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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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The history of the Harbeth Company

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  • #16
    My memory is going. You are right: the original C7 has bevelled edges.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    • #17
      The Harbeth Company

      Harbeth was founded in 1977 by Dudley Harwood, the senior engineer in the BBC's Research Department at Kingswood Warren, a large country house near London http://www.bbc.co.uk/heritage/buildi...d_warren.shtml

      The name Harbeth is an amalgam of HARwood and elizaBETH, his wife. Harwood followed D. E. L. Shorter as one of the pioneering minds underpinning the British audio scene of the 1950's through to the 1970's. It was Harwood's discovery and patenting of the application of polypropylene plastic that paved the way for him to retire from the BBC and found Harbeth in 1977.

      The original Harbeth HL Monitor (known as the Mk1) was the world's first loudspeaker to use the brand new polypropylene cone. Other contemporary monitors used bextrene as the bass/mid cone material, which performed well but only if heavily doped by hand. Harwood's polypropylene did not require doping as it was inherently better damped, so it was lighter, louder, cheaper and more repeatable to manufacture.

      Unfortunately for Harwood, when drafting the Claims of his patent there was either a typing error which was not picked-up or the Claims were too tightly specified: his polypropylene patent was soon challenged and proved unenforceable. Harwood's novel material rapidly became the de facto loudspeaker driver material across the world. Bextrene had had its day.
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

      Comment


      • #18
        Interesting material Alan.

        Please tell us something about how you came to be with the company.

        Also, are any members of the founding families still involved in the operation of the company?

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        • #19
          The founding families ...

          Originally posted by John Parkyn
          ...Also, are any members of the founding families still involved in the operation of the company?
          No, my involvement with Harbeth followed from a chance encounter with Mr. Harwood in the spring of 1986. I was 29, one of the first UK employees of the Japanese NEC Corporation, slithering rather nicely up the greasy pole: Harwood was actually fast asleep in his workshop beside an electric bar heater: the business looked dormant.

          It's a long story, but in essence, I'd been avidly following the "BBC speaker philosophy" since my teens, and Harwood, Shorter and Hughes had been (and still are) heroes. As I walked back to my nice new big shiny company car I was certain that destiny had brought us together. "The right man, at the right time, with the right enthusiasm" - and with a vision if only a smattering of knowledge.

          So it was then that I resigned from NEC - where I was responsible for their semiconductor business with (Sir) Alan Sugar (of whom I have immense respect for straight talking - I was on the receiving end of it many times), Sir Clive Sinclair and the very first build of the IBM PC in the UK. But it just had to be done.

          Harwood made it clear that he wished to completely retire (he's have been about 70 years old) and that I was entirely on my own. That was the best legacy that he could possibly have given me (because it forced me to hit the ground running) although in Japan, a big market for Harwood, the importer could only manage the transition from Harwood to me by running-up a story that I'd been his apprentice. Not true.

          So, I inherited the BBC's 'loudspeaker legacy' from H. D. Harwood and have concentrated my entire efforts on progressive detail improvements (such as the RADIAL cone material). I wholeheartedly believe in the BBC's approach to loudspeaker design for three key reasons:

          1. Every step of their R&D was documented by the hands-on engineers. It was passed to heads of department for comment, signature and approval. A few Reports made their way into the public domain - most didn't. International engineering reputations - even careers - depended upon the integrity of the BBC's published measurements, the accuracy of observations and the conclusions drawn. Engineers around the world trusted the BBC Reports as completely true, reproducible, impartial and fair.

          2. The BBC had limited funds. They had to extract real value from every pound of public money sunk into R&D. They had to be able to demonstrate to their masters in government that the consequence of their loudspeaker research was better and cheaper real physical products. Those speakers had to outperform anything they could have bought in the high street.

          3. They were almost oblivious to the cut and thrust of the commercial world: boffins working at their own pace in the pursuit of excellence.

          Will we ever see the likes of that purist approach to engineering again? Was it just self-indulgence? Or philanthropy? Whatever: it was good and it lives on here. Pragmatism rules in my book.
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • #20
            Re: The Harbeth Company (Origins, today, the future)

            Not sure where to post this. Does anyone know if Harbeth speakers will be making an appearance at the HE SHow in June in Los Angeles? Exhibitors at that show include manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, so several ways for the brand to make a showing.

            I would sure love to hear the Monitor 40s sometime.

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            • #21
              Re: The Harbeth Company (Origins, today, the future)

              Alan, I think all of the harbeth fans in China know how the brand name came to being, but few know how you got involved and attached to the name. Your story is fairly interesting to us.

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              • #22
                Re: The Harbeth Company (Origins, today, the future)

                Hi Alan,

                Have been reading your reply to John Parkyn (8th Feb 2006) on your meeting Dudley Harwood and how you eventually took over the Harbeth company.

                It must have been in 1977 that I first came across original the HL Mk1 speakers in a hi fi dealers somewhere in London

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                • #23
                  1986 . . . Harwood's workshop

                  Originally posted by chesnebg
                  ... Dudley Harwood slumped in has chair sitting by what must have been the very same electric bar fire! Strange what one remembers after all the years, but it was the one bar fire in your story that bought my memory ...
                  It really was like that! You walked away with your speakers updated; I walked away from the first encounter and back to my nice, big, white NEC company car thinking 'I can not let this business collapse and all the accumulated 'BBC knowledge' disappear.' It was one of those moments where there is not the shadow of doubt that the monumentous life-change that you intend is prudent, do-able, and with luck, the best use of ones modest abilities.

                  I've hunted around for some photos, and this is the first time I've published them. They were taken in 1986 outside Harbeth's second premises, known affectionately as 'Rear of Newton's Yard'. Harwoods office (with companion fire) had a window to the right behind the brick archway, and the entrance door further round to the right. The chain fence on the left was that of a school playground. The production area was behind the up-and-over door where Harwood worked alone assembling his speakers, to order.

                  You had to see it to believe it: the whole operation had a dream like quality about it: one of the most influential and legendary audio engineers in the world supplying Japanese, Hong Kong and Korean customers from humble premises in a back street of south London!

                  In the other picture (I'd be 29) you can see my daughter Leanna (then three years old). I must have taken the day off NEC.

                  My then final words to Harwood on the day of completion of contract for me to buy Harbeth was 'Well Dudley, would you be interested in some consultancy work?'. He wheezed a for a moment or two as he mulled it over. 'No', he said 'I'll be quite content tending my roses'.

                  I was on my own - except in Japan, where I discovered many years later, the transition from one generation to another presented such an alarming marketing conundrum that it was explained (and was a complete fabrication) to the market that I had shadowed Harwood as his apprentice for several years. The fact was that there was a completely clean break, and that although I tidied-up and continued to manufacture Harbeth's HL Mk4, from the HL Compact (original version, 1988) onwards, you can only blame me!
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Harbeth is born - April 1977

                    The very first announcement of the formation of the Harbeth company was a Press Release in Hi-Fi News magazine, April 1977 - exactly 30 years ago this month.

                    You can read about it here in another thread: http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?t=251
                    Alan A. Shaw
                    Designer, owner
                    Harbeth Audio UK

                    Comment

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