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Harbeth Super HL5+

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#1
Hello,

I'm considering the purchase of a pair of SHL5+. A second hand pair came up, and as a bit of a sucker of the old vintage look, I'm kinda tempted.
However, It's very important to me to know whether a piece of equipment I paid good money for, justifies it from an objective point of view.

The SHL5+'s seem to be a rather simple design, with thin walls and unremarkable drive units. However, I suppose this doesn't necessarily mean that they can't measure well.
The only measurements I know of are the ones from Stereophile (Link).
Stereophile claims that "Other than that lively enclosure, which is a deliberate design decision (...) the Harbeth Super HL5plus's measured performance is beyond reproach"

Is that so? Also, does anyone know of any other independent measurements of these speakers, or any other helpful info?

Thanks!
 

q3cpma

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#3
Stereophile's measurements are enough to see that these are not worth their magnitude of price in any way. What can these do that you can't get with a Neumann KH120A + KH750DSP or Genelec 8030C + 7350A/7050C combo?
And for Harbeth as a company, it doesn't provide Bryston's (20 years) or ATC's (6 years) incredibly long warranty (1 year or 3 year with registration non transferrable), Genelec's indestructibility nor any useful measurements.

Really, unless you want to buy a story, why not buy from known good values like the aforementioned brands or Revel?
 
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Thread Starter #4
The harbeths are 2nd hand (like new) for a good asking price, I would definitely not pay their full price. I generally prefer 2nd hand anyway, so warranties are mostly irrelevant.
Regarding the other options- I have nothing against any of them, but it's simply not what I'm looking for. I prefer a passive stereo pair (I have my own amplification) without a sub ('cause... reasons).

Anyway, what's so bad about the SHL5+'s measurements? As far as I can see, the FR is very smooth till 10K; above which it gets somewhat messy although I'm not sure I can hear most of these frequencies anyway.

(Just to make clear- I'm not trying to confirm nor refute any bias I may have towards these. It just looks like a good opportunity for speakers that seem highly regarded, and I want to approach this with as much objective info as possible, in order for not just buying the "story")
 

q3cpma

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#5
It's clearly bass heavy and off-axis is quite messy. Honestly, there's a problem when you start thinking "it's not so bad" for a speaker this price, you can and should get perfection (or almost).
You should really think about something like Neumann's KH420 or the smaller KH310 if you want a good 3-way; yes, that would mean going active, but that has been the future for a long time already, any reason to not make the jump? Even Genelec's 8040 or 8050 would be very good if you don't want to bother with subs.
 
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Thread Starter #7
It's clearly bass heavy and off-axis is quite messy. Honestly, there's a problem when you start thinking "it's not so bad" for a speaker this price, you can and should get perfection (or almost).
You should really think about something like Neumann's KH420 or the smaller KH310 if you want a good 3-way; yes, that would mean going active, but that has been the future for a long time already, any reason to not make the jump? Even Genelec's 8040 or 8050 would be very good if you don't want to bother with subs.
Because I like my amplification, and I like to be able to change only the speakers from time to time (again, nothing against powered speakers). When 2nd hand is concerned, It's much easier to make these occational changes. At least for me, for the time being, I'll be sticking with passive speakers.

Another candidate I was less favorably considering is a pair of ATC SCM19v2. However, since it's a sealed-box design, and since I'm not gonna be using a sub, I'm concerned about lacking bass.
 

thewas

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#8
The current Harbeth models all measure nicely smooth on-axis and also sound nice and warmly but in the end have also limitations due to their old school design without waveguides etc. and are very expensive also due to the fact they are build in the UK and there is a big hype on them on audiophiles over the world who belive all kind of audiophool myths like that JBL is only good for bass and Yamaha amps sound sharp. ;)
 

q3cpma

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#9
Well, even if you're that fond of passive, there's better out there. Revel, JBL are quite good. I also have had good experiences with Dali (measure well but very wide) and Focal (same kind of sound/dispersion).
But really, after a few (regular) months here, you may start to think that DACs and amps are just commodities/tools.
 

Ilkless

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#10
Anyway, what's so bad about the SHL5+'s measurements? As far as I can see, the FR is very smooth till 10K; above which it gets somewhat messy although I'm not sure I can hear most of these frequencies anyway.

(Just to make clear- I'm not trying to confirm nor refute any bias I may have towards these. It just looks like a good opportunity for speakers that seem highly regarded, and I want to approach this with as much objective info as possible, in order for not just buying the "story")
The dispersion is a disgrace (SHL5+ graphs from Stereophile):



This graph plots how sound output changes relative to the smooth on-axis as you move off-axis of the speaker. It illustrates the horizontal dispersion of the speaker. What it shows is that although it's smooth on-axis, it is utterly dismal off-axis. I'm discounting the stuff above 10kHz, which is bad design but relatively inconsequential.

It shows the sound off-axis develops a dip at 2.5kHz, and then slopes upward to a peak centred at 5kHz. This is due to a mismatch in dispersion between the midbass and the tweeter. It means the direct sound and the reflected sound are likely to significantly differ.

