"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound from microphone to ear, achievable by recognising and controlling the numerous confounding variables that exist along the audio chain. The Harbeth designer's objective is to make loudspeakers that contribute little of themselves to the music passing through them.

Identifying system components for their sonic neutrality should logically proceed from the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance. Deviations from a flat frequency response at any point along the signal chain from microphone to ear is likely to give an audible sonic personality to the system at your ear; this includes the significant contribution of the listening room itself. To accurately reproduce the recorded sound as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would be best advised to select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

For example, the design of and interaction between the hifi amplifier and its speaker load can and will alter the sound balance of what you hear. This may or may not be what you wish to achieve, but any deviation from a flat response is a step away from a truly neutral system. HUG has extensively discussed amplifiers and the methods for seeking the most objectively neutral among a plethora of product choices.

HUG specialises in making complex technical matters simple to understand, getting at the repeatable facts in a post-truth environment where objectivity is increasingly ridiculed. With our heritage of natural sound and pragmatic design, HUG is not the best place to discuss non-Harbeth audio components selected, knowingly or not, to introduce a significantly personalised system sound. 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 offerings there. There is really no on-line substitute for time invested in a dealer's showroom because 'tuning' your system to taste is such a highly personal matter. Our overall objective here is to empower readers to make the factually best procurement decisions in the interests of lifelike music at home.

Please consider carefully how much you should rely upon and be influenced by 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, loudness and room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you. Always keep in mind that without basic test equipment, subjective opinions will reign unchallenged. With test equipment, universal facts and truths are exposed.

If some of the science behind faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over Harbeth speakers is your thing, this forum has been helping with that since 2006. If you just want to share your opinions and photos with others then the unrelated Harbeth Speakers Facebook page may be for you. Either way, welcome to the world of Harbeth!"

Feb. 2018
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Legal, patents etc.

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  • Legal, patents etc.

    As you may be aware, in the early 1990's we were granted a UK-only patent for the RADIAL cone concept. This offered, in theory, a small degree of protection to us should anyone enter the UK market with a product that encroached on our patent. It offers no protection at all to us in markets outside the UK; the majority of our speakers are exported from the UK.

    At the drafting stage of our patent it was not necessary - nor would it have been prudent - to disclose to public gaze the fine chemical/mechanical/acoustic details of how RADIAL actually behaved, nor how it was processed, nor the details of it acoustic advantages except in the most general terms sufficient to satisfy the patent registrar, who is, of course, not a loudspeaker specialist. So, what we put into the public domain about RADIAL is the tip of the iceberg compared to what we know, and we know a great deal about the 'wrinkles' of making RADIAL work as well as it does. We have a good working knowledge of this specialist area of polymer-acoustics

    Much more effective protection is offered by the fact that the processing of the four key component chemicals in the RADIAL mixture is virtually impossible, since they do not naturally want to combine. They are like pieces of four different jigsaws that demand extreme attention to detail (times, pressures, temperatures, activators, lubricants, catalysts etc.) to persuade them to interbond. This necessitates my personal and continuously supervision of the process as I have done (see picture below) on both occasions that I've made RADIAL material in bulk. Furthermore, three of the materials are now obsolete (their impending obsolescence was known to us when we selected them nearly fifteen years ago) and as they are long out of production with no viable alternatives there cannot be, by definition, a prospect of infringement of the RADIAL patent.

    Everything about RADIAL is expensive: the chemistry is expensive (Japanese high technology), the granularising is time consuming (it can only be extruded at a dribble) and it all adds up. [By contrast, the norm for the speaker industry is just one phonecall to a pertochem supplier .... 'please deliver me a roll of your grade 123 vacuum formable polypropylene tomorrow' - you can be vacuum forming cones the same day.]

    We have been making the RADIAL polymer and injection moulding cones for more than ten years (justifying our substantial investment in hardened-steel tooling) when the industry norm remains vacuum forming using simple, often wooden male mould tools. RADIAL cannot be vacuum formed; when you commit to it, you expose yourself to a substantial tooling-up cost and great risk: if the tooling is not right, you may have to scrap it and start again.

    Harbeth UK has under lock and key a considerable stockpile of both the finished RADIAL material and the constituent chemicals for at least twenty years production; last year I personally formulated granularised RADIAL sufficient for about 100,000 cones. I guess that had there been a universal adoption of RADIAL across the speaker industry (repeating my predecessors patenting of polypropylene) then there would have been a worthwhile demand for the chemical industry, and the necessary chemicals would still be in production. We assumed that would indeed be the case, hence the investment in a patent but it has proved otherwise.

    In my opinion, non-availability of essential chemicals is the last word in intellectual property rights. Ten years on, RADIAL is still the best, lowest mass, most rigid, cleanest sounding cone material: it was a generation ahead of the pack then, and it still is. Our stockpile and even more so our accumulated material and processing knowledge is your best protection of 'the Harbeth midband'.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK