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"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.

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Feb. 2018
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My experience moving from 7ES3 to the SLH5+: worth every penny

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  • My experience moving from 7ES3 to the SLH5+: worth every penny

    For those cross-shopping, here are my experiences. Of course my thoughts are not necessarily completely generalizable given differences in living room and associated components

    Room: well damped, 17x22 room. 10 ft ceiling. Plenty of furniture, books and furniture.

    Associated components - Exposure 2012s2/VPI Classic II/Dynavector 20x2/LFD phono stage/AQ cables
    Music - Springsteen, The Smiths, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, Alan Parsons, Dire Straits, Arcade Fire, Pinback, Joe Jackson, Patsy Cline, Coltrane, Chopin, Mozart, Mussorgosky. Basically everything but modern country or rap.

    These are profoundly different speakers - I can almost imagine an evolution in the design philosophy behind them. The 7ES3 is rich, warm and provides an enveloping wall of sound. It's comfortable and relaxing. Great midrange and very full bass. I found it best on Jazz, but a touch closed off on the top end to really shine w/rock. They are incredibly forgiving speakers. I never heard a micron of sibilance.

    Downsides? With all due respect, there are a few. These speakers will not provide the final say on high freq extension, air or imaging. Bass, in my 17x22 room, tended to feel a bit less controlled with a hair more bloom than is my preference.

    The SHL5+ have subsequently taken their place and I've had the chance to compare. Unbelievable how different these sound. The SHL5+ has all the air and top end definition that I could ever want, while maintaining that beautiful midrange and lack of offensive sibilance or glare. Bad recordings will sound bad - these are exceptionally accurate speakers. With that said, the flaws are laid out accurately and never highlighted in a fatiguing or excessive way. The way these bigger Harbeths handle the top end is close to flawless, in my opinion.

    For me - the biggest difference maker between these speakers are cymbals. I play the drums and am quite sensitive to the fact that most speakers get cymbals wrong. The SHL5+ just *nails* cymbals. Everything from the initial percussive attack, the shimmery sustain and then the beautiful decay are captured perfectly. In comparison, the 7ES3 doesn't really excel like the SHL5+ on cymbals.

    Bass was a surprise - if anything the SHL5+ sound a touch leaner, but this is in a good way. Lines are cleaner and punchy. No trace of bloat.

    The SHL5+ excels at voices - in my opinion it is superior to the 7ES3: it accurately conveys the breath, rasp and edge of voices along with a supremely natural midrange that give recordings life. I felt like the 7ES3 was a little more "chesty". Speaker positioning was identical on both speakers.

    At the end, both are great speakers - but very different. Where the 7ES3 really provided a warm, comforting, enveloping wall of sound, the SHL5+ has a little more of a "hifi" sound - in the best way possible. It is exceptionally accurate, natural, non-fatiguing and beautifully balanced.

    It's only a matter of time before the accolades start rolling in. These speakers are quite a bit more expensive than the 7ES3 and they are worth every penny. The SHL5+ is one of the best speakers I've ever heard.

  • #2
    The SHL5 plus story

    Thank you for the kind comments. You make a number of interesting and valid points.

    As you may know, designing Harbeth speakers is a one-man exercise, working entirely alone here at Harbeth. Not one living soul is involved in the design from start to finish other than me. Nobody has a 'quick listen to see how I am getting along', nobody visits me at the R&D centre, I don't discuss progress with anyone and I do not seek or receive input from colleagues, family, reviewers or well-wishers. The day finally comes when I hand over to the Production Manager the reference master speaker, a neatly typed list of parts and a properly drawn circuit diagram. My task is concluded, his now begins without discussion, negotiation, haggling over costs or any other factor. It's a 'done deal' as far as we are all concerned, right or wrong. It's my very best shot at the instant in time, with the knowledge, tips, tricks and materials that are available. The final rolled-up Bill of Material manufacturing costs are of no concern or interest to me - they are what they are for the speaker as I define it.

