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STHLS5
20-07-2010, 03:21 PM
Why is that the loudspeaker technology did not advance to a more sophisticated level like the TV has which even though invented 50 years later but now in terms of technology it makes a loudspeaker like stone age technology? Most of the loudspeakers technology like the drivers, horn, electrostatics, ribbon can be considered ancient in comparison to today's TV's technology. Sony developed some sort of glass tube loudspeakers (like here (http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/index.cfm?newsid=104255)) recently but for some unknown reason it did not take off. The other was ultrasound technology like the Audiobeam (http://www.audiolinks.com/tek9/tek9.asp?pg=products&specific=jnmmoqhqi) but may not be suitable for musical reproduction.

A long time ago Alan wrote in this forum that the average loudspeaker resolution was only about 12bit (I stand corrected) and the best way to get the full resolution from the source was to have electrodes connected to the brain. (I am trying hard to recall what I read a long time ago so I stand corrected). The TV resolution is increasing yearly and eagerly welcomed by the consumers who somehow doing the opposite for audio reproduction who after spending some 20 or so years listening to 16 bit resolution (CD) now quite happy with MP3 which is much lesser resolution than CD.

Why is the progress slow? Is it due to lack of demand for higher resolution audio?

ST

Labarum
20-07-2010, 05:18 PM
Where would you expect to see the improvements?

1. In the better application of materials science to the design of drivers - electromagnetic, piezoelectric, electrostatic or technologies yet unborn.

2. In a better interface between electronics and transducers. (The scope for the amplification to improve being minuscule.)

3. In the better use of production engineering to raise technical standards and drive down prices.

4. In a more adventurous spirit among both producers and consumers.

EricW
20-07-2010, 08:45 PM
I think the difference is that the speaker is an electro-mechanical (with heavy emphasis on the mechanical) device. Essentially, the job of a speaker is to push air back and forth at you, and my sense is that once you've worked out the basic mechanism for accomplishing a physical process like that, real improvements in how it's done are not easy to achieve.

The physical world is unforgiving and demands compromise as we all know. If a cone is large (capable of moving more air, therefore more bass and more loudness), it will also necessarily have more mass (therefore be slower to respond). And so on.

I'd liken it to designing a car: you can either make one that goes very fast, or hauls a lot of weight, or gets great fuel mileage. But you're going to have a very hard time designing a car that does all three. I think it's just the nature of the physical world we live in and the laws that govern it. We're probably a lot farther away from the limits of what's possible when we talk purely about electrons and semiconductors, where the constraints are much different.

kittykat
21-07-2010, 03:47 AM
Imo, it will be difficult to break out of this paradigm as long as the physically analog divide between transmission (transducer) and receipt (our ears) remain. We can see the leaps and bounds made in technology where we can approximate our world in a digital form. Unfortunately now the transducer has to take all the burden of approximation for the spectrum of vibrations and richness of sound. It will be full of compromises until this gap is removed.

What im more surprised with, is why the envelope for materials hasn’t been pushed to the limit. Harbeth has innovated (the extreme few) but it seems to go unrecognised, like in the Stereophile review of the P3ESR, where the writer initially gives passing remark to Radials as “5 inch plastic cones”. At the end of the day EricW, it could either mean the technology is perceived to be sufficiently good as it is, no one really cares, not exciting enough or a combination of all. I have strong feeling that most people don’t really find speakers exciting and focus on other more frivolous and superfluous things. Maybe they just haven’t had the chance to listen to Harbeths.

Reminds me of something I read about cooking shows where the culinary delights within a country (I now forget the name of) started to improve only after there were competitive food programs.

We are really all a pretty shallow lot after all. Shallow reviewers leading shallow consumers.

STHLS5
21-07-2010, 04:01 AM
I am thinking it may got to do with the lack of research funding for new technological breakthrough in loudspeakers design. A good example would be Harbeth which benefited with the BBC funding and research. It is unique because the research gave us two pronged radical approach with a different concept of cabinet design and the secret formula for the cone design. But how many countries are spending money on a loudspeaker design?

