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The following descriptions of Harbeth’s various speaker models will provide a really good reference for learning about each model and their voicing. If you have any questions or if you have an interest in purchasing a pair of your own contact Fidelis A/V at the following web address:

http://www.fidelisav.com

But First, Does This Scenario Sound Familiar?

You’ve tracked the package online from your office. Your mind mixes memories of the product you sold to raise funds with the burning desire for something new. When you arrive home early that evening, you await the courier’s knock with eagerness and trepidation. You know that the thrill of the unwrapping ceremony will be drowned in a (harmless?) verbal bloodbath, the ritual of spousal wrath. But you’re armed with your timeworn excuse: “This will be the last one. This one’s a keeper.” You turn up the volume. Even your spouse admits it sounds good.

An Excellent Solution

With the Harbeth Super HL5 Plus, there’s a good chance you will keep the promise. It made me rethink the restless gear flipping so common among audiophiles. It worked magically with every musical genre including simple folk, complex orchestral music, classic rock, jazz trio and toe-tapping techno. If one speaker really sings with every genre and on several different types of amplification, why bother keeping other large boxes on hand unless you had more than one listening room? Check out the Super HL5 Plus info below. It is my favorite speaker!


 

Harbeth P3ESR

 

P3ESR

$2,095 in Cherry
$2,295 in Rosewood
$2,395 in Eucalyptus or Black Ash

“I love the Harbeth P3ESR… the best iteration yet from any manufacturer of the BBC LS3/5A mini-monitor concept.”
John Atkinson, ‘Stereophile’ USA

 

 Amazing clarity and astonishing bass from a beautiful shoebox-sized cabinet – the RADIAL2™ Harbeth P3ESR is the ultimate mini monitor. The rich Harbeth sound, in miniature.

 

Harbeth’s world-exclusive RADIAL2™ technology has been transferred to the heart of the mini P3ESR. Designed and made by Harbeth UK, the RADIAL2™ 110mm (5″) bass/midrange driver offers the hallmark clarity and naturalness of the larger Harbeths.

Breathtaking transparency, real bass, and fantastic holographic imaging endow the P3ESR with grand, captivating, transparent sound presented in a conveniently small and beautiful cabinet. Not only is the P3ESR capable of being used in a wide range of listening environments, but it is optimised to get the best from any amplifier.

The little P3ESR is actually excellent for rock music as it’s sealed mini monitor box seems a bit more punchy and excitable within the confines of it’s lower frequency response capabilities.

Harbeth C7ES-3

 

7ES3

$3,795 in Cherry
$3,995 in Rosewood
$4,195 in Eucalyptus or Tiger Ebony

“The design and engineering of the Compact 7 is so solid and sophisticated… that it sounds absolutely wonderful, retaining its essential neutrality and natural tonal balance…”
The Absolute Sound’ Magazine USA

Whatever you ask of the Compact 7ES-3, it always delivers: perfectly. The clarity is spellbinding and brings the ‘magic carpet ride’ experience to the listening room in a medium-sized enclosure. The world-class HL Compact 7ES-3 takes the ultra-clean Harbeth-exclusive RADIAL2™ cone technology to another performance level. This medium-sized loudspeaker combines natural sound with a flair for reproducing any and every type of music.

The Harbeth secret for natural sound is the result of the meticulous attention to detail.

Critically important, but hidden, is the crossover for seamless integration of the drive units across a wider horizontal and vertical arc meaning that the Compact 7ES-3 is far less critical of stand height than many speakers of this size.

The Compact 7ES-3 are often referred to as the “all arounder” in the group…. they do equally well with all kinds of music…. because they are warmer sounding than other models, they do tend to make everything that is played through them sound a little nicer than it really is… again, they are more on the warm side of neutral than the other models in the lineup. They tend to do things via errors of omission rather than commission in that the little touch of extra warmth and niceness tends to mask the extent of how bad a recording actually is rather than laying it bare and making it hard to listen to.

