HUG - here for all audio enthusiasts

At its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition was to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless, independent of the observer and can be replicated. However, we live in new world in which objective facts have become flexible, personal and debatable. HUG operates in that real world, and that has now been reflected in the structure of HUG.

HUG has two approaches to contributor's Posts. If you, like us, have 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 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 can be readily understood by non-experts and tried-out at home without deep technical knowledge.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings area 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. From Oct. 2016, Posts in the Subjective Soundings area will not be spell checked or adjusted for layout clarity. 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.

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

That's it! Enjoy!

{Updated Jan. 2017}
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The DIY Review corner - you too can be a reviewer!

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  • The DIY Review corner - you too can be a reviewer!

    Remember that TV show Stars in their Eyes where perfectly ordinary members of the public could for ten minutes and with no especial skills mimic the stars they admire? This is your big chance! "And tonight Matthew, I am going to be .... a great equipment critic!"

    This is an open forum. Pick a piece of hifi equipment. Better still, ask a friend to chose a piece of his gear at random and you review it here. Test equipment? Not needed. Time with the product - max. two hours. Max no.of words - perhaps 1000. Pictures? Not needed. You are using words to convey your 'review', not pictures. You are not encouraged to open the product, read any supporting manufacturer's literature/forums. You cannot contact the maker. What you write about is what stands in front of you. You are writing 'cold'. Time is critical. You can slant the review any way you want depending upon your agenda. You don't even have to write truthfully; but you must be able to write. Experience with us how easy or difficult it is to 'review' someone else's creation, having never met them. Do give it a try! It may open a new career path!

    P.S. Alan has said that the only manufactured product on this planet that he feels even vaguely skilled to 'review' is the fruit scone.

  • #2
    Consumerism and we lazy, passive recipients of 'reviews'

    Too much opinion and too few facts.

    Imo the downhill of “reviewing” coincided with the rising of fast food and CNN. Popularism mixed with a dash of fact (or fat), from the printing presses to news reporting up to governments. We consumers are to blame as well, for being lazy and passive recipients. We have started to like the selective, shaped and emotionally tinged disclosures we are now so accustomed to, the “convenient logic”.

    The more worrying thing, imo, is not the ill qualified opinionated reviewers, but the wholly qualified ones who choose to lead people down the wavered path of grotesque thoughtless consumerism.


    • #3
      Interesting thread this could be.

      I'm taking a break for a few days and without TV or radio, my only contact with the UK is the occasional UK newspaper. It's interesting to see afresh how much of a daily paper is filled with advertising - perhaps 50% - and of the reportage, how much of it is likely to be fact and how much opinion. If I can find a shop selling fat felt tip 'Bingo markers' I thought, just for my own curiosity, I'd black out all the opinion on a page and see how much fact remains. But on a quick overview, it all looks factual. It's only when you start to deconstruct column inches sentence by sentence that you can grade the words somewhere between certainly and fantasy. Papers like the Financial Times walk a different objective path to The Times or Telegraph, or Daily Mail. But is it any wonder that the ordinary reader finds the FT 'dry' and is drawn to more titillating coverage? I don't think so. Facts alone can be rather dull, and the art of a good journalist is to concentrate on the facts but hold the reader's interest. It's a very tough call, day after day, product after product.

      What I'm curious about is why someone would aspire to journalism as a career choice when there is so much competition, the barriers to entry to that profession so low and the prospect of making a good living rather slim. I guess that many would-be journalists get the bug when they are in their teens, coincidentally a time when we all have strong opinions about every subject under the sun, and know nothing about everything. The optimism of youth!

      We as a brand have been remarkably well respected by legions of writers around the world for thirty + years and as I've said before, I wouldn't swap places with any of them. I just couldn't wake up every day, take in a parcel from UPS, spend a few hours with it and then write something fresh and interesting (without taking it apart and nosing around inside). I'd be so frustrated at not being able to get into the head of the designer to see what tricks and skills he'd employed that I'd not last a week. But the public seemingly expect audio journalists to become intimately and factually familiar with our manufactured products in an hour or two. What can anyone realistically analyse in just a few hours of value? It's an impossible task.

      I recall a conversation I had in Japan a decade ago when I commented on the differing national styles of audio journalism. I said that it seemed to me that Japanese journalists had a great curiosity about how things are designed and why they work the way they do and they liked to look inside the case. I was informed that that revealing the inner workings (of people, of products) was a manifestation of a spiritual/religious sensitivity to the world, and that we Westerners were 'far too obsessed with the trivial, external glitz of products - and people.' And that lack of respect and curiosity for the facts is the root cause of so many problems, not just in audio.
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK


      • #4
        Should reviewers look inside a product. Bugatti on Top Gear in bits?

        Speaking for myself I probably wouldn"t made the choice for Harbeth if in the reviews I read there was no admiration for the combination I have made with Harbeth and.....

        Furthermore I fail to see the sense or even the necessity of a reviewer taking the speakers apart or examining them in detail. The producers of "Top Gear". will be very cross-to say the least- if the team takes a Bugatti apart in all of his parts I reckon.

        No offence meant of course. And sorry for my English.


