Harbeth Love and your experiences

Hi all,

I LOVE Harbeth speakers.

Some years ago I heard the 40.1s the very first time. I could tell they were special. I remember them pulling me into the music and stopped me trying to analyze how the speakers sound.

A month ago, I heard the 40.2s and they were also good but I kinda remembered the 40.1s sounding better overall.

My Harbeth hunt didn't stop. Today I heard the SLH5Plus and Compact 7es3.

First the SLH5 Plus, very good. I enjoyed them a lot for almost all sort of music type. Then I switched to Compact 7es3. WOW! I loved them. Amazing. Something very special about them. Different than SLH5 Plus. Probably the best speakers I have heard regardless of price.

What is the best Harbeth model you have heard?

I wonder if the older Harbeths sound better? I wonder how the Monitor 30s sound? Or the previous SLH5 (non Plus).

Can you please share your experiences?



I had the same experience with the 40.1s. I was at Audio Connection and John literally plopped them on to some nearby stands that weren't even the right ones. There was no measuring or fussing. He hooked them up to a system with a cd player that I forget, but it was nothing amazing or very expensive, and a pair of the very small Jeff Rowland monos, I think they were called 102s, really little things on the floor, and not expensive.

Well, that was one of the most shocking audio experiences of my life. They sounded so lifelike, and the bass had a feel and a dimension that I can't describe, but I haven't experienced since that day. The sound was so whole that I had no thoughts of woofers, tweeters or midranges. And this was with virtually no careful setup in a roomful of other speakers.

Based on what you wrote, I am curious to hear the 7es3.  


I have owned many speakers over the years. I have a small listening room and I own the P3ESR. All I can say is they took me off the speaker merry-go-round. IMO,Harbeth is tops!
Yogiboy, do the p3esr provide good detail, resolution?  Would  you say they are voiced to be bright or warm, neutral?
I have never heard them, i wonder how much more they offer compared to let's say a pair of totem rainmakers.
I would say they are neutral. Of course it depends on the electronics used with them. I have owned the compact 7 and preferred the P3 in my room. Here is a review of them that I totally agree with! BTW, I have never heard a Totem speaker so I can’t give you a comparison!!
My speaker evolution;

1.  Spendor SP1.     Wonderful even today in my second system.
2.  Spendor LS35a.  Amazing little beauties.
3.  Thiel 2.4.  Grating, major listening fatigue.  Dumped fast.
4.  Dynaudio Confidence C1.  Never could get used to the look.  Sold
5.  Proac Response 2.5.  Simply wonderful.  Sold
5.  Quad esl57.  Remarkable within their limitations.  Forever!
6.  Harbeth SLH5 plus.  Forever!

My quest for wonderful is now complete after obtaining my Harbeth SLH5 plus, and also rotating my rebuilt Quad  Esl57's just for a change now and then.

My Harbeth's are beautiful to look at and even better to hear.  Never the slightest bit of listener fatigue.  They sound wonderful with all types of music, and just seem to make everything sound better.

These will get through to my final resting place.  So happy to have discovered this special brand.  Enjoying them immensely.  No wow or shock value.  Just luscious magnificent music that continues to draw me in.

No offense to people who spend big bucks on "ultra high-end" expensive speakers. Really, Harbeth is the only speaker you need. I have heard and owned many speakers. Some cheap, some expensive. I owned from Sonus Faber Extrema to Elac, Magnepan to PSBs. I heard from JM Labs to Martin Logan, Dynaudio to Vienna Acoustics.

I have always thought price/performance ratio is very important. Sometimes you get very good performance spending little, sometimes big money does not get you anywhere. I think most speakers sound pretty much the same (I say most). Detailed, good bass, neutral, big soundstage, good imaging, etc. etc. I got really tired of trying to figure out how to get better sound. Let me change the cable, let me change the amp, etc. I believe once I purchase the Harbeths which I will very soon and whatever model I purchase, it will be my last speakers. I truly believe that.
I should also add that (obviously) above is my opinion. Everyone is different. No, Harbeth will not rock the house, no they are not party speakers. So, I guess there will be people who even hate Harbeths:)
I'm on my second pair of 40.1's and had an 18 month stint with SHL5's.    While I like the SHL5, the 40.1's are special and I have no plans to try anything else.