    The Compact 7ES3 was, and is, a very important model in the Harbeth line-up, and looking at the sales report last month at the end of 2014, I see that amongst our 30+% revenue year-on-year growth 9 months 2014-2013, its unit sales are still increasing. So it's very much alive and satisfying consumers and I have no plans to tinker with it! It's design was frozen some ten years ago (I can't exactly remember) and there is plenty of life left in it.

    The SHL5+ is a rather special case. As I reported last year, I actually intended to launch something else at Munich in May 2014 (and it's still far off, no development work undertaken by me since then) but for catastrophic inventory issues, we discovered that timescale was unachievable. But by then, our German distributor had committed to launching a new Harbeth at Munich, the press had been tipped-off and photography (or a sealed carton, draped in a union flag) had been expensively undertaken. As I was reminded, I had to do something, and it had to be damned good, although Production warned me not to be disruptive when they had a full order book, GBP 250,000 of paid-for inventory on the shelf and were under pressure enough from hungry customers.

    After a cool look at the sales figures over the past two decades (we are using the same MRP system so we have ever detail about sales and production since 1993 at the click of a button) it looked to me that the SHL5, being the longest running model was a candidate for scrutiny. And so it was that with considerable reluctance by my colleagues I asked them to build me a fresh pair of SHL5 (in reject cabinets), which I put in my car and drove over the the Old Barn for a few days of careful listening. (Sorry if I'm going over old stuff, but I'd like to record this for posterity). As mentioned, I do not listen to hifi at home, and it must have been at last five years since I heard a pair of SHL5 (in Japan, I recall, at StereoSound magazine HQ) so hearing them under my own conditions was a fresh experience; a valuable objective insight into what was, in effect, my design position around year 2000.

    So what can/could I do better in 2014 than then? The real progress for us has been in the area of crossover design. The original HL5 (of 1988/9) was the last speaker that I iteratively designed the crossover, by selecting components from a bucket, soldering them onto the circuit board, measuring and repeating for months until the outcome was measurably acceptable, then listening tests could begin. Many, perhaps most speaker designers still work that way, and it's quite creatively satisfying to be using your hands and eyes as you would building a brick wall, brick by brick. The problem is of inevitable fatigue, and of overlooking a particular combination of components that if you'd not been quite so hungry, tired and frustrated and just kept plugging away for another ten minutes, you might have stumbled across. There is also the problem of record keeping: when you are on a 'roll', even spending a minute quickly sketching on paper some magic combination that seems to work rather well is an unwelcome interruption. So you can all too easily find yourself accidentally stumbling across a rather effective circuit, only to lurch away in a tangential direction, unable an hour later to recall what that magic arrangement was and promising yourself on your late hamster's grave that you will slow down and always make careful, minute by minute notes. But when a chef is tantalized by the wonderful aroma of a new concoction, does he stop to make notes! Of course not - he wants to get the dish into the oven and into his mouth!

    The speaker that followed the original HL5, the original P3 (in about 1990) I developed the crossover in a first generation simulator. It was difficult to use, crashed constantly and could get itself into inescapable loops without telling you where it had got to, so a whole day's work could go up in smoke. But it proved to me that simulation was the future because it opened up an infinite array of circuit component topography and values that I'd never, in years, get around to trying in a random ad hoc way. And I was proved right.

    So, after listening for a day or two, I made careful measurements of the SuperHL5 and decided that the drive units were fundamentally good, but the crossover could, with the benefit of fourteen years simulator development and my improved knowledge over the intervening models - P3 series, M30, M40, Circle 3, Circle 5, Circle 1, P3ES/R series, Compact 7 series, Monitor 40.1, Monitor 30.1 etc. - improve the integration of the drive units, which is what I did.

