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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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What's "snake oil" and what's not - interpreting marketing and media hype

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  • #31
    Harbeth merchandise (jokingly?)

    Originally posted by EricW View Post
    How about providing a small booklet of cocktail recipes together with the purchase of a new pair of Harbeths (domestic models only). It would be interesting, unusual, and both funny and serious at the same time. And very British (if you focus on quintessentially British cocktails like the G and T).

    You could even have a little link on the website: call it "Harbeth Recommended Audio Accessories" and link it to a list of your favourite gins. Now that would be amusing!
    Why stop there? How about Harbeth branded slippers to ease you into that relaxed state of mind (I would DEFINITELY buy those!). Or maybe a Harbeth calender with photos of our Dear Leader visiting famous British landmarks, that could be fun!

    I'm still waiting for the Harbeth mugs, pens, keyrings and t-shirts I asked for in February. Maybe we'll get them for Christmas!

    Comment


    • #32
      Pims No. 5 - almost essential for de-jittering ....

      The only jitter I am concerned about is the one that occurs after one too many G&T...perhaps a Pimm's is in order...
      Last edited by Macjager; 05-05-2011, 09:45 PM. Reason: Spelling...Pimm's

      Comment


      • #33
        The fresh air of a jitter-free DAC?

        Originally posted by A.S. View Post
        Wouldn't you say that a CD player (even the cheapest one) that skips or jitters in a normal room even when playing really loud and when actually sitting on the speaker is just poorly designed? I have a cheap portable CD player and I'm going to try it myself!

        I'm sure if you place even the finest CD transport out on an airfield and point a jet engine at it and wind up the thrust it will bugger it up but so what? Is that a relevant worry? No.
        I thought I will point out that in this now largely digital audio world, jitter doesn't refer to mechanical skipping by the CD transport.

        Quote from Wikipedia
        "In conversion between digital and analog signals, the sampling frequency is normally assumed to be constant. Samples should be converted at regular intervals. If there is jitter present on the clock signal to the analog-to-digital converter or a digital-to-analog converter then the instantaneous signal error introduced will be proportional to the slew rate of the desired signal and the absolute value of the clock error."

        From what I have understood from this to uneducated me gobbledy gook, is that the difference in the clocks of the computer source and of the external converter creates the above referred jitter, that degrades the quality of the sound. Hence, the expensive DACs ignore the clocks of the computer, and use only their built in clock for the process, thereby losing the jitter. There is a DAC sold for around 10k GBP, driven by this claim, and others at lower prices, that claim the use of this separation.

        More snake oil? I haven't a clue. I just wanted to point out that this sound degradation - whether audible or not - would be caused even if the computer and converter are kept completely isolated from any vibration because this is the new jitter of the age! Doesn't need mechanical vibration to cause it. I guess some will call this progress.

        I haven't succumbed to this line yet, but I have bought an external DA converter for my ipod, just on the basis that the one included in the ipod isn't good enough almost by definition by virtue of it being small enough to fit in the ipod. So the digital signal is extracted from the ipod, and converted to analog in a bigger box. Does it sound better than the ipod's analog signal plugged directly into a pre amp? My wallet says it does... The decay of the notes, the air in between them, the shimmer....!!!

        Comment


        • #34
          Proper comparative tests of (virtually perfect) electronics?

          Originally posted by GregD View Post
          A turntable/arm/cartridge is very different from a CD player or server/DAC. If your source is analogue - like a turntable, then it's mechanical quality is very important to it's performance or sound quality. With a turntable, good quality mechanical engineering sounds better but also costs more. A good turntable is unavoidably expensive.

          With digital sources, the rules are different. It's like amplifiers really. The engineering is less important, as all the parts are mass-produced in (usually) big Chinese factories that turn-out near perfect components (like Alan's NEC example earlier). Put them together and you have a very low distortion CD/DVD player that measures far better than any turntable. Spending a lot on a digital source does not reap greatly better sonic benefits like it can with turntables. The basic level of digital components is already very high.

