Proac D30RS vs. Spendor Classic 1/2 (or maybe Harbeth SHL5+)?


Hi everyone! Should the dice fall right, I might soon be able to start buying the components for a new, much better audio system. Please advise me because I can’t listen the specific models I’m interested in, I’ve only heard their more or less close relatives. Some relevant information (sorry for the long post!):

1. Room: about 23 square meters, about 0.6 meters empty space behind the speakers, placed on the the long wall, about 2 meters apart and 2-3 meters to the listening spot.
2. Music: mainly classical and jazz, also some rock (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, King Crimson...), pop (Sade, Jewel...) and, rarely, electronic music (Vangelis, Jarre etc.). A lot of piano.
3. Preferences: the correct reproduction of piano is of utmost importance; in general, I want great reproduction of the acoustic instruments. I want to hear easily the differences between various timbres, the materials the instruments are made of etc. I also care a lot about good microdynamics and macrodynamics; tactile, detailed, effortless and lively sound at low to medium sound pressure levels; fluid, relaxed and extended highs with good speed (I love my Stax headphones!); colorful and linear midrange (not thin because of a dip in the lower midrange or with exaggerated presence zone), full and reasonably punchy bass down to 30-35 Hz, good soundstage width with a feeling of space. I know, I want a lot. I hate an (even slightly) bleached, grey, monochrome sound. I want a lot of light in the sound, and prefer it slightly warm.
In terms of future matching: I hate amplifier hiss, so the future amplifier will have to be very silent, hence no tubes I guess. I know, Proacs love tubes. Maybe I’ll try a pair of Schiit Aegir power amps, for a start, I don’t know yet.

4. Acceptable compromises for me: I can live without bass extension below 30Hz, great soundstage depth, soundstage height, the ability to play very loud, a very wide sweet spot (although I’d prefer good horizontal dispersion).

5. A few relevant past experiences:
a) Spendor D7 (with Pass Labs pre / power, PS Audio CD player and dac): not for me, great detail and extension but much too incisive, the tweeter was almost screaming, elevated presence zone with a recessed midrange below.
b) Harbeth M30.2 Anniversary (with low powered Sugden @! SE class A amplifier): too anemic / polite, needed more power IMO, made me realize I need greater scale so probably a bigger speaker
c) Proac D48R (with Devialet 250, highly treated, almost anechoic rather small room): incredible highs! Best upper piano notes I’ve ever heard. Very detailed, tactile and extremely silent background (both the room and the amp contributed). A bit dry and clinical mids and bass - must have been the amp? The violins did not have enough sweetness, for example. In spite of the lively and very detailed sound at low levels, I think I needed a bit more body to the bass (not amount, it was definitely enough, but, I don’t know, midbass fullness?) so I was tempted to crank up the volume. When I did it, the bass over-pressurized the room. Remarkable sound, anyway, maybe the best I’ve heard.
d) Spendor SP2/3R2 (with Densen top of the line integrated amp and M2Tech dac): the most balanced sound I’ve ever heard, everything was in the correct proportion. Great wooden and textured sound of the cello and in general the reproduction of the acoustic timbres was great, good scale of the orchestra (that pleasant sound a big box is able to reproduce!), nice and deep enough bass (but it was a bass-y sounding room, so I don’t know about that..), silky and nuanced highs. I liked everything about them, and listening to a Spendor A7 later on (with a similar if not identical tweeter) was further confirmation that I like this tweeter.
I’ll probably get a chance to listen to the Harbeth SHL5+, but I don’t expect to like it more than the Spendor Classic sound.
So I expect the Spendor Classic 1/2 to win on tone, timbre, scale and naturaleness and the Proac D30RS to win on extension, detail, effortlessness and pristine highs. What do you think? What do I do?
Thanks for your patience!
donquichotte
Try the Proac D 48rs or 30rs with Aesthetix Atlas series amps or Mimas integrated amps with Zero feedbackquite simply the strings will sound right.You will also experience a more effortless feel with dynamics over the above. Best JohnnyR Proac/Aesthetix dealer.

Since you like the Spendor 2/3 so much, why not get them?
@audioconnection: Thanks for the suggestions, a bit too rich for my blood I'm afraid and I cannot hear these amplifiers before buying either. They definitely look like a quality proposition, though!

@donvito: Several reasons: I heard the previous model (SP2/3R2), not the current Classic 2/3; not sure about the bass extension, the bigger box of the Classic 1/2 looks more promising in this regard; I expect the 3 way to have a more detailed midrange (which, as a Stax headphones user, is important to me); also, there were some reports about older Spendors getting their woofer suspension less flexible in time and requiring improvised treatment with brake fluid and such, so I hope the last generation of Spendors will have improved on this.
I currently own the Proac D30RS and all I can say is that this speakers are the best I ever had and one of the best 2 way speakers I ever heard .
1. For your room size the D30 are perfect the D48 might be bass boomy they need more space than yours,more important the new innovative D30RS' driver is much better than the ones used in the D48.
2. the D30 are suitable for all gender of music .their unfussy nature and natural effortless sound gives perfect layout of soundstage no matter what you are playing.
3.their Ribbon twitters give excellent highs and microdynamics ,the mid is little bit worm and dark and the bass is extordinary controlled and tight.The D30 has downside port so they are very easy to place them in your room just a little bit tow in and you are fine.

4. The D30RS go far bellow 30Hz, great soundstage depth, soundstage height, the ability to play very loud, a very wide sweet spot are very good but you have to be very patient they need very long break-in it took more than half year to opened them up new from the box they sounded harsh,blur, poor dynamics and weak bass but now they are great.
   Thank you for your reply, I appreciate your input here and in another thread! What you are writing seems very promising and matches the first impression I have about their larger sibling, the D48R. What did you like about the D30RS more compared to the D48R? I recall you saying the mids are better, can you describe the difference?

