Spendor D7 vs. Harbeth Super HL5+

Anyone who has heard both? Comparisons? I own the Harbeth. Curious about the difference with the Spendor. What brand and type of amp used. Thanks!
I currently own the SHL5+ and owned the Spendor D7 previously.
I ran each with a Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum II and now Rogue Audio tube preamp and tube power amp.

The D7s are excellent speakers and easy to place with great imaging and excellent deep bass. They are dynamic and energetic. On many recordings they sound very nice- they breathe life into dull sounding recordings. Especially excellent with vinyl playback.

The problem I had with them is that they did not sound natural. The upper midrange was too far forward on all too many recordings and occasionally the treble was over the top. This was after 250 hrs of break in and much cable experimentation to get the best sound.

In addition because of their transmission line port the speakers had excellent deep bass but was lacking in mid bass warmth to offset the forwardness- and integrating subwoofers seamlessly was nearly impossible without high passing them, something I refuse to do.

The SHL5+ are better overall sounding speakers to my ears. More natural despite being somewhat forward compared to other models.
Placement is critical with the 5+, I like them a few inches lower than tweeter at ear level and toe-in is super critical to controlling the overall tonal balance. Less toe-in = more midrange forward, more toe-in = more bass and midbass. Also they need room all around them to avoid bass peaks. I am very pleased with the sound of the 5+ and would not consider going back to the D7. Voices and vocals are far superior on the 5+.
Also the Harbeth are good to integrate subwoofers with if that is of interest.
Sometimes you don’t know what you have until its gone.
WOW, great comparison! Did the SHL5+ need much break in? Mine are at 100-150 hours of break in and I believe they are getting better although Harbeth states that they need very little break in.

These are my first Harbeths. I have mixed feelings with them. This is why I'm considering the Spendor D7 or D9. I currently own the Ascend Acoustic Sierra Towers and, as of now, prefer them to the Harbeths. The Ascends have more sizzle and snap up top and I prefer this but am looking for a more costly speaker like the Ascends that can give me more refinement than the Ascends can. The softer, more natural presentation of the Harbeths is different for me and may take a while to adjust to. I'm not sure yet so I guess I'm looking for more musicality in a speaker similarly designed to the Ascends even though the Ascends sound musical to me.

I am using a Conrad Johnson LP70s tube power amp which I don't want to change. This is the amp that I'm using for comparison. Also, I own the Conrad Johnson ET250s hybrid power amp. This amp brings out some solid state shrillness in upper end of both speakers so I don't use for comparison.

I do have the Harbeths towed in less and, as you stated, there is an emphasis on the midrange. I'm happy with the bass as I have them paired with a subwoofer. They are about 28" from the front wall. I do not have more space to move them further out into the room. There is plenty of sidewall space. I don't have a boomy situation except for a handful of recordings.

Thank you for your continued input.
My experience was just the opposite.
I owned the Spendor D7 and owned the Harbeth SHL5+ previously.

The midrange in the SHL5+ was marvelous, effortless, warm, and very easy to live with. I really enjoyed those.
The bass was not of my taste, not too much and not so defined and precise.
That´s why I start a search of new pair, and after a long time looking for I arrived to the Spendor D7.
Much, much better bass, more, clear, precise, and scary defined. 
I also found than the midrange was not so romantic and engaging as the SHL5+, but it was definitely  more natural sounding allowing better instrument/voices separation and realism to the presentation.

As the other OP, I noticed that the upper midrange was far too forward, but after 300-400hrs of burn in it was gone.

At one point prior to the 300hrs I was ready to sell the Spendor, but chatting with some others owners calmed down my anxiety.
And it pays a huge reward.

IMHO the Spendor D7 are a tremendous value proposition at their price point. They offer a lot of refinement and high-end sound for the price.

Its very difficult to match the natural, accurate and transparent sound they produce. 
 The SHL5+ is a different kind of speaker, more centered in romanticism and engagement, but not natural sounding as D7s.

