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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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Ultimate Integrated Amp For Compact 7ES-3 and SHL-5

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  • #16
    Re: Blind listening tests of speakers

    I've been harping on about the dangers of sighted (rather than blind, unsighted) listening test here for years. Nobody has taken me seriously, so it's good to have an ally! Just to restate the obvious: we are visual animals. Everyone knows that when a pretty girl enters the room, all heads turn towards her. That's how we are built - pretty things (people, houses, paintings, flowers, cars, jewellery, clothes, cameras, films...) appeal to us and the very same applies to the appraisal of hi-fi equipment. Once we've admired the beautiful milled aluminium panels, run our hands over the soft curves, been wowed by the gold connectors, our soul is as lost to the product as if that same girl had strolled across the room and whispered in our ear. It's all part of the human condition! But a Harbeth is really capital equipment, not throw away consumer goods. Different rules apply. The cosmetics are intentionally restrained, understated, conservative. We could easily repackage the products but that would move us out of our market niche and into unknown, dangerous and fiercely competitive territory.

    To answer your question about comparing speakers and how I work ... again, this has been covered in detail. I don't need to blindfold myself because I have two tried and tested techniques that achieve the same effect but without the inconvenience ...

    a) I don't look at the speakers when I listen - I look at a point on the floor half way between me and them*
    b) I do comparative listening tests, operating a foot switch to instantaneously change-over from speaker pair AA to pair BB (video on this will be uploaded soon)

    * If anyone has seen me cruising around hi-fi shows listening to speakers you will notice that I stand at the back of the room avoiding eye contact with the speakers (and the staff). Ideally, I enter the room without looking at the speakers and only when I have developed an opinion (after a minute or two) will I look-see. I really don't care how they look; nor do I want to reinforce any (inherent) preconception that I may have that a certain type, brand or model of speaker has a certain sound. You must eliminate the visuals when critically evaluating anything man made.

    As all marketing people know, consumers buy with their eyes. For Harbeth to have taken a position on this and to offer products which appeal initially to the ears is a very interesting, counter-intuitive, product-placement marketing strategy. One that marks us as mavericks.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

    Comment


    • #17
      Visual animals

      I totally agree with "we are visual animals", that are we! One reason that I insisted on Harbeth is their pretty appearance when I hate those modern fashion ones. I went to Plinius SA102 getting rid of Quad 909 because of its huge solid style, that make my eyes and heart comfortable thinking that such Heffalump must give my speakers plenteous food. I did not want to go to Electrocompaniet CDP is because its golden beard.

      About hotness of amplification: my Plinius SA102 could boil an egg within 5 minutes when he is at his A class mode. Very small Sugden a21a could do that too, probably within 6 minutes.

      Comment


      • #18
        Eyes open or shut?

        Here is a video on the main Harbeth website showing exactly how I listen. As I mentioned, I'm looking down at a point on the floor: I rarely look at the speakers themselves. That means I can concentrate my total attention on the sound without diverting attention to the visuals. As your optic nerve feeds electrical stimulus to your brain, this invokes complex mental processes within the brain to interpret those nerve impulses. In part, this involves sifting through your internal library of known visual images acquired since birth to try and identify what you are seeing and intially, to decide if it is a threat or not. That's the hand of evolution at work.

        So, as you look at a loudspeaker you just cannot avoid trawing through pleasant and unpleasant associations based upon your past experiences with the class of inanimate object* called loudspeaker which will greatly impinge upon your judgement. When politicians appear on TV its always a good idea to look away (or close your eyes) and concerntarte fully on their words, how they articulate themselves and then decide for yourself whether you believe them or not. Open you eyes, and you are subconsiously overwhelmed with your own latent preconceptions about the class of thing called politician - it's the same process evaluating loudspeakers.

