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HUG - here for all audio enthusiasts

The Harbeth User Group is the primary channel for public communication with Harbeth's HQ. If you have a 'scientific mind' and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - audio equipment decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual Science of Audio sub-forum area of HUG is your place. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and should be accessible to non-experts and able to be tried-out at home without deep technical knowledge. From a design perspective, today's award winning Harbeths could not have been designed any other way.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings area is you. If you are quite set in your subjectivity, then HUG is likely to be a bit too fact based for you, as many of the contributors have maximised their pleasure in home music reproduction by allowing their head to rule their heart. 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 only, although HUG is really not the best place to have these sort of purely subjective airings.

The Moderators' decision is final in all matters and Harbeth does not necessarily agree with the contents of any member contributions, especially in the Subjective Soundings area, and has no control over external content.

That's it! Enjoy!

{Updated Oct. 2017}
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My hobby

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  • My hobby

    My experience is that a new piece of audio equipment should fit in with the following:

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    1. Functionality - Can it play media from any source of choice, current and likely near future sources?

    2. Performance criteria - Will it provide a pleasing sound for a wide range of music, loud and quiet?

    3. Cosmetics - Can my wife live with it?

    This was drawn from my own purchasing experience of building a new system over 4 years. The reasons for each major decision is set out below.

    1. Original system : Practicality of digital streaming and no clutter

    2. Change of speakers : Cosmetic (wife objected to the first pair - with good reason)

    3. Turntable : Pressure from son, music freak (completely contrary to no clutter policy)

    4. Amplifier : Dryness of sound, Change of amplifier from SS to valves. May be coloured, but immediately more pleasing sound.

    5. New turntable : Old one had a really impractical tonearm with massive lateral drift and risk to stylus. New turntable chosen purely based on quality of engineering (largely unknown brand).

    6. Mains treatment/cables : Became an audiophile victim, speaker cables actually did make a difference, not sure about the rest.

    7. Change of streamer : Was not using streamer as analogue sounded better, tried some DACs and opened up the music. Delighted with DAC sonic performance. DAC has now become a digital hub (not planned)

    8. Change of phono stage : Due to success of amplifier, asked maker to make me a phono stage to suit my cartridge. Direct comparison with old phono - much greater clarity and lower noise floor.

    9. Change of speakers : Listening fatigue, over-accentuated treble, poor at low volume. Heard Harbeth 30.1 and immediately liked the balance. Severe resistance from wife who does not like the look of Harbeth boxes.

    10. Change of amplifier : Not enough power. HUG to blame. New ones 10 years old, purchased in USA auction very cheap, being modified to suit SHL5+ (same make as existing amps). Also requires phono-amp to be modified to a line pre-amp.

    11. Streaming : Added when CD quality became available. Minimal cost. Suits my wide tasted in music and saves loads of money.

    12. CD transport : Cheap and cheerful (180), purchased on reputation of drive unit. Purchased because there are so many good cheap classical CD compilations being issued.

    I assume some or all of these purchasing decisions are familiar, but there is no common thread. The first full system purchase had almost no regard to sonic measurement at all, as I did not have a reference point. I was quite happy with it for quite a while. There are as many decisions based on practicality and cosmetics.

    The resulting system, largely focused on the SHL5+, is organised around a phono pre-amp with two analogue inputs (mm, mc) and one line input for the DAC. The DAC has three sources (streaming, USB hard drive and CD transport). I would never have thought it would end up organised this way and no retailer ever gave me advice that would have led me that way.

  • #2
    Appearance matters?

    Speaker appearance is important to me, luckily I find the harbeth boxes to be amongst the nicer looking units and the P3 in particular in rosewood is probably the nicest looking loudspeaker I can think of.

    I have the C7's and whilst not as pretty as the P3 I initially wondering how my wife would react to them as they are quite large, she had seen photos of them and liked them, and in person was praising how beautiful and well made they are....she especially likes them with the grilles on......yes the grilles are supposed to be on for sonics and protection but I do love the way they look under the grille.....

    ssfas, so you have the SHL5+? How does your wife like those?

    Edit: the current fashion of white or metallic drivers in cluttered looking boxes really turns me off.
    Getting to know my C7ES3

    Comment


    • #3
      Tailored electronics?