   My greatest concern about the D30RS is the dryness I've heard in the D48R's sound, that lack of sweetness in the reproduction of the violins for example and I think I like my mids better lit, so to speak. Might have been the speakers or the Devialet or both. Sounds like a great match to some tubes indeed, as many have stated, but I really want a very very low noise floor (and no tubes replacement hassle). Is it possible to get this improvement (sweeter, wetter, better lit mids, like a landscape presented in plenty of warm sunlight) with a solid state amplifier (less expensive than the speakers, please!), or the D30RS do have the traits I am looking for? I believe you might be talking about the same coloration I'm worried about when calling the D30RS mids "slightly dark".
   Thanks again!
I am using solid state amplifier I can assure you noise floor is almost zero once I said ’dark’ I meant they have the black silent between notes that many audiophiles are seeking for .The D30 sound is completely natural and effortless with no artificial coloration violins in reality if you hear them in live concert tend to be harsh and the D48 and the D30 as well are faithful to the original recording ,sweetness of violins you’ll find at speakers with high colouration which tend to round off the highs  not in Proac speakers.
I see, thanks a lot for the explanation! Sound very promising. What amplifier are you using with them? I'm really tempted. I'll listen to the supposedly much inferior D20R in a few days. I have high hopes (but if I go for Proac, it will definitely be the D30RS).

As for the Harbeth SHL5+, I was hoping I'll get the chance to listen to them in a couple of days. Well, bad luck, today I've been told they are not available for audition anymore. :(
I am using McIntosh power amplifier and pre/dac.
The D20 are inferior speakers compare to the D30 they are in completely different levels.
Didn’t hear the Harbeth SHL5+ so I can't comment about them.
I know they are inferior, but this is what I can audition. I hope that, having heard the D48R and D20R, I'll have a better idea about the D30RS' sound, especially the tonality or "house sound".

You've been a great help and I don't want to abuse your kindness and your time, so only if it's not too much to ask: can you briefly compare the D30RS to the D48R? Why do you say the midwoofer in D30RS is much better, what sound improvements (beyond the better room matching) should I expect if I buy the D30RS (compared to the D48R I auditioned)? Much appreciated!
I have heard both - the D30RS and D48R. I own the D48R because I had the room for it. It is in a completely league compared to the D30RS. And it better be - for the price and size. That said, if you cannot provide breathing room for the D48R, then don’t buy them, cause they can overwhelm the room. I feel that it is the space from the side wall that matters more to the ProAcs, compared to the wall behind. But they will benefit immensely if you keep them away from the boundaries.The D48R are everything that the D30RS are plus they do a sense of scale and dynamic swings that is difficult for smaller loudspeakers. The midrange of both these speakers are to die for. They both image like crazy and if you like vocals, then these excel at it. They both have tight bass, with the D48Rs going deeper.
I agree that the D30 can’t compete with the D48 in terms of dynamics , scale ,bass and large soundstage because of the extra driver and bigger cabinet but the big problem with the D48
is that they need large space to breath and special acustic treatment otherwise they might overwhelm the room with boomy bass.
The ribbon twitters are the same but the big difference is the driver of the D30 that is bigger by half inch than the D48 which allow stronger long throw and the phase plug which allowing better controlled movement of the driver , the successor of the the D48 will probably implement two drivers similar to the D30.
In general if you have big space take the D48,
Medium size room the D30 and if relatively small space go for the D20.
My room is 23x15 and my D48Rs sound great. 
FWIW, I auditioned the Proac - D20R with high hopes as I loved their look and aesthetically pleasing size.


Unfortunately I found the same problem I find with most dynamic speakers using a ribbon tweeter:  It just didn't gel with the rest of the sound.  I was constantly aware "I'm hearing a ribbon tweeter."


I also found the midrange somewhat pinched, dry and electronic, with bass a bit overwarm.


One of my more disappoint speaker auditions.
I have not owned or auditioned exactly the speakers you are looking at, but I currently own a pair of Proac D 40r. For my room size (11x17) and equipment they are really a great match.

Previously I have owned Spendor 9/1 (floor standing Spendor 100 no longer made) and Harbeth Compact 7 ES3.

I preferred the Proac speakers I have now over both and over the Harbeth by a large margin.

Good luck with your search and selection.

Jim Perry
I auditioned the D20 too with McIntosh tube amplifier they sounded amazing but with McIntosh solid state amplifier  they were horrible .Since I own solid state amplifier they just weren't an option for me.
I have been looking into replacing / upgrading my Spendor SP1 circa 1988.  It has been very daunting finding the right speaker to fill its shoes.  The SP 1 particularly with the right amplifier has a tone that cannot be met.  If you favor the authenticity of voices and string guitars they are hard to beat.  I haven't heard the Classic 1/2 but have been told they are a nice evolution of the SP1 sound. I heard the Harbeth SHL 5 but found it surprisingly edgy.  Devore O 93 and Audio Note SHE-HF ( if you have a big wallet) may do it.  I hear Joseph speakers might do it; but its hard to find a dealer for an audition.  Frankly its hard to find any dealers these days.  Good luck with your search.
MP
I only have experience with Proac Tablette 50 signatures. The Harbeth Super HL5 Plus reproduces the tone of piano and other instruments more accurately than the Proac. The Proac sound is overall leaner, thinner and brighter than the Harbeth.
Best to listen to both before you make a decision. Good luck.
I own the Proac D30RS the last thing you can said about them that they are lean,thin and bright actually my Proac are natural, agile and very musical.
You should probably look for the ProAc D40R. it is superior in all aspects, especially in what you are looking for. Carbon woofers make the difference ...
Greetings
The new generation of Proac pulp & Mika drivers are better than the old carbons.