Announcement

Collapse

INTRODUCTION - PLEASE READ FIRST TO UNDERSTAND THIS FORUM!

"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound from microphone to ear, achievable by recognising and controlling the numerous confounding variables that exist along the audio chain. The Harbeth designer's objective is to make loudspeakers that contribute little of themselves to the music passing through them.

Identifying system components for their sonic neutrality should logically proceed from the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance. Deviations from a flat frequency response at any point along the signal chain from microphone to ear is likely to give an audible sonic personality to the system at your ear; this includes the significant contribution of the listening room itself. To accurately reproduce the recorded sound as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would be best advised to select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

For example, the design of and interaction between the hifi amplifier and its speaker load can and will alter the sound balance of what you hear. This may or may not be what you wish to achieve, but any deviation from a flat response is a step away from a truly neutral system. HUG has extensively discussed amplifiers and the methods for seeking the most objectively neutral among a plethora of product choices.

HUG specialises in making complex technical matters simple to understand, getting at the repeatable facts in a post-truth environment where objectivity is increasingly ridiculed. With our heritage of natural sound and pragmatic design, HUG is not the best place to discuss non-Harbeth audio components selected, knowingly or not, to introduce a significantly personalised system sound. For that you should do your own research and above all, make the effort to visit an Authorised Dealer and listen to your music at your loudness on your loudspeakers through the various offerings there. There is really no on-line substitute for time invested in a dealer's showroom because 'tuning' your system to taste is such a highly personal matter. Our overall objective here is to empower readers to make the factually best procurement decisions in the interests of lifelike music at home.

Please consider carefully how much you should rely upon and be influenced by the subjective opinions of strangers. Their hearing acuity and taste will be different to yours, as will be their motives and budget, their listening distance, loudness and room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you. Always keep in mind that without basic test equipment, subjective opinions will reign unchallenged. With test equipment, universal facts and truths are exposed.

If some of the science behind faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over Harbeth speakers is your thing, this forum has been helping with that since 2006. If you just want to share your opinions and photos with others then the unrelated Harbeth Speakers Facebook page http://bit.ly/2FEgoAy may be for you. Either way, welcome to the world of Harbeth!"


Feb. 2018
See more
See less

Ahoy from the engine room!

Collapse
This topic is closed.
X
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Ahoy from the engine room!

    It's been suggested that a blog might clarify this brands core values, my values as the sole designer of Harbeth speakers for over thirty years. Hopefully it will condense hundreds or even thousands of posts that I've made into one stream of thought.

    So where to start?

    At the top of this page you'll read the following announcement:

    "The Harbeth User Group is a manufacturer's forum dedicated to quality audio. By the designer's definition, that means removing as many confounding variables between microphone and listener's ears as possible to present the signal recorded in the studio to the loudspeakers, as far as technology permits."
    "The design of and bi-directional interaction between the hifi amplifier and its speaker load can and will potentially alter the sound balance of the source recording. If the objective of your entire home hifi system is to accurately reproduce the recorded sound, as is the design objective with Harbeth speakers, then you would wish to select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound you hear.

    Our position is that the most effective way to short-list suitable equipment meeting the target of system neutrality must involve the interpretation of the technical, objective performance of such equipment. For example, a deviation from a measurably flat frequency response at any point along the serial chain from microphone to loudspeaker is highly likely to result in the system having an audible sonic personality as heard over the loudspeakers.

    HUG can help in the selection of electronics and accessories that is likely to maintain a faithful relationship between the recorded sound and the sound you hear. HUG cannot be expected to assist in the selection, approval, endorsement or even discussion of equipment that is designed to introduce a personalised sound to your audio system. For that you must do your own research and above all, make the effort to visit an Authorised Dealer and listen to your music at your loudness on your loudspeakers through the various electronics offered there.There is no on-line substitute for that time investment.

    If you have an objective of intentionally tuning your system sonics to your personal taste, please consider carefully how much you should rely upon the subjective opinions of strangers. Their hearing acuity and taste will be different to yours, as will be their motives and budget, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and user satisfaction for you.