    There is one step along the design process, and every model has this pivotal moment, where I have to have a sense for public taste. And that does change with time. What I mean is that by manipulating just a few components - perhaps 20% of the overall crossover Bill of Materials - I can swing the overall sound from two extremes: slightly distant and laid back, to somewhat incisive and exciting. One extreme biases the speaker's marketability towards a classical listener, the other towards a pop listener. This decision is not trivial, because it is based entirely on ones personal sense of the market place because as far as the simulator is concerned, a few component changes here and there makes another perfectly acceptable combination. The problem is that the sonic consequences can be, as mentioned, dramatic for the overall subjective perception. Such is the nature of crossover filters, an issue unlikely to be relevant to the design of audio power amplifiers sans filters slap bang in the middle of the audio spectrum. If I misjudge this subjective balance, then potentially we've killed the marketability of the product, possibly even put the brand at risk, and with a fourteen year history to the HL5/SHL5, you can imagine that Production have watched the financially important SHL5 age gracefully, with no motivation whatever to kill the golden goose.

    I decided that the time was right to re-bias the overall presentation to "open up" the speaker just a little, and once I'd convinced myself that that was a sound business decision, then that locked me into a certain circuitry arrangement, and in turn to the final crossover design. One thing I did do quite intentionally, was to tighten the bass output, to make the SHL5+ more of a universal speaker in smaller rooms, on pop/rock music.

    Hope that helps explain how the SHL5+ came into being.

    P.S. As the design progressed and I made occasional listening comparisons with various speakers drawn from the stores (Harbeth and not), it seemed to me that I was really onto something rather special. One does sometimes develop this feeling when no matter what one throws at the design underway, it's damned difficult to catch it out; in fact, it's clearly superior across a wide range of genres. At about that time, having a sense that one never knows when one's number is up, I installed four 'spy' HD high res video cameras at strategic positions to capture some aspects of the development process as it actually happened live at the R&D centre. I've not thought about or looked at the video material collected around a year ago- the SHL5+ is still too fresh in my mind - but one day we'll get around to making them available on-line. Perhaps the single most abiding observation will be that there is a lot of listening and thinking, interspersed with intense bursts of creative activity. Rather boring to watch I'd think. I don't do "pride" so I can't bring myself to use that word, but you know, the SHL5+ is a pretty good outcome for an old fool!
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

    Comment


    • #3
      User selectable settings for crossover?

      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
      There is one step along the design process, and every model has this pivotal moment, where I have to have a sense for public taste. And that does change with time. What I mean is that by manipulating just a few components - perhaps 20% of the overall crossover Bill of Materials - I can swing the overall sound from two extremes: slightly distant and laid back, to somewhat incisive and exciting. One extreme biases the speaker's marketability towards a classical listener, the other towards a pop listener. This decision is not trivial, because it is based entirely on ones personal sense of the market place because as far as the simulator is concerned, a few component changes here and there makes another perfectly acceptable combination. The problem is that the sonic consequences can be, as mentioned, dramatic for the overall subjective perception. Such is the nature of crossover filters, an issue unlikely to be relevant to the design of audio power amplifiers sans filters slap bang in the middle of the audio spectrum. If I misjudge this subjective balance, then potentially we've killed the marketability of the product, possibly even put the brand at risk, and with a fourteen year history to the HL5/SHL5, you can imagine that Production have watched the financially important SHL5 age gracefully, with no motivation whatever to kill the golden goose.

      I decided that the time was right to re-bias the overall presentation to "open up" the speaker just a little, and once I'd convinced myself that that was a sound business decision, then that locked me into a certain circuitry arrangement, and in turn to the final crossover design. One thing I did do quite intentionally, was to tighten the bass output, to make the SHL5+ more of a universal speaker in smaller rooms, on pop/rock music.
      Given that both "extremes" of crossover tuning produced apparently valid (though different) sonic results, was it necessary to select either one or the other - or a compromise somewhere in the middle? Did you ever consider installing both variations of the crossover design in one speaker, with a switch to select one version or the other?

      Although the cost would increase, might this option make the speaker more attractive to a broader segment of the market - or those with wide ranging tastes in music?

