Amp for Harbeth SHL5+?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by misterdecibel, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered Thread Starter

    My present setup is a pair of Harbeth SHL5+ speakers, fronted with an Audio Research SP9/III preamp, Hafler DH-220 amplifier, Rega turntable w/Denon 301ii, Schiit Modi Multibit DAC.

    The sources will eventually need attention too, but the weak point right now is the amplifier. It's just not very transparent, nor is it particularly gutsy even though it's rated 150W/ch. I'd like improvements in both those departments. My budget is $2500-ish.

    The Hafler was a free amplifier, it was my brother's before it came to me when he died. It sat around gathering dust as a "spare" amp for more than a decade before being pressed into service. I was a little surprised and delighted that it worked at all.

    One possibility would be the Musical Concepts modification for the Hafler amp. It's a whole new circuit using the old chassis, power transformer, and output transistors. That would take care of the transparency, but I don't know if it will have any more welly. Hafler Amp This would come in well under budget.

    Some friends have suggested the Odyssey Stratos amp. Odyssey Audio: Stratos Stereo amplifiers. Call us (317) 299 5578. IN, USA. Odyssey Audio offer their products by direct sale only, and there's kind of a cult of personality surrounding Klaus Bunge, the man who makes them.

    I kind of favor a Threshold Stasis amp w/optical bias. S/300 would be about the right size, and these turn up frequently on eBay, but usually in the MkI or MkII version, which do not have the optical bias unless they were factory modified. Prices are all over the map, and they're old enough that a cap service may need to be added to the budget.

    I'm looking for alternative suggestions, anything I may have overlooked. There will be little opportunity to audition before purchase, there are no dealers with 2-channel audio on demo within five hours driving distance from here, so I'll probably have to just take a punt on something.

    Thanks for any observations or suggestions.
  2. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum II.
  3. art

    art Forum Resident

    Any Luxman
    Aura, Long Live Analog and bhazen like this.
  4. TSWisla

    TSWisla Forum Resident

    I had tubes on mine and I did not like it at all. Went back to SS. Have used a Pass XA-30.8 and now use an old Sony TA-N77ES with great results. The Oddysey sounds like it would work well or you can look for a used Pass X-250.
  5. ServingTheMusic

    ServingTheMusic Forum Resident

    Burson Timekeeper. Great amp.
  6. Mike-48

    Mike-48 Forum Resident

    Portland, Oregon
    I think it's important to audition, and a simple way to do that is buy from a mail-order dealer, as most of them offer a 30-day trial. At a bit more than your stated budget, Audio Advisor offers the NAD M22 and the Benchmark AHB2, both of which have gotten rave reviews. I haven't heard either, but I have heard related gear and suspect they would work really well in your system. Either unit would give a huge increase in transparency over the Hafler, and my guess is that either (and especially the NAD) would provide more guts, too.

    Audio Advisor also sells the Burson recommended by @Brinkman Ship -- a little less money. I've not heard it, but years ago, I had a Burson DAC that I thought was very good.

    I think that all competent amps should sound the same. However, my experience has been that they don't, and the only way to pick one for your system is to try it. I have a pair of P3ESR in my second system, and a solid-state amp (Marsh A400S) works very well with them.

    Good luck, and have fun!

    (Added later -- the AHB2 appears to have balanced inputs only, which may make it a poor choice with your preamp.)
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
  7. chrism1971

    chrism1971 Forum Resident

    Glos, UK
    Naim Supernait 2 or Exposure 3010S2 integrated.
    Manimal and WapatoWolf like this.
  8. Linto

    Linto Mayor of Simpleton

    I'd upgrade the turntable first, that's the weakest link
    keiron99 likes this.
  9. BIGGER Dave

    BIGGER Dave Forum Resident

    The OP stated his budget is “$2500-ish”. Last I checked, the Naim Supernait2 sells for $5,700 on this side of the pond.
  10. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    I have not heard the SHL5+ but I have read Rega amps pair well with Harbeth. I own an Elicit-R that I really like. Mine drives LS-50's.
  11. vrøvl

    vrøvl Well-Known Member

    Bergen, Norway
    The Job 225 sounds great with Harbeth. Also, if you're open to class D, the new Mytek Brooklyn Amp is excellent.
  12. timind