          Use a 150 turntable in a high-end system and the result is not good. But use a cheap DVD player as a digital transport in the same system and it still sounds fine compared against your resident 10,000 pro-derived CD transport! I should know - I've done the experiment at home!
          I see the point about the cheap turntable, but I am sure there too there is a point beyond which the expensive engineering will not result in an audible difference.

          That point may not be 150 GBP, but would not be in multiples of that number. Likewise, they would need a good isolation, but only to the point it takes for the needle to not jump out of the groove?
          And, akin to your cheap DVD player, the same logic should apply to a cheap amplifier, perhaps at a slight increase in the floor price?

          But to your point about the cheap DVD player. In an A to B comparison, with all else unchanged as it would have to be for a control experiment, I notice you said it would sound fine compared to the 10k GBP CD player. Would you also say that it would sound the same, that any improvement in the sound would be not perceptible to the human ear?

          Has there been any A to B comparison done any time of the following kind in the last decade?

          1. Set up a cheap system using CD as a source. Cheap means the floor price of what assures the minimum build quality in the current digital age.
          2. In this system, change just the source to a very expensive CD player and see the difference, as heard. No other changes, of course.
          3. Then, move along and change just the amplifier in a like manner.
          4. Finally, change just the speakers to the markedly superior ones - Harbeth, or another.

          Based on all that I read in this forum, I know what the answer ought to be, that only item 4 above would be audibly different. But has this ever been formally done anywhere that anyone knows?

          One could even continue this process, for every other accessory and for what is worth ( not much, I suspect ), be the Ralph Nader for the high end audio industry.

          It may even turn out that the great unwashed that audiophiles love to snigger at for accepting the quality of the audio from compressed downloads, got this right then, in moving on from the offerings of the industry to their current preferences.

          Comment


          • #35
            Sometimes we just can't think straight - establishing ground rules?

            Originally posted by A.S. View Post
            Yeah yeah, but how loud do you have to play the speakers? Is this relevant in the real world? ..
            There are two sides of me, on one side, I believe that conventional cables, amplifiers of same design and output or stands sound very similar or at least indistinguishable to me but the other side also believes that there may be differences under the right condition which is usually due to poor designing. I do not want to be the guy who believed that all amps sound the same and foolishly took up a challenge comparing his about 50watter Sony or Yamaha against Krell monoblocks playing at about 90dB just because he read somewhere that all amps sound the same

            I even heard of people asking if a similar output power tube amp would sound like a solid state amplifier.

            We need to establish proper guidelines and a list of variables that may cause differences so that members can perform a reliable AB test for themselves. As long as members perceive (which is in most cases were imaginary) differences for whatever reasons than all the effort to debunk snake oil would be like casting pearls before swine.

            To those who still strongly believe in cables, please read Tom Nousaine article published in Sound & Vision magazine.

            ST

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            • #36
              The stylus and the drink - a dangerous combo

              Originally posted by Macjager View Post
              The only jitter I am concerned about is the one that occurs after one too many G&T...perhaps a Pims is in order...
              And that's the one that troubles me when I use a turntable after the one too many - of doing damage to the stylus putting/taking it off the record. Another time when the ipod shines

              Comment


              • #37
                Changing the speakers - biggest audible difference

                Originally posted by Kumar Kane View Post
                1. Set up a cheap system using CD as a source. Cheap means the floor price of what assures the minimum build quality in the current digital age.
                2. In this system, change just the source to a very expensive CD player and see the difference, as heard. No other changes, of course.
                3. Then, move along and change just the amplifier in a like manner.
                4. Finally, change just the speakers to the markedly superior ones - Harbeth, or another.

