harbeth
About us Harbeth History
  Harbeth from 1977 - the early days...






Harbeth was founded in 1977 by Dudley Harwood, the senior engineer in the BBC's Research Department at Kingswood Warren, a large country house near London.

The name Harbeth is an amalgam of HARwood and elizaBETH, his wife. Harwood followed D. E. L. Shorter as one of the pioneering minds underpinning the British audio scene of the 1950's through to the 1970's. It was Harwood's discovery and patenting of the application of polypropylene plastic that paved the way for him to retire from the BBC and found Harbeth in 1977.

The original Harbeth HL Monitor (known as the Mk1) was the world's first loudspeaker to use the brand new polypropylene cone. Other contemporary monitors used bextrene as the bass/mid cone material, which performed well but only if heavily doped by hand. Harwood's polypropylene did not require doping as it was inherently better damped, so it was lighter, louder, cheaper and more repeatable to manufacture.

Unfortunately for Harwood, when drafting the Claims of his patent there was either a typing error which was not picked-up or the Claims were too tightly specified: his polypropylene patent was soon challenged and proved unenforceable. Harwood's novel material rapidly became the de facto loudspeaker driver material across the world. Bextrene had had its day.

Alan Shaw's
involvement with Harbeth followed from a chance encounter with Mr. Harwood in the spring of 1986. Alan was 29, one of the first UK employees of the Japanese NEC Corporation, slithering rather nicely up the greasy pole: Harwood was actually fast asleep in his workshop beside an electric bar heater: the business looked dormant.

Alan explains..... It's a long story, but in essence, I'd been avidly following the "BBC speaker philosophy" since my teens, and Harwood, Shorter and Hughes had been (and still are) heroes. As I walked back to my nice new big shiny company car I was certain that destiny had brought us together. "The right man, at the right time, with the right enthusiasm" - and with a vision if only a smattering of knowledge.

So it was then that I resigned from NEC - where I was responsible for their semiconductor business with (Sir) Alan Sugar (of whom I have immense respect for straight talking - I was on the receiving end of it many times), Sir Clive Sinclair and the very first build of the IBM PC in the UK. But it just had to be done.

Harwood made it clear that he wished to completely retire (he'd have been about 70 years old) and that I was entirely on my own. That was the best legacy that he could possibly have given me because it forced me to hit the ground running).
 
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