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I fell off the merry-go-round drunk with love for my SHL5+

PaulF70

New member
For my new Harbeth Super HL5+s.

For the past ten years I have been a gear-churning audiophile - deep into the hobby, buying new gear very often. Sometimes I'd say "this sounds great, and I should stop spending all this time buying & trying", and I'd sit still for 3-6 months, and spend more time with my family. But there was always something else.

Now, the "scientific" aspect of the hobby - experimentation and learning - has always been enjoyable for me, and I don't regret learning what I have. But there was also an element of the old AN. (Audio Nervosa - oh, and Audio Note too!)

Recently, I decided that I am simply going to scale-down and build a simple system that I can & will be happy with. I attended a show recently and heard the HL5+ and was quite impressed - and this is an understatement - at how good they sounded with all acoustic music (almost all I listen to) partnered with pretty modest gear. So I ordered a pair, even though I had some misgivings about my room. The room - 20x20 ft, ceiling sloping from 10' to 18', two large openings - in fact one wall is hardly there.

Of course, I do have subs to fill out the bottom end - 400 lb worth of subs, actually. I have the speakers out into the room with the listening seat about 9' away, so I get mostly direct sound, with the room out of the equation, and the subs fill out the bottom two octaves since I do not get room reinforcement of them. Even though this may not be exactly how the HL5+ was designed to be used, the results are truly *fantastic*.

I have had a field-coil based front-horn system in this room (over $40K retail) along with Audio Notes, other vintage horn and HE speakers, Magenpans, and others. I was prepared to take a step back with this downsizing, to make an overall compromise, but what has amazed me, what has prompted me to make this post, is that I have NOT.

In short, I think Alan Shaw must be a genius. I just can't get over how good these speakers are. Even though they are med-eff boxes I "hear things" that somehow my 110 dB/W horn system didn't reveal. But, of course, that's really totally beside the point, because what it's about is musical enjoyment. Not technology. If you read the marketing material of virtually any other speaker firm (Audio Note is different - and AN gear is great too), it's all about the technology. It reads, "We use all this great tech - and so yeah of course the speakers sound good." But Harbeth seems to invert this philosophy and it seems to me the end results reflect that; Harbeth says, "we are going to make speakers sound like music, and whatever technology falls out of that is what it is." Who's got it right? After listening, I know the answer to that.

I am DONE BUYING SPEAKERS. Period. Even if we move, I can make these work in a smaller room by getting rid of the subs. An even larger room is definitely not in the cards. Hear that, honey - I'm done!

Also, BTW, there is no way these things are only 86 dB/W - it must be 4-5 dB/W higher than that, and I'm not talking about room gain. The speakers play fine on a 5W amp even if they don't come to life! Is there any other firm in this industry that *underrates* sensitivity?
 

acroyear

Active member
Satisfaction and budget electronics

Satisfaction and budget electronics

PaulF70.

No doubt getting off the merry go round is quite a relief for you. I'm running my C7's with $800 of dvd/2 channel mixer/pro power amp and cheap cables, everything sounds great despite being decidedly non 'hifi'.

I'm still trying to convince myself that I need to get a more domestically acceptable set of electronics!
 

Hipper

New member
Once you are satisfied with your equipment

Once you are satisfied with your equipment

Have you now got all the gear that you think you will be satisfied with?

Once in that position I suggest you now look at things in a different way. Your aim now should be to try and get the best out of what you have got. To do this you should:

1. Find the best speaker and listening position.
2. Investigate how room acoustic treatment can give benefits.
3. Perhaps in addition consider using a digital equaliser.
4. Investigate equipment and speaker isolation.
5. Look at you power supply.
6. Investigate cleaning and preparation of your music media (vinyl, CDs etc.).

My experience is that there are benefits to be had in all these areas.
 

ssfas

Well-known member
Proper, adequate power reserve

Proper, adequate power reserve

Also, BTW, there is no way these things are only 86 dB/W - it must be 4-5 dB/W higher than that, and I'm not talking about room gain. The speakers play fine on a 5W amp even if they don't come to life! Is there any other firm in this industry that *underrates* sensitivity?
You are certainly on the right track.

