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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.

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Harbeth SHL5 specific

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  • Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

    Originally posted by tricka View Post
    Thanks for your comments - I felt the same way coming from CD coaxial horns to Compact 7's. The speakers get out of the way of the music - reminds me of a quote from a fellow I know:
    " when you stop listening to the system and start listening to the music - that is the system you want". Amen.
    Cheers
    Andrew
    Yes, thanks for that. Yep, as with the Apogee Stages, there is just a feeling of rightness at first hearing (in a different way, of course, from the Apogee ribbons) that makes me say I'm suddenly a fan of this speaker company. I just stop analyzing and just listen. When I was younger, my first speaker that made me this content was my $70 Dynaco A25. I remember listening to the various ARs, KLHs, and Advents of the day and feeling something wasn't quite right, that they were either jazzed up or muted. But the Dynacos just flowed.

    The Harbeths just present a kind of Goldilocks sound, with images that are definitive but just soft enough around the edges that you can always let your guard down. I think there is something subliminal going on here, that it just kind of reaches some deep part of your brain that triggers contentment. It is kind of different from live sound, which itself can be jarring. I think maybe the pursuit of the absolute sound in one's room may be a worthy goal, but not the only path worth pursuing.

    As I mentioned, they hint at the live tonality and spatial cues, but don't try to present a virtual reality that can seem out of sorts and disorienting in your home. I remeber repeatedly hearing the MBL and Wilson exhibits at the NY home entertainment shows and feeling like the music , while compelling, didn't exactly belong there (and Wilson has it's own issues with vocals and string or brass instruments to my ears, but that's another story).

    The similarity to the Apogee experience is that the Apogees have a very realistic tone, and you are unaware of drivers or speakers, but there they are at the same time not very revealing but still very present. The apogees indeed have an unmatched presence and have extremely natural vocals, like a wall between you and the speakers is gone.

    The Harbeths, on the other hand, present rounded images with just a slight but perfect dose of fog to prevent the searing coldness or point-source hardness I hear with other speakers. Martin Logans come to mind, where images are completely detached from the surroundings,
    and there is almost too much transparency, and you can almost draw a sharp line around each image. With the Harbeths, images are blended just the right amount into the air around them, and while this may not be realistic, it is addictive.

    Comment


    • Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

      Plus - unlike the ML's - you don't have to sit in one fixed spot not deviating your head an inch either way ha ha ha!

      Comment


      • Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

        Dear Harbeth-lovers,
        I'm planning to buy a pair of Super HL5's. I heard them once at a dealer, and did a lot of reading about these speakers. I have one concern : I do about 90% of my listening at "moderate levels", which is apparently what Harbeth's are designed for. But from time to time I just love to "kick some ass", for not too long, but still... I would feel frustrated if the speakers were unable to cope decently with anything like 95dB for some time.
        What exactly does it mean that Harbeths are designed for moderate levels? Do they sound harsh at high levels? Is there congestion? Does the bass become uncontrolled? Do they explode?
        (just kiddin', this last one)
        I 'd just like to know if they can also be played at higher volumes, and still sound decent?

        Thank you for any useful input!
        Alan

        Comment


        • Important notes about listening level ....

          *** You may wish to open two copies of this reply in your browser so that you can keep the graph open as you read my notes ***

          I too occasionally like to 'turn up the wick' when the recording/music is exceptionally seductive and/or exciting. But I really value my hearing, and it's a well known fact that if you persistently listen at a high level, you numb your hearing. So don't do it!

          You ask if the SHL5's (or indeed any) Harbeths sound 'harsh at high levels'. It's a very good question because it touches on a number of a highly significant matters close to my heart. Subjects to be considered ...

          a) How we perceive loudness
          b) How we perceive bass at higher loudness
          c) What actually happens inside the speaker electro-mechanically at higher power levels
          d) What target listening level the designer imagined his users were listening at
          e) Spectral content of the music being listened to
          etc. etc.

          Now, in fact, one of the defining characteristics of a Harbeth is that it does not sound harsh as the level increases. That's no accident - it's because I'm really aware of how the ear (or more honestly, how my sensitive ears) seems to behave and I've the exact antidote to that in the design of the drive units and crossover. The Harbeth way seems to be well proven for listening at normal levels which is of course, how 100% of our customers listen.