    Alternatively, if faithfully reproducing the microphone signal over your speakers is your audio niirvana, then shortlisting equipment likely to fulfil that objective requirement is a logical process which this forum was created to assist you with."
    I don't think that I can much improve on that, or say it some succinctly. It seems to be a comprehensive overview of this brand's position, as seen from the designer's / stock holder's (my) perspective. First and foremost I am a businessman, and second a loudspeaker designer, in that order.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    Why HUG was created?

    Simple: over ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group was conceived as a marketing communication tool. HUG was designed to enable a small brand with limited resources to bypass (expensive and brand-committed) conventional media channels and talk directly to its consumers. It was not imagined that the retail/wholesale audio trade would take any interest in HUG as they'd be too busy selling to have time to spend on-line, and that has been proven (with very rare exceptions).

    HUG was not conceived to dispense audio advice on amplifiers, cables, stands, interconnects, room tuning devices or similar. However, sub-sections were created early-on in which these posts could be marshalled, should they ever arise.

    Are visitor statistics collected from those reading HUG? Yes, and analysed. The numbers are impressive, so much so that HUG has regularly exceeded data limits set by the hosting company, and has been relocated to bigger and faster servers to handle the traffic. The sheer size of the HUG data now is so big that moving to another back-end and restructuring the whole forum is unthinkable. We are stuck with the structure and content, good or bad.

    Had we known at the time of creation that HUG would grow like an octopus in many directions covering such a vast array of issues, we would have organised it differently, but 'we are where we are'.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

    Comment


    • #3
      Most read sections of HUG?

      That's very surprising to me. Figures show that the highest read-rate is for the discussion of audio amplifiers. If you'd have asked me when HUG was launched what subject would be the most read ten years on, I'd have answered 'room tuning' or 'technical discussions illuminating speaker design decisions'. They seem relevant to a loudspeaker manufacturer's forum.

      And indeed, there were early innovative (for the time) efforts made to present screen-cam videos of the design process. As time passed the reader numbers for non-core issues, such as amplifiers, swamped and dominated readership compared with 'hard' technical discussions about loudspeaker ins and outs. HUG has morphed far from its intended loudspeaker-room-music creators intentions to the point that managing and maintaining HUG has become the single biggest task in my working life, far more than actual speaker design, the bit that pays the bills. And that was not how it was designed to be.


      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

      Comment


      • #4
        Why the public fascination with home audio amplifiers?

        Honestly, I have no idea. I really don't. If, as stated in the Announcement at the top of this page, the one and only requirement for an audio amplifier is to take a small input signal and boost it many times to a level which will drive the loudspeakers (with adequately low hiss and distortion added), then the circuitry and components to make that possible have been around and in the public domain for at least forty years because the loudspeaker load has been unchanged for even longer. So the amp/speaker interface is a static designer target, and with a static target you would not expect or even need innovation.

        That doesn't answer the question, does it.

        So then you have to think about why there is an amplifier manufacturing industry, the fragmentation of that industry and about the media that surrounds - or rather 'supports' that industry. That's a big subject on its own, and I haven't the interest in repeating myself. Suffice to say that there is a symbiotic relationship between advertiser, reviewer and manufacturer. That's surely obvious. Media is itself a for-profit business, and their power (and income) comes from being the gatekeeper between industry and consumer. The most successful publishing groups like the What? group, precisely as their publications are titled, specialise in taking the tedious, confusing selection process off the consumer and exchanging that for simple binary solutions with star points, product of the year, best-buys and so on. That removes the consumer's need to undertake personal research and retail stores attest to the sales efficacy of those recommendations when the magazine hits the news stand.

        What's wrong with that then?

        Nothing. The consumer is not forced to purchase this months Star Product, and as quality audio has slipped from top of the disposable income aspiration tree to perhaps 200th, commoditisation of products, expectations and design has inevitably occurred. Has anyone died from buying the 'wrong' (however you define it) amplifier? No. Have they ruined their hearing? Unlikely. Could they have bought a more neutral, more reliable, cheaper (or even more expensive) amp with more features if they'd done a little more personal homework? Possibly. Probably. Do I care?

        Well, yes and no.

        In a consumer's democracy we are all free to buy what we like from cars to sunglasses to audio electronics and speakers. And that has to represent a better world order than the old days when the State Home Electronics Collective in east Europe ground-out hairdryers to radiograms using old technology and in two colours. So a multiplicity of suppliers must be a good thing for consumers in my belief, even in loudspeakers, where given the opportunity, under fair comparison, the best product should win the sale.

