HUG - here for all audio enthusiasts


"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound, realisable by controlling the confounding variables between tthe microphone and the listeners' ears.

For example, the design of and interaction between the hifi amplifier and its speaker load can and potentially will alter the sound balance of what you hear. To reproduce the sounds captured by the recording microphones, as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would naturally select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

Identifying components for their system neutrality should, logically, start with the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance, as any and every deviation from a measurably flat frequency response at any point along the serial chain from microphone to ear is very likely to cause the total system to have an audible sonic personality. That includes the contribution of the listening room itself.

HUG specialises in making complex technical matters simple to understand, aiding the identification of audio components likely to maintain a faithful relationship between the recorded sound and the sound you hear. With our heritage of natural sound, HUG cannot be really be expected to guide in the selection, approval, endorsement or even discussion of equipment that is intend to introduce a significantly personalised sound to the audio signal chain. 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 electronics offered there. There is no on-line substitute for that time investment in a dealer's showroom.

If you desire to intentionally tune your system sound to your personal taste, please consider carefully how much you should rely upon 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, listening loudness and listening room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you.

Alternatively, if faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over your speakers is your audio dream, then understanding something of the issues likely to fulfill that objective is what this forum has been helping with since 2006. Welcome!"

Jan. 2018
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The Harbeth integrated amplifier

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  • The Harbeth integrated amplifier

    We raised the subject of a Harbeth stereo remote controlled amplifier and discussed it in depth here (link to follow). I and my distributors here the the Far East have discussed this together in depth. We've also looked at the positive and negative (or let's rather say, cautious) comments the subject generated. My reading of the situation is this:
    • Those of us 'in' the business on the supply side unanimously believe that for Harbeth to offer an amplifier would benefit the Harbeth brand image and solve the anxious customer's concerns about what amplifier to use - even though I have stated many times that Harbeth speakers are a universal load. There is only approval for the idea from this side of the desk.
    • Some consumers are luke-warm to the idea citing anecdotal reasons why the Harbeth brand should not extend beyond its core loudspeaker products. None of these stand careful scrutiny, especially in China, where brand leverage is normal and expected; example Mercedes cars and Mercedes watches.

    Entering the amplifier market will strengthen the Harbeth brand but only if executed carefully in a controlled step-by-step way. Of that I am in no doubt. As the amplifier assembly, test and packing will be subcontracted it will not be a management burden to Harbeth UK. So, I have decided to proceed and to test-market the amplifier in the far east where (self-evidently) our most enthusiastic and critical users live. That means Hong Kong/China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. It will not be available in any other markets initially. It will not be chasing reviews: I am unconcerned about such appraisal - it is designed to do a simple job well and at a reasonable price and for a long service life, and that is exactly what it will do.

    The amplifier has an extra set of inputs and outputs which are being fitted in anticipation of the next step - the Harbeth Magic Box.

    More on this project when I'm back in the UK.

    Alan /Our East somewhere
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    Alan, you can't leave us dangling like that! Well you can, but it's very naughty!!

    "Harbeth Magic Box"? DSP for room correction? And if DSP then that means ADC and DAC, so it might as well have a direct digital input.

    Extra set of outputs? For driving a two way loudspeaker actively - ie power amps straight onto the drivers and crossover in the digital domain?

    Talk about cliff hangers . . .

    I would say YES to a Harbeth amp driving a two way Harbeth speaker with no passive crossovers, or old crossovers out of circuit.


    • #3
      Wow. Big news indeed.

      Despite being subcontracted, there are two ways in which this product could nonetheless be a "genuine" Harbeth.

      First, provide genuine quality: design and build to a high standard, charge a fair price. I think this is a given.

      Second, offer a useful and distinctive capability that no one else offers, or that is only available in competing products at higher prices, or by assembling a number of pieces of gear. Sounds like the "magic box" might be just that.

      In which case, while I understand initially launching the product in the Far East, I hope those of us in the rest of the world get a crack at it too!


      • #4
        A "magic box"? Well, if it's a power supply, maybe. Perhaps a phono preamp. Or a headphone amp. Beyond that, when someone uses the word "magic", I am skeptical. Even when it's someone whose product I use and am impressed by every day.

        Having said that, I would really like to see what Harbeth can come up with in this field. And as an economic step, it might be wise to branch out into electronics. For most Harbeth owners, I would guess that the purchase of speakers is a very long-term investment. I know that I won't be buying new speakers for quite a while; at least a decade. So to keep the revenue stream flowing, why not electronics?


        • #5
          Originally posted by EricW View Post
          ...Second, offer a useful and distinctive capability that no one else offers, or that is only available in competing products at higher prices...
          I often heard Alan said that no improvement were made on amplifier in the last decades. Also that the amplifier is an audio gear of less importance in a system. Only needing one that can work in is own specification.

