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Thread: Harbeth SHL5 specific

  1. #161
    ednevis Guest

    Default SHL5, QUAD, Tropical Audio ... endless hours of musical pleasure ...

    It has been 5 months since I bought the SHL5. To be honest the original intent was to buy something decent and as a 'second set'. This was just before I was transferred to a new job in India. Before I left Malaysia in Dec 2007, I auditioned a number of speakers and settled for the SHL5 from Sam (Tropical Audio). Sam is a great guy with a lot of patience and a diehard of Harbeth & Quad.

    I also have a main system comprising of Audio Research VT100 MkIII, BAT VK30se, Wilson Audio Sophia and Marantz SA11SI and Aries Scoutmaster for front-ends. I wired the SHL5 at home with my old trusted Quad34/Quad306/Quad67 set and it sounded good. I had no time to do a detail comparison and shipped it out to India in late Dec.

    Now after 5 months I have to say, this combination gives me endless hours of music pleasure. I hate to say it, but to be honest, the Quad + SHL5 sounds more musical than my other expensive set in KL. I do go back every fortnight and cannot help but hear the difference.
    I also recently replaced the Quad 34 with the Quad 99 pre. The highs are real sweet. Yesterday, I adjusted the toe-in having read in the forum that 10 to 12 degrees is sufficient. What a difference this made! I am now awaiting my Quad 99 CDP-2 which should arrive tomorrow.

    I have been a hi-fi fan for 20+ years and have much stories (and burnt pockets) to share but this one is a good example of you do not have to splash money to get top notch sound.
    When my job gets me back to KL or Singapore at my next posting, I know what I will buy....another pair of Harbeths of course!

  2. #162
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    Default SHL5... endless hours of musical pleasure ...

    Quote Originally Posted by ednevis View Post
    It has been 5 months since I bought the SHL5.... Now after 5 months I have to say, this combination gives me endless hours of music pleasure. I hate to say it, but to be honest, the Quad + SHL5 sounds more musical than my other expensive set in KL. I do go back every fortnight and cannot help but hear the difference.

    I have been a hi-fi fan for 20+ years and have much stories (and burnt pockets) to share but this one is a good example of you do not have to splash money to get top notch sound.
    When my job gets me back to KL or Singapore at my next posting, I know what I will buy....another pair of Harbeths of course!
    Hi Ednevis, thks for sharing this with us here. Its indeed reassuring time & time again to hear music lovers say that Harbeth is more musical than all those flashy & grossly overpriced stuff that we so often see in the high end market. That's why i mentioned in the 'Compact 7 value' thread that Harbeth is priceless because no other loudspeakers at any price sound quite so natural, sweet, & downright musical.

  3. #163
    Jeff Day Guest

    Default SHL5... endless hours of musical pleasure ...

    The same thing happened to me. I got the SHL5's with the intent of building a 'practical' second system around my Leben CS600 integrated amp. As it turned out my Leben & Harbeth combo kicked the poo musically out of my Avantgarde Duo and Tom Evans system. That surprised me, and somewhat perplexed me. And that's not a diss of the Duos & TEAD which is really good gear, it's just that the Harbeth & Leben combo played music in a remarkably satisfying way.

    I've bought the little Leben CS300X integrated (also a great amp), and the Leben separates pre & CS660P too (ditto), so I've got the start of a nice little Harbeth & Leben collection when I can afford to buy some more Harbeths.

    By the way: Anyone reading this have a magic Harbeth combo with the CS300X? I already know the SHL5 works well, but has anyone tried the HLP3ES2 or the Compact 7?

    Best,

    Jeff

  4. #164
    colhd Guest

    Default Re: Harbeth SHL5 specific

    Hi all,

    I am currently looking for speakers and an amp to expand my current headphone - only setup. My room is 10ft deep by 26ft wide, all brick construction. I will place the speakers to fire across the 10ft dimension (firing down the 26ft length is not a practical option) and I prefer to listen at 6-8ft from the speakers. I also listen at low to moderate levels so speakers which need the volume turned up to come alive are no use to me. I will probably be using a valve amp, maybe even a SET, say about 10-40 watts per channel.

    I was wondering if anyone here had heard the SHL5 and the Living Voice Avatar IBX/OBX-R2? I realise the LVs are quite a bit more expensive than the SHL5 but they are within my budget whereas the M40.1 is unfortunately not. Like the Harbeth range the LVs have a reputation for putting the performance first and individual hifi attributes second. I have yet to hear the SHL5 but I have heard the LVs about 4 years ago and remember being very impressed. Any feedback would be appreciated.

    Yours,

    Col

  5. #165
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    Default SHL5 - long term cost of ownership?

    As I have said recently here, every speaker designer has a different priority list during design, and the final product reflects both his design priorities and his constraints. It also reflects his pedigree, how much of the speaker history he has absorbed ("there is nothing new under the sun"), how much of a risk-taker he is and what features or characteristics he thinks important and so on.

    There is certainly room in the speaker world for all manufacturers, as there are so many different opinions about sound and I did a Google search for the product you mention and found the manufacturer's informative web site. I note that they say (I hope that I read this correctly - please correct me if I am wrong) that all their bass units use foam surrounds. They've selected light-weight foam for their own reasons such as prioritising high efficiency. They don't hide the well known fact that foam surrounds rot and disintegrate rather fast especially in humid environments, and for that reason have never been used in 'BBC designs'. They say that their customers can expect about a 6 year lifespan for those woofers, after which they must expect to buy new ones. As the woofers are bought-in (they are frank about this) you'll agree that aside from the replacement cost to the consumer, there is a real risk that the replacement woofers won't be available at all. This is a completely different approach to ours. We are building capital equipment that must work year in, year out without maintenance and that's what professional users expect and demand. And that's built into our price and QC.

    Before considering any sonic issues of speaker A v. speaker B I'd urge you to consider the long term cost of ownership. Perhaps Harbeths are a little more expensive (I don't know - just guessing) but with a 20+ year operating life when treated with respect they make very good economic and environmental sense. Of course, you are free to chose whatever sound suits your taste.

    All Harbeth speakers produce warm, involving sound even at a very low listening level in the relative nearfield. That's not an accidental spin-off of the design process but at the top of my priorities list (along with zero listening fatigue). It reflects how our speakers must perform in the real-world studio environment, in busy, noisy control rooms where the sound engineer has to listen at a low level but still must be able to make critical decision about sound balance.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  6. #166
    colhd Guest

    Default 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

  7. #167
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    Default 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

  8. #168
    colhd Guest

    Default 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

  9. #169
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    Default Re: SHL5 - involving even at a low replay level

    Quote 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

  10. #170
    colhd Guest

    Default 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

  11. #171
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    Default Re: SHL5 - involving even at a low replay level

    Quote 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.

  12. #172
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    Default 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

  13. #173
    colhd Guest

    Default 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

  14. #174
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    Default 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.

  15. #175
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    Default Harbeth SHL5 - listening close, no loss of musical structure ...

    Quote 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.

  16. #176
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    Default Re: SHL5 - replay level and perceived loudness

    Quote 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

  17. #177
    polaris Guest

    Default 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..

  18. #178
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    Default 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

  19. #179
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    Default 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.

  20. #180
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    Default 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.

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