I think any speaker with a Fostex F200a mid range cone would.
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Hi, I had the SHL5's with the Tenor Hybrid amp for several months and thought it was great. I have had other Harbeth speakers in various systems so I am pretty familiar with the sound. You will get a lot of recommendations for different speakers, but you can get a nice used pair of the Harbeths for less than $3000.00. If you put them out into the room and away from the walls, they are a tough speaker to beat.
I owned the Spendor S8e for about a year. It was an upgrade from Meadowlark Kestrel HotRod. I chose it over Vandersteen 2Ce (dealer didn't have the 3) and JM Labs (don't recall the models - in the $3K range). It was the nicest speaker I had ever auditioned.
Adding an M&K subwoofer and bass management controller that allowed high-passing the S8e at 80Hz made a very nice improvement -- increased clarity and detail.
I then bought the matching M&K S-150 reference monitors. The improvement was startling. The soundstage would seemingly shrink to nothing through the S8e compared to the M&K S-150. The M&K sat/sub system has made me a huge fan of the approach.
Jean-Marie Reynaud have some additional immediacy and emotion.
I listen only to female vocals and acoustic musement. JMR were noticeably better than any Harbeth or Spendor.
And well balanced through all frequencies - where I could hear the different drivers on Sonus Faber.
Email Bob Neill at Amherst Audio, he's the U.S. importer of Reynaud.
What an interesting question. I own a pair of Harbeth M30s, which I brought in to replace Vandersteen 3a sigs (which had replaced 2ce sigs). There was no contest. I listen to a lot of classical music, and the sound of strings (massed or otherwise) on the Harbeths was richer and more fleshed out than the Vandersteens...so much so that certain CDs I considered almost unlistenable on the Vandersteens were suddenly listenable on the Harbeths. I auditioned a few other speakers in high end shops both before and after getting Harbeths, none of which struck me as being as pleasant as the Harbeths, with one semi-exception (though the electronics were not the same as mine of course, so one could argue that the comparison was flawed). I listened to Wilson Sophias (which didn't impress me much at all in 2 different set-ups), a Wilson-Benesch something-or-other, some Revels, some ProAcs (D28? I think, which were interesting--I could have spent more time with them), Sonus Faber Cremonas (which had a very interesting mid-range, but the tweeters had a bit too much "tizz" in them), some mid-priced Dalis (blah), some little Sonus Fabers (Cremona Auditors?--too much "tizz" in the highs), those wierd looking German speakers (MBL? -- I couldn't get out of the room fast enough), Audio Physic Scorpios (which I kind of liked, though not because of fabulous mids)...and I can't remember what else.
The "semi-exception" to the list was the Avalon Ascendants because of everything else they do well, but I'm not sure their mid-range is exactly better than the Harbeths. The overall sound seems notably more transparent and holographic, and I'm a sucker for that, and, after some agonizing, decided to buy the Avalons. However, I'm not selling the Harbeths. As one dealer buddy of mine from way back said to me recently, "Harbeths are for when you're tired of everything else." (And he's not a Harbeth dealer.) I can really see where he's coming from.
I second Lindisfarne, you should definitely audition ATC.
Another option might be the classic Quad 989's but you may miss too much of the low end - so I am not sure if everyone would agree that they are better than the speakers you mentioned...although they are obviously better known for a great mid range, as is ATC.
Thank you everyone for your responses so far.
"Bcollins, what is it about the Harbeth and Spendor midranges that is to your liking."
What I liked most were female vocals. A bit sweeter on the Spendors, but so clean and grain-free on the Harbeths. I felt that the Harbeths were more coherent and ballanced overall. The only problem with the Harbeths was that they are a bit bulky for my small room.
I have a friend with some Harbeth SHL5 and they do sound amazing. And the recommendation to keep them away from walls is a great idea. My friend listens to a lot of classical and I was amazed and how dynamic yet organic the Harbeth's sounded.
As for what other speaker has a nice midrange I would say B&W. I know a lot of people here do not like B&W (maybe they are too popular for "true" audiophiles to like but I had their 804s and 802ds, and while they had issues with boomy bass, and a less then extended tweeter, I really liked their midrange with the FST driver. It may be a little colored but when you just want to relax and enjoy the music, they do a great job and just producing romantic sounding vocals.
The Ambience ribbons have a fantastically natural sounding midrange-with oodles of resolution and image precision too-and I am a "BBC sound" fan.I used Tangent RS4 and Rogers Export Monitors for years.
In my opinion a good wide range ribbon is more tonally natural than a good electrostat-but most stats are still very good compared to the vast majority of box speakers.
The old B&W DM70 hybrid stats have superb midrange.
I would find an old pair of Spendor BC1 or BC3. I had a pair of SP8, and the BC3 stock had better midrange, but BC3 modded made the SP8 sound unrealistic.