        • #5
          Originally posted by fred40 View Post
          Furthermore I fail to see the sense or even the necessity of a reviewer taking the speakers apart or examining them in detail.
          If you don't 'lift the hood' on a product, you can't evaluate how well built the product is. You can't estimate the quality of the parts used to make it. You can't gauge how long it will last in the hands of the consumer. You can't look for weaknesses in assembly or testing. You can't comment on whether the product was designed by the original designer truly in the spirit of the brand's hard-won pedigree and reputation or by an anonymous committee for commercial gain alone.

          Do I need to add any more?

          Unless the critic does some proper investigative work on behalf of the consumer who may be motivated by his words to buy the product, I'd say the 'review' was of very poor value to the consumer, at best. If Japanese journalists can and do investigative writing like that (accompanied by some exquisite photography) why can't others?
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK


          • #6
            Looking at innards tells about care and attention ...

            Imho, in most facets of society, including things audio, there has been a serious detachment of the “guts” (ie. the real workings which add value, from the policy making machinery of governments or shop floors down to electronic equipment innards) from the “front” ie. the public relations / stakeholder speechwriters and video makers.

            I fear an unstoppable trend of the former to the latter, where society starts to place more value on talking heads, nice speeches and slick video. Review magazines are arguably just another form of the latter, an extension of the “front” made to look like a credible independent 3rd party. Impartial? Give me a break. The more society gets comfort from the “smoothness” of this delivery (we are already very well conditioned, thank you very much) the more room there is for poor policy and shoddy design.

            Looking at electronic innards not only tell a lot about care and attention (which is pride) to detail, imo, but how the manufacturer gives value back to the customer. Anyone who has built their own computer will know that the quality of mainboards can be established pretty quickly tactile and visually. Soldering is another big visual giveaway.

            Unfortunately though, imho, as more parts are outsourced nowadays, the reputation of brands, as far as durability at least, is slowly being given to parts manufacturers who remain unknown, ie. until we look for it.


            • #7
              'Gatekeepers' and the knowledge void ...

              Originally posted by kittykat View Post
              Imho, in most facets of society, including things audio, there has been a serious detachment of the “guts” (ie. the real workings which add value) ... from the “front” ie. the public relations / stakeholder speechwriters and video makers...

              Looking at electronic innards not only tell a lot about care and attention (which is pride) to detail, imo, but how the manufacturer gives value back to the customer. Anyone who has built their own computer will know that the quality of mainboards can be established pretty quickly tactile and visually. Soldering is another big visual giveaway...
              This is so true. If you stopped 1000 people in the street, excluding people over, say, 60 and asked them in general terms how the mobile phone in their pocket worked, I doubt that ten people could. 10/1000 = 0.1% of the public.

              Does it matter that we are quite content to use advanced technology products about which we have no understanding at all? You decide. But if we don't show any curiosity in how they work, we can't begin to appreciate how they may fail, how we may through ignorance mis-use the product and shorten its (expensive) life. And in the case of phone/computer technology leave ourselves open to others who do understand a products weakness to take control if it, and as we've seen with phone hacking, intrude into our lives. That's all the consequence of public ignorance about the complex products we surround ourselves with.

              At the core of this is the position of the 'knowledge gatekeepers' in our lives. These are individuals who position themselves between the designer and the end user, the man in the street. The fact that I created this forum was to open the knowledge gate directly between you and us here at Harbeth UK. Ultimately, everything you want to know about how we designed our speakers and how to get the best out of them should be here. Preferably in your words as users guiding users.

              When reading any review about any product, we should be conscious that for the duration of the review the relatively anonymous 'gatekeeper' has our full attention. By the selection and combination of words he can intentionally or unintentionally mould our view of the product. On vacation I have been reading art reviews of local artist's painting, then going to look at the work for myself. I have the greatest difficulty comprehending the praise heaped on some paintings, and the criticism of others. What matters is what I like and no third party has exactly the same preferences as I do. My wife adores the colours purple and blue and she is hypnotised by their juxtaposition; I have to bite my tongue as I really don't like them combined at all. I prefer pastel shades like sky blue and yellow/orange which she can't abide. Buying a artwork which we both like is tricky. How on earth would an art critic write a meaningful analysis that could convey to both of us the merit in these paintings. He/she couldn't of course: we'd have to see them for ourselves. In audio terms, go and listen to them at an authorised dealer.

              If, for example, an audio critics frame of reference is long-term use of large speakers with big woofers playing rock music at high volume, his opinion about bookshelf speakers with small woofers intended for far more normal use has to be taken with a very large pinch of salt indeed. Or better still, such humble product should never be handed to a person whose personal frame of reference is wildly different from the products intended use.

              We here invest a tremendous amount of time in encouraging the two-way flow in solid, pragmatic truthful information: we commit far more time in one day here than even the most enthusiastic pro-Harbeth journalist could commit in a year in digging into the backstory behind any one of our speakers. We - you - cannot expect a part-time gatekeeper to even scratch the surface of anything we make, and that's frustrating because you the prospective user deserve to know more about how your Harbeth's are designed. And that implies that the gatekeeper journalist must - repeat must - talk to us (or better still visit us) or indeed any "artist" (in big quotes) when we will be completely open about what we set out to achieve and how we went about the design.

              I'd like to believe that we are completely open to discussing all technical matters. Ask and we'll tell it as we believe it to be.
              Alan A. Shaw
              Designer, owner
              Harbeth Audio UK