What comes after Harbeth 30.1s?

A few weeks ago, I created a post where I was asking for advice to help a family friend create a home office system on a $6-7K budget. He ended up buying a VTL I-85 integrated amp which he really loves. After searching for speakers, he really liked my Harbeth M30.1s. He eventually bought my speakers but was going to pay in October. Unfortunately, he has had some unexpected expenses and won’t be able to pay me. So the speakers will be back in my possession next weekend.

The problem is that during this time, I started researching my next set of speakers. Of course, a safe bet was to stick with what I know and buy another pair of 30.1s whenever they pop up in the used market. Now that I will be getting them back, I’m still wrestling with the idea whether I should try something different. At this time, I’m only looking to buy used and not spend much more than what I can sell the 30.1s for. And to be honest, I will only be switching for the sake of trying a new flavor. I really like the 30.1s and something tells me that I might come to regret the decision. This speaker does pretty much everything right for my tastes and music preferences. Okay, if you put a gun to my head and force to me to share just one thing I wish was better, it would be a more airy presentation and little bit more open on the top. But otherwise, it’s hard to find fault with this speaker.

My room is 12 x 13 with almost 20 foot ceilings. Just like my friend, I’m limited on positioning options -- I can only pull out the speakers from the front wall by a foot at most. Another restriction (spousal commandment) is that I have to sell the 30.1s first to obtain the funds for the next purchase. So I won’t be able to buy something else, compare, and resell the one I don’t like as much. Secondly, I only want to buy used and well-known brands. The idea is that whenever the next upgrade itch strikes, I should be able to sell the speakers without losing more than 10-15%. And the final (whew!) restriction is that I have to be able to drive them with a tube integrated amp. I’m planning to buy a Qualiton a20i next month. This is the smaller brother for a50i which I also own.

So what do you guys think? Is this an ill-conceived, wrong-headed idea? Feel free to talk me out of it :)

If not, I would love to hear from people who have moved from 30.1s to another speaker in similar (or lesser) price range and are happy with their decision. An obvious next step is to move up to 30.2, but I’m not sure if it’s worth paying an extra $1000 or so. Or maybe it is that much better? C7ES3 is another option, but I fear it might be a little too much on the warm/lush side with difficult to tame bass especially when placed so close to the wall.

Another speaker I would love to try is the Fritz Carrera BE, but again I don’t want to buy new and I don’t see them in the used market that often. I know they have a 30-day return policy but that’s not the point. Knowing myself, I would probably end up selling them after a year or two, and don’t want to take the depreciation hit.

Proac Response D2 is another option, but I fear that it might be too forward for my taste, especially in a smaller room. If someone owns one and disagree, please chime in :)

Thanks in advance for your valuable advice!

Coincidentally, I am on the cusp of probably upgrading from my 30.1 speakers. To be clear, I do like them quite a bit, and they sound excellent in my system, but I will be moving to home with a larger (though not very big) listening space, and am also very close to upgrading my amp.

The other reason for the likely change is that my musical tastes are eclectic, and while some (e.g. jazz, vocals, small classic ensembles, etc.) suit the 30.1 very well, others, such as soul and funk, my first loves, do not. So, while I would prefer to stay with a stand-mounted speaker, I would prefer one that would be more versatile, without losing too much (if any) of the mid-range magic that makes Harbeth so attractive.

I expect that some in my position might be inclined to step up to the HL5+, but I'm more likely to try something outside of the Harbeth family.

I auditioned the Marten Parker Duo recently, and will soon be doing the same with the Triangle Magellan Duetto, and (German) Fink Team Kim. They are all quite expensive, so I doubt that the OP will consider them, but they are very high-quality speakers that should fit the basic criteria that I am seeking.
If you like the M30.1s so much why not keep them and tell your friend to find a speaker ? Why would you take a chance buying another speaker that you might not like and then have to sell them? BTW, I have owned the M30.1 and the C7!
You're local to me.  Come hear the Rosso FIorentino Pienza and Fiesole.  The Pienza are currently at Part Time Audiophile for a review but they will be back at my house on October 16 for an audio meet.  Maybe its an ideal time for you to come out?
One of the models from the Spendor Classic range, or better yet, a gently used example of one of the models belonging to the previous iteration.
Thanks for recommending Neat and Spendor. Neat is a brand I'm not aware of at all, but I doubt I will find anything on the used market.

