Review: Harbeth Super HL5plus Loudspeakers
With quite a large following around the world, Harbeth have an enviable reputation for producing highly musical loudspeakers. Harbeth don’t release new models for the sake of it, rather evolving existing models with updates that bring worthwhile gains and feature technological updates. As such, there’s a culture that exists within the Harbeth user community, and fans are quick to embrace new models and update accordingly.
The current line-up features just five models for the domestic market, and four that are specifically aimed at the pro-audio market.
Audio Magic, the Australian distributors for Harbeth asked us to take a look at Harbeth Super HL5plus, the second most expensive model in the current line-up. It retails in Australia from $6,890 for the Cherry wood finish, or for $7,090 in Eucalyptus (as reviewed) through to $7,290 for Tiger Ebony or Rosewood finishes. Harbeth finish their speakers with real wood veneer with a thin coat of cellulose lacquer to protect it. Audio Magic also mentioned that in spite of the falling Australian dollar, they are holding their prices. This is a win for the consumer, as you’ll get a better deal locally than purchasing them in the US or the UK.
The Harbeth factory is located in West Sussex (south of London), England, where everything is designed and manufactured. One could successfully argue that the Super HL5plus is part of a design tradition that can be traced back to the BBC-inspired research that was partly responsible for what can be called the classic British loudspeaker.
The Harbeth HL loudspeaker was originally launched in 1977 and since then has had many updates. In 2000 it was updated to the Super HL5 with the addition of a super tweeter, and then in 2014 to the Super HL5plus. It is the ninth generation in this line of Dudley Harwood's original BBC monitor. Over that period of time most manufactures would be at least tempted to follow the fad that exists within audio circles, that is to significantly change the styling, the design, in fact everything in an effort to capitalise on the fervour of a new model release. But Harbeth have managed to keep the basic design the same make only changes that result in sonic improvements.
The Super HL5plus is a 3-way vented speaker that features a 200mm Harbeth RADIAL2™ bass/mid driver made in-house, a 25mm Ferro-cooled dome tweeter, and a 20mm dome super tweeter that have been manufactured by SEAS in Norway to Harbeth's exacting specifications. RADIAL stands for ‘Research and Development Into Advanced Loudspeakers’. The Radial 2 iteration uses an updated polymer blend for the cone material and a change to the driver surround. The 8” Radial driver handles bass (the -3dB point is 40Hz), midrange and lower-treble frequencies, crossing over to the tweeter at 3.3kHz, which in turn augments to the super tweeter at 12kHz. The all-important crossover has been given a redesign to complement the updated driver configuration.
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