It is, however, fortunate that you listen mostly to acoustic music. If so, I do wonder why you have subs.

Harbeth SHL5+ changed my way of thinking about amps. 5W seems grossly insufficient to make proper use of the SHL5+ and fully enjoy their performance. I found 20W could not properly control the lower bass. That said, Harbeth's German retailer who features in the recent newsletter (and on the hug) finds a 15W Ear Yoshino amp to be absolutely fine down to the low end of SHL5+'s performance range. I have changed to a more powerful (valve amplifier) with improved results.

The 86 dB/W is not, I think, misleading - they are certainly harder to drive than the 89dB/W speakers I previously owned.
 

Milosz

Active member
15w

15w

I came to the same conclusion as Paul with my SHL5+ and recently replaced my beefy solid state 310W/8Ohm power amp with a 15W tube amp. I also tried a 150W solid state for some time.

I liked the 15W tube amp best, sounds marvellous with SHL5+ in my 30m2 room and I don't see any shortcomings. I mostly listen to acoustic jazz and classical music and some soft pop/rock but I don't listen to symphonic music or heavy metal so 15W with SHL5+ is enough for me. This set can play very loud though if needed.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Small amplifiers are a very poor choice for dynamic sound

Small amplifiers are a very poor choice for dynamic sound

I'm really rather depressed by these comments about small amplifiers. They are in direct contradiction of what I, the mere designer of the speakers, strongly recommends as a sensible minimum power availability in the sales literature.

The observation that a small amp can play 'really loud' is irrelevant and misguided. It will clip. That's a fact and it cannot be denied. I amongst others have invested hundreds of hours here on HUG demonstrating and explaining over and over and over again the physical reality of moving heavy speaker cones to generate sound and the consequences of inadequate motive power to position the cones for/aft where the music commands them to be. Consider that the speaker cones have the inertia of an ocean liner, and need a mighty engine; attempting to power such a system with a Fiat 500 engine is just stupid.

Please do not perpetuate the comment that an amplifier power rated below my suggested minima for wide range, wide dynamic music is a wise choice. It isn't. It truly isn't. You are needlessly strangling the dynamic potential of your Harbeth speakers unless you listen to solo harmonica rather quietly in the speaker near field. Please don't argue with me about this. I have no reason to state these facts about speaker power demands other than for users to get the best from their Harbeth speakers. Watts are dirt cheap - there is no reason to pay more money and in exchange buy a smaller, less powerful amp. That's bonkers. Buy the biggest amplifier (power) you can for the money. If it's a mainstream brand such as Pioneer or Marantz - so what?

Incidentally, we made a video in Hilversum last weekend of the M40.1 being driven on high-dynamic modern music. You will be shocked to see the power meters flickering regularly to a peak amplifier power of .... can you guess?
 

willem

Well-known member
Watts are cheap

Watts are cheap

Indeed, watts are cheap. A Yamaha XP2500 pro audio amplifier will deliver 250 watt rms per channel at 8 ohm for a mere 700 pounds (and another 250 pounds buys you the XP5000 with 500 watts per channel).

It has a variable speed fan that will only kick in when you play the music at extremely loud levels, and it has adjustable gain. If you are willing to live with unknown brands, you can have something similar for less than half this price.
 

Milosz

Active member
Clipping amps

Clipping amps

Alan, from the technical point of view I totally agree with you - small amplifiers are a bad choice for dynamic sound and our attempts to getting the best from the Harbeths. We need to buy big amplifiers, which I previously did. I didn't like it so I changed and now I'm delighted with the sound I'm experiencing in my room. I do not hear any shortcomings, although I know I should.

What we don't take into account is the reality of poor conditions in our regular dwelling houses with non-acoustically treated rooms. Perhaps in such poor conditions a dynamic, powerful sound is not necessarily what is needed?