So finally is up to you. Try to demo both of them with good amplification and take your decision.
Amplifier used in both of them:
Exposure 3010SD
Mcintosh MA252
Leben CS600X
SimAudio Moon 600i

Perfect match for Harbeth SHL5+ was the Moon 600i.
Perfect match for Spendor D7 was the Moon 600i for music that needed more grunt and grip, and the Leben CS600X to increase romantic/engagement factor in more relaxed music like Jazz.
If you are looking for a speaker in this size range then you might want to consider the ATC SCM50 from the classic series you can find them new for just under 10k and used for $5,750.00 right now on USAM.
be careful straying from harbeth, they can get their hooks in you ! 
i went to spendor after my first harbeths, the c73s3 and eventually came back.  both my harbs took at least 250 hrs for the sound to plateau.  
before i forget-  grilles off!  too laid back with them on, especially my old c7s.  
every speaker worth owning requires (at least for me) lots of work to get the best sound and synergy in your system.  
position fine tuning including height, speaker cables (kimber 8pr sounds great with harbeths and not bank breaking) interconnects (nordost purple or blue brings transparency and air for example).  
"work them" per above and see if you aren't happy.  

I have found that all HARBETH models love great tube amps. Overall they are at their best reproducing classical, jazz and vocal recordings. I eventually ended up with PRIMA LUNA INTEGRATED "HP". But the real magic came to pass when I switched to a double quad of KT150's. The "150's" brought out a new character in my HARBETH speakers that wasn't there with any other amplifier tested, and the most interesting fact was that the HARBETH's did not loose one ounce of that superb midrange mentioned in other reviews.  Another area to look into, that I discovered, made significant improvements in the balance, tactility, presence and drive that the HARBETH / PRIMA LUNA paring produced, was going to large gauge (min. 10awg) power cables and some quality power input conditioning and well designed shielding. This improvement made as much difference in the overall reproduction of the audio spectrum, moreso that any other tweak I have every tried. Especially, soundstaging and bass slam. Have fun but for God sake don't give up on HARBETH. Eventually you will hate yourself for it. I think you would really love the 40.1's. It is a bit of an investment, however.
I heard them both 2 years ago at Hawthorne Audio, "A nice place" or so the sign says as you enter. I included the Tannoy Cheviots with the other two. All were retail of $6,500-$7,500 as I recall.

The first one I ruled out was the Harbeth. Only because the voices
sounded almost horn like. But the tone of instruments was heavenly.

The Cheviots had the smoothest sound. However were less engaging to me.
Odd since later I ended up buying a different model Tannoy.

The D7 was my overall favorite. Though now I can not recall exactly
why. Must have been the sound of the female vocals-my main preference.

Hawthorne's listening room, as many others are, features the Naim integrated streamer. About $4,500?
Your eyes are diverted to the mini screen showing the album art instead of tending to listening
carefully.  Millennial eye candy. I like to close my eyes anyway.

I now want to go back and spend more time listening to the HL5+ again.
There is something about the talking cabinets that was a new experience for me.

Some articles seem to favor the 30.2s over the HL5+s.
Any comment on that comparison?
At the end of the day both Harbeth and Spendor are great brands.  The Ideal for me however is Graham Audio; sits soundwise in between the romantic sounding Harbeth and more neutral sounding Spendor. And great bass too. Cheers Leon 
Forgot the following, have owned both the HL5 and the 30.1. The HL5 needs more space , but to me its a more engaging sound than the 30.1. perhaps the 30.2 is different. However i changed my 30.1 for a pair of Graham Audio Ls6 and cldnt be more happy. Cheers Leon
The Spendor D series has been upgraded with the 7.2 and 9.2.
From what I've read it sounds more like subtle tweaks than radical changes; has anyone heard the new series?

I have the D9 and drive it with a Pass X250.8 and really like it.
Before purchasing the D9 I listened to the HL5+ and 40.2, B&W 804D3 and Kef Reference.    I thought the Spendor fit nicely in the middle between the highly detailed/revealing and punchy B&W and Kef, while still providing a mid-range centric sound like the Harbeth.  Both the midrange warmth and high freq detail was not at the extreme of the others, but as a whole package it was my favorite.   The D series driven by the slightly warm and romantic Pass makes for a very nice combo to my ear.

Darko gives a cool comparison of the D7.2 and the Classic 1/2 which I've never heard but assume would sound more like the Harbeths.


Good Luck...

