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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.

That's it! Enjoy!

{Updated Nov. 2016A}
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  • #16
    Originally posted by Diminish View Post
    ... and I would have sent them back if I didn't hear a difference (blind and "double blind" A/B comparisions).
    a difference doesnt mean its better...or a correct representation.

    The largest variation in quality of music and sound presentation through your speakers is probably due to the recording and/ or mastering process. The cable, and electronics debate imo seems almost superfluous. If you want your hifi to sound the best, look for good quality recordings and skilfully mastered ones.

    If our lexicon on what makes a relatively and discernibly better recording can be brought to the cable (or electronic) story in a similarly palpable manner during comparison eg. "more open, clear, detailed without the harshness , impactful, well balanced, exciting without being offensive, good separation of instruments, realistic voices" etc., it would be something interesting if not, a waste of effort.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Diminish View Post
      If I recall correctly, Mr. Shaw...say that 79 strand speaker wire ...it is a good reference; a good place to start your comparisons.
      For personal and professional reasons I could not received my new C7 last week as previewed and this delay gave me some more time to decide which speaker cables to buy. I am amazed by the amount of time and energy I have spent during the last few weeks around these cables: I asked friends, asked professionals, read audio forum threads about speaker cables, re-read again Peter Aczel " Ten Biggest Lies in Audio" and most what Ethan Winer has to say on the subject.

      To know better about things that are not in my field of expertise, specially about things that I am asked to spend a lot of cash on, I have to rely on others; "experts", "professionals" , "people with experience" and about the speaker cables it seems that the "experts" have different and sometime opposite views. Since where I have searched, I have not found even one negative review of the Qed 79, I decided to listen to what Alan Shaw says (anything available that is reasonably thick will work...simple, un-cool standard flex is all you need) and yesterday I finally placed a $60 order for two Qed 79 strand cables + banana connectors. I have no doubt that at least they are good quality decent cables. If they are a good place to start or for me, a good place to stay I may find sometime in the future.

      About the speaker cables issue I am more an agnostic than an atheist. I still give some room for doubts: maybe some day I may find that my system sounds different ("different" not better or worst) with different cables. From my own experience I know that there are certain things that to be able to discern and appreciate differences you must have a lot of experience. Very clear and evident differences for the experienced experts may be elusive or too subtle for the untrained amateurs. In my "wild" period when I was a teen I played the guitar in a Rock/Blues band for about three years; back then I could discern very easily and without any doubt between the sound of a Gibson, a Gretsch, a Rickenbacker or a Fender electric guitar. I knew (and I mean "knew" and not "guessed") if the Fender guitar I was hearing was a Fender Stratocaster or a Fender Telecaster. These details, as discernible as an elephant in the middle of my living room for me and and any guitarist or other band players, were inaudible for the neophyte or most non professional Rock music listeners I knew and know today; what they hear are only 'electric guitars'. A good friend of mine, an experienced professional classical music pianist and orchestra director is able to discern without any problem between the sound of a Steinway , a Yamaha or a Bosendorfer piano. To my untrained ears they all sound like...pianos.

      That's why I leave some room for doubts about speaker cables and why I now think that several hours or even several weeks of speaker cables blind test may still not be a valuable proof. May be a much longer period of listening is needed to discern an audible difference between different cables? Anyway, a piece of music surely sounds far much better when it come out from my Harbeths than from my small $50 radio transistor but the emotions and thrill I get from this music is equal in both cases. The "Music" before the gear.
      Attached Files

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      • #18
        Originally posted by ummaya View Post
        ...That's why I leave some room for doubts about speaker cables and why I now think that several hours or even several weeks of speaker cables blind test may still not be a valuable proof.
        The strange thing to me is this ..... using an electron microscope we can just about see the crystal structure that forms a long continuous cable. The junctions between the crystal 'lands' are conceptually similar to those between the junctions at the working heart of every transistor. From the microphone's internal amplifier, the mixing desk, the laser pick-up in your CD player and all the transistors in your amplifier means the signal has passed through thousands - millions? -of transistor junctions before it is even delivered to your speaker cable at the outside of your power amplifier. The signal will then proceed along the cable to the speaker through billions upon billions more cystal boundries, then into the speaker, through more to the crossover, through the crossover and yet more cable to the drive units and finally billions more in the coppr wire of the drive unit's voice coils.

