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The Harbeth Super HL5 and M30.1

Discussion in 'audio' started by plimpington2, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. plimpington2

    plimpington2 Active Member

    Folks, this weekend I will be demoing the Harbeth Super HL5’s and the equivalent from Graham Audio (I think the LS5/9). What I won’t be able to hear is the Harbeth M30.1, Which happens to be the one I think will work best from a size and aesthetic standpoint.

    I’m wondering if it turns out I really like the HL5’s, what will I be missing (or getting) if I take a leap on the M30.1? How do they differ? Prices are pretty comparable.

    I would be using in a pretty big room (about 15ft x 25ft). I value an open and transparent midrange, good timing and articulate bass. I generally don’t care how deep the speakers go, but what they DO do, they should do well. Ultimate low and high end “extension” is of secondary importance (but boomy or one-noted bass is intolerable). I would run these with either a Leben C300xs (which i REALLY like) or about 30-50 watts of Naim or Rega amplification.

    For what it’s worth, I run Rega Rx-5’s on my Leben without difficulty. They are fast, tight and articulate, with plenty of power. I don’t listen to much rock (mostly small ensemble jazz, folk, etc), but I admit the amp gets sloppy with my current speakers on those rare occasions I do listen to rock. I also run a mid-spec LP12 with an Asaka or Karma.

  2. jamesd

    jamesd pfm Member

    I was just about to start a thread to ask a question about the Super HL5's. Maybe I can tack on to yours (maybe you'll also be interested in the answer)?

    I keep reading that one shouldn't expect Harbeth's to "do scale". Is that true? Do SHL5's sound like a small speaker?
  3. plimpington2

    plimpington2 Active Member

    To be honest, I don’t know exactly what “scale” is. I have a big room, and I suspect within that context may be able to take advantage of “scale”, but I’ve always rather more enjoyed my system in a smaller room anyway. My system sounds “big” as it is. Funny, I’ve never been as impressed with big speakers in big rooms. I’ve gravitated towards monitors for whatever reason. Also, I don’t have any classical. I like big band a lot, tho. Hmm

  4. PerF

    PerF Senior

    Tried all three and preferred Grahams but they are very expensive in my book

    M30 was better than HL5 IMO, but this could be down to other issues, the larger Harbeths, indeed both the 40 & HL5 had bas issues so homedem is essential
  5. bensim09

    bensim09 Active Member

    I have the M30.1 These speakers need good and powerfull amplifier and top source component to show what they capable of. I prefer them to the SHL5, less boomy, and more natural midrange/high.
    The best of all is the M40.2, my dream speaker, even in a relativly small room, the bass is manageable, the resolution and imaging excellent.
    You undestand what means "scale" when you hear these speaker...
  6. hifi_dave

    hifi_dave Hi-Fi Retailer

    Scale or size, so that an orchestra doesn't sound like a transistor radio but has weight and depth. Small speakers can't do scale as well as a large speaker.

    The M30.1 does scale and the SHL5+ does it better.
  7. jair

    jair pfm Member

    Outside the M40.2 (damn near perfect), I suspect that the M30.1 is the outstanding model of the range. If only it was a little bit bigger...

    All Harbeth's are good loudspeakers and they also have that classic look. It is unfortunate that only the M40 seems to have all the answers for all the people (space permitting).

    Guess we should all keep saving, one day...
  8. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    yes , keep us posted , the shl5 is one speaker on my list to demo

  9. Elephantears

    Elephantears Trunkated Aesthete

    OP, Have you done a search because we have done these comparisons many times before?

    The M30.1 has quite a different sound to the 5Plus, and the C7ES3 is another different flavour. The P3ESR is favoured on the forums, and the 7s have been less fashionable since the M30.1 came out, but the C7 has a very similar sonic signature to the P3s, chiefly because of the more forward presence region. The 30.1 is a lovely speaker, but its a bit recessed in that region, so in anything but a near field set-up it can seem a little polite.

    You need to hear them in your room, but the choice doesn't just depend on the size. Are you going to have them in a near-field triangle, or do you want them further away, to fill the room with sound.

    In a sense, though, the 5Plus is probably going to suit your room best whatever the answer to that question. When used near-field, with plenty of space around it, it is a supremely balanced and open sounding speaker; quite stunning, in fact. It loses quite a bit of this magic if used too near to room boundaries.
  10. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    Judd, I hope you are referring to the SHL5 Plus and not the older SHL5. The latter is not as good and balanced to my ears. Between SHL5 Plus and M30.1 I much prefer the former but you've got to listen and decide for yourself, as usual. With the size of your room I feel the SHL5 Plus is a better fit.