I had a pair of Proac Resp 3.5 that were better than the SP8, esp in the midrange but also much better in the bass.
If you're not into modding the BC1 will probably have the best midrange you'll find.
Old Rogers Studio 1 should also be considered. Or Celestion SL700 if you can find a pair.
I'm a bit surprised that no one's yet mentioned Quad. I've never owned Harbeth/Spendor, but at audition I've admired both brands' mid-band a lot, but have always ended up going for more full-range alternatives. Same deal with the (older) Quads I've tested.
And, slightly off thread:
To my ear, part of the mid band appeal of all these speakers MIGHT be due to their octave to octave balance - gently rolled at both ends. I say this because so many speakers with this balance strike me as having remarkable mid-bands. In addition to the older Quads, you could add Lipinski, older Sonus Faber, and many single driver models to this list. This effect is also sometimes evident to me on speakers where only the total energy below the mid band is rolled relative to the mids and extended high end. I'm thinking about older Pro-Acs and Merlins here. You may be picking up on this, too.
I am a planar speaker fan but if I have to go after dynamic speakers, I definitely like Spendor and Harbeth monitors. I would also include the Stirlings Totems in the same league. But since your questions was on better midrange, then the original Quads and Apogee Stages would have better midrange than the aforementioned speakers.
Original Quad ESL 57's have as fine a midrange as I've heard. The closest non-planar I've heard would include the ATCs and Harbeths. Of the Spendor range, the SP100 is stronger in the mids than the S8's but also more pricey. One other speaker that did enough in the mids for me to vote with my wallet were the Mordaunt-Short Performance 6's - very transaparent and seamless integration of the mids with upper and lowr frequencies.
rgs92: I am a big Apogee fan and owner as you can see from my system. Regarding the Stages, I agree with you. They have a killer midrnge. In fact, I also find their bass to be satisfactory except for the very bottom end. They sound much bigger than their size suggests, of course depending upon the amp ----- I am using Musical Fidelity KW on them, which is kinda overkill. However, I am doing a project with the Stages: I am stcaking two pairs. We will see if it works out, may be even generate some deep bass.
Will post details on my system thread.
These speakers are tough act to follow. I've been in and out of many speakers but in the end, nothing beats the mids of the harbeths./ Spendor.
Some may offer more resolution, detail,bass, more highs, etc. Properly set up harbeth/spendor, the mids are just unbeatable. Some may disagree but i urge those to listen to a properly set-up harbeth even the small HLP3es2.
Again, everyone's mileage may vary.
"A lot of dynamic speakers fall short in this area (to my ears) with buzzy, digital-sounding vocals even though they sound fine otherwise."
Harbeth sounds like that. One of the worst speakers I ever heard. Jumbled, incoherent, just sounds coming out of a box. My girlfriend and I looked at each other after 5 minutes and said "we just drove almost 3 hours to hear this?" But if you like Sonus Faber grand Pianos Harbeth may be for you.
Interesting. I compared the Harbeths, Spendors and SF Grand Pianos side-by-side. Very different with vocals. SF were very colored overall. Not in an unpleasant way though. They tended to round everything off a little. Vocals were a bit thick and slightly coarse in comparison to the Harbeths and Spendors. The Harbeths had much more natural sounding, clean, and smooth vocals. The Spendors sounded fantastic with vocals, more sweet sounding than the Harbeths, but not nearly as ballanced or coherent overall. Supperior to the Grand Pianos though in the midrange. The Harbeths were more resolving without a hint of grain or edginess. Very ballanced and coherent. This is not intended to negate anyone else's experience. Different rooms, electronics, etc. Just my humble opinion.
I read somewhere that the Harbeth SLH5 is slightly recessed in the 2 Khz to 4 Khz region - they are deliberately a polite sounding speaker. This may explain your impression that they are articulate without sounding harsh or edgy. The "edgy" sound you especially get from brass instruments mostly occurs around 4 Khz. If this more polite sound is what you prefer then go for the SHL5...although a jazz musician may find that this flavor lacks the proper harshness or brashiness you typically get from brass instruments (often better produced by horn speakers)...at the end of the day, who cares what others think.... as it is your choice of speaker for your tastes.
Given more clarity about your preferences in your last comment, I suggest you probably will not like ATC. I suspect you would find ATC's sound "edgy" or "harsh" in the upper mid range compared to your preferred taste. Just my two cents but I thought I would pass on this advice rather than mindlessly plug something that now appears less well suited to your taste. In fact, a three way active PMC may be a speaker worth looking into given your tastes (think ATC with a more polite or less revealing mid range and significantly more bass).
