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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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My ears Problem with PlayStation3 and Rega Apollo

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  • #16
    Is an AV amp really good enough for hifi?

    Originally posted by Labarum View Post
    A decent AV amp in direct mode (all signal processing switched off) will do an extremely good job of driving a pair of passive speakers.
    Now, you'll know that I'm not a great believer in huge sonic differences between amplifiers, but I feel I have to chip-in here. I have an (Arcam, about six years old) AV amp and its sonic performance is ruined by the digital hash from all of that computer circuitry which is crammed into the space no bigger than a standard hifi amp. You should see how densely packed the electronics are - there is barely an inch to spare.

    And the consequence? Either via RF transmission and/or via the audio signal and/or via the PSU the digital circuits superimpose a continuous and loud mid and high frequency twittering which is completely unacceptable above about 1/4 volume. I do not know if this is typical of modern AV amps. I can say that this digital burbling was evident from new with my amp and is a design issue - hardly surprising bearing in mind how much digital technology is incorporated. We bought it for our last appearance at the London hifi show and, well, the issues noted above were a disappointment for such a well respected brand.

    So, my advice - based on the likely AV amplifier's designer's objective to cram the unit with (digital) features - is don't expect hifi performance from any AV amp. I conceded that if you pay top dollars for a big (Japanese) brand AV amp then they will surely have the R&D resources to invest in sophisticated design and testing and may/will minimise the breakthrough issue, but at the budget end of the AV market you just cannot expect all those features and high fidelity performance.

    The less digital circuitry in an amp the better chance that all the design effort will be on maximising the audio, analogue side.

    P.S. Discussing this with Andy (Prodn. Manager) this morning he says that his old Sony AV amp built before HDMI as is my Arcam - never showed this problem. Maybe my experience is the consequence of subcontract-to-China-on-a-fixed-price and was the best they could do for the money. He's now using a Rega Brio 3 apm with his C7ES3s at home and very happy. And of course, such a simple amp concentrates all the circuitry on the audio performance. Obvious really.

    P.P.S. In the hierarchy of design complexity, RF products (mobile phones, satellite comms, radio communications) are the most difficult because the frequencies are so high that signals do not obey nice, convenient, predictable PCB rules. So much depends on the skill of the RF designer to draw on his experience of what circuit layout (let alone functionality) will give the best result. Can you imagine how complex and difficult it is to design even $10 mobile phones? Re-position just one component or PCB track barely 0.1mm and the product may not work (see Apple's iPhone problems). In all digital consumer products every single tiny wire and PCB track acts as its own mini radio transmitter. So it is no surprise that an AV amp has to optimise the design for the fast, digital signals and accept that the analogue audio side must inevitably be compromised.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    • #17
      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
      Now, you'll know that I'm not a great believer in huge sonic differences between amplifiers, but I feel I have to chip-in here. I have an (Arcam, about six years old) AV amp and its sonic performance is ruined by the digital hash from all of that computer circuitry which is crammed into the space no bigger than a standard hifi amp . . .

      P.S. Discussing this with Andy (Prodn. Manager) this morning he says that his old Sony AV amp built before HDMI as is my Arcam - never showed this problem . . .
      I make my observation about the performance of AV amps after using my son's AV amp for a few months.

      This Marantz box has 7x 100w power amps on board, a DAC, DSP wizzy bits and switching for a number of HDMI inputs, optical and coax S/PDIF - you name it.

      Listening on my expensive headphones in pure direct two channel stereo I had very good clarity and no audible digital noise - the signal was as clean as from my Caiman DAC's phone amp.

      The attached speakers were the weakness of the system, but again, with the main speakers bi-amped and driven in pure direct two channel stereo mode there was no hint of any digital noise.

      The AV amp would drive my ageing MB Quart 980s floorstanders extremely well - no bi-amping possible - the result would be as good as the refurbished Quad 405-2 I normally use.

      This Marantz AV amp was in a very big case and cost about 800 - I don't know what you can get with a HiFi "designer label" on it for that, or how different it would sound. You would be hard pressed to find a "HiFi" amp with internal DAC for that.

      I would be happy to use that Marantz electronics with quality passive speakers.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Labarum View Post
        ... there was no hint of any digital noise...
        We'll that is interesting. Really? Just the slightest whisper of hiss and nothing else with your ear to the speaker?

        If that is true then I am not at all amused at paying the manufacturer directly for unit I have. If you are right then something is chronically wrong with my AV amp. And to think, the reviews were good at the time. What does that tell you? I says to me that either my unit is atypical (you'd think as it was a trade supply arrangement that they'd check the unit before despatch) or I'm using it incorrectly or I'm overly sensitive.

