"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 SHL5 specific

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  • Alternative finishes to wood veneer?

    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
    It is a fact that cabinet makers are having a very hard time with dramatically rising costs of MDF and veneers, labour and overheads.
    Is Harbeth moving ahead with exploring options to the traditional veneered wood finishes? I recall a picture of some prototype P3ESRs a few months back in a silver finish that looked pretty good.

    While the traditional wood finishes are beautiful, some prefer the more "modern" aesthetic, and I imagine (perhaps wrongly) that material and production costs might be lowered as well.


    • Other finishes - update

      Originally posted by EricW View Post
      Is Harbeth moving ahead with exploring options to the traditional veneered wood finishes? I recall a picture of some prototype P3ESRs a few months back in a silver finish that looked pretty good. While the traditional wood finishes are beautiful, some prefer the more "modern" aesthetic, and I imagine (perhaps wrongly) that material and production costs might be lowered as well.
      We certainly have and visitors to the Munich hifi show next week will see another step along the line towards a high-gloss Titanium-like finish.

      But I must add a word of caution. After making a few pairs of high-gloss in various colours, the necessary standard of construction, painting, rubbing-down, re-painting and final rubbing-down has to be very high indeed. Packing (and transit to Harbeth) and the final assembly itself has to be undertaken with gloved hands, as the slightest mark or blemish is visible. Overall, not only is there much more labour involved in the preparation of the cabinet but the assembly in Harbeth is much more cautious and slower, and the result is not reduced costs but far lower efficiency and hence increased costs.

      We have now experienced first hand that whilst these 'modern' and exciting finishes can look very attractive, the route map to offering them at what we believe is an acceptable standard is tortuous. However, we will try our best.

      P.S. There are other somewhat harder "piano black" type finishes. These are not suitable for our thin-wall cabinets and even if they were, the 20+ coats needed to build-up the lacquer would take the cabinets costs through the roof.
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK


      • Piano black and bakelite

        Piano Black and white can look stunning, but the black shows every sticky fingerprint! I have a Samsung laptop with a very shiny finish - a deep lustrous red-brown - it shows every speck of dust and displays my finger smudges wonderfully well. The grain of a wood finish hides many sins.

        Some years ago my son did GCSE electronics as an extra. His teacher, a typical 1950s style boffin, helped him refurbish an old valve radio (wireless). It was stripped down and rebuilt and ended up an absolute picture. I found advice on-line on how to polish up old Bakelite. I had forgotten how beautiful a rich brown Bakelite can look. It has a grain or patina all of its own, quite different to a wood finish.

        I know the painted finishes are aimed at those with different tastes, but, given the Harbeth heritage could a faux Bakelite finish appeal? What's the finish of that B&W spherical sub? That is impressive.

        I did like the silver-titanium finish when it was pictured a few months ago, it demonstrates that Harbeth is not just for backward looking fuddy-duddies.

        {Moderator's comment: it doesn't matter a jot what others may perceive. What actually matters is the balance sheet, one of the strongest in the entire industry. That's good news for long-term after care.}


        • Painted finish

          If I were in the market for a 2nd pair of Harbeths, I would certainly look at a painted finish as a possible alternative to wood veneer, but it wouldn't necessarily have to be a glossy finish. Indeed, something that doesn't show marks and dust so easily might well be preferable.


          • Mid-grey painted suits any background ...

            Originally posted by EricW View Post
            ...I would certainly look at a painted finish as a possible alternative to wood veneer, but it wouldn't necessarily have to be a glossy finish...
            Well then, that is what the professionals buy when they buy our mid-grey painted finish. Also very popular in Japan. Just slots into any background thanks to the neutral colour.
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK


            • M30 grey

              I've always been rather partial to this picture of the M30s in the grey finish.


              • I am in audio heaven! Thanks!

                I'm saved!

                I've gotten hold of a pair of SHL5's and I'm in Audio Heaven! THANK YOU ALAN, for these magnificent creations!