Also, I've been reading many times that clipping sound of a tube amplifier is much more pleasing to the ear than the sound of the clipping solid state amp. Perhaps it's got something to do with my experience?
 

ssfas

Well-known member
Real power really is necessary

Real power really is necessary

Alan, from the technical point of view I totally agree with you - small amplifiers are a bad choice for dynamic sound and our attempts to getting the best from the Harbeths. We need to buy big amplifiers, which I previously did. I didn't like it so I changed and now I'm delighted with the sound I'm experiencing in my room. I do not hear any shortcomings, although I know I should.

What we don't take into account is the reality of poor conditions in our regular dwelling houses with non-acoustically treated rooms. Perhaps in such poor conditions a dynamic, powerful sound is not necessarily what is needed?

Also, I've been reading many times that clipping sound of a tube amplifier is much more pleasing to the ear than the sound of the clipping solid state amp. Perhaps it's got something to do with my experience?
AS says above:

the physical reality of moving heavy speaker cones to generate sound and the consequences of inadequate motive power to position the cones for/aft where the music commands them to be. Consider that the speaker cones have the inertia of an ocean liner, and need a mighty engine; attempting to power such a system with a Fiat 500 engine is just stupid

AS is dead right - and he should know. Borrow 50 or 60 watts from your local dealer, as I did, and it becomes blatantly apparent what is missing in the low frequencies. Soft clipping is not the issue and volume is irrelevant. It doesn't mean you have to abandon valve amplification if, like me, that is your preference. It is simply that you will hear part of the recorded sound that is probably missing coming out of your system and, with it restored, you will enjoy the music more, which surely is the whole point of buying a domestic audio system in the first place.

I posted similar comments earlier today and, as AS says, it cannot be repeated too often.
http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?2549-My-hobby&p=34525#post34525
 

acroyear

Active member
Red-lining a small amp

Red-lining a small amp

Alan, from the technical point of view I totally agree with you - small amplifiers are a bad choice for dynamic sound and our attempts to getting the best from the Harbeths. We need to buy big amplifiers, which I previously did. I didn't like it so I changed and now I'm delighted with the sound I'm experiencing in my room. I do not hear any shortcomings, although I know I should.

What we don't take into account is the reality of poor conditions in our regular dwelling houses with non-acoustically treated rooms. Perhaps in such poor conditions a dynamic, powerful sound is not necessarily what is needed?

Also, I've been reading many times that clipping sound of a tube amplifier is much more pleasing to the ear than the sound of the clipping solid state amp. Perhaps it's got something to do with my experience?
I guess what is more important is what the expectation/use of the system will be, if you play ear safe music with low bass you might not experience clipping but as soon as you play bass heavy music to fill the room you are almost certainly going to get clipping. I know in my last 24 years of 'hifi' ownership I have had amps from 30-75 Watts and in playing loud I recall distortion from clipping, I used to errornously think that was the speaker being unable to handle the power ('why are these speakers distorting with a 30W amp?). As it is I'm running a powerful amp to my Harbeths though I am firmly keeping them at safe listening levels and clipping is a long way away according to my front panel indicators.

In practice I find extra power allows for loud passages to play cleanly, and even if there isn't much perceived clipping you can bet if there were a warning indicator you would get a lot of 'red lining', also I think you are less likely to damage a speaker with a bigger amp. I was once running a 30W amp, a certain electronic track had this bass thump briefly in middle that made the (not my Harbeths!) bass cones thwak at the end stops even when played quite modestly, a much bigger amp sailed through that section at significantly higher volume.
 

Milosz

Active member
Who to believe

Who to believe

Borrow 50 or 60 watts from your local dealer, as I did, and it becomes blatantly apparent what is missing in the low frequencies.
I do not have to borrow as I still have in my wardrobe the Creek Destiny 150W amplifier that I bought a couple of weeks ago, without even listening, basing on the technical knowledge only. I can plug it in anytime but I really can't hear the Creek doing any better in the bass department than my 15W tube amp. What can I do if the technical evidence is contrary to my personal experience? Should I follow the ears, crowd or HUG?

