In 1997 Alan Shaw and his team at Harbeth decided to launch a speaker based off the BBC LS5/9 for use in the BBC studios, the Monitor 30 (or “M30”) – fifteen years later, the year of the company’s 35th anniversary, Shaw and his team would launch one of the most well received speakers Harbeth has ever produced, the Monitor 30.1.
The major improvements in the M30.1 over its predecessor has a lot to do with the reworking of the crossover and the use of a new and improved tweeter from SEAS (produced from my understanding in accordance with Shaw’s specifications) and the upgrade of the original Radial mid/bass driver to the Radial2 mid/bass driver which is produced in-house at Harbeth. The results have been well received by myself, my colleagues, and hi-fi critics worldwide.
So what type of sound can you expect from the M30.1?
If there was a spectrum for speakers with studio monitors (right) and domestic speakers (left) the M30.1 would sit somewhere in the middle with tendencies to lean towards the right. The accuracy you’d expect from a studio monitor is definitely the dominating characteristic of this speaker. However, don’t be fooled as it has a beautiful way of being very musical, as we associate with domestic speakers. What Alan Shaw has been able to create is a speaker that works excellent in both the studio and domestic settings; not an easy task to accomplish as he set out to produce a speaker that was open, detailed and fun to listen too. To my ears, he accomplished his goals and then some.
There is more low frequency grunt than I would expect from a speaker of its relatively modest size, and the high frequencies are easy on the ear while remaining accurate and true to the recording. And the midrange is exactly what we have come to love about the entire Harbeth speaker range – believably life-like with a touch seductive. You get all this in a soundstage that is quiet extensive and allows the listener to accurately place each instrument/musician within it.
Like their brethren, these Harbeths allow the voice of your amplification/source to be heard – so if you like the sound characteristics of your kit, these speakers might just be what you’re looking for. The M30.1 will never be that speaker that jumps out at the listener, grabs them by the collar and demands you listen to them; rather, they invite you in (again, characteristic of all Harbeth speakers) for long fatigue-free listening sessions. They are remarkably versatile speakers; some of our customers use them as studio monitors, while others have had great success with them in small to medium size listening rooms. Please note, these can and have worked in large listening rooms, but their impact can be greatly affected; if you do have a large listening room and want to stay with the Harbeth range, I would recommend having a listen to the Super HL5plus and/or the Monitor 40.2.
The M30.1 are much more accomplished speakers than their price tag suggests. I cannot recommend these enough if you are looking for an enjoyably musical and accurate speaker.
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