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Harbeth SHL5 to SHL5 Plus

Discussion in 'audio' started by ryder, Apr 9, 2016.

  1. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    When I asked my local Harbeth dealer whether the difference between the SHL5 Plus and the discontinued SHL5 is significant, his response is as follows.

    The Super HL5plus is faster and more dynamic. It will be better if you audition both the models at our outlet on the type of music you enjoy most.

    Before I make a trip for a listen, I would be interested to know if there are any SHL5 owners here who had switched to the SHL5 Plus and found an improvement in separation, dynamics and bass response. Overall a more open, transparent and dynamic sound.

    I have been listening to the Dali Mentor Menuets in my main system for about 2 weeks now. Despite the slight *electronic* sound, the little Dalis are more upfront with more extension in the highs. Although the Dalis are more detailed and have more extension in the highs, they do not sound overly bright. They are fun and engaging monitors. The Dalis obviously don't do deep bass due to their diminutive size and do not fill up the large listening area, but they certainly sound larger than they look.

    I just switched to the Harbeth SHL5s after listening to the Dalis for 2 weeks, and in the first few minutes the speakers sounded, well, warm and little dull. But after a while, my ears got accustomed to the natural sound again(after all these years).

    That brings me the question. Does the new SHL5 Plus sound more transparent, lively and engaging in the treble (more detail and extension) whilst having better separation in the midrange. And the bass, whether it was tuned to be more taut and tight. Of course I can drop in for a listen, but I just thought if anyone here has done a direct comparison between the new SHL5 Plus and its predecessor.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.
  2. banjoman

    banjoman pfm Member

    Elephantears on this forum did this recently and he found the plus version noticeably better - so hopefully he'll chip in soon
  3. hifi_dave

    hifi_dave Hi-Fi Retailer

    The + is a refinement of the previous model and not a complete revision. It is slightly cleaner, tighter and with greater presence. The bass is punchier and the mids have less colouration. A worthwhile upgrade.
  4. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    Thanks for the information. Much appreciated. After listening to the Dalis, it's like homecoming going back to the SHL5s. I am currently listening to Larry Carlton on the SHL5s and the music sounds sublime.

    Good to hear on the improvements. Looks like Harbeth has gone the right direction, making a good speaker even better. By cleaning up the sound, producing a clearer midrange ie. less colouration, the speaker would be more capable of playing a wider variety of music. Good that there is a change in bass quality. Not that the bass in the SHL5s is bad. The slightly loose bass of the older SHL5 which tend to resonate makes it less suitable for faster / rock music. With the punchier and tauter bass and cleaner and more dynamic sound, the SHL5+ will likely be a more engaging speaker.

    Prices have gone up considerably with the SHL5+ since I bought the SHL5 about 6 years ago. Have the crazy idea of keeping 2 pairs of SHL5 since the older SHL5s are still great speakers to my ears, though it doesn't make much sense to have too many large speakers in the house.

    I see they now have the M40.2. What sort of sonic improvements are there between the 40.1 and 40.2?
  5. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    I think Elephantears is using the M30.1 now as the SHL5+ is too big for his room. And in his room the M30.1 sounds better than the SHL5+.
  6. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I remember Markus S commenting that he felt the SHL5 Plus a marked improvement on the previous version. He liked them a lot.
  7. Elephantears

    Elephantears Trunkated Aesthete

    No, it's a lot more complicated than that. I am using the SHL5 Plus in my large room, and Vaughn Cabernet One in my small room. I found the M30.1 better when firing across in my small room and the SHL5 Plus when firing down. I kept the 5s. I'll give more detailed thoughts when I've got time later.
  8. Old Shatterhand

    Old Shatterhand pfm Member

    Full agree, except the mids.
    IMHO the SHL5 hasn't more colouration, the mids have more body, the plus sounds thin an not like a Harbeth. Shur, first you'll be impresed, I was impresed to, but after a while I missed the SHL5 and sold the SHL5+.

    But I didn't went back to the SHL5, I bought a NOS Compact 7.
    IMHO the speaker has a tighter bass than the SHL and a bit less tight then the plus, but for me it sounds more natural.