        But that's a simplistic view, and assumes that the 'best product' is obvious to the consumer. And that's where the problems really start for the buyer. By its nature, sound, like radioactivity, is invisible and impossible to properly evaluate without measuring equipment. And of course, the media, by nature of their one-size-fits-all approach intentionally reduces confusing choice to simple black or white selections, which by definition means that as hearing, exposure and preferences cannot be identical, a few consumers will be delighted, some fairly satisfied and other underwhelmed by their purchase.

        And that's how it's going to be unless consumers can be motivated to do some homework. And it must be expected that should they start investigating for themselves, they may well reach the opinion that for their particular requirements the optimum selection is the exact opposite of what they have been told is an all-star winner.

        So where does that place HUG in this situation then?
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

        Comment


        • #5
          As I said above, consumer choice has to be a good thing in all areas of life, including music and audio equipment. And we must also be realistic that examination of the nuances of audio equipment is going to be an activity few will have the tools, time and curiosity to undertake. No disagreement over that.

          But what if those who are empowered by the consumer to act for them in the scoring of fine audio equipment also do not have the proper, impartial, unbiased means through choice, time constraints, lack of technical awareness or test gear? That would inevitably mean then that what consumers read as objective, independent, impersonal reviews are in fact nothing more than a highly personal opinions. And as I said, one man's bias and preferences is unlikely to represent the whole readership, or buying public. So that's a dilemma.

          Again, who cares? Is it a matter of life and death? Obviously not. So what's the harm in it? That's a bigger issue....
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • #6
            I have an awareness out of practical experience of the difficulties faced by the most well intentioned audio critic. It is very, very difficult to assess and rank audio gear when emotions are not carefully accounted for in that grading process simply because they are a dominant influence. Or as we in manufacturing say, are a significant confounding variable.

            In other words, unaccounted-for emotion in the critical evaluation process is likely to result in bias in favour of like-minded consumers and against those with different needs, wants and expectations. And hard working designers and manufacturers too. Perhaps very unfairly.

            Now consider Prof. Jacob's observations about the deep rooted needs for humans to belong to a group. This coagulation of like-minded, like-motivated consumers is vital for the media, indeed advertising business, in fact, mass production and consumption to work.
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK

            Comment


            • #7
              We observe that there are subgroups within the quality audio system market, too numerous to list. Of these, I have observational experience of only two: a highly vocal 'block' for whom system personalisation, sound tuning and a restless tweaking provides deep personal satisfaction.

              Even though each member of this block is engaged with his audio hobby in a very different ways, they do share a predisposition to the sexy language of subjective HiFi. And that is why those individuals read what they want to read into subjective reviews. Everyone takes away something from such a write-ups, which is very efficient marketing.

              In addition, this block by accident or design coalesce with other 'seekers', and a cultural wisdom develops, reinforces, feeds back and is fuelled by media input. Again, nothing wrong with that. It's harmless. To a point.
              Alan A. Shaw
              Designer, owner
              Harbeth Audio UK

              Comment


              • #8
                The other 'block' I've observed and recognise is not even in a conventional sense a group at all. These individuals are exactly that. Individuals. They are quite unlikely to seek out endorsements from media, less so forums and strangers and are perfectly capable of taking on and working through the many decisions towards selection of a quality audio system in relative isolation. That system, once procured, is likely to serve for twenty years, unmolested.

                Interestingly, although they are a dispirit bunch, their no-nonsense system neutrality suggests that were they to swap systems, they could continue to enjoy their music because they aimed at the same system target: reproducing as faithfully as possible, technology permitting, the sound captured by the recording engineer. I don't hide the fact that I am firmly on the side of these users, as is the entire Harbeth design, manufacturing and marketing/communication process.

                Consider a different designer here at Harbeth, aligning himself more closely with those who express their sonic preferences through tweaking and tuning their audio system to taste. Would he, could he, this new designer, design Harbeth speakers that sound as mine do? Quite impossible. If neutrality is demoted from the premier design objective, then it is inevitable that the speakers would take-on a sonic personality reflecting the new designer's own sonic outlook. And in time, when I retire, that is practically inevitable.