        That AV amp turned me off the whole concept of AV. I've watched only a handful of movies over the past years as I find the sqwaking and twittering infuriating. Next time Matantz - made in Japan or like mine, in China??
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

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        • #19
          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
          We'll that is interesting. Really? Just the slightest whisper of hiss and nothing else with your ear to the speaker?
          I don't normally listen to music with my head inside the speaker cone, Alan, so your specific question I cannot answer as the equipment is no longer in my flat. Listening on (indifferent) speakers from the sofa there was no noticable background noise; and when using high quaility phones there was no audible noise. Much to my surprise the headphone output from the AV amp using the AV amp's internal DAC was as good as the simpler signal path provided by the Beresford Caiman.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by A.S. View Post

            That AV amp turned me off the whole concept of AV. I've watched only a handful of movies over the past years as I find the sqwaking and twittering infuriating. ...
            There is always the much simpler expedient of watching a movie using the two-channel analog output from your DVD or Blu-ray player, and dispensing with all the complicated surround hardware, the extra speakers and wiring, etc. Personally, I've never understood the desire to re-create the surround experience in the home - I'm content to have it in the theatre, but a good clear stereo soundtrack at home is more than good enough.

            There's a bit of an irony here, I think. People have written on this forum about how we've moved to being much more of a visual culture than in the past, to the detriment of hi fi music reproduction. But at the same time, sound production in movies has been incredibly hyped-up as well. I just saw the new Christopher Nolan film, Inception, on the weekend and the soundtrack was intense (and at times painfully loud). Sounds like, for example, the shot of a pistol sounded only very slightly what they sound like in reality, which is a kind of sharp quick crack, and were made to sound like miniature cannons instead. And the bass ... I don't think there's any subwoofer made for home use that could hope to reproduce it.

            Whereas I think some of the greatest fims ever made (e.g. Bergman, Kurosawa) had mono soundtracks of not terribly high quality. And it diminishes my enjoyment of them not in the slightest. I would rather watch The Seventh Seal with the 2-inch speakers in my TV than re-watch Inception on the finest surround system known to humankind.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by EricW View Post
              There is always the much simpler expedient of watching a movie using the two-channel analog output from your DVD or Blu-ray player, and dispensing with all the complicated surround hardware.
              I prefer to listen to 5.1 sound reduced to two channel stereo. I find sound coming at me from all directions very disconcerting. It confuses my ageing ears.

              With good speakers I don't need a centre channel when sitting directly in front of a telly in a relatively small space.

              This observation, of course, is quite a separate issue from the acceptable use of a 5.1 AV amp in two channel stereo mode for playing music.

              Those who do enjoy 5.1 sound can, I believe, with the proper choice of products use the same system for excellent two channel stereo.

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              • #22
                Well, a couple of topics in this thread: First, my old Arcam integrated buzzed unless I bypassed the tone controls. I replaced it with a 10 year old (at the time) McIntosh integrated, and that amplifier was dead silent.
                Second, I agree with the posts about 5.1 being overkill. I like systems that invite you into the music or soundtrack - surround sound is fired at you like a game of dodgeball. Finally, back to the original post - a cool test would be to level match the PS3 with the Rega, and compare them. IMO using a PS3 with an outboard DAC is a better investment, as the PS3 is a much more versatile piece of gear, and a DAC can accept other devices as well...

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by cornelius View Post
                  I like systems that invite you into the music or soundtrack - surround sound is fired at you like a game of dodgeball. ....
                  I like that concept of being "invited" to enjoy something (rather than being bashed over the head with it).

                  In fact, I may be wandering off-topic here, but this thread makes me wonder if there isn't another possible definition for "natural" sound (at which Harbeths of course excel). One definition may be the accurate reproduction of sound events as they occur in nature, whether human voice, an acoustic musical instrument, or something else (I think the magazine "The Absolute Sound" was named after this concept). But one objection to that idea is that so much of what we listen to these days is either electronically generated or electronic processed - how can such sounds be said to be "natural"?

                  Which leads me to a second proposed definition, i.e., that "natural" sound is sound, however generated, that does not harm or offend or stress the human auditory or perceptual system, but works with it rather than against it. An analogy may be certain "natural" foods that do not occur in that precise form in nature (because there is some processing required to create them, e.g. miso, which is made from fermented soybeans), but are still accepted as healthy foods by the body, in contrast to processed snack foods, which are designed to zap the human sensory apparatus with intense primary tastes (salt! fat! sugar!), but which will harm you in the long run if you overconsume them.

                  Harbeth: the healthy loudspeaker.

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                  • #24
                    Personally, i can't get on with Home Cinema sound. If I watch a film, I don't want to be in the middle of World War 3, it makes me agitated and as for musiic, I don't want to be in the middle of the band.

                    Some years ago, as a dealer, we stocked high end Home Cinema from the likes of Proceed, Levinson, Lexicon, Parasound, Denon (Limited) etc, which was about as good as it gets. We sold quite a few megabuck systems but were never satisfied with the reproduction of music, even with the sophisticated two channel throughputs etc. Great for films but not for music.

                    Since those days, a few of our customers have drifted back to two channel. They usually start by dispensing with the centre channel and then the rears. After that, the processor goes and they're back to good ol' stereo for films and music. They've never been happier.

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                    • #25
                      Me i had 5 sets of home theather, from Bose to Yamaha, Klipsch,Paradigm, etc. I must say Movies in our time right now are made for surround, I mean action movies, horror, cartoons,.. i have tested all, and 7.1 is much better than 5.1. well for the feeling.
                      And i watching in stereo for old movies. And listen the music with my Harbeth.

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                      • #26
                        I'll go surround sound after I grow 3.1 more ears.

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