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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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  • #16
    Amplifiers - the final words?

    Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
    ...this is the manufacturer's forum... let's concentrate here on what we do make and have knowledge about .... Harbeth speakers not amps etc. we've never heard of, never seen, never met their designers or executives...
    Folks, this really is the core issue. We just do not feel it's our place, under the Harbeth manufactuers banner (literally - on name appears across the top of the page!) to endorse (by implication) or give publicity to products (amps etc.) we've never heard of and never used. And never will use because I'm quite contented with what I have (from the 1980s).

    If I, the designer, say that it desn't matter what amp you use, surely that is good enough as Harbeths official position about amplifiers?
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

    Comment


    • #17
      Should we discuss amplifiers on a speaker company's own forum?

      Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
      {Moderator's comment:..... let's concentrate here on what we do make and have knowledge about .... Harbeth speakers not amps etc... how few posts are about the core subject (about which we know something). That concerns us.}
      Dear Moderator
      I earnestly hope that I could present a convincing case by logical reasoning and appeal to HUG to reconsider its rather inflexible stand against allowing discussion of amplifiers, and ancillaries which form part of any audio system.

      First, do you realise that a reader can be obsessive about the various iterations of Harbeth speakers, spending his time, money and energy in the pursuit of the ideal speakers! There are enough choices in the Harbeth range to feed one's obsession to cause "speaker nervosa"! Would you want to censure, control or ban discussion of the various Harbeth models in HUG just because some customers cannot control or curb their obsession? Or would you allow discussion because it relates to speakers?

      Secondly, and as hifi_dave has argued, you cannot speak about speakers without the electronics and ancillaries that amplify and convert the signal from the source to the pre and into the amplifier, through cables and, ultimately, to the speakers. Like it or not, the process of how signal is converted to sound is an integral whole and cannot be divorced from each other.

      Thirdly, I think you should give the reader (especially potential Harbeth owners) more credit than to be swayed by posts that seem to suggest that Harbeth are fussy speakers and can only sound right with X, Y, Z! As reasonable men (the phrase embraces women as well), I think it is fair to say that most (if not all) would conduct their own due diligence and weigh in the balance the various views in this forum and come to their own conclusion. If they followed 'wrongly' the advice or suggestion of someone who strongly recommends this or that, I believe that somehow things will correct itself with time and a few hard knocks! They would learn to conduct more rigorous due diligence, learn to trust their own ears and decide to spend more wisely! After all, how many of us 'stumbled' upon Harbeth after a few (many) knocks! Not all of us came to know of and committed ourselves to Harbeth from the very start of our audio journey! But, somehow, we came to the Harbeth destination and rested! Some came by a short path, others by a long and winding route! You can advise them as much as you want; some will listen and follow your advice, others will not. This is a human trait and applies to every area of our life - relationships, career, finance, etc! It is an inevitable process that all of us have to go through!

      Fifthly, if it is a fact that Harbeth speakers are a benign load (and indeed it is), no amount of graphs and charts and data will convince a potential customer more than his ears can experience! Let the potential customer learn for himself with the plethora of amplifiers available in the market! HUG is not the only forum that he will lurk, his information will come from various other sources, whether the sources be true, false or misguided! If you moderate here (as you have the right to), there is no stopping anyone (HUGGERS or not) from posting elsewhere, where you do not have the right to moderate! Let's face it, we live in a world where information travels faster than the speed of sound! There is no way you that you can stop how a person feels about a product. Even politicians realise the power of the internet and of how it can either be constructive or destructive of their political campaigns!

      I would hope for a more 'laissez-faire' attidtude to posts in this forum, and faith that the truth will somehow prevail in the end!

      The Forum will be a more interesting place for an exchange of ideas, with respect for all views and even those we might not agree with! The membership and participation in this forum will flourish and enhance the already good reputation of the Harbeth name from many loyal and proud owners!

      Best Regards
      Dennis

      {Mpderator's comment: posted EXACTLY as submitted but no 'fourth' in your submission - should we re-number firth as fourth?}

      Comment


      • #18
        What you may like I may hate .....

        Originally posted by denjo View Post
        ... and appeal to HUG to reconsider its rather inflexible stand against allowing discussion of amplifiers, and ancillaries which form part of any audio system. ...
        No that's a misreading of the situation. Rational discussion is welcome - always has been - but what I don't want to read again is something like 'I heard XYZ amplifier/stand/CD player at a friends house for five minutes ten years ago .... it sounded fantastic .... I recommend it .... much better than the ABC amp I one owned .... go and buy it'.