OTOH, as mentioned above, we may never be able to replicate the actual true sound with a loudspeaker. For an example, the sound from a piano actually comes not only form the strings but the whole body of the piano. That means it involves a large surface area for its unique sound signature. Is it physically possible to reproduce the sound with a 6in diameter driver? That would be like playing a miniature piano but with the expectation it to sound like a grand piano. Considering this physical limitation, loudspeakers are truly an engineering marvel for what they are capable of doing.

Maybe, we are at a crossroad - either to have a radical new technology which may be bulky and very expensive for highest fidelity reproduction or smaller and cheaper loudspeakers for the masses.

When I was young it was common to see most homes to have a hifi set with speakers the size of SHL5 but today it is all mini combos with small speakers. Isn't this kind of trend not healthy for "audiophile" industry? How many standalone loudspeakers manufacturer can survive in next 20 or 30 years if they can't come up with an absolutely state of the art sound reproduction?

ST

A.S.
21-07-2010, 09:48 AM
I am thinking it may got to do with the lack of research funding for new technological breakthrough in loudspeakers design. ...Maybe, we are at a crossroad - either to have a radical new technology which may be bulky and very expensive for highest fidelity reproduction or smaller and cheaper loudspeakers for the masses ... How many standalone loudspeakers manufacturer can survive in next 20 or 30 years if they can't come up with an absolutely state of the art sound reproduction?This is a very interesting subject, from a business strategy perspective.

First, you can, as one speaker brand did within the last few years, stumble across a sheet plastic material that could be moulded (i.e. fulfilled the primary requirement for a sheet plastic material to become a loudspeaker cone), give it a fancy name and hand it over to the marketing dept. to spin up into some technical breakthrough - a start to end process of a week or two - or you could roll up your sleeves and do some blue skies research - a start to end (is there ever an true end?) process of many man years. Only the most dedicated, fascinated, performance chaser would take the latter course. As we did in the early 1990s with our very much still unbeatable RADIAL™ material, now used in all Harbeths and the defining quality of "the Harbeth sound". But it was far beyond our internal resources to undertake such a research project and as you will know, the critical point for us was to appreciate that and make contact with the British government's science people and appeal for help which we got - at a price.

The first year or two involved a trawl of every known plastic material from all the global manufacturers. We knew what to ask for: the first requirement was a weight (mass) towards the very lightest of material possibilities, since light cones = efficient loudspeakers. That narrowed the field of possibilities. Then we had to specify mould temperatures within a certain range: that narrowed it further. Then the really critical part - how to define and select materials for their damping properties as a clue to their likely sonic fidelity. Why was (is) that so important? Well, all plastic materials have a sonic signature. Flick a plastic ruler or a shampoo bottle and you'll hear very different tones. The ruler will have a bright "twang" tone: the squeezable shampoo bottle will have a dull, dead flat tone. Would either make a good speaker cone? Unlikely as they'd impart coloration onto the music due the the sound wave's behavior in the material itself.

This is just the tip of a huge research iceberg of a problem in selecting (or in our case, creating because nothing off the shelf was suitable) a material suitable for speaker cones with excellent purity of tone = low coloration. Who but the most dedicated would chase such an open-ended dream?

But looking back over the past twenty years, that morning when I picked up the phone and made the call to London was undoubtedly the most important business decision I've made at Harbeth.

STHLS5
21-07-2010, 01:18 PM
.....it could either mean the technology is perceived to be sufficiently good as it is, no one really cares...

For the last few months I am looking for a plasma TV to replace my 16 year old Sony TV ( at least they made good TVs those days). Each time I go to a show room the more confused I become on deciding which one to buy. Too many decisions to make - the ideal screen size , 3D technology, 2 or more HDMI input, brand and reliability issues, price and most importantly whether it would become technologically obsolete in a year's time.

