Harbeth vs Graham audio

A question for connoisseurs of English sound. as known, the best speakers reproducing perfect vocals were Harbeth. The m30 and hl5 became the idols of many audiophiles. but not so long ago, a new Graham audio player entered the market. Rumor has it that Graham's midrange is just superb. but still. which company is better? who can not be distinguished from real vocals? Who is more faithful to the traditions of bbc monitors?
You've actually got Graham, Stirling, Falcon, and the Spendor Classic line.  Good luck trying to audition more than two of those (and Harbeth) in the same system.
I have not heard the Graham speakers but I have heard and owned several pairs of Harbeth and Spendor speakers.  
For my money the Harbeths are better than Spendors.  
My hunch is that it will be hard to beat the Harbeths on sound, and without a doubt the brand equity that Harbeth has will ensure that availability, tech support and resale value will be higher than a fledgling brand.  
If you're able to listen to both and do your own comparisons go with the speaker that moves you the most.  If you're unable to do so I would recommend going with the speaker that you can gather the largest number of positive user impressions as possible.  
Graham make the real BBC monitors in terms of the LS3/5a (similar to P3) and the LS5/9 (similar to M30).  It depends on whether you care about having an actual BBC monitor or the Harbeth versions which to my hears are better for a home based system.  Tube amps or big high end Japanese amps work well for all.  The Classic Spendors are a bit warmer and less open (like my old Rogers speakers) and then you also have ProAc which offers nearly BBC levels of natural midrange but is a more dynamic and open sounding speaker. 

Keep in mind all but the ProAcs were designed for voice and classical/instrumental music primarily.  If you listen to a lot of rock, go with ProAc or one of the more modern Spendor designs. For classical or jazz, they will all sound great. 

I own the Graham Chartwell LS3/5’s. I find them very addictive. I don’t listen at ear bleed levels,and I have a small listening room. I also listen to anything from metal to soft jazz. To my ears,and my tastes,these do everything very well. A disclaimer though,I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing Harbeths. 
I own a pair of Harbeth 30.1's and a pair of Spendor S3/5's. While I like the Harbeths much better over all, male vocals sound much more lifelike to me through the Spendors. I haven't heard any Graham speakers.
I am grateful to everyone for the advice, you helped me a lot. as I understand it, Graham audio is still a wild card, and therefore statistical comparisons are still difficult.
No mention of ATC ? Spendor BC 1? 
I auditioned the Harbeth P3 last week.
With all the recent Hoopla I was expecting more.

I had the falcon ls3 15ohm.... I think the Harbeth p3esr slightly more bass response (slightly in this cabinet size)

You buy these speakers for clarity. SoundStage.... Pick up a SH harbeth 30.1 if your amp can drive them... Better in every way and not much bigger footprint overall.
If it was me I wouldnt be fixated about the LS3 thing.... It was engineered for a reason most peoe font have to worry about.... 
I heard the 40.2 and the Graham LS5/9 —or was it the LS5/8? It was the bigger of the two— in the same system one day a couple years ago. The Graham’s have that spike in the presence region. It does bring more life to strings and more perceived detail but I was afraid of that spike (also mentioned in a review of the speaker that’s out there) possibly causing me fatigue some days or in the long run. 
I’ve owned harbeth p3esr, m30.1, graham ls6 and falcon ls3/5a.

since each model within the same brand differ quite a bit with one another, I will just base this on their supposedly ’signature’ sound.

i find that harbeth has better vocal reproduction, making it sound more magical. however, it tends to have too much warmth and on certain tracks, the vocals can get too nasal and thick. because of the warmth, music tends to lack a little definition to it as compared to graham.

falcon and graham are much more balanced, even if it doesn’t offer the same magic as harbeth for vocals. it is so much more balanced which is more satisfying to listen to in the long run if you have different music tastes.

i heard the new p3esr 40th anniversary and 30.2 is more balanced though.

I have the Graham 5/9 which is the news equivalent of the Harbeth 30.x. While I have not heard both side by side, my friend who owns the 30.1, was over, and said that both connect the same way musically. 
I have had the Grahams for over 3 years now and really like them. 

