Of all the new products at the show, perhaps the one that makes the most sense of all was one of the least showy, least shouted products there. Harbeth announced a change to its long-standing Super HL5, called (perhaps unsurprisingly) the Super HL5 plus. The change to this was the move over to the company’s RADIAL 2 design for its mid/bass unit, and the crossover network change this facilitated.
Harbeth is a bastion of British understatement. Like every UK reviewer, I can’t get a review sample for love nor money from the brand, because the potential for increased local sales in the UK would overfill the company’s already brimming over order books in other parts of the world. Even if I bought a pair (and, believe me, it’s tempting) I couldn’t tell you how much I like them for fear of raising the profile too high in the home country. However, those few who are members of the select Harbeth club can nod quietly to themselves that they are part of an elite. Not ‘elite’ in the snobby ‘elitist’ manner it has come to be considered, but like the unassuming special forces of audio, only without the lethal force component.
So why all the praise for a brand I can’t get through my usual channels? Because they did that rare thing. They demonstrated the only samples of a product by helping out someone else. They paid it forward. The Harbeth stand had a loudspeaker on show, but the demonstration of the new Super HL5 plus was in the REL room, showing just how a subwoofer can sound.
That kind of care and attention is rare in audio. Hell, it’s rare anywhere. Yes, it gives a company two places where it can make its presence felt, but this is unheard of in most companies. But not Harbeth. I am reminded of the time after the Japanese tsunami (one of Harbeth’s biggest markets), where the Japanese distributor was so troubled by his clients being put out by damaged loudspeakers that he undertook a care programme beyond the call of duty.
There’s a lack of BS here. Just good, understated audio, made and sold by good, understated people. Sometimes, I can still be proud to be British!