FYI the SHL5+ as well as other Harbeth models (including the larger M 40.2) sound best when treated like nearfield monitors, e.g. an equilateral triangle arrangement.   sounds more detailed and focused and yields the largest sound stage.  
another thought, the D7s were less forgiving on bright, harsh or difficult recordings making them tough to take.  
Harbeth runs the fine line between detail and forgiving like no other speakers I have heard.  
I own Spendor D7 for past year. They are not bright at all. They are neutral. I purchased them after demoing about two dozen other speakers over a six month period. The D7’s were the best, including beating other contenders up to $10k (Focal Kanta, B&W 804, Paradigm Persona, etc.). I am very happy with them, so much so that I later purchased the D1’s for my second system.

I have posted many opinions on them on A'gon that you can search if you like.

Heard the SHL5+ in one system, and I actually found them rather bright.  In the same system/room I preferred PMC Twenty/24's.

Different system/room.  Heard the Spendor D7 vs. Spendor Classic 100.  No contest.  The Classic 100 was far superior in every way, full-bodied, balanced, impactful.  D7 sounded malnourished and unnatural in the treble by comparison (perhaps it wasn't fully run in).

Heard the Harbeth 40.2 in a third locale and loved it--either it or the system/room had a very different presentation to the SHL5+.  Going on aural memory alone, preferred the 40.2 by a short head to the Classic 100.

Hello, I own the shl5+ for about 4 years now. I can't compare with the spendors but I can say that at first I wasn't happy with the sound they produced at my place. I found out that they are extremely sensible when it comes to the stands you put them on. I tried several, none of them worked for me. Now I made a pair of stands myself and they sound wonderful. Fast, realistic, tight base, detailed, engaging sound. Don't give up on shl5+!
Best results with a Mcintosh 6850.
I have 30.1 with skylan stands, a billion lightyears away from the. Shl5+. 
Sorry for my bad ENGLISH!

Well of course it will always come down to your own taste.

But I owned the Harbeth SuperHL5plus and I auditioned twice the Spendor D7.

I loved the Harbeths, so tonally believable, rich, incredible with voices etc. But I ended up going another direction and sold them. I’d still love to own a pair though, in a second system. (I use Thiel 2.7 speakers and Joseph Audio Perspective speakers for my main system).

I also own some old Spendors s3/5s that I adore for their organic quality especially with vocals. I thought I should try one of the newer Spendorsto see how they’d updated the sound, hoping they kept at least some of the Spendor midrange magic character.

My experience was that I found the Spendor D7s one of the least appealing speakers I auditioned (and I auditioned many!). They sounded very competent through most of the audio band, well designed.But for one thing I heard nothing like the Spendor sound in the midrange.It was just another modern, clean sounding (and anti-septic) speaker that didn’t distinguish itself in any particular way. (Unlike the Harbeths that just stop me in my tracks whenever I hear them at a store)..

The other thing was the highs were somewhat bright, steely and hard. (Yes they were broken in). I kept trying to turn up the Spendors to enjoy some life and dynamics in the sound (not even that loud) but I was continually having to turn them down due to the hard and piercing high frequencies. I later found out many people had similar impressions of the Spendor D series speakers. They were one of the easier ones to mark off my list.

Again, they sounded really good in most ways. Just nothing at all distinctive or amazing or seductive, and the edge pushed me away.

So, that’s one more bit of data for you from someone who’s heard both speakers.
(BTW, the Harbeths are not rolled off or just soft either. They are very open and lively. It’s one reason why some fans of older Spendor classic speakers find the Harbeth sound a bit "too" lively for their tastes. But I think it’s a canny balance that helps their realism - but not "bright" to my ears).

Well said @prof 

BTW, if you ever decide to go with standmounts for your second system, I'm pretty sure you would really enjoy one of Fritz's offerings.

I recently auditioned Spendor D7s, D9s, the new JBLs, Harbeth, Graham Chartwell, Audio Physic, and B&W. Landed up getting the D9s. 
While these were breaking in I noticed some unwanted brightness on the high end. Tried different sources and amps before getting a Pass Labs XA30.8 and could not be happier...
Certainly everyone has their own preferences; one person's bright can be another person's neutral, etc...

My previous speakers were S series Magicos (beryllium tweeter) before purchasing the Spendors, and to my ears that tweeter provides another whole level of detail and speed compared to the LPZ tweeter used by the D series (let alone the Harbeth).   Things like snare drum and certain percussion with the Magicos was the most lifelike sound I've experienced at home. I was amazed after going to a some live events and then listening at home how realistic certain things sounded to me.

