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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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The Harbeth integrated amplifier

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  • The Harbeth amp - an insider's business overview

    Thank you for the good wishes.

    I think we here made the mistake of being too honest - if there is such a thing - and we paid the price for it. As you said, if we had acted as many commercial businesses would have, we would have said with tongue in cheek that the amplifier project had been brewing for years, hundreds of hours of listening, many fine adjustments, numerous detail changes, several generations of Harbeth speakers had been developed/auditioned/perfected on it. That is how marketing works. But I took the opposite tack, based on the truth which is, as I stated, that the amplifier is a commercial product, it's new, it sounds good to me, it's made by a trusted subcontractor in Europe and, critically 'it's good enough to do the job we ask of it' and that I use it now to listen.

    That should have been the end of the matter. If the designer endorses an amplifier (or any other audio related accessory) then for those that buy-into the Harbeth philosophy they can sleep easy at night. Those who met me during my far east tour a few months ago would surely (I hope) have left with the impression that I'm a pragmatist and that I certainly don't have a commercial agenda to hoodwink anyone.

    What I learned is that no outsider to Harbeth - however well intentioned - can begin to comprehend the sort of decision making process that brings a product to market. There are hundreds of interlocking decisions that have to be made. Technical, legal, marketing, packing, safety approvals, labeling, instruction manuals even insurance (yes, really: offering a mains powered product would considerably increase our insurance premiums) just to mention a few. And solving this jigsaw puzzle of issues is not a five minute task. Hence, it's not suitable for detailed scrutiny here on the HUG over a handful of postings and a few hundred words. We would need to sit down and discuss the whole situation over a period of days to reassure you that we'd thought of every angle. And even then, as a consumer not an insider, you may not agree with our conclusions or the priorities certain decisions have over others. For example, from our perspective it would be madness to strive for the ultimate in super high-fidelity if that compromised reliability even one percent. We'd take a more cautious approach but you as a consumer may not appreciate why (warranty, brand reputation).

    So, lessons learned all round I feel. As I write, the two amp samples are in the hands of two far east Harbeth distributors and I await their full response as they are well able to read the market. I have not discussed the amp with them since despatching them (some time ago) and I am entirely relaxed about whatever conclusions they may come to. I have not pressurised, influenced, negotiated, pleaded, inspired, talked-up or discussed price, margins, quantities or any other matter. I am totally out of the loop. There isn't anything more 'subjective' we can discuss here until their results are in. But we remain hopeful.

    Just to remind you again of what I said at the beginning of this amplifier subject before it was derailed with minutia: the sole reason for offering a Harbeth amplifier is to provide a certain nervous sub-strata of Harbeth users with a simple, no fears, no frills amplifier that will work nicely with Harbeth speakers. It could be a one stop amp+speaker solution for those who (like me) have not the time, interest or pocket to spend man-hours fiddling with this amp or that searching for nirvana but want natural sound at a reasonable price. It will 'do the job' and no more is required of it. It will not solve a deeper seated belief amongst the majority (it would seem from posts here in HUG) that amplifiers make a huge difference to sound. We do not want to waste our time or buyers time trying to convince those users chasing amplifier nirvana that the Harbeth amp will satisfy them: it is not targeted at them as I stated before and conceptually is most unlikely to reassure or satisfy them. Their goal is over the horizon and far beyond our understanding and ability to deliver.

    I trust my restatement of the position (almost word for word) puts future discussion about the Harbeth amplifier into a very clear, well defined marketing framework. This open forum, read by our users and our competitors, is not the place to discuss the rights or wrongs of our confidential business strategy as we'd been slipping into recently, pre-moderation, but comments of a general nature that could not be used against us by commercial rivals are always welcome.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

    Comment


    • Originally posted by A.S. View Post
      I think we here made the mistake of being too honest - if there is such a thing - and we paid the price for it.......
      We too.

      Being a consumer who is least related to any type of marketing or sales or manufacturing, I do not know to say the "right" things other than to speak the truth as I perceive them. But here I said it at the wrong place.

      That reminds me where during your recent talk, one guy came up to you and declared how good was Harbeth model X and so on. Obviously, he was playing to the gallery because he never spoke of model Y of Harbeth loudspeaker (which he owns) which wasn't to his liking and his opinion counts a lot over here. If I were in his shoes, I would probably talked about Model Y (discretely of course) .