      Comment


      • #4
        You nailed it (with SHL5+)

        Thank you, AS, for the comments - these are fascinating insights into the process of voicing a speaker. It must be a challenging process reconciling the innumerable design options with the passionate opinions regarding the way a speaker should sound - particularly a Harbeth. Horses for courses, I suppose - I believe that keeping the 7ES3 in the lineup is an excellent way to maintain the classic voicing while allowing the company to evolve naturally.

        For myself, I can say that you absolutely nailed it with this one - just a brilliant and incredibly versatile speaker. I cannot imagine ever needing anything else.

        Comment


        • #5
          Set and forget is best

          Originally posted by IMF+TDL View Post
          ... Did you ever consider installing both variations of the crossover design in one speaker, with a switch to select one version or the other?

          Although the cost would increase, might this option make the speaker more attractive to a broader segment of the market - or those with wide ranging tastes in music?
          Even if this were technically feasible, I for one would not want it. Sometimes choice is good - and sometimes it just leads to fiddling and wondering which of the two options is "better". I'd rather have a "set and forget" product that didn't force me to think about it.

          I think the new SHL5+ has been very finely judged. I always liked the old one, but this is even better. I agree with the comments about better articulated, more open top, and slightly dryer, more controlled bass. The latter especially still surprises me every time I sit down to listen: from boxes of this size, I subconsciously expect a big, woolly bass, and these are just the opposite: tight, articulate, controlled. If the bass is there on the recording, they reproduce it, but they're not in the least boomy.

          With something this good, I say leave it alone. I like it the way it is.

          Comment


          • #6
            Biding ones time ....

            Originally posted by EricW View Post
            Even if this were technically feasible, I for one would not want it. Sometimes choice is good - and sometimes it just leads to fiddling and wondering which of the two options is "better". I'd rather have a "set and forget" product that didn't force me to think about it.
            I have 40 minutes to contribute here whilst I'm digitising an LP for the Hamburg show (this coming weekend) - it is about 20 mins. a side isn't it?!

            This is quite a complex issue, and as contributors have noted, the issues are what can be done technically and what is right to do from a business/marketing (even ethical) perspective. As I laid out in the start of my previous train of thought, the entire design process from the first step to the last is that of one individual, and that is a fabulously luxurious position to be in, and probably rather rare across the speaker industry. Design by committee is the norm, but I just cannot work that way. It's not that I'm antisocial or see myself floating on a rarefied golden cloud above ordinary mortals, it's a problem that team cooperation encourages by its very nature, discussion, compromise and a dilution of personal empathy with the task and the product outcome, which so often ends up in a bugger's muddle of a product.

            An old chum, recently joined a global audio business as a senior engineer told me that he was horrified that not one of the award winning products they trotted out was, in his view, properly or even completely designed by the time senior management had committed production to start. He was regularly pleading ineffectively for more time, the last vital 10%, to tidy up these extremely expensive, iconic audio products to a point really ready for production, but was now resigned to the culture of this extremely well known (overseas) brand. No self-respecting consumer product designer is happy with a 90% baked product. That fact that the wholly non technical writers at WhataCaperAudioMonthly? don't have the wherewithal to ask probing questions and that the business had "got away with blue murder yet again..." is no comfort to a professional designer.

            A successful brand, or designer must lay down his own personal vision of how the world sounds and stick to it through thick or thin if he has personal integrity. He should accept, as I have done from the start, that my version of reality is only going to satisfy a small percentage of the market because consumers are driven by their own perception. When there is a coincidence between design objective and consumer acceptance the business cycle starts. And, as I can testify, you have to have the nerve (and a controlled overhead structure) to be be in it for the long haul. In essence, the products that we make now embodies at its core the value set that the BBC gave us nearly forty years ago. There has been progress (RADIAL for example, crossover simulation etc.) but fundamentally what we make today and how it's voiced is virtually unchanged. What has changed is public appeal, fashion if you like. Thirty, even fifteen years ago the market was awash with sexy loudspeakers in teardrop cabinets with shiny multi-drivers that looked very exotic indeed. But we stuck to what I believe is the best overall compromise, a traditional rectangular thin-wall damped box (which is, let me assure you is fantastically difficult to make perfectly* compared with even the most exotic modern cabinets made of thick MDF) and as few quality drive units as possible, and slowly but surely, as the public fatigued themselves, they began to rediscover what had been right under their nose all the time. I was 100% certain they would, because sooner or later listening fatigue destroys musical enjoyment. It may take a year, or even twenty, but one day a light bulb goes on in the listener's head, and he's ready to escape from his sonic harshness prison.

