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HUG - here for all audio enthusiasts

The Harbeth User Group is the primary channel for public communication with Harbeth's HQ. If you have a 'scientific mind' and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - audio equipment decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual Science of Audio sub-forum area of HUG is your place. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and should be accessible to non-experts and able to be tried-out at home without deep technical knowledge. From a design perspective, today's award winning Harbeths could not have been designed any other way.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings area is you. If you are quite set in your subjectivity, then HUG is likely to be a bit too fact based for you, as many of the contributors have maximised their pleasure in home music reproduction by allowing their head to rule their heart. If upon examination we think that Posts are better suited to one sub-forum than than the other, they will be redirected during Moderation, which is applied throughout the site.

Questions and Posts about, for example, 'does amplifier A sounds better than amplifier B' or 'which speaker stands or cables are best' are suitable for the Subjective Soundings area only, although HUG is really not the best place to have these sort of purely subjective airings.

The Moderators' decision is final in all matters and Harbeth does not necessarily agree with the contents of any member contributions, especially in the Subjective Soundings area, and has no control over external content.

That's it! Enjoy!

{Updated Oct. 2017}
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The problems with society .... rhetoric

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  • The problems with society .... rhetoric

    With the mayhem that seems to have befallen so-called civilised man since the turn of the century (or that's how it seems), I often wish that I could escape from commerce and invest time and energy in academia. Specifically, I'd like to rationalise the forces we see now that seem bent on pulling society apart, for no obvious benefit to the ordinary family: I'd very much like to be able to anticipate how this period of history will be reported in, say, 50 years much as we look back on the 1960s now. Another time of social change, but with a nicer backdrop of peace and love (man).

    So struggling for a cohesive explanation of what I see around me, I reached out to the bedside radio this morning and to the Today program with its topical political coverage, and a couple of clips caught my attention in juxtaposition.

    Over the next weeks, the Cassini spacecraft will attempt to navigate the gap between Saturn and its rings - at 100,000km/hr! Read here. More here.The present position of the probe is here, and for posterity, I've taken a screen snap.

    As inured as we are with Hollywood space epics (of which 2001: A Space Odyssey remains in a class of its own) it's easy to dismiss these deep space missions as unrelated to our day to day lives, and the political machinations of Brexit, the upcoming election, the NHS, soaring household debt and so so. And in a micro sense, they are. But think about this a bit more deeply, observing as a passing Martian might, the range of simultaneous human behaviour witnessed this very day is extraordinarily diverse. From the brilliant scientists and engineers controlling the Cassini craft here to the simultaneous handiwork of fellow humans here.

    Shortly after the Cassini item on the Today program, there followed a discussion about credit, specifically what is termed 'household debt'. We were told that one of the core components of the 2008 banking crisis was rising levels of unsecured consumer debt. It is reported that the UK economy has been surprisingly robust in the last year or two, and that has been taken as evidence by those supporting Brexit that it will be business as usual in the high street, in or out of Europe.

    We were told today that unsecured credit card debt is rising at 10% per annum which is alarming experts. Wages are rising at only about 2-3%. It implies that the spending boom is being significantly financed on credit. This is surely another crisis in wait the experts say.

    Taking together the Cassini item and the financial one, and then the waffle of politicians that followed making their case for the NHS etc. etc., it occurs to me that the fundamental problem is that rhetoric - by which I mean in discourse and persuasion using words not numbers - is fundamentally the wrong tool for modern humans to use to grapple with socio-economic matters. The Cassini mission engineers are capable of navigating the course of the spacecraft hundreds of millions of miles away and wholly out of sight solely by the use of numbers. The facts about the economy, the choices of government in allocating resources are wholly numerical since they involve choices of money, which is itself a numerate matter. But we're not using objective numbers in these matters. Indeed consider how rarely politicians produce trend graphs - can you think of even one example?