          Harbeth rely a lot on his BBC heritage, which I understand and already experimented. While entering the "amplifier scene", there is so much companies offering pretty good amplifiers even at realistic prices. In a way, I also feel that amplifier's market is saturated.

          What will the Harbeth amplifier will bring that the other companies haven't ? For me, this is an important question. If Harbeth assume and answers this, than I think it will have his part of the market.

          Maybe I miss a thing and people in the Far East are ready to buy an Harbeth product "eyes wide shut".

          By the way, what's Harbeth background and experiences in amplifier design?



          • #6
            Oh, this great news is too late for me.


            • #7
              Who will be the designer of the Harbeth amplifier? And I thought there isn't any "magic" in amplifier design which was said to have seen no improvement throughout the decades? Is the Magic Box a power supply?

              This new Harbeth amplifier will appeal to new Harbeth users for sure. Just make sure it will perform up to expectations. Then again sonic differences between amplifiers are said to be negligible to the point of non-existent so it doesn't matter anyway as folks who settle for the amp will not be able to hear any appreciable difference between different grade of amplifiers.

              An add-on, I guess the amplifier will come with tone controls since this feature was said to be desirable previously if Harbeth were to build their own amplifier one day.


              • #8
                No one can dispute that Harbeth as a loudspeaker is the best in vocals and midrange. Honestly, when I bought the SHL5 I have to practically shut my ears to the constant suggestions, persuasions that Harbeth sounds the best with Quad. ( Don't ask me why it should be a Quad). I always argued that any well designed amp should able to bring the best of of Harbeth.

                After, 6 moths or so Amp is no longer an issue. Now, Harbeth is venturing or diversifying its business to a very controversial area. If I am correct, Dynaudio used to make amps to drive their 4 ohm loudspeakers. Now, they stopped. Did they know something we don't?

                Naim too makes loudspeakers but there are many user in this forum would swear that Naim amps are best paired with Harbeths( I am not one of them). My only concern would be my credibility when I have to face my earlier critics who said Harbeth needs X or Y brand amp to sound correct now going to tell straight to my face " see I told you so, amps make a difference, why would HArbeth make Amp now?..etc..etc .

                Expect another round of shoot out to find which speakers sounds the best with Harbeth Amp.



                • #9
                  Thoughts and comments on the amplifier project ....

                  I've read the last few comments, and I'd like to add the following:
                  1. I thought that I made it abundantly clear that we are not the designer of the amplifier. This has been subcontracted. Hence any skills we have or do not have in amplifier design are irrelevant. We know what we want and we set about finding a supplier who can deliver it to a quality and price. We do not have (adequate) skills in cabinetmaking - that we also subcontract to those who do have
                  2. I was surprised when I explained what our digital signal processing experiments had yielded a month or two back that nobody took the bait, so now that I mention the code word 'Magic Box' it seems that you're not prepared for the concept! I did elaborate on our findings in one of the two talks I gave in Singapore.
                  3. I have no intention of abandoning or bypassing passive crossovers. The amplifier project is a conventional two channel unit that will drive all current, previous or future Harbeth passive speakers. I am not interested in bi-amping as a concept nor do I recommend it at this time.
                  4. I am not interested in headlong competition with the dozens of long established amplifier brands. I assume that a specialist amplifier brand will have accumulated technical expertise that a subcontractor won't have. It follows therefore that a specialist brand could (or should) have the technical edge - whether or not that translates into any audible difference I doubt somewhat, but I could well be wrong.
                  5. I am not in the slightest concerned what a reviewer may think of the amplifier - good, bad or indifferent. It will do a job and it is endorsed by me. That really is all our users need to know. In a consumer democracy the consumer is entirely free to spend out on whatever amp he wants - our will be promoted as a 'one-stop' solution to those who want such. We will not make any overblown claims about sound quality. My long-held opinion as you know is that under controlled conditions amplifier differences diminish to almost nothing.
                  6. To properly evaluate any amplifier a blind ABX instantaneous switch-over is required plus equipment to measure the loudness at the listener's ears to be sure like is compared with like. We have no interest, desire or need to present the amplifier for the approval of the reviewing community, doubly so if it is not tested under controlled conditions. That does not mean we will withhold it from genuine interested parties when the time is right.

                  Hope that clarifies the position.

