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Since its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition has been to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless. Knowledge is human independent and replicatable. However, we live in new world where thanks to social media, 'facts' have become flexible and personal. HUG operates in that real world.

HUG has two approaches to contributor's Posts. If you have, like us, a scientific mind and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual area of HUG is for you. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and can be easily understood and tried with negligible technical knowledge.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings sub-forum is you. If upon examination we think that Posts are better suited to one sub-forum than than the other, they will be redirected during Moderation, which is applied throughout the site.

Questions and Posts about, for example, 'does amplifier A sounds better than amplifier B' or 'which speaker stands or cables are best' are suitable for the Subjective Soundings area.

The Moderators' decision is final in all matters regarding what appears here. That said, very few Posts are rejected. HUG Moderation individually spell and layout checks Posts for clarity but due to the workload, Posts in the Subjective Soundings area, from Oct. 2016 will not be. We regret that but we are unable to accept Posts that present what we consider to be free advertising for products that Harbeth does not make.

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{Updated Nov. 2016A}
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Harbeth SHL5 specific

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  • Re: SHL5 - long term cost of ownership?

    Alan,

    Thanks for the reply. I was aware of the short lifespan of the bass units on the LV speakers; as you say they are quite open about it which is to their credit. I do understand your point and I am taking it into consideration as part of the complete decision making process.

    I am merely trying to get the maximum musical involvement for my tastes within my budget. Unlike the Linn/Naim "source first" mantra in my experience loudspeakers are the key component in a system in terms of how it involves the listener, at least as long as the source and amplifier are of reasonable quality and match electrically. For example, a Quad ESL sounds significantly different to a B&W 802 but, while both are capable of accurate reproduction, the listener's preference about how they present the music becomes the important choice. Having heard both in the past I personally would choose neither but it emphatically illustrated how big a role the speaker plays in allowing an emotional connection to the music. Knowing this I was hoping someone could use a speaker I know, like and can afford as a comparison to try and determine whether Harbeth is the speaker for me. Based on what I have read, here and on various websites, I [I]think[I] Harbeth will be to my taste but I know that many people would choose the Quads or B&Ws over Harbeth because their tastes are different. Unfortunately getting to hear the SHL5 is proving very difficult as none of the dealers in Scotland appear to have any. Grassdance Audio are trying to get a pair of SHL5s but have not gotten back to me to set up a demonstration. In the meantime I am looking for as much information as possible to determine what I need to listen to; clearly I cannot audition every speaker on the market so forums such as this are useful in narrowing down the field.

    Yours,

    Col

    Comment


    • Re: SHL5 - involving even at a low replay level

      ll noted and a perfectly reasonable line of reasoning.

      I return to the point I made, and which will only really 'click' when you are actually listening to Harbeths. You mention two other speakers which must have their strengths too. But I can say with certainty that Harbeth excels at a low/medium listening level in normal rooms. That is why the majority of our customer base (I believe) are listening to their Harbeths is relative small rooms, close to the speakers and anxious to hear the full sound experience without disturbing the neighbours. There is no better example that our huge installed base in Japan, where courtesy and respect for neighbours (and hence a low listening level) is a cultural must.

      All this must sound completely incomprehensible - I fully understand that - but when you finally get to hear the Harbeths all I've been saying will instantly make sense.

      By the way - a suggestion. Why not call the sales dept. in the various speaker companies you may be interested in and pose the question to them "what techniques - if any - do your designers employ to ensue that the sound if full bodied, sweet and seductive (and fatigue free) even at a low listening level late at night with the neighbours new baby asleep?". Then consider what they say and decide for yourself if its credible or just sales talk. There definitely are steps that you can take at the very beginning of the design process to optimise the speaker for a particular application, and in our case, a Harbeth is designed for moderate listening level and high resolution. Conversely, for long periods of head-banging rock and roll at high sound pressures a Harbeth would definitely not be the right speaker to chose. Loudness and 'body' are critically linked and you can optimise one, but not both simultaneously.
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