But can you imagine if you compare side by side the emotions and the decisions making process of my father trying to decide which was a better black and white TV when he bought his first TV and mine trying to decide whether a 3D, LCD, plasma, 4C, 42in, or 46 in and etc etc. Picture this, my father standing in front of a few black and White TV and deciding which one was better and I standing in front the brilliantly coloured images playback from a blu-ray disc. I am sure he would feel like spanking me for being too picky compared to his time and the choices he had.

You need to be exposed to the technology for you to appreciate it. I bought Harbeth because I had a chance to hear them many many years ago by accident. Before that I do not know what a Harbeth was. The technology behind it made a difference to my ears.

So going back to new technologies, it could be a double edged sword for some manufacturers. During the last Worldcup, I did not see a single billboard advertising Kodak, Fujiflim or Agfa which I remember seeing in the previous worldcups. Who would have thought 20 years ago film camera would become a thing of the past. The same danger lurks around the corner for dedicated manufacturer of today's loudspeakers.

A new innovation needed so badly for loudspeakers technology. While many argued that the high resolution format SACD and DVD-A failed because there wasn't really much difference compared to a CD. But imagine if a loudspeaker capable of 24Bit resolution would that made a huge difference between the two format? Was the loudspeakers limitation killed the SACD?

Considering today's television picture quality, I am sure if video tape technology were to be introduced today Betamax format would triumph over VHS because the difference would have been very obvious with the current TVs resolution.

Will Harbeth with BBC collaboration be the first take another big step like they did 20 year's ago?

ST

coredump
21-07-2010, 04:14 PM
technology is definitely not in loudspeaker design yet. Nanotechnology is one area where woofer / driver research project can apply. designer can build driver from scratch ie from Atom level. defining the structures that the driver should have. Nanomechanics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanomechanics) is the branch that we should look into. if there are fund, sponsor, it might be a interesting area to explore...

EricW
21-07-2010, 06:26 PM
If I've learned one thing from reading the posts on this user group, it's that when you are listening to a loudspeaker you are ultimately listening to the sound produced by the cone material itself. Such a simple notion, so obvious once you've grasped it, but it had never really occurred to me before.

That's why (at least in my opinion), Harbeth really doesn't have to be too concerned with "marketing" in the traditional sense. When you have something that good, perhaps the truth will do? A radical idea, I know. But if RADIAL is that fundamentally superior, then what hope does any manufacturer of dynamic loudspeakers have of competing, at least on the basis of sonic merit?

HUG-1
21-07-2010, 10:04 PM
Two things .....

Please, please, please stop and think a moment STHLS5. Again you must be very very aware of the commercial realities and please try to think out of the box to the bigger picture before tapping the keyboard! You know and we know that Harbeth's RADIAL™ cone is as good as it gets with current technology. There is unlikely to be any major advance on RADIAL™ - do you know why?

Second; when you say "A new innovation needed so badly for loudspeakers technology" we can consider that statement from the perspective of our competitors and turn that around and reinterpret it thus ....

"Harbeth RADIAL™ technology can't be that good because one of their HUG members (STHLS5) who owns Harbeth has made a comment on the HUG that 'A new innovation needed so badly for loudspeakers technology'. So that must mean he's dissatisfied with Harbeth's proclaimed technology ...."

What do we have to do here to make you guys just pause a moment and think through what you are saying before you contribute - eh? We though lessons had been learned here (http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?872-The-Harbeth-integrated-amplifier&p=10402#post10402) post-Moderation turned on (mid June 2010) over exactly the same presentational issues (over amps and special editions). But maybe not. What you perhaps intended to convey and what you actually did say again provide ammmunition .... this is not good PR communications. That's why this HUG is now moderated. Intention and action pulling against each other in public. As Alan said "careless talk costs brands".