The main driving factor for moving on from the Magicos was poor or bright recordings could become too fatiguing over long listening sessions. Great recordings sounded awesome, but not everything I listen to is well recorded...

The first speakers I listened to after the Magicos were the Harbeth HL5+ and 40.2. The beautiful midrange and non-fatiguing listening was great. I can see why folks like them. That being said, I definitely noticed details and speed I was used to hearing in my favorite recordings that were not present or at least not to the degree I was looking for.   The 40.2 could energize a room and I liked it but it is too big for my room.

The Harbeth dealer mentioned to me he knew a music producer who used both Harbeth and Magico based on what he was recording...

For me I found the D series a nice comprise between the two brands and for type of sound I was looking for. Not counting tone and detail between Harbeth and the other brands I listened to (which all offer slim towers), the other thing I noticed was I didn't think the side to side and back to front imaging with the wider Harbeth boxes was as pronounced.   I can confirm the D9's disappear almost as well as my Magicos did in my smallish room, which is pretty impressive for a pretty large speaker.

To be fair as well, I've not heard the D7 and although the Spendor dealer said they sound like the D9 but with less bass, I've heard others say the D9 sounds different because it has a dedicated midrange driver that doesn't share any bass duties.
WOW! Thanks guys for the tremendous amount of information. At present I still have the Harbeth's hooked up and they are sounding better (I think?). I purchased them new and I didn't hear any difference up to 100 hours. They now have approx. 150 hours on them and I am hearing a little more opening up of the two tweeters. A little more sizzle & snap as I prefer. Harbeth states in their manual and online that their speakers require very little break in (several hours) except for the supertweeter. Maybe they're right but I am enjoying them more. Also, I bought a brand new interconnect which went into the system when the Harbeth's were reaching 50 hours of burn in. As for the Spendor D7, I decided to purchase a brand new pair of Focal Kanta No. 2 towers from TMR Audio who also are selling brand new pairs of Spendor D7's. I will be starting a new discussion: Harbeth Super HL5+ vs. Focal Kanta No.2.
Thank you all for your comments!

Here is some my thinking out load.
Most of people use speakers with modern sharp tweeters like Beryllium or LPZ use
transistor amplifiers with a deep general feedback. These amplifiers had a big amount of high order distortion that sharp tweeters highlight. 

So, the speakers with Beryllium or LPZ tweeters should sound much better with tubes or transistor amplifiers with low level of high order distortion (like amplifiers designed Nelson Pass).



Imo wrong to conflate LPZ tweeters with Beryllium tweeters.

Seriously, as someone who has demo’d over 20 speakers before choosing D7’s, the Be speakers rank in the top 10-15% of forward-sounding speakers. The classic Spendor ( non-D series) rank in the bottom 10-30% of forward sounding speakers.

Spendor D series with LPZ ranks in the middle 20% (40-60). They are neutral, not bright.
Everyone will have preference about what sounds good to them. Some will like warmer, some will stress clarity.

But let’s stay grounded in reality here.  My opinion, ymmv, it’s subjective. 
It is hugely subjective. 
One’s system is just that: a system with different components. Then there is the room which is a vital factor. How loud do enjoy your music? One steady volume is much easier than using a wide range. Some speakers/systems sound great at 80 dbls but sound pale at low volumes. Then there is the music: some recordings will just sound bad on certain systems and speakers.

Only you can figure this out at home...
Seriously, as someone who has demo’d over 20 speakers before choosing D7’s, the Be speakers rank in the top 10-15% of forward-sounding speakers. The classic Spendor ( non-D series) rank in the bottom 10-30% of forward sounding speakers.