Spendor is a good suggestion and they do come up in the used market every now and then. @twoleftears any idea how they compare to the Harbeth sound? One would assume they sound more alike than different, since they share the BBC lineage.

@yogiboy I hear you, man. And it is quite possible that I might just end up keeping the 30.1s after all. I mean I really, really like the speakers. BTW how do they compare to C7s? If you had to choose between the two, which one would you keep?
@audiothesis -- I would love to visit your showroom once you get the Pienza's back. The only issue is that they seem to be much higher priced than what I can afford right now. Second, I would prefer to buy used so in the event I decide to sell them after a few years, I won't lose much. That's one reason I love buying Harbeth as a matter of fact. They trade like currency in the used market.

However, I'm still intrigued by Rosso Florentino as a brand and don't mind checking out what the fuss is all about :) 
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I am going to take you up on the offer to talk you out of it. Given all that you have shared my advice is to stick with the M-30s. Not my favorite Harbeth but you have enjoyed them and unless you are prepared to open your wallet more than you imply I’d say sit tight on speakers and think about inexpensive ways to get more out of them. It would help if we knew more about the rest of your system to see where performance gains might be available.
Good luck. Sounds like a real hard one. All my speaker changes have been large steps up. In other audio choices I have not had good luck with lateral moves. They then to be unsatisfying mixed bags of changes.
Whipsaw, how did you find the Marten Parker Duo? Did you manage to listen to the Oscar Duo and Duke 2? The Parker Duo is the top-of-the-range standmount in the Marten line of speakers so I would expect it to sound better than the other two models, but I’m not sure how is the sound different.

I own both Harbeth SHL5+ and Marten Duke 2. Both have their own sets of strength and weakness, both good. I use different amps to drive the Harbeth and Marten as they are rather selective in matching (they sound off driven by the wrong amps).

Having listened to the 30.1 and 30.2 at the dealers several years ago, the things they do well, they truly excel. The Marten or any other speaker will undoubtedly offer something different. Better, is subjective and dependent on the listeners’ preference and expectation. Personally I find the Marten to show higher refinement, nuance and fine detail than the Harbeth in general which I presume is typical of quality high end designs(obviously I don’t regard Harbeth to be in that group although it’s fairly high quality). The sound quality is different in the way music is presented. FWIW I still find human voice to sound more like the real thing on the Harbeth although it’s a fairly close affair.

A Harbeth M30.1 owner on the Naim manufacturer forum moved to Dynaudio Contour 20 as he found the 30.1 to sound too polite. He was happy with the change.
If you can pick up a 2nd hand pair of Shahinian Obelisk 2’s, you won’t be disappointed. I’ve had C7 XD and M30.2 XD, not a patch on the clarity you can get with the Obelisks.

In an effort to avoid hijacking the thread, I'll be brief, but you can PM me if you'd like to discuss the Marten in more detail.

I did not listen to the other models that you mentioned, mainly because I spent ~three hours with the Parker, and didn't want to impose on the dealer any further, at least that particular day.

The dealer is sophisticated, and likes Marten very much. He paired it with an Accuphase E-480. My impressions were largely very positive, but with one important qualification: I found the Parker to be underwhelming at lower volumes. It changed dramatically at more "realistic" levels, and was able to strut its stuff. Surely a very high-class stand-mounted monitor under those conditions, but for those who like to listen at lower volumes, they may fall short.

Not surprisingly, I found the Parker to be able to disappear more completely than the Harbeth, and their ability to reproduce bass was more visceral and impressive. I thought that the sound was well balanced, and, as you suggest, detail retrieval was excellent, and I was listening through the ceramic, rather than (much more expensive) diamond tweeter.

With funk and soul, I found the Parker to be superior, and, interestingly, it produced more pleasing sound from an older Warner Brothers Tower of Power CD that I brought specifically because it is an early '70s pop recording, and has limitations.

I agree completely about the human voice, though, and believe that it is Harbeth's greatest strength.


Thanks for the post. Your response is surely useful, no further information on the Marten is required.

Apologies to OP for the thread hijack. I’ll make it short.

Three hours with the Parker Duo at the dealer, impressive. When I was at the Harbeth dealer, I think I spent about an hour listening to the SHL5+ and another hour or so on the M30.2 before I placed an order for the 5s. It’s surprising to hear that the Parker Duo sounded underwhelming at lower volumes. I have no issues with low level listening with the Duke 2(spec is rather similar to Parker Duo).