        * Imagine for a moment that an opera is playing on your speakers. Your brain correctly identifies two loudspeakers from your visual input as non-threatening inanimate objects. This is very quickly decided - within a tiny fraction of a second, fast enough for the fight or flight response to project you away from the sound if it was in fact an animate predator. This is where the mental stress we call listening fatigue has its origins. Your look-up table of animate objects (subgroup people) includes a comprehensive description of how they look, how they move and how they sound. Your brain can accept that there is only a weak correlation between the speaker cabinet and the human body so that's tolerated, but what if the sound of these loudspeakers reproducing that voice does not correlate well with your preconceptions of how real people actually sound? That's when the subconscious gnaws away at you and no amount of self-conviction can overcome the underlying tension in your brain whispering "that just doesn't sound natural".

        P.S. Some 'hi-end' loudspeakers are styled to look like warriors. They are physically intimidating and in their height and proportions can look threatening. Again, this keeps the listener in state of some subconscious tension, which is not ideal for relaxing listening to music. A traditional box speaker like a Harbeth is self-evidently not threatening: it's proportions indicate that it is man made, it is no threat and the listener just gets on with enjoying what he hears - it's not going to bite him.
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

        Comment


        • #19
          Re: Eyes open or shut?

          Alan, are they M40s? If I have a proper room, I shall save all of my money to go to M40s!

          Comment


          • #20
            Re: Eyes open or shut?

            Originally posted by A.S. View Post
            Here is a video on the main Harbeth website showing exactly how I listen. As I mentioned, I'm looking down at a point on the floor: I rarely look at the speakers themselves. That means I can concentrate my total attention on the sound without diverting attention to the visuals. As your optic nerve feeds electrical stimulus to your brain, this invokes complex mental processes within the brain to interpret those nerve impulses. In part, this involves sifting through your internal library of known visual images acquired since birth to try and identify what you are seeing and intially, to decide if it is a threat or not. That's the hand of evolution at work.

            So, as you look at a loudspeaker you just cannot avoid trawing through pleasant and unpleasant associations based upon your past experiences with the class of inanimate object* called loudspeaker which will greatly impinge upon your judgement. When politicians appear on TV its always a good idea to look away (or close your eyes) and concerntarte fully on their words, how they articulate themselves and then decide for yourself whether you believe them or not. Open you eyes, and you are subconsiously overwhelmed with your own latent preconceptions about the class of thing called politician - it's the same process evaluating loudspeakers.

            * Imagine for a moment that an opera is playing on your speakers. Your brain correctly identifies two loudspeakers from your visual input as non-threatening inanimate objects. This is very quickly decided - within a tiny fraction of a second, fast enough for the fight or flight response to project you away from the sound if it was in fact an animate predator. This is where the mental stress we call listening fatigue has its origins. Your look-up table of animate objects (subgroup people) includes a comprehensive description of how they look, how they move and how they sound. Your brain can accept that there is only a weak correlation between the speaker cabinet and the human body so that's tolerated, but what if the sound of these loudspeakers reproducing that voice does not correlate well with your preconceptions of how real people actually sound? That's when the subconscious gnaws away at you and no amount of self-conviction can overcome the underlying tension in your brain whispering "that just doesn't sound natural".

            P.S. Some 'hi-end' loudspeakers are styled to look like warriors. They are physically intimidating and in their height and proportions can look threatening. Again, this keeps the listener in state of some subconscious tension, which is not ideal for relaxing listening to music. A traditional box speaker like a Harbeth is self-evidently not threatening: it's proportions indicate that it is man made, it is no threat and the listener just gets on with enjoying what he hears - it's not going to bite him.
            Wow, what a video...no matter what music was played, everything sounded so full yet transparent & lifelike. I was rather surprised that there was a segment where you actually played some chinese vocals by popular vocalist Cai Qin.

            Comment


            • #21
              Re: Video

              Great video Alan. I wonder what was the album tittle of that guitar/cello duet "Carmen" is? I like opera "Carmen".
              "Bath with Music"

              Comment


              • #22
                Re: Eyes open or shut?