                Based on all that I read in this forum, I know what the answer ought to be, that only item 4 above would be audibly different. But has this ever been formally done anywhere that anyone knows?
                This is something that I have done almost every day since approx 1970 and in a well set up demo I can assure you that you can hear each of the three changes. I would say, though, that changing the speakers does make the biggest/easily heard change.

                Comment


                • #38
                  "The need to believe"

                  Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
                  To those who still strongly believe in cables, please read Tom Nousaine article published in Sound & Vision magazine.

                  ST
                  Thanks - that was a very good article.

                  The concluding editorial - "The Need to Believe" - by Alan Lofft is well worth reading as well.

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    A small objective experiment in microphony

                    I thought I might do a simple experiment to see if I could detect any microphonic effects in one of my systems.

                    I took the output of my power amp & connected it to my Clio test system, fed it with 1kHz sine wave at an output of 10volts (the meter said 10.146 volts, so the last figure gives a resolution of around 80dB)
                    I then put the cable on hard surface & hit it hard with a hammer! The meter did not change even by 0.001 of a volt.

                    I then hit my (old!) power amp with the hammer (not quite as hard) - again no change at all.

                    I hit (gently!) the phono plug of the test box - again no change.
                    My assumption is that striking equipment with hammer has a far greater force than would be exerted by a loudspeaker's output at several feet, so it would seem that microphony in these cases is unlikely

                    On the other hand, I remember listening to a high powered active system, peaking about 115dB I think, which caused the CD player in the room to mis-track due to the vibration. I have also had similar experiences with Record Players, you do not need to tap a platter very hard to get a significant output from the speakers. So electro-mechanical transducers seem to be affected to varying degrees.

                    Derek

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      The dangers of booze + hifi

                      Originally posted by Kumar Kane View Post
                      And that's the one that troubles me when I use a turntable after the one too many - of doing damage to the stylus putting/taking it off the record. Another time when the ipod shines
                      Even without a G&T I managed to smack the tonearm and send the diamond tip into orbit! Now I am more deliberate and cautious, and iPod when imbibing.

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        The skill and craft of the copywriter at work ....

                        For Alan's benefit, here is an example of the language used to plug cables...

                        "The soundstage expanded in the most amazing way: not only did it become deeper and wider, but it also expanded well in front of the speakers and seemed to envelope the listener/room. I have never heard this before in my system and it thrilled me completely. It enhanced the sense that, not only were the musicians in the room with me, but that I was virtually transported to the room in which the recording took place."

                        I picked this one up from about 25 statements that wrote about different improvements heard, the quoted being just one. I have to say, there is skill in how it is written, of a kind.

                        And, icing on the cake, from the same review - "I just don't understand how replacing one 0.5-meter power supply umbilical cable can make such a dramatic difference".

                        Cherry on the icing? - the cable is not even used to supply power to a source or amplifier. It is used to supply power to a piece of kit that is inserted into an extant signal chain to supposedly add better sound quality to it.

                        Is this snake oil? I do not know! But even selling snake oil all those years ago required extraordinary talent, it wasn't something that anyone could do...

                        {Moderator's comment: what it is is brilliant copywriting. Challenge: name or invent a product and we'll write similar glowing copy within 24 hours. Just give us a very few basic factual details and leave the rest to us. Can't you see this copywriting is not intended to be factual, truthful or even honest .... it is ADVERTISING SPEAK. An hour later the same copywrighter is spinning a yarn about beer or wine ..... inventing words that make you drool is what advertising copywriting does .... and you fall for it? Who is the stupid one then!!!}

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          "Works only in well set up system?"

                          Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                          This is something that I have done almost every day since approx 1970 and in a well set up demo I can assure you that you can hear each of the three changes....
                          In a well set up system - shouldn't it be the other way around? A robust system should be immune to whatever minor external changes. I do hear the same remarks when friends can't detect any difference during AB trials. They told my cables, interconnects, racks. speaker stands were too basic for it to reveal the so called micro details. As much as I tried, I am unable to find any "high ender" to do AB with their system. At least not here.

