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In fact driving Radial is de rigueur for all Harbeth models and said to be a critical contributor to the house sound. It's no surprise that new drivers meant adjustments to the xover as well. This involved "the very latest in predictive software and months-long auditions" as German importer Input Audio put it to me. The transition frequency is 3.5kHz at 18dB/octave or a 3rd-order filter slope.

Three years ago already we hosted the Harbeth Super HL5 whose presentation I still fondly remember. Not for nothing did it garner our fairaudio's favourite award. A few bars in the 30.1 now invoked the same supremely natural cohesiveness of a completely harmonious reading which one slips into like a relaxing bath but which exhibits sufficient pep and rhythm to still get the feet tapping. It's rare to encounter sheer listening pleasure quite so ready-made or have long-term friendliness sound this interesting. “Forget the specs, enjoy the tunes” seems the message. The same had held true for the Super HL5 to presumably be the company's motto. But enough lyricism now. Let the comparisons commence!

First a relevant tidbit. In late 2012 the Super HL5 demanded €350 more than the 30.1 does now. It's thus fair to consider both as part of the same price class. Which model comes home with you won't be a question of shekels but more about appearance and room size. Here the HL5 offers nearly twice the cubic volume to become a decisively maxi monitor whereas the 30.1 is 'normal'. It's no surprise that this has sonic consequences. The Super HL5 digs deeper bass trenches and applies more elbow grease to the task. Hence optics and bass power should match the room. Another differentiator lives on high. The 30.1 omits the colleague's super tweeter to dispense with less air. 'Hooded' overstates it but there is comparatively less illumination without affecting the overall balance.

This voicing holds also once compared to other compact boxes. I had spun up "Tilldess" from the Ulf Sandberg Quartet's Totally Wired II album whose cymbal workout makes for a fantastic airiness test track. Be it my Thiel SCS4 or the recently reviewed Burmester B10, both render the treble a tad louder/clearer, with lighter timbre and better resolution. Particularly the sizzle cymbal rustles more overtly. It was similar for the intro of "Amanda" from Miles Davis' Live Around The World.

The percussion set with cymbals and the devil knows what but clearly including a rainmaker directly in front of me was a tick more midrange-y with the Harbeth if also spatially larger and bodily more tacit. This also meant that hard cymbal crashes—say on "Wrinkle" about four minutes in where things really take off—had more projection over the Harbeth along the lines of one big hunking chunka metal oscillatin' where the Thiel and Burmester exhibit more upper-harmonic spray. The projection power or physical insistence of the Harbeth adds to its innately good timing and rhythmic swing. In any case the treble perfectly integrates with the mids as a quasi extension of it to lack any pretense or artifice. These gals simply play it a bit coy in the uppermost strata.