The Parker Duo should have much better bass performance than the M30.1/30.2. Although the Duke 2 is a smaller speaker in comparison to SHL5+ I actually find the Marten to go lower in the bass. On paper the Dukes go down to 38Hz while the SHL5+ only go down to 40Hz. The Parker Duo goes even lower down to 36Hz, perhaps with the help from the passive radiators. In summary, the bass of the Parker Duo is superior to the Duke 2 and SHL5+. The 30.1 is far behind.

I am glad we share the same observation on strength of the Harbeth. It’s really a strong trait where many higher end speakers fail to match.

In summary, the bass of the Parker Duo is superior to the Duke 2 and SHL5+. The 30.1 is far behind.
The Marten has a 9" passive radiator on the back which may not play well in your space. The 30.x is a monitor and is never going to have a lot of bass by design. 
Yes, Harbeth, Spendor and Graham are going to have some cousin-family resemblances, and as with Harbeth there are going to be some differences in iterations of a given model.  I'm very intrigued by the Spendor Classic 1/2.  It is now like a miniature Classic 100.  Previously iterations, SP 1/2, 1/2E, 1/2R, etc. were configures like the H. SHL5.  But now the Classic 1/2 is a conventional 3-day with tweeter, mid, and woofer.  There are some nice reviews of the Classic 1/2 out there--take a look.
Any of the M40s are better than any of the M30s/SLH5s/C7s etc.

It’s a timeless design that did very very little wrong to begin with.

The reason why the BBC designed/influenced speakers (Falcon, Graham, Harbeth, PMC, Spendor, etc) remain in production some 50 years later is because, within their working parameters, they fundamentally do very little wrong.

The larger models simply have a larger scope to demonstrate this inherent correctness.
They might not be to everyone’s taste but the original BBC science and methodology behind them has never been refuted.

The BBC research papers are still available online and must have inspired many designers.
Yes, well, I’m sure that it is also possible to sleep comfortably in the back of an SUV. But most wouldn’t be comfortable attempting to do so, and I rather doubt that any but a tiny percentage of M40.x users would be comfortable using them as near-field speakers in a very small room.
Check the Spendor D7.2.  Amazingly fast, clear speakers with a midrange worthy of Harbeth's best.  
Bass that is quite special, exceeds any Harbeths I have heard or owned- no subwoofer required thanks to the transmission line port.  
Ease of placement- close to walls is OK,  very unfussy.
Imaging is possibly the best I have heard.  
Efficiency seems higher than rated- they are very sensitive and have almost horn / HE speaker dynamics without the drawbacks.  This will serve you well with a tube amp and your high ceilings.  
Fantastic speakers- I owned the D7 and sold them for the Harbeth SHL5+.  The Spendor beat the Harbeths in many areas including overall sound quality.  
Thanks OP for starting this thread.  I pair a Pass INT-25 with the M30.1's and it's a great match.  I've had the Harbeth's for a few years and recently have been thinking about "upgrading".  Or just add a small subwoofer and be done with it.  My listening space is about 13 x 17 x 8.  

I might audition the M30.2 xd's at some point but I'm not in a rush.  The 30.1's work really well for the acoustic / vocal music that I listen to that I thrive on.  And work well at low volume which is important for me.  

But those Spendor D7.2's look pretty nice.  Pretty, pretty, pretty nice.  
spendor definitely overshot the mark with original d series, tweeters were simply too hot, and thus the .2 versions came to market soon thereafter... i have not heard the 7.2 nor 9.2 as yet, trust they are dialed down some to regain a more typical spendor tonal balance --- folks who want an inert, zippy 'ultra hifi' speaker like a top focal or magico, that's what they would buy
I went from 30.1 to tannoy arden and my room is 7mx5m x3. 40m tall... Speakers 2m from back wall and 1.3 side... Golden rule but an idea might be something that works in the corner or an electrostatic if space and spousal happiness more important in the balance. 
Thanks for the great suggestions, everyone. To those suggesting M40.x, of course I'm aware that these are probably the endgame speakers for many, including myself. But please remember this is for my study, i.e. it is a secondary system for me with less budget allocation. I've tried the SHL5+ in my study and they simply don't work. So I don't see how 40s are going to work. Secondly, even if they did, I'm not going to spend a lot of money for the home office setup. I do plan to upgrade from SHL5+ to 40.x at some time in the future, but that's for my main system.