      Originally posted by ssfas View Post
      My experience is that a new piece of audio equipment should fit in with the following:

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      8. Change of phono stage : Due to success of amplifier, asked maker to make me a phono stage to suit my cartridge. Direct comparison with old phono - much greater clarity and lower noise floor.

      10. Change of amplifier : Not enough power. HUG to blame. New ones 10 years old, purchased in USA auction very cheap, being modified to suit SHL5+ (same make as existing amps). Also requires phono-amp to be modified to a line pre-amp.
      This adapting of the amplifiers to somehow match the phono cartridge or speakers sounds most peculiar. To what brand and model of electronics do you refer?

      As A.S. has suggested, the performance of a well-designed amplifier should be independent (or agnostic) as a function of the speakers to which it is connected.

      Likewise, a phono amplifier may have user adjustable settings for gain, load resistance and load capacitance, but otherwise need not be made to match a specific cartridge. If so, what happens if you decide to change cartridges? Does the phono amplifier have to be rebuilt, again?

      It just seems as though someone is being sold a proverbial bill of goods.
      Buying audio electronics isn't the same as ordering made-to-measure clothing - unless you've been led to believe such a thing.

      Comment


      • #4
        Waf

        She doesn't like the SHL5+. The occasional reminder how she hates then, I agree and ignore her.

        Comment


        • #5
          Could be worse?

          Originally posted by ssfas View Post
          She doesn't like the SHL5+. The occasional reminder how she hates then, I agree and ignore her.
          It could be worse, you could have brought these home:

          http://www.6moons.com/industryfeatures/magico/hero.jpg

          I imagine she does like how the 5's sound!!
          Getting to know my C7ES3

          Comment


          • #6
            More for less

            Originally posted by IMF+TDL View Post
            This adapting of the amplifiers to somehow match the phono cartridge or speakers sounds most peculiar. To what brand and model of electronics do you refer?

            As A.S. has suggested, the performance of a well-designed amplifier should be independent (or agnostic) as a function of the speakers to which it is connected.

            Likewise, a phono amplifier may have user adjustable settings for gain, load resistance and load capacitance, but otherwise need not be made to match a specific cartridge. If so, what happens if you decide to change cartridges? Does the phono amplifier have to be rebuilt, again?

            It just seems as though someone is being sold a proverbial bill of goods.
            Buying audio electronics isn't the same as ordering made-to-measure clothing - unless you've been led to believe such a thing.
            Unfortunately I was lured by the sonic performance of the SHL5+ and was aware at the demo that my integrated SET amplifier might have some shortcomings in terms of sheer power (as mentioned on the HUG before). I took the chance, to see how it went. After 9 months I borrowed a 60w LFD amp and the power shortcomings were apparent, although they are not relevant to most of my listening. I preferred my SET mid and treble sound. I don't believe all amplifiers sound the same.

            My amplifiers are made by "AA" near Nottingham. The phono-amp has no switching. Changes to load and gain are apparently a couple of resistors. The gain issue arose from the HUG, as the volume was down at about 10 o'clock using the phono source. I have only used one cartridge for a few years. A good switch can be added for 150. Converting it from a phono-amp to a phono pre-amp (due to changing from integrated to mono amps) saves on boxes, cables and money. The 'new' amplifiers, 10 years old but pristine, will be fitted with new 100w output transformers made to order taking account of the Harbeth 6 ohm load. The component changes are mainly due to the amps being a USA specification, below UK spec. The final cost will be the same as the LFD amplifier.

            Made to measure works for me, I pay parts and labour, which is a lot cheaper than buying new items that lose half their value out of the box. Turntable and phono were purchased direct from the manufacturer, which halves the price. A sixth sense tells me when to but new of second hand. The only components I have bought new twice are two pairs of Harbeth speakers! When AS designs a pair that fits in a VW Golf I'll buy those as well.

            None of this is very interesting to HUG readers, I may be a bit miffed at it being suggested I've been taken for a ride. If there is a point, it is that for all the reasons that can lead to consumer decisions, sonic, cosmetic or otherwise, there are different ways of doing it and without changes costing a fortune. I despair when I read of people selling items for 1/3rd cost that they've had 6 months. My P3ESR are driven by a Naim all-in-one that was 1/3rd off retail, 3 months old, unused and the purchaser hadn't even got round to registering the warranty.

            If buying Harbeth does one thing - besides providing endless musical pleasure - it is that is makes you realise pretty quick that you can get more for less, and it changed my view on audio generally.