            We mustn't overlook neurosis, on which this industry feasts. I know for certain that in Hamburg, as at all shows, that I am going to be taken aside and asked for my opinion of audio matters that are of pressing concern to 'audiophiles'. I enjoy interacting with the public, but some of the issues that are elevated to high anxiety are simply beyond me, and I find it quite stressful finding the words to assuage when the beliefs that X Y or Z makes a night and day difference in an audio system is so deeply held, and so assuredly BS. There again, I've told it like I see it - just like the voicing of a loudspeaker - and the public are free to vote with their feet in the opposite direction. Mind control is so pervasive and effective in the audio arena that no amount of common sense, short of a good thrashing (!) are going to make any difference, so providing the consumer with controls to fiddle with on the speaker is not something I'd really like to offer! Can you imagine the endless phone calls to the office?

            Great! Two sides of the LP digitised, off home to de-click them.

            *Dare I show you what, in extremis happens in incoming QC here to a batch when we know that we are beaten and no amount of continuing arguing with the supplier is going to make the silk purse that you expect? I don't think that I can. The waste of natural materials is nauseating, just to protect our reputation.
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK

            Comment


            • #7
              Was HalNet circuit simulator used in Super HL5 Plus's development?

              Originally posted by A.S. View Post
              As you may know, designing Harbeth speakers is a one-man exercise, working entirely alone here at Harbeth. Not one living soul is involved in the design from start to finish other than me. Nobody has a 'quick listen to see how I am getting along', nobody visits me at the R&D centre, I don't discuss progress with anyone and I do not seek or receive input from colleagues, family, reviewers or well-wishers.
              That sounds like a very interesting design philosophy/approach to the task of designing loudspeakers. It no doubt gives you great flexibility and saves a lot of discussions and differences of opinion from occurring, allowing you to focus clearly on the task at hand.

              So what can/could I do better in 2014 than then? The real progress for us has been in the area of crossover design. The original HL5 (of 1988/9) was the last speaker that I iteratively designed the crossover, by selecting components from a bucket, soldering them onto the circuit board, measuring and repeating for months until the outcome was measurably acceptable, then listening tests could begin.
              I expect that using such an approach would have been quite slow going, with a lot of dead-ends pursued along the way.

              The speaker that followed the original HL5, the original P3 (in about 1990) I developed the crossover in a first generation simulator. It was difficult to use, crashed constantly and could get itself into inescapable loops without telling you where it had got to, so a whole day's work could go up in smoke. But it proved to me that simulation was the future because it opened up an infinite array of circuit component topography and values that I'd never, in years, get around to trying in a random ad hoc way. And I was proved right.
              I think that some of the ideas behind your use of a circuit simulator (HalNet) are covered in this 2009 review in The Absolute Sound by Paul Seydor, TESTED: Harbeth HLP-3ES2 Loudspeaker. Was HalNet used for developing the crossover for the Super HL5 Plus?

              Hope that helps explain how the SHL5+ came into being.
              Many thanks for sharing that little bit of historical and technical data.

              but you know, the SHL5+ is a pretty good outcome for an old fool!

              Comment


              • #8
                Mastering on SHL5+?

                I have been considering moving from the Compact 7ES3 to the new SHL5+ because I am now depending on the Harbeths for mastering of original recordings. I am concerned that when I master so that things sound the way I want on the Compact 7s, playback on less gentle and forgiving speakers can sound a bit harsh.

                Then again, knowing your monitor well is more important than its particular sound. And I know the Compact 7 very well indeed.