PS I also wonder if silver cables make any more sense than weak amps :)
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
What bit don't we understand about power?

What bit don't we understand about power?

Moreover, Harbeth's own web-page says that the SHL5+ works with a wide range of amplifiers, ideally from 25W/channel. Having in mind that official information from Harbeth, 15W isn't too far off and 30W definitely shouldn't be clipping and distorting!

http://www.harbeth.co.uk/uk/index.php?section=products&page=superhl5plus&model=Super HL5plus
Not so. 15W is a far smaller power reserve than 25W or 30W and it would be a trivial matter to make a 30W amp clip - that's easy to do.

What continues to amaze me is that of all the matters concerning audio we could, have and will debate, the matter of amplifier power reserve* or not is one of the easiest most certain to demonstrate with basic high school test equipment. Pick another subject that we could discuss to death, but on the matter of amplifier power, you are wasting your time. The facts are utterly beyond debate. I repeat: to try and argue contrary to the observable facts about the voltage/current the speaker demands under peak signals when playing music just makes the commentator the subject of ridicule. Example: A 7W amp cannot behave as a 9W, 11W, 12W, 15W or 28W amp. It has the capability of delivering a real-world, measurable 7W (at best) and not a drop more. A 15W amp has the power reserve potential of 15W (at best), not 16W, 18W, 22W or 53W.

Power is not for free. If you had a sensitive enough electricity meter measuring the power you're paying for, playing the same music you would clearly see that a small amp is saving you money compared to a larger amp above a certain loudness because the small amp is incapable of drawing more energy from the mains supply: it is running flat out regardless of how the music waveform commands the speaker cones to move which in turn sucks power from the amp. That finite, certain, easy to measure power limitation which is choking the speakers natural aspiration is what we call clipping.

I repeat again: there is no substitute for power. Or don't you believe that? And if you do have an alternative view of the universe, I suggest you patent it quickly, because you have the capability of untold wealth in your reach!

Until then - no more unsubstantiated comments about amplifier power here please as it's pretty clear to me despite countless tens or hundreds of hours trying to explain this, that it's just not making headway.

BTW: even I was shocked in Holland about how much amp power is drawn by sweet-sounding speakers when they bare working hard, playing excitingly, realistically loud. The M40.1s were drawing peaks - as you'll see on the video - of well over 500W per channel. And they sounded great.

* I assume that we know that amplifier power specs are the potential power available to the speakers? How is that power regulated? The music voltage waveform (on the LP or CD or streamer) instructs the speaker cones to move, a voltage function, and that in turn sucks an instantaneous current from the amp. Voltage x current = watts. Not enough current available to do what the music waveform commands? Too bad. Tough. The cones do not reach their instantaneous for/aft position - the sound we hear is a clipped version of what it should be.
 

hifi 87452

New member
Croft 50W

Croft 50W

I do not have to borrow as I still have in my wardrobe the Creek Destiny 150W amplifier that I bought a couple of weeks ago, without even listening, basing on the technical knowledge only. I can plug it in anytime but I really can't hear the Creek doing any better in the bass department than my 15W tube amp. What can I do if the technical evidence is contrary to my personal experience? Should I follow the ears, crowd or HUG?
Hello once more Milosz....

I think you have to trust your Ears and your Feelings. Nothing else matters.

The Sound quality in our Mind depends on very much different things. The amp is only a small Part of it. If you want i give you a tip for a very good, payable Amp to use with Harbeth Speakers. Try the Croft Integrated Regulated. It is at about 2300.-- Euros in Germany, hat 2x50 Watt, Tube Preamp and MOSFET-Power-Stage, Point-to-Point Wiring... And it is unbelievable Fast... quite brilliant!!! But it has NO Remote!!

