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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.

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{Updated Nov. 2016A}
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Ultimate Integrated Amp For Compact 7ES-3 and SHL-5

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  • #46
    Re: Ultimate Integrated Amp For Compact 7ES-3 and SHL-5

    Hi Dave,

    I debated a long time before posting my thoughts on the LFD. I could have predicted the reaction. As a 35 year veteran of the audio industry, you would think by this time I would have learned to keep my big mouth shut. Apparently not !

    The LFD that I have is not the first I've owned, nor will it be the last. I said it last night and I'll say it again, it is one of the finest ,sweetest , musical amps ever period ! My opinion is that it really falls short in the bass department. My guess is that it has a smallish power supply. If it cost another 3 grand, Richard Bews could have put a crazy power supply in. Power supplies always cost a fortune.

    My CAT JL1's Limited edition amps/Ultimate preamp combo has amazing bass. The amps are fitted with KT-99's. WOW ! That is my reference. The Luxman shocked me as to how good the whole sonic picture is. While not an inexpensive amp, it is a fraction of the cost of the Cat equipment. I think it is a stunning value.

    Make no mistake, I love the LFD, but I would highly recommend comparing these two amps, specifically on the P3's. At that point, I think you will understand why I am making the statement that I am. Less tech speak: It will blow your mind !

    Peace,
    Lorpuris

    Comment


    • #47
      Remember! Harbeth speakers will work with any amp

      Just to make it clear again in case any new members get the wrong impression.....

      Whilst I welcome discussions about amplifiers, even 'ultimate amplifiers' I myself as a mere speaker designer know where the real issues fall in the reproduction chain - with the speakers.

      So, please be careful in promoting this amp or brand over that amp or brand. Any competent amplifier will make great music with Harbeth, if it is in-spec, serviced and working as intended. Even amps that are 30 years old will work just fine if properly serviced.

      Enjoy whatever you have to hand. I do not use and never will use a exotic amplifier.
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

      Comment


      • #48
        You don't need expensive amps ...

        Exactly so Alan, which is why I have been saying that you don't need an exotic or expensive amplifier to enjoy Harbeth speakers. Indeed, I have demonstrated Harbeth over the weekend using excellent amps way below ?2000, which is mid-priced nowadays.

        -------------------------------------

        Lorpuris,
        I would agree that LFD doesn't have seismic bass but it does have other attributes. Having said that, I haven't noticed any shortcomings against similarly priced competition and I actually sold a pair of P3ESR the other day using the LFD when the customer remarked about the quality and quantity of bass. He was sufficiently impressed to part with his cash.

        I know Luxman well, having owned and do still have some vintage Luxman. The main problem in GB is the horrendous prices. The problem being that it goes through the hands of a 'Worldwide distributor' who puts his markup on before passing it to the importer who does likewise and then on to the dealer. So what starts out life as good value product, ends up as high-end in GB. A great pity but this is the case with a lot of excellent Japanese equipment such as Accuphase and Koetsu.

        Comment


        • #49
          Re: You don't need expensive amps ...

          Although I'm not an audiophile (actually, I'm not any sort of 'phile) I'm well aware of the audiophiles need to tinker with amplifiers. As I take great care during the design to make sure that Harbeth speakers are an 'easy load' it opens up a vast panorama of potential amplifiers that audiophiles can experiment with.

          That's a good thing, but we must take extreme care not to frighten would-be buyers into thinking that after investing their money in new speakers, that they are then on a never-ending upgrade path of amplifiers, stands, cables etc. etc.. For me, frankly, it's about the music not the equipment.
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • #50
            Re: Ultimate Integrated Amp For Compact 7ES-3 and SHL-5

            Hi Alan, just out of interest, what counts as an 'exotic amplifier' in your mind?

            I want to take slight issue, if you don't mind Alan, with the idea that anyone might be 'promoting' one amplifier over another. I think there is real value in people just sharing their experiences, and that's one of the things I love about this forum. I am sure that most forum users here are like myself - music lovers who greatly appreciate our Harbeth speakers and what they can do, who have no vested interest at all in any particular amplifier brand. My experience has been that the Lux 505U with the Harbeth SHL5 has brought me a wonderful level of musical satisfaction, greater than the previous amps I have used. I enjoyed the SHL5s with the Quad 909. I now enjoy them even more. That's just my experience. I could be misguided... but I am enjoying my music

            I think there is a positive spin to put on this, which is that Harbeth speakers sound GREAT with basic amplifiers and EVEN BETTER with some other amplifiers. That surely is music to any potential customers' ears, because it actually underlines that Harbeth speakers are a long term investment.