Spendor D series with LPZ ranks in the middle 20% (40-60). They are neutral, not bright.
I would agree with this completely. The A7's are far brighter than the D7.2's.
I'll also add that I've heard the Harbeths and Spendors. The Harbeths do have a warm midrange; however, they are also very laid back. The D7.2 are very quick, very precise, very detailed, and have a superior low end.
The D7.2's are also less picky with placement. In fact, one of the most forgiving speakers I've owned.
Different people prefer different speakers, and different speakers sound different in different rooms. I would try to demo both in your home.
For me, though, the D7.2's were the better of the two, so I went with them.
once again, try the grilles off of your harbeths if you have not.  totally different sound, dynamics, top end and transparency open up quite well.
I heard D9 on Montreal Audio Fest with Chord amplifiers.
The sound was horrible, scratchy, bright, unmusical.
People entered into this room and nobody can stay there more than 2 minutes!!!
But I am curious - was it because amplifier or it is a normal sound of these speakers?
Your description is as far from the reality of the D9s in my system as possible.  They are extremely musical with beautiful clarity and detail.  Setup and proper positioning are paramount to their performance as is true for any speaker with their capability. I can imagine the best placement in a hotel room at a show could be sub-optimal as I have experienced at many shows with other highly reviewed speakers and systems.
That's funny, you may have been in the same room with Art Dudley :)

Checkout:  https://www.stereophile.com/content/arts-saturday-morning-show

He seemed to like the sound.

The system overall had an impressive combination of clarity and beauty, openness and substance: I could have stayed there all day.

Again, we all hear differently, and like what we like...
In the D7 vs. Classic 100 comparison (remember: made by the same company), it wasn't just the D7's tweeter that I didn't like, it was the whole upper/mid range that sounded undernourished and constrained and unnatural by comparison to the '100, plus overall there was considerably less impact compared to the wave launch offered by the '100. It's a real pity this model isn't more widely auditionable in the U.S.  But people (spouses) want narrow speakers for the décor, and Spendor now actually vaunts this narrowness in its print ads.  A sad thing.

I have sympathy for those who own the D series telling us they are not off putting or bright.

After all: I own Thiel speakers ;-)

But I can guarantee that no one listening to the Thiel 3.7 or 2.7s in my system would be putt off by "brightness."  They've converted more than one Thiel skeptic.

So I can see the Spendor D series being tamed, or working in some systems.

Still, in both encounters with the D7 they had that same hard, steely, off-putting character in the treble,  and when I heard the A series they also had a similar off-putting character in the highs.  But, horses for courses...
Hi @ddafoe ,

In contrast to professional reviewers like Art Dudley I get zero income from my masages on this forum :-)
If you a professional a reviewer you can’t afford yourself to criticize directly as I do.


I do question the presence of that "supertweeter" in the SHL5+, that isn't there in other Harbeth models.  I know the BBC model that it's based on had one too, but why?
Stereophile has reviewed both speakers, and ranks Spendor D7 as a class A speaker (the lowest price tower at time to get such a ranking), and ranks the Harbeth class B. 


Stereophile reviews and rankings are notoriously unreliable.  Their love affairs with some (just some) speakers are inexplicable.

@twoleftears the supertweeter adds just a touch of additional realism, especially in female vocals, a breathy / subtle tinge that makes the right recording stunningly present.

as odd as it sounds I agree with the Stereophile rankings even though I sold the D7 and kept the SHL5+.

The Spendors are easier to place, have better bass and dynamics yet are a touch too forward for me and lacking in midbass as to make them hyper natural sounding.  

The 5+ are finicky to place, require a more robust amplifier to sound dynamic and cabinet warmth isn’t for everyone- definitely a lesser value vs. the D7. I just prefer the Harbeth sound and have worked around the other issues and for me they are end game speakers.
twoleft: perhaps, but Spendor has not been one of those brands. Stereophile gave B ratings to Spendor A7 and SA1, just like it gave the Harbeth 
I also own SA1’s and extensively demo’d A7’s on same electronics, same room as D7 before getting D7. 
I agree with the Stereophile rankings, D7 much better than A7 and SA1, which do seem like B speakers. 
I haven’t heard the Harbeths so don’t have an opinion on them or whether they deserve their B ranking 

As a person who has lived with Thiel speakers, they are extremely persnickety of amplification to tame the “ brightness” they are noted for.  Play them with a Class D amp( less $$$)  and your eardrums will let you know.
Play them with a Pass XA amp and they sound velvety!!!! Smooth 

so, Could the D7’s be as persnickety of amplification ?