                More reports to come........


                • Couldn't be happier with my SHL5s (two years on...)

                  An update, two and a half years with my SHL5's, If interested check back on page 13 of this thread for the story of the initial demonstration.

                  So, 2.5 years later and I still have them and they are still perfect, but the main reason for this post is to see if anyone else with SHL5's agrees with my views, which are based on listening to Classical music recorded over a period of about 80/90 years.

                  It has slowly become apparent to me that I cannot identify any character to these speakers, they simply sound like the CD I happen to be playing. I don't use a hugely expensive amplifier and the source is a £200 Squeezebox.

                  In short, couldn't be happier.

                  Thanks to all at Harbeth and wish you continued success.


                  • I still love my Harbeths since 2004 ....

                    I can't agree more. I with my 7 since 2004 and shl5 since 2007. Until today i still love them and can not stop enjoying them. cheers
                    "Bath with Music"


                    • I've owned three pairs of SHL5!

                      Hi Stephen,

                      I couldn't agree more with what u said. I first came across the SHL-5 back in 2002. And since then until now, i have owned 3 pairs of SHL-5. Just keep coming back to them after having tried numerous other spks during the past 9 years. And since my foray into classical music, i love them even more than before.

                      For me, Harbeth, irregardless of model, are the best spks in the world for classical, vocal & all sorts of acoustic music, period! Even the tiny P3ESR can play classical music far better & more correctly than those huge & hyper expensive spks.


                      • Upgrade from ESL57 > SHL5, better in every way

                        My SHL5“s are just about two weeks in my listening room but it“s already clear that I have reached a final goal.

                        I am a former Quad ESL57 user and I find the SHL5 to be better even in the electrostatic“s strongest areas (detail, clarity, midrange).
                        But, and that was very important to me, two things have been added:

                        -the ability to go louder (some orchestras or rock-music or very dynamic music with very quiet an very loud passages need that)

                        -addition of real deep bass

                        I couldn't be happier. The only thing to do now is to do something with the room acoustics. I plan to try a Lyngdorf-Pre (with room-correction) or add some mechanical acoustic treatment to the room.

                        The CD-Player or Amp (or with even greater sureness) the cables don“t do any important difference to me anymore. (And this conclusion was a long journey!)

                        ....still a little tired, have been listening to music till 2 o“clock in the night....

                        Most important: even though the speakers are new to me I am listening to music, not the speakers. What else should I say?


                        • SHL5 with Mcintosh C220 & MC452...

                          SHL5 with Mcintosh C220 & MC452.....
                          Hi to all HUG members. This is my first post here, I'm interested on these SHL5 for my 2nd set of speakers. I'm using a 450watts power amp for my MG1.7's, and as of now, i have no plans of buying another amp.

                          would there be a problem if i use a 450watts amp on SHL5? my concern is it might damage the speakers .... your thoughts are highly appreciated.




                          • 400W amp with SHL5

                            FWIW, I run my Super 5s with a Classe CA-400. It's a solid state amp that's 400W into 8 ohms and 800W into 4 ohms. So, based on my experience ... "no" it won't harm your speakers. What probably WILL do harm is an UNDERPOWERED amp that you feel you need to crank to get the sound / punch you want (i.e., clipping).

                            {Moderator's comment: we've covered this before. Anyone able to remember where Alan talked about the speakers *drawing* power from the amp according to the volume setting not the amp forcing power uncommanded into the speakers?}


                            • Amp Power - you decide how fast to drive

                              I'll make an attempt to paraphrase Alan. I believe he compared a high powered amp to a high powered car. Both have reserves of power, and can be used safely in the hands of a competent operator.


                              • Alan's speaker drawing power article

                                Can you please send me the link regarding Alan's topic on speakers drawing power from the amp... thanks!

                                {Moderator's comment: he can't recall where it is but I think he made a comprison with a powerful car - a Bentley perhaps? Search 'Bentley'??}