            And just whilst I am being so bold as to take issue with something the designer has said (!), I would also question your view hifi_dave on current Lux pricing. Compared to another well-known Japanese brand on sale in the UK there is nothing like the same mark up!

            Comment


            • #51
              Exotic amplifiers and the Harbeth 'value proposition'

              An exotic amplifier, to me, would be one with a lot of marketing buzz about it. Just standing back and watching and listening to the process that audiophiles use to evaluate amplifiers - in particular - really worries me a lot. Fact - if I allowed myself to be emotionally tugged this way and that, you wouldn't be enjoying the Harbeths you are today. Because of my concerns about the evaluation process I think that it is misleading to give members the firm impression that buying this or than amp with transform their system beyond logical expectations. Under the cold cruel light of day changing the amp may (or may not) make a minute difference. In a consumer democracy only you can decide if that is a goal worth striving for or not.

              That's not my issue: my issue is giving the impression that a massive transformation can be achieved when, logically, the weakest link in the audio chain is the speakers. Most of our members are ordinary listeners not wealthy audiophiles with big budgets and Harbeth's 'value proposition' appeals to them, and to me. (Upgrading your speakers to Harbeths will make by far the biggest change in your set-up - beyond that point where to you go?)

              Your are absolutely correct that if a Harbeth works with a basic amplifier it will work even better with an exotic one. But not for the reasons that audiophiles believe.
              Alan A. Shaw
              Designer, owner
              Harbeth Audio UK

              Comment


              • #52
                Amplifiers .... simple is better?

                Being somebody who is just venturing into hi-fi, I have been doing quite a bit of research on some phenomena in the audiophile world that I find incomprehensible, amplifiers being one of them.

                The first puzzle is valve amplifier vs solid state amplifier. An expensive valve amplifier has a typical total harmonic distortion of over 1%, while even an entry level sold state amplifier has a THD of 0.05%. Now - how can something with 200 times more distortion sounds better - that is simply beyond me. I gathers that the high 2nd harmonics distortion of valve amplifiers does gives its a unique sound that some may find appealing, that is OK with me. A very expensive amplifier may boast a THD of 0.001%. But are we able to hear the differences between 0.001% vs 0.05% distortion through a very imperfect medium of speakers + room acoustics with a distortion of at least 100 times bigger? I seriously doubt so.

                I was introduced a voltage regulator for my Denon AV receiver recently. The AVR is spec for 220V - 240V, and I knew for certain that the power supply at my house can go up to 245V. So I thought the voltage regulator, which is set to 230V would at least make some differences. But after spending 1.5 hours switching back and forth, I concluded that if it made any differences at all, it is beyond my hearing capacity to detect.

                Anyway I was just reading with great interest the following article which someone posted in this forum: http://bruce.coppola.name/audio/Amp_Sound.pdf. I find the article quite illuminating. I wouldn't mind participating in experiments of such nature myself.

                I concur with Alan that the speakers is the weakest link in the whole chain of sound reproduction. I had the chance to do a AB comparison between my new Harbeth C7ES3 with the old speakers 3 weeks ago, and the differences was quite dramatic. I was seriously thinking of upgrading to a 'proper' amplifier setup a while back, but after 3 weeks of enjoying good music and good sounds with my humble Denon 1909AVR, the urge is fading fast. If anything at all the room acoustics can do with a lot of improvements, but that is not a simple matter for a family living room.

                Most music that I enjoyed are not audiophile recordings anyway, and some were recorded in the 1960's. The less than perfect sound system and recording does not impede my enjoyment of great musics and performances in anyway whatsoever.

                Comment


                • #53
                  Re: Amplifiers .... simple is better?

                  Originally posted by yeecn View Post
                  ... Anyway I was just reading with great interest the following article which someone posted in this forum: http://bruce.coppola.name/audio/Amp_Sound.pdf. I find the article quite illuminating. I wouldn't mind participating in experiments of such nature myself...
                  Now, that is a fascinating report and the comments on page 5 are exactly what I would expect.

                  Again, what worries me when I read rave 'reviews' of amplifiers is the emotional hyperbole that the observer dresses his comments in. There is a great need in human relationships and language to express not only that we prefer X over Y but that we deeply prefer A,or we adore B, or C blew my mind or D was stunning, or E was a huge improvement etc. etc. etc.. Does that sort of language sit comfortably with a more rational line which is that, at best, the differences between dumb amplifiers which have a very simple role to play in the reproduction chain (read the report above) are extremely small under controlled conditions.