      But now everything has changed, each time before writing I would have to rethink twice if what I am going to say going to be accepted. BTW, I can see some 12 posts of mine which was previously posted and approved being removed from this forum - 2 in this last two days. Deleting contribution in stealth since I do not what was removed may affect my future reference if I do not what were offensive and not.

      ST
      /161

      {Moderator's comments: none of your posts have been removed or deleted in the last two days for sure. But there is a delay between posting and moderation. What seems to have disappeared? We will check the Log file. The fact that Alan took the trouble to give a long detailed reply to your very reasonable last posting of 16 July should reassure you that we very rarely delete posts. And certainly not reasonable posts from long standing HUG members such as yourself}

      Comment


      • Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
        Moderator:What seems to have disappeared?
        I think you may need to check if posts are missing for some unknown reason. Before post #135 my total number of posts was 161 but when post #135 appeared the count was 160. It should be 162. I know moderators started to prune some posts to maintain the integrity of the forum. During the said period my post numbers were 167 and after trimming it went down to 162, later another post was deleted bringing the number 161. It remained the same till 16/7/2010 then 2 posts disappeared. This number excluding some posts that never made it past the moderators.

        But I also noticed that another members post which was over 270 but then some posts went missing bringing to about 260. Then all of sudden the number jumped to 284. That was about a or 2 week ago. Some posts of other members seemed gone missing one presumably self deleted by one member who erred but I don't think the system allow for the whole post to be deleted. Another member's post did not appear in the forum at all. I took place before moderation.

        Initially, I thought it was Harbeth's trimming exercise but now I am wondering if there was a bug in the system.

        ST

        {Moderator's comment: Some members who are not expecting the moderation delay seemingly expect their posts to appear immediately. As they don't appear, they make a second third or fourth posting of the same subject. This confuses us. It is possible that we accidentally delete all these posts.}

        Comment


        • I've just had a look at the log file and there is no evidence of any deletions of your posts at all. Nor are there any posts still in moderation. What you see at this moment is the complete picture.

          Clearly if another member's post count dropped then suddenly increased don't you think that points to some oddity in the counting mechanism? Should we be unduly concerned about that amongst many other bug-like issues with this database?
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • Brands and their growth ...

            You just have to be aware that we've clearly stated that there are some areas that we cannot and will not be able to discuss here in an open forum, read around the world.

            One of the realities of a growing, successful brand is that a point is reached where the brand moves from being in a sleepy backwater posing no threat to having a 'market presence'. You can decode that as meaning that the brand starts to take market share from others. If an open forum (such as this) then unwittingly provides commercially sensitive information to those seeing their market being eroded, then the competitive temperature rises dramatically. That is what we sense. So those highly specific, marketing and strategic questions and the way we tried to answer them honestly then provides the very ammunition for others to use. That's what really is behind this Moderation: our utter inability to rationally explain "shut up, you're harming the very brand you love" to one or two hell-bent on being heard and not sensing the big (and dangerous) picture. Were they actually competitors? Possibly. But we have to be very careful now. We are a significant force in the loudspeaker market. We are commercially strong. We have to protect our brand. If we could be sure that those or similarly disruptive voices would not compromise our position we could remove the Moderation. But not just yet.

            Surely we are all in business to one extent or another and know that we cannot discuss every aspect of our marketing and business strategy. All it takes when posting is an awareness that, to re-work a saying from World War 2, "careless talk costs brands".

            Had I for example been a well established amplifier manufacturer, I would have been highly delighted that even the loyal members of the Harbeth User Group argued amongst themselves, in public, unmoderated in the brands own forum, about whether Harbeth should or shouldn't enter the amplifier market and I'd have used those observations to prepare my counter-marketing offensive against Harbeth long in advance. What you don't see from your side as a consumer, is that business is war. Survival and growth in the tough global economic climate demands total brand management.
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK

            Comment


            • Manufacturer's logic.

              Originally posted by A.S. View Post
              ..
              Had I for example been a well established amplifier manufacturer, I would have been highly delighted that even the loyal members of the Harbeth User Group argued amongst themselves, in public, unmoderated in the brands own forum, about whether Harbeth should or shouldn't enter the amplifier market and I'd have used those observations to prepare my counter-marketing offensive against Harbeth long in advance. What you don't see from your side as a consumer, is that business is war. Survival and growth in the tough global economic climate demands total brand management.
              Frankly, it never crossed my mind. Now, I can see the bigger picture and now I understand what transpired a month ago wasn't a trivial matter in a very competitive commercial environment. I learned something new. Thanks

              ST

              Comment


              • Great news. Thank you for your understanding. One thing you can be reliably assured of is this ... we (I) always have a good reason to act they way we (I) do. The Harbeth brand is so precious (to us all) that we have to walk a fine line between being open and frank (which by nature is how we want to respond) and putting the Harbeth baby at risk of predators.

