Are Harbeth Super HL5 XD right for me?

I am feeling like despite being very happy with my current speakers, I am missing something because they are by far the least expensive part of my system. I recently replaced my Large Advents with a pair of the new KLH Model 5s and I love them, despite being about 5% of my systems cost.

I am thinking about the Harbeth Super HL5 XD as a final upgrade. It’s a big chunk of change though and my biggest concern is that they can only be 12” away from the rear wall. They’ll be essentially open on both sides and I’ll be sitting about 8’ from them. This is fixed in stone. I’ll be driving them with a pair of Luxman MB-3045 tube amps and an ARC SP-14 playing 98% (or more) vinyl. Mostly jazz, classic rock and classical. I live in an apartment and never play very loud, and have reached the point where I really don’t have much desire to anyway.

So… Is it worth taking the chance given my situation or am I just setting myself up for disappointment and better off sticking with what I am really very happy with?



I too am  a fixed 8’ -9’ from my speakers. Ceiling is a little on the low side. Amps are Primaluna prologue 2 integrated running el34’s for my vinyl and I stream through a primaluna dialogue premium. My speakers are Harbeth 7e3’s and Harbeth Hlp5( can never remember the exact lettering, numbers) and love both pairs. Would , if I didn’t know my nature, consider them forever speakers. The big Harbeths are a step up from the smaller ones but almost always wish my room were bigger when listening to the big ones. The 7???’s are absolutely enchanting. If I had to give away a pair I’d give away the H’s, the big ones. So what I’m taking way too many words to say is, maybe you’d be happy with the 7’s? Either would be a HUGE upgrade from the klh’s. 

I've had the original Shl5 speakers for years and I was never able to get them to image properly when placed so close to the front wall. They like room to breath and a lot of power (less of an issue for you if you only listen quietly). I will be listing them for sale soon. 

I have tinkered with the placement of my Shl5’s, and yes, the front port makes them less fussy about placement. I am amazed at how well these relatively big boxes disappear into the soundstage. I too, use a refined solid state amp and find the speakers can give really tight, fast bass. In some cases it’s even a little over damped. I think this speaks to the ability to fine tune your sound with different amps.

I will have to be one of the dissenting opinions here.

While they are certainly pleasant to listen to, they are hardly accurate, detailed, nor do they image or create a soundstage with any real proficiency. 

I have heard them out in the room, and very close to the wall. There was an improvement out in the room of course, but sill not great. It's hard to get around the inherent problems with wide baffles. 

And I don't care what they say, 'controlling resonance' of the enclosure, is not as good as trying to eliminate it. 

That being said, they do sound better than just about any other 70's 'heritage' speaker I've heard. And that lush midrange, makes vocals sound pretty impressive. 

They're on their way, or will be shortly, so love 'em or hate 'em, they'll be mine.  The good news is I bought them at a good enough price that I don't think I'll get hurt too bad if I decide they're just not for me.