Second pair of speakers for pop and rock

Hi there, I am currently using Harbeth SHL5 Plus, but looking at a second speaker (or perhaps primary), that has a bit more bite and tighter bass to it, more suited to pop and rock. I would keep the Harbeth for Acoustic and Jazz music.

Just wondering if you anyone knew how these compared and if they would be suitable. I don’t want something ultra transparent that may end up sounding lean in the midrange. I have access to the following where I live, and I think they would work in terms of bass output etc. Room is about 25sqm, and I can bring them out about 50-70cm from the wall. Not after heavy bass speakers. I don’t want anything too close to the sound I have now, else it defeats the purpose.

Kudos Cardea C20 or S20A
Neat Majistra or Orkestra
Monitor Gold 200
Spendor A7
Spendor D7.2


I’m not familiar with any of the models you list. Except to say that Spendor has always been associated with a ‘BBC’ type sound and so almost certainly not much different to your Harbeth’s broadly speaking. The ATC’s have their roots in professional monitoring so I would be wary of that lean character and transparency which you are keen to avoid.

You don’t say what your system is, which makes speaker recommendations difficult. But for pop and rock use I would be looking at something from JBL. For some reason they seem to have a mediocre reputation here but they make some fabulous high-end speakers that have excellent reviews.

These and your Harbeth’s will be ‘chalk and cheese’. That’s exactly what you want - or what’s the point?

I have ATC SCM40s and think they work really well in my system and I listen to indie guitar-based music mostly. Mine are about 35 cm into the room and toed in to form an equilateral triangle to the listening position. They are very revealing of a poor system though so it depends on what your source and amps are as to whether they would be a good match. ATC bass whilst controlled and tight to my ear doesn’t always satisfy some, the mid-range though is amazing. For the money, I don’t think you can get a better speaker if the voicing gives you what you want.

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A bit of a left-field suggestion and I don’t know if you have stockists near you but have you considered the JBL L100 Classics for your short list? They absolutely rock and look incredibly cool - particularly with the orange grille

PS - no chance of them sounding like your Harbeths!

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A lot depends on the rest of your system. Pretty much any speaker will rock if you put a NAP300 up it, for example, whereas the same speakers driven by a lesser amp will still sound nice enough with acoustic music, chamber music etc. but not so much when you crank up the volume.


It’s Ovators what you want. Tight bass, fast. Their timbre (colour) is very different from your elegant classical music suiting Harbeths.

Only available second hand.

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It has never occurred to me for even one moment to have multiple speakers to suit different music! I like some quite contrasting types of music, from solo piano to delicate classical chamber music to prog rock to heavy rock to opera, and I have focussed on speakers that’s play everything well. However, I suppose if you want speakers to add coloration to some music, and not other music, or different types of coloration for different types of music, I suppose multiple speakers are quite logical - assuming you don’t flit from one style to another every other track, and assuming your listening space can accommodate. If I was looking for something specifically for heavy rock, I think I’d look for horns on mid and treble (separate) and large diameter bass driver – minimum 12 inch, but the larger the better. A couple of people have mentioned JBL: they do have a good heritage serving the live music industry, and though I have not heard any of their products aimed at the domestic market, I would expect them to excel for rock - but they might sound awful more refined music.

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I’m with you there, IB. When choosing speakers I always look for something that works well on all types of music. In my view all good speakers should do this, and if they don’t then they are not really a good speaker. The idea of having different speakers seems strange. Just think, if you suddenly want a bit of solo Bach after you’ve finished with White Stripes, you have to take a break and swap speakers. Do you have two pairs optimally placed, or maybe you need to get them from another room. That’s hardly going to be practical.

I’d suggests that the OP ditches the Harbeths and gets something that works for everything. Life’s too short to fanny around swapping speakers.


That’s exactly what my Klipsch Forte III’s have - plus 15 inch passive auxilliary bass radiators on the cabinet rears! And 99dB sensitivity! Yes they really rock! Yet they are surprisingly good with orchestral music and possess surprising delicacy when required.