        The Harbeth company sprang from the creative engineering brains at the BBC Research Dept.. Solid, trained, objective, rational, thinking people who designed capital equipment to solve an engineering problem (great sound in small boxes) with zero consideration of cosmetics or the preceding signal chain. There is plenty of room here for objective discussion, but I'm sorry, this is not the best place to 'advertise by recommendation' products that we, the people who pay to run this forum, have absolutely no ability to evaluate in the cold, cruel light of day. The best place for that exploration is at a dealer premises. In person, with your own music and speakers. That's why dealers exist. That's their job. Not ours here.

        The amp/electronics/stands etc. that you may legitimately have a strong preference for may not suit me or other users. So a general recommendation, on a loudspeaker manufacturer's own forum, including the one I mention above is inappropriate to a wide audience and creates not musical solutions but confusion. And demystifying Harbeth loudspeakers is the sole reason I started this group.

        If you don't mind, we'll concentrate on the areas that we have some little knowledge of (design and use of Harbeth speaker) and avoid those fields far outside of our remit - including amplifier recommendations. Because if we can't demystify amplifiers (for example) their discussion runs counter to the very reason this group was founded.

        The Harbeth User Group was, for some years, a very special place where rationalism ruled and I felt my contribution to fulfilling the original objective of demystification was appreciated. The real pity is that the silent majority have demonstrably remained silent, so about 5% of registered members steer this ship. We are experimenting with isolating the harder objective/engineering issues which for years represented the bulk of this forum from the more subjective matters so that visitors can more easily navigate.

        In one sentence: I do believe that our target-consumer wants to read about Harbeth speakers, what goes into them, their BBC pedigree, their use, which is best for them. I do not believe that many are interested in changing their amplifiers as they understand that by far the biggest upgrade to their listening satisfaction (in their entire life?) is to step up to owning Harbeths. And that drives our marketing strategy.
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

        Comment


        • #19
          Recommendations in the HUG?

          I'm sorry, but that's an absurd position to take. The name of the forum you've chosen is Harbeth User Group. Either you allow Harbeth Users to talk among themselves, with secondary - but most certainly highly valued - input from your good self, or you need to change the base premise of this forum and remodel it into a manufacturer's blog or something. The stance that

          this is not the correct place to advertise by recommendation products that we have absolutely no ability to evaluate in the cold, cruel light of day
          is mistaken. It's not you who recommends a product, it's a Harbeth user. There is no implicit recommendation from the Harbeth company by allowing some private individual to praise a product, just as there is no implicit condemnation from the Harbeth company if someone says he does not like a product. The distinction should be obvious to the most casual observer.

          Your frustration with the kind of woolly thinking that you berate when you say that you

          don't want to read again <snip> something like 'I heard XYZ amplifier/stand/CD player at a friends house for five minutes ten years ago .... it sounded fantastic .... I recommend it .... much better than the ABC amp I one owned .... go and buy it'.
          is shared by many. We as a group (if I may include myself in this as a very occasional poster) should certainly strive to raise general standards of thinking about audio. But in my opinion, what is needed is education (which, as I'm sure you know as a parent, involves a lot of repetition), not censure.

          Comment


          • #20
            Endorse by proxy?

            Originally posted by markus sauer View Post
            It's not you who recommends a product, it's a Harbeth user. There is no implicit recommendation from the Harbeth company....
            No, I'm sorry but I can't agree. I take a personal responsibility for how my brand is associated with other brands or products. Harbeth is not some huge faceless corporation. We're a small, highly respected, cottage industry where what we think and who we associate with really matters.

            You cannot imagine how many back-office calls there are about how we, Harbeth UK, feel about our loudspeakers being used with this or that accessory/amp/cable/electronics/room damping etc. etc.. Callers want guidance. They want reassurance. They want to know unambiguously, directly, no beating about the bush, black and white what we think and how they should spend their money. In effect, we are holding their purse. I know by the way they interact that they will follow whatever advice we give. Regardless of the cost or inconvenience. Do we take advantage of that. No, never. We all want the customer to get the most satisfaction for the least expenditure. You should hear their relief at the money/stress/anxiety we have saved them - real, genuine appreciation that we gave them an honest, pragmatic (and above all cheap) answer not salemen BS. That gives us here a real buzz. Often these callers are at their wits end having read too many forums and utterly confused themselves. It is really pitiful to talk with some callers. In fact, it's more of a social service we offer, just to reassure them that they can get off the merry-go-round. (And in once recent case, actually save his marriage).

            So, my point: we don't want to be spending more time cancelling misunderstandings gleaned from the HUG that we have seemingly endorsed-by-proxy this or that non-Harbeth product. Do you subscribe to the belief that you can judge a man by the company that he keeps? We definitely do. We are very particular about who we associate with, personally and in business.
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK

            Comment


            • #21
              Adults taking responsibility for their actions ....