I also understand that to get 'better' sound, I probably need to move up the price bracket. But given that this is my secondary system, I'm not too keen on sinking too much $$ into it. I mean it's not like I'm dissatisfied with 30.1 in any way. It's a great speaker and suits my tastes in music quite well. I was really looking for a different flavor more than anything else really.

I will look more closely at Spendor but not going to rush my decision. If a used pair of Fritz Carrera Be were to pop up in the used market, I might give it a shot as well. Until then, I will continue to enjoy the 30.1s.

When I was figuring audio things out, Skip was kind enough to let me home addition 30.2, P3esr, and Rosso Pienza. Of the bunch, my favorite happened to be the Pienza. All have a really sweet top end but the Rosso has the lower end in spades. I really loved the little Harbeth though. With the right music (and it's lots) they are a gem. Can certainly see why there are a lot of Harbeth fans. Gotta have a proper listen to those Rosso for sure. 


Until then, I will continue to enjoy the 30.1s.

M30.1s for a second system?
A wise decision.

You should count yourself fortunate; my current second system features a pair of plastic egg shaped Sony speakers!
@jmolsberg -- I have no doubt that Rosso Pienza is a really good speaker. In an ideal world, we should be basing our purchase decisions on sound quality and value alone. But the truth is that many, if not all, audiophiles tend to change gear quite regularly for various reasons. This is where brand name recognition and resale value, whether justified or not, becomes important.

Knowing myself, I know that I will be itching to try something different (not necessarily better) in a year or two. What I do know is that if I buy used Harbeth, Proac, or Spendors, I will be able to sell them with minimal loss. To be honest, Rosso Florentino is an unknown quantity in this context. Again, please realize I’m not commenting on sound quality, which very well may be equal or better than Harbeth. But it’s resale potential is a big unknown, and that is an important criteria for me.
^ it’s a silly expensive hobby honestly. i just wanted to illustrate my experience with skip (he's a good one) and a home audition! i didn’t pull the trigger on any of them. not because they weren’t great but because none of it has the purity of a single driver and set amp at a fraction of the cost. to these ears anyways 😃
JM, you need to experience the series 2. The elevation Francesco made is nothing short of astounding. I had an Audioquest rep over yesterday and he was shocked by the Elba 2. He expressed that he had never heard a speaker sound anything like that near the price. I hope to see you in a few weeks!

arafiq, in six years I’ve had one customer ‘walk away’ from the brand. He went from $13.5k Rosso to $56k magico. We don’t even have product at that price point. My point is, it’s a brand that, if you hear it set up properly, customers simply don’t sell off. They do move up the line, but that is about the only time you’ll see a pre owned pair available. 
@audiothesis -- I do not disagree with anything you said. I have never heard any Rosso products, and I know better to never comment on something I have no idea about. For all that I know, it might very well be better than Harbeth or Spendor when it comes to sound quality.

Please understand that my comment was specific to the ’perceived’ brand value in the used market. And I feel that speakers like Harbeth, Proac, and Spendor have earned their reputations over a long period of time with consistency and quality. If Rosso are that much better than these brands, let the free market speak for itself :)

Having said that, if you’re willing to setup Harbeth 30.1 and Rosso Pienza for a side-by-side comparison, I’m happy to come by and take a listen.

I’d be more than happy to accommodate. My reach out to you is simply knowing how close you are and the path you’ve been down. It is definitely worth an afternoon of your time, or anyone else’s who might be in the DFW area. 
If Rosso are that much better than these brands, let the free market speak for itself :)

The free market often doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. If it always did, Bose wouldn’t sell nearly as many speakers and headphones as they do. The issue is that some companies are simply better at the marketing and distribution game. And these days it’s more difficult than ever to separate the chaff from the wheat. 
I haven’t heard any Rosso speakers but have heard plenty of Harbeths and other brands in that price range.  As such, I wouldn’t be the least surprised if Rosso outperforms Harbeth on many audiophile metrics. Harbeths have great midrange, true, but other brands are their equal in that regard. This isn’t so much a dig on Harbeth, rather, it’s to say there are many excellent speakers out there that never get their time in the “limelight” for reasons outside of sound quality. Some if the best I’ve heard are rarely mentioned in forums.

Check the Spendor D7.2. Amazingly fast, clear speakers with a midrange worthy of Harbeth’s best.