                  I liken this to SLR cameras. I'm just a happy-snapper who wants a natural looking image. I know well that the most important part of the photographic game is illumination, lighting. And that's the one I have the least control over. So, whilst theoretically a Canon lens may under lab conditions be fractionally sharper than a Nikon (or vice versa) in my hands, it wouldn't make a scrap of difference which one I had: I'd be limited by other factors such as lighting, composition, subject matter.

                  So, if 1950s jazz was my thing, recorded on analogue equipment that was dumped in land-fill thirty years ago, then I too find it incredible that spending out money on exotic electronics would be a worthwhile pursuit. I'd be totally limited by the resolution of the recordings, the way the performers were sonically illuminated. Of course, as I've said before, it's a buyers democracy - if you have the money and want to a little flutter that's fine, but please let's be realistic about that the investment will yield in additional musicality for the rest of us mere mortals.

                  We promote the excellent value proposition of Harbeth speakers, and exercise constant efforts to minimise the selling prices by cost control. I believe that the lower the prices, the more we sell and the happier you are. The consumer must not be led to believe that any money he has saved on buying Harbeths must then be spent on upgrading his electronics. That's called a false aspiration gap between what performance he's got and what system performance he's told he could experience by spending more on equipment. I'm strongly opposed to planting that idea in the buyer's mind. It's my job to design these speakers with the highest possible performance, regardless of how difficult that is or how long it takes. It's not a realistic expectation that an electronics engineer who knows nothing about the (ghastly) world of speaker design could take my work and then, magically and mystically, extract performance that I couldn't. Speakers and microphones are the dominant component in the sound of the system and they are both mechanical devices which is why there are so many variations and alternative design strategies.

                  Whatever amp you've got will work just fine, providing it was competently designed and is in spec.. If it's some years old, then we recommend that it is competently serviced and old capacitors are replaced. Old caps. dry out, their capacity declines and this changes the bass quality of the amp: a real physical phenomena with an entirely predictable sonic consequence.
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK

                  Comment


                  • #54
                    Re: Amplifiers .... simple is better?

                    Originally posted by yeecn View Post

                    The first puzzle is valve amplifier vs solid state amplifier. An expensive valve amplifier has a typical total harmonic distortion of over 1%, while even an entry level sold state amplifier has a THD of 0.05%. Now - how can something with 200 times more distortion sounds better - that is simply beyond me. I gathers that the high 2nd harmonics distortion of valve amplifiers does gives its a unique sound that some may find appealing, that is OK with me. A very expensive amplifier may boast a THD of 0.001%. But are we able to hear the differences between 0.001% vs 0.05% distortion through a very imperfect medium of speakers + room acoustics with a distortion of at least 100 times bigger? I seriously doubt so.
                    Hi Yeecn,
                    try to figure out also the TIM figures of a solid state amplifier, its influencing considerably the sound of solid state amps.

                    Best regards

                    Comment


                    • #55
                      Re: Amplifiers .... TIM?

                      Originally posted by Vlado View Post
                      ...try to figure out also the TIM figures of a solid state amplifier...
                      Do you mean Transient InterModulation Distortion within the amplifier? How many percent do you suppose this could be for a typical amplifier?
                      Alan A. Shaw
                      Designer, owner
                      Harbeth Audio UK

                      Comment


                      • #56
                        Re: Amplifiers .... TIM?

                        Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                        Do you mean Transient InterModulation Distortion within the amplifier? How many percent do you suppose this could be for a typical amplifier?
                        Hi Alan, I mean exactly this. I don't find any free scientific explanation on the net, even Wikipedia is short on this. Anyway, the TIM was initially described by Matti Otala in early 70' and the first amplifier based on TIM measurement was build by Per Abrahamsen and ? Lohstro under the name Otala - Lohstro amplifier. There are some white papers describing the TIM measurement and listening test on Audio Engineering Society net, but only on payment access; the latest is a simplified measurement method of Otala standard:

                        A New Approach to Transient Intermodulation (TIM) Distortion Measurements
                        http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=12003

                        I think I understand your question. The TIM figures lies far below the distortion of a loudspeaker, but independently on speaker distortion figures, the TIM figures of an amplifier are changing the character of the sound. Higher TIM figures, the sound is edger and harsher.

                        Kindly

                        V.

                        P.S. Yeecn:
                        ...I gathers that the high 2nd harmonics distortion of valve amplifiers does gives its a unique sound....