              I still disagree with your stance. In an ideal world, you should send those callers to their dealers and ask them to listen for themselves. It is not for you to tell them how to spend their money. Taking responsibility for one's actions is a core quality of adult humans in my book. They should not need anybody else to validate their decisions.

              In a perverse way, you keep those callers in just the same position they were in before they called you - not trusting their own judgement and relying on someone else's instead.

              In the non-ideal world, I suppose I should be grateful for anyone who gives non-snake-oil advice. But you do that frequently on the forum; you could even insert a "template post/standard disclaimer" outlining your position after each post of the kind you want to eradicate. Easy to do when posts are reviewed before publication anyway.

              Comment


              • #22
                Please, don't be too restrictive about content ...

                Originally posted by A.S. View Post

                You cannot imagine how many back-office calls there are about how we, Harbeth UK, feel about our loudspeakers being used with this or that accessory/amp/cable/electronics/room damping etc. etc.. Callers want guidance. They want reassurance. They want to know unambiguously, directly, no beating about the bush, black and white what we think and how they should spend their money. In effect, we are holding their purse. I know by the way they interact that they will follow whatever advice we give. Regardless of the cost or inconvenience. Do we take advantage of that. No, never. We all want the customer to get the most satisfaction for the least expenditure. You should hear their relief at the money/stress/anxiety we have saved them - real, genuine appreciation that we gave them an honest, pragmatic (and above all cheap) answer not salemen BS. That gives us here a real buzz. Often these callers are at their wits end ...

                So, my point: we don't want to be spending more time cancelling misunderstandings gleaned from the HUG that we have seemingly endorsed-by-proxy this or that non-Harbeth product. ...
                Could you not look at this in a different way? Instead of seeing the HUG as a generator of misunderstanding, would it not be more positive to see Harbeth as a generator of good buzz and discussion about your great product?

                I mean, even if people occasionally veer into areas you find a bit questionable, doesn't that just give you the chance to step in and clearly and calmly lay out your position? For all you know, doing so is actually going to "cancel" far more misunderstanding, and do so more efficiently, than doing it person by person on the telephone.

                If it's the repetition you find irksome - and I suspect it is - you have to remember you're not talking to one person: it's a dynamic and fluid group that changes over time, so yes, you will have to make the same point over and over. That's not bad, that's good - how many people get to do that?

                Your position is understandable, but in my respectful view, unduly constraining. The best PR people can give you is unfettered enthusiasm for your product. The technical accuracy of what they say - especially when it's not even about your product - is secondary. And, again, the fact that people say it is what gives you the opportunity to "cancel misunderstandings" (which, if expressed, must already exist and not be generated by the forum).

                Whereas if you constrain people too tightly they'll simply end up saying nothing, and while you'll lose the potential harm of the forum (to the extent there is any), you'll lose all the benefits as well. In my view - and I say it appreciating it's not my company, and I don't have the inside view - the latter outweigh the former.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Adults and decision making ....

                  Originally posted by markus sauer View Post
                  ...In an ideal world, you should send those callers to their dealers and ask them to listen for themselves. It is not for you to tell them how to spend their money. Taking responsibility for one's actions is a core quality of adult humans in my book. They should not need anybody else to validate their decisions...
                  Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Yes, we always encourage callers to visit their local dealer and seek his advice. Some do - we see the orders come through later. Some have a 'history' with one or more dealers whereby they have ground them down over the months and years with incessant, daily phone calls. Sadly, there is a small core of hifi enthusiasts who have such a chronic need for black and white, unmbiguous advice that it completely ruins their lives. I had to be diplomatic with one caller last week who was calling us several times over the week desperate for advice. He'd been barred from his dealer. We have a responsibilty far more profund than you could ever imagine.

                  Take a look here at one highly successful publisher who doles out advice, month after month, in vast quantity. Haymarket Publications. Click on the A-Z list [See all] and I count about 135 titles that they print (many monthly), including WhatHiFi .... that's giving out advice on an industrial scale across a vast range of subjects. And very profitable it is too for one group of humans to tell another how to behave. And you say that in an ideal world adults should make up their own mind? Have you spent any time in sales?

                  Those adults you mention are crying out in the millions for someone to make decisons for them. I regret that I can't add much more to this: it's all very basic sales management stuff and I'm not in the business of teaching marketing.
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                    Have you spent any time in sales?
                    Very little. But as my profession involves advising people, I know only too well that they don't want advice, they want someone to make a decision for them and take the blame if it goes wrong.