          As I see it, the ear is highly non-linear with regard to how it perceives loudness. But although non-linear, that non-linearity is completely predictable from human to human, regardless of race creed or colour. Hence, there are audibility charts which show how the average human judges sound. I attach an audibility chart that I've lifted from my friends at Lindos and I've marked it up. Let's just have a quick look at what this ISO standard tells us: it reveals fundamental truths that are not ever discussed in speaker design textbooks.

          First, the layout of the graph. Along the bottom are frequencies marked-off in thin lines running up the page. The lowest frequencies (the bass notes) below 100Hz are to the left to the highest frequencies on the right side. You can think of the x axis along the bottom as a piano keyboard from low to high tones. Running up the left side of the chart are horizontal lines representing loudness in decibels from no sound at all (0dB) up to an extremely loud 100dB and beyond to 130dB where it was too dangerous to test anyone's hearing. The wiggly red lines tell us how sensitive the ear is to individual frequencies at different listening levels.
          The crux of the designing natural-sounding speakers is now revealed - look in the middle of the graph where I've drawn a little green circle over the red line called '60dB'. You'll notice that for all the curves marked 'threshold' up to '100dB' they all pass through 1kHz (1000 cycles per second) at the marked level (20, 60, 80dB etc.) so we say these curves are individually normalised to 1kHz.

          Now the really interesting bit. Imaging that you are listening at 60dB. That means, you are listening such that tones of 1kHz (upper middle frequencies) are received by your ear at a loudness of 60dB. Follow the red 60dB curve downwards in frequency to the left until it touches the 100Hz (bass note) vertical line at point A. Read off from the left scale the loudness level at A, say, 78dB. Now, compare that with the loudness at 1kHz (point B), which we know is 60dB. Now I'm going to make a really bold statement .... ready? ......

          "At a normalised listening level of 60dB at 1kHz, a 100Hz tone has to be approx. 18dB louder than the 1kHz tone to be perceived as equally loud". Note that I said perceived as equally loud. I didn't say measured as loud, because clearly the 100Hz note really, truly is measurably 18dB louder!

          Now, the last piece of this jigsaw .... how does the ear react if the signal is greatly increased (or diminished)? Let's consider what happens if we increase the listening level to a frightening 100dB at 1kHz. Look for the red line marked 100dB and follow the green line over to the left to point D and we read-off 100dB. Follow up from D to point C and we see that when the volume is really cranked-up, the red curve is flatter with less of a tilt-up at the lower end hence, the ear is much more sensitive to bass .... we now only need to elevate the bass signal by about 6dB relative to the 1kHz (at 100dB) for the 100Hz tone to be perceived as equally loud as the 1kHz tone. Conversely, if we reduce the listening level to a near whisper (follow the 20dB line) then and a massive amount of bass boost is required for the 100Hz tone to sound equally as loud as 1kHz at that whisper level. That's intuitive isn't it: turn down the volume on your hifi and the bass disappears far faster than the middle or top frequencies. But actually, the measured frequency response at the speakers is exactly the same regardless of level: what's changed is how you perceive bass. But the poor speaker designer must have a certain listening level in mind when he is designing the speaker because he needs to know along which red curve, or range of curves, the listener is likely to listen. As I've said before, the first question you should ask of a supplier is "what target listening level have you designed these speakers for?". If you don't get a factual, credible answer such as "75-90dB at the listening chair" then most likely you will find those speakers sound too thin and bass light becuase they were designed to be played at very high levels where the red line is flatter in the bass.

          Why is all of this of any interest? It is the concise explanation of why the perception of bass level is so critically linked to 1kHz (reference) level. It explains why a speaker that is balanced to sound full and normal at a moderate listening level can sound a little bass heavy when played far above that level. It also explains why speakers designed to be played loud sound so bass-shy when played at a moderate level. Harbeth speakers were originally designed as broadcast monitors to be played at moderate levels and happily for you and us, that is exactly the same level that our customers use at home.