                But for today, my target is neutrality and if, for example, an open minded engineer from another discipline, comfortable with combining magnets and plastics, wood and volts could be found, he need not have the slightest interest in music at all to be trainable as my replacement. He could, in an ideal situation, if he was really well briefed, even dispense with listening (almost) entirely. He could, theoretically, design objective neutrality into his loudspeakers by making technical measurements which took-on, in his head, the sonic reality that a musical score does to a musician.

                I have been building that knowledge model in software for some time in preparation of handing over a lifetime's knowledge to that individual because, if do-able, I'd like sonic neutrality to outlive me. First and foremost, if one is to combine tacit and explicit knowledge in any meaningful, useful way, there has to be an absolutely ruthless division between prevailing wisdom, tested and untested assumptions, facts, rumours and wishes. There must be no possibility whatever that a piece of folklore could sneak into the Knowledge Management System as a fact. The integrity of that electronic brain has to stand up to due diligence. It is ultimately my pension.
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                  ... First and foremost, if one is to combine tacit and explicit knowledge in any meaningful, useful way, there has to be an absolutely ruthless division between prevailing wisdom, tested and untested assumptions, facts, rumours and wishes. There must be no possibility whatever that a piece of folklore could sneak into the Knowledge Management System as a fact. The integrity of that electronic brain has to stand up to due diligence. It is ultimately my pension.
                  In an engineering sense, I don't find it difficult to segregate objective truth from the rest. The first step is to imagine that a first class observationalist of the stature of, say, Michael Faraday is peering over your shoulder. You get a sixth sense that by sloppy logic, tiredness, wishful thinking, haste or weakness of experimental procedure that you've drawn a conclusion which superficially looks satisfactory, but actually is faulty. There is no pride whatever in leaving unresolved holes in project work. There is no shame whatever in writing 'working assumption pending more investigation ....'.

                  I've found using MS Word document tools to write project and research reports to be unworkable as it lulls the writer into creating pretty, neatly laid-out documents that superficially look solid, but are actually full of intellectual holes. And patching those holes when they reveal themselves requires writing not appending new information - which WP documents are good at - but re-writing, fleshing-out and inserting significant chunks of new information nestled among the original, which they are not. Some projects - I recall the SHL5plus development log - felt like it was being written backwards, or at least, for every page appended the questions raised generated two or three pages of enplanned background research. Had one the intelligence, wisdom, skills or project management abilities one dreamed of, such a project would be mapped out in small steps on day one. Sadly, I find myself short on all counts.

                  So now we can pull together matters together.

                  The design of Harbeth speakers - my designs - aim at a target of neutrality. They'd be recognised as such by Dudley Harwood and his predecessors. They are significantly neutral because, and only because, they are the product of a division between fact and non-fact.

                  How does that approach fit in with the modern subjective-opinion-is-king world we live in, specifically in the audiophile arena? That's a really profound question, worth looking at.....
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Human sound detection is a process by which the modulation of atmospheric pressure around the ear drums is converted to an electrical serial data stream and interpreted in the brain. The ear/brain, being organic, suffers the usual ageing and exposure effects that our joints do. It is impossible to have the same acuity of hearing at 50 as at 20 years old, and at 70 as at 50. The degradation in sensitivity v. frequency is alarming (on paper) and it is dreaded by audio designers. Few have a strategy to cope with it. I do, and I've been working towards it for thirty years.

                    Audio designers, engineers and recording producers can extend their working life for decades beyond ordinary retirement. I'm planning to be one of those. But they have to become, as far as they are able, masters of interpretation of visual information, as generated by technical measurement systems and just as a maestro does the black dots on his manuscript. Those subtle wiggles on frequency response chart tell their own story. The serious audio designer can interpret and 'hear' the subjective sound resulting from variations in the pen trace plots generated by audio measuring equipment, overlaid onto music, in his head. So, for such a motivated audio professional, as his ears progressively degrade, his technical interpretational skills blossom to compensate, as we find with established conductors even well into old age.