This is known to have bad effects in-room - as Floyd Toole says:

If the spectra of the direct and reflected sounds are significantly different, the reflections are likely to be more noticeable, from subtle timbral effects up to a premature breakdown of the precedence effect, at which point listeners may be aware of two simultaneous sound images, one located at the loudspeaker and one located at the point of reflection. This is obviously not good. Over the years this is likely a factor in listeners rating loudspeakers with uniform directivity more highly than those with uneven directivity. Wide dispersion seems to be good, but especially if it is uniform with frequency and the spectra of the reflections is not substantially altered. Hundreds of loudspeakers auditioned by hundreds of listeners in double-blind evaluations have demonstrated this; it is monotonously predictable.
I would not pay that much for a backwards cottage industry speaker that does not even attempt to match the dispersion of its drivers when it crosses them over. There is no excuse for any competent engineer because the research evidence has been out there for at least a decade, if not more. Not doing so is either wilful ignorance or just plain ignorance. Which doesn't reflect well on the engineer behind it, especially since this is not a speaker built to a budget. And even ignoring that it borders on ignorance to be unaware of the research evidence, it is a tremendously intuitive idea, no? Design a speaker to disperse smoothly throughout the range.
 
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Thread Starter #11
But really, after a few (regular) months here, you may start to think that DACs and amps are just commodities/tools.
No worries, after 15 years in this hobby, and being a natural skeptic who's done multiple blind tests, I'm already way past that ;)
 
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Thread Starter #12
I would not pay that much for a backwards cottage industry speaker that does not even attempt to match the dispersion of its drivers when it crosses them over. There is no excuse for any competent engineer because the research evidence has been out there for at least a decade, if not more. Not doing so is either wilful ignorance or just plain ignorance. Which doesn't reflect well on the engineer behind it, especially since this is not a speaker built to a budget. And even ignoring that it borders on ignorance to be unaware of the research evidence, it is a tremendously intuitive idea, no? Design a speaker to disperse smoothly throughout the range.
Pardon the perhaps silly question, but if I have good room acoustics (with large distances from any walls) and I listen on-axis- is the off axis behaviour that important?
 

DSJR

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#14
This is funny. I'm not sure a plain response plot would indicate changes in damping - or does it? My misplaced criticism of the Plus was basically answered when I stuck a proper larger amp on the front of them and they came to life...

The special ingredient in these speakers is the cone material, which does seem well behaved beyond the crossover region, which many metal-cone drivers don't seem to be (they can still ring at resonance I gather, even if not driven at high frequencies)

By the way, the intended market wouldn't look twice at a fugly pro monitor with no nice veneers or grilles, an 'analytical' nature and of course, pro active monitors can't have all manner of amps driving them so no tweaking of gear, appropriate or otherwise. Not sure pro monitors like vinyl sources over much although my active ATC's didn't mind too much if the pickup and player 'system' wasn't too awry...
 

tuga

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#15
It's clearly bass heavy
According to Amir, Olive says people like that.

But if you're basing your comment on the Stereophile plot you haven't taken into account that Atkinson's measurements produce a bump of some 6dB around 100Hz:


Revel Ultima Salon2, anechoic response without grille on listening axis at 50",
averaged across 30° horizontal window and corrected for microphone response,
with the complex sum of the nearfield responses plotted below 300Hz.


Revel Ultima Salon2, Listening Window, 20Hz - 20kHz (measured @ 2m, plotted @ 1m)
Response curve is an average of five measurements: on-axis, 15 degrees left and right off-axis,15 degrees up and down off-axis.


From Stereophile's "Measuring Loudspeakers" article by JA:

For published graphs, the loudspeaker's nearfield response is spliced to the farfield response in the 300Hz region.
However, as pointed out in the Keele paper, the nearfield response assumes a 2-pi or half-space loading for the drive-units—close coupling to the room boundaries.
This results in an apparent low-frequency boost in the resultant composite graph compared with a true anechoic response made of the same speaker.
Given that a loudspeaker's woofer and port are always within a fraction of a wavelength from one boundary—the floor—and almost always less than one wavelength from three other boundaries—the walls and ceiling—below 100Hz or so, my experience has been that this does give a truer representation of a loudspeaker's real low-frequency performance than the anechoic response in all but extremely large rooms.
Certainly, the loudspeakers I have auditioned that have true, flat anechoic extension to very low frequencies sound as if they have a somewhat exaggerated bass response—which is how they appear with a nearfield measurement.

Read more at https://www.stereophile.com/content/measuring-loudspeakers-part-three-page-6
 

tuga

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#16
Yes. Because the reflected sound is still distorted.
One could argue that reflected sound is distortion by nature.

In a large room, with a mid-field setup the side-wall reflections will probably be significantly low in level.
 

thewas

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#17
I wouldn't call the Harbeths of post #1 with a smooth decreasing FR as bass heavy but rather voiced warmly, bass heavy I rather call loudspeakers with an obvious bass bump.
 

Ilkless

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#19
That is so absurdly exaggerated to the point of being pathetic... What do you call this then?


Revel Ultima Gem
Ultima Gem was an old design, and a fringe design in the line sold as surrounds. Revel is far from infallible anyway if that's what you are getting at. That's a bad design. Utter disgrace as well. I don't see how it disproves my assessment.

Compare to an old KEF (Reference 201/2):



No excuses need be made for backwards engineering at that price.
 
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