pl | en



Manufacturer: HARBETH AUDIO LTD.
Price (at the time of the test): 16 700/pair

3 Enterprise Park | Lindfield | Haywards Heath
West Sussex | RH16 2LH | Anglia


Delivered for test by: AUDIO SYSTEM

his information hit me really hard – during HighEnd Show in Munich in 2015 Harbeth presented a new version of my reference speakers: Harbeth M40.1, that are now called M40.2. No warning, no teasers – nothing that could prepare me for this. I talked about it with Trevor Butler, head of marketing, who said: „We were worried a bit about previous version having a peak in the bass area that showed in measurements. These speakers sounded wonderful but this issue also meant a deviation from the idea of high fidelity. And what we do at Harbeth, are monitors after all, right?”

Well, yes, they definitely make monitors. The history of this company founded in 1977 by Dudley Harwood, ex BBC's R&D engineer, is like a textbook of development of ideas firstly used for BBC monitors and later for many other recording and mastering studios. It didn't change even after Hardwood retired in 1986 and was replaced by Alan Shaw, who magically managed to preserve sonic character of these speakers adding some new features over time. Because while one can find in company's portfolio quite modern speakers, the core offer is still the Classic series.

The change for M40.2 model was made only in the crossover. Neither drivers nor cabinets changed a bit. Super HL5Plus is a different story, though. Alan started and supervised a research program, that was supposed to find an alternative material for drivers cones. Dudley Harwood used a sort of plastic for his mid- lowrange drivers. Research started in 1990 lead to creation of a new material called RADIAL (an acronym for Research And Development In Advanced Loudspeakers). RADIAL replaced polypropylene that had been used before. It offered higher rigidity and lower mass at the same time. It allowed a driver to act as a piston in a wider frequency range.

Developing this material wasn't obviously the end of the story as the first loudspeakers with new cones were introduced only in 1995. New drivers meant also new crossovers. The thing that didn't change were tweeters custom made by SEAS (RADIAL drivers are manufactured in-house by Harbeth).
The research did not stop after developing RADIAL material, works are still continued even today. The next achievement was a new, improved formula for RADIAL that was called RADIAL2. And while Harbeth changes model in their portfolio rarely, they decided that advantages of this new material were significant enough to introduce them to existing models. And so instead of M40 Harbeth started to offer M40.1, M30 was replaced by M30.1, and now Super HL5 is gone and Super HL5Plus is born.

On paper changes don't look too significant – slightly lower sensitivity (85 vs 86 dB), and now impedance is given as 8Ω, a not, as before, as 6-8 Ω. I found also interesting that the weight of the speaker seemed lower by 2kg (17,2 vs 15,2 kg), also frequency range reaches 20 instead of 24 kHz. It is possible though, that this is some sort of misunderstanding rather than real facts. Usually though, parameters given by Harbeth are very precise, as it was pointed out by John Atkinson, in his review of Super HL5Plus in„Stereophile” (Art Dudley, Super HL5Plus, „Stereophile”, 2015, Vol.38 No.6, s. 73-77).

Super HL5Plus is still a stand-mount speaker, although intended for use with low stands, 3-way with vented cabinets. Low- and midrange is reproduced by a 200 mm driver with a RADIAL2 cone and a solid basket. Treble is reproduced by two tweeters. The one placed lower is a 25 mm driver with aluminum cone, the upper one is a 20 mm driver with titanium dome (manufacturer calls this driver a Super Tweeter). Designers decided to use two tweeters for an extended and even dispersion to the upper edge of the audio band.

In accordance with company's philosophy all baffles, except for front and rear one, are rather this. Instead of damping vibrations they tuned in such a way that the whole speaker sounds best. The front and rear baffles are fastened to the enclosure with wood screws driven into furring strips. This solution allows to break the transmission of vibration and hence they are not transmitted on other baffles.
These loudspeakers are finished with natural veneer not only outside but also on the inside of all baffles and customer might choose from a number of available colors. The basic one is Cherry, which will cost you 16 700 PLN, for Eucalyptus finish (available upon order) one has to pay bit more - 17 220 PLN, and finally for Rosewood and Tiger Ebon – 17 640 PLN.