      Comment


      • Re: SHL5 - involving even at a low replay level

        Alan,

        I fully understand your reasoning too and the ability to operate at low volumes is one of the reasons that I am determined to listen to the SHL5, the speaker in your range which has the reputation for being the best at low levels. The Quads are also very effective at low levels (unlike the B&W which needs to be very loud in my experience) but as I said it is not for me. The good news is that Grassdance will have the SHL5 next week so I can finally hear for myself and go forward from there. If I decide not to go with the SHL5 then I will take up your idea and ask other manufacturers about how they design for quiet listening.

        Col

        Comment


        • Re: SHL5 - involving even at a low replay level

          Originally posted by colhd View Post
          Alan,

          I fully understand your reasoning too and the ability to operate at low volumes.... If I decide not to go with the SHL5 then I will take up your idea and ask other manufacturers about how they design for quiet listening.
          Perfect. I'd be surprised if they'd even thought such a question could exist. It's one of those issues which needs to be looked at from several angles and based on a sympathetic balance between science-based measurement and what sounds 'right'.

          I can not stress enough the importance of a speaker sounding right at a normal moderate replay level which is what most people listen to most of the time. It is - for a Harbeth user - utterly irrelevant how good a speaker may (or may not) sound when being hammered because none - 0% - of Harbeth users listen like that. It is much more challenging to design a speaker that sounds full and satisfying at a low-moderate level than one that is going to be worked hard and in my experience, those two speakers cannot be substituted for each other.

          Be sure that when you are auditioning unfamiliar speakers in an unfamiliar environment that you do listen at a replay level as you would listen at home. This is very important for arriving at the right speaker to suit you - be it a Harbeth or not.
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • Re: SHL5 - involving even at a low replay level

            Alan,

            I remember reading that some unscrupulous dealers would raise the volume a little when putting a different (and probably more expensive) piece of equipment in a system during a dem, probably knowing that the extra sound would be more impressive. It may also be that the speakers they used would work better being driven harder. Interestingly, in the two dealers I have been in in the last couple of weeks I have immediately turned the volume down a lot as soon as they left me alone to listen to some CDs. Funny old thing, I didn't buy anything from either of them.

            Col

            Comment


            • Re: SHL5 - involving even at a low replay level

              Originally posted by colhd View Post
              Alan,

              I remember reading that some unscrupulous dealers would raise the volume a little when putting a different (and probably more expensive) piece of equipment in a system during a dem, probably knowing that the extra sound would be more impressive. ....
              Col

              Yep... sadly, this is very common.

              Comment


              • Re: SHL5 - replay level and perceived loudness

                I've been meaning to explore this issue here for months, and I must make time to present the graphs in a way that is easy to digest. But for a start look here. I know that all those wiggly lines look rather intimidating but they are telling us a few very important things about the human hearing mechanism. First of all, our ears are not flat! Not even remotely so because if they were, all those coloured wiggly lines would be flat and horizontal not shaped upwards like curly bananas!

                Those curves tell us ....

                1. The ear's perception of bass (below a few hundred Hz) critically depends upon loudness level and as the replay level falls away (say, y-axis 70dB compared with y-axis 100dB) the perceived bass rapidly diminishes. Prove it yourself: play music over headphones. It sounds normal. Lift the headphones 2cms from your ears. The bass diminishes. Lift them 50cms away and all you can hear is a tinny middle/top sound and no bass. The headphones are working the same - it is your perception of bass that has changed as the replay loudness has diminished.

