally increased the volume beyond the ‘natural level’ for the music, I found the loudness ‘clean’ and more tolerable for longer – but it simply wasn’t necessary to listen that loud.

    My amplifier power spec is a claimed 90 watts into 8 ohms. I use attenuated interconnect cables to fully equalise mismatches between CD player/FM tuner outputs and pre-amp input sensitivity. Speaker sensitivities are 85dB, 86dB, and 88dB for 30.1, SHL5plus, and existing speakers respectively, all into 6 ohms. I attempted to check relative sound levels using an SPL meter, by no means a precise method, but I think it at least helped as a guide.

    As for my existing speakers, they gave me much enjoyment over the years and I still rate them. However, compared to the Harbeths, there was a sense of something being held back. Music from the Harbeths is freer, easier, more able to draw me in and hold my attention. I’m a real ale fan (no doubt not alone on HUG!) and I’ve discovered brews from some micro-breweries that are like sipping nectar. When these aren’t on tap, a well kept and well served alternative still lets me enjoy my beer, and I don’t feel as though I’m missing out. But, given the choice, I’d rather be sipping the micro brewery nectar (as in listening to music through the SHL5plus).


  • #2
    Thank you for your thoughts and I wish you many happy years listening to your Harbeths.


    • #3
      I have owned a pair of SHL5+ for a year and recently I acquired a pair of M30.1 that I tested today in the same room which is 26 sqm. I was surprised because the M30.1 have more bass, or it sounds louder, when I expected less. I have to admit I have no golden ears but my impression was that the timbre is the same, the mids are the same, the bass is more boomy in the M30.1 and more real in the SHL5+ and the SHL5+ are more resonant. So all in all I guess I prefer the SHL5+ but the difference was very little for me, at least listening to Queen, Dire Straits and Michael Jackson.


      • #4
        I have uploaded a sound comparison between both models to youtube. The sound is poor but perhaps you can get an idea.