I have been using an ARC LS-16 pre and Plinius SA-100MkIII amp to drive the SHL-5 since I bought the speakers last month and am extremely pleased with the results. Recently I was informed that some exotic integrateds like the LFD Zero MkIII and Lavardin IT are on another level and will outperform my separates to a large degree. As some might have known, when Sam Tellig reviewed a pair of Compact 7ES-3 sometime in 2007, he loved it so much that he bought a pair for himself. When he reviewed the LFD Zero MkIII in 2008 on his Harbeth, he also ended up buying the amp. Apparently the combination between the LFD and Harbeth is labeled as a match made in heaven. I have yet to verify this but a few Compact 7ES-3 and SHL-5 owners have confirmed the LFD to be an excellent match with Harbeth speakers.
I'm using a Leben CS600. When I connected a Luxman c8f solid state preamp with the Leben my Harbeth SHL5's came to life. Greater solidity and punch in the bass.
I am using a BAT VK-42SE (SS) preamp into a pair of Manley Snapper tubed monoblocks. My wife and I have really been enjoying this system. I also use a REL R505 subwoofer.
I use Leben CS600 and Plinius 8150. Leben can't quite control the Harbeths' woofers... I've had better results using Leben's 4 ohm tap rather than 8 ohms, although Harbeths' nominal impedance is 8. Better bass control, but you do sacrifice a bit of naturalism, imo... as far as I'm concerned, having lived with Super HL5s, you're better off with a high quality solid state amp with moderate output than tube amps. The Plinius sounds fantastic with the Harbeths.
Thanks for all your answers. I am intrigued in particular by Ryder's suggestion that LFDs or Lavardins might be in a different league. Has anyone ever tried these amplifiers with Harbeths?
Talk to Gene Rubin out in Santa Barbara. He is a dealer for both and a nice guy. His site can be found by typing in "Gene Rubin Audio".
After almost 3 weeks getting accustomed to the SHL-5 with the speakers almost completely run-in, I begin to appreciate the finer qualities of the Harbeth after prolonged listening sessions. This may have been repeated many times before, but in the simplest choice of words, the Harbeth SHL-5 presents music in a wholly natural way without any listening fatigue. The midrange has a nice warmish feel and the highs are sweet, smooth and extended. Although there lies a super-tweeter in the SHL-5 that in the mind of some folks would extend the high frequencies in having more clarity and detail, the speaker is not the last word in transparency. The treble does not sound as airy and extended as some speakers Ive owned or listened to. However, this is neither a disparaging comment nor criticism towards the SHL-5 as the lack of transparency and detail can be seen as a favorable trait that may appeal to listeners with specific listening preferences. This particular inherent characteristic of Harbeth speakers, I believe, has been fundamental in creating a zero listening fatigue which in my opinion is vital in contributing towards the musical enjoyment with many hours of listening pleasure.
The coherency of SHL-5 again never ceases to amaze me. Of all the speakers that I have owned previously, the SHL-5 does everything right and very little wrong. If there is one minor flaw that I can pick on, it would be on the low frequency reproduction. The bass on the SHL-5 does not seem to go as low as some other speakers I have listened to but this is not a bad thing. I have used a PMC TLE1 subwoofer with the SHL-5 to great effect and it complements the speaker nicely. The last amount of tight deep bass from the sub albeit just a little produces a more solid bass foundation when used with the speakers. I reckon this would not be an issue with the larger M40.1.
I am extremely pleased with the sound Im getting with the SHL-5. I recently manage to run the Plinius in Class A and the sound become even more sublime. This Harbeth speaker is the best I have owned so far and I dont think Ill ever find another pair that can surpass the sonic performance Im currently getting. Different maybe but certainly not better.
Glad the Harbeths have worked out for you. Your findings seem to mirror mine, even though our systems are different.
I totally subscribe to Ryder's comments, with one exception. In my room (something like 14x17, perhaps a bit more), and with my system, I find the bass to be more than adequate, and I definitely do not feel the need of a subwoofer. This is an amazing speaker, especially for someone who considers some audiophiles' obsession for detail to be totally anti-musical (or something that goes against what hi-fidelity should be all about: getting as close as possible to the real thing).
Ryder - My preliminary findings with my newly acquired M-40.1's are similar to what you describe as most notable characteristics with the SHL5's, with the exception of bass response. I'm looking forward to getting a bit more top end extension and sparkle once my Skylan stands arrive and the 40.1's are properly dialed in. Bass response with the 40.1's is quite robust, full and nicely detailed... I definitely won't be in the market for a subwoofer as long as I have these speakers!