I recently picked up some C7ES3s. They're still in the break-in period but I'm not terribly impressed so far. Tone of the midrange is the only immediate   improvement over my previous speakers. The bass is definitely lacking in my somewhat large 25'×15×8 room. Unfortunately, the SHL5 is beyond my budget.

I've been told that the Spendor SP2/3R2 Classic is a better all around speaker, including bass response, but many claim Harbeth is the better brand.
 I also wonder if the Spendor cabinet quality is on par with Harbeth.
@helomech, couldn't agree with you more. Either you'll need to get subs or go higher up in the line.  I'm not even sure if SHL5 will give you enough bass in your room.  I owned a pair of C7s and ended up selling and getting full range floor speaker. 
had harbeths (40.1 and HL7 supers) and spendors (sp1/2 and SP100s), but i keep coming back to ProAcs (D1.5 and now D30R’s) and my never-ever sell-them Quad ESL 63s... I think I like a slightly sympathetic, ’boosted sound’ in key frequency ranges like midbass and lower treble... to my ear it makes the music sound a little more alive... just being honest to my own tastes
@ jjss49 - I own a pair of Spendor S100"s.  I've always felt the Harbeth/Spendor story to be unique because they've historically made a few speakers that seem to be "siblings".  I've always imagined the Harbeth 40 series to be a kind of Spendor SP100's on steroids!  I've owned my spkrs since 1990(!) and often thought about the Harbeths as an obvious upgrade.  I'd love to hear yr impressions of your Spendor's vs. yr Harbeth's!
chazro -

with spendors (esp. s100/sp100) there is a lovely deep rolling bass that is wonderful on one hand, but with some music with ’snap’ the woofer response seems somewhat slow to me... despite these being not inefficient speakers, i find for a more lively, quick bass response you actually need quite a good, powerful amp that has strong damping factor to grip the woofers well to make spendors sound more dynamic ... this is also true of the big harbeth 40’s and its giant woofer cones.... with spendors, to me, the real timeless magic of the speaker is that they invite you listen to the music as an integral, artistic whole... revel in the beauty of the tones voices etc etc, of the whole picture... their imaging is less precise and tonality is more forgiving, they are never aggressive in a way that reminds you that this is a hi fi ... on the other hand when you try to really listen INTO the music, i feel the spendors lack some high end detail and bass drive (as mentioned above). harbeths are a notch better in this regard as their tweeters are more modern and more alive, and the proacs are better still, in that they use smaller woofers that are quicker to move, and sweeter/sharper tweeters that give more resolution into the music without losing the beauty of the whole ... all three classic brit speaker brands do fundamental justice and truth to the midrange, and for that alone, they will never do out of style...  hope this helps
LOVE my Spendor SP1/2Es (seamless driver integration makes them sound like a point source) and don't need to hear anything else. 
I haven't seen any Spendor 1/2Es for sale on Audiogon for a long time. That should tell you something.

I own the Monitor 40.2's and the (35th Anniversary) Compact 7 ES3's. I have auditioned ALL of the Harbeth speakers over the last 10 years with all types of gear. All of them are superb, and each has its own best application. The fun part is discovering the types of systems and genres of music with which they most excel. 

The Monitor 40.2 is by far the most beautiful, natural, and accurate speaker I have ever heard. It truly is a reference monitor as many reviewers have described, and I feel privileged to own a pair. It's a speaker I can listen to for hours and never feel fatigued. I can't say enough good things about them.

The Compact 7 is, in my humble opinion, the best all-around two-way speaker you can get. As I understand, it is Harbeth's top seller. If this is indeed true, I'm wouldn't be surprised. I run them with McIntosh solid state and ARC tube gear, and they always sound fantastic. They are not as detailed or forward as Harbeth Monitors (40.2, 30.1, and P3ESR), but they are warmer and more flexible than everything but the 40.2's. To me, they are the perfect speaker for a small- to medium-sized room, with or without a sub. I occasionally run a REL S2 with them, depending on the type of music I play.

Bottom line is, you cannot go wrong with Harbeth. If you can fit the 40.2's in your budget, you should get them. If not, I would go with the Compact 7, as I feel it offers the best sound for the money. 

