The new version of Alan Shaw’s Harbeth Monitor 30.1, which I am reviewing now, is the best compact two-way speaker system I have ever heard, regardless of design type, cost, or complexity. It’s an updated version of the original Monitor 30, a speaker that was so good that improvement was difficult within the terms of its brief, which is a speaker made to a certain size so that it can be used in various professional setups where high accuracy in a not-large enclose is required. I put it that way to emphasize that the Monitor 30.1 is not a mini-monitor; rather it is somewhat smaller than the standard two‑cubic-foot enclosures long regarded as the norm for home listening. As befits its monitor status, the 30.1 boasts high neutrality, low coloration, low distortion, and a matching of drivers that is equaled in my experience to of dynamic loudspeakers only by Shaw’s flagship, the Monitor 40. This thing speaks with one voice in a way reminiscent of Quad ESLs, and it is of similar low coloration, neutrality, and musical authority. The Monitor 30.1 is a constant joy and pleasure to listen to, consummately natural, unbelievably beautiful. It is highly revealing, yet owing to its natural tonal balance it doesn’t accentuate the bad qualities of bad recordings, which in effect it makes them much easier to listen to, while good recordings come through without editorializing. This is a reference-caliber speaker that is also gloriously musical. Watch for my full review in Issue 232.
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