Harbeth Monitor 30.1

 

30.1

$5,695 in Cherry
$5,995 in Rosewood
$6,295 in Eucalyptus or Tiger Ebony

Harbeths: resolving and ravishing … Timbres so true, and resolution, too. Whatever amp I used, the tonality was superb. Never, ever, fatiguing.
Sam Tellig, Stereophile (USA) December 2012

 

A refinement of the mid-sized BBC speaker (LS5/9), the multi award-winning M30.1 offers a smooth, controlled and well-rounded sound which excels on acoustic music. Featuring the Harbeth RADIAL2™ bass/mid unit from the reference M40.1, the new-generation M30.1 space-saving professional monitor disappears into the listening room. The M30.1’s outstanding midrange clarity and well-controlled bass brings music to life in a wide range of listening environments including front/centre/rear-channels in professional surround sound systems.

It is the first choice for many professional audio engineers including Britain’s National Film and Television school and the British Library’s National Sound Archive.

The Monitor 30.1 is model that is closest to being a studio monitor and is the most ruthless in resolution, detail, openness, transparency, etc… all without ever forgetting that it is a Harbeth speaker …. so more pronounced “sssss” and letting more sibilant notes through, but never to the point that it would be so ruthless to make you fatigued or want to turn off the music after a short period of time. The M30.1 also shows displays the strengths and weaknesses of the source electronics and how they are affecting the sound.

Harbeth Super HL5 Plus

 

HL5+

$6,695 in Cherry
$6,995 in Rosewood
$7,295 in Eucalyptus or Tiger Ebony

A sonic “Tardis” that fills the room space completely … the definitive Hi-fi speaker for the 21st Century. If it were a Michelin Chef, it would be given a 5 stars and a Rosette!
Robert Edwards, TV Sound Director

 

Harbeth’s Super HL5plus produces breathtaking transparency, a huge soundstage and total immersion in the performance. This speaker creates a rich bass and sweet midrange that brings acoustic music alive. This is the latest generation of Dudley Harwood’s original HL-Monitor: the cabinet is still engineered in the BBC tradition of removable ‘thin-wall’ panels for a totally true-to-life sound.

Retaining the classic ‘two cubic foot’ proportions found in the very best BBC monitors, the HL5plus relies on the exclusive Harbeth-made 200mm RADIAL2™ bass/mid driver. This produces a big, warm and powerful sound that underpins the incredible midband clarity.

The 25mm main tweeter is augmented by a 20mm SuperTweeter for an extended and even dispersion to the upper edge of the audio band.

Basically, the HL5+ is slightly more forgiving, nicer, warmer version of the M30.1 with a much bigger sound overall that scales and fills a room with less effort …. more in the vein of what the M40.2 does versus the M30.1 with the woofer underneath. It doesn’t have the same scale and resolution capability of the big boy in the lineup (the 40.2), but it’s just about the perfect compromise, imho.

The HL5+ comes in a package that still has great WAF, can be placed in the room easier than the M40.2 big boys, and saves you enough money compared to buying the 40.2’s that you can go all out and upgrade your electronics, too at the same time. If you want the best, however, the M40.2 is still king – but you’re going to pay for it in money, size, and the quality of your front end.

Everything mentioned above is entirely subjective, open to interpretation based on the source electronics used, room size and construction, speaker placement in the room, etc.

VOICING: This is my absolute favorite Harbeth speaker. This model has the most recent updates (along with the new 40.2 which is similarly voiced). The Super HL5 Plus model (SHL5+), is more in the vein of the C7 sonically than the M30.1, yet retains the clarity and detail qualities of the 30.1. It has more resolution and detail retrieval capability than the C7, has a bigger soundstage and throws a bigger wall of sound, has a heftier, weighter bottom end due to tuning, yet mimics the C7s ability to make the music a bit nicer sounding than it actually is in reality. This is an incredible sounding speaker system!

 

WHAT IS THE HARBETH SOUND?