Pdreher, I hope you will get the Skylan stands soon and have the M40.1's properly set up before carrying out a proper evaluation on their sonic performance and actual capabilities. I might have been too critical on the bass performance of the SHL-5 in my earlier post with my nit-picking. I also find them to be excellent in the bass department that is more than adequate for most material. It's just that by reinforcing the low frequencies just a tiny bit produced a subtle but appreciable difference to my ears. I can still live with the speakers without a sub for sure.
Let me make a suggestion regarding stands. I never tried the Skylan and I am sure they are wonderful. But I recently got a pair of custom-made wood stands made by resonantwoods in New Hampshire. They are amazingly elegant and extremely sturdy. The builder really knows what he is doing...and they are not much more expensive than Sylans (I believe 20% or 30% more)
I wasnt' a big believer of stands and there improvment to the music until I moved from some Target stands to the Sound Anchors I am using now. They make a model just for the HL5 and 40.1 (around $700-750 a pr.) These have made a believer out of me. More coherent, sharper image, and a little tighter bass.
I am using a Cary SLP05 tube preamp and a Cary CAD120S Amp to power my Harbeth SHL5's and the wow factor is definately there!
Nice system! Are you running the amps triode or ultralinear?
Ultra linear but switching between triode and ultra linear..I don't hear any difference. Sound is great but I think I need to work on room accoustics more. Highly recommend Cary. I have no affiliation with them but whenever I call with a question or concern, they are right there.
I using Bryston 4Bst and Bp-25 pre amp..very tigh bass, sweet mid, and Hf very clarity!...
I'm intrigued by the comments about SS amps working better than tube. Anyone ever done a controlled A-B comparison, tube vs SS with all else the same? I have Compact 7's driven with a Naim XS, and although I haven't tried it, I'm convinced the hint of dryness I hear would disappear with tubes. I have 40.1's on order and will be driving them with 45w of tubes. Dealer says that will work great. Overly optimistic? Guess I'll be finding out soon enough!
Harbeth's sound just fine with most any decent amp, SS or tube. Harbeth's designer has conveyed this same message over and over. The Harbeth line on sub-implementation with their speakers is "no". Same answer with bi-amping & bi-wiring Harbeth's - no. I have tried those heavy & loaded stands as well as some $150-$200 light, open framed stands. The cheap-o stands sounded better in my space and with my Harbeth's. Really. LFD amps/integrated amps are very minimalistic looking products (thus not appealing to bell & whistle audiophiles) w/o remote control function that just sound really good. There certainly are many amps that probably are just as good, and know also you do not need big watt amps with Harbeth's to be happy. I say focus on the speaker placement and your room acoustics.
Bassoon - What amp will you be using with your 40.1's, and does the rest of your system consist of? I'm currently using a Plinius SA-102 Class A solid state amp with the Calypso preamp with NOS tubes.
SHL5s are not very fussy of amps irregardless tubes or s/s.
I have heard them in most combos and permutations and they sound great.
If you want a warmer presentation, more rounded, the tubes are the way to go!
If you want a more incise, detailed, defined bass presentation, the s/s is the way to go.
If you want in between, go with a tube pre-amp and s/s power amp or vice versa.
Some of the best SHL5s set-up i heard are done in this combo:
LFD integrated amp, CJ/VTL combo, Accuphase int, Accuphase combo (pre/power), the best one so far is in the Far East: I can't recall of the pre/amp as it was dark but the amp were the Lamms hybrid monoblocks. It was awesome!! A bit overkill but the capabilities of the harbeths were just highlighted to the max.
I also believe Jason Parmeter uses the Lamms with the Harbeths.
But the beauty of the SHL5s- anything will be fine!! easy speakers to please really!!
I agree about them being easy to please. I had very good success with Nuforce and Harbeth -- rich, detailed, textured, present.
After reading through most comments from Harbeth owners, I concur with the notion that the Harbeth will work well with most good amplifiers out there. In other words, the sonic difference between good amps will be subtle at best. You will gain a little here and there and then lose some. If one already has a good amp that matches well with the Harbeth, I think it is more worthwhile to concentrate more on the source to obtain a more appreciable sonic difference. I tried a better phonostage on my analog setup just recently and was astounded by the degree of improvements it made to the sound.
Tend to agree with Ryder. An investment in better sources does yield a more significant difference than diffent amps!!
Best source is kind of a given - no? Who the heck spends a small fortune on audio components and then uses crappy source material?
Harbeths and Spendors love tubes but also sound good with solid state.
Ggavetti, just wondering what you ended up doing for an amp w/ your Harbeth's. Did you stay w/ the EAR amp/Shindo preamp or go in another direction.
I drive my HL5's with a Cary 120S tube amp and they sound fantastic.