            Comment


            • #7
              150 for just a switch?

              Originally posted by ssfas View Post
              A good switch can be added for 150.

              The 'new' amplifiers, 10 years old but pristine, will be fitted with new 100w output transformers made to order taking account of the Harbeth 6 ohm load.

              None of this is very interesting to HUG readers, I may be a bit miffed at it being suggested I've been taken for a ride.
              150 to add a switch about sums up the situation - and how much more for the new 100w output transformers?

              Not to mention the Pulse amp, but for 160 you can buy this 100W/ch receiver (tuner+preamp+power amp all-in-one-box) from Pioneer:
              http://www.pioneer.eu/uk/products/42...20-K/page.html

              Comment


              • #8
                In Defence of the British Audio Industry and Little People

                Originally posted by IMF+TDL View Post
                150 to add a switch about sums up the situation - and how much more for the new 100w output transformers?

                Not to mention the Pulse amp, but for 160 you can buy this 100W/ch receiver (tuner+preamp+power amp all-in-one-box) from Pioneer:
                http://www.pioneer.eu/uk/products/42...20-K/page.html
                My apologies, I think the 150 was to add switching for the load and RCA inputs. I was told you can add an mc load switch for 25.

                I do not want to get in a dispute of the sort that occurs elsewhere, as the HUG tends to be universally informative and polite, but anyway ...

                We could all trade in our over-priced kit and purchase a Pulse 160. We don't. I understand that Harbeth work well and are used with many brands, and in the UK and USA the likes of Rega, Croft and LFD are popular, the latter two being a regularly mentioned match. I heard Harbeth and telephoned them direct.

                My dealer advised me on this purchase. He lent me an LFD amplifier to determine the power issue (I don't collect hifi), one that I was tempted to buy. I compared the sonics with my valve unit. When the amps I purchased came up on auction, he advised me on that as well, as there is a UK valve amp brand well known in the USA that makes a very similar specified dual-mono amplifier that he has sold in hundreds, well suited to Harbeth, that costs about 5,000 (I think).

                Anyway, I had a budget of 3,000 because that is what I would probably have spent with my dealer on solid state units that he regularly sells to Harbeth customers. The units I purchased illustrate a design-marketing issue. They were made in the UK for USA distribution. For the USA market the distributor wanted an expensive brand of American capacitor installed (about $100 each). Apparently it was good for sales. Money had to be saved elsewhere, so cheaper output transformers were used. I am modifying it to UK spec, with much cheaper capacitors (about $20) and better transformers (450 the pair). Total modification cost 750, total cost to me 3,000, resale value 4,000, current retail price 9,000.

                The UK has a tradition of men in sheds building hifi. I find it rather endearing. Almost an artisan way of life. Some may bake bread in their spare time. Customers can go and visit them. My business comprises 2.6 people so I know what it's like.

                I have a shed-like office. I genuinely like to support proprietary businesses because the people who run them tend to care about their product and their customers. Harbeth is a fine example, as are Croft and LFD. They also make exceedingly good products.

                Even SME have been in the same large shed, not far from Harbeth, for decades. Linn started in a shed making bearings for Ariston in the shed next door. My son's Claymore amp was made by Colin Wonfor in a shed in Clacton-on-Sea and is connected to speakers made in another shed down the road in Southend. My amplifier supplier builds and modifies machines, tests and listens to them, drives down with his lovely wife and has a coffee. Or I could got to RadioShack and buy a Pioneer.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Cottage industry and ancient technoology

                  If there's a need to spend 3,000, I'd like to see how much value your local supplier provides in comparison with this unit, for example:
                  http://www.marantz.co.uk/uk/products...oductid=pm11s3

                  A sense of provenance and having a social connection with the maker of your amplifier seemly outweighs the desire for maximal accuracy.
                  As stated in this post [ http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/s...3331#post33331 ], an output transformer is not the optimum method for interfacing with a speaker.

                  The next time that your amplifier supplier drives down for coffee, perhaps you could inquire if he can design an amplifier without an output transformer.

                  Incidentally, do you drive a Morgan or, instead, a vehicle produced by robots in a modern factory and, if so, where and how do you decide to draw the line?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Pride of ownership?