          So, in conclusion, you can be absolutely assured that (uniquely) there will be no harness creeping in as you increase the volume dramatically. All that you will perceive at a much elevated above normal listening level is a little more bass. And as the graph confirms, that's due to the way your ears work, not a change in the mechanics of the speakers.
          Attached Files
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • Important notes about listening level ....

            Alan, thank you for your in-depth answer, appreciate this! What do you at Harbeth consider to be the "target listening level" (in dB)?

            How do the SHL5-users experience this at home?

            kind regards
            Alan

            Comment


            • Important notes about listening level ....

              A 'normal reasonable listening level' is as far as I'm concerned, somewhere about 80dB or so, give or take about 10dB. Your next question will surely be 'how do I know what level I'm listening at?' Without test equipment to measure the noise, you'll need to make a mental comparison with noise in the environment with which you are familiar.

              One thing I'd like to quote from here is this: " ... (Office) Noise levels can be reduced by encouraging workers to not play the radio continuously ... It has been determined that continual exposure to sounds at or above 80 decibels will cause permanent hearing damage. In such environments, special precaution must be taken. Walls, ceilings and floors should be insulated, and workers should consider wearing noise-reducing earplugs, sound-muffling headgear or other apparatus."

              That's clear to me. It means that the the traditional BBC/Harbeth monitor speaker design target for listening loudness at around 75-85dB is correctly chosen as the upper end of the advisable long-term exposure level for safe listening. Many other speaker designer would probably say that 80-85dB was at the bottom end of their imagined user's listening level which as I've shown has implications for subjective bass performance and long term hearing damage, certainly in rock and roll recording. As I've said before, the consumer should really dig in to the question 'what listening level were these speakers designed to be listened to at'. Call the sales department and see what they say. If they say something much above 85dB remind them that they are encouraging hearing damage. If they can't answer the question, it means that they don't appreciate how the ear (or the law) works and their speakers will almost certainly be bass shy. Monitor speakers proudly promoted and marketed to recording studios as opposed to broadcast studios sound thin at home at a lower level because they are optimised to be thrashed to sound normal at 100dB++. Recording studio monitors are really unsuitable for domestic use because they do not sound rich, full bodied and believable at normal domestic (moderate) listening levels - I showed why on the last post. Broadcast monitors are eminently suitable for home use because the listening environment and listening level (and room size) are very similar.

              Attached a chart of typical noise levels. I've marked what we consider to be the moderate, sensible, normal level in green between about 75dB (male speech at 1m) and heavy road traffic at kerb side (85dB). I explained why in detail on the previous post. Believe me: hearing-damage litigation is set to explode over the next years as a generation of deaf youngsters reach middle age. A Harbeth is a speaker solution that does not need and is not designed to be hammered to sound absolutely natural.

              >
              Attached Files
              Alan A. Shaw
              Designer, owner
              Harbeth Audio UK

              Comment


              • Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

                Well, just got my SHL5's home..
                OOOOH!!_MY!!_GODDD!!!

                Need to go on listening now, sorry...

                Comment


                • Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

                  Originally posted by Tjoeb View Post
                  Well, just got my SHL5's home..
                  OOOOH!!_MY!!_GODDD!!!

                  Need to go on listening now, sorry...
                  Hi Tjoeb, congrats on having purchased the SHL-5, care to share with us what's the rest of your setup like? Thks.

                  Comment


                  • Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

                    Hi Han,
                    my set-up is :
                    Symphonic Line RG10 Mk4 Reference integrated amplifier (that's really how it's called, I'm sorry)
                    Copland CDA823 cd-player
                    Virtual Dynamics Nite Platinum IC
                    Chord Company Super Epic Twin speaker cable

                    And Skylan-stands supporting my SHL5's of course.

                    And to A.S. : I can play at any level I desire, so no problems here!

                    kind regards
                    Alan

                    Comment


                    • Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

                      Originally posted by Tjoeb View Post
                      Hi Han,
                      my set-up is :
                      Symphonic Line RG10 Mk4 Reference integrated amplifier (that's really how it's called, I'm sorry)
                      Copland CDA823 cd-player
                      Virtual Dynamics Nite Platinum IC
                      Chord Company Super Epic Twin speaker cable

                      And Skylan-stands supporting my SHL5's of course.