        Why pick on the speaker cable as the villain of the piece? Why not pick on some other crystals somewhere along the line? As the signal must pass along the circuit from the mic, why pick the fatest cable with the least resistance as the culprit for degrading the sound quality? Surely the chain is only as strong as the weakest link? Why not identify one transistor somewhere in the mixing console as the culprit for limiting sound quality? Since the recording process has far more complexity and variable than the replay end at home, isn't it more likely that the sonic weak link lies far outside of our control in the studio? Isn't it rather bizarre that we can somehow ignore that inconvenient speculation and concentrate all of our thinking and anxiety on the last few metres of cable? Except, of course, it isn't the final link. A 5" driver's voice coil wire is about 10m long with a diameter less than 0.2mm - by far the thinnest, most fragile cable in the entire chain, and probably longer than the cables from your amp to speaker boxes!

        Let's be realistic about this one please!
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

        Comment


        • #19
          Eureka moment re: cables?

          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
          A 5" driver's voice coil wire is about 10m long with a diameter less than 0.2mm - by far the thinnest, most fragile cable in the entire chain, and probably longer than the cables from your amp to speaker boxes!

          Let's be realistic about this one please!
          I never knew that Alan, that's pretty amazing and makes me laugh when you consider some of the massive thick speaker cables you see at hi-fi shows. At Heathrow last year there was one room that had cables that looked as if they'd been made out of the tenticles of a giant squid. As thick as my forearm! The more things like this I read on the HUG, the more irrational this cable business becomes.

          Another thing that bugs me (correct me if I'm somehow wrong here) is the "shortest signal path" mantra. I've often read of amplifiers made with a lot of effort gone into having the shortest possible signal path. Sometimes it's quoted - in millimetres! But is it not true that all that becomes irrelevant if you have to use 3m cables instead of 1.5m (eg.)? Also, whatever the length of the amplifiers signal path, is it not irrelevant next to the two 1 metre interconnects and 3 metre speaker cables? If I'm wrong and shortest signal path is paramount then I conclude the dream system would be one box with CD drive and integrated amplifier in a single chassis (tongue firmly in cheek).

          Comment


          • #20
            "using an electron microscope we can just about see the crystal structure that forms a long continuous cable. The junctions between the crystal 'lands' are conceptually similar to those between the junctions at the working heart of every transistor"
            "The signal will then proceed along the cable to the speaker through billions upon billions more cystal boundries, then into the speaker, through more to the crossover, through the crossover and yet more cable to the drive units and finally billions more in the coppr wire of the drive unit's voice coils."
            I was under the impression that PCOCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) copper is "Single Crystal" copper with no such bourdries. The distance between boundries can sometimes be longer than 700 feet meaning that many cables can be made without crystal boundries. This is why PCOCC is sometimes 25x the price of standard OFC which often has 1500 boundries in a single foot. If Mr. Shaw attributes sonic degradation to these boundries, wouldn't a cable free of them have the potential to "sound" better?

            @ kittycat "a difference doesnt mean its better...or a correct representation" - Yes, granted, perhaps I should have stated that what I heard was an improvement. I'm, quite obviously, unwilling to pay money to make things sound worse. I just happened to have 4 spools of 500' ea. of 18 AWG copper THHN wire on my truck. As an experiment, I kept the wire wound on the spools and connected them in the system as speaker cables with a total circuit length of 1000' feet (I think that's close to 330 meters). The sound was pretty terrible; although not as bad as I would have guessed. Music lost all of its dimensionality; the soundstage fell apart completely and there seemed to be a lag in the upper frequencies. I gather 2 conclusions from this experiment: #1) It is possible to change the sound without making an improvement, and #2) Speaker cables do make a difference (although this would be a rather exaggerated example).
            I agree with you completely that the quality of the recording is the single biggest limiting factor in music reproduction. Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot we can do to change that aside from what you proposed (buying "good quality" "skilfully mastered" recordings).

            Comment


            • #21
              Originally posted by Diminish View Post
              If Mr. Shaw attributes sonic degradation to these boundries, wouldn't a cable free of them have the potential to "sound" better?
              I think the point - unless I've misunderstood - is that Alan Shaw does not attribute sonic degradation (i.e. something a human being would reliably detect) to these boundaries. But even if he did, I think point #2 is that even if you had a completely boundary-free speaker cable, there are still such vast numbers in the recording/reproduction chain before that it's hard to see how any such difference, if it existed, could be a meaningful difference.