HARBETH in „High Fidelity”
  • TEST: Harbeth M30.1 - loudspeakers, see HERE
  • TEST: Harbeth M40.1 DOMESTIC - loudspeakers, see HERE
  • 2011 Yearly Award: Harbeth M40.1 DOMESTIC, loudspeakers, see HERE
  • TEST: Harbeth M30 DOMESTIC, loudspeakers, see HERE
  • TEST: Harbeth Super HL5, loudspeakers, see HERE
  • TEST: Harbeth COMPACT 7SE-3, loudspeakers, see HERE
  • TEST: Harbeth P3ESR, loudspeakers, see HERE

  • Recordings used for this test (a selection)

    • Venecie Mundi Splendor, wyk. La Reverde, Arcana A 387, CD (2015).
    • Bemibem, Bemowe Frazy, Polskie Nagrania MUZA/Polskie Nagrania PNCD 1096, “Polish Jazz DeLuxe”, CD (1974/2007).
    • Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Columbia/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2122, "Special Limited Edition No. 2388", SACD/CD (1962/2014).
    • Charlie Parker,South of the Border, Verve/UMG Recordings UCCV-9479, „David Stone Martin 10 inch Collector’s Selection”, SHM-CD (1951-52/2013).
    • Depeche Mode, Ultra, Mute/Sony Music Labels SICP-30543, Blu-spec CD2, (2007/2014).
    • Mike Oldfield, Tubular Bells, Mercury Records/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UICY-40016, Platinum SHM-CD (1973/2013).
    • Miles Davis, Sorcerer, Columbia/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2145, “Special Limited Edition, No. 1938”, SACD/CD (1967/2014).
    • St. Vincent, S/T, Loma Vista/Hostess 3767247J, CD (2013).
    Japanese issues available at

    The speakers under review were placed on the same stands I use for my M40.1. It means roughly 38 cm from the ground, and the tweeter at 86 cm, which means exactly in axis with my ears. Art Dudley in his review mentioned that he used 50cm stands so the tweeter was at 100cm. But since I listened in the same way also some other speakers of similar dimensions before, like JBL 4319 for example, I knew that placing them bit lower would give better sonic results in my case, as I simply sit lower when listening.

    Harbeth does not offer their own stands leaving experimenting with different designs to their customers. They are often sold with light Canadian Skyline stands (also in Poland) and this might be a starting point. But every Harbeth owner should be aware that there are also other companies offering different also heavy ones, stands like, for example, Polish Rogoz Audio and some others. But there is yet another possibility. This year in Munich Harbeth exhibited together with another British brand, unfortunately I did not write down its name, nor did I take a picture of the name – but you can see them on images below this test. This option might be worth trying out as the Japanese fans of the brand often use wooden stands that look like stools.

    And trust me – these might be speakers for a lifetime and once you get them you should do everything possible to ensure they work in perfect conditions by tweaking the entire environment (system) they work in. The speakers themselves are infinitely perfect. It's a modern version of BBC's idiom. While preserving key elements of the original sound, like coherency and naturalness, now users get much more spacial presentation with a a better bass extension and definition. I'll get to these two elements of Super HL5Plus sound in a moment. First let me tell you about resolution.

    Most people have problems with it as they define it in many different ways. It is often confused with selectivity, detail reproduction and even with differentiation. In fact it is closely linked to all of them. A highly resolving audio component offers these features as a package, not as a separate features of the sound, and that's how it is perceived by a listener. If that's how we agree to define resolution – Harbeths are remarkably resolving. It will be something that remains in our memory even long after we change these loudspeakers for some others. Why? Because it is such a natural feature for these speakers!

    Naturalness of the sound is build based on the resolution. The speakers under review turned out to be true all-rounders, true monitors. But because they sound so natural, and because mid-bass seems a bit warm, most people will prefer to listen to recordings of acoustic instruments, and maybe some electric but analogue ones (this counts also for synthesizers).

    This allowed the newest album of La Reverdie to sound that good. This album with music from medieval Venice, realized by Ms Alina Blondiau was released thanks to the money raised via a fundraiser. On available photos one can see her monitoring recorded material already in Palladian Reflectory in Venice (where it was recorded) via a high quality Stax headphone system. Which means that she knew very well what she listened to.

    What this recording provides is incredible acoustics with voices and instruments placed in particular places in a very accurate, natural fashion, which is bit surprising considering close placement of microphones for the recording.

    W bit of warmth in the midbass I mentioned before, here it wasn't really audible and if so I perceived it rather as slightly larger volume of the sound. Most likely also spacial aspect of the reproduction benefited from it. The soundstage was incredible in all of its dimensions. So whether you like the concept of these speakers or not, give them a try to witness what a speakers with a wide front can deliver in terms of soundstage, and how different it is from mini-monitors, or larger speakers but with narrow fronts, that by many are considered to be an exemplary in terms of spacial effects but really aren't that. These speakers will show you how a natural soundstage “looks” like, how coherent it might be without pointing out each individual sound source. These are quite distinct but they all have common elements with space surrounding them, they don't exist just as separate beings.

    As I said, acoustic recordings are not the only ones that suit Harbeths. Depeche Mode's Ultra on Blu-spec CD2, Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells on Platinum SHM-CD, and even quite old Charlie Parker's recordings from 1951 and 1952 released on SHM-CD, sounded remarkably well. These speakers offer open, although bit sweet and quite distinct treble, which allows them to perfectly keep the pace of each recording. Their presentation is at the same time quite rich, dense even, and bass extension is also surprisingly good. The final mix of these features is immersive, indeed.