                2. Something very strange happens in our ears at around about 3-4kHz which by a ghastly coincidence is where most loudspeakers place their crossover frequency (a very key point)

                3. We have weak sensitivity to very high frequencies.

                Now, taken together, what this must inevitably mean is that a speaker can only mimic the spectral balance of real live (concert hall) sound if it is designed with a certain replay level in mind. So, if the real live sound would be measured as we sit in the hall at, say 110dB we can not reproduce that at home - we'd be much more able to reproduce say 85dB. But look how different the ear's characteristics are at 85dB and 100dB.
                I encouraged you earlier to phone around and challenge various speaker suppliers to tell you what steps they have taken (if any) to design their speakers to sound 'right' (i.e. a believable spectral balance between bass/mid and top) for use at home. Now we're equipped with these ISO226 curves, we can be more specific about the questions we can ask ...

                (A) What target loudness are your speakers designed to be used at?

                (B) Are you familiar with ISO226 and the 'Equal Loudness Contours' and can you explain them to me in a simple way as to how they might relate to my listening experience?

                (C) What can I expect your speakers to sound like if I play your speaker considerably above (say, 20dB above) the target listening level you have designed them for in (A)?

                (D) ISO226 suggests that the ear has a very strange characteristic (a significant boost in sensitivity hence the wiggly line drops around 3000Hz that is, 3kHz) just at the typical bass/mid to tweeter crossover frequency. Have you taken this into consideration in your design? How? *

                If we received such a call we'd respect the caller as he clearly had researched his subject and was much more likely to select the best speakers for his needs - Harbeth or not.

                * {Designer's Note: crossing-over where the ear has a peak in sensitivity for me hugely magnifies the design effort and takes the design of a speaker from engineering into the realms of a nightmare because my (perfectly normal but trained) ears are so very intolerant of a mis-match in the crossover region. Persuading a speaker to sound like a point source as if it had just one drive unit covering the whole bass-mid-top when in fact there are at least two, is where 80% of the total design effort is expended, because the ear has this peak sensitivity at crossover. But I do not see this critically important aspect of our hearing routinely covered in any of the hi-fi magazines .....}
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

                Comment


                • Re: SHL5 - replay level and perceived loudness

                  All,

                  I suspect that this is a very difficult issue to deal with because most listeners will not accurately quantify their listening levels. I certainly don't get a meter out and find out what the decibel level is when I listen to music. What I do know is that I always turn the volume down when I am at a dealer so I suspect I listen a lot lower than "normal". I also suspect (although my continuing inability to hear the SHL5 (Grassdance now tell me they are on vacation next week so I have yet more time to wait before I can audition them!!!) prevents me from knowing for sure) that the Harbeth ability to operate at low volume levels will be good for me. Time will tell for this but irrespective of whether I eventually buy them I applaud Alan Shaw's stated goals of making loudspeakers which can work at real-world levels. If more designers did this then maybe more listeners would be able to appreciate music without damaging their hearing.

                  Col

                  Comment


                  • Harbeth SHL5 - listening close, no loss of musical structure ...

                    The Super 5s allow nearfield listening (listening close up to the speakers) while the volume is cranked low. When I sit for a late night listen while my family is fast asleep, I would sit nearfield (about 4 to 5 feet between the speakers) and find that with the volume low, the music is still thoroughly enjoyable - no compression or loss of the musical structure. The Thiels I owned before the Harbeths required the listener to sit much further from the speakers; sitting nearfield with the Thiels would compromise the musical enjoyment.

                    Comment


                    • Harbeth SHL5 - listening close, no loss of musical structure ...

                      Originally posted by denjo View Post
                      The Super 5s allow nearfield listening (listening close up to the speakers) while the volume is cranked low. When I sit for a late night listen while my family is fast asleep, I would sit nearfield (about 4 to 5 feet between the speakers) and find that with the volume low, the music is still thoroughly enjoyable - no compression or loss of the musical structure. The Thiels I owned before the Harbeths required the listener to sit much further from the speakers; sitting nearfield with the Thiels would compromise the musical enjoyment.
                      I'm was a Thiel owner too. Most of my listening sessions is at night. My volume set at 2 to 3. Thiel need a powerful amp to drive with "garden hose" speaker cables to get the best of the Thiel. In my listening room sitting distance is about 8 feet.