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by Diminish View Post
                ... with a total circuit length of 1000' feet (I think that's close to 330 meters). The sound was pretty terrible...
                The length is taller than the building im currently in and longer than a typical city block here...The reel weighs close to 90 kilograms? It will have a resistance of over 6 Ohms. Encasing and pumping liquid nitrogen into that reel might help it perform better. :-) only joking, dont try it.

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                • #23
                  The reality of 'speaker cable'

                  I'd like to show you the reality of the speaker wire that you cannot change .... inside the speaker itself. It's called the voice coil.

                  More here
                  ....
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    kittycat: "The reel weighs close to 90 kilograms?" A 500' spool of #18AWG weighs less than 3 pounds; just slightly more than 1 kg. 2 of them (1000ft.) would weigh less than 3 kg.. If there are any scrap yards that agree with your 90 kg. per spool estimate, I'd sure like to find one!

                    EricW: I'm sorry, but I do think that Alan was making the point that these crystal boundries can effect the sound. Otherwise, how are they relevant to a discussion on speaker cables and their effect on sound quality? He asks "Why pick on the speaker cable as the villain of the piece? Why not pick on some other crystals somewhere along the line as the culprit for limiting sound quality?" Judging from his most recent post, it appears that Mr. Shaw does not attribute much significance to these crystal boundries, but others in the industry do. Here is a link to a paper published by Furutech on the PCOCC casting and purification process: http://www.acoustic-dimension.com/fu...ech-PCOCC.html

                    Here, they clearly state that "These grain boundaries cause the same type of irritating distortion as current crossing from strand to strand." Of course, Furutech is in the business of selling PCOCC just as Harbeth is in the business of selling speakers. I don't think that there is an instrument or set of ears around that can detect a single instance of an electrical current crossing strands or traversing a crystal boundary. I can see where the cumulative effect of quite nearly 500,000 of these "junctions" (1500 per linear foot x 32 feet for a standard 8 foot pair of speaker cables) would be audibly inferior to PCOCC cables having 0 boundaries in this same length. My own experimental results (in home double blind A/B comparisons) agree with this notion. To be fair about it, though, the more expensive PCOCC cables are generally of better construction (insulation and terminations) than generic 79 strand wire. This may account for some of the differences. If you've done side by side comparisions on your own and either; don't hear a difference, or don't feel that the difference warrants the asking price, then quite obviously you should go with whatever makes most sense for your ears and your budget.

                    Alan: With regard to your last posting on this subject; there is no link that I'm able to access {fixed now} I would be interested in learning "the reality of the speaker wire that you cannot change". Couldn't you use PCOCC to wind your voice coils? If you don't think that would be advantageous, I will defer to you on that. You make a wonderful finished product. It seems ironic to me that we're kinda at odds on this. If not for my extremely revealing Harbeth M-30's, I don't think that I would be able to detect differences in cables. I "shopped" for CD players with my old Vienna Acoustics Beethovens, and could not readily or replicably differentiate between a $6,000 Marantz R7 playing SACD's, and my old ($350) Marantz 63SE playing the CD layer. With the Harbeths, I can usually tell the difference between my CD player's analog outputs and my DAC (using the same disc with levels matched). I can identify a (good) SACD recording vs. the CD layer usually in the first minute of playback. Speaker cables were the area where I, personally, noticed the biggest disparity.

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Cables and why why why is the speaker cable so important?

                      Sorry link now fixed.

                      No; we will continue to use standard copper wire in our voice coils. We are as certain as we can be that under A-B conditions using our switch-over relay box [picture attached] strongly held opinions about cables diminish to zero. Alan asked why the cable from the amplifier unit to the loudspeaker cabinet bethought to be so critical that it is more influential than the sound of the even longer wire that is the drive unit's voice coil? Perhaps time we ran the Speaker Cable Challenge with a $1000 prize for charity. We would be more than happy to be proved wrong for a good cause.

