"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 may be for you. Either way, welcome to the world of Harbeth!"

Feb. 2018
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Listening in an unfamiliar situation

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  • Listening in an unfamiliar situation

    I'd make the observation that listening to equipment at a dealership can be fraught. Like test driving a car, there is an artificiality in the situation which colours our experience, and makes us vulnerable to suggestion.

    The listening room used by the Hifi shops are often cluttered with other speakers, esoteric and likely non-neutral (expensive) chords are used, without us knowing if they have resistance circuits or some such built in, power conditioners constrain the current supply, or rooms are overdamped to the point of being dead to echoes, the rooms are smaller than our listening rooms, or much larger, and so forth.

    All of these factors can bias us towards brighter/duller, low powered/high powered amps, clipping (more incisive sounding initially), handicap lower powered amps or advantage amps with overspecified capacitors ( ie being fed a lower current than the designer intended).

    I suspect that one could devise a listening room which might exaggerate the advantage of expensive gear over cheaper gear - especially as the relationship between power and price seems to be exponential! I mean, cheap amps or budget amps tend to deliver 60 to 80 watts, moderate priced amps seem to deliver something under 100watts, and most units that deliver 100-150 watts go up a step, and beyond 150watts, prices tend to get silly.

    Is the price relationship a carefully cultured but fictional expectation? Does a $150 aluminium faceplate, an extra 5 cm in height, and some LEDs really justify the extra 2x premium? One has to wonder...

    I've had a frustrated dealer tell me that my problem was that my Shl's were the problem. Too hard to drive. Too hard to "match" with amplifiers, and to consider speakers which were more "adaptable", which I took to mean one of their speakers. Not too controversial, I suppose, as Harbeths are not currently distributed in Australia.
    The same dealer managed to suggest they tried to negotiate a reduction in RRP of 35% would allow a certain amp to "walk out of the door" (at $8000)....but that they could only secure an assurance down to $10000, from $12000... So just what is the price elasticity of the product??!

  • #2
    We had this discussion here in Greece, recently. It is sad to inform our worldwide HUG that most (more than 90%) of the dealers in my country avoid or deny bringing Hi-Fi equipment at home for demos in the real environment of the potential buyer...
    I just can't understand why, amidst an international financial crisis with sinking sales for the majority of consumer electronics, this stupidity grows instead of being replaced by increasing willingness to fully cover the buyer's needs.
    One has to be very narrow minded to think only about his profit margin, instead of adding a probably permanent and dedicated client/supporter to his clientele.
    And I feel very happy to have a first class professional like Mr. Alan Shaw behind my SHL5s... For very obvious reasons!


    • #3
      Home Trials are Essential

      My principal these days (since I've been buying higher end gear) is that home trials are essential.

      My current set of equipment which was bought over the last ten years or so comes either from on-line stores, direct from the makers, or via a dealer who works from his home. All was selected because of home trials and the selection process began either from recommendations and/or on-line research.

      Any decent on-line dealer will allow a home trial (paying money up front of course).

      With a small scale dealer you obviously have to develop a rapport with him, to trust him. The choice of equipment is limited to dealerships he can get but also, if he's an honourable man, stuff he believes in. I went to his house to discuss my requirements and listen to some equipment. Selecting a few pieces we then go to my home and try them out. If one seems worthy he leaves it with me for a couple of weeks to get the feel of it.

      I'm very satisfied with both methods.

      I leave behind questions of discounts etc. for dealers like mine.