Harbeth Monitor 30 Floorstanding Speakers

4.8/5 (5 Reviews) MSRP : $2850.00

Product Description

The Monitor 30 was developed to drop-in to the space occupied by the BBC LS5/9. The objective of the Monitor development 30 was to provide a recognisably BBC sound yet in a relatively small box with truly incredible resolution and clarity, perfect integration of the drivers, and a solid bass (for catching rumble and hum). The sweet midrange and a extended and smooth top end make the Monitor 30 a pleasure to use and set it far apart from similar size cabinets.

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Reviews 1 - 5 (5 Reviews Total)

User Reviews

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by GoldenEar2007 a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: December 17, 2009

Bottom Line:   
These sound very good indeed. Many have felt the Harbeth professional monitor series and the consumer oriented HL5 offer a solution to "upgrade itis" and get you off the merry-go-round of never being satisfied. Owners report they are instead "married for life." thus justifying the rather steep price for what is after all a plain looking box with two speakers stuffed in it. I ordered mine in cherry which is darkening quite nicely over a period of years but still they look like pretty basic boxes until you turn them on.

So what so they sound like? Right out of the carton I thought they were "clean" and "good detail without any stridency" and "decent life like and true bass for a small monitor." But nothing especially knocked me out about them. Except they seemed very well balanced with no annoying coloration anywhere. I felt I would grow to like them a lot after settling in and learning where to put them in the room.

Now that I had them running for a while I began moving them around a tiny bit at a time looking for a spot where they would lock in to the room dimensions and clear out their throats and let me hear what they could really do. After six months of fiddling I found a spot that was super lifelike and clear and well balanced through the bass too. Good seating arrangement. Nothing between the speakers like a desk or any equipment etc. Perfect room lock up helps even a cheap speaker. Here everything the Harbeths did well they were now doing extraordinarily well. They were shockingly good.

Or perhaps shocking is the wrong word. They simply disappear more than any speaker I ever sold in my 50 years in the hifi business. More than Sonus Faber. More than Martin Logan. More than speakers that cost $80,000 folks! Or maybe I am a genius and can set up a speaker better than anybody else can. But I tend to think the Harbeths are responsible and they just take patience like any other speaker to find where they "lock up" with the room modes and nodes for a clear presentation.

I bought these for myself as part of a speaker strategy that included left and right acoustic suspension 12 inch subs and $1500 ribbon super tweets to add once the subs were EQed into the Harbeths response curve. I chose the Monitor 30s as they come with the dome tweeter but have no super tweeter like in the HL5. I prefer to aim my own super tweeters and not have them part of the speaker box because they can hurt your ears if they are too beamy.

The Harbeth HL5 for example has a metal dome super tweeter and I can appreciate the value this non-pro model has to offer as it actually costs the same as the less equipped Model 30! However I bought my own pair of $1500 Townshend ribbons for the purpose I intended. And I instinctively distrust metal dome tweeters even when Harbeth uses good ones. Cloth domes are typically easier on your hearing. Thus the Monitor 30s were my choice over the Super HL5.

The same goes for sub woofers which is why I did not buy the larger Harbeth model 40s with the 12 inch sub Harbeth puts in that cabinet. I bought instead a well engineered pair of gloss black SVS subs to "roll my own" low frequencies by adding these to extend deeper than the 50hz the Monitor 30 typically delivers.

My thinking was that if I extended the response bandwidth at the bottom and the top the Harbeth 30s could act bigger or smaller and work in a bigger room than they were designed by the BBC to work in. Or if I moved to a smaller room the Harbeth 30s could go back to being stand alone monitors. I hate having to change speakers all the time just because I move some place new. I hate waste. A speaker change typically involves a whole host of other changes which is a total drag once you have all that gear.

I also much prefer adjusting everything myself including where the deepest bass comes from as that is a major factor in whether the bass sounds muddy or not. Rarely have I heard a speaker sound good if the subwoofer has to be exactly where the main drivers are. Even moving the sub out in front of the main box helps to time align its voice coil for a more cohereant delivery. And you can't move it if it is part of the main speaker!

It worked! If the basic Harbeth Monitor 30s sounded true, clean and musical before, now the added room scale from the subs and extra center fill from the ribbons took them into full range territory. Of course I then abused them by playing the system at extremely loud concert levels for a couple of months. I blew a woofer in one Harbeth by underpowering them with 125 watts X4...125 to each tweeter and 125 to each woofer. One amp apparently clipped and goodbye woof. I can report that by going to 450 watts rms X4 with new amplifiers the sound has improved in clarity and clipping the amps is now a thing of the past.

I really don't mean to imply the Harbeths are intended for the abuse I give them. They clearly have output limits especially if you are running the typical small domestic transistor 100 watt amplifier. Lots of guys are stuck at 100 watts because you usually have to have fans in an amp to get much more than that to work without burning the amp up with heat. Why do you think there are a zillion 100 watt amps offered out there but so few 200 watters? Try building an amp to run flaming hot without fans and it gets ridiculously expensive real fast. Anything over 100 watts. Ask Krell, McIntosh Labs and Bryston. Thank goodness I had room to store some big old sound reinforcement amps with fans in another room and go through the walls with power control and output lines back to the Harbeths. What a difference the extra control of more muscle makes. I adore having 450 rms X 4 and so do the Harbeths!