                    We live in an environment where hard, factual objectivity is under threat. Opinion is overtaking fact, and returning to my opening comments on media, social media thrives on opinion. A whole array of subjective adjectives has been invented by folk opining about audio. Some, such as 'spitty' (used to describe a harshness in the upper registers of reproduced sound) appeared in the 1930 linked to a particular octave band by common observational consent. Modern technical equipment has been able to forensically analyse these artefacts, and audio engineers can reveal the facts behind what causes these problems. As the subjective reviewing of audio has all but replaced objective reviewing, an entirely non-standard lexicon of buzz words has been invented to describe audio sensations.

                    Unlike 'spitty' or 'barking', which can be reduced to a physical explanation, this audiophile lingua franca can mean whatever you want it to mean. It is not in any sense a substitute for the language that a 1930s listener would have used, nor does it necessarily correlate with the observations to be made of the visual curves produced by test equipment. It is a parallel universe of audio observation. Worse, being wholly subjective it is wholly personal. Five isolated audio critics, retailers and audiophiles are unlikely to arrive at the same subjective comments about an item of audio equipment. There is absolutely no guarantee of commonality of real (or imagined) sensation, not of the language used to describe those sensations. It is as challenging as describing a painting using your own made-up words. You might genuinely have had that sensory experience, but you are extremely restricted in your ability to convey it to others. As you are the concept of love or orgasm, or extreme fear or the pain of childbirth.
                    Alan A. Shaw
                    Designer, owner
                    Harbeth Audio UK

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      If I had a magic wand and was able to command the attention of everyone interested in audio in a public hall for just five minutes, how would I use that time constructively? You could use it for a presentation about Harbeth products, or to play an outstandingly well recorded piece of music. I'd use it to focus attention on the subject of the processes that take place in our ear (/brain) when sound waves enter the ear canal.

                      Actually, I wouldn't. I'm not really qualified to undertake such an analysis to that standard, and anyway, it's a bit tangential. What I would wish to convey is the influence that the loudness - another word for energy - of sound in various frequency bands has on our subjective perception.To set the scene, I might start with a recording of finger nails on a blackboard played at 5W, barely audible, and then at 100W over a bank of PA speakers. Same sonic spectrum, different loudness. Just imagine the reaction as the audience as-one covered their ears! That response is hard-coded into our DNA.

                      Once musical instrument makers developed instruments capable of loudness dynamics - such as the piano replacing the harpsichord - composers had a new brush to apply to their musical canvass. Not only could they define the notes, the beat, the phrasing, the melody and harmony but also the loudness, note by note, bar by bar. And many used this new loudness tool to stir the emotions. Just listen to the music of Shostakovich and Puccini and their use of loudness dynamics: it cannot fail to stir the emotions. Then I'd play The Rolling Stones at 5W and 5000W and watch the audience respond to the loudness increase.

                      Now consider the issue of loudness in audio reproduction. The fact that home audio power amplifier are available from a handful of watts to thousands is the manifestation of the different thrill factor listeners will seek from their music system. If we were to invite random members of the audience to listen with electrodes attached to their skull, we'd be able to see on-screen their brains light us with electrical activity in response to the effect of loudness and they could tell us about their emotional experience related to loudness. So the correlation of loudness and emotional is not in doubt. It is beyond debate.

                      Let's apply considerations of loudness to the auditioning of randomly selected audio equipment.
                      Alan A. Shaw
                      Designer, owner
                      Harbeth Audio UK

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Why wouldn't it?

                        We know from personal experience that the same music played loud on a hifi system illicits an emotional engagement that the same music played quietly doesn't. The same with powerful sports cars over economy cars. Were that not the case, powerful amplifiers and powerful cars would have no market.

                        So, is it not likely to be the case that were we to play the same audio system blindfolded at two different loudnesses that we could reasonably expect two different emotional responses from the listener? That must be true unless by some process the listener's brain applies different cognitive process when experiencing music live in the concert hall compared with hearing reproduced music. In which case, the entire concept of 'high fidelity sound', 'closest approach to the original sound' and so on would be baseless. Which it isn't: we know that given an adequately good audio system we can pleasantly deceive ourselves into re-experiencing the live sound.

                        It we accept that loudness is an essential factor in our cognitive process concerning the interpretation of sound pressure waves around our head, then it must follow that to fairly compare audio events (which could be recordings, performances or any element of the home audio signal chain, or the complete home system) we have to standardise the loudness. We could set it low, medium or high, but unless we set it we are going to struggle to detach our emotional response to the difference in loudness from the inherent objectives of whatever we are intent on comparing.

