Harbeth SHL5 vs SHL5 PLUS

Hi Guys,

Seeking feedback on sonic differences between the two. Woofer and crossover changed. Have heard that there are differences in bass quality. My main concern is midrange and high frequencies. What are the differences? If there are...I am seeking the one with a smoother, more relaxed top end (non etched...eg...less leading edge and more body in vocals/string instruments). Thanks so much for your help.
I heard the new models at TAVES in Toronto last fall. I don't think the difference is night and day. The newer speaker sounds more transparent to my ears. A cable change might yield a similar magnitude of difference. Say swapping from Cardas Cross to Nordost Red Dawn.

I did not notice more bass but everything sounded a bit tidier. It is a large speaker. Big, warm and friendly. For less money the M30.1 to my ears sound better. I run C7s myself. I wanted M30.1 but in my small room, the C7s are better choice for the low levels that I listen at.

Reality is I could live with any Harbeth speaker.
@Banerjba...thanks for your help. May I ask how large your room is....mine is only 10 x 14 x 9...its treated though. Bass traps at the front wall and 1st and 2nd reflection points on the sides. My amp is tubed at 25w/ch triode and 38w/ch ultralinear.Listen to vocals, guitar, piano and small ensemble jazz. Low to moderate levels as it's a bedroom. What do you think? I have only heard the SHL5 plus. They sounded like what I am seeking...big sound and large vivid instrument size and soundstage. Haven't heard the non plus before...thinking of sourcing a used pair. Thanks.

The HL5 would be too much for a small room like yours,I think you would be better off with the smaller sealed P3ESR. You should stay away from a ported speaker ,they need more room at the rear and side than a sealed one. I tell you this from my own mistakes! Bigger is not always better ! The 3's are oustanding with tubes.
I agree with Yogi. I have used the 3 and 7 in my very small 10 x 11 foot dedicated listening room and the 3 killed the 7. The 7 and 5 are both too big for your space.
I'm not sure I agree that the larger models won't work in a small room. Harbeths are designed for control-room conditions and they can be very small. However, it is a crapshoot as to which speaker will work the best in your particular room. I think it's just an unfortunate fact of life that, in a normal domestic environment, you don't know what's going to work until you try it. Also, IMO, the HL5s sound bigger and are more forgiving of lesser electronics than the M30s. They are a great speaker in any incarnation.
I agree with Chayro. My room is only 10x11 with 8 foot height and the C7 works great. I also own a series of mini monitors that all sounded too lean at low volumes in this room but fine in my larger room.

The M30.1 is a derivative of the BBC LS5/9 reference monitor. It is very revealing and accurate but sounds bass light at low volumes in a small room. Give it room to breath, and it comes alive.

The SHL5 might be a bit large for the OP's room but can work fine a with amp and source that are not overly warm and careful placement.

The C7 and SHL5 are very forgiving, but neither can match the pinpoint imaging of the smaller models.

BTW, buy the dedicated stands. It is a must for these speakers.
@everyone....thank you so so much for your help. Large full soundstage and vivid image/instrument size is very important to me...besides having a smooth/relaxed top end (excessive HF hurts my ears and gives me a headache as I am extra sensitive to it). Has anyone compared the SHL5 and P3ser side by side before? I have not auditioned the P3ser before. Image/instrument/voice size almost the same? Thanks.
I listened fairly recently to the Super HL5 Plus hooked up to a mega-buck Naim rig. In the treble the sound was definitely not what I would call forgiving, and I didn't pursue the audition for very long. I have no way of evaluating his opinion, but the salesperson stated that he thought this model to be the least forgiving in the Harbeth line.
The P3 is a scaled down version of the Harbeth sound. I think you will notice it in a small room. I would say the C7 sounds more like the SHL5 than the P3. The P3 is more involving but you will miss the fullness.

I ran the Naim Nait 5i2 and Harbeth combo for a while and there was not a hint of brightness. In fact it sounded a bit rolled off on top. The bigger Naim stuff is more forward though.

If you use Naim, best to use their wire and interconnects.

I auditioned Harbeths using largish Japanese amps from Accuphase, Marantz and Airtight. I use a 100 wpc Yamaha. With these amps and using modest wire from Kimber, Atlas and Oyaide, I have never noticed brightness.

That said, both the M30.1 and SHL5 are highly resolving so if you have brightness or edge elsewhere in the system, they will definitely reproduce it.

