Have you listened to them?
Looking at specs (size of cabinet, bass extension), I think you'll see partially why. The 30.2 is their top-of-the-line true monitor. But all I know is that at CAF, driven by a large Rogers tube integrated, they could really boogie and dig down deeper than I would have expected.
I am the Harbeth dealer in the Dallas area and can expound on this some. When it comes to their lineup, I view them as an extended family. You have the only child in the P3ESR. Then you have brothers in the 30.2 and 40.2, and yet another pair of brothers in the C7ES3 and SHL5+. They are all cousins and share a familial resemblance, but there are some differences within each nuclear family.
In reference to the 30.2 and SHL5+, the 30.2 represents more of what I think of when I hear the name Harbeth. It is a warm speaker and because of that, its hard to get a bad synergy with them. They are more efficient than the specs would lead you to believe, are an easy load for an amplifier, and excel at near-field or semi-near-field positioning.
The SHL5+ is much more linear in tone and can take a little more effort in synergizing. They need more power than the 30.2 to 'open up' but when you get that right, they can fill a larger room with sound with ease. You get better bass response as well.
I hope this helps you some.
Thanks Skip! These are the helpful responses I enjoy from dealers.
FYI, I have not listened to them side by side.
This may not help but I have heard 30.1 and SHL5+ in two different rooms. They both are quite different. SHL5+ has more range and you can hear it especially at the lower end of the spectrum. Everything sounds a bit larger with SHL5+, more towards neutral than 30.1, to me at-least.
Of-course if you have listened to smaller speakers mostly then you will tend to like 30.1/30.2(I am guessing) like me.
I decided not to go with Harbeth speakers since they are just not neutral to the source or don't even try to be. They have a voice of their own. If you like that then you can't go wrong with the line up. Just go higher, you will definitely get more.
Thanks geek! Appreciated.
I listened fairly extensively to the Harbeth line before I decided at one point to get the Harbeth Super HL5plus.
I think the HL5plus is an amazing speaker (and I disagree with geek101 on this: I think they are quite neutral! In fact, they are among the most 'even handed' speakers I've heard).
I was seeing if I could replace my big Thiel 3.7s with a smaller speaker. I had the HL5plus for about a month of listening or more. I only sold them because I realized I couldn't give up the scale and quality of the much bigger Thiels. But the HL5plus was superb.
Some thoughts I've written before on the Harbeths:
When I’ve heard the smaller Harbeth Monitor 30’s I found they had a clear, rich, punchy mid-range oriented sound - the Harbeth magic. My main qualm is they didn’t go very low in the bass and they had a somewhat “darker” or shelved tonality that tended to remind me I was hearing reproduced sound (engaging as it was). Though some would just term it the mid to back concert hall sonic perspective, I guess.
The Harbeth HL Compact 7ES-3 is voiced to give a bigger sound, richer in the bass region and it satisfies in scale and drama in a way that the Monitor 30 didn’t quite match. It is both beautiful sounding, fun and could boogie. However, the added bass isn’t to my ears quite as refined as the rest of the range, a bit of bloat and overwarmth to get to that excitement at that price point.
For me the Super HL5 Plus is the “Goldilocks” of the line where everything clicks into place. There is the added bass extension and scale you don’t get from the Monitor 30, but the bass is distinctly more refined with the pitch control compared to the cheaper 7ES-3. There is also an opening up and extending of the top end - a deliberate new design choice from Shaw - making for a truly realistic “un-canned,” airy tonal balance that gives me that “this could be real” sensation. All that while keeping the Harbeth glory in the midrange.
Hi. I have heard both and decided on the 30.2
The only reason, imo, to consider the 30.2 over the SHL5+, is room size considerations. My room is small, and the 30.2 do nothing to address potential room interactions with first point reflections. They need plenty of space to sound their best. More than what I had. Hence, why I sold them for directional horns.
Anyway, I would reccomend the 30.2 if your room is under 40m3, and the SHL5+ for anything above that.
The SHL5+ is, imo, more full sounding. "Bigger" sound, better dynamics - swings in volume, etc. Better all around. But I knew they wouldn't play nice in my small room. The 30.2 barely did play nice. I'd honestly probably recommend a smaller Harbeth over the 30.2, if your room is under 35m3.
Thanks both for your replies, very helpful.
I heard the SHL5's in a brick-walled room driven by high-end Naim components, and I was surprised to find that they sounded a bit bright to me. This would be in line with audiothesis's comments. The 5's certainly will go down lower than the 30.2's, but that's what the 40.2 is for. As I said, I was really very positively surprised and impressed by the 30.2's at CAF, driven by large tubed Rogers integrated. I think a lot of the smaller speakers at CAF were being helped by bass reinforcement courtesy of the small hotel rooms.
I agree with most of the responses here on the comparison between the SHL5+ and M30.2 which have been rather accurate. I listened to the SHL5+ and M30.1 and M30.2 side by side at the dealers late last year and earlier this year. As usual, a lot will depend on listening preferences. I will always pick the SHL5 Plus over the M30 series anytime, be it the original M30, 30.1 or 30.2. About 8 or 9 years ago when I bought my first Harbeth, I compared all M30, SHL5 (non-Plus back then) and the C7ES3. The M30 was pushed aside after the first listen and I was left comparing the C7ES3 and SHL5 back and forth several times before I decided on the speaker to purchase.
Back to the thread, the M30.2 surely sounds different from the SHL5+. It’s not just a smaller box with reduced scale and bass response. The overall presentation of the two speakers is different. The M30.1/M30.2 has the small studio sound with a more controlled presentation. Due to this trait, it does not have the airiness of the SHL5+. The SHL5+ sounds airier and more open than the M30.2. The M30.2 is a warmer sounding speaker and sounds slightly shut-in than the SHL5+. It’s not exactly a criticism toward the M30.2 as folks who prefer a warmer and controlled sound will like the M30.2 better. The M30.2 sounds more glorious with vocals but the SHL5+ is a more balanced and versatile speaker to me. Case in point, the M30.2 may sound great with vocals and jazz but not very good with pop and rock. The SHL5+ sounds equally good with pop and rock. And yes, the bass of the SHL5+ goes deeper and sounds fuller and more complete than the M30.2.