                I'm really pleased to see that we have you on-side again.
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

                Comment


                • The problem with general-purpose tone controls is that they almost never control the frequencies you need them to. Usually the "bass" and "treble" controls start at 1kHz which is the perfect compromise; they don't work well for anyone.

                  More shelf-like bass adjustment below 300Hz would be a much better starting point, combined with one fully parametric eq setting for the bass to help correct the biggest room mode (there usually is one that is the most dominating).

                  {Mod: corrected K to k}

                  Comment


                  • What happened to the Harbeth amp project?

                    What happened to the amp-project?

                    By the way: i use a quad preamp with tone controls and find those very useful, therefore i believe it is a good thing to have them in any amp.

                    {Moderator's comment: a long sad tale of a small number of hostile concept critics. This is as dead as the Dodo. We learned a valuable lesson not to discuss future product concepts in public before launch. Pity}

                    Comment


                    • A sad story

                      Sad story.

                      I really would have liked to see this amp come to live.

                      Comment


                      • If I may ask a question. Was this to be an amplifier or an integrated amplifier? I read a lot of information on this forum regarding amplifiers and I agree that for the most part, an amplifier is an amplifier (these days). I know that's not the case with an integrated. Every integrated amplifier has its own character and even the least critical of listener can discern the differences.

                        Comment


                        • Integrated amps and nuclear physics?

                          Originally posted by Don Jr View Post
                          ...Every integrated amplifier has its own character and even the least critical of listener can discern the differences.
                          If that is a provable truth, you sir missed your chance to win a pair of M40.1s free of charge!!

                          I'm curious to know what aspect of an integrated amplifier would/could/may be responsible for the degradation of sound quality (at least, introduces some 'character') compared with a separate pre-power amp. In terms of circuit design, all that an integrated pre-power amp is, (compared with a separate power amp), at the very least, the addition of a volume control, a few connectors for alternative inputs, some switch method to select one input amongst others and, at the minimum, two transistors, and about six resistors and capacitors in the audio signal path in the same case as the power amp. I'm scratching my head wondering how so few, basic components (which could/will/may be identical to those in the power amp circuit itself) when placed inside the power amp case can introduce a change in sound quality. How? Why? The world needs to know!

                          It may well be that the practical execution of an integrated amp design places other priorities (size, cost minimisation) above those of sonic or technical excellence, but that need not be the case. Our doomed integrated amp was completely modular - you could clearly identify the preamp PCB, the power amp PCB, the power supply PCB, the remote control PCB, the input selector PCB - all very neatly wired together using good quality interconnects and easy to service on a swap-out basis requiring no in-depth technical skills. That is a very different experience to the typical integrated amp where there is one very big, complex circuit board. So nothing can be assumed or taken for granted in audio design.

                          Incidentally, we found ourselves dining this week adjacent to a table of engineers from the local nuclear reactor. It was on the tip of my tongue to introduce myself and ask them if they could pass a comment on room tuning crystals, CD isolators, speaker cable bridges, biwire links and the like. I didn't because folk who understand atomic physics and how the real world works in miniature (and who have our lives literally in their hands here) would obviously not appreciate the finer points of extreme audiophilia. It would have made me an object of utter ridicule. I kept my mouth clamped firmly shut.
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                            . . . Our doomed integrated amp was completely modular . . .
                            I do wish a way could be found of resurrecting this project, even if the product came to market with a different name.

                            A well constructed no nonsense amp would surely sell.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by Labarum View Post
                              I do wish a way could be found of resurrecting this project, even if the product came to market with a different name.

                              A well constructed no nonsense amp would surely sell.
                              My sentiments exactly!

                              Comment


                              • Me too - I know that Harbeth were a bit shell-shocked by some of the responses to amplifier proposal. But it was such a good idea, and remains a good idea. It would surely sell. Perhaps now that the dust has settled, the project could be (quietly, if need be) brought back to life?

                                Comment

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