                    Originally posted by IMF+TDL View Post
                    If there's a need to spend 3,000, I'd like to see how much value your local supplier provides in comparison with this unit, for example:
                    http://www.marantz.co.uk/uk/products...oductid=pm11s3

                    A sense of provenance and having a social connection with the maker of your amplifier seemly outweighs the desire for maximal accuracy.
                    As stated in this post [ http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/s...3331#post33331 ], an output transformer is not the optimum method for interfacing with a speaker.

                    The next time that your amplifier supplier drives down for coffee, perhaps you could inquire if he can design an amplifier without an output transformer.

                    Incidentally, do you drive a Morgan or, instead, a vehicle produced by robots in a modern factory and, if so, where and how do you decide to draw the line?
                    Why is this bothering you so much ? Can't you just embrace the fact that Steven is enjoying his system for it's sound and that he appreciates nice things?

                    Many people enjoy beautiful hand made watches, suits, shoes, furniture, guitars and, yes, electronics. Even if the hand made electronics sound no better than the mass produced black box, what is so wrong with enjoying something to be proud of and that you love to see and touch ?

                    Harbeth speakers would still sound the same if housed in black crackle cabinets but isn't it so much nicer that they are beautifully veneered with so much care and attention to detail. It doesn't do anything for the sound but does everything for pride of ownership !!!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Born free

                      Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                      Why is this bothering you so much ? Can't you just embrace the fact that Steven is enjoying his system for it's sound and that he appreciates nice things?

                      Many people enjoy beautiful hand made watches, suits, shoes, furniture, guitars and, yes, electronics. Even if the hand made electronics sound no better than the mass produced black box, what is so wrong with enjoying something to be proud of and that you love to see and touch ?

                      Harbeth speakers would still sound the same if housed in black crackle cabinets but isn't it so much nicer that they are beautifully veneered with so much care and attention to detail. It doesn't do anything for the sound but does everything for pride of ownership !!!
                      Dave is spot on.

                      I love music. I'd been to hundreds, possibly thousands of concerts before I ever got a component hifi system. I like excellence in all things, whether in a performance or audio. To me, cars are for getting from A to B, so I have a 1.6 Diesel Golf, but I love them as works of art and have been to the Maranello Museum, the Beauleigh Museum and, best of all, the Italian National Automobile in Museum in Turin. I have no desire to own one, but a good friend, who also is big on audio is currently having a Mk1 E-type rebuilt bolt by bolt, as my father did a few years ago. The E-type is a useless car in London as it can't cope with speed bumps. I don't wear a watch.

                      I have superb amplifiers made by a very pleasant man with a lovely wife. I did not meet a very pleasant man with a lovely wife who happens to make amplifiers. There is a difference.

                      My son is 18 on a few weeks. He is a music nut and a very good guitarist. He has several very nice factory-built guitars. He didn't want a party. We were down at a guitar centre buying an amp and I came up with the idea of a custom guitar for his birthday. We have a very good luthier near our home (LA Guitars - https://www.laguitars.com/gallery.html). We went through a design process with him, ordered body and neck from Warmoth in Seattle, handmade pickups and the luthier will build it and tune it to perfection. It is a tremendously thrilling experience for both me and my son, and I don't even play guitar.

                      And the best thing of all, LA Guitars operate from a real garden shed, to beat all garden sheds, at the end of a real garden. See the gallery - it's wonderful stuff.

                      As Dave describes, there is real personal craftsmanship in both the design and construction of Harbeth and that is an important issue to me. It is a very human thing. It is not a compromise. If another speaker brand sounded better I would not buy the inferior product.

                      p.s. AS recommended telephone directories as suitable stands for speakers. My P3ESR are sitting on my stamp collection (4 volumes, 2 per speaker) from when I was a kid. Applying logic, stamp collecting is the single most stupid hobby imaginable, bar none, but people spend fortunes on it and it provides endless fascination. A stamp collection occupies a large section of the British Museum. People collect stamps as a human frailty, it's what being human is all about, just like they like to chop and change audio components. We are human, after all, we are all different and born with free will (North Korea excepted), not robots.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The human condition

                        Originally posted by ssfas View Post
                        ... People collect stamps as a human frailty, it's what being human is all about, just like they like to chop and change audio components. We are human, after all, we are all different and born with free will (North Korea excepted), not robots.
                        That is a perfectly reasonable position to take. I think that the only issue could perhaps be that we try rather hard here to rein in those very natural and normal human attributes to surround ourselves with beautiful things, and beautiful people as you mention. The reason we are inclined to do that is that those normal, emotional engagements which send a rush of pleasing dopamine to our brains tend to get in the way of cold, objective assessment of audio equipment. Or music, for that matter. They tend to lea us to wrong purchase decisions, and there can be no better living example of consumer 'churn' and a hamster-wheel of dissatisfaction than the audiophile game.