We decided to let through your post to illustrate a point but in future, it would not pass Moderation and would be edited to convey what we think you mean to say. Surely as business people we must be able to turn the table around and see life from the other side of the desk?

STHLS5
22-07-2010, 12:49 AM
HUG-1,

Really? No one in the right mind would think I intended to say ""Harbeth RADIAL™ technology can't be that good because one of their HUG members (STHLS5) who owns Harbeth has made a comment on the HUG that 'A new innovation needed so badly for loudspeakers technology'. So that must mean he's dissatisfied with Harbeth's proclaimed technology ...." .

If you have to moderate than you should have done so with Alan's post revealing the secret of Harbeth success is in their plastic cone. Isn't that obvious that I am suggesting a radical improvement in loudspeaker technology is needed besides Ribbon, Electrostatics and etc, etc.

Perhaps, this forum only wants Harbeth zombies. I cannot be one.

ST

{Moderator's comment: We stand by what we said. No it definitely isn't obvious and even if it were what matters is how that information could be used against us. Surely you see the political dimension? This is Harbeth UK's forum. The official voice. Great care should be taken when posting here. We insist on common sense being applied to postings. Alan has the right to post whatever he wants and I can assure you that he above all is acutely aware of the fine line between saying too little and saying too much. He would never put his company at risk. There is not one word in his posting which could be used against him or the Harbeth brand, contrary to your posting. If you read our comments you will clearly see that we stated that the issue is not what you intended to say, but how a competitor could use it. We are in sales here. We know how the sales game works. All good salesmen look for competitive advantages, gossip, and they read this forum hungry for useful ammunition. That's their job! What we will not do is put words into the mouths of competitors as was achieved with the specials/ amplifier debate. I'm sorry but this is not negotiable. We are not slipping back into arguments here. We are left speechless at the lack of understanding of how commerce actually works. It is no surprise to us post the amp/specials debacle that consumers are so often victims of the selling process. As Alan said this evening to me, 'surely we don't have to tell professional people what can and cannot be said on the manufacturer's own forum do we? Don't they face the same issues in their daily lives regarding what they can and cannot say i.e. their political sensitivity?'.}

Champion
22-07-2010, 02:01 AM
On the other hand, I actually don't think we (the world as a whole) are desperate for new loudspeaker technology. I think we have already gone past the phase that sound reproduction system is so bad that we need better and better technologies. That happened many years ago. Most people are satisfied with the quality of sound that they can get at home. Even if you have a huge technology breakthrough, most people won't care, and will only adopt when it is cheap enough.

I think the TV technology is still a bit behind in terms of fidelity and form factor. The main stream is still 2D, much smaller than the real object, but it is getting there. I think it will take only a few years before most people are fully satisfied with the quality and don't care too much on the technology breakthrough, and care more about having it anywhere they want, cheaply.

kittykat
22-07-2010, 03:02 AM
Was the loudspeakers limitation killed the SACD? ST

Hi STHLS5. Personally feel that we have to be realistic with what speakers can and cannot do. imo, speakers can only be a proxy, a representation, a sampling or an approximation of voices, instruments and noise. The comparison of speakers with live music as a result imo, is a superfluous and misguided one. I often hear people say they calibrate their listening with live music. If anyone has heard without ear plugs a 747 leave the tarmac, they will understand that sound (in a broad sense) is very hard to recreate in the living room. Even recording the sound of a jet take off, and hoping to capture every nuance as an audiophile might say, is a challenge at best. What we have left as a result, are the gradations of that approximation (and limitations and compromises). If we are realistic, we will find that speaker which is the “best”.

As a result, I don’t feel that speakers (or amps for that matter) limited the success of SACD given the paradigm we are in now. It was our ears (which told us what they did) and the marketing departments (and reviewers who talked themselves into believing whatever they did) which caused SACD to fall off the cliff.

