Why do Harbeth speakers have such a cult following

Let me start by saying I'm not here to bash Harbeth speakers.I have actually listened to 3 different pairs before I bought my current speakers.I thought they sounded good but I don't understand all the hype around them.They seem to have a cult following like Linn and Naim. What is creating the cult following among Harbeth speakers?
I'll go out on a limb here and say that people like what they hear.
maybe the loose cabinet joints that assists in recreating the sound of live musical instrument adds to the 'mystique'

maybe just good marketing

I never heard a pair that I thought were especially good either, nice but a bit ordinary to me

i think the bbc used them as monitors
Agree with Tpreaves, some people like Harbeth, some people like Ohm, some people like ear buds.
Title of this thread should be: Why am I ,Taters so obsessed with Harbeths. (Judging by all many of your other threads)
Check out Bowers first LOL!
IMO they sound good with a variety of electronics. It's harder to make a Harbeth sound bad then good.
Taters, I too am a bit curious about what appears to be your obsession with Harbeth. But as to your question, I can only answer for myself. My goal is to come as close as possible to reproducing the sound of live unamplified classical music, and Harbeth Compact 7s achieve this better than any other speaker I'm familiar with. I'm not sure whether that's good enough for admission into the cult that you seem to think exists, but it's the only answer I can give.
I owned the 5's and it always was enjoyable. It drew you into the music. Someday I will own a Harbeth again.
I loved my time with Harbeth 40.1's. There's a good chance I'll go back to them some day.
I think because they have a signature sound. They do some things very well. If those things are what appeal to you, you are likely a fan. Cult type products tend to appeal to a small segment of the population who see them as special in some way.
Cult type products tend to appeal to a small segment of the population who see them as special in some way.

I like that definition of "cult". At least as it pertains to "things", stereo eqipment, motorcycles, etc.

Everything ever written about loudspeakers is utter rubbish.
It does not matter who wrote it, it does not matter where it was published, it does not matter if the evaluations were conducted by the maker, a respected audio publication or in the labs of the most respected university on the face of the earth.

All evaluation and reporting is opinion. It may be informed opinion, it may be industry hype, it may be the ranting of a cabal of cultists.

It is all opinion. The only thing that matters is how the speakers sounds in your room, with your equipment and your music.
It's the thin wall technology. It colors the speakers but in a way that appeals to many people.

Harbeth are my favorite English speakers but my current speakers are much more neutral and to my ears in every way better.

IMHO it's best to add a smidgen of coloration (if that's your bag) at the amp rather than the speaker.

They look and sound a bit old fashion, some seem to like that.
Well Taters don't keep us in suspense, what did you buy that was so much better ?
Retro is all the rage Mr
I am new to harbeth, only three months I have to say that. I had listened
More records than ever, its the first time that. I experience a musical system.
Yes I have luxman 550 A I I matching, I bought it based on harbeth uk forums, no regrets, the cult is based on what you hear pure music, no color or unrealistic dynamics as close as live performace that you can get.

I owned before DAli helicons 800 mk2
Nola boxer
Linn accurate etc

Harbeth compact 7ES3 all about music, wondering why took me so long to give them a chance, lot of money and time saved....

"They look and sound a bit old fashion..."

In the sense that a real violin or piano sounds "old fashion" (sic), I would have to agree!

11-13-12: Philjolet
maybe the loose cabinet joints that assists in recreating the sound of live musical instrument adds to the 'mystique'

There is a lot of misinformation about the rationale behind the Harbeth cabinet design.
The BBC researched damped thin wall cabinet design was originally evolved to push cabinet colourations down below the critical midrange where they are most damaging to the tonal properties of the reproduced music.
ie, the goal was/is to make music and speech sound tonally like itself, not to create some specific sound.
Those who like this type of tonal accuracy will be attracted to Harbeth speakers and others like them.

IMO, the longer you listen to speakers with this basic tonal accuracy, the more appealing it becomes (and the less acceptable other, less tonally accurate, speakers become). YMMV.
Possible: First speakers owned.
Also possible just crazy, and fixated on them.
I 'like' J.B.Lansing, as those were MY first big speakers.
Then I also love The 1980's Infinity with Emims. And Magnepan.
I also like various products of Audio Research..
I despise some other products.. which I would not even bother to name.
And have a love/hate towards Sony, and Counterpoint.
11-13-12: Bhobba
It's the thin wall technology. It colors the speakers but in a way that appeals to many people.