                    But that's beside the point. I still think you have to decide if this is going to be a lecturing vehicle - you educating the masses - or a discussion forum - you as one poster among many, but certainly with more authority in your statements that anybody else.

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Tailored, specific opinions ...

                      Originally posted by markus sauer View Post
                      ... my profession involves advising people, I know only too well that they don't want advice, they want someone to make a decision for them and take the blame if it goes wrong. But that's beside the point..
                      No, that's not beside the point; that is the point. Your clients and our members (hifi consumers) both want someone to make quick, precise decisons; decisions that will solve problems immediately and with certaintly. That is the modern world I'm sorry to say.

                      So, my point and your position coincide: we both know that there are no perfect, optimal decisions (about, say amplifiers) ... there is a range of choice and there are compromises (always). The best advice for one user may be the absolute worst for another. And that's my gripe with opinions published here under the umberella of the Harbeth banner - they just don't suit all users. But they give the illusion of being official, because they lie adjacent to posts from me "so they must be Harbeth's opinions too". But in an impatient world, who reads the small print (and there isn't any here on the HUG) which says 'Beware! What fits one many may not suit you!'. Here, HUG, we have a scenario of 'one-member-can-influence-many' thanks to publishing on the internet. The potential for misadvice is tremendous: but in a dealer's 1 to 1 situation the advice is tailored, specific. And much more likely to lead to satisfation. That's why I just wish I could control the one-to-many because it isn't going to be universally applicable, even though well intentioned in most cases.

                      Lecturing? Perhaps you do see it as that. I may not live forever - in which case who carrys the BBC torch? Every hour I spend discussing business strategy is another hour wasted when I could be - and should be - discussing and illustrating another aspect of (BBC) speaker design. I really truly do not want to spend any more time discussing these private business decisons. We do what we think is best to nurture our highly successful brand and protect our users.

                      P.S. We've created some space to allow general discussion at arms-length from my views and those of the Harbeth company. It's a pity in a way because as a responsible 'parent' by nature I've always taken my role seriously. But now I have to open the playground and just stand back. I have a lifetime of knowledge-base scanning and cross-indexing underway and I must not take time away from that.

                      Questions with real technical meat up on the top-level of the HUG that add to the core (engineering) knowledge in this HUG archive I remain committed to answer.
                      Alan A. Shaw
                      Designer, owner
                      Harbeth Audio UK

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                        Folks, this really is the core issue. We just do not feel it's our place, under the Harbeth manufactuers banner (literally - on name appears across the top of the page!) to endorse (by implication) or give publicity to products (amps etc.) we've never heard of and never used. And never will use because I'm quite contented with what I have (from the 1980s).

                        If I, the designer, say that it desn't matter what amp you use, surely that is good enough as Harbeths official position about amplifiers?
                        I fully support Harbeth's stand.

                        There is a saying that goes something like ..."Sometimes one just has to spend a lot of money before realizing that you don't have to spend a lot of money!" Applies perfectly to electronics and cables... unless you take AS/Harbeth's advice!

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Tube amps – why? Part 1

                          I have to comment that, in my view, the current trend towards favouring obsolete tube designs is perverse, and has more in common with selling dubious slimming products to the overweight than offering devoted music lovers the maximum possible enjoyment. Audiophiles, so called, really do seem to be a paranoid bunch. Whole essays could be written attempting to explain this but let’s keep it simple for now. There is a well-known children’s story called “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, wonderfully brought to song by Danny Kaye in 1952. This tale summarizes the psychology that underpins “audiophilia nervosa” with exquisite elegance. Put simply, it is this:
                          1. I desire the best.
                          2. I do not know when a satisfactory approximation to the unattainable has been reached.
                          3. I therefore remain constantly irritated by my own uncertainty and, as such, am susceptible to the most absurd influences to lead me in my path to perfection. I spend lots of money in the attempt to achieve perfection but…back to step 2.

                          Of course, there are lots of small diversions along the way…expectation bias possibly being the most significant. Having spent significant money on that expensive amplifier (or cable, fancy spikes or whatever), you always hear an improvement. It’s human nature and has been discussed here many times. But we are still faced with the problem defined in step 2 in the above list , and so it goes round and round ad nauseam.