                        It is the total spectrum of harmonics which is making sound so specific and those harmonics are odd at valve amplifiers, not even.

                        Comment


                        • #57
                          Re: Amplifiers .... TIM, just another tool.

                          Yes, you read my mind - I was curious about how TIM distortion could be identified by ear.

                          In my opinion, Transient InterModulation Distortion (which has been know about for around fifty years) is just another in a depressingly long line of measurement observations desperate to find a correlation with what we hear. That would allow the folks who write these erudite papers to claim that they had, finally, discovered what subtle, difficult to measure characteristic of audio equipment resulted in a certain type of sound quality - for example - "grittiness".

                          Fifty + years on and I can assure you that TIM is just one of a whole array of measurements that individually tell you little or nothing about subjective quality. For that reason, the audio magazines, rightly or wrongly, moved away from objective (measurements) to subjective (listening only) appraisal. The objectivist magazines were producing more or less the same graphs month after month yet still claiming significant audible differences between equipment, even equipment (amplifiers) with basically identical measurements.

                          We must take extreme care not to create mental associations between negligible and difficult to measure distortions and perceived sonic differences. It really isn't that simple.

                          As a matter of interest, what level of distortion do you think a trained listener under optimum conditions could detect? 10%, 1%, 0.1%, 0.001% ? I'm interested to know what you think. Remember: you can only hear amplifier distortion when you listen to the amp driving a loudspeaker. You can never hear the amp itself: you need a loudspeaker to generate the sound waves.
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK

                          Comment


                          • #58
                            Re: Amplifiers .... TIM, just another tool.

                            Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                            Yes, you read my mind - I was curious about how TIM distortion could be identified by ear.
                            Hello Alan,
                            I fully agree on what you state above. Regarding your question, I have no clue! By my opinion it?s not possible to discern types of distortions. Also I think that does not exist a threshold from where is possible to hear the distortions. The distortions could be remarked at vocals and speech more easily as on instrumental music.
                            On some kind of music is even impossible to observe distortions. Think Jimmy Hendrix guitar! ..............

                            As we previously discus some other items which influence the sound, eg. damping factor , I think that there are so many variables and the measurements with test signals do not comply (exactly - more ore less - what correlation is there? ) with music.

                            Kindly
                            Vlado

                            Comment


                            • #59
                              Re: Amplifiers .... distortion thresholds

                              Originally posted by Vlado View Post
                              ... Regarding your question, I have no clue! By my opinion it?s not possible to discern types of distortions. Also I think that does not exist a threshold from where is possible to hear the distortions...
                              Actually, much research has been done on the audibility of distortion and there are very clear, unambiguous conclusions about human ability to detect distortion.

                              The first research was carried out in the early days of broadcasting. Broadcasters needed to know how much distortion was allowable in the complex distribution network from microphone, studio equipment, distribution cables to transmitters, transmitters, home receivers and finally home loudspeakers. That's a tremendously long "signal processing" chain involving literally hundreds of miles of unshielded cables, hundreds of tubes (then), countless connections, switches etc.. So the perfectly reasonable assumption was made by the broadcasters that every 'component' had a potential influence on distortion and/or frequency response and/or noise. They were not aiming for high fidelity, their target was to define a threshold for distortion which was not detectable by trained ear, and spending any more money to drive down distortion below that just-perceptible level would be a waste of money.

                              Actually, that's good engineering practice. It is a waste of money, time and natural resources to engineer a product which is needlessly complex, uses more parts than necessary, is heavier than necessary, consumes more power than necessary, is bigger than necessary, is laden with unwanted features and strives for a needlessly high specification far beyond its practical application.

                              So, back to my question: what did they find was a 'just detectable' distortion contribution superimposed on music or speech? 10% or 0.001% perhaps? And do you agree that whatever that threshold is, there is no logical, practical or even moral justification for chasing a standard that is, say, ten times better than need be? That specmanship takes a product from pure engineering functionality into the world of emotional self-congratulation. The 0-60mph in sub 3 seconds mind-set.
                              Alan A. Shaw
                              Designer, owner
                              Harbeth Audio UK

                              Comment


                              • #60
                                Re: Amplifiers .... distortion thresholds

                                Originally posted by A.S. View Post

                                ....emotional self-congratulation.
                                Alan,
                                I have to note this term!

                                As I understand you use amplifiers designed by J.F.
                                Beside the correct design and non puffed prices, are those amplifiers closest to the accuracy? Referred to price or absolutely?

                                Regards

                                Vlado

                                Comment

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