Try it... and wonder how beautiful it can be....

kind regards
Michael
 

willem

Well-known member
Creek power

Creek power

Nothing wrong with that Creek, and miles better than a puny and anaemic Leben with its high distortion figures and undesirable sensitivity to load changes.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
I just want to reiterate - as the designer of the SHL5+ - that I know the capabilities of that speaker better than anyone alive. One observation stands head and shoulders over all others: the speaker is capable of an astonishingly immersive sound. If you want to get anywhere near the full dynamic potential of the speaker, assuming that you like to play loud sometimes, you will need lots of watts available. The more the merrier.

An investment in an amplifier capable of a clean, unclipped, undistorted say, 100W plus, regardless of how cheap or how mainstream the brand would be a really good investment. Otherwise, using a low powered amp with your fine speakers would be like putting paraffin in the fuel tank of a Ferrari. Illogical. Bizarre. Perverse. Unsatisfying.
 

Milosz

Active member
Harbeth amp?

Harbeth amp?

If only Harbeth manufactured a 100-150 watts amplifier with basic functions, satisfying and not perverse, I would buy it right away (two of them in fact) and not make the usual misguided audiophile mistakes, buying amps that are either too strong or too weak...
 

Ned Mast

Member
Is "accuracy" to the recording the goal or not?

Is "accuracy" to the recording the goal or not?

hifi87452 says: "I think you have to trust your Ears and your Feelings. Nothing else matters."

This is one approach to listening to recorded music. But another approach is to want to hear recorded music that sounds as much as possible like the sound of live music in a real space. If one doesn't listen to enough live music to know what it sounds like, then perhaps hifi87452 is right. But if you believe that there is actually an objective reality to what a violin or a piano or a voice sounds like live, then you will want to find out what that reality is and try to replicate it with your system. At least I'm generalizing this from my own experience.

If one chooses to hear recorded sound that differs significantly from the live sound, that is a prerogative. And any kind of distortion will cause such a difference. Perhaps the distortion will sound agreeable to some. But it is in a sense 'wrong'. Whether one chooses it or not, accuracy - natural sound - does matter. Well, why else are we using Harbeth speakers?!
 

IMF+TDL

Active member
500W peak power requirements not surprising

500W peak power requirements not surprising

BTW: even I was shocked in Holland about how much amp power is drawn by sweet-sounding speakers when they bare working hard, playing excitingly, realistically loud. The M40.1s were drawing peaks - as you'll see on the video - of well over 500W per channel. And they sounded great.

* I assume that we know that amplifier power specs are the potential power available to the speakers? How is that power regulated? The music voltage waveform (on the LP or CD or streamer) instructs the speaker cones to move, a voltage function, and that in turn sucks an instantaneous current from the amp. Voltage x current = watts. Not enough current available to do what the music waveform commands? Too bad. Tough. The cones do not reach their instantaneous for/aft position - the sound we hear is a clipped version of what it should be.
That you observed peak power usage exceeding 500W/ch is no real surprise.

40 years ago, in their live versus recorded demonstrations, AR was using the Luxman M-6000 power amplifier - chosen both for its output capability and reliability. Though the M-6000 had a stated output rating of 300W/ch into an 8Ω load, in practice its typical maximum output power was 20-25% greater. The availability of that much power was found to be necessary to avoid clipping on peaks.

AR also observed that the use of amplifiers with lower output capability, that could be driven into clipping with regularity, would cause premature failure of the speaker drivers.

Incidentally, which amplifier was being used at the demo in Holland?
 

thurston

New member
The audiophile misunderstanding of dynamic range

The audiophile misunderstanding of dynamic range

One idea I had:
Humans are emotionally drawn to louder music, which is why music is compressed and the so called "loudness war" has started in the first place.

Audiophiles allways cry out loud that they want to have huge dynamics, but in reality I assume they (better: us! / including: me!) are often not able to really appreciate that in a home environment.

Result: The audiophile searches for music with huge dynamics and listens to them with a flea-powered tube amp which squashes the dynamics back to a mediocre level, resulting in a perceived higher average-volume.

The audiophile BELIEVES he knows what great dynamics sound like, but IN REALITY is also just drawn to low dynamics (just like everyone else).
 
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