                Comment


                • #9
                  My escape from prison

                  >I was 100% certain they would, because sooner or later listening fatigue destroys musical enjoyment. It may take a year, or even twenty, but one day a light bulb goes on in the listener's head, and he's ready to escape from his sonic harshness prison.


                  Alan, thanks for such open and insightful contribution to this thread. It's very interesting to have more detail about the design process that led to the production of SHL5+.

                  As we discussed at the Guildford Audio / Harbeth event last year, I have travelled the 'fatigue path' via various speakers from a range of manufacturers over the years. Although I'm not sure that I ever followed (or was actually aware of) speaker 'fashion', I was certainly enticed, but ultimately disappointed (in many cases irritated) by overly bright or forward monitors that eventually seemed to artificially enhance what I was listening to. I think that, deep down, I always knew what I was after, but I lacked the experience (eloquence, possibly) to explain just what kind of speaker presentation I sought. Finding the right local HiFi dealer helped.

                  Ironically, several bad purchases did too in a way; my goal gradually became clearer - warm, non-fatiguing but detailed, accurate sound - as I ruled out speaker after speaker. I eventually came across the SHL5, then its replacement at the Guildford Audio event where you were kind enough to spend so much time with me, answering questions, experimenting with speaker positions etc. I was smitten with the SHL5+ almost instantly, everything just fell into place. I ordered a pair right away and I've been listening to them pretty much daily ever since.

                  Not once have I suffered fatigue, or any sense that something was missing or exaggerated. For me personally, their presentation is simply wonderful. I for one am very glad that you stuck to a design approach and spent your time perfecting it.

                  All the best, and hope to see you at Bristol later this month.

                  Cheers,

                  Rich

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Satisfying sound

                    Originally posted by richman610 View Post
                    >I was 100% certain they would, because sooner or later listening fatigue destroys musical enjoyment. It may take a year, or even twenty, but one day a light bulb goes on in the listener's head, and he's ready to escape from his sonic harshness prison.


                    Alan, thanks for such open and insightful contribution to this thread. It's very interesting to have more detail about the design process that led to the production of SHL5+.

                    As we discussed at the Guildford Audio / Harbeth event last year, I have travelled the 'fatigue path' via various speakers from a range of manufacturers over the years. Although I'm not sure that I ever followed (or was actually aware of) speaker 'fashion', I was certainly enticed, but ultimately disappointed (in many cases irritated) by overly bright or forward monitors that eventually seemed to artificially enhance what I was listening to. I think that, deep down, I always knew what I was after, but I lacked the experience (eloquence, possibly) to explain just what kind of speaker presentation I sought. Finding the right local HiFi dealer helped.

                    Ironically, several bad purchases did too in a way; my goal gradually became clearer - warm, non-fatiguing but detailed, accurate sound - as I ruled out speaker after speaker. I eventually came across the SHL5, then its replacement at the Guildford Audio event where you were kind enough to spend so much time with me, answering questions, experimenting with speaker positions etc. I was smitten with the SHL5+ almost instantly, everything just fell into place. I ordered a pair right away and I've been listening to them pretty much daily ever since.

                    Not once have I suffered fatigue, or any sense that something was missing or exaggerated. For me personally, their presentation is simply wonderful. I for one am very glad that you stuck to a design approach and spent your time perfecting it.

                    All the best, and hope to see you at Bristol later this month.

                    Cheers,

                    Rich
                    I am always interested in hearing how users have moved from fatiguing loudspeakers (or systems) eventually settling for a Harbeth. I have heard demos of various non harbth systems and have found fatigue often an issue, meaning where I find the sound just grating and brash on average.

                    I know with my current system some of this has been fixed by using amplification with input and gain level controls, and in another instance an attenuating device. As I am moving speakers 'along the chain' due to one of an old pair being damaged/worn I am looking at the C7's.

