Your tube amp related Harbeth experience.

Please share your experience (good or bad), with any model Harbeth when driven with tubes. I have C'7's, and have just moved on from Class A solid state. Again, if you ended up with solid state, your experience still qualifies, as long as your journey had tube amps in the picture. I should mention that while my plan is to go integrated, I would still like to hear any experience with tube amps, even if it was a stand alone tube amp. Please let's not go in the Alan Shaw (HUG) direction here. Anyone involved likely knows the deal there. That's not for this thread. Just personal experience with a dealer, a friends system, buying used, or the like...


I ran my Super HL5 Plus with Rogue Audio M180 amps and they sounded great.  I've also used them in a second system with an ARC Vsi55 integrated and that may have been an even better combination.  The best I've heard Harbeths sound was at my friend's house - he had a Line Magnetic LM-805iA integrated and the 40.2s and has a very well treated room.  Sublime.


The best I’ve heard Harbeths sound was at my friend’s house - he had a Line Magnetic LM-805iA integrated and the 40.2s and has a very well treated room. Sublime.

Roughly 50 watts of pure class A. I could imagine those 805 output tubes having enough grunt to provide good bass control. Midrange should be stunningly good.


It’s looking as if tubes are ok, with two important caveats in mind. 1) have 60 + watts on tap, such as a stereo ARC amp with a quad of KT 88 (Kt 150) tubes. 2) Perhaps I’m reading in to this too much, but I see a pattern of liking a more linear tube sound. I was thinking about one of the Cayin amps, which lean to the classic tube side. I heard they try to emulate the McIntosh sound in their designs, and I assume that would be the old McIntosh sound. The newer Mac has gone in the same direction as many of the big tube names that come to mind. I’m not knocking this, as much as simply making the point. Should also ad that I've heard LM and owned the 211 IA. I really enjoy their sound, but this being a second system, I want keep it simpler. Maybe I'm getting old, but I want an amp I can move myself. The Wonderfull sounding 805 and whatever model replaced the 518 IA are just not what I'm looking for right now. I want to have a system I can turn on, listen for short periods, and turn off. With my main system, I tend to pass on listening unless I have a fair amount of time to listen. So this system won't quite be on the LM SET level, which to my ears, is certainly reference level. 


my further input to you is as follows as you decide in your own case

1. with c7’s on proper stands, a key variable as you probably know is how they are placed in the room w.r.t. room boundaries and boundary bass reinforcement - this aspect in my experience with all harbeths (other than the teeny p3’s) is really important to dial in to get the best possible presentation and relative balance of bass and mid bass in relation to treble and midrange

2. c7’s are also a pretty benign 6 ohm load, so most decent tube amps will drive them to reasonable volumes... the issue is the quality of sound that is produced, and specifically the overall sense of transparency and sufficiency of bass grip/impact

3. i have always felt that all but the best tube amps (in my book, the higher audio research ones) left the harbeths bass slow soft and sloppy, so thus i have ended up always using top solid state amps that have vastly superior bass control (and sweet sound up the range)... also the better ss amps bring the c7 treble response forward some, which is to my liking - once again, my ears my room my taste

4. more traditional sounding tube amps to me entirely mirror and accentuate the c7’s nature - midrange lushness, treble reticence, full midbass and somewhat weak/slow deep bass, so to me, they bring negative synergy - but i could see such tube amps working if one uses powered subs to augment (i tried this, i have a pair of rels, but i still felt the midbass, while rich and full, lacked my desired level of definition and speed)...

hope that helps, good luck

My Harbeth SHL5+ can sound a bit on the bright side with SS amplification. I tried them with Luxman 590AXII, and as good as the pairing was it did tend to sound a little bright on some recordings. Moving to a tube amp -- Audio Hungary Qualiton a50i, took care of that issue. This is a sublime pairing and one that I intend to keep until I can upgrade to M40.2/3 in the future.

With M30.1 (haven't tried 30.2s though), I found the opposite to be true. These guys need an SS kick in the gut to really wake them up. Don't get me wrong, they still sound quite good with tubes but you really need big power tube amps. Little guys need not apply here. But they really shine when fed with quality SS amplification. I heard these with Hegel H390 at a dealers last year, and it was a great pairing.