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"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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Brass and woodwind - the real-live concert experience in Malta

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  • Brass and woodwind - the real-live concert experience in Malta

    In Malta over the last few days, we were invited to the Annual Band Concert at the Teatru Manoel in Valletta. The 'band' refers to a brass and woodwind amateur orchestra who gave two hours of wonderful music. We were lucky enough to have a box on the third tier which we shared with a charming French couple.

    As you can see from the picture I took from our box before the performance started, this was an intimate setting with about 50 players on a small stage. The unamplified sound was very well balanced. As with every real-live musical experience I encounter, it reminds (and delights me) that the real sound of musical instruments is far, far less 'bright' or 'toppy' than audiophiles generally believe - and much warmer too. And of course, thee is almost no 'soundstage' - just a wash of sound side to side, front to back. And the bass register lacked any 'tightness' or 'control'.

    It's also interesting to hear superposition in action. That is, the ability for complex sounds to be conveyed from the source to our ears without cross-contamination. Right at the back of the band was a young man, about 12 years old, responsible for the triangle. When he struck it, despite its minuscule power output compared to the brass section, it could be heard crystal clear and in total isolation to the other musicians, even when they were playing loud.

    This ability to isolate performers and avoid them melting into a general sonic mush is something that the Harbeth RADIAL cone is very good at, where conventional polypropylene just doesn't have the resolution due to it's chemical-mechanical rubbery structure.

    A wonderful night out, with thanks to our hosts and the many diplomats present.

    >
    Attached Files
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    The lower-register conundrum

    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
    ...As with every real-live musical experience I encounter, it reminds (and delights me) that the real sound of musical instruments is far, far less 'bright' or 'toppy' than audiophiles generally believe - and much warmer too. And of course, thee is almost no 'soundstage' - just a wash of sound side to side, front to back. And the bass register lacked any 'tightness' or 'control'....
    Thinking more about this, I was considering the thread on 'rhythm, pace and timing' etc. etc.. I'd like to propose that for reproducing classical - or let's say more generally, acoustic music (= unamplified, where the sound we hear is directly generated from the action of the performer on the instrument) - the concept of 'bass speed and timing' (whatever that actually means) are wholly wrong in concept and practice. Listening to an orchestra there is no 'speed' in the lower registers. There is no 'timing' other than the strict tempo selected by the conductor. The lower registers comprise of notes that do not start and stop instantaneously. If they are bowed notes, they take maybe a second or more to build-up and many more seconds to decay. The result is a wash of warm sound with no real start and stop points - and this works very much to the composers advantage as the warmth underpins the emotions of the music yet requires relatively little effort from the performers. Once a bowed note has built-up, the case of the instrument together with the strings forms a tuned resonant system and the resonance need be sustained with only a modest ongoing energy input. Just the same as running your finger around the rim of a glass or blowing across an empty wine bottle: once you've hit the natural resonance you just have to tickle it to sustain it.

    So does this fast/slow rhythm and pace stuff have any relevance in music at all then? Yes, it does: instruments that generates sound waves indirectly (example: electric guitar, synthesiser) are either direct-injected into the recording mix or drive PA speakers which have microphones placed in front of them to capture the indirect sound 'of' the instrument. Direct-injection gives a cold sound and is not popular. Recording the instrument via the PA speakers adds the character of the speakers (specifically, the character of the drive units, the cabinet and the (tube) driving amp) but gives a more characterful sound. So what we hear at home when we listen to pop (and certainly rock music) is almost always the character of the guitars played over PA speakers in the recording studio selected to deliberately add character/distortion then replayed over our own speakers in our own room. So we have a box in a box in a box and yes, I suppose that as the pop music we buy is already a step or two away from the original sound (can you say an electric guitar ever has an original sound?) a further contribution from our home audio (speakers, room) could take us further from the source. That would imply that for pop music our home speakers should have diaphragms that are tight, fast moving and lightweight so they trace the already characterful sound of the PA-amplified instrument. And we have the perfect example of just that: the electrostatic speaker. But many listeners find the sound just too dry in the bass which is why some models have a conventional woofer (in a box!) to add back-in the missing bass weight. That shouldn't be necessary should it.