Before I get off this soapbox, going back to the first point of being realistic, if anything, I do feel that it is very useful to calibrate our ears to what a real musical instrument, un-amplified*, sounds like eg. a flute, kick drum, piano, female voice, a brass instrument. You can try this at your local instrument retailer or go to church. The more you do this and I do, you will come to realise that all speakers are an approximation and again the SHL5’s do it brilliantly and as close as what can be right in your living room.

EricW
22-07-2010, 04:07 AM
{Moderator's comment: .... We are not slipping back into arguments here. We are left speechless at the lack of understanding of how commerce actually works. It is no surprise to us post the amp/specials debacle that consumers are so often victims of the selling process. As Alan said this evening to me, 'surely we don't have to tell professional people what can and cannot be said on the manufacturer's own forum do we? Don't they face the same issues in their daily lives regarding what they can and cannot say i.e. their political sensitivity?'.}As someone who was involved in one of the above-mentioned "debates" (I didn't think of it as such at the time, though I don't quarrel with the use of the word), I have given this a lot of thought since, and have refrained from posting till I've felt I've struck a balance in my own mind.

I think there's room for some learning and compromise on both sides.

Although I initially thought that Harbeth overreacted in responding on some issues, I have come to be more sympathetic to its position. Harbeth may make the world's best loudspeaker, but that doesn't make it invulnerable. In a competitive marketplace, no one is invulnerable. Therefore, it seems to me that it's not wrong to ask members of the HUG to give thought to the fact that their words are being published, and to remind them that as fans of the brand, they surely do not want to be posting messages that could be used against Harbeth.

On the other hand, I think Harbeth should remember that the vast majority if not all members of the board are just that, fans, and either actual or potential Harbeth owners. Devoted, committed core customers. Harbeth evangelists. This is not a group that any company should be treating with distrust and suspicion, or condescension, which although I'm sure is unintended, is the tone of some of the responses that are sometimes made to "borderline" posts.

Why I know from my own professional experience (in law) is that how you see something depends very much on your own perspective, viewpoint and interests. HUG members may be educated professional people for the most part, and not totally ignorant of commercial realities, but when they come on this board they come as hobbyists, music lovers, fans and enthusiasts. That's a very different perspective from that of a member of a company that is considering the effect of communications in a competitive marketplace, and may lead to a very different attitude to what's being published. For example, in law it's an old truism that "the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client." When lawyers get into trouble, they hire another lawyer, who may not be any smarter or more capable, but is not personally involved and can therefore see things more calmly and analytically. A difference of viewpoint.

For myself, I understand Harbeth's sensitivities and will do my best to be mindful of them henceforth. But I would ask the company to remember that a loyal devoted following on the HUG is also a commercial asset, maintained at relatively low cost, and worth hanging on to.

STHLS5
22-07-2010, 04:20 AM
Alan has the right to post whatever he wants..

That would be very ignorant or even foolish of me to suggest to a designer and the owner of a successful company what he should and shouldn't write in his own forum. I was just stating (as I previously mentioned here in HUG) the forum has reached a point that we do not know what can and cannot be posted no matter how well our intentions were.

If I were in the BMW forum I would have posted about the latest acquisition of Bill Gates in the new 2 piston lateral engines which is said to produce more horsepower for the given engine capacity. Am I undermining the company's strategy? But I guess, I am doing just that in the eyes of HUG-1.


Don't they face the same issues in their daily lives regarding what they can and cannot say i.e. their political sensitivity?'.

Yes, in my country there so many things we can't say or we get detained without trial or charged under pre-independence statutes and locked up for a long time.

So we are pretty used to be very cautious as to what can and cannot be said. But obviously I being a slow learner need to learn more. Will just do that.

ST

{Moderator's comment: your post has passed Moderation unedited. We are still alive to discussion here. You can say (almost) anything. I'll ask Alan to comment later. He is the best one to explain again.}

STHLS5
22-07-2010, 06:52 AM
There is unlikely to be any major advance on RADIAL™ - do you know why?