                      I'm still using the same set-up with SHL5 except different speaker cables. The volume only set at 1. Sitting distance about 6feet.

                      Comment


                      • Re: SHL5 - replay level and perceived loudness

                        Originally posted by colhd View Post
                        ... stated goals of making loudspeakers which can work at real-world levels. If more designers did this then maybe more listeners would be able to appreciate music without damaging their hearing.
                        Noted. Comments ....

                        1. Yes, how to determine loudness level and how that might relate to the quantity of bass that the human ear perceives. We can say (rough approximation) that a normal 'conversational level' at home is probably about 70-80dB or so. That's really rather quiet. At this level, you could comfortably listen to music and talk along with it or over it. Increase the level to 110dB or so (nightclub level) and you'd have to shout and even then may not be heard.

                        2. The level at the microphones during the recording could easily have been 110dB+

                        3. It is wholly unreasonable to replay the loudness of the original recording (110dB+) on speakers at home at only 70-80dB and expect the replayed sound to convey the bass warmth of the original sound unless careful steps are taken in the design of those speakers.

                        4. All I'm doing is continuing along the lines of our predecessors at the BBC. It is they that should be appreciated for their drive to design real-world speakers to be used at real-world levels yet sound natural. It so happens that most hi-fi users in the world are listening in apartments that are almost the same size as a BBC control room and can only listen at the same low level so there is a perfect marriage of needs and solution with our traditional speakers for listening at home. No need for us to change a solution that has worked for 40+ years!
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • Re: Harbeth SHL5 & a Subwoofer

                          Hello all,

                          I have 2 questions:

                          1. anyone successfully used the SHL5 with a subwoofer? normally this arrangement is not viewed favorably because of potential integration issues. but i'm curious if anyone has lived happily with one..

                          2. will adding a good sub to the shl5 bring it closer to the scale of the sound of the 40.1?


                          thank you for your thoughts..

                          Comment


                          • Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

                            Polaris
                            I have a single ACI XL Force Subwoofer which is connected to my Bryston B-100 pre-out (I am sure you are very familiar with this brand) and dialed at about 80 Hz to integrate with the SHL5 and must say that I am pretty happy with the combination. In fact, I find that the B-100 gives plenty of bass from my SHL5 (Bryston's are known for their tuneful bass) and so for most of my listening, I prefer to have the Sub volume way down low. When I do watch a movie, the Sub volume is cranked up to give the sound more visceral impact.

                            So, to answer your question, I think the SHL5 can be integrated quite successfully with a Sub with some effort in dialing the correct settings for proper seamless integration.

                            Hope this helps!

                            Best Regards
                            Dennis

                            Comment


                            • Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

                              I had tried to play dual subs and single sub to match with my c7. I used to pre out to some room eq devices to two SVS subs in stereo mode and used speaker output to high level input to a REL Strata 5 sub.

                              The Rel strata give better result. The SVS subs go pretty low but slow in transient. No matter how i deal and tweak the sub level and crossover, for stereo, music sound best w/o subs. I always detect some blurish in midrange when subs is on.

                              No experience in 5 plus subs. To me, the 5 bass is deep enough. Try to match a LFD Zero LE III to SHL5 you can hv very good deep and tuneful bass.

                              PS: IMO, no matter how, SHL5 plus sub will nvr sound like M40.1. The smoothness in the bass to mid region is not that easy to get from just adding a sub.
                              "Bath with Music"

                              Comment


                              • Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

                                Yes fully agree with Keithwwk's observation. Its very difficult to achieve a totally seamless sound with a sub. For movies its probably still ok but not for music definitely. Anyway, as Keith has mentioned, the combination of LFD LE III with SHL-5 does produce more than sufficient bass in quantity & quality aspects, even in my 6m by 6.5m listening room. One will hardly ask for more.

                                Comment

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