                          Perhaps, Alan now has a proper set up to do a ABX test and put this topic to a rest.

                          ST

                          Comment


                          • #43
                            Well thought out test - enough surely?

                            Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
                            [I][U]

                            Perhaps, Alan now has a proper set up to do a ABX test and put this topic to a rest.

                            ST
                            Well, if Alan wants to spend time on this, it's up to him, of course. But for me, the Nousaine article was enough. If I had any lingering doubts, that dispelled them. The testing protocol seemed well thought out and robust, and the results convincing. What would another test prove?

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              Fantasy, gratification and copywriting .... a billion dollar industry

                              Originally posted by Kumar Kane View Post
                              For Alan's benefit , here is an example of the language used to plug cables......

                              {Moderator's comment: what it is is brilliant copywriting. ...
                              A marketing professional reading the above quote wouldn't analyse the words individually, he'd sense the broad thrust of the writing (the 'copy') as an expert on oil paintings would stand back and initially take-in the entire canvass not individual brush strokes. And that breathless, excited, vaguely sexual writing style is written by someone who has experience in advertising copywriting. It's not the way news journalists write. You wouldn't see that writing style in the Financial Times or National Geographic magazine. It's a presentational style contrived to weave a fantasy around the product which appeals to you on several emotional/sexual levels, and that is an essential precursor to activating you to seek out the product for your own gratification. Take a look at the top shelf magazines - they use exactly the same technique of fantasy and gratification. No problem with that provided the reader sees the game for what it is and keeps a realistic objective distance from the tease.

                              Copywriting is very important in a modern industrial society where nominally similar brands must be given unique identities. If you master the skills of communication (and motivating) consumers using those sorts of titillating words then there is a golden million-dollar earning potential open to you in the advertising industry. It's a very rare skill to have a product you care little or nothing for (could you get excited about feet odour or flatulence?) dumped onto your desk and told to spin up some copy to sell it.

                              Just some of the courses that could turn a latent copywriting talent into gold ....

                              Chartered Institute of Marketing - captivating and clear copywriting - also - advanced copywriting skills

                              "The dirty little secrets of seducing your readers" - says it all! To quote ...

                              "With physical products, restraint is just part of the deal. Cars, computers, or steak knives. You can’t start really enjoying that irresistible Macbook Air until you buy it and make it your own, no matter how much fooling around you did at the Apple store..."
                              And an example of great copy - because it appeals to the reader on numerous levels and strips your credulity here.

                              This is a a subject I know a great deal about. I can smell advertising copy a mile off and am completely impervious to its wily, seductive charms. And so should you be.

                              P.S. We don't and can't use that sweaty, breathless copywriting approach to promote Harbeth products even if we wanted to. We certainly can write like that if we want to, but as we are making durable capital equipment rather than expendable consumer products the words wouldn't fit the brand image and product reality. It would be as ridiculous as vamping-up a sales brochure for a rocket launcher with talk about the thrill of pulling the trigger.
                              Alan A. Shaw
                              Designer, owner
                              Harbeth Audio UK

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                It wasn't copywriting ... it was a "review"

                                Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                                I can smell advertising copy a mile off and am completely impervious to its wily, seductive charms. And so should you be.
                                Yes, but the quote wasn't copy, it was from a review! And you will find similar stuff written about almost every kind of product in the high end audio industry, in the specialist media.

                                Some posts ago, you compared this stuff to the hair care industry and its claims. To give it credit, and as far as I know, there aren't magazine reviews of its products that put out similar stuff!

                                And as I have said already, perhaps this overkill is one of the reasons why the high end audio market is shrinking. You can't fool all the people all the time. It may end up that the people using ipods/mp3 players, playing compressed, downloaded files are the clever ones after all. Given half way decent amplification, and the same speakers that the audiophile uses, they are probably getting the same end results.

                                Comment

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