"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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Harbeth - a monitor perfectly at home ...

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  • Harbeth - a monitor perfectly at home ...

    When auditioning loudspeakers, be aware of these crucial issues:

    1. When this speaker was being designed, what replay loudness did the designer have in mind?

    Did he intend the speaker to sound natural, warm, detailed and full bodied when played at a normal level? Or did he intend that the speaker should be played LOUD to sound correctly balanced - especially in the lower frequencies? Implicit in playing LOUD is that the listener sits far from the speaker. Implicit in playing at a normal level is that the listener sits relatively near to the speakers say, 1-3m away.

    From a designer's viewpoint, the closer the listener sits to the speaker the greater the 'amplification' of the speaker's defects and the more challenging the design task. To accept a design brief that the speaker must sound natural and sweet even when close enough to touch makes the design task much more difficult but underpins the design of Harbeth/BBC monitors.

    2. How will this speaker sound at home, playing late at night when you are concerned about intruding upon the neighbours?

    In Harbeth's case, the answer is that every one of our speakers is a professional tool trusted to monitor speech and music in a broadcast studio which shares many characteristics with the typical domestic listening room:

    - Similar size
    - Similar reverberation time
    - Similar listening level
    - Similar distance from the listener to the speakers
    - Same need to sound full bodied but not to annoy the neighbours/other studios

    That's why a Harbeth sounds so 'right' even when played relatively quietly. And they doesn't need a huge power amp. Attached is a range of very typical BBC-style studio's from 1930's to date which show how close the user sits to the speakers - broadly similar to how we use our Harbeth's at home.

    Evaluating louspeakers: a word of advice ....

    A Harbeth speaker sounds natural when you are next to it or when it is 4m away. This is very unusual. Most speakers sound good only when they are far away and as you sit closer they sound hard, fatiguing and unnatural. When you are evaluating speakers be sure to also listen to them closer than you normally would. This will emphasise any problems in the speakers such as colouration and irritating fatigue. If you listen to a speaker in the far-field and it seems to reach out and demand your attention be sure to double-check that speaker's performance in the near-field. Great speakers don't shout at you. They gently pull you into their smooth wide sound stage and astonishing clarity.

    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK