Harbeth Experts

I'm kind of puzzled by the Harbeth speaker line.
They offer 4 speakers that appear to be roughly the same size and price.
How do the Monitor 30, Super HL5, Compact 7ES and LS 3/5A differ?
Which is the "standout" of the line sonically?
If you haven't already, you should visit Harbeth's web site, which is excellent. There is also a user forum, accessible through the web site, which addresses your question in several threads.

The LS 3/5A is designed to the legendary BBC mini monitor spec. The Compact 7, Monitor 30, and Super HL5 is where the decision lies. They sound far more alike than different. Harbeth has a Monitor line, which includes the Monitor 30 and Monitor 40. These uses the Seas Excel Millenium tweeter and are designed to have the kind of extremely flat frequency response demanded for monitoring situations. The Compact 7ES and the Super HL5 use a less-premium tweeter and are purported to have a very slight midrange depression in the frequency curve (what some have called the "BBC dip"), which is considered more to the liking of most home music lovers. The Super HL5 also has a super tweeter, but it's main difference from the Compact 7 is greater cabinet volume and, hence, greater bass extension and output. Of the 4 models you list, the HL5 has the most bass and is physically the largest.

If you can, audition the Monitor 30 against one of the other two. Between the Compact 7 and the HL5, it has been a choice for more or less bass (the HL5 can be too much bass for smaller rooms). However, the Compact 7 has recently been revised (now Compact 7ES-3) and the buzz is very good about it, though I have not heard it. I own the Super HL5 and have only very limited expsore to the other models, though I am considering picking up a pair of Monitor 30s in order to get a better handle on how it differs from what I have. Hope this helps.
I have owned the Monitor 30 and Compact 7es2. As well as the HL-P3es, which I still own. It is the replacement for LS 3/5a. I use these in my very small room, 10' X 12'.
I find them best in there because of sound/size for the room.
I liked the Compact 7 best sonically, but they are not compact by any means. They dominated the room.
The Monitor 30 was somewhere in between, but not my favorite. The Compact and P3es both have a metal tweeter, which gives more detail IMO.
Hope this helps.
Great info -Thanks to you both.
I heard the Compact 7es2 at T.H.E. show a few years ago paired with the Plinius 102 and Meitner CD player (I believe).
Thought the sound was stunningly good (coherent to a fault, beautiful timbres, etc.).

I'm just puzzled why they have so many models in the same price class.

Thanks again.
Only the bottom two:

HL-P3es $1850
Compact 7ES-3 $2999
Monitor 30 $4299
Super HL5 $4299
The C7-2s are a bit thick sounding. Wonder how the 3s compare. Interesting that the website claims for the new 3s address exactly the faults I heard in my C7s (which is why I sold them).
I am no expert on these. I did audition the Compact 7's and the HL-5's in my home though thanks to a great local dealer. I did not buy either but was fascinated and every enthralled by the COmpact 7's. I definitely preferred them over the 5's. That said, there is definitely a Harbeth sound -- thery were not far apart.
Tomryan: Can you elaborate the circumstances when the 7-2s sounded "thick"?
I heard them in the nearfield with a small jazz ensemble and in no way was there any "thickness".
Possibly, playing full tilt symphonic at full volume may alter their character.
Please explain.

I used them in an 11 x 13.5 ft room with plaster walls, hardwood floor w/ thick carpet & pad. Drove them with a Plinius SA50MKIII and an EAR 890 70 wt tube amp (which is not thick or tubey sounding in any way). Music was tonally very realistic but was not as free flowing and open as I like it. And this from a guy who had ProAc 2.5s for 7 years. Things were just a little bland and I would often nearly fall asleep while listening. I kept having to "lean" into the music to find the things I wanted. Drums were especially frustrating as they lacked resonance and impact (kinda like 90% of rock drums recorded since the mid '70s). I found the top end a little lacking and used Tonian super tweeters which helped a lot. all of these things caused me to hear the speakers as being a little thick sounding overall.

By the way, I had a phone conversation with Alan Shaw who told me both my amps were easily sufficient in power to drive the speakers, especially in my small room.

I replaced them with 1/2 the cost Dynaudio Focus 110s and am happy as a clam. I do use a REL sub and still use the Tonians but have them "tuned down" a bit from what I used with the Harbeths. Am now looking for a pair of Focus 140s.

I think it's a bit odd that all the things the new C7-3s are supposed to do better than the C7-2s are the exact things I was unhappy with.
Tom, I have a pair of Focus 140s and Harbeth SHL5s, if I can be of any assistance. I think the size of your room is better suited to the Harbeth 7 than the 5, by the way.
Tomryan: Thanks for the informative response.
Had the C7es2, M30, HLP3-eS2
Also briefly heard the SHL5.

I'd say, any one of them has that harbeth magic midrange= to die for.
I can live with either one of them.
I think its more of the room size you have if choosing which harbeth to own.

That said, I logged more hours listening to the M30.
I've had a pair of M30's for about 6 weeks. They replaced some Vandersteen 3A sigs. I prefer the Harbeths; they are warmer and have wonderfully detailed midrange, with less emphasis in high end detail (which makes them a bit "forgiving" in character, which I like).

Dweller, I have the same curiousity that you do about the rest of the line (as seconded by Drubin): How do the M30's compare to the Super HL5's? The M30s are just a bit forward, or, as one of the reviews noted "piquant." I might prefer the HL5's, if they are more laid back, and I would urge you to try to listen before you buy (which I did not do). I did hear some Compact 7's at a dealer (after committing to the M30s, as it happened), and was favorably impressed, generally, although I think the M30s may have better bass. The M30s have quite remarkable bass for their size.

I also completely agree with other comments that you really need some power to drive the M30's properly. I used a VTL 150 in triode mode that seemed to run out of gas in the bass; a BEL 1001, which worked fine; and have settled on an ARC VT 100 MkIII (which was in the shop when I got the speakers).

Good listening!
I currently run my M30's with a stock unison unico integrated and cardas neutral reference cables (non bired option). This seems to work well. But I've always been curious about the Super HL5's, perhaps my next speaker.

I agree with Eweedhome, the M30's offer a suprising amount of bass given their size. And there is a magic in the midrange (esp. vocals) to die for. My previous little Spendor 3/5se's kinda remind of this (although the dynamic range is a little restricted admittedly).

I'm guessing that the reasons that Harbeth can successfully market/produce so many models (some similarly priced), there must be a niche crowd that they appeal to sonically, each speaker probably perfoms slightly differently based on the room dynamics and electronics of choice. The common theme across the line, midrange magic and vocals done well.

anyway, my 2c worth if it helps the discussion at all........

happly listening to all!!
What speaker cables work well with harbeth?

i don't mean to highjack, i can use some help from fellow harbeth owners
Glai - For what it is worth, I am using all Cardas Cross in my system--interconnect and speaker cable. I landed on Cardas Cross (as opposed to Golden Cross, Purist Audio, Audioquest and something else I can't remember) after several months of auditioning cable. I was looking for something in a dark and euphonic direction (anything remotely bright--or one might say, "overly revealing in the highs"--drives me nuts lately), and the Cross seemed to be a good blend of euphonic and still reasonably revealing. I changed speakers (from Vandersteen 3a sigs to the Harbeths) after that cable journey, and the mix seems fine with the Harbeths. In fact, I can safely say that I'm enjoying my system more now than in several years.
I tried the Nordost Blue heaven, Canare 4s11, ridge st audio Poeima and the nordost seem the most synergistic so far. Amps were Mc2275 and Arcam receiver.

I actually find the tonal balance and smoothness of the Harbeth very satisfying. It is not the last word in detail and the treble could be more open. The Nordost balanced them nicely. If there are success with other cables, I certainly like to try.

My other speakers are Avalon Diamonds & Quad 2805 and I still enjoy the Harbeth m30 tremendously. I like the M30 more than previously owned Cremona auditor, thiel 2.4, 1.6, Proac ref8s signature, spendor s3/5se. Harbeth is not instantly impressive but it proves it's worth after some mileage.

The only speaker that I remembered enjoying as much was the B&w 805S, That was when I first got my first pair of "hifi" speakers. I have no idea if I 'd like them now.
Avalon Diamond
Quad 2805
Harbeth Monitor 30

That's a very interesting and impressive collection. I am guessing you are finding the Harbeths to be less fussy -- MUCH less fussy -- about speaker cables than the other two. Yes?
Glai - Can't resist this further question as well: How does the Avalon sound compare to the Harbeths? I've been interested in Avalons b/c Steve Huntley, who has modified my pre-amp and Wadia CD player, likes them, and I like his work. But I also like my Harbeths. Thoughts?
Quick query, if you don't mind: I've always found that
planars somehow produce the most natural, non-mechanical
vocals. How do the Harbeth's vocals compare to the Quads?
Thanks in advance.
Quick query, if you don't mind: I've always found that
planars somehow produce the most natural, non-mechanical
vocals. How do the Harbeth's vocals compare to the Quads?
Thanks in advance.

****I had Maggies and Apogees a year or two ago. While I aggree that the Highs and mids or these planars are extremely clear, I personally find it lacking in tones or contrast. Hard to explain but when you are new to them, you get intoxicated, but after a while they seem to be just working in 1 wavelength. I also find planars to be sensitive to your listening position.
I agree that planars have their marvelous strengths especially the Highs, but I always felt wanting... something amiss.... bass on the maggies were pretty decent also.
I wouldnt mind having them as a 2nd system but not as a primary system... Others may vary.
Both the Quads and Harbeths are pretty neutral in terms of tonal balance with the Harbeths on the warmer side.

Quads are more transparent and detailed. Imaging has more depth and more holographic. Bass is about the same on both speakers. It is a higher maintenance speakers in terms of partnering equip and room setup.

Harbeth M30 has a much smoother, linear treble. The treble on the quads can sound edgy & rough. ( The frequency response curve is not smooth at high freq. at all).

Harbeth has better macrodynamics and sounds more substantial. Quads can go loud but the real limitation is in dynamic freedom.

I auditioned ML, maggie and Analysis ( close to apogee). They are different sets of compromises in comparison to the quads. However, they don't rival the quads in purity/transparency for me to tolerate their short comings.

Thanks Drubin for helping me on previous threads, tubes, etc.
Drubin, i find the Harbeths sound good with a variety of amps. They seem to prefer more detail oriented speaker cables, though.

The Diamonds are better speakers in most aspects. The only drawback is that the ceramic midrange can sound glassy with the wrong amp or cables.

I share the same observation with Nolitan. Vocal reproduction on ESL is insanely good. It shows off the strengthed of statics and does not tax its limitations. I find the quads have great tone and timbre. Microdynamics is also excellent but it lacks macrodynamic contrast. It does a good job with Piano concertos but it does not blow you away.

The sins of Harbeth is mostly of omissions, mainly lack of deep bass and reproduction of nuances. One can argue that by grossing over some useless details, the musical message is enhanced.

Come on, what speaker cables do you all use???

Hi, perhsaps you can share with the speaker cables you've used with your harbeths. Which harbeths have you used or owned.

Thanks for insights,