Answers:
1) lightest of material possibilities, since light cones = efficient loudspeakers; and
2) damping properties; and
3) excellent purity of tone = low coloration.

Something that cannot be duplicated by others and it was the best possible material for speaker cones that today's engineering capable of?

(This post suppose to be merged with the earlier one. I forgot to include it earlier)

A.S.
22-07-2010, 09:26 AM
As someone who was involved in one of the above-mentioned "debates"...I have given this a lot of thought since ... Although I initially thought that Harbeth overreacted in responding on some issues, I have come to be more sympathetic to its position. Harbeth may make the world's best loudspeaker, but that doesn't make it invulnerable. In a competitive marketplace, no one is invulnerable. Therefore, it seems to me that it's not wrong to ask members of the HUG to give thought to the fact that their words are being published, and to remind them that as fans of the brand, they surely do not want to be posting messages that could be used against Harbeth....That's about it in a nutshell. I think that you've been able to fall into line with our position now that, as you say, you've been able to see it from both sides.

I must say that I am very reluctant to discuss business strategy here, in public. But I've been forced to do so because it is the only way to (hopefully) conclude the debate about what can and cannot be said here in this manufacturer's forum. I could just instruct Moderation to edit or delete all and every subject that comes within a general orbit of 'commercially sensitive' or 'commercially damaging' information. I think that most forum owners would do just that without discussion. So HUG members are fortunate that we (that is, me) feel a sense of duty to at least try and explain why there have to be limits. But it is becoming a little tiresome to have to repeat the same explanation over; I am running a business not running a business-management course. It beggars belief that I have to explain, repeatedly, what is not acceptable in this manufacturer's own and run forum. So, can my following comments please be the last words on this subject?

Stated (again) in a slightly different way:

There are only two reasons for the HUG, a manufacturer's forum, an extension of Harbeth's Public Relations arm, owned by, run by, moderated by and paid for by Harbeth Audio Ltd. (the manufacturing company) to exist. There are no other reasons than these:

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1. To create a knowledge archive about Harbeth products, their design, application and use that will be of interest to the wide audience today and archived for the next generation of users after we're pushing up the daisies.... AND

2. To sell ever more Harbeth brand products today, tomorrow and every day.

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That's it. Two reasons. This forum is not some sort of ego trip - if we don't sell more, then clearly there is no point wasting time running a HUG because if today's consumer is not interested in what we offer, then the next generation will be even less so. Is that clear enough?

So it's really very very simple to decide what can and cannot be posted here in this widely read public forum.



YES/NO CAN SAY/CANNOT SAY ACID TEST: Run through this test before posting
==================================================

A) FIRST HURDLE TO JUMP: Ask yourself if the posting adds usefully to the Harbeth knowledge archive, i.e. is not just waffle or chit-chat (as so many audio forums are); does it pass the 'archive-value' test as meat and not gristle and is it likely to be of interest to future generations of readers (but is usually permitted through Moderation though)

B) SECOND HURDLE TO JUMP: Ask yourself if the posting could in any way stiffen the competition by providing ammunition against the Harbeth brand, its products, people, facilities or operation. If so then it is not welcome in this the manufacturer's own forum. That is stupefyingly obvious.



I shouldn't need to amplify this - it's basic common sense and a courtesy to me and my staff. So that's the two reasons why this manufacturer's owned and run forum exists and two hurdles that every post must jump. That leaves a vast plethora of interesting subjects that can and have been and will continue to be available for discussion here and excludes strategic, commercially sensitive subjects.

P.S.
We are not stifling debate. We remain available to answer any reasonable questions from users trying to get the best from their Harbeths in perhaps sub-optimal conditions. And to handling warranty or other issues here in the HUG providing that the poster has first discussed the situation with his supplying dealer not deliberately bypassed him and posted here first.