Filling the Gap: A New 3 Way Model
As a casual observer and proud owner of Harbeth M-30 Domestics; I noticed that the current line of offerings include 2 models at the $5K (USD) price point (the M-30 and the SHL5), and then nothing between $5K and the Flagship M-40.1 at more than double the price. Stereophile magazine recently commented on the conundrum of having 2 models at the $5K price point. I respect Harbeth for not merely giving one of these models a healthy treatment of snake oil and jacking up the price by 150% to fill the gap.
Recently, during a long listening session, I had something of a vision that I would like to share with you. I don't mean to present myself as a speaker designer, or presume to tell Harbeth how to run their business. I honsetly believe that this would make a great sounding speaker that would also sell quite well: In a cabinet the size of the SHL5; I propose a true 3 way design with the SEAS tweeter from the M-40.1 and M-30, the 110mm Radial2 driver from the PS3 as a midrange, and the 200mm Radial driver as a bass driver. Porting and cross over frequencies, well, Alan and the design team would have to figure that out. The 200mm Radial driver is completely capable of producing nearly full range, reference quality bass; as evidenced by the SHL5. If it could be crossed over at lower frequency, and placed in a properly ported cabinet, I'm sure that even bass crazed audiophiles would want for nothing. The 110mm Radial driver, once liberated from some of the burdens of lower frequency reproduction, could really shine in delivering the transparent, lucid midrange that Harbeth is known for.
I understand that both Radial drivers were primarliy designed to be full range in 2 way designs, but its easy to imagine them working together with seamless integration (given a properly designed crossover). This model would likely be more consistent with the domestic market than broadcast applications. I'd imagine that it would not be a member of the M-series. It would effectively bridge the significant gap between $5K and $13K (USD). I can guarantee you one sale in advance: I'd like to be the first on the list for such a speaker!
Hi, Diminish ,I've had M30s for around 5 years now and am still in awe of them. As to the 3-way, this was suggested by several members somewhere on this forum around the time the 110mm radial first appeared.
I know Harbeth won't be able to comment on wether such a speaker will ever appear.
We will just have to wait and see... and continue to enjoy our M30s!
Hey, Phillip and welcome to Diminish
As another very happy Monitor 30 user, I've thought recently about a slightly different model than what you're thinking, Phillip. The M 30 is the second smallest model in the line, the smallest P3 ESR's being a sealed box design.I've often wondered if the Monitor 30 could also be made as sealed box. If it has a weakness at all, the M 30's bass doesn't always integrate with the mids and highs-it can sound slightly bloated-and i don't think this is a function of my room. Spendor has/ had two versions of the SP 3/1(similar in size to the M30), ported and sealed. I wonder if the 30's could work as a sealed box and how they might sound different.
Any thoughts, guys, Alan?
Imo, if we take the lineage of BBC loudspeakers (and all virtues the philosophy represents) as a cue, and im sure Harbeth takes this very seriously, then there just isn’t an “in between” model as far as I know. There was the LS5/8 (M40) and the smaller sibling, the LS5/9 (M30). There is no gap.
Each current model Harbeth has a mentor
LS3/5a P3ESR, M20
LS3/6 - SHL5
Not sure about the Compact 7 though.
Hi Diminish, designing a 3 way Harbeth to bridge the gap between M30/SHL-5 & M40.1 sounds like a good idea that is easy to conceive but hard to implement. I am no speaker designer but i reckon that its not easy to design a good 3 way rather than a 2 way. And i've heard enough 3 way spks to be sufficiently convinced that it's so much easier to screw up the sound in a typical 3 way design than a 2 way. IMHO, out of so many 3 way spks i'd heard, only 2 deserve mention. They are the Spendor SP100 & of course M40/M40.1, with the M40.1 being a much more developed & advanced design over the SP100 or SP100R.
In addition, as Kittykat has mentioned, there is no gap between the BBC 5/8 & 5/9.
Thanks guys. I was hoping that Alan would chime in on this too, but in light of the 2 significant points raised here (no BBC equivelant, and the difficulty of designing a 3 way), perhaps its best that it just dies here. KT88, you could try plugging your M-30's to see what they'd sound like as a sealed cabinet speaker. I may try it too; just get a sock or something and stuff it in the port. Some manufacturers ship purpose made "plugs" with their ported speakers and encourage listeners to experiment. Come to think of it, the last 3 pair of speakers I've owned have all been ported 2 way designs (M-30's being the most recent, and hopefully the last). Actually, that's not by chance; I really like the sound of a good 2 way. I agree with GanCK above that 3 way's are hard to get right. Even when it is "right" or very close, I always find myself listening for X-over points and being very congnizent of which driver is producing a given sound. Especially for nearfield listening in a small(ish) room, a 2 way is hard to beat and the M-30 is as good as it gets.
I think that while designing a 3-way speaker may well be more difficult, the Monitor 40.1 is all the evidence required to show that it's well within Alan Shaw's capabilities to do so.
About the "BBC equivalent" issue I could not say.
I will say, however, that I too have indulged in this pastime of imagining a Harbeth speaker that does not yet exist (a smaller 3-way, for example, a sealed version of the Monitor 30, etc.) and have posted accordingly on at least one occasion.
But, while it may seem innocuous enough, it occurs to me now that to do so disregards what is surely an enormous and focused commitment of time and energy needed to bring a truly new, truly improved model to market. In some ways, I am actually reassured that there's a cycle of many years between successive Harbeth models: it means that the improvements, when they occur, are genuine and not the superficial results of a marketing strategy. Now, when I read marketing bumpf by other manufacturers that says "we made the cabinet more rigid, we put in better wiring, better drivers, we improved the port design, blah blah blah", I think - what was it about what you did that would not have been easily accomplished a year or two ago, when the previous version was introduced?
I'm content to wait.