However, for a comparison with the Compact 7, this below may be useful. The lit up presence region is something that I actually liked and have not found it fatiguing - so perhaps the partnering electronics, cables (we all know the drill!) may make it better or worse. 
I have the Graham Audio LS 5/9 and found them better sounding than the 30.1, but you should really listen for yourself, both are great speakers, I just prefer the 5/9.
+1 well worth a listen. I have Magnepan 0.7s and have listened to a friend’s Chartwells, Neats, Harbeths, Graham ls5/9 and others; and preferred the Grahams.
Before settling on Grahams, I’d like to listen to newer JM Reynaud speakers.
I have owned the Harbeth P3ESR, M30.1 and M30.2, and the Graham LS3/5, LS5/9 and LS6.
The only ones I still have are the Graham LS3/5 and LS6. The LS6 are my primary speakers.

All of these are good speakers, but I felt that the Grahams are a bit more dynamic and a bit more neutral. The Harbeths always sound pleasant, but add their unique sound to all types of music. The Grahams better reflect what is on the recording, while retaining the classic BBC sound emphasising the midrange, with extremely natural vocals, but a more forward, more dynamic sound.
Hi wanted to add one other point since we seem to be looking at things across price ranges. I got to hear the 40.2 and Super HL5 plus. 
I absolutely loved the 40.2. It is all that midrange and added gorgeous bass. Full and natural sounding across genres. I can imagine the 5/9 or 30.2 sounding less satisfying when you listen alongside that. Perhaps that is what jriggy heard? 

The Super was not my cup of tea in both the situations that I heard them. Yes more bass than 5/9 series (a rose by any other name?), and had more punch, but did not sound as beguiling in the midrange. However, admittedly there were variables, and they are really nice speakers - to summarise, not on my wish list even if there was a sale. 
40.2 or do I need that extra kidney?

The Graham series is indeed expanding as captainblood said. 5/9f 5/5 Etc.

This is Graham's latest. https://www.grahamaudio.co.uk/products/ls55/

Clearly built to compete with Spendor Classic 100 and Harbeth 40.2.

@vivek_r  A while ago I listened to the SHL5+ and was quite put off.  In the room/system it was in, it was quite bright and not that involving.  Obviously, there are a lot of other people who have had very different reactions.

Then I got to hear 40.2's in a very different room/system, and was completely wowed.  Absolutely fabulous!

Heard Classic 100's in yet another environment and also very, very good, hard to compare to the Harbeths (different rooms/systems) but factoring that in as much as possible I still preferred the Harbeths.

The new LS5/5's are taking forever to reach the US, though they are in other parts of world. The current situation is obviously not helping.  Would love to hear them when and if.

If you google them, there's quite a lot on their development and the original BBC design on which they're based.

@twoleftears, thank you.  Hope it never comes to India. I like the extra kidney and lung! 
I did google. It seems brilliant.  
@rossb  when you keep the ls6, does it mean you prefer it better than all the others that you've owned, including the harbeth 30.2? I heard it is much more neutral than the overly rich and even nasal 30.1.

And your preference of ls6 over ls5/9 is because of the tweeter is it? 
Hello, I’m new on this forum. Funny that so many people owning the same sort of speakers. I also own(ed) Harbeth p3esr, 30.1, hl5 , falcon acoustics, spendor A1 , and Graham Ls6. To me of all my small speakers the falcon has the sweetest and luciuous sound. The Harbeth 30.1 is very fine but indeed a bit nasal in its sound and lacks dynamics ( even driven on my accuphase e370) . I traded it in for the ls6 which indeed sounds much more open and dynamic. Only drawdown on Graham is the veneer which is not at par with the Harbeths .
by the way I run the ls6 Sometimes on My Audio Note oto signature amplifier (normally connected to my AN-Espeakers)  I know the 10 watts should not be sufficient, but man it sounds fantastic .  Cheers Leon 
From all the speakers have have heard I think Graham Audio speakers have the best tone! I think getting the "right tone" is the most important thing with any speakers!
I've heard the Graham LS5/9's and Graham LS5/8's and I think they sound better than the raved Yamaha NS-5000's
I can't wait to listen to the all new Graham Audio LS5/5's!
They say these speakers are by far the best they have ever made yet..
@rossb when you keep the ls6, does it mean you prefer it better than all the others that you’ve owned, including the harbeth 30.2? I heard it is much more neutral than the overly rich and even nasal 30.1.

And your preference of ls6 over ls5/9 is because of the tweeter is it?

Apologies, I have only just noticed your post.

I do prefer the LS6 to all of the other speakers I mentioned.