                  Alan /Out East still
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK


                  • #10
                    [I have personally edited this post to draw-out what I think is intended. Upon first reading, it looked like a post hostile to the Harbeth amplifier project - I don't think it is. If I'm wrong please let me know and i'll re-edit it. My comments in BLUE]

                    Below is what I think a Harbeth amplifier will add to the consumer. [Meaning: Below are situations which typical high-end audio consumers face:]

                    - Purchasing high-end audio equipments is tough choice. Consumers are always wondering whether a certain is high-end enough.
                    - Some will wonder whether Harbeth is 'high end' because it doesn't look fancy, and it is a lot cheaper than some of the high end speakers.
                    - Even after choosing Harbeth, the proud owner will invariable worries whether whether this or that brand of amplifier/source will bring out the best sound of Harbeth.
                    - Many will ended up spending a lot in upgrades of amplifiers/sources/cables and whatnot.
                    - Many who can't afford will feel unsatisfied for being able to afford the best sound - and not able to enjoy Harbeth fully because of the neurosis.
                    - A few will get into debt and get into financial ruins because of it.

                    [Now the post affirms that a Harbeth-endorsed amplifier would solve many of the above concerns]

                    I am talking as somebody who has gone through a few months of unnecessary mental torture because of this. I am all in favour of a reasonably priced Harbeth amplifier, one that is 'certified' to be able to bring out the best in Harbeth. I think this will be especially valuable in Far East, where money is tight and people usually have to save up for years for their sound equipment.

                    I pick up the DSP thread. I had wanted to ask you some questions about it, and relate to you some experience I had with it ... in due time. And the black box....
                    Last edited by A.S.; 16-05-2010, 03:34 PM. Reason: Clarification - hopefully


                    • #11
                      Mental torture of endless uprades

                      I have to add - thewhole audiophile industry is about getting one hooked into endless loop of upgrades. It was a lot of hard work - let me say it again - months of HARD WORK and mental torture - for me to extricate myself. So much blatant lies, so much falsehoods, so much deception. Really despicable and absolutely disgusting.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                        I was surprised when I explained what our digital signal processing experiments had yielded a month or two back that nobody took the bait, so now that I mention the code word 'Magic Box' it seems that you're not prepared for the concept! I did elaborate on our findings in one of the two talks I gave in Singapore.
                        Could you please point to what you have already said on DSP, Alan, and add what you can? As a relatively new member of this forum I had picked up a comment or two by you on DSP for room correction, so that was my first line to draw you in this thread.

                        For my part I cannot understand the concerns and even negative comments of some in this thread to a Harbeth badged amp. If someone trusted (let's call him AS) can recommend a good product at a reasonable price that will do the job needed that can only be a benefit.


                        • #13
                          Real world values

                          Originally posted by Labarum View Post
                          If someone trusted (let's call him AS) can recommend a good product at a reasonable price that will do the job needed that can only be a benefit.
                          That's my thinking too. I stress again, we are not kidding anyone that miraculously, overnight, we have discovered the holy grail of amplifier design. That would be a ludicrous suggestion. It will be a 'solid product' for real people, on real budgets who want something functional that will last, very much in the tradition of, say, solid British amplifier brands of the 80s and 90s.

                          I have no doubt that there will be voices not on the same real-world wavelength as us here who will take the opportunity to denigrate our fledgling amplifier. Frankly, I couldn't care less. We offer what we believe is right for our customers in the long term. We have a track-record in real-world solid value for money products that last. Any related products that fit into that philosophy should enhance our customer's musical experience and can only do the Harbeth community a service.
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by yeecn View Post
                            I have to add - thewhole audiophile industry is about getting one hooked into endless loop of upgrades...
                            Yes, it is true and I'm a bit into it. Actually, I'd like to built a system that will satisfy me for a long time. Also, I figure that a lot of HUG members have a bunch of friends who enjoy music and audio gear. This bunch of friends influences you. Plus the audiophile industry. Sometime, you hear at a dealer or in a audio even some $ system and you're telling you (and your friends) "Sound's better at home."

                            After the comment above by Alan and others, it makes me understand that an "Harbeth amplifier" can be usefull and secure for some people.

                            To Alan: have you already found your amplifier's subcontractor? If you're looking there, there is so many companies in the Far East: Marantz, Denon, Sony, Cayin, Yamaha, Primaluna, Leben, Luxman, Accuphase, Antique Sound Lab, and so much more... Which one to choose?



                            • #15
                              European subcontractors

                              The Harbeth amplifier - or to be specific, the Harbeth solid state amplifier - should at least initially be made in Europe. I can't speak for our policy in the future, but to kick-start this project we need a supplier on our doorstep, not in far away China.

                              Buying from China is extremely complex. Personal relationships are more important than the written contract. It takes time to establish a relationship with a supplier, even longer to hammer out the technical specifications and then time is needed to debug the design and even the production parts. I have much experience in China and I can assure you, that this is not the moment to introduce such a complex product to China subcontractors. There is no doubt that they could make it; the question is whether they should make it.

                              Above all, dealing with Chinese suppliers of even very simple parts need time.
                              Alan A. Shaw
                              Designer, owner
                              Harbeth Audio UK