I’ll bet it is so!
i heard the D7’s with a Chord Dave & upsampler front end at AXPONA , it was really, really, really  good ( DONT remember amp) sound


Prof has incredible listening and writing skills, but I do mildly disagree with him about the Spendors. In my case, I have a pair of walnut D7.2's purchased as nearly brand new demos. I also have a pair of DeVore O/93's which Prof has written much about. 
Prof is correct that the Spendors are brighter than the DeVores, but only ever-so slightly in my system. 
Prof does not seem to endorse the critical nature of wire to the extent that I do. Swapping out speaker cable was critical for me. I had Cardas Clear and it was good, if not very good. But replacing it (I am still holding onto them and won't part with the Cardas) with one-third as expensive Auditorium 23 benefited both sets of my speakers in my system, using ARC tubed electronics (Ref 6 and Ref 150SE). The Auditorium speaker cable "sorted out" the music as the Brits would say. Perhaps a little less sparkle and clarity but everything sounds more of a whole cloth to use yet another cliche'.
I am very very happy with D7.2's. They don't put out a wall of sound the way the DeVores do, but they do image much better and portray a deeper soundstage. The Spendor's are a bit surgical and precise compared to the DeVores, but they are by no means bright in my system unless the source is bright. I have been listening to the Spendors for four months now as my DeVores sit in the next room over from my listening room. I miss the DeVores. In two months I will carefully mark with blue masking tape the perfect spot I found for my Spendors and then move them out to make way for a return of the DeVores and then six months after that....such is my plan. 


How interesting that you bought the Spendors!   That's a real change from the Devore sound!

I like owning more than one speaker to have more than one flavour of sound available.

As for Thiels: when Thiel introduced the 3.7 flagship speaker, with the completely re-designed flat midrange etc, they finally nailed the sound.Open and alive but no brightness emphasis, smooth as silk, and still the most coherent sound I've heard from a dynamic speaker. 

My 2.7s, with my CJ amps, produce a sound that is almost dead in between a Devore O speaker and a Spendor (or similarly more precise/neutral speaker).   The Thiels produce super precise, dense imaging, huge deep wide soundstaging, but without the hard mechanically squeezed sound of some speakers.  They manage a balance of being precise, yet full and lush.

Admittedly I still wonder sometimes how the O/96s would have sounded in my room as I really liked those speakers too.   But then as you know I bought Joseph Perspectives, and those have been wonderful in their own way too.
If I had a larger room, I would own O/96's. I listened to both over and over at the 2018 Axpona and preferred the O/96's to the O/93's. The O/93's are more polite, the O/96's are party-girls. I know calling a human a "party-girl" is not currently acceptable, but since I am referring to an inanimate object, I will stick with calling them that. Not "sluts", but definite party girls. They boogie in a really good way. I by nature do not dance, but I have never encountered ANY loudspeaker that makes me want to dance like the O/96's do. And air-drum and air-guitar. 
Some on the Naim forum liked the Kudos Titan 707 speakers more than the Spendor D9's but don't sell Kudos speakers here in the USA yet.
You need to go out and listen to the speakers yourself. This discussion will only make it more clear that loudspeaker choice is personal. I have listened to the D7 and similar Harbeths when I was searching for loudspeakers about couple of years ago. Both were good speakers. But based on my preference I would have gone with the Spendors. How does that help - except to confuse you more.
Some on the Naim forum liked the Kudos Titan 707 speakers more than the Spendor

I've auditioned the Kudos Titan 505 stand mount and 606 floor stander.They are lively sounding speakers.  But if I'm going lively, I prefer the Kudos sound to the Spendors.

I still listen to my first Spendor BC-1's  circa 1982. I also have Spendor S3/5As and S-9s. I'm a Spendor guy. Always have been. Having said that, I think Harbeth makes a more accurate and musical speaker these days. I haven't heard a D series Spendor that I thought was better or even the equal of the old Spencer Hughes days. If I was in the market for a new loudspeaker system, Harbeth would be my choice hands down. FWIW.
For reference, my system is all Audio Research tubes driven by a Koetsu on a Sondek table.
Remember, people, that Spendor still actually makes the Classic line of speakers, that derives from the BBC heritage. https://www.spendoraudio.com/classic-loudspeakers/
With Harbeth SHL5+, assuming room and setup are sorted, try any of the following amps ;
1. Naim NAC282 and NAP250DR or higher
2. Luxman L-509X or L-590AXII


All of the above will sound different with the Harbeth and the best sounding amps will depend on your listening taste or preference.