Thank you for the response and recommendation. I think you are correct regarding my taste and the dip at 2-4Khz which is probably good in my small and somewhat reflective room. The metal tweeters seem to help the speakers retain some of the bite of brass instuments though without them becoming overwhelming. I would love to try some Quads, but I think they would be too big for my room. Unfortunatly, there are no PMC dealers in my area. I've heard good things about them from others though. Probably would not go for an active speaker since I could not give up my current Mc tube amp.
I think you are correct regarding my taste and the dip at 2-4Khz which is probably good in my small and somewhat reflective room.
If you're room is highly reflective then the Harbeth's may be the perfect "Goldilocks" speaker for you! Enjoy! Those radial drivers have a strong following and rightly so!
In their literature, Harbeth describes their speakers as "Fast, clear, precise, .... big rich sound with incredible ease and detail...dramatic improvement in clarity of sound".
I agree completely however I do not think they are telling the whole truth. Note the emphasis on "sound". Put the Harbeths next to Intuitive Design Summits or a single driver speaker and the problem is obvious.
Note these are only my humble opinions as to my preferences.
You could try www.carolinaaudio.com for the Jordan drivers although I have not heard them.
I don't think a single driver can usually match a multi-way in this respect since multi way puts the driver only in its most efficient frequency of operation. You can't have it all. At least from the very few single driver speakers that I have heard.
The best option I know of is running a 4" full-range and adding a supertweeter for over 10kHz to add some sparkle.
Bcollins - A thought: You mentioned the Super HL5's as being a bit large for your room. Is there any way you can try out the M30's? They are smaller (though about the same price point) and they have what I understand to be a silk dome tweeter that Harbeth (as I understand it) says is better than the tweeter in the HL5's. I've never heard the HL5s side by side with the M30's, but I've heard it suggested that the M30's are smoother in the top, which you might like, and they might work out better, size-wise, in your room.
Although I bought a pair of Avalons, I am still using the Harbeths at the moment, and they really are good. You're quite right, they are great on female vocals (or vocals, period), and very "clean". They respond very favorably to tube gear, too, by the way.
Eweedhome - I actually have heard the 30's, but not at home. At the dealer they sounded a bit leaner than the 5's, but very nice. The problem with my room is that it tends to make all speakers sound lean, which makes me think they may not sound as good at home. I will probably give them a try anyway though. Do you find them that way as well? I've heard somewhere that they are somewhat forward too and may not be appropriate for a room as small as mine (10'X14'). I'd be interested in hearing more about your experience with them. Thanks,
Bill - Fair questions. One Harbeth dealer I know does not favor the HL5's because he considers them a bit bass-heavy. I've heard something like that elsewhere, which suggests to me that the "leanness" you report in the M30s probably reflects a consistent difference in the speakers. I also recall that one of the on-line reviewers described the M30's in such a way that I can imagine them seeming perhaps more forward than the HL5's. However, I have never heard the HL5's. In fact, I hadn't heard ANY Harbeths before I got my M30's. I had been using Vandersteens for some years before that and was suffering from substantial "detail fatigue," and one evening, after suddenly getting frustrated with the Vandersteens one too many times, located a pair of M30's and acquired them in the space of about an hour. It was one of the best things I ever did.
My room is not large (14x19). In my room, I would characterize the M30's as somewhat fat sounding, in a very pleasant way. They are 3 feet from the rear wall, and set up a pretty darn good soundstage (although they take some work, positioning-wise, and do have a sweet spot). They have very nice bass for a box that small, and the top is smooth and easy, with detail, but not drowning in it. However, I will say that they are very sensitive to whatever you run them with...with the wrong pre-amp, amp, etc., they can sound bright and irritating and probably a bit forward. As mentioned, I found that tube gear produces the warmest and friendliest effect. How "forward" they sound depends at least somewhat on what you run them with.
In your space, you may like the C7's better. As you no doubt know, the C7's were recently revised to present more detail. You may or may not prefer the newer version...I haven't heard them, but shortly after I got the M30's, I heard some of the older C7's at a dealer, and was favorably impressed. They are smaller than the HL5's and don't have the super tweeter of the HL5's.
Feel free to email me direct if you'd like to discuss this further.
For what it's worth, I have audditioned the Harbeth shl5 (very nice) and the Harbeth Monitor 40, which I would own if I could afford it. I would say that the overall resolution of the radial driver is higher that that of the Spendors that I have owned, the SP100 and the Spendor 9/1, but they have the same natural sort of presentation that really allows you to stop thinking about the speakers. Vocals on both are great, and I have yet to hear a speaker personally that betters either of them.
I used to own a pair of ProAc Response 1 speakers that I bought, mostly because I thought that the midrange was very good- God knows it wasn't because of their bass performance ! Within their dynamic limits- which were really surprising considering how small they were, the midrange was very fast and coherent, for example quickly strummed guitars were more realistic than on my Spendors, but the price to pay was that they were unkind to poor recordings. Still, they are really good. Ditto for the response 2.