    If you can get one, buy it.

    The plus isn't worth the "more" money, the SHL5 was also less expansive as the plus.
  9. per flemming

    per flemming Registered User

    In short, warm and dull pretty much my thoughts on most from Harbeth, the bas notes are weak slow or/and detached, more round earth, admittedly mostly a lovely midrange, indeed I choose M30 over any Dali, in fact wouldn't go higher than Compact 7 in the range unless room is larger than large, The M40 was a horrible disaster last time I've heard them.
    Graham or Sterling might provide a better purchase overall, maybe not resale value
  10. TLS

    TLS pfm Member

    In this context of comparison, did someone tried the Spendor SP1/2r2 against the Harbeth SHL5+?
  11. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    Do you own the Harbeth M30? Yes, the Harbeth line does sound like what you have described, though the strength of the speakers lies in low listening fatigue with a lovely warm midrange. Harbeth associates it as a natural sound, a natural *organic* sound vs. a more neutral but mechanical/hard sound. Pardon the adjectives. Due to the warm and natural sound of the Harbeth, I fully understand why some (or most) people regard them as dull speakers with rolled off highs.

    There are compromises, and depending on the acceptance level and listening preference of the listener, the strengths often outweigh the weaknesses.

    The M30 certainly sounds very special. It is a very rich sounding speaker. Due to the rich tonal quality, vocals and certain instruments such as saxophone or trumpet sound exceptionally real with the M30. The M30 is an overall more refined speaker than the rest of the Harbeth speakers. However, due to this richness in the tone, the speakers do not sound as open or airy as the C7 or SHL5. It is more restrained in its presentation although it is a more forward and rich sounding speaker than the SHL5.

    Perhaps I should revisit the Harbeth M30. Do you find a huge difference between the M30 and M30.1? When I auditioned all the Harbeth speakers at the dealers 7 years ago, I didn't quite like the M30 due to the restrained quality, not sounding as open as the C7 and SHL5. Nevertheless, I can understand the M30 has its own appeal.

    I could have picked the P3ESR but settled with the Dali instead as I wanted something different. The Dalis (Mentor Menuets) are meant to be used for casual listening in a secondary system. Although the Dalis do not have the poise and refinement of the Harbeth, they are not really that shabby. It's just a different kind of sound. I auditioned the Dali Mentor Menuet and Zensor 1 side by side at the dealers and picked the former - higher refinement and having the capability of playing louder without showing strain or distortion(despite the smaller driver). Differences are not exactly huge but rather noticeable.
  12. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    Forgot to mention about the M40. I listened to the M40.1 on many occasions. It is a fine speaker, but alongside the M30 is my least favourite speaker. The problem, to me, lies in the bass. If one finds the bass of the SHL5 to be an issue, the M40.1 will just amplify the bass problems due to the additional 12" bass driver. The problem is mainly the room. In a treated room with proper set up, the M40.1 may well sound great. However, I have yet to listen to a properly setup 40.1. The loudspeakers will mostly be placed in a domestic listening space with minimal to no bass treatment hence it would be difficult to get the best out of the speakers, in my opinion.
  13. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    Uhmm, your comment gave me some reservations to move to the SHL5+. It is true that the cost of the SHL5+ has somewhat increased quite a bit over the years where the difference in cost between the SHL5 and SHL5+ is equivalent to a brand new pair of P3ESR.

    Looks like I have to listen to the speakers to decide for myself. An interesting remark that you have made about the SHL5 Plus being a departure from the Harbeth house sound. Perhaps some people prefer the new house sound of the SHL5 Plus.
  14. hifi_dave

    hifi_dave Hi-Fi Retailer

    You need to listen yourself as my customers most definitely don't share the same views as cellofan.

    The price rise with the + version was just a few hundred Pounds and nowhere near the price of a pair of P3ESR.
  15. Old Shatterhand

    Old Shatterhand pfm Member

    In Germany your found less used Harbeth SHL5 plus in relation to the plus, and in some German Forums you can find my opinion verified.