                      The fact is that we don't actually care a jot about speaker cables. Please buy and use whatever lights your bulbs. We do care that the inexperienced would-be Harbeth user maybe deceived into thinking that he must spend serious money to get the best from his speakers. That is hog wash. He needn't spend a bean. That is our entire position.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        I respect Harbeth's opinions because its impossible to argue with a product that sounds so realistic. As a consumer, I prefer to buy a product that is not reliant on other products to perform at it's optimum. I've only been here on the HUG for a short time. Seeing the rather inflexible view on cables and a general distaste for the subject, I will focus my energies instead on taking what I can from the vast pool of shared knowledge present here. I do suggest that you reconsider your "entire position" as stated above. If a customer or would be customer doesn't "spend a bean" on anything but Harbeth speakers, all he's going to have is a nice pair of speakers.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Diminish View Post
                          If a customer or would be customer doesn't "spend a bean" on anything but Harbeth speakers, all he's going to have is a nice pair of speakers.
                          That's funny, and what is known in the trade as a reductio ad absurdem argument.

                          However, I don't think the phrase "needn't spend a bean" was meant to be taken entirely literally. If I could essay a translation: "Buying the appropriate Harbeths for your room and budget should be your first priority and will pay the largest dividends in improving the sound you get at home. Don't obsess over the perceived need to buy expensive sources, amplification and cables - though feel free if you have the budget and it causes no hardship - because they will cause either no improvement, or marginal improvement, compared to the improvement caused by getting Harbeths."

                          That's how I interpret it anyway, and experience tells me it's true. I only wish I'd learned the lesson much earlier (i.e. several pieces of equipment and several thousand dollars ago).

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Buying cables - on a street market

                            Originally posted by EricW View Post
                            That's funny, and what is known in the trade as a reductio ad absurdem argument.

                            However, I don't think the phrase "needn't spend a bean" was meant to be taken entirely literally. If I could essay a translation: "Buying the appropriate Harbeths for your room and budget should be your first priority and will pay the largest dividends in improving the sound you get at home. Don't obsess over the perceived need to buy expensive sources, amplification and cables - though feel free if you have the budget and it causes no hardship - because they will cause either no improvement, or marginal improvement, compared to the improvement caused by getting Harbeths."...
                            That is precisely our point. But really, you don't need to spend money on cables ... as I found out for myself. Last year I was in China, mooching around in a street market when I discovered not one, but a whole row of market stalls selling exotic speaker cables. There were literally hundreds of drums on show ... every diameter, colour, construction and material you could ever wish for - a buyer's paradise. The sellers were unable to demonstrate the cables, and they didn't look like 'audiophiles' to me. It was instructive to see how they set about trying to sell their wares to me, the browser.

                            The process went something like this .... ( I was given a running translation by my guide)

                            1) Correctly profiled me as a visiting westerner.
                            2) Enquired as to whether I was living in China and setting-up a home system or buying to take home to overseas country (i.e. could they sell me heavy cable)
                            3) Identified that I was not interested in garish colours (bright pinks, greens, purples)
                            4) Mentioned one of two western speaker cable brand names that I'd be familiar with ....
                            5) and alluded that the cables were 'made by', 'made like' or copies of those cables
                            6) and when I reacted positively to the familiar brands started to display those ...
                            7) Highlighted the most novel construction emphasising multi-strand, metal plating, flexibility, translucent sheaths etc. etc. probing for my response
                            8) Cheerfully reeled-off cables and allowed me to handle those mentioning their unique features (don't underestimate touch in a sales situation)
                            9) .... with a running commentary about their guaranteed audio abilities (based solely on their physical appearance, hearsay etc.)
                            10) Rapidly calculated price as I expressed an interest in various ones, conscious of weight

                            I was sold, sold, sold! Couldn't wait to buy! Seriously exciting! So many beautiful types and styles and colours. It was like being in a candy store. And the price ..... pence. Dirt cheap. Now how is that possible? Is it that the margins are so huge that even a street trader can almost give it away and make money? Were these seconds? If so, it tells us something about the costs of manufacture because the copper can be recycled.

                            Obviously I bought some and was assured that there was a limitless supply available. It was so exciting to stroke the smooth cable and flick the strands at the cut end. I was 100% convinced before I even connected it. Which, come to think of it, I still haven't done.

                            Audio dealers rely upon cable sales. We support our dealers. It follows then that you should spend as much money as you can afford on cables at an authorised Harbeth dealer. But please be aware that is not possible to isolate the audio performance of the cable from your tactile, emotional, psychological contact with it. For that reason alone, we are not comfortable discussing here, on the manufacturers-run HUG forum, the merits of speaker cables in the absence of objective pragmatism. As EricW says ...

                            I only wish I'd learned the lesson much earlier (i.e. several pieces of equipment and several thousand dollars ago)
                            And that really is the end of the story as far as speaker cables here on the HUG goes.
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

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