    I mentioned particular releases of those albums because these speakers truly benefit from naturalness and accuracy any recording. And every efforts with those new CD formats are focused on delivering first of all these exact sound features. Resolution, detail, spacial effect – these aspect of new formats clearly exceed capacity of “regular” Compact Discs. In fact nobody really focuses on them directly as they combined offer us something else, something even more valuable – naturalness of the presentation.

    I truly loved bass despite its limitations. Bass is not that well extended as with modern speakers like, for example, PMC. It is also not so perfectly defined. It didn't cause me any trouble though – wasn't boomy, overblown or anything like that. In this aspect Harbeth's new speakers supersede older models. But it is not very punctual bass, nor the one that one feels on one's bones. The leading edge is not so offensive, and the decay phase more subtle; the energy is dispersed over the whole sound and not focused in a single point..

    Harbeth Super HL5Plus vs
    Graham Audio LS5/9

    This comparison seems absolutely natural considering the fact that in our second reference system we do use Graham Audio LS5/9 with matching, company's stands. Both speakers cost more or less the same and both come from manufacturers who proudly talk about their origins being related to BBC (have a look at our image gallery to see a comparison of the size of Harbeth HL5Plus, Graham Audio LS5/9 and Harbeth M40.1).

    And this common legacy is quite obvious. These two designs have much more in common with each other than with any other speakers available on the market, accept, obviously, for other BBC's “heirs” like: Spendor, Rogers, Sterling. The commons features are: naturalness of the sound, coherency and spectacular soundstage. They are perfect match for acoustic and vocal recordings, although that's where I see the biggest difference between the two. Super HL5Plus sport a larger cabinet which results in bit better extension in the lower end – not only bass goes deeper but it seems to be better controlled and the sound seems more open. Using two metal domes results also in a more resolving sound.

    On the other hand Graham Audio LS5/9 convey deeper, more “mature” sound. It is their presentation that is closer to the original sound of BBC monitors. Harbeth seem cleaner, more selective (although not masters of selectivity yet). Grahams are capable of going deeper into the recording while Harbeths seem to stop half-way. That's what allows Grahams to offer more palpable sound, and be more all-round speakers. Harbeths differentiate music in a better way, but their presentation is not so palpable.


    Harbeth Super HL5Plus are genuine monitors. They will allow their user to enjoy any kind of music. But over time one will start to particularly appreciate recordings that offer deeper insight into the music. Some powerful rock recordings will flat dynamics will be played just like that. Also modern electronic music, usually recorded with big compression will sound exactly like that. It is not speakers fault, although they add a bit of that themselves, too.

    Their classic proportions are timeless – no trends will ever change that. That will perform well with a low-power tube amp, but also with powerful solid-state one. They don't try to charm user with sound coloration but with sounds beauty. These are truly remarkable loudspeakers.

    The classic proportions of HL5Plus make it very easy to decide whether we want to have them in our room or not. Fit&finish is really good and stylish. The quite thin baffles (with the exception of bit thicker, more rigid front one) are finished with natural veneer on both sides (not only outside but also inside). It is done this way to stabilize the whole design. Lacquer on the other hand is applied only on the outside. Front and rear baffles are fixed to the cabinet with wood screws. Manufacturer informs that in this way particular elements are decoupled from each other.

    HL5Plus is a three-way speaker, although main job is done by two larger drivers. It's a 25 mm aluminum cone tweeter custom made by a Norwegian SEAS and a 200mm woofer made by Harbeth. It sports cone made of RADIAL2 material – type of polypropylene. Also its basket is made of plastic. These speakers sport also a super tweeter – a 10mm titanium driver with neodymium magnet, also made by Harbeth. On the back one finds double speaker posts. I suggest that you change the jumpers delivered with speakers for some better ones.

    The inside of each cabinet is damped using some sort of foam. It is placed on all baffles but the front one. The rear baffle is additionally damped with some other absorbing material. Also a large PCB with crossover is bolted to the rear baffle – this is definitely not a minimalist design with just three components. There are nice polypropylene capacitors, and core coils there. Signal is delivered to drivers with a copper Van Damme Blue OFC wires. There is sort of foam collar placed inside bass-reflex tube – I guess it is supposed to damp unwanted vibrations. Harbeth sport a fabric grille, the slender frame which can be pressed into a groove at the perimeter of the front baffle, just inside the front molding.