                      And to A.S. : I can play at any level I desire, so no problems here!

                      kind regards
                      Alan
                      Hi Tjoeb, thks for sharing your setup with us here. I am sure the SHL-5 will provide you with many many hours of musical enjoyment.

                      Comment


                      • Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

                        I have been impressed by many recordings so far on the SHL5's, but particularly by this one :http://www.highfidelitydiscs.nl/cust...&XCARTSESSID=4
                        Highly recommended!

                        gr
                        Alan

                        Comment


                        • Re: Important notes about listening level ....

                          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                          ...It means that the the traditional BBC/Harbeth monitor speaker design target for listening loudness at around 75-85dB is correctly chosen as the upper end of the advisable long-term exposure level for safe listening. [/U]
                          >
                          Well, yesterday I did a test with a friend's PHONIC PAA3-meter, and it seems indeed that 75-85 dB is very well chosen. I'm glad to have discovered that 85 dB is indeed the value I feel to represent "maximum comfort". 80-90% of my listening is done around 70-75 dB. In general I was expecting that I listened to higher levels, but I'm happy that this is not the case. Good for my ears :-)

                          Comment


                          • Re: Important notes about listening level ....

                            Originally posted by Tjoeb View Post
                            I'm glad to have discovered that 85 dB is indeed the value I feel to represent "maximum comfort". 80-90% of my listening is done around 70-75 dB
                            Surprising isn't it how loud 80/85dB is.

                            Working people in mines and mills since the industrial revolution (about 250 years ago) would have been exposed to more and continuous noise, but stepping back 500 years and the world was a very quiet place indeed. Until the industrial revolution, the loudest sound that the average human would experience in his lifetime would be a dog barking. The blacksmith with his hammer and anvil would have been the only member of the community who experienced loud sound. Our ears have developed for millions of years to resolve small sounds in a quiet world. They are simply not optimised to or designed to be subjected to the sound pressures we treat them to daily.

                            Look after your hearing! It is easily damaged and totally irreplaceable. Select loudspeakers that work with the sensible practical limitations of your hearing (all Harbeths) not against them!

                            PS. IMPORTANT NOTE!
                            ==================

                            The reason I keep mentioning the ISO Equal loudness contours (see attached here) is because of this vitally important fact. Forgive me for spelling it out (again) ....

                            1) Classical (natural, acoustic) music is always recorded at a higher loudness than it is replayed at

                            2) The ear has a frequency response which varies dramatically with loudness ...

                            3) You need to fool the ear into believing that it is listening at the louder original sound as it would experience in the concert hall or recording studio .... when listening at home at an inevitably lower listening level. If you do not attend to this, listing at home will sound thin, lightweight, reedy, cold and sterile. Live sound is luxurious and warm. That's what we aim for at home.

                            4) To seduce the ear into believing that it is experiencing the warmth and emotion of the live sound you have to carefully optimise the design of the loudspeaker. This design optimisation for listening at a moderate level is built into a Harbeth speaker thanks to the BBC heritage (they also listen at moderate levels in BBC control rooms). I am not aware of any other speaker philosophy which addresses this issue - which is why a Harbeth sounds so 'right' even when played quietly or close by. This sounding-full bodied-at-a-moderate-level is not an accidental byproduct of a Harbeth design. It is at the heart of the design from the very first steps. A Harbeth user demands natural sound at a moderate listening level. It's my job to use all the techniques I have available to achieve that.
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

                            Comment


                            • Differences between SHL5 editions

                              What are the main differences between "normal" and 25th or 30th SHL5 editions?
                              What kind or brand is the internal wiring of the special editions?
                              Thanks.

                              Comment


                              • Re: Differences between SHL5 editions

                                Originally posted by midwoofer View Post
                                What are the main differences between "normal" and 25th or 30th SHL5 editions?
                                What kind or brand is the internal wiring of the special editions?
                                Thanks.
                                The 30th anniversary SHL-5 use OFC internal cables.....not too sure what brand though. Probably Alan can shed some light on this.

                                Comment

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