    But it is only my opinion... I used the SHL5 for about a 3/4 year, and bought the plus unlistend because I trusted in AS talent/skills, but he decided to change the sound, as you can read here:

    The SHL5+ is more Hifi, the older Models have the "magical" Harbeth midrangesound, which the plus has not.
    But I wonder if somebody would describe any (older) Harbeth model as "coloured" even if AS does.
    I don't know any speaker brand which sounds more natural then Harbeth (the older ones), M30, SHL5, Compact 7.

    A dealer in Germany did some listening tests with comparing the newer and older model, where the listener couldn't see the speaker which was playing.

    Everybody who listend perefered the older over the newer.
    Interesting, even when it wasn't a scientific test.

    The SHL5 was the most sold Harbeth speaker, so you may not have the worst speaker.

    About prices: What Dave told is correct but for example, I bought the SHL5 from a dealer audition? for 2.150€ in 2015 in rosewood, today the SHL5+ in rosewood in Germany including 10% discount (which is much for a Harbeth speaker) is about 4.450€.

    I may have a good advice for stands and speaker placement for very low cost, which improved the listening quality so much, but that is offtopic.

    The only reason (for me) why Harbeth changed most speakers in such a short time distance is that the could longer produce the RADIAL 1 blend/mixture/compound or/and the won't store both a RADIAL 1 and a RADIAL 2 chassis for new speakers.
  16. DSJR

    DSJR Between us and them

    I think I can now say after a year or so, I know both variants pretty well. I thought at first the 'Plus' version sounded a bit tight-assed and 'up itself,' BUT, give the 'Plus' a big and powerful amp and they spring to life in a way that's totally enchanting and very, VERY addictive!

    Loads of talk on the HUG about amp power. The SHL5 Plus is certainly efficient, but give them a BIG amp with some quality and welly and they seem to open up in terms of dynamics and front to back soundstage, even at lower levels, I've discovered.

    So in conclusion, to me, the long lived SHL5 remains a good speaker with traditional 'BBC' warmth - but clearer and far more even with it than its ancestor HL5's and older HL models. The Plus is a refinement, tauter and a little (perceived) brighter in balance, that I think takes it further down the road, BUT, I think you need to get the partnering gear up to a higher standard and with more dynamic power to fully exploit the definite improvements that are undoubtedly there.

    Just my tuppence worth. Hope it's helpful.
    torstoi likes this.
  17. Old Shatterhand

    Old Shatterhand pfm Member

    I couldn't listend to the SHL5+ with a "not valve" amplifier because it anoyed me in short time, but your right, a Harbeth can play more dynamik with more power but that is the case with every Harbeth speaker, I really wonder how dynamic the compact is playing since I bought the Yamaha AS-2100.

    I is maybe posible to get the bass of a SHL5 more tight because as far as I understand it right, there is more damping material in the plus version and the SHL5plus has damped the bassport.

    Another Dealer in Germany reduced some damping material because he also found the plus a bit too thight and also the mids to thin.

    But that all depends at persanal listening prefreneces any maybe also the room furniture.

    My room is optimised with damping studio stuff, so maybe this is a reason why it may sound thinner than it would in other rooms without damping.
  18. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    At the place where I live (I'm not located in the UK), the price increase with the SHL5+ is exactly commensurate with the price of a brand new pair of P3ESR (old prices back in 2009/2010). I didn't inquire on the 2016 new price of the P3ESR but it should have been adjusted as well to cater for our weak currency and also the implementation of GST several years ago.
  19. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    On amp power, how big is big? Harbeth have always championed low powered amps for their speakers, with an ideal 25W amp recommended for the SHL5 in their spec page. Though I can understand some of the comments can't be taken too seriously especially with their remark that amplifiers do not make a difference with their speakers (all competent amps sound the same with the Harbeth, or it's the other way round, Harbeth speakers sound the same with all competent amps).
  20. Singslinger

    Singslinger pfm Member

    I used the SP 1/2R in the same system with the Monitor 30.1 for about 9 months (with Naim amps) and eventually kept the Spendor because I found it more lively and involving. I also felt its midrange had the edge over the Harbeth, even though the latter's was very good.

    The Harbeths I found good for a short listen but ultimately a bit too boring over an extended period.

    However, I have not heard the SHL5+.

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