 
Each of the Harbeth models sound considerably different by swapping cables and amplifiers, and DACs/players/servers. All of the Harbeth models, including the supposed nicer sounding C7s and SHL5+ do illustrate the differences in the gear in front of them and components can easily be evaluated in blind tests.. but all Harbeth models sound have the “Harbeth sound” no matter what you use in front of them.

The generic description of the Harbeth sound is: relaxed, never trying to push any one part of the signal to the forefront, except a bit of a highlight in the vocal range to let it be tightened a touch without having to exert yourself to hear into the mix to find the vocal at the expense of the rest of the presentation that could be masking or covering it up.

There is a purity of tone with vocals that Harbeth speakers are oooooh so real and present sounding, and with some models making the audio presentation just a bit more romantic than reality… but never forward, bright, etc. However, if you use really bright electronics in front of them, these speakers can’t work miracles and will let that brightness through, especially the M30.1!

The midrange is colorful and rich…. acoustic guitars have the right type of resonance so that the wood body of the guitar seems to resonate in the presentation just like it would if the guitar was in the same room with you. This seems simple enough but an extraordinary number of speakers just can’t get an acoustic guitar to sound truly the same as it sounds in the room, or piano, or other stringed instruments like the violin or cello.

We’ve all become accustomed to what we think is the true sound of a recording but most of us are really off base and are listening to music that is not damped enough and on the thin and possibly shrill side. Harbeth provides just enough richness that it sounds more real to me without going too far into fat and syrupy. Treble is overall more laid back than aggressive and pronounced but still there in its totality and very beautiful.

The new SHL5+ is like having a M30.1 while adding a small REL subwoofer to it (with the volume slightly raised on the sub so it blends perfectly and you can’t tell the sub isn’t part of the main speaker, but the overall bottom end has a bit more juice to it). However, the SHL5+ does not need a sub. It’s perfect all by itself. The M30.1 could use one but it is not absolutely necessary.

Harbeth Monitor 40.2

 

40.2
$14,990 in Cherry
$15,790 in Rosewood
$15,990 in Eucalyptus or Tiger Ebony

 

Many are called, but few are chosen. It is a startling experience to sit in front of these large boxes [M40.1] and hear sound that has no box character at all.
‘The Absolute Sound’ Magazine, USA

 

The Monitor 40.2 redefines the term ‘Reference Loudspeaker’. Built on the success of the multi award-winning M40.1, this new generation is the biggest leap forward in sonic supremacy since the design’s launch in January 1998. More efficient, more adaptable to a wide range of listening environments, perfectly balanced and more transparent and engaging, the M40.2 takes the Harbeth sound to a new level.

With its mesmerising and addictive  soundstage, Harbeth’s reference monitor produces a grand, dynamic and unforgettable sonic experience – far beyond conventional loudspeaker listening.You might feel that bigger is better but in reality, unless you have a huge listening room and really high grade and powerful electronics, you might be better off with the Super HL5+. The HL5+ plays loud and powers a large room nicely. It is much more friendly in terms of price, placement, and electronics. With the HL5+, your audio equipment swapping days could easily be retired.

The Monitor 40.2 and the SuperHL5+ share a LOT of sonic similarities from 200Hz and up… except the 40.2 is on a different scale as far as the wall of sound it produces with its much larger box and 12 inch woofer making it a true three way (and a more than double MSRP price tag to go along with that fuller ranger response and bigger cabinet manufacturing costs).The M40.2 has waaay more weight and depth than the others and really needs two people to place it on and off its stand. It is a difficult speaker to position by yourself and does take up a lot more visual space than my favorite, the SuperSH5+.

The bass response is like a great sub, and tends to open up the rest of the soundstage and present things on a larger scale and dimension in all directions. The M40.2 is the most finicky of all the models about electronics that make them sound their best… they absolutely demand an amount of power (at least 100 w/ch) to come alive and sound their best…. they also don’t show as well as the others with less than reference electronics. The 40.2 easily illustrates when electronics aren’t allowing them to show their best….of course, if you never actually use better electronics with them, you won’t know that and they will still seem amazing as is.