.....like recording engineers and broadcasting studios - where accuracy and low coloration are requirements, music lovers who like the sound of real instruments and voices etc.
Tobes nailed it. They reproduce sound accurately (to my ears anyway). I own a pair of Monitor 30's and have yet to find a speaker I like better at any price. Today I auditioned a pair of B&W 802 Diamonds and left the shop shaking my head as to why they have received the reviews they have. They sounded blurred in the mid range and muddy in the bass. The treble sounded pretty darn good. Sticking with my M30's for now and never going to stop listening to other stuff for comparison.

Certified Harbeth Cult Member
Not the fastest and most resolving speaker but are very enjoyable to listen to. Great tone and ambiance is why I think a lot of people love these speakers. I attended RMAF this year and have been very tough on a certian speaker builder that was showing his speakers for the first time. This guy could have a cult like following but has not connected well with his customers. Too bad because the speakers were stunning and affordable. Harbeth and many other mfgr's take customer satisfaction very seriously thus leading into this cult like following.
Rose75. I thought the guys at the "certain speaker builder" room were quite professional.

Granted they have a difficult business model and they screwed up a speaker finish and then did not communicate in advance, but I thought that he (they) "connected" well in person.

I heard the various Harbeths at the show and I thought they were outstanding.
They have a proper, somewhat polite British sound which appeals to many...
Are you guys referring to Vapor Audio when you mention "certain speaker builder"? Vapor and EA's MMMicro Ones are on my future audition list.
I had the 5's for a while and then went to the 40.1's. I thought they were excellent speakers but in my room you had to pull them out from the back wall a great deal to make them sound right. My room was just not suited for these speakers and even with accoustic treatments it was hard to get away from the boomy base.
Milpai. I can say no more.

-Many of us hope that a certain speaker builder overcomes his business model and is wildly successful

-Many of us also hope that threads with 666 plus posts are a thing of the past.
Anyone heard the 30.1 ?
How is the resolution and detail (say, compared to the SHL5s,
or just in general)? Thanks.
I've discovered through alot of listening, that Harbeths just sound very natural and involving with great dynamics and soundstage. In my case with an LFD integrated, I chose the C7ES3, but it could have been a 5 or another model too. They just sound right to me.
11-20-12: Rgs92
Anyone heard the 30.1 ?
How is the resolution and detail (say, compared to the SHL5s,
or just in general)? Thanks.

I can't compare to the SHL5's but I previously used the C7ES3 for over 2 and a half years and the C7ES2 for 4-5 years before that.
Detail resolution with the 30.1's is fantastic I think. Compared to the very good C7 I'm definitely noticing more fine musical detail. And this is true resolution, not the type that comes from frequency pushes in the loudspeaker's response. The 30.1's, like all Harbeths, are beautifully coherent.

Compared to the C7's the sound is richer in the tonal sense and more densely realistic, yet precise and very open. The top end is gorgeously airy and refined - ambiance reproduction is brilliant. These speakers really do sound amazing in their portrayal of real acoustic instruments.
I dunno, they're rather dull and uninvolving speakers, imo.
I think that with Harbeth, you just listen. You don't analyze, dissect, compare soundstage, etc. It is a speaker that you just put on and enjoy. In my case, so much sounds great on my SHL-5 - ambient, jazz, female vocals, rap. It does them all. And they have a crystaline quality to the treble. I love them. They don't do soundstaging like my Maggie 1.6, they don't do gymnastics like the Merlin's or SF's I've had but they are just comforting and easy to listen to.
Dave 72 I can see why you'd think that. Here's a link that might explain why. Post 3 and 8 are by Alan Shaw the designer.

I agree with Dave_72 they sound dull to me. I tried to like them but they seemed like a speaker from the 1970's.
I was really captivated by the sound of my HL5's at first, but over time there was a sameness or homogenized aspect to their sound. One genre sounded like the next. Very polite, not much personality.
Hi Pcoombs,

Thanks for the info, that sheds some light on the subject...
Hi Thankful,

Exactly. Well said.
Alan Shaw really puts things into basic, stark perspective.