                        Isn't that indisputably obvious? And if not obvious, what is the counter-argument that is consistent with the facts which are beyond doubt: loudness (dynamics) add emotional colour and interest music.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Now we should consider public domain research material which has studied the matter of loudness. Audiology is a mature science, and unlike truly 'hard' science like structural dynamics or rocket design is accessible to all. It's based on generations of observation of human behaviour. Just what we need.

                          Audiologists and audio engineers are aware of the influence of loudness on human perception of sound. At the upper end of this range, considerations of public health and hearing damage have driven regulations concerning exposure and risk of hearing damage. At the bottom end of the loudness range the concept of audio resolution lives, as might be relevant to the design of audio compression systems.

                          The structure and function of the ear/brain is surprisingly consistent across the animal kingdom as is the structure of the eye. Scientists recently modelled the eye in a biological software simulator and were surprised that from a start with just one or two cells that were randomly a little more light sensitive than average, a basic, recognisible colour sensitive functioning eye only required 500,000 years or so of evolution. I believe that I read that the ear is the product of some 25 million years of development.

                          Interestingly, researchers also say that the first musical instrument appeared about 50,000 years ago. Let's apply that to a time-distance line to visualise it. If we say that the circumference of the earth represents the total development time of the ear, then the portion London > Zurich or Orkney > London (about one five hundredths of the circumference) represents that portion of the ear's evolution where music has been present. It is extremely unlikely then that the human ear has in that period been optimised by evolution for music. I think we can safely say that music, as an evolutionary imperative has had no impact on the development of the ear. Studying the ears of the frog, measuring the electrical signals between ear and brain, we can deduce much about the operation of our own ears non-destructively.

                          One obvious curiosity for early audiologists nearly one hundred years ago concerned the ear's sensitivity, both generally and across the human audio frequency range. It was quite easy to study in a living subject by inviting the listener to respond to the pitch and loudness of audio tones. And when the response ceased, such as at an extremely low loudness or high or low pitch, audiologists were able to determine the norms of hearing acuity across the entire population. And that helped in matters of public health, because individual deviations from well understood norms of hearing could be examined and perhaps treated.

                          Audiologists made two interesting discoveries. First: if evolution had made the ear just fractionally more sensitive on average, the random motion of air molecules battering on the ear drum would drown out useful sound. That predator creeping up on our ancestor wouldn't be heard, and hearing speech over and above the cacophony of sound would be impossible. So evolution gave us just enough auditory acuity on average, and no more.

                          Second: much research effort was expended to understand the minimum necessary change in the loudness of a stimulus for the subject to positively report a sensory change. This and other objective measures of sound were reported in units of (typically) decibels and frequency in Hertz (cycles per second, old units) giving audiologists and sound professionals everywhere an unambiguous common technical language.

                          Audiology is a great kitchen-table science. No smoking blue bottles of dangerous chemicals; no exotic equipment, and practically no danger to health. It must rank as one of the most accessible sciences, and there is a vast amount of published work and for someone like me, that advanced maths is not necessary opens the subject up.

                          Concerning 'minimum loudness change to illicit a response from a test subject', it was found that depended on several factors. A factory worker for example, used to a high level of ambient sound, might need a bigger boost in loudness than, say, a shepherd, to give a positive 'louder' signal to the observer. An old person need more than a youngster; a trained musician rather less loudness increment to register a perceptual difference. It was also noted that with repeated training, the acuity of observers generally increased, such that an ultimate acuity threshold was reached beyond which no further improvement was detected.

                          That ultimate detectability threshold, under best controlled conditions in a silent environment is thought to be about 0.2dB. In other words, a trained and motivated listener can, at best, detect and report a difference in loudness sensation in his/her brain when the test sound is raised or lowered by about 0.2dB. If it is adjusted by less than that, it will not result in a difference in sensation, and the listener will be oblivious to the objective change. If the loudness is adjusted to be more than about 0.2dB louder or quieter, then the trained listener would repeatedly and accurately detect the change in level.