    Specifications (according to the manufacturer)

    Design: 3-way, bass-reflex
    Frequency response: 40 Hz - 20 kHz (+/-3 dB free space, grill on, smooth off axis response)
    Nominal impedance: 8 Ω
    Sensitivity: 86 dB/1 W/1 m
    Amp. Suggestion: Works with a wide range of amplifiers, ideally from 25W/channel
    Power handling: 150 W
    Dimensions (HxWxD): 635 x 322 x 300 mm
    Finish: cherry, tiger ebony, eucalyptus, maple i rosewood
    Weight (piece): 15,8 kg

    Polish distributor:


    tel.: (22) 662-45-99 | fax: (22) 662-66-74


    System odniesienia


    - Gramofon: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
    - Wkładki: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, recenzja TUTAJ | Miyajima Laboratory SHIBATA, recenzja TUTAJ | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, recenzja TUTAJ
    - Przedwzmacniacz gramofonowy: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, recenzja TUTAJ

    - Odtwarzacz Compact Disc: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, recenzja TUTAJ
    - Odtwarzacz multiformatowy: Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD

    - Przedwzmacniacz liniowy: Polaris III [Custom Version] + zasilacz AC Regenerator, wersja z klasycznym zasilaczem, recenzja TUTAJ
    - Wzmacniacz mocy: Soulution 710
    - Wzmacniacz zintegrowany: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, recenzja TUTAJ

    - Przenośny odtwarzacz plików: HIFIMAN HM-901
    - Kable USB: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), recenzja TUTAJ
    - Sieć LAN: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), recenzja TUTAJ
    - Router: Liksys WAG320N
    - Serwer sieciowy: Synology DS410j/8 TB
    - Kolumny podstawkowe: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, recenzja TUTAJ
    - Podstawki pod kolumny Harbeth: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
    - Filtr: SPEC RSP-301

    System I
    - Interkonekty: Siltech ROYAL SIGNATURE SERIES DOUBLE CROWN EMPRESS, czytaj TUTAJ | przedwzmacniacz-końcówka mocy: Acrolink 7N-DA2090 SPECIALE, recenzja TUTAJ
    - Kable głośnikowe: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, recenzja TUTAJ
    System II
    - Interkonekty: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
    - Kable głośnikowe: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

    System I
    - Kabel sieciowy: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, wszystkie elementy, recenzja TUTAJ
    - Listwa sieciowa: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, recenzja TUTAJ
    - System zasilany z osobnej gałęzi: bezpiecznik - kabel sieciowy Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6 m) - gniazdka sieciowe 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
    System II
    - Kable sieciowe: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, recenzja TUTAJ | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), recenzja TUTAJ
    - Listwa sieciowa: Oyaide MTS-4e, recenzja TUTAJ
    - Stolik: Finite Elemente PAGODE EDITION, opis TUTAJ/wszystkie elementy
    - Platformy antywibracyjne: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, artykuł TUTAJ/odtwarzacze cyfrowe | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/wzmacniacz słuchawkowy/zintegrowany, recenzja TUTAJ | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/testowane kolumny/podstawki pod testowane kolumny
    - Nóżki antywibracyjne: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/odtwarzacz CD /zasilacz przedwzmacniacza /testowane produkty, artykuł TUTAJ | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/testowane produkty, artykuł TUTAJ | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, recenzja TUTAJ
    - Element antywibracyjny: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/kabel sieciowy, recenzja TUTAJ
    - Izolatory kwarcowe: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4

    - Wzmacniacze słuchawkowe: Bakoon Products HPA-21, test TUTAJ | Leben CS300XS Custom Version, recenzja TUTAJ
    - Słuchawki: Ultrasone EDITION 5, test TUTAJ | HIFIMAN HE-6, recenzja TUTAJ | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, recenzja TUTAJ | Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, wersja 600 Ohm, recenzje: TUTAJ, TUTAJ
    - Standy słuchawkowe: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), artykuł TUTAJ
    - Kable słuchawkowe: Forza AudioWorks NOIR, test TUTAJ

    - Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One

    Gramofon: Pro-Ject 1 XPRESSION CARBON CLASSIC/Ortofon M SILVER, test TUTAJ
    Przedwzmacniacz gramofonowy: Linear Audio Research LPS-1
    Odtwarzacz plików: coctailAudio X10, test TUTAJ
    Wzmacniacz zintegrowany: Leben CS-300 X (SP) [Custom Version, test TUTAJ
    Kolumny: Graham Audio LS5/9 (na oryginalnych standach), test TUTAJ
    Słuchawki: Audeze LCD-3, test TUTAJ
    Interkonekty RCA: Siltech CLASSIC ANNIVERSARY 550i
    Kable głośnikowe: Siltech CLASSIC ANNIVERSARY 550l
    Kabel sieciowy (do listwy): KBL Sound RED EYE, test TUTAJ
    Kabel sieciowy: Siltech CLASSIC ANNIVERSARY SPX-380
    Listwa sieciowa: KBL Sound REFERENCE POWER DISTRIBUTOR, test TUTAJ
    Platforma antywibracyjna: Pro Audio Bono