    It looks to me that we cannot truly escape from ourselves and evolve as intelligent beings unless we can all act a bit more like NASA mission controllers able to grasp and manipulate facts about our economy, and armed with facts, collectively make the sort of tough decisions that are inescapable in a democracy. As long as fiscal matters remain reduced to simple sound-byte rhetoric, emotion and self-interest delivered in sweet-talk designed to appeal to man's primitive nature, we are doomed.

    One can see the great appeal of a centrally managed economy run objectively by numerate experts. From today, when I hear a politician using words to describe what is infact a numerate issue, I'm going to switch off and do some personal research.

    One begins to appreciate why the ancient Greeks found numbers so beautiful for the story that they tell. We'd be a far less stressed and progressive society if we were educated from our teens in the skills in reducing socio-economic matters, wherever possible, to numerical problems and then moving to rational debate about prioritisation which is inevitable when resources are rationed without all the emotional baggage.

    And this numeracy argument fully supports my view that the proper evaluation of audio equipment must revolve around measurement. When I see a frequency response curve of an expensive loudspeaker that has significant holes in it, yet the reviewer claims it a sonic miracle, that simply does not correlate. Far, far too many emotive words and not enough objective facts in audio reviewing IMHO.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    And let's applaud Jimmy Wales' new venture, Wikitribune "Evidenced based journalism" and hope that it fills the information void.

    What we need above all in every area of life, society and business are facts. Are our hospitals honestly falling apart? Why does society tolerate smoking and then foot the bill for remedial surgery? Are our school classrooms really overloaded? Do immigrants truly live on state handouts (or course not). What is the reality of being old and having to rely on state care? Are nurses underpaid? Do better-off individuals pay enough tax? (unlikely - I could and really should pay more but I'm reluctant to unless it's used efficiently). The list is endless.

    The video hits the nail on the head.

    Count me in. I've made a contribution. "Thanks for being our 5544th supporter!"

    Feels good to be part of a movement dedicated to objectivity. HiFi could take a leaf out of Wikitribune methinks for the benefit of the consumer.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    • #3
      A few days ago there was a great hour long interview on Dutch tv with CNN's Christiana Amanpour. Much of it was about the need for truth, and the central role of facts. I do fear that a few decades of post modern relativism have eroded the appeal of facts. The distinction between opinions and facts has become blurred.

      Admittedly, ascertaining what the facts are is not necessarily easy, but that is of a different kind from opinions on whether you like white cars or red cars.

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      • #4
        The astonishing achievement of Cassini can unfortunately be overridden with ease by certain politicians claiming that science is not to be trusted, that the space missions are either wasteful or even fake. That the support and recognition of such endeavours from an accumulation of millennia of scientific thoroughness can be dismissed at large by an ignorant section of the population encouraged by equally ignorant or disingenuous or downright wicked people in power makes me almost weep.

        The people who try to discredit science are the same people who would stumble on understanding the first sentence on the cover page of a scientific paper. It is a truly sad state when ignorance is given the same weighting as the monumental effort of productive reasoning.

        Getting to know my C7ES3

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        • #5
          Originally posted by acroyear View Post
          The astonishing achievement of Cassini can unfortunately be overridden with ease by certain politicians claiming that science is not to be trusted, that the space missions are either wasteful or even fake. That the support and recognition of such endeavours from an accumulation of millennia of scientific thoroughness can be dismissed at large by an ignorant section of the population encouraged by equally ignorant or disingenuous or downright wicked people in power makes me almost weep.

          The people who try to discredit science are the same people who would stumble on understanding the first sentence on the cover page of a scientific paper. It is a truly sad state when ignorance is given the same weighting as the monumental effort of productive reasoning.
          Yes, we do seem to be passing through oddly turbulent waters.

          On the one hand, we live (although the Brexiteers seem truly disinterested in this fact) in a world of hidden, non-obvious and tap-root deep interconnections and on the other, those interconnections are trivialised out of existence. Brexit is a classic example where the subject experts unambiguously warned of the superhuman challenges that lay ahead (far more complicated in fact than sending a probe to Saturn) yet the politicians and other non-experts brushed aside the inevitable difficulties.