                          Such a loop obviously affords an ample opportunity for the snake-oil merchant to target the hapless and confused punter. By reinventing the technology of 50 years ago and even, in the shape of the single-ended triode, an 80 year old approach discarded by all the real masters of tube amplification as soon as something better had emerged, the snake-oil vendors have you right where they want you. By selling a wonderfully machined chassis with large blocks of highly visible brushed aluminium, they offer a product so visually seductive that it cannot possibly sound anything but superb. All at a price you can expect to pay for the best of everything. 10 cent resistors aren’t good enough, no we only use resistors that cost $5 apiece – the capacitors, 10 times that. Why? Because they sound better, naturally. And audiophiles, with the enthusiasm of the overweight looking for the feast that will nonetheless make them slim, lap it all up.

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Tube amps – why? Part 2

                            Let’s examine what tube amplifiers actually offer. First and foremost, massive amounts of distortion. There’s no getting around this: you can argue till the cows come home about nice distortion and nasty distortion, about the idea that ‘nice distortion’ somehow benefits the music. Perhaps – in a 100W Marshall stack (which is, in a sense, a musical instrument), but not in a device where the objective is to reproduce the sound as accurately as possible. Tube amps have a very high output impedance – several ohms is not all uncommon, far higher than the today’s loudspeaker designer expects or allows for in most cases. They are extremely unreliable by modern electronic standards; the high voltages involved frequently causing sparks to fly, quite literally. And let’s not even go into the environmental impact of powering valve equipment.

                            Tube amplifiers reached their ultimate development between 1950-1960 with the ready availability of beam tetrodes such as the ubiquitous KT88. Companies generally held to be ‘up there’ were, in the UK, Leak, Quad & Radford and in the US, McIntosh & Fisher to name but a few. It is significant that in the nineteen fifties, in spite of the lack of baggage and the unashamed desire to produce the best amplifiers they could, none of these masters thought of turning the clock back to the era when the single-ended triode was king, because they had something better. So why does today’s audiophile so lust after technology that, even in the heyday of the thermionic tube, was considered passé by the premier exponents of the art?

                            Most of us here have bought, or aspire to, Harbeth speakers. Renowned worldwide for their accuracy combined with fatigue-free presentation, they are designed with modern solid state amplification in mind. Low impedance, low distortion and the assumption that there will be a more than adequate reserve of power are all high on the designer’s list of considerations.

                            It’s quite simple really – if you want the very best of which your Harbeths are capable, forget about driving them with poor technology that is little more than an industry con to extract your cash.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              One of the things I've appreciated in the past about this forum is that it has been a place to discuss the electronics from a rational perspective.

                              In fact it was the conjunction of my love of vintage electronics and clear, natural midrange that led to my curiosity about the Harbeth speakers... and an eventual purchase.

                              From what Alan has written recently, I can understand the reasoning behind the changes... and the subjective sub-forum is a good idea. I do think Alan's contributions would be best organised in blog form, which would give him time to discuss issues in depth and in his own time, and without that information getting buried in a clutter of other posts.

                              Personally I would love to be able to drill through subjective impressions to the underlying objective facts - but given the misconceptions in the hi-fi world there is a lot of manure to shovel and if you go back through my own posts there is a lot that I've got wrong... and a lot that I've learned.

                              With respect, one thing the Harbeth team may be missing is that a forum is generally understood by internet users as a place for open discussion - which results in posts that deviate from the "party line" - but also an understanding by readers that these are individual and not corporate voices.

                              Mark, currently in the kitchen enjoying a friend's 1970's american amp (cheap mini-system speakers - not willing to risk the P3ESRs on it yet).

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Pluto View Post
                                Such a loop obviously affords an ample opportunity for the snake-oil merchant to target the hapless and confused...
                                I’m afraid what Alan and moderation is suggesting is prudent, that it is best to leave subjective and opinionated recommendations crystal clear as they really are. I’m myself guilty of not adhering to this and much of the time think it’s due to seeking positive affirmation of prior executed choices.

                                It is without doubt hard to draw the line on what are plausible and sensible recommendations, as this can extend to extreme statements and claims which belie and defy common sense. Unfortunately as Alan has pointed out, this is not a cheap exercise and pursuit. And the unfortunate thing is that the “chase” itself, much of the time, is irrationally based. Some if not most claims, given the technological brick wall in place, are even just plain outrageous.

                                There is an interesting documentary, the name of which I now forget, about the brains and minds of musicians. Sting was a featured guest who allowed himself to be cat-scanned while musical stimuli was applied. To cut a long story short, what hit me from the documentary was a statement that music only exists in our brains. “Everything” in between, ie between the source (in this case the speakers) and our ears is something incoherent. Can you imagine, If there were beings from another planet, hopefully more intelligent than we are, looking down at us, sitting in front of some rectangular box with noises and “hash” emanating, discussing whether this component would create a better nonsensical noise than the other. It will be a true comedy for them, and if you are willing to step back as well, for us.

                                Comment

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