Happy Listening!
7ES3  for me .Connected to Croft integrated,Nottingham spacedeck with London decca Super Gold.IMHO nothing sounds like it.
Just this week I auditioned the C7s in my system for a few days. They're good speakers, but I'm now listening to the Spendor SP2/3R2 and preferring them by a country mile. The spendors have a sweeter midrange and clearly superior detail. The midrange has an eerie lifelike tone. I'm simply jacked by how these sound!

I had the SLH5 for about 3-4 years and it was very good.  I have a large living room for my listening room and I felt the M40.1 would be better so I upgraded to them.  The 40.1 turned out to be a big upgrade in every way.  I've had my 40.1s for nearly 5 years and I have no urge to upgrade. 

In the last 3 months, I put together a system in my basement.  The room in my basement is smaller.  Since I like the BBC sound, I went with the Stirling LS3/6 and a REL S5 subwoofer.   I like the Stirlings quite a bit more than when I had the SLH5.  The LS3/6 have a similar sound but are just a tad less laid back in the mids and they're very dynamic.  They have the BBC sound that is so involving but not fatiguing.  As a bonus, they are about $1500 less expensive than the SLH5+.  The LS3/6 with the REL subwoofer is very competitive with the M40.1 for about half the cost.  You can see both of my systems in my profile.

Was looking forward to buy a 30.1 Went to the dealer and had a listining, left very disappointed, the midrange was very in your face, did not like the sound one bit, seamed to me the speaker was all about the midrange and nothing else!!!
My first Harbeth's were PS3ER's and I loved them. Sold them to go up the chain. Purchased the Compact 7 series and I thought it was one of the worst speakers I ever heard in my space. Returned these and bought the 30.1's. These were much better but took four different amps to finally to get them to sing. Right now I am using a LFD NCSE MkII amplifier and it pairs quite nicely. 
Have multiple systems, and one of them is Harbeth based. I had the SHL5 and sold them for the plus version. Improvement in bass alone was worth the change. The over all performance was tighter and better integration of drivers,and bit more extended on top which added detail. The Harbeth magic is still in full play. 
 If it were not for my Rockport system I would move up to the 40.2. I will always own a pair of Harbeths! They remind me of my Quads (63 and 57) without the headaches. They never fail in connecting me with my music.
OK guys. I am finally a proud owner of SHL5s (not Plus version). I found a very good deal on a barely used Tiger Ebony and had to get it! I will probably never know if Compact 7 is better than these also, but I know this; this one is better sounding than the Plus version. To my ears and taste at least. I think my search is over. Although I think Harbeths are not for everyone, they are definitely for me:) Happy Listening!
Ok all you glowing HARBETH fans. Two threads that I have been posting in concerning the best speakers my near field situation, and in one, Omega has been highly recommended (https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/the-eternal-quandary-size-versus-sensitivity-versus-quality-h...
 https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/tube-friendly-monitors-unfortunately-on-a-bookshelf-suggestio... ) .

 I really would value Harbeth owners opinions on how the P3ESR might work for me, in my near field situation? Thanks.
I totally agree regarding the 7s!! Needs a sub, but the openness and transparency are off the scale. I own 3 different Harbeth Pairs,  and the 7s are the cheapest, and the best!
I upgraded to M30.1's(Ebony)about a year ago,driven by Cayin KT88 integrated amp(45wpc.),cabled with Nordost Norse series Red Dawn in a smallish,well treated room & have NEVER been happier with my system!They really do have an electrostatic,see through quality to them but much better defined & tonally more colorful bass than panels..
Dear Abby, I've a pair of mail order brides, M30.1s, arriving tomorrow though we've never met I'm hoping for bliss. I hope for a relationship where I don't have to shave or dress up and they will still serve their best. Yours truly, Highhopes
I thought I would love Harbeth as a Quad 57 owner. I listened to the M30.2’s a few times but they didn’t do it for me. I ended up with a different speaker.
I had a nice Harbeth 40.2 demo at Deja Vu Audio in Northern Virginia a little while back and enjoyed it very much.

Still an Ohm Walsh guy though when it comes to getting the most enjoyment and just wanting to sit and listen for hours on end.   Nothing else I would practically own puts the music in the room like them.