    timind Don't blame me

    Westfield, IN USA
    The Hafler part of your question is right up my alley. I was given a Hafler P225 (pro version of DH220) with one channel out a couple years ago by a friend. After an easy fix, I listened to and really liked the amp. I had heard of the Musical Concepts mods so gave them a call and ordered a pair of PA4 boards. I also redid the power supply. My verdict after listening for a while was the amp had exactly what you're looking for - more transparency.
    With that success under my belt I bought a Hafler P230 and decided to give it a power supply overhaul and just replace the electrolytic caps on the Hafler boards. The P230 is the pro version of a DH220, but has an extra pair of MOSFETs per channel which allows the amp to provide more current to the speakers. I sold this amp on ebay and the buyer was very happy with it. He has emailed a couple times about the amp and asking if I had any others.
    I've now repaired or modded 5 or 6 Haflers in different configurations and my favorite is a P230 with a power supply upgrade which will cost about $75, and new caps on the Hafler board which cost another $10. Adjust DC offset and bias and your good.
    Two amps I've owned for comparison with the Haflers over the years are a Proceed BPA-2 at 125 watts and a Musical Fidelity A3cr at 120 watts. The Proceed had an exceptionally clean and vibrant sound. It was fantastic with my Revel M22s, but it was overly analytical with my KEF LS50. I haven't really figured out the Musical Fidelity amp yet. It may be one of those amps with no character at all.

    I have no idea how any of this pertains to Harbeth speakers as I've never heard a pair. Just recently though, I've been eyeing a pair of M30-1 speakers.
  13. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered Thread Starter

    I'm intrigued by the Job, but am put off by the amount of gain on offer. It seems to be optimized for use with a passive preamp.

    Also, how is "Job" pronounced? Like the biblical character, or like the synonym for "gig"?
  14. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered Thread Starter

    It's next, but the amp is clearly the weaker link. I'm aware that "cleaning the window" with an amp upgrade will reveal the weaknesses in my sources.
  15. A used Bryston 4BSST2 would be a good match at around $2500. I'm using mine w/ Harbeth P3ESR and it sounds great.
  16. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    What turntable/phono will you eventually go to? Phono will have to pair well...If you like your Rega the 6 is pretty decent.
  17. vrøvl

    vrøvl Well-Known Member

    Bergen, Norway
    A quick fix if you aready have a preamp, would be some Rothwell Attenuators.

    I've been wondering the same! :)
  18. Mad shadows

    Mad shadows Forum Resident

    Karlskrona- Sweden
    The old Threshold amps are very sweet and they are build to last. My opinion is that you cant go wrong if you buy one.
    But as a owner of a Threshold S200 I might be a little biased. :D
    timind likes this.
  19. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered Thread Starter

    If I do an amp now it'll be at least a year before I get to a turntable upgrade. If I stick with the Rega ecosystem, I'd skip the 6 level and go to the RP8 or its replacement which may be out by then. Maybe a used RP10 could pop up. I'm open to other ideas, I've been with Rega for a long time and it may be time to head in a different direction, maybe to something with a "bigger" sound?

    I wouldn't mind some more "bigness" in the amp's sound too...
  20. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    Gotya. Not a bad plan. I am extremely happy with my RP6 tables (I have two) but will eventually swap one for an 8 or 10. I like Rega and will keep one Rega system.

    The other one i will eventually swap for a VPI Prime.
  21. Gordon Johnson

    Gordon Johnson Forum Resident

    Liverpool, South
    Straight to the point misterdecible.

    You have a good pair of speakers so match them with the right amp'.

    Room size is a factor as is your listening position.

    But Harbeths suit SS in most environments and they match well, exceptionally well with LFD.

    If needs be do a bit if saving and when you buy you know that its possibly the final match you will ever go for.

    Demo the pairing at your peril :)

    Good luck
    IanL and WapatoWolf like this.
  22. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered Thread Starter

    Since I haven't mentioned room size, it's 14 x 17 feet, with a fireplace that intrudes one foot, so I have it set up as a 13 x 17 foot room. Speakers are firing the long way, and are a good three feet out from the front wall. The sofa is about a foot and a half out away from back wall.

    Stands are the Resonant Woods cherry stands.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
  23. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    IMHO the SHL5 sounds best with a smooth beefy tube amp like the cronus magnum ii at 100 WPC. the super tweeter tends to exacerbate any solid state edginess with excessive air and does not sound as natural. the cmii and shl5 combo will sound punchy, smooth, natural and have a huge sound stage.
    mr. scratchy esq likes this.
  24. Bubbamike

    Bubbamike Forum Resident

    I bought my Supernait 2 used for $3200 a year ago. I probably should have offered $3k first but I'm very happy with it and my SLH-5s.

    The Parasound Halo Integrated might be a good match with the Supers.
  25. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Another vote for the Exposure 3010S2 - a great match for British speakers.
    WapatoWolf likes this.

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