                    I have demoed the 7's, I was not necessarily wowed by them, but I have this sneaking suspicion that in playing discs at modest volumes and just relaxing at home (not actually sat in front of the audio especially) I will get that 'eureka' moment when I am totally captivated by a given track, that is what I am chasing, it is not to sit in front of the audio and dissect out certain aspects of the music, I find the whole process a little daunting as $4000 is no small change (as an import the price becomes less competitive but what can I do? move back to the UK?!!), hopefully it will get me a sound that keeps my household (the two of us) quite satisfied for several decades.

                    In researching other speaker brands that are typically well respected I notice that some ranges offer such a huge choice of models within several lines (with overlapping price points), I also see brands that update their lines quickly, that bothers me, ignoing SQ for the moment, at least Harbeth by design evolve much more slowly and organically, I find that reassuring, the C7 is now 8 or so years old and holds it's own, that must by itself be telling of some enduring quality.
                    Getting to know my C7ES3

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      SuperHL5 plus after many hours

                      Hi acroyear,

                      I've not listened to the C7s so I can't comment on them specifically, but I can empathise with your desire to find a non-fatiguing speaker and I suspect that Harbeth could be exactly what you want.

                      One thing that struck me about immediately about Harbeth speakers, when compared with many other manufacturers, is their subtlety of presentation. They don't shout at you. Sound is not exaggerated and thrown out at you, instead it floats, holographically, between the speakers in a wonderfully relaxing way. Listening to a pair of Harbeths immediately after a pair of more exaggerated monitors can lead to them initially sounding a little restrained possibly, but that really is not the case. Their presentation is more real, with emphasis in the mids as it should be. There's tons of detail there believe me, and the SHL5+S have ample (nicely controlled) bass too, but the mids are simply stunning. In my opinion, better than anything I've heard at several times the price.

                      The speakers I had before my SHL5+s really threw sound at you. They bass and highs they produced were definitely impressive, particularly so given their comparatively diminutive size, but I fell out of love with them (as I've done with several others) because the sound they produced was ultimately not real. It was completely exaggerated. I've found this to be the case with so many current speakers.

                      Even new speakers, from manufacturers whose models I liked 20 years ago, seem to be brighter and ultimately more fatiguing now. Several dealers I've spoken to confirm this to be the case. This is why I applaud Alan's approach, particularly with the HL5 line. He knew that the BBC originally got things right. He has therefore incrementally improved on the HL5 range as technology made this possible, rather than radically re-inventing it.

                      I can't tell you how frustrated I had become over the years, replacing one pair of speakers after another as listening fatigue ruined my listening pleasure. That has all gone now. I've listened to an significant amount of music on the SHL5+s, over many, many hours. I expected the usual niggles to creep in, but I can honestly say that not one has. These speakers have been a revelation.

                      To come back to my initial point, I haven't listened to the C7s, but I have listened to the M30.1s and extraordinary P3s. Although I preferred the SHL5 / SHL5+ model for its more 'airy' presentation and fuller bass, the M30.1 was another great speaker, and the P3 seems to defy the laws of physics given just how small it is. This demonstrated to me that the Harbeth sound is common to all three models, and most likely the entire range. If you decide to go for the C7s I expect that you will be a very happy listener.

                      All the best,

                      Rich

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                      • #12
                        Harbeth upgrading

                        I would caution you to not buy speakers on faith, unless you have a solid return/trade in policy with your dealer. This was fortunately the case with myself and I found the speakers that worked best with my room/taste/program material.

                        The midrange character carries over between the c7 and HL5+, but if you are looking for a little more jump and sparkle (particularly at lower volumes), the SHL5+ should be on your list.

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                        • #13
                          Just a short remark:
                          What I like so much about Harbeth is that the firm is so accessible. Tell me for which other firm you can hear the director/chief designer is sharing his design considerations and concerns with the world? And in all honesty too... Buying a Harbeth is buying into this firm that is the antidote to capitalism (although I realize that Alan needs to pay his staff and has to earn a living himself too)... Where do you see that the price of the speaker is the simple end result of the best possible design process and its outcomes? Where the design process is only driven with quality (and not price) in mind? Only for this alone is it that Harbeth deserves more sales....

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