                So, as you look at a loudspeaker you just cannot avoid trawing through pleasant and unpleasant associations based upon your past experiences with the class of inanimate object* called loudspeaker which will greatly impinge upon your judgement. When politicians appear on TV its always a good idea to look away (or close your eyes) and concerntarte fully on their words, how they articulate themselves and then decide for yourself whether you believe them or not. Open you eyes, and you are subconsiously overwhelmed with your own latent preconceptions about the class of thing called politician - it's the same process evaluating loudspeakers.

                This is a very good point but I think there is another, perhaps related element to the perception of hi-fi gear, and that's money. I remain amazed at some of the prices that some pieces of equipment command - never more so than in the realm of cables. It's sometimes very difficult to ignore the fact that product 'x' costs twice as much as product 'y' when evaluating their respective merits or otherwise. And this can become perilously difficult once something has been bought. You've read up an interconnect costing $200 - it got a great review in Audiophile Weekly, and costs a fair whack, so it's bound to improve your sound isn't it? You hook it up and sit back waiting to hear more/better sound.... and if you don't? Well, you sit there until you convince yourself that things have improved, because the alternative is to acknowledge that you've just wasted your money. I did this myself recently - went back and forth between a stock cable supplied with my cd player and one costing ?100, trying desperately to hear where my money had gone. After 2 hours I gave up - I just couldn't hear any discernible difference, and was fortunate to be able to take it back to the shop. But part of me had already 'bought into' the likelihood of hearing my system improved, and so it was by no means a straightforward decision. The same principle operates at the visual level, as these posts attest - if it looks like it should sound better, it probably will, right?

                Comment


                • #23
                  Re: Eyes open or shut?

                  Originally posted by Kevin M View Post
                  ... It's sometimes very difficult to ignore the fact that product 'x' costs twice as much as product 'y' when evaluating their respective merits or otherwise. ... I did this myself recently - went back and forth between a stock cable supplied with my cd player and one costing ?100, trying desperately to hear where my money had gone. After 2 hours I gave up - I just couldn't hear any discernible difference, and was fortunate to be able to take it back to the shop.
                  This is absolutely how I see it. Again, we can refer to behavioural science which has shaped so much of the way we interact with the world. You meet two girls. One is wearing old fashioned clothes. She is the embodiment of conservative values; safe, solid, traditional. The other girl is dressed with modern bright colours, shiny sparkly jewellery in golds and silvers; exciting. Now human nature being as it is, which one would 95% of men find attractive?

                  Hi-fi acquisition follows exactly the same rules as any other purchase: what looks good must be good and what's new must be better than what's old ... surely?
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Re: Ultimate Integrated Amp For Compact 7ES-3 and SHL-5

                    It is inevitable that beautiful people or things in all aspects of life will appeal to majority of people, hifi included although sound quality is predominantly the factor when it comes to choosing the right amplifier or speaker. To tell the truth, I chose the Plinius amp mainly for its looks as I really fell for the rugged build quality especially on the sharks fins at the edges. The excellent sound quality comes as a bonus -lucky for me!

                    That aside, there is no issue with which is better sounding between the Plinius and Sony amp that I own, blindfolded or not. Recently I ran the Plinius amp in Class A and it totally blew the Sony out of the water. No blindfolding required.

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Re: Eyes open or shut?

                      Choosing the wrong wife/husband/partner is all well and good, but we're talking about hi-fi here - this is actually serious! (And also 'for life' - with any luck!)

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Re: Eyes open or shut?

                        I'm being deadly serious. The way folk select hi-fi trinkets is driven by basic human motivations. The better you understand these core motivations, the more effective you are at marketing. Marketing people use all these tricks to motivate buyers. I've studied this at length.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Re: Eyes open or shut?

                          Oh, I know you're being serious - I wasn't however!

                          One of the worst systems I've ever heard looked lovely (for example) and cost well in excess of ?50k. I auditioned it partly because the company had previously made kit I really liked, partly becuase the reviewers loved it, (I know - silly of me!) and partly because it looked stunning...

