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HUG - here for all audio enthusiasts

Since its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition has been to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless. Knowledge is human independent and replicatable. However, we live in new world where thanks to social media, 'facts' have become flexible and personal. HUG operates in that real world.

HUG has two approaches to contributor's Posts. If you have, like us, a scientific mind and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual area of HUG is for you. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and can be easily understood and tried with negligible technical knowledge.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings sub-forum is you. 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.

The Moderators' decision is final in all matters regarding what appears here. That said, very few Posts are rejected. HUG Moderation individually spell and layout checks Posts for clarity but due to the workload, Posts in the Subjective Soundings area, from Oct. 2016 will not be. We regret that but we are unable to accept Posts that present what we consider to be free advertising for products that Harbeth does not make.

That's it! Enjoy!

{Updated Nov. 2016A}
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We may need MRI scan after all - audio nervosa

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  • #31
    I stand corrected Alan.Thanks for your measured response.

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    • #32
      Harbeth users - a contented bunch

      No problem. Glad I could clear up the misunderstanding. My gripe is merely one of the consumer dropping his guard and then bitterly regretting making the wrong purchase - for his needs. One really can't blame the producer/seller for that; the consumer was not frogmarched into the dealers and forced to hand over his money. So he must take personal responsibility for his incorrect actions - he is more culpable in fact than the producer/seller.

      As a contributor noted, problems start for the consumer when he feels under time pressure to make a quick purchasing decision. If funds are unlimited then a wrong decision really isn't a big issue. But for ordinary people (like me) if I invest in the wrong equipment (car, computer, camera etc.) then I may not have the funds to replace it, and must live with the consequences and frustration. A good dealer understands that purchasing audio equipment is a big decision, and that much long term satisfaction derives from the correct - or should I say appropriate - marriage between the user's needs and the equipment. He will not hassle or hurry the customer, certainly not into a short-term invariably wrong decision.

      I believe one factor that Harbeth users are such a contented bunch is that they've taken the time to do their research, and find an empathy between the brand's philosophy, the product performance and their needs.
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

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      • #33
        Originally posted by yeecn View Post
        Here is an hard to find animation of human brain response to music...
        It will be interesting to do one MEG scan while listening to Harbeth and another one listening to other speakers. :-)

        Sebastien

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        • #34
          Music design to soothe whist being MRI tested etc. here (sample can be played by selecting high or low quality in left side app box).
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • #35
            Originally posted by Gan CK View Post
            With all these talk about audiophile deception, the big audio scam, audiophilia nervosa & what not, i just can't help but feel that if one is so polarised to these extremes, then one shouldn't even be listening to Harbeth loudspeakers, much less be in this forum & supporting the Harbeth integrated amplifier. Does it even make sense at all? Pardon me for saying this but I think its getting very contradictory here.
            I couldnt agree with you more and since having read this thread from day 1, I ask myself why are there so many speakers in the Harbeth stable. Surely if enjoying music is the ultimate goal, then there is no need for such a range or for that matter why even a Harbeth speaker.

            Mention is made of cults and really from where I sit, Harbeth users run the risk of being labelled (if they arent already) a cult within cult, when there is talk of "we listen to a wash of sound", " we love our beloved Harbeths", "we love our music (seems to suggest others dont) etc. I am sorry but my wife a beloved? YES! a speaker? in that context I agree whole heartedly it must be a neurosis.

            Yes we can go on debating this topic and there are truths and fallacies at both extremes. I for one fall in that camp where I believe there are differences in the sound amps produce. I dont subscribe to the view that expensive equipment is necessary towards enjoying music but I have no qualms in buying one if it suits my purposes. My ears and my money.

            And yes....I have fallen prey to some unscrupulous hifi dealers before.

            As Mr. Yee lives in my part of the world I extend an offer to him to pop by to listen to two different amps , one a solid state and the other a tube amp running with 6L6GC tubes. I have lived with these two amps for a considerable while, no longer a matter of being seduced, the honeymoon long over!!!

            I will keep it simple. Just two music tracks featuring french horns, double bass and another with a drum kit, cymbals, high hats, kick drums. Just tones and the speed at which the drums are played. If at the end of it, a difference cant be heard, then I must wonder whether it is a matter of a ear test or MRI.

            As someone said recently in a response " and they thought the world was flat until Copernicus".

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            • #36
              I recall reading Sam Tellig's comment that there exists a special bond between a Harbeth user & the Harbeth owned. Now that's really a very fine line threading between developing a bond & becoming a cult.

              Personally, i do agree with Sam's statement about the bondage thingy because i have also developed this bondage with my SHL-5. Even more so after i think i've found the ideal amp to drive em. And that is after having tried a number of different amps with the excellent SHL-5. )

              I strongly urge Yeecn to take up Kathylim's friendly invitation to listen to his 2 different amps & see where the difference between the 2 amps lie. Just keep an open mind prior to the visitation.

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              • #37
                When is a cult just (over) enthusiasm?