    Who then can say that a degree of rhythm and pace or speed and tightness are universally desirable attribute for all speakers, all types of music? It could be argued that they're completely inappropriate for acoustic music where 'rich and soft' may in fact give a much more concert-hall experience at home in our small rooms.

    I suggest then that the first question the serious audiophile should ask of his speaker supplier is 'what type of music were these speakers optimised to reproduce?' - since there is no such thing as a universally perfect loudspeaker.

    The basic set-up for recording an electric guitar through a PA amp

    Examples that show how the electric guitar we hear is (almost) always recorded through a PA speaker

    And how even the position of the mic used to record the electric guitar greatly effects the sound we hear!

    Conclusion: regarding pop or rock music nothing is 'natural'. Everything is tailored according to artistic desire. Therefore audiophile concepts of neutrality and absolute perfection are totally inappropriate. Nothing is as it seems in rock and roll.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

    Comment


    • #3
      Alan:

      To your mention of electric guitar and synthesizer, I would also add the electric bass (present in nearly every form of modern rock and pop music) and drums/percussion.

      While the electric bass sound is usually far less heavily treated and processed than the e-guitar is, it is amplified, and is plucked rather than bowed, creating a sharper, faster attack and decay than bowed acoustic bass (plucked upright jazz bass is somewhere in between). Not only is the instrument amplified and plucked, but in some styles of pop music (funk, for instance), the plucking is made extra-percussive by the "slap and pop" style of playing. In rock, while many bassists play finger style, many also use a plectrum, which again enhances the percussive attack of the notes.

      The same is true with rock/pop drums, especially the bass drum, which is often heavily weighted and damped to create a quick deep "thud" that you can feel in your gut (if your speakers go low enough). Most of the other sounds of the drum kit are very "fast" sounds, and by definition percussive (obviously).

      So, whilst everything you say about classical and most other acoustic music is true, I would say that, if anything, the exact opposite is true in most rock and pop music. Instead of warm, soft sounds that build and decay slowly, the entire genre (with exceptions of course) is built of hard, percussive, high-impact sounds (often with significant bass content) that start and stop very quickly. In my view, it's less about the treatment applied to the sounds, but the fact that the entire sonic palette is quite different.

      While, as you say, there may be few truly "original" sounds in rock music (the drum kit is probably the most "natural" and unprocessed instrument in the repertoire, and it plays a relatively much larger role than the percussion instruments in classical music), and it follows that reproducing a sound that's "faithful" to a non-existent "original" may lead to a different set of priorities. But there are still voices, and drums, and acoustic instruments that have to sound more or less "real", whatever that is.

      Comment


      • #4
        Bass in pop v. classical music

        Originally posted by EricW View Post
        ...While the electric bass sound is usually far less heavily treated and processed than the e-guitar is... in some styles of pop music (funk, for instance), the plucking is made extra-percussive by the "slap and pop" style of playing. In rock, while many bassists play finger style, many also use a plectrum, which again enhances the percussive attack of the notes .... Instead of warm, soft sounds that build and decay slowly, the entire genre (with exceptions of course) is built of hard, percussive, high-impact sounds (often with significant bass content) that start and stop very quickly.....
        I don't think I could have expressed myself clearly. I agree with you.

        There is as you suggest a significant difference in the acoustic (spectral) energy in classical music (by which I mean acoustic, non-amplified music) and pop/rock music (by definition, amplified). And yes, the start/stop action of plucked strings (rare in classical music) does indeed create a bass pulse which is fundamentally different in character to that of the bass line in classical music. That's why I concluded by saying that ......

        I suggest then that the first question the serious audiophile should ask of his speaker supplier is 'what type of music were these speakers optimised to reproduce?' - since there is no such thing as a universally perfect loudspeaker.
        Listening to a selection of contemporary hifi speakers at hifi dealers leads me believe that as the reproduced bottom end is so dry and tight they must have been designed for listeners who live on a diet of pop/rock, because they are unable to capture the emotional (and literal) warmth of the classical concert hall experience. They sound, to put it in classical terms, like castrati v. a rich baritone. You remind me that this pop v. classical energy balance was examined by Harwood at the BBC during the time when pop music had claimed its right to airtime - and this impacted on speaker/amplifier bass power handling.

        The energy requirements for convincingly reproducing classical music v. pop music at home are totally different.
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

        Comment

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