Best to go find a place to listen for yourself. BTW in Canada Harbeth speakers are sold at full MSRP - no discounts - although I did get a good break on the stands.
I have owned the C7 and the P3 and had them side by side in my 20 x 15 size room hooked up to 70 watt Quicksilver tube amps. All I can say is I thought the smaller P3's blew the larger 7's away. The P3's just seem to disappear when used in a smaller room. I also found the bass on the sealed woofer was better and I never thought a sub was needed. You should give the 3's a listen and they just might surprise you!
Thanks everyone for your input. One more question...I heard that there is a difference in sound between finishes for the SHL5+...for example...between cherry and rosewood.

That's funny. Canopus drum company claims there is a difference in the sound of the drum when wrapped with different color plastic sparkle finishes. Let me say this - I've learned not to assume someone cannot hear something just because I can't. But there are limits to everything.
I have learned that everything makes a difference but I have not heard the veneer thing myself.

That would be very hard to test unless you could be sure the speakers are in the exact same sport each time. A couple of degrees of difference in toe in are more likely to make a difference.

BTW Sterephile has an excellent review of this speaker in thie latest issue (June 2015). The comment largely reflect what I have heard from these speakers.

I firmly belive if you love the classic Brit monitor sound, these will be your forever speakers. Interestingly they compare it with the large Stirling which is cheaper. I owned the excellent Stirling LS3/5a and can vouch for that company's excellent products and commitment to the BBC sound.
Thanks so much for your input again everyone.

@Banerjba or anyone who has experience with the SHL5+....regarding volume levels...do they sing between low and moderate levels? Or are they one of those who shine and come alive only when played loudish?

Good question. I find all Harbeth speakers (actually most classic BBC designs) play well at lower volumes, especially the larger ones. The slight exception is the M30.1 which sounds a bit bass light at low volumes, although still quite good.

I used to run B&W 700 and 800 series and still own 600 series. The higher B&Ws definitely prefer a higher volume to sound their best. Or a very high current amp if you want to play well at low volumes.I used McIntosh.

Other modern speakers with super stiff cabinets and driver materials also tend to prefer a bit of volume (Wilson, Focal etc) so sound good.

One thing to keep in mind though the SHL is a big speaker so it will not sound as fast as the M30.1 not offer the pinpoint imaging of the P3. But I think it offers a nice full presentation where instruments sound natural and reasonably full bodied in real space.

BTW, not sure if I mentioned, mine took a while ot break in, like over 200 hours. Before that they sound fine but a bit sluggish and slightly uneven.Nothing nasty, just not as musical as after they break in.
I have had both plus and original SHL5.All things being equal the difference I hear are as follows:
1) top end a bit more extended and clearer. Enough so that older model is more forgiving.
2) midrange a bit less fuzzy and a bit more snap.
3) bass is where the Plus benefits MOST.Tighter which address a bit of bloat that would a times be present on original SHL5.
4) drivers are more coherent as a result of improvement's.
I will not comment on imaging or staging because those aspects are too subjective.
Next stop 40.2. BIG FAN
@HIfipf... Thanks for your input. How about scale as in size of image I.e. Instrument and voice size? Pretty close?
Image size is tough for me to comment on because of my set up.The plus is a bit better focused as a result of its improved extension and overall improved clarity.The height is improved, as a result the cymbals hang higher and pin point a tad better. Voice is same size but more focused. Scale is tough but I would say about the same
The in your face improvement is the bass.Tighter and better integrated, so coherence is improved.
Both models are great but Plus is just a more coherent and clearer sound.

hifipf9 posts07-22-2015 6:10am
I have had both plus and original SHL5.All things being equal the difference I hear are as follows:
1) top end a bit more extended and clearer. Enough so that older model is more forgiving.
2) midrange a bit less fuzzy and a bit more snap.
3) bass is where the Plus benefits MOST.Tighter which address a bit of bloat that would a times be present on original SHL5.
4) drivers are more coherent as a result of improvement’s.
I will not comment on imaging or staging because those aspects are too subjective.
Next stop 40.2. BIG FAN

May I ask the amplifier that was used on both Harbeth SHL5 and SHL5 Plus when you had them?

I have lived with the SHL5 for more than 5 years now. A recent upgrade from the Naim NAC 202 and NAP 200 to the NAC 282 and NAP 250 had caused the sound to be a tad warm. I could actually live with the bass of the speakers but I want a more extended top end and an overall leaner sound. Reading your comments above it looks like the new Plus may be the ticket? A less fuzzy midrange with more snap would suggest that the midrange is more in focus and sounds leaner. A treble that is clearer and more extended may render the predecessor to have rolled off highs in comparison. In short, all the traits you have mentioned above are things I am looking for.