                I think that there is a world of difference between a warm empathy with (or for) a brand or product and a cult. Obviously it is a good thing if consumers appreciate what we do and want to be part of that movement. But I don't think cult status is healthy or desirable. Remember - the overwhelming majority of members here are silent - reading, ruminating and absorbing what a handful of us write. Our top priority surely must be to open the doors to more ordinary user's opinions. In other words, to strive not to be a cult.

                No matter how enthusiastic we become, if we don't approximately represent the views of the normal silent majority we will be talking to ourselves. That's the downside of taking extreme positions, and very bad for long term business.
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

                Comment


                • #38
                  Originally posted by Kathylim View Post
                  As Mr. Yee lives in my part of the world I extend an offer to him to pop by to listen to two different amps , one a solid state and the other a tube amp running with 6L6GC tubes. I have lived with these two amps for a considerable while, no longer a matter of being seduced, the honeymoon long over!!! I will keep it simple. Just two music tracks featuring french horns, double bass and another with a drum kit, cymbals, high hats, kick drums. Just tones and the speed at which the drums are played. If at the end of it, a difference cant be heard, then I must wonder whether it is a matter of a ear test or MRI.
                  I do have a keen interest in doing an ABX test under a controlled environment, with proper ABX box and sound level matching etc. I have in fact spent hours doing sound comparison on my own - with or without voltage stabilizer, with/without DAC, DAC1 vs DAC2, Dolby Digital vs DTS vs PCM etc. The result has always been inconclusive. It is always the matter of now I think I hear it now I don't. After many frustrating hours I turned my attention to the investigation of the physiology of hearing, and found some interesting facts. Firstly there is a buffer area that receives raw sound. It is called the echoic memory. Form there the sound was interpreted into speech, tunes, pitch and other information like approaching footsteps.

                  Now the echoic memory only has a retention span of 2-5 seconds. That means that by the time I get up and change the cables etc, whatever sound from the previous configuration is long gone. What I am left are secondary information like tune - which is already too far remote to make any meaningful comparison. Maybe some people will have longer span of the echoic memory, but I have not seen any documented cases yet. I believe that the echoic memory has to be short, just long enough to extract whatever useful information - "Take the garbage out", the French horn playing a beautiful melody, the baby is crying in distress, footsteps approaching in the dark - and fade away as fast as possible so that it will not interfere with the next stimulus.

                  It is the same with visual memory. Most of us only retains the relevant happening within our field of vision, and ignores all the rest. There are people who demonstrate photographic memory. One case I seen can take a helicopter flight over London and draw a bird eye view of London with photographic details. That person handicapped severely in other aspects of life. He could not tie his shoelace for example. These people are commonly referred to as the idiot savant.

                  So to do a meaningful comparison rapid switching is a must. I have seen many references stating rapid switching as being the golden standard for sound comparison. I think it is referring to the rapid decay nature of the echoic memory.

                  Then I will have to let go of my usually interpretive processes. I have to stop listening the sound as music, speech or the clang of a cymbal. I am not sure I am able to set aside conditioning that has been active for 50 years. Even if I can do that - what do I listen to?

                  I read an interview of Alan where he said something like: "Close your eyes - and listen to the sound around you. Can you hear how distant they are?" I was startled by that statement. I NEVER listen to sounds that way. It has no survival value for me to listen to sound that way, and I was never taught to listen that way. How many more ways do I NOT know how to listen to? I have came to the conclusion I cannot do a proper sound comparison. I am simply not trained for it. There is no way for me to make a meaningful judgment as to how one sound is 'better' than an other.

                  I do make judgment on sound. I do judge that Harbeth is better than any other speakers I ever owned. My judgment is base on the following: 1) I can hear all the tunes. 2) The instruments sounds real and I can differentiate all the instruments with no efforts. 3) I can turn the volume up, or turn it down to the whispering level and I can still hear all the details. 4) I can listen to it for hours and hours and I don't get tired.

                  In short - my judgment is primarily based on the secondary effects how Harbeth facilitates my music enjoyment, not a direct judgment on the sound quality. I can make a general statement that Harbeth sound is natural. But what does 'natural' means? Harbeth sounded like there is a cello in the living room. But does it really sounds like the original cello in the recording studio?

                  I have download an ABX program in my computer. It will allow me to do some sound comparison, but it have have to be limited to comparing mp3 files compressed with different bit rates, comparing 16bits vs 15bits vs 14 bits encoding etc. But frankly after the many frustrating hours I am so sick of sound comparison that I won't have any inclination to fire up the program for some time to come. I am still interested in a properly setup ABX experiment. But my focus will be on investigating the cognitive process. I have very little interest on the equipments at present.