          One of my chums in IT at a major bank, explained to me the processing route that a Visa transaction takes as you stand at the checkout in your local supermarket. I had no idea that it was international, and so fast that one shopper doesn't hold up the queue. Then we have mobile phones, the internet, 4k TVs, electric and now driverless cars, advanced largely composite airlines and all the rest of the gadgets of our lives. We live in a hugely interconnected, science based world.

          I was formerly in the semiconductor business (NEC, Japan) and not only is the design of ICs one of total science, it's a highly toxic process that requires exceptional attention to detail. But it must be that all of the brainpower that created those products and systems counts for nothing versus chit chat. The question should really be asked whether it is right and proper in a democracy for demonstrably non-experts to override experts. How can that be right? What is the logical consequence? Perhaps what we are seeing is the death throes of democracy as we have known it. Clearly this nonsense is unsustainable for the simple reason that government funds are always limited and there will never, ever be enough to go around.

          The difference is this. I'm not smart enough to make one single calculation of the minutest detail of the planed route for Cassini, but I recognise the exceptional complexity of the task and respect an expert when I see one.
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • #6
            This is an excerpt from an article that Alexi Sayle wrote in the New Statesmen a few years ago and, I think, sums up quite nicely the main issues we face as a human race:

            "What obsesses all industrial societies is ceaseless growth, making more and more things, building more and more buildings, eating more and more food. Without continuous expansion, all manufacturing economies will collapse. And in order to continue this expansion, people must be convinced that their happiness lies in buying new stuff. So what makes us human right now in the industrial economies is to be permanently dissatisfied, because, for our economies to grow, we must believe that it is not any of the things we own but the very next thing we buy, the very next holiday we take, that will finally push us over the top into serenity.

            Of course, as soon as we buy the thing or finish the holiday, that sense of dissatisfaction returns. The happiness doesn'’t last but what is continuous and increasing is the brutal excavation of the earth’'s finite resources.

            Millennia ago, in pre-agrarian societies, one day was much like another and people lived together in harmony with each other and with nature. There existed a primitive form of communism: since there were no surpluses, nobody could accumulate more possessions than anybody else. And without more possessions there was no incentive to grab more power; decisions were reached more or less by consensus.

            We are never going to get back to this Garden of Eden but surely it should be possible to live more in harmony with both our planet and our better, truer selves? The thousand-year experiment to see if happiness can be bought, if possession of more and more stuff can give life meaning, has failed. We need to realise that the best things in life are not things. Perhaps we need to look at and learn from the animal world: few animals living in freedom fail to reach their full potential. To quote D H Lawrence: “If men were as much men as lizards are lizards/they’d be worth looking at.”
            I would never support the idea that we should revert to a communist society I think there is merit in coming somewhere in between. It seems that very few of us take the time to just sit and "be".

            When I was a child weekends were either spent outside playing, visiting the park or a relative or taking a stroll through the country. Go to any city, out of town shopping centre, supermarket etc at the weekend and it is pretty obvious what people are interested in now.

            Incidentally, one reason for me buying my Harbeth speakers is that they are not traditional consumer speakers as Alan has pointed out before. They are built to last and will hopefully be still providing great sound for many, many years to come.

            Finally, I also thank my lucky stars that I live in the UK rather than a crackpot country like the USA where in a significant amount of schools are teaching "intelligent design" next to evolution. Or excluding evolution entirely. Frightening.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Robmoores1 View Post

              Finally, I also thank my lucky stars that I live in the UK rather than a crackpot country like the USA where in a significant amount of schools are teaching "intelligent design" next to evolution. Or excluding evolution entirely. Frightening.
              Creationism has been a little testing ground for and in part appears to have paved the way for the subjectivism we see today, using the noble ideas of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the common refrain from talking about 'controversial' subjects it has managed to insidiously sow the seeds for a distrust of science generally, especially amongst those who know pretty much zero on the subject.

              Edit: though 'controversial' seems to be used more to describe the instance when one side of a position is not supported by evidence or reason, the word controversial is thrown around as if it itself is an argument.
              Getting to know my C7ES3

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