I don’t think they would be a happy match with Naim amps though. Firstly, the high sensitivity may cause emphasis of the Naim background hiss, and secondly I think the forward nature of Naim could lead to a sound that, whilst incredibly exciting, could also end up being rather shouty and relentless. They tend to match well with valve amps.

I agree. The big thing is you have a fav listening place. Do you want to go to another room to listen to another type of music with diff equipment, furniture. I suspect if you sell the Hqrbeths, add the money for the new speakers you will have enough to get a really nice pair that plays everything well

I agree strongly here. It would never occur to me to have more than one pair of speakers in a system. In fact I think it’s rather bizarre.

I would never have done it, but it did strike me many years ago that having both Kans and LS3/5a’s would just about have you covered for everything - if you could accept the size limitations.

It makes sense though to choose speakers which are well-suited to the sort of music you primarily favour. I listen mainly to rock and pop, so something like Quad Electrostatics or the larger BBC type speakers, whilst excellent on their own terms, wouldn’t be my first choice.

Generally speaking the higher up you go the more likely you are to be able to have speakers that excel with everything.

Indeed, that is the trouble with horns! They need a low noise amp - From the other angle they don’t take an awful lot of power to play very loud, hence well suited to valves (tubes), though there are plenty of low noise transistor amps, but the OP’s amp is an unknown at the moment.

Hi @RicSyd and welcome to the forum. It would be very helpful if you could tell us about the rest of your system or put it in your profile. None of the speakers you mention would give you the sound you’re after with an Atom and they probably all would with a 500 series setup. The sound a system makes depends on all components in the chain, not just the speakers.


The system matters. So do your ears and the room. Given the costs, I’d encourage hearing a few of these if the system is at all suitable for this level of detail, and then hearing at least 2 in your own home.

FWIW, I rate Neat Xplorers very highly indeed and play mostly loud music by disreputable people, though several of the speakers mentioned here are very good. Can you compare Neat speakers with ATC and ProAc, plus perhaps something philosophically closer to what you have, like Spendor A7s?

You might find them so good on a wide variety of music that you don’t need 2 sets after all.

If ‘as different and lively as possible’ really is key and you are committed to 2 sets, then Klipsch, JBL and PMC are also all good suggestions imho.

Good luck!

Hi all. Thanks for your responses.
I have an nsc222 and nap250.
Good point about finding a single pair of speakers that does it all. Although they would still need a small form factor Like the ones I mentioned, or a great quality standmount with very good bass response.

If I was to upgrade the power amp would it turn the harbeths into being more suitable for pop and rock? That’s obviously another option. The harbeths have a way of letting the detail come through but without making poor recordings sound bad.


I should also add that my music taste has shifted over the years, when I first started out on the journey I ended up with a lot of acoustic and jazz, as that’s where most of the great recordings seemed to be.

Now, with age and time, I have gone back to enjoying 80s classics, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel etc, plus more modern pop…


That suggests you chased recording quality rather than music? If that’s the case, time for change!

PMC MB2s are full range standmounts, but unless your budget is large you’ll have to go secondhand and keep watching for a bargain, and I don’t know how well your amp would cope.

All the speakers most of us have mentioned will flourish with a 250.

I doubt that a better power amp would change the strengths and weaknesses of the Harbeth speakers much. Only auditions will tell you whether any rival speakers can get closer than them to doing it all for you.

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I get where the OP is coming from on this. It surprises me more than a little how tolerant many seem to be of unrealistic bass in the reproduction of rock / pop music.

At any live show bass is propelling the music viscerally and I want my system to be able to reproduce some of that, particularly with recordings where so much of the music lies in the lower frequencies. Donald Fagen’s “Sunken Condos” would be one example of an album that just falls down without good bass support.

An alternative to new or additional speakers would be a pair of quality subwoofers. They can be turned off to preserve the existing sound or engaged to add dynamics and realism when needed.


May I ask how much your MB2s cost, when you bought them, and where from?