I think at this time I have the Harbeths doing 99% of what they can possibly do but stay tuned for further tweeks like more room treatment and perhaps new balanced lines of a higher grade. I can hear so deep into every corner of the recording now that even minute changes seem entirely usefull and worth the trouble. But it is everything I ever wanted in owning my own system instead of building them for clients and the proof is I listen to so much music now it seems music is the gift that I never wear out. So much great music and so little time!

In summary there are lots of great speakers out there that deserve the hard work it takes to make them really perform. I hope whatever you invest your time and money into gives you the kind of shear pleasure these Harbeths have brought to me. Thank you Alan over there at Harbeth, good show!

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2006

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by audiophi a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: October 9, 2005

Bottom Line:   
An excellent product if you have a small room and you listen to music played on acoustical instruments or to vocalists. Natural sound, good tonal balance, good timbre, good detail. Surprising amount of bass makes most recordings sound well-rounded, and even a Wagnerian orchestra sounds acceptable. As another reviewer noted, the Monitor 30 has a subtle high-end rolloff, which is not objectionable and in fact is closer to the sound of acoustical instruments in a real performing space. Fabric tweeters make vocalists sound wonderfully refined, with no harshness and less sibilance than other speakers. (The Compact 7 and Super HL5, by the way, use metal tweeters.)

I investigated other brands such as those from B&W, Sonus Faber, and the Dynaudio Confidence, and I was appalled at how those other monitors couldn't handle the complex sound of an orchestra. The Monitor 30 can handle any music you can throw at it, just bearing in mind the limited bass extension. Opera Callas is a faster speaker, but there the bass extension is so limited as to be unsatisfying. Merlin is a contender, but again has limited bass.

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Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2005

Purchased At:   Gene Rubin Audio

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:5
Submitted by anwill a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: September 18, 2003

Bottom Line:   
The Small Monitor. I have been in search of a good pair of monitors for a year. My budget was $4000. I listened to B&W cdm 1nt, nautilus 805's, signature 805's, Dynaudio, Totem Mani 2's Revel etc. The point is I find the Harbeth if not the best among these at least one of the top. The signature 805's were pretty good but still not focused and definitely short on the bass compared to the Totem and Harbeth. Dynaudio Confidence C1 were extremly clean, fast and neutral but 6000 was too much for me. Totem has amazing bass because of two woofers placed close together but it requires a huge amp power to drive it. Even then, I still found it a bit cold and analytical to me. This is subjective but I found the Harbeth warmer yet with great soundstage. I had used B&W 602's for years and these Harbeth really released the music for me. I didn't feel it was she like the B&W and it was just musical. The only minor negative is the Bass is not as tight as the Totem which was my favorite thing about those speakers. It was a tough choice but I just felt I enjoyed the music more with the Harbeth not to say its 1000 cheaper.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2003

Price Paid:    $2850.00

Purchased At:   Fidelis

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by rulee a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: May 21, 2002

Bottom Line:   
This review is not for M30, but for it's
big brother M40's.

Harbeth Monitor 40 is their current flag
ship product. Alan Shaw spent a lot of time
and effort to design this and execute so well that it's really hard to imagine speakers can reach this level. 3 way design using Excel silver coil tweeters (
yes, they are really sweet). 8" RADIAL
mid range driver is the core of these speakers and Vifa 12" woofers are utilized
to give it the nice and solid bottom end.
Every driver is matched to 0.3 db difference and the crossover components are hand pick and measured to compensate
any driver variance. The pair matching is
the best I have ever heard and they can
easily reveal any level mismatch in your

So, what about the sound? In short, they
are neutral, un-colored, extended and accurate. The rigid but light weighted mid
range driver contribute to it's natual sound and Excel tweeter give it top extension as well as very good off-axiss
disspation. Vifa woofers provided articulated and solid bass. They may not
go as deep as some floor-rumbling speakers
but more than adequate to handle large orchistra band.

They have wide front baffle (16") but
they do image really well and speakers can
disapper nicely if not better than best
book-shelf speakers. Soundstage is wide,
deep and solid. Most of all, they reproduce music like music. Piano are just
like piano playing in front of you and
vocals are just like vocals. No harshness,
no exgerrating highs and lows and everything is just expressed natrually and

Robert Greene of TAS gave M40 the golden ear award this year and that should say a lot about them. Check out if you are in
the market of some nice speakers at any
price range.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Bob Neill a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: March 4, 2002

Bottom Line:   
Probably the best small British monitor type speaker you can get. May be a little too much for a smallish room with wall and ceiling boundaries close at hand, but I can think of no other criticism to make. The Monitor 30 is not as warm as the Compact 7, mainly, I suspect, because it does not have that speaker's slight designed-in dip in the upper midrange. The 7 is intended for small rooms and the 'dip' counteracts high frequencies reflecting off walls and ceiling. The Monitor 30 is a more foward speaker than the 7. More accurate overall than both the 7 and the Spendor SP 1/2. With some space around it and decent antecedents, it is an extraordinary speaker

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2001

Price Paid:    $2850.00

Purchased At:   Wintertree Audio - L

Reviews 1 - 5 (5 Reviews Total)

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