Harbeth again…or other speakers for acoustic music?


I’ve been without any decent hifi setup for a few years now but lately had the thoughts of investing in a good system again. Let me tell you little about my background and what I’m searching for. I live in a place far from any hifi-stores, I’ve not so much experience of listening to a lot of different systems or visiting hifi shows, but I’ve been playing music myself, mostly jazz, for about 20 years and have been in many performances both as musician and as audience.

About 5 years ago I first bought a pair of Harbeth P3 second hand along with a Rega amp. Pretty soon I wanted something bigger in scale so I swapped the speakers for a pair of 30.1 and the amp for a Croft 25/7 combo. The sound was really really good in so many ways, best sound and midrange I’ve ever heard before! Even though my apartment back then was not optimal with concrete walls the vocals was very lifelike. But after a while I feeling somehow that something was missing. I’m no bass junkie or so but I was tempted to try something that had little more depth and covered the bass region better, so I was started looking at SHL5+ and C7ES3. I also thought about integration some subs but never tried that route. Swapped the 30.1 for C7 but I was immediately disappointed. I never got them to sound good at my place. I thought they lacked the magic I felt 30.1 had.


I ended up selling all my gear, but the sound of 30.1 and Croft combo really etched back in my mind. It was more emotional to listen to music as I ever before had experienced. I prefer listen to acoustic music, jazz, small groups ensembles but occasional big band and some lighter pop, but looking for something that excells with vocals and acoustic instruments. It can absolutely be little on the warmer sound, I can’t stand harsh and cold sound.

So now I’m looking for a system again and would like to hear what suggestions you have. I listen to low to modest volumes. No heavy rock or metal. I need something that can play good on low volume. HE speakers and a SET amp would be an alternative but also is Harbeth. I know there’s 30.2 now and XD. Integrating with subs could be Ok. My living room is about 15x12 feet and the speakers cannot be to big and dominant, ex Quad ESL is not an option. There is a few softer walls and I think 1 concrete wall.


Happy to hear your thoughts..


I used to sell Croft amplifiers in the 1980's. They were great value at the time when tube amps, especially affordable ones, were thin on the ground. And they sounded great for the money. I don't work in the industry any more - or at least not on a paid basis, but I do get to listen to lots of stuff. Copland, Prima Luna and Jadis are some tube brands you might consider. However, if you listen to all digital, you might be better served by a class A biased transistor amp. The Pass Int-25 and the Sugden A21SE are worth listening to in that regard.

@arafiq Nice read of your review of Fritz Carrera, if you’re selling the 30.1 that really tells something about the Fritz speakers. I’m wondering if you can write down the impressions by comparing your SHL5+ with 30.1? Since I owned the latter I get some reference.

@twoleftears Oh man, now we’re talking! 😃😃


@yoyoyaya Allright thanks, I’ve read very good things with the brands you mention. Actually was about to buy a second hand sugden A21SE before I ordered the Croft.

The Charney Audio Maestro or Maestro Extreme will work perfectly in your room. Very small footprint that don’t need a stand or have to come far into the room for the best sound. I have listened to the Maestro with both the Lii 8 and Voxativ 1.6 drivers in my 11x15.5x8 room and was very impressed with the sound. They maintain the balance and 3D realism that Charney is known for. Bass is sufficient and real sounding not subwoofer but tight and right with all the notes there no room nodes. Charney will build them in unfinished baltic birch or finished the at your want them to be. 



As a long time owner of SHL5 (7 years) and currently SHL5+ for about 5 years now, the SHL5+ is the brightest sounding speaker in the Harbeth line to me. I’ve listened to the P3ESR, C7ES3, M30, M30.1, M30.2, M40 and M40.1. I actually find the rest of the Harbeth speakers to sound too warm for my preference, particularly the M30 series. Hence the SHL5+ gets my vote.

I actually find the SHL5+ to sound warm, dull and lacklustre when matched with several amps. I swapped several amps on the SHL5+ in an attempt to make it sound brighter at the top and more lively and dynamic.

While waiting for a response from Arafiq on the comparison between the M30.1 and SHL5+, here’s my take. M30.1 sounds more intimate, warmer and fuller in the midrange with a rounder and slightly rolled off treble. To me the 30.1 has a warmer sound but it sounds more forward than the SHL5+. The sound leaps out more from a silent background with the 30.1. The SHL5+ sounds more even and balanced.

30.1 sounds great with vocals and intimate music, not so much with rock and larger scale music. The sound is too controlled and lacks airiness in the treble. SHL5+ is more versatile and a better all rounder. Bass on the SHL5+ is much better than 30.1 as expected. There’s heft and wallop, and the bass sounds more defined too. Moving from SHL5+ to 30.1 you will feel a chunk of bass missing.

I guess this will apply too when switching from SHL5 to 40.1 or 40.2.

In the end, it’s a matter of preference as usual. The differences are all relative. The SHL5+ can still fit in a 12’ x 15’ room.



If they are still available you should look at Dynaudio Heritage Special.   Its arealky nice speaker thst would sound great in your space.