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This review first appeared in the November 2012 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read it in its original Polish version here. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own articles, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity or Harbeth. A companion review by Ralph Werner can be found here - Ed

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacula
CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition
Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory Shilabe & Kansui
Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III Signature with Regenerator power supply
Power amplifier: Soulution 710
Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom
Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic + Acoustic Revive custom speaker stand
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro 600Ω vintage, HifiMan HE6
Interconnects: CD/preamp Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, preamp/power amp Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo
Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx
Power cables (all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate
Stand: Base IV custom under all components
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under CD player, Audio Revive RAF-48 platform under CD player and preamplifier, Pro Audio Bono PAB SE platform under Leben CS300 XS
Review component retail in Poland: 11.100 PLN | 12.300 PLN in Rosewood veneer as reviewed
The Monitor 30 or M30 was first developed in 1997 to work in the BBC studios. Its first domestic version was called … well, the Monitor 30 Domestic. The speaker was designed to be a successor to the BBC LS5/9 studio monitor. This year we celebrate its 15th anniversary. The original M30 shared its tweeter with the flagship M40.1 (see below for size comparison) and had a mid/woofer of the same diameter as and looking similarly to the mid/woofer in the company's top model. The diaphragm of the M30 however was made of the first version of the Radial plastic material patented by Harbeth whilst the equivalent cone in the M40.1 boasts the newer Radial-2X version according to Alan Shaw online manufacturer's forum. Although the driver in the M40.1 looks almost identical to the one in the M30, it was optimized to work as a dedicated midrange driver in a sealed chamber whereas the one in the smaller model works as a ported mid/bass unit.

The launch of the Monitor 30.1 Domestic coincides with the 35th anniversary of Harbeth the company, hence I wish the name had been changed to the M35. As could be expected, the new model features a new very sturdy Radial-2 mid/bass unit. The tweeter too has been upgraded. Harbeth manufactures most their drive units in-house except for the tweeters. The latter are manufactured by Norway's Seas to Alan Shaw’s specifications. A new refined crossover was optimized with the latest in sophisticated computer-modeling software.

His primary goals says Shaw were to improve the integration of the two drive units for a wider listening experience and to optimise the frequency response. Both of these challenges were solved with a comprehensive review of the crossover network. Computer simulation has much improved over what was available in 1997 and “definitely allowed me to push the audio boundaries and truly the M30.1 has become a great all-rounder at home and in the studio”.

From the outside the new model looks almost identical to the predecessor. The only exception is the single pair of speaker terminals in place of the previous double pair. And that’s a good move. It remains however a two-way front-vented design. The port is very short to have the loading resemble a lossy cabinet design.

The speakers are beautiful. I received a review a loaner in Rosewood veneer, the same as the M40.1 of my reference system. I'm deeply in love with the M40.1 as is all of my family. I have owned them for almost two years and each time I sit down to listen, I'm glad that they are with me. However it was the M30.1 which swept us off our feet. They look like a love child of the M40.1 as though sprouted from the bigger model – very similar but far cuter. The speakers are designed, manufactured and packaged as matched pairs, with a serial number bearing encoded information about which is left and right. It is all about the tightest-tolerance matching of two speakers. Harbeth stores all required information in a database should a given specimen require a driver exchange down the road.

Although the speakers are paired, they are not a mirror imaged. The vent in both is in the upper left corner above the tweeter. Only the front grilles mirror each other, each sporting a logo which can be either to the inside or the outside of the boxes. The speakers should be listened to with their grilles on as that’s how they were designed and measure best - except that they then lose some of their incredible beauty.

The Harbeth stands are an entire subject of their own which applies to all their models. I have written about associated problems before and how they can be solved, discussing the stands for my M40.1 which were custom-made by Ken Ishiguro of Acoustic Revive. I will only say that except for this one spectacular example, the Japanese in general use exclusively wooden low-mass open stands looking like stools. In other countries it's different but there’s something to it What’s important regardless is that the tweeters be at ear height.

Sound - a selection of recordings used during these auditions: Assemblage 23, Bruise. Limited Edition, Accession Records, A 128, 2 x CD (2012); Carol Sloane, Little Girl Blue, Sinatra Society of Japan, XQAM-1036, HQCD (2010); Dead Can Dance, Anastasis, [PIAS] Entertainment Group, PIASR311CDX, "Special Edition Hardbound Box Set", CD+USB drive 24/44,1 WAV (2012); Depeche Mode, Enjoy The Music....04, Mute, XLCDBONG34, maxi-SP (2004); Diary of Dreams, Panik Manifesto, Accession Records, EFA 23452-2, CD (2002); Elgar Delius, Cello Concertos, Jacqueline Du Pré, EMI Classic, 9559052, 2 x SACD/CD (1965/2012); Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Pass, Take It Easy, Pablo/JVC, JVCXR-0031-2, (1973/1987); Hilary Hahn, Hilary Hahn Plays Bach, Sony Classical, SK 62793, Super Bit Mapping, 2 x CD (1997); Imogen Heap, Speak For Yourself, Sony Music [Japan], SICP-1387, CD (2007); Novika, Tricks of Life, Kayax, 013, CD (2006); Pat Metheny Group, Offramp, ECM, ECM 1216, CD (1982); Portishead. Dummy, Go! Disc Limited/Universal Music [Japan], UICY-20164, SHM-CD (1994/2011); Radiohead, The King Of Limbs, Ticker Tape Ltd, TICK001CDJ, Blu-spec CD; The Montgomery Brothers, Groove Yard, Riverside/JVC, JVCXR-0018-2, XRCD (1961/1994); This Mortal Coil, HD-CD Box SET: It’ll End In Tears, Filigree & Shadow, Blood, Dust & Guitars, 4AD [Japan], TMCBOX1, 4 x HDCD, (2011); Vangelis, Spiral, RCA/BMG Japan, 176 63561, K2, SHM-CD (1977/2008); Yo-Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin, Hush, Sony Music/Sony Music Hong Kong Ltd., 543282, No. 0441, K2HD Mastering, CD (1992/2012).