I'd like to hear a discussion with Alan and some of the designers from Magico, Tidal, Wilson, Kharma etc, that'd be interesting eh?
I owned a pair of Harbeth 40.1's about a year and a half ago.....I purchased them demo from a Harbeth dealer and had briefly listened to them before I bought. The dealer who I had purchased them from said that they may be / are a little too big for your room. ( 14x 16x 7 )I bought them anyway ...hey these were the 40.1's !!!!I listened to them for about 6 months and sold them for just about what I had bought them for. Three things happened here; the dealer was right as they did overload the room, they were very good on acoustic music and vocals....not on any electric blues or jazz and as you will see from my previous post on these speakers - they just did not get up and boogie !!!! I would not say dull - they did not involve me - but it was large in part due to the room and the music that I play 80% of the time. So, if you do have a larger room, have nice electronics and like to play acoustic music or vocal oriented music - these might be it ! Also, when Mr. Shaw noted that speaker wire does not make a difference on the performance of these speakers.....I did my own little experiement - and guess what - they did !
I think a lot of those designers wouldn't be willing to go head to head with Alan Shaw regardless of what you think of his speakers.
I'm not a Harbeth owner, but I think yer right.
I don't share Alan Shaw's perspective on speaker cable and amplification. With the right amplification I've heard the compact 7's perform much better than I ever expected. I walked into my dealer the other day and he was playing Rachmaninov at extremely loud levels with an Octave tube amp using a Luxman integrated as a pre and I was trying to figure out why the only speakers I could see we're compact 7's. I had never heard a Harbeth do anything close to this before. It makes me wonder why so many people use low power amps with most Harbeths. Even if you listen at low volumes I find they work best with gobs of power. That might be why some people don't buy into them (not all). My take is they do indeed require a lot of current to sound their best.
Donjr, I wish you could hear what the 30.1's sound like in my room. Dynamic and alive with superbly realistic tonal and imaging properties. I simply can't understand why people are saying they don't soundstage and sound homogenized - these things image and soundstage like crazy, wall to wall with dimensional, focused, full bodied images. Brass instruments and piano sound amazing. Detail is superb.
All this with a low cost ARC 50 watt tube amp. Go figure.
Garebear. You are making me worry. I like blues and jazz and classic rock. I am very close to buying a 40.1.

I have a large room and Yamaha As 2000 amp. So I am hoping I will not find a boogie loss in my system.
Funny, I started an identical thread a few years ago. For a second I thought someone revived my old thread. A poster wrote Tidal speakers have a similarly devout following.

Reading Alan Shaw's responses, I cannot help but make a comment regarding sound engineers and other recording professionals in the music industry he uses to make his point. I'm not sure whether Mr. Shaw gives them way too much credit for actually caring about what they hear, or perhaps they crossed over to the "dark side" and use, as he calls them, "hi-fi" speakers rather than neutral speakers. Today's recordings are on average absolutely awful. What reaches the consumer is a compressed, ear-bleeding mess of a sound, rather than what the engineer heard behind that "glass window," as he puts it.

Hearing impaired persons could hear peak distortions and easily experience listening fatigue due to compression and lack of care in the recording and mastering chain. I understand Mr. Shaw's points, but I think his reliance on the sound professionals to make it is grossly misplaced.
Funny, I started an identical thread a few years ago. For a second I thought someone revived my old thread

Similar threads with positive feedback(musical,ambience,easy to drive,less sensitive to the source ) made me to buy these speakers.I would say great speakers for price.Lets you enjoy quality reproduction of music at less price compared with mega brands
Honeybee2012 I had the same amp you have, i suggest if you want to try the harbeth go with Luxman, Naim,acuphase or LFD,
you will no regreet.
I did my journey and homework already!
I wanted to like the Yamaha but the sound wasn't my cup of tea compared to Luxman class A and others i had the chance to try and the time.
The interesting link was given .Alan Shaw made statement very clear abaut their speakers as mastering speakers for recording studios.In my experience .Sometimes I create computer based music works and use for this SHL5,I can imagine in this place dynaudio c1 or s1.4 ,because they have mellow flavour to the sound.But I saw that a lot tv station and radiostations using active dynaudio speakers.May be promotion has influence to it