    I suspect the Leben - Harbeth combination would sound rather sublime. I heard a CS600 drive a M40.1 and the setup sounded more open and transparent when compared to the speakers driven by other solid-state amps. As for the Naim and Rega, I much prefer Naim with the Harbeth but that's when I owned the older SHL5. However, it's not exactly a fair comparison as in my case it was a Rega Elicit Mk2 integrated vs. a much costlier pre/power from Naim. In my experience, a 30-50W Naim amp won't do the speakers too much justice. I currently have the NAP 250DR with the SHL5 PLus and it sounds most balanced and matured when compared to the NAP 200 and smaller Naim amps. There are reports that the NAP 300DR is a massive improvement over NAP 250DR when used with the SHL5 Plus but I do not have the wish to go there.
  11. Yank

    Yank Bulbous Also Tapered

    Maybe the Stirling LS3/6 should also be considered?
  12. ampman

    ampman pfm Member

    I had both the Leben CS300x and a Luxman L505u with the Super HL5 plus. Even in a small to medium sized room the Harbeths clearly benefitted from the extra power of the Luxman, though both are good amplifiers.

    I usually listen about 6-7 feet away, speakers well toed in, and actually quite near side walls. Sounds great.
  13. wacko

    wacko pfm Member

    Does anyone know why DeVore are so much more sensitive than Harbeth ? The O93 is 93dB, the O96 is 96dB while the Super HL5 Plus and 40.2 are 86dB. They seem to have a similar design philosophy but the sensitivities are very different.
    It does make DeVore seem more suitable for tube amps. Perhaps it is not a design priority for Harbeth ?
  14. Elephantears

    Elephantears Trunkated Aesthete

    Harbeths have very stiff cones and very complex crossovers. Devores are much more suited to an amp like the exquisite little Leben 300. Saying that I did hear Compact 7s with the 300 some years ago. On vocal music the sound was absolutely bewitching, but that is all we listened to. I then contacted a dealer in the US who sold Harbeth, Devore, and Leben, and he practically insisted that I don't buy the Leben to match with Harbeths. He said that however beautiful an amp the Leben is, you will never get real live dynamics when pushing the Harbeths.
  15. wacko

    wacko pfm Member

    Thank you. And I have a Leben 300...
  16. TimF

    TimF pfm Member

    As Yank mentioned above, the LS3/6 from Stirling is another excellent option, and possibly a little cheaper too?
  17. plimpington2

    plimpington2 Active Member

    I have heard this as well. Occasionally I hear people say you can run Harbeths on the Leben 300, but mostly I gather you can’t. Perhaps the 600 would work ok, tho. Funny, btw, I’ve spoken to the importer multiple times and the VERY DISTINCT impression I got from him is that the 600 does not sound better than the 300, and that it’s principle advantage is simply more power if you need it for your particular set of speakers.

    I will add that my local “Tone Imports” dealer does not feel that the Leben 300 is enough to drive the O/93’s. He prefers the Line Magnetic stuff got that (to be honest, I think the LM 219 is AMAZING). Stereophile tested the O/93 and concluded that the sensitivity was, frankly, a few dB down from 93. (Or, it may have been a few dB down from the 96, I can’t remember now for sure).

    Wacko, do you run your Leben with Devore?

    The alternative to Harbeth/Graham would be the O/93, but my local dealer won’t let me borrow them. And $8,000 is a TON of money to spend to not get a home dem. Now, regarding the Harbeth, If I love them, it would be easy (and relatively cheap) to press Naim or Rega low/mid range into service. BUT, I am also VERY intrigued by the Accuphase and Luxman integrated amps. They LOOK mid 80’s low-fi, but what I read suggests they are anything but. I’ll be hearing all of it this Saturday.

  18. Elephantears

    Elephantears Trunkated Aesthete

    I've got a budget Kenwood integrated from the early 90s that I got for about £40 on ebay, and the SHL5Plus sounded really good with this! They did sound better with a ARC LS26 and VTL 150, but the price differential was astronomical. One of the big advantages of Harbeths is that they really can sound great with very modest amps. I don't find this to be the case with Devores, although John Devore has frequently demoed them with a Nait XS in the past. I've always scratched my head about that, because when myself and others have taken decent but modest amps to my friend's house to try with his Devore Nines, they have tended to sound a bit ragged. This may simply be because they are destroyed in comparison with his VTL rig, but my feeling is that the floorstanding Devore Gibbons are qutie picky with amps. That's not to say you can't drive them well with something affordable; someone I know drives them with an Eastern Electric M520 (an amp I also own), but I've not heard this system. The Orangutans are a different design, and I've no experience with them, so can't say. The person to ask about them in the UK would be Graham Tricker.
  19. plimpington2

    plimpington2 Active Member

    I’ve heard the Orangutans and several of the Gibbon models (and even the Silverbacks) at my local dealer (usually driven with either plenty of Line Magnetic or Shindo) and I just never found any of the non-Orangutan models to be worthwhile. They sound fine to me, but so do MANY other speakers. The Orangutans strike me as special and different. My WORRY about them is two-fold. First, they are rear ported and I can only get them about 30 inches from the back wall (even tho my room is big). The second concern I have is that they have a sort of “wall of sound” reputation. And as much as it’s not fashional to say as much here, I really like imaging and the whole disappearing act thing (which is why I suspect I gravitate towards monitors). I have always enjoyed holographic imaging. The O’s seem more “matter of fact”, which is why it’s critical is hear them in my space with my electronics.

  20. Cellofan

    Cellofan pfm Member

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