Graham LS5/9 vs Harbeth M30.2 and SHL5 Plus

Has anyone compared the current version of the Graham LS5/9 to the Harbeth M30.2 or SHL5+? I might have the opportunity of picking up the Graham.

I’ve done some reading and reception is mixed, as usual. Some say the LS5/9 sound warm while some say the treble is a little hot or harsh. Does the ls5/9 have better clarity and refinement than the Harbeth? Do they sound more exciting than the safe or boring presentation of the Harbeth?

Any thoughts on the difference in sound quality would be appreciated.


I do not know what the Harbeths sound like in a comparison. But I did get some time listening to the G.A. LS5/9 vs Joseph Audio Pulsar Graphenes in a side by side listening session. The LS5/9 were more involving with music. Not degrading the Pulsars which were transparent and pure sounding. Just the Grahams got me listening and enjoying the music. The next person might pick the JA speakers. I liken listening to speakers like trying on shoes. You will know when you find the right one as it feels just right. Sorry I have no magic answer but good luck in your search and try to listen to both. 

People swear by both. I would take the Pulsars over either.

My rating order:




All 3 are good choices though.

To me the LS5/9s are the most boring.

All said I own Fritz Carerra 7 BEs.


Don't forget in very much the same vein the Spendor Classic 1/2.  This is a close contender and might even be your best bet.

modern grahams are known to have brighter voicing than current harbeths... about the same as current gen classic series spendors

some upper graham models do provide tweeter attenuation though, which may help those who seek a more natural balance in frequency response

I prefer the Graham 5/9, I heard the 30.1 at a dealer thinking it would be my forever speaker, but really did not like them, felt they were projecting the sound too much in upper midband, I listen in near field position.

Took a chance on the 5/9 and must say I really love the way they sound. It is the original BBC sound, the Harbet’s are voiced slightly more modern.

A lot will depend on your amplifier.  I have owned the SHL5+ and heard the 30.2 extensively.  

Both can be end game with the right amplifier and room positioning.  

The Spendor classic sounds engaging at first listen but you pick up on a unique coloration of midrange tones after more listening.

Never heard the Graham but they have their fans, very few dealers.  

Right folks. I’ve had the Graham LS5/9 for about a week. Owned Harbeth SHL5 and SHL5+ for 13 years and heard the Harbeth C7ES3, M30, 30.1 and 30.2.

The Graham to me is a more truthful or accurate monitor speaker than the Harbeth equivalent M30.1 or 30.2. Different recordings sound noticeably different through the Graham. Poor recordings sound poor, thin, rough or bright. Good recordings sound great - smooth and detail abundance. The LS5/9 doesn’t impose too much on the music unlike the Harbeth. The Harbeth sounds smooth and nice with almost all music. Not the Graham. Some recordings which sound decent or good with the Harbeth sound terrible with the Graham. On the other hand, good recordings are a treat when played through the LS5/9.

I have to say, if you want all your music to sound pleasant, nice and smooth, the Harbeth will be more suitable as it will make everything sound smooth and pleasant. In other words it’s a more colored speaker (to me) . The Graham will not flatter poor recordings and bring out all the warts.

Also, the overall sound of the LS5/9 is slightly brighter than the M30.1 or 30.2 which in turn sounds fuller and warmer. The Graham has better clarity and detail in the midrange and treble than the Harbeth to me. If there is a criticism, the bass quality especially the midbass doesn’t sound natural with a slight boxy feel. I’ll be installing some Isoacoustics Gaia to the stands soon to improve bass quality.


the bbc sound relies on excellent drivers in a the lossy cabinet design (over open frame stands) and a slight depression in key treble frequencies to deliver an acoustic orchestral mid hall type of sound, notable for warmth and easy ambience, with very accurate tone and timbre

modern versions representing the bbc heritage take certain liberties and pride of authorship, so to speak, according to their sense of good sound and market demand

these nuanced differences are useful for those interested in harbeths, spendor classics, stirlings, grahams and so on... to my ear there is no doubt harbeths and spendors (sp series and current 'classic' line) slightly smooth and enrich the sound with their own fingerprint, making sharply recorded content come across as more appealing more listenable ... my own spendor sp100 r2’s do this a touch less than the mon 40’s but they both do it (and in quite a beautiful way imo)

this is akin to what good tubed gear have done vs solid state for eons, making our music more organic, more listenable ... whether a particular listener/owner views this as a good or bad thing is taste and system dependent

Yes, Harbeth more listenable with low listening fatigue although it sounds a little warm at times. Currently I am getting some brightness in the treble with the Graham with most recordings.  I managed to reduce this glare or brightness a little by using a warmer sounding DAC.

It's funny this hobby.  When you have a warm speaker, your want to add brightness to make it sound livelier. When you have brighter speakers, you want to tone it down. Having said that, it's all good as the LS5/9s are alternative speakers which will be used in the second system.



did you ever get the Gaia footers for your Grahams?


not too long ago I compared a pair of Harbeth 40.3 XD speakers with the gram LS 5/5, with the gram speakers having the Gaia footers. Since only one of the speakers had the footers, it wasn’t an apples to apples comparison, but I thought the grams were clearly better. The Harbeths sounded smeared in comparison. Not dramatically so but enough to make a noticeable and easily discernible difference for us crazy audiophiles.