Your room is not too small for the 40.1. They are incredibly good, and well ahead of the (very good) SHL5 you already owned.
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I own SHL5's and previously owned the M-40.1's. Both great speakers. The M-40.1's are the best speaker I've owned... but at half the price, the SHL5's are very respectable, especially when paired with a REL sub.
Your room at 14' x18' is a bit on the small side for M-40.1's, but is probably doable if you have a properly treated room.
I haven't heard the other speakers but I own the 30.1. It is very far from being a "rock n roll" speaker, if you're into that kind of music, the bigger models are probably much better choises. However, if you mainly listens to acoustic music with lots of vocals, the 30.1's are probably tough to beat by any other speaker model or brand.
I've owned and used the 40.1s in an 18 X 14 room. Also used the SHL5s with REL subs in the same room. Had trouble with getting the bass to sound connected to the rest of the speakers with three different (very good) amps and the 40.1s. In the end sold them. I preferred the shl5s with subs to the 40.1s. Have listened to the 30.1s for a couple of hours over two visits. I think them with subs they would be the best of the three choices, based on what I heard, and owning the other two harbeths your thinking about.
Vinnie, that would be great if you could update me on your take of the 30.1 vs shl5's. As stated above I love the Harbeth sound and any listening experience with the 3 models is appreciated.
Tom, your room size is identical to mine so that is a good reference. I am not sure but are you saying that the 40.1 didn't work well in your room? Thanks for your thoughts on the 30.1's.
Bobheinatz, I strongly suggest you to try the Tannoy prestige line after you audition the Harbeth.
I Tried the SHL5 and 7es3 before but after I listen to Turnberry SE and Kensington SE, I never look back. They really amazed me especially the Kensington SE.
I was lucky to try them before I made my purchase.
The Turnberry SE is about the same price as the 30.1 and the Kensington SE is about the same price as the 40.1.
My experience unlike Tom's was favorable switching from the SHL5 with a REL sub to the M40.1. However, I have a much larger room with a 22ft ceiling. With the M40.1, I no longer need the REL sub. In fact I had friends and members of a local audio club listen to my system and all agreed that the REL Strata III was detrimental to the overall sound quality with the M40.1. The sub was setup to come in only at the lowest setting. I liked the sub when I had the SHL5 speakers.
IMO, in a large room the M40.1 is better in every way than the SHL5 with a subwoofer. I agree though that in a smaller room than mine, the SHL5 w/sub may be the way to go.
I own the SHL5s in a large open living room. The main living space is 20' x 40'. I have listened to the M40.1 couple of times at my friend's place, also in a large room. Personally I prefer the SHL5s. For me, the SHL5s are about the largest speaker I would consider for a domestic listening environment due to WAF considerations. The M30.1 looked much better due to the smaller cabinet.
Sound-wise, I prefer the SHL5s over the M40.1s. There isn't any doubt the huge 40.1s throw a bigger sound and scale and go deeper in the bass owing much to the additional 12" bass driver and larger cabinet, but I prefer the "lighter" and more agile sound of the SHL5s. The bass of the M40.1s can be problematic in some rooms if not addressed properly, producing a lethargic sound.
I can live with the SHL5s alone although I used to have them with a subwoofer previously. After more than 4 years living with the SHL5s(which I love), I am looking for a smaller speaker in the near future such as the M30.1, instead of moving up to larger speakers. Personally I am leaning more toward smaller speakers after the obsession on huge fuller-range loudspeakers for the past one decade. The idea is they look more discreet and can blend in easier to the listening environment. They lose a bit of scale and bass but what they gain is perhaps a more sophisticated sound and better WAF.
WAF is not a factor for me. My wife couldn't care less about the difference between the SLH5 (I owned for 4 years)and the M40.1. Also my room has close to double the cubic ft of your room assuming that your ceiling is 8-10 ft in height. The ceiling in my listening room is 22-24ft high and the room is completely open to my kitchen and upstairs loft. I don't have boomy bass issues and the bass is much better than the SLH5 with the REL Strata III in my room. There is no way that I could live with the SLH5 without a sub in my room. Like everything in this hobby, personal preferences are the deciding factor.
I appreciate your experience with both SHL5 and M40.1 in the same room and with the same equipment. And I agree about the significance of WAF that varies with individuals.
Yes, my room has a ceiling height of 8 to 9 feet. Your room certainly has a very high ceiling, and I can imagine the M40.1 to load the room more effectively than the SHL5 with the added space. I find placement of larger Harbeth speakers to be critical for an even bass response and 3-dimensional soundstaging. They need to have some space from wall boundaries to sound their best or some uneven boomy bass or "flatness" may be perceived. The bass of the M40.1s in your room may be "better" than the SHL5s, but in smaller rooms with a common ceiling height, the bass of the M40.1 may overwhelm the room. Placement of the M40.1 is far critical than the SHL5s in a mid-sized room, from my limited experience with my friend's setup. The placement of the M40.1 has been changed numerous times with the speakers pushed out from the walls, back nearer to the wall, and distance between speakers fiddled many times just to get an even bass response. For a fussy listener, the setup of the M40.1 ain't as easy as it appear to be.
And I believe room treatments, especially bass traps do help improve the bass quality a bit especially in smaller rooms.
I am not denying that the M40.1 is an excellent speaker and may very well be superior than the SHL5. My point is they may be a fussier speaker to set up than the SHL5 in smaller to mid-sized rooms, and can disappoint in some setups if compared to the smaller Harbeth models. As usual, large speakers produce more bass, and more bass usually equates to more problems if not properly addressed (unless the listener is not too critical on this aspect).
This is my take on how the 30.1's and SHL5's differ:
The 30.1 is more clear and more extended sounding. It is more accurate sounding and "tighter."
The SHL5 goes deeper and has more bass weight. Its top end is not quite as open and "airy" as the 30.1. It doesn't sound as tight, but the SHL5 seems to have more "bloom."
The 30.1 seems to be more revealing of the recording - but it does not exaggerate the negatives in a recording, nor does the SHL5.
They both are excellent stand-mount speakers and excel in the midrange. Both should work very well in your room size (but the 40.1 is probably too big and might be more difficult to place).
I hope this helps, and YMMV,
I worked my way up through the Harbeth range via a very co-operative dealer who has subsequently (and happily, apparently) resigned the agency and settled on the SHL5 models. I then borrowed a pair of 40.1 speakers. Big, big mistake bass-wise. I hoped for everything the SHL5s did, or better, plus more weight to bass. I did in fact get this but not in the way I expected.
The bass bump I experienced made the 40.1 sound like an entirely disconnected cinema subwoofer. Yes, the integration of the mid and top was magnificent and other than the Vandersteen 7 probably as good as I have ever heard from cones. But to me, in my room, using various transistor amps and at the volume I listen to, I just didnt get it. I tried various cables, stands, hoped for divine intervention and so on, to no avail. A miserable experience. So I went back to the SHL5 with an Underdog subwoofer. Absolute bliss for a fraction of the 40.1 offering.