                        There can't be many of us who have not fallen for the car dealer's blarney, or the tailors', or the teachers' or the girlfriends or whatever and maybe regretted it. It's part of being human. But here on HUG, we are actively promoting a philosophy of rationalism in the purchase of audio equipment, and that naturally will put under the microscopes claims about exotic capacitors or whatever where the true, objective theoretical, likely and actual technical improvement/upgrade cannot be realistically separated from the marketing tease. Certainly not without proper, controlled experimentation. Hence the caution.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'm a hopless romantic

                          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                          ... The reason we are inclined to do that is that those normal, emotional engagements which send a rush of pleasing dopamine to our brains tend to get in the way of cold, objective assessment of audio equipment. Or music, for that matter. ...
                          If, for the sake of argument, the perfect audio system could be designed that - from a purely sonic point of view - could reproduce music perfectly, even taking account of room issues, would the musical experience be the same as the live event?

                          If you were the lab rat in a sound-proof glass box, taken into the auditorium under a black cloth only removed and the box opened as the conductor's baton was first raised, would it sound the same as when played back by the perfect system? The answer may be yes, but we are not lab rats, as we arrive 30 minutes early, have a drink, the patrons file in, there is a buzz as the band file in and tune up, and the conductor takes up his position on the podium.

                          No doubt a chemical process is going on in our body that does not happen before turning on the stereo.

                          My listening pleasure is sometimes enhanced by memories of live performance as I am listening to recorded sound. For this reason you can often get just as much pleasure from listening to music on a 10 transistor radio.

                          This is a philosophical issue. Much of HUG debate seems intent on isolating the audio reproduction element. Fair enough, Harbeth is in the audio business. I find that difficult, if not impossible. Call me a hopeless romantic, or even human. It doesn't stop me loving your speakers and taking on board advice given on this forum in improving my domestic audio (and saving money).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Tease me do ....

                            Originally posted by ssfas View Post
                            ... This is a philosophical issue. Much of HUG debate seems intent on isolating the audio reproduction element. Fair enough, Harbeth is in the audio business. I find that difficult, if not impossible. Call me a hopeless romantic, or even human. It doesn't stop me loving your speakers and taking on board advice given on this forum in improving my domestic audio (and saving money).
                            With respect, I think you have trivialised my comment which I spent some time considering and honing.

                            The point I though I made was that if we see ourselves as significantly objective, rational people, at least as far as audio procurement and selection goes, then we have to be willing, able and curious enough to try, when the issue is important, to set ourselves aside from the emotional pull on our heart and wallet, in the interest of arriving at the best, cheapest and most satisfying long term position. It's absolutely fine in my book to recognise that that is, for many people an impossibility, as impossible as dating a Hollywood beauty and kidding oneself that her looks are unimportant and that 'if she looked like the back of a bus, I'd still date her...'. But the reader needs to know when the romance stops and the technical facts starts. They are the enemy of each other.

                            The issue is, I repeat, failing to be honest up-front that one has enjoyed the tease, the chase and the spend, to allow quasi-technical justifications to creep into ones rhetoric, which on the face of it may sound plausible but may just not stand up to proper scrutiny. And then to perpetuate the story to others, who know nothing of the emotional elevation, but take-on the quasi-technical stuff as fact.

                            And there you have the audiophile industry in a nutshell. Or the motor trade.
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Best bang for the buck (long term)

                              I find the philosophy of rationalism and objectivity in making purchasing decisions quite refreshing and use it in most areas of my life. Ridiculous claims should be scrutinized with a heavy hand because my resources are finite and there are many other very worthwhile and fulfilling areas in life to spend my hard earned money on. But also to save resources for a future date and purpose.

                              When it comes to audio I wish to spend my resources where it can do the most good (bang for buck) and benefit me the most for the long term. Not waste resources on things that can't be rationally and objectively shown to be any benefit.

                              Comment

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