When I owned the LS5/9s and the 30.2s at the same time I went back and forth between the two and ultimately decided to keep the Harbeths over the Grahams, although it was very close. The Harbeths were more coloured, the Grahams more neutral and more dynamic. But I just couldn’t get over the tweeter in the LS5/9, which made the treble too "big" and too prominent.

But then I got the LS6, which were just perfect. They are at least as dynamic as the LS5/9, tonally rich while still being (relatively) neutral, and with a more natural treble presentation. The Harbeths were dull and obviously coloured by comparison. The LS6 are the most musical and engaging speakers I have heard. (Note: they do take quite a while to run in and for the first month or two sound very uneven, with a slightly dry sound and a boomy bass. It is really essential to hear a well run in pair in order to assess them.)

I still rate the Graham LS3/5 very highly and have no plans to sell these. They are slightly sweeter, and produce sharper images (although a little more two dimensional) and very engaging. But the lack of any real bass - and some lower midrange - rules them out as main speakers for me, although I still keep them to listen to from time to time. The LS6 sound virtually identical, just with a more satisfying amount of bass and scale, but a touch less sweet sounding and with slightly less precise imaging.

Here's a review on the latest Graham Audio LS5/9F speakers that just come on the market. 
"For some of us these speakers might be the last speakers you will ever buy" ! 


’You’ve actually got Graham, Stirling, Falcon, and the Spendor Classic line. Good luck trying to audition more than two of those (and Harbeth) in the same system.’

It’s a lasting pity that getting to hear these speakers together is still so difficult.

Still, it’s amazing how all these BBC based designs seem to go from strength to strength. 15 - 20 years ago it was virtually just Harbeth flying the flag, with Spendor playing a close second fiddle.

This whole whole resurgence of the British loudspeaker sound seems to have been driven by the little speaker that refuses to die - the BBC LS3/5.

Back in the 1990s it was hardly getting a look-in in the mainstream audio press and yet now numerous versions are available.

Industry politics makes a comparative group test impossible, but the impression I get from reading owners accounts is that there isn’t too much separating the various brands.


Interesting review. One that’s hard to get out of your mind. Especially this following passage.

’It is much easier for me to say who will NOT like it. The Grahams will not be liked, I think, by those who like highly detailed sound. The LS5/9f will not offer it. Also those who like a rigid, clear attack and precise sound will not be satisfied. These speakers will not be their first choice. They won’t also fulfil expectations of those for whom the bass must be perfectly controlled at all costs.

Grahams don’t do that.

They do something completely different: they are unbelievably natural’

’Unbelievably natural’?

Somewhat over the top? No?

Well, maybe then the Graham LS5/9F is another one to look out for in future. Especially as Derek Hughes seems to be one of the nicest people in the business.


Graham have now also come out with a really interesting speaker, the LS 5/5, another updated version of a BBC design.

This looks to be a natural competitor to the Harbeth 40.2 and the Spendor Classic 100--oh for a situation where one could audition all three side by side!


The LS 5/5's look interesting.  Graham could use a better marketing strategy to help them compete with Harbeth and Spendor.

Had the pleasure of hearing the Graham LS8/1 at Gig Harbor Audio last summer for almost 2 hours through a modest Naim system and a Rega 6.  Quite wonderful sound on jazz, folk, classical and rock that I found a bit more detailed, open and dynamic than the Harbeth speakers I have heard.  They do tend to be a bit laid back like the classic Harbeth sound but less so which is my preference.  By the way, if you are in the Tacoma area Gig Harbor Audio is a really nice dealer specializing in British gear. 

Sound Signature can be as vast as the stars in the sky, I was in the music industry  through the 70's, 80's and 90's, I have worked with some of the best act's in the business and have heard a many of sound check, stood stage left, stage right and from my personal experience as far as I'm concerned real live sound is almost impossible to reproduce, no matter what the cost or how close it may come. As good as some gear sounds and speakers, you'll actually never know what's missing if you never heard it come through your system, in order to hear a total  live concert with separation you must attend a live concert. (seating is a consideration always) the same as home audio equipment.

I have original Chartwell LS3/5As (with an extra NOS woofer) but my room is big and I like to listen at realistic levels.  They sound beautiful in small spaces and at low volumes..., relative to the room.

I could probably turn them up but don't want to harm them so they never get used.