                          This has massive ramifications for the reliable objective comparison of audio events or equipment. Clearly, if the very same audio event is replayed at a level 0.2dB or more louder or quieter, the listener will experience and report a different sensation as we would expect. If the listener is then asked to compare two dissimilar audio events or equipment playing unknowingly to him at a loudness difference outside the 0.2dB dead-zone, he will of course experience a different sensory experience. In the absence of dialogue with the observer, iI would be unsurprising if he did not then apply a qualitative difference to the sensation, ranking one as preferable to the other.
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Can we prove this to ourselves literally on the kitchen table? Again, audiology lends itself perfectly to simple experiments. We can. But we need to remove the sighted element from our experiments. That is absolutely critical.

                            More later.....
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The larger, established corporations in the audio industry are likely to use the same Computer Aided Design tools as any other modern manufacturing enterprise. Rarely in the modern world, unlike a century ago, do engineers personally identify and research market needs and wants themselves and then organise resources, including capital to bring those products to market. Tat engineer is the servant of the marketing department, and when that division of responsibilities is well organised and defined, small enterprises can become global behemoths. Think Apple.

                              Products created in reverse - that is, by engineers seeking a market post-creation - are unlikely to either fully embody ideal class-breaking features and functions (because proper market research was snot undertaken to determine what those needed to be), are consequently unlikely to be mass produced, are going to be more expensive feature-for-feature than they should be. Distribution and availability will be narrower. The product may only be of interest to outlets who specialise in unusual, quirky or atypically profitable offerings.

                              Once there, their marketability depends upon sales skills to marry the uniqueness of the product with a consumer who values relatively exclusive products that are positively not available in every high street. He is not buying technology or even adorable styling. He is buying relative uniqueness. Pride of ownership and the delicious thought that the product was personally manufactured by the gifted designer late into the night using parts sourced from obscure sources. (bet you've seen that in your mind's eye and it really appeals to you - ti does me to!). One audio designer recently claimed to have travelled deep into Malay jungle and persuaded mystics to reveal the secrets of tuned bells, which he'd incorporated in his phono cartridges. BTAYBA.

                              This target consumer has little or no interest whatever in making objective comparisons with other potential products, especially if that would mean comparison with mainstream products available in a conventional outlet. If you had the money to buy a Bentley and today, do you really think that you'd waste your time visiting a BMW or Mercedes showroom to undertake some sort of comparison? I don't think so. I wouldn't. At a certain socio-economic status, comparisons between goods and services become tedious, pointless, unnecessary. Availability and customisability are worth paying for.

                              The question I've mulled over for years here is 'who exactly is a Harbeth customer?' As a businessman, I should aim to understand my buyer as well as possible so that I can deliver what they expect, when they expect it and at a price they're willing to pay. But in truth, at best I have a vague notion as to a this vital buyer is. This is not ideal, because the less we know for sure, the more we have to guess. And if we guess, there is risk that what we interpret to be the habits, nature, income, taste and motivation of our imagined buyer will be significantly off the mark. A marketing-man's nightmare!

                              Some of these socio-economic elements we can take a reasonable stab at from observing visitors to trade shows. But as I learned very early on, it is easy to misread people. A visitor to one of the London Ramada shows (now that was a long time ago!) had the intimidating appearance of being an all-in cage fighter, scars bruises and all. He had the effect all of clearing the room. In conversation, in the empty room he explained to me with a cultured, soft voice that he'd been a Harbeth customer for years and looked forward to Mozart in the evening with a glass of Chateau Neuf. After the fight perhaps?

                              The significance of our vagueness about the profile of our customer feeds directly into the structure and content of HUG. I think you'll be seeing the problem. If HUG readers are by and large 'Bentley' status audio equipment buyers and as I suggest have no interest in objective comparisons under controlled conditions, then by HUG taking a significantly objective, rational position on audio comparison, it is 'preaching to the converted'. Or more accurately, evangelising to the disinterested.

                              But there again ....

                              An even bigger conundrum is 'why would someone with the money and motivation to buy exotic, cost no object audio equipment, buy Harbeth?' After all, my impression of the super-rich is that in their busy lives there isn't a lot of time for music, where ass there is time to impress. Ummmm.
                              Alan A. Shaw
                              Designer, owner
                              Harbeth Audio UK

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X