                  [Emphasis added by A.S. to this very interesting posting]

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    Originally posted by A.S. View Post

                    No matter how enthusiastic we become, if we don't approximately represent the views of the normal silent majority we will be talking to ourselves. That's the downside of taking extreme positions, and very bad for long term business.
                    I was recently able to visit my Harbeth dealer as I was interested in comparing my P3ESRs with the other models in the Harbeth range, something I'd not previously been able to do. A summary of my observations (which, obviously, others may disagree with - YMMV):
                    • Every Harbeth model is an enjoyable, natural-sounding, musical communicator. All bear a strong family resemblance in terms of sound. All make beautiful music.
                    • My preferences were basically commensurate with the size/price of the speaker: as they got larger and more expensive, I liked them proportionately more. The detail was always there, but the sense of ease and expressiveness basically increased with the size of the speaker (and the price, unfortunately). This was not necessarily what I expected.
                    • The newer models (P3ESR and Compact 7ES3) sounded just slightly more neutral than the older speakers (M30 and Super HL5). However, this, to me, didn't necessarily make them more enjoyable to listen to or more involving - just different. Again, contrary to my expectations.
                    • The M40.1 is just an awesome speaker. Pick an adjective: it does everything well. But what strikes me about it the most is its tremendously easeful, musical presentation - it just never sounds like it's working hard. It's both relaxing and involving. Well worth it if you have the funds.


                    For me, the second-place finisher to the M40.1 is the Super HL5. To me, they sound easeful, exuberant and enjoyable. I like my P3ESRs very much, but I find the "bigness" of the Super HL5's tone very seductive. I am currently mulling over whether finances permit the acquisition of a pair at this time. If I do get them, they may well be the speakers I'm buried with (or, alternatively, my heirs and successors end up inheriting).

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Echoic memory etc. continue on another thread ...

                      Originally posted by yeecn View Post
                      ...Now the echoic memory only has a retention span of 2-5 seconds. That means that by the time I get up and change the cables etc, whatever sound from the previous configuration is long gone ... So to do a meaningful comparison rapid switching is a must. I have seen many references stating rapid switching as being the golden standard for sound comparison...
                      Absolutely correct and I've been saying this for decades.

                      I'd like to continue this echoic memory/rapid switching comment on on another thread please. Yeecn, could you please re-state and condense your findings about echoic memory and create a new post please. Then we can explore this better. Please add a new post here.
                      Alan A. Shaw
                      Designer, owner
                      Harbeth Audio UK

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        Just read, MRI scan proves that we react to sound beyond our hearing threshold. That may explain the super tweeters and super sub woofers.

                        "University College London researchers observed the process using functional MRI brain scans of human test subjects who had been stressed by an unpleasantly loud noise that was combined with visual images. Even when a fearful stimulus was present only at the unconscious level, the threat signal triggered activity in the attention center of the cerebral cortex, where the fear response is then channeled to other parts of the brain that prepare the body in the classic flight or fight reaction."

                        Source here

                        ST

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          It now appears that brain reacts to sound beyond human hearing threshold. In 2000, T Oohashi in his paper - Inaudible High-Frequency Sounds Affect Brain Activity:Hypersonic Effect proved brain reacts to ultra high frequencies. Considering the above articles(read until Responding to noise we cannot hear, audiophiles may be actually perceiving something which ordinary double blind testing may not able to prove.

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                          • #43
                            What I was really hoping is that someone would help me resolve my dilemma about buying the Super HL5 - see post #39.

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
                              It now appears that brain reacts to sound beyond human hearing threshold. In 2000, T Oohashi in his paper - Inaudible High-Frequency Sounds Affect Brain Activity:Hypersonic Effect proved brain reacts to ultra high frequencies. Considering the above articles(read until Responding to noise we cannot hear, audiophiles may be actually perceiving something which ordinary double blind testing may not able to prove.
                              I read Oohashi paper with great interest. I have no doubt about his finding - and hope that one day we will experiments to demonstrate how human body would response to even higher supersonic vibrations.

                              Having said that - I do have a lot of doubts about the audiophile claims - for the simple reason that a CD player cannot produce anything higher than 20kHz. It is impossible by the law of physics.

                              The sampling rate of CD is 44kHz. The highest frequency it can encode is 22kHz. If you think of it - a 22kHz signal sampled at 44 kHz will have exactly two samples per cycle. It took the genius of Nyquist and Shannon to demonstrate that it was possible to construct a full sine wave out of two samples! So beyond 22kHz are pure noise - and very ugly high order harmonics for that matter. So all CD player has a high order low pass filter starts attenuating around 18-20kHz region and cuts off completely at 22kHz.

                              So unless an audiophile is listening to SACD - whatever claims he/she has of the super-tweeter is pure imagination.

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                Originally posted by yeecn View Post
                                So all CD player has a high order low pass filter starts attenuating around 18-20kHz region and cuts off completely at 22kHz
                                Strictly speaking there is no such thing as a filter that cuts off completely. And there is a trade off involved (as always) - higher order filters have more effect on the signal. So the designer must choose between a brickwall filter that pretty much eliminates the "ugly high order harmonics" but introduces its own problems, vs. a lower order filter that is more transparent but which may let through the noise which can provoke audible distress in the electronics and (I guess) speakers.

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