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Re: Ultimate Integrated Amp For Compact 7ES-3 and SHL-5

                            Some weeks ago I had the chance to listen to the reference system of accuphase together
                            with B&W reference speakers. The look was impressing. About 10-15 components. Cables as thick as an arm. Selected "reference" recordings. Unfortunately I didn't like what I hear.

                            I went home and listend to my M40s for a while. That's all I need!

                            TW

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Re: Ultimate Integrated Amp For Compact 7ES-3 and SHL-5

                              Now I understand why Sam Tellig and current LFD owners have such high admiration for the LFD Zero MkIII. This unit is indeed very special, and I wouldn't have said this after listening to the unit in my system myself.

                              Upon first listening from cold, this LFD integrated totally blew both my NVA and Plinius/ARC separates into pieces. I was shocked and wasn't really prepared to hear what the LFD was capable of doing. The transparency and dynamics came alive in leaps and bounds and PRAT was top-notch –beats both NVA and Plinius flat to the ground. The midrange was clear as a bell and everything was very well defined with just the right amount of weight, not too thick or muddy like the Plinius or not too flat and lean like the NVA. Sound had attack and bite. Soundstaging, separation and imaging were first-rate as sizes and locations of the instruments across the soundstage were reproduced with aplomb. Highs were clean, smooth and extended without any glare or grain. Extension was superior to both NVA and Plinius. The bass was what impressed me the most -full, deep and taut with excellent speed and slam that made a whole lot of difference. The bass on the LFD made the NVA sounded like a broken record. All this while I had felt that the soft and plodding bass on the NVA was a problem and was worried the small LFD might exhibit the same. After listening to the LFD, the NVA is just not listenable anymore. The bass performance of the LFD already belied its dimensions as it even surpassed the artifical and bloated bass of the huge and heavy Plinius. It is amazing that the small and lightweight LFD can sound so convincing in the bass department. Vocals on the NVA were already superior to the Plinius with higher tonal accuracy but the LFD took this to even greater heights. Voices not only sounded more organic and real but possessed more energy and were fleshed out more prominently from the speakers. Music just came alive with the LFD.

                              There is nothing bad to say about the LFD. I am trying to find a weakness on the LFD but cannot seem to find any as everything just sounded very good right out of the box. I just enjoyed listening to everything that were thrown at it. Whether it's smooth jazz, instrumental, pop or rock the LFD takes all in its stride.

                              For anyone looking at a musical, transparent and dynamic amp with excellent PRAT, timbre and tonality, do give this LFD a serious consideration. I was very impressed with its performance. Highly recommended.

                              By the way, I have no affiliation with LFD or the dealer, just an enthusiastic end-user.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Luxman 505U - Ultimate integrated for SHL5?

                                Thought I would post an amplifier recommendation for other Harbeth users. I have had SHL5s for 6 months now and have just loved their natural music making - they have an ease in the way they portray acoustic music especially which is really captivating...

                                I was using a Quad 909 when the SHL5s arrived. It was a very good combination, but I found it lacking in boogie factor with rock and pop, which I listen to from time to time. I then had a LFD Zero LE III in my system for about a month. In almost every respect I felt it made better music than the Quad 909 - it has a lower noise floor, letting in more of the ambience and atmosphere of a track, as well as having more PRAT and punchier bass. What it doesn't have, IMHO, is the seductive warmth and fulness of the Quad midrange. I then happened, by chance, on the Luxman 505U. At ?2500 it is not cheap, but not much more than the LFD with phono or a Quad pre + power combination. What I have found, which is why I am keeping the Luxman, is that it has a Quad-like presentation in the midrange, ie quite smooth and full, but with greater transparency and dynamics, and a much weightier bass. Having had both the LFD and the Luxman in my system, side-by-side, for a few weeks, the Luxman gets the nod. The 909, the LE III and the 505U are all great amps. The LE III and the 505U are a step above and excel with all types of music, but for me the 505U gets the nod, not by much, but still the definite choice for me. Voices in particular are simply sublime with the Luxman + Harbeth combo I now have. Many here have rightly sung the LFD's praises. Wanted you to know of another great alternative!

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