My listening sure disagreed with that.
As a fan of the Spendor classic and Harbeth midrange I’d hoped the Spendor D speakers had some of the magic. I didn’t find anything spendor-like about it. Just a competent contemporary speaker like plenty of others, missing that special human organic midrange of the classic series. (In fact the Spendor D7 was the most disapointing speaker I auditioned in a long list).

I vastly preferred my (at the time) Harbeth SuperHL5+ speakers over the Spendor Ds.

Just giving an alternative take.
I’d say a used pmc twentyfive would expand the bass and play better soul and funk for you. Still keeping that english sound signature.

Completely disagree about the PMC speakers "keeping with english sound signature."

That is if we presume that "magic full, flattering of the human voice and acoustic instruments" midrange that many find in the classic British speakers (Spendor, Harbeth etc).

The PMCs are just the opposite: they have a "smile eq" built in to their frequency response, pretty much all the consumer models, including the twentyfives:


I auditioned a few PMC speakers including the fact 8s and they have a dip in the richness region leading them to sound thin and cool just where the classic British designs are warm and full.

I found the PMC utterly anti-septic sounding. (And Kal Rubinson int the Stereophile review noticed a similar issue, which of course showed up in the measurements too).

People can be lulled in to thinking they are getting a "British sound" just because a speaker may be British. It isn’t always the case. (Just like I’d say the new floor standing Spendors do not share the midrange character of the classic series).
Tannoy Sterling GR. Not in your face, but proper grown up sound. Opens up a new era of dynamics and clarity compared to Harbeth 30.1.

Audio Note AN/J. Very open sound and more neutral than Harbeth. 
A pair of ProAC D-30r would be an improvement.

Having a port on the bottom makes placement easier
Well, prof is entitled to his opinion.

Hare is a link that might interest you. PMC OB1i is the forerunner to twenty.26 etc. I can guarantee it´s a very nice speaker and could be had used for around 1,5 k$.


Of course, the woofer isn´t very large so you can't play very loud. In that case I would choose the ATC40.

As the owner of PMC's and Harbeth's I would say this.

As with other companies, different lines of speaker differ in voicing.  The OB1 and other models of that generation, most of which sat on low stands, likely sounded different and closer to classic BBC profile.  I haven't heard one.  I own Twenty.24 speakers.  I auditioned the Fact line at the same time, and didn't like them as much, although they were more expensive.  To me they were leaner and cooler, perhaps more neutral.  Then came the TwentyFive series (or however they write it) and my understanding is that that line is voiced closer to the Facts.  So as with Spendor, if you want the classic sound you probably want to go back a few years.
Re PMC Fact speakers:

To me they were leaner and cooler, perhaps more neutral.

They aren’t more neutral - they are colored. This shows up in the measurements like I posted above. (And you can see the same coloration over and over in the consumer PMC models).

I think a some people get fooled by the PMCs. They come from a company also known for making professional monitors, and the highs can seem detailed and precise, "like studio monitors" or something.But they are leaner in the midrange than is actually neutral.

I don’t know how neutral their pro stuff might be, but for the consumer line it seems somebody at PMC decided the public wanted something different, more exciting vs accurate.

just another data point, i had heard pmc speakers (modern looking floorstanders, 3 ways) model 526 i think it was, on a trip to london a few years back

they were driven by sugden solid state class a amplification, and my impression was that these speakers err on the side of speed and sparkle and impact, rather than warmth and ’musical’ tonality - as such my sense is that they are more alike the spendor d series than their classic series (which tends to bring voices and acoustic instruments forward with nuance and body)

this isn't to say you can't make a speaker like these, or focals, magicos etc etc, sound more warm and less 'hifi' with the correct ancillaries, but what i think @prof is talking about here is the more fundamental voicing of the speaker here, which i tend to agree with, as compared to harbeths, classic spendors, and so on
And then there´s the room, the placement of the speakers and the listening position which will actually decides how the speakers will sound....

Why not apply some pro dsp to the Harbeths. And add a small sub.
I would start there.

It's a study system. Studies are for working. Music is in the background. Keep your Harbeths and spend the money on your main system where you do your listening. 
@jjss49   Agree completely.
The point I was trying to make is that, like most other speaker companies, PMC's sound isn't monolithic over its different model lines or over time.

I think of "classic" PMC's as models like the IB1, IB2 and MB2.  Then there is the Twenty series. And the Fact series.  And the Twenty5 series.  These all had internal "family" similarities of voicing, and were all different from one another.  So as with most things, making generalizations about the "PMC sound" really doesn't hold up.