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Bristol HiFi show 2015: Before and after show thoughts

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  • Bristol HiFi show 2015: Before and after show thoughts

    Following some well wishers comments directly to the office, and kindly individuals who are making the journey just to meet us I thought I'd crystalise why we are attending, and what you can expect to hear and not hear.

    First, it must be said that with a full order book and still growing, we do not see our attendance as part of our sales effort, but part of a much bigger marketing awareness strategy. It's been many years since we attended Bristol as an exhibitor (10 perhaps?) and our market position today is unrecognisable since then, thanks to your continuing support. It would be nice to put a face to you our loyal customers, HUG contributors and readers and would be customers, so please do not be shy about saying hello or we'll go home counting the show as a failure!

    Second, I think it's important to make the point that the low-budget system I've assembled for the show represents where I, if not the Harbeth brand directly, think financial investment is made in audio equipment giving the 'biggest bang for the buck'. The sole point I want to make is something along the lines that "if the Harbeth designer makes a once in ten year attendance at Bristol to showcase his speakers and chooses to demo with modest equipment that is well within the reach of everyone serious about audio, then that confirms that Harbeth will work great with just about any electronics/furniture/hardware/interconnects/rooms." Furthermore, for those with greater funds available, they are at liberty to spend it on whatever equipment they wish, with greater or lesser additional pride of ownership or musical capabilities. The rich can take ample care of themselves. We champion the ordinary chap trying the squeeze the most genuine performance out of the least expenditure.

    I freely admit that I have just one week's experimentation behind me as far as streaming software is concerned, just when I said that I was a CD user through and through, so there is much to learn. And of course, I'm learning from HUG and willing to give and take information as always. That said, it seem to me that for next to nothing, an old laptop (mine a Vista business, Fujitsu-Siemens one), a small outlay on software and hardware and one has an eminently usable system which meets or exceeds CD quality itself. Whether spending $$$ more makes brings any real benefit to the user GUI experience or the sonic experience (who knows, it may actually worsen as price goes up, you'd need to test to find out) is not an issue I have any interest in. That's for richer folks than me and their dealers to work out together.

    One point I'm adamant about though. Setting aside cosmetics, features, marketing claims, reviews, reputation, internet chit chat and testimonials sworn on the life of your best drinking buddies dentist's prize cat, you cannot or should not ignore hard technical measurements when selecting audio equipment. And that one issue is the one where 99.999% of consumers will fall foul. Sadly.

    As for music, this is a far from easy business. Personally, I find it extremely tiring to have music - any music - playing continuously at me whether live or recorded, and regardless of equipment. I live and work in the countryside, and I like my silence, and preservation of my ears, and what's left of my sanity. I don't need a noise in the background to accompany my thoughts or my life, but that is perhaps a rather old fashioned view. The issue is that playing loud pop music is far from my ideal pastime and crucially, it really does little to showcase the speaker's resolution potential, the design aspect that I've worked quite hard to prioritise these past nearly thirty years. But according to market feedback in central Europe, that diet is precisely and almost exclusively what is expected, and demanded. But what can the critical listener really learn from listening to synthetic music is an unfamiliar room over unfamiliar speakers? At least with 'classical' music, there is a frame of reference against which one can approximately grade ones experience, assuming of course, that one actually knows how instrumments sound live, in the concert hall at a reasonable distance away.

    Another thing learned from the Guildford and KJ open days was the curiosity there is for features of recordings to be pointed out, such as the enormous edit in the Brubeck Take Five recording or the juxtaposition of a studio concert recording v. a typical BBC Radio 3 like-live recording. Or how the position of the microphone relative to the instrument greatly influences the sound. It might be nice to slip in one of two of these examples, if the audience are interested and willing to stay a while.

    IMPORTANT NOTE:

    Pleas disregard any comments that may have looked like a product endorsement for the Cambridge DacMagic plus. More time and more rigour has shown that DACs do not behave alike.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    Good luck!

    All the very best for the show!

    Is there an option for lazy impulsive visitors to buy tickets on the spot or do tickets get booked well in advance?

    Comment


    • #3
      Just turn up!

      >It would be nice to put a face to you our loyal customers, HUG contributors and readers and would be customers, so please do not be shy about saying hello or we'll go home counting the show as a failure!

      I'll pop by to say hello Alan - I promise not to stay as long as I did at the Guildford Audio event! ;-). I'm bringing a friend in order to introduce him to the Harbeth sound as he's not yet had a chance to hear my SHL5+s. I also want to have another listen to the excellent P3s myself. Very much looking forward to it.

      >Is there an option for lazy impulsive visitors to buy tickets on the spot or do tickets get booked well in advance?

      Hi SChat, I obviously can't guarantee the show won't be sold out, but I've been going for a number of years and I've always managed to get tickets on the day, regardless of which day of the show it's been.

      Cheers,

      Rich

      Comment


      • #4
        Level checking before packing-up (anti-clipping)

        Originally posted by SChat View Post
        All the very best for the show! Is there an option for lazy impulsive visitors to buy tickets on the spot or do tickets get booked well in advance?
        If there's income involved, I think they'll welcome latecomers with open arms (and ask perhaps for a little more money).

        Incidentally, the last step in preparing the equipment was to check the overload margins, since we know that 'hot' CDs can/will overload amplifier input stages. The Trigon amp has seven inputs, all of which have the same sensitivity. The digital volume control is graduated 00-99. Hardly surprising from what we've seen that with a typical CD player outputting 2.0V rms on peak level, the volume control cannot be advanced above 66 otherwise the output to the speakers is severely clipped. Since none of us know (without test equipment) instant by instant how close a CD is mastered to zero (maximum) level, if the use wants to be absolutely sure he is not driving the amp into momentary clipping, he must not advance the volume above 66.

        Needless to say, I've just soldered together two in-line attenuators between the CD player analogue outputs and amp inputs which permit a fully loud CD to advance the volume control to 90. I've also checked the primary DAC we will be using to be sure that it too is not overdriving the amp and marked on the DAC volume control a setting above which it must not be turned up.

        What hope has the poor consumer? The bonkers thing about today's audio scene is that the technology far outstrips the media and the public's technical appreciation, even superficial appreciation of the issues, yet the commoditisation of this advanced technology treats it all as plug and play. Which it is not. And I'm talking as an ordinary punter who is just mildly more aware of the issues that most, not as an in-depth specialist.
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

        Comment


        • #5
          Gloomy? No!

          Originally posted by A.S. View Post

          What hope has the poor consumer? The bonkers thing about today's audio scene is that the technology far outstrips the media and the public's technical appreciation, even superficial appreciation of the issues, yet the commoditisation of this advanced technology treats it all as plug and play. Which it is not. And I'm talking as an ordinary punter who is just mildly more aware of the issues that most, not as an in-depth specialist.
          Opportunity knocks, opportunity knocks ....

          Comment


          • #6
            Nominal sensitivity unstated

            Originally posted by A.S. View Post
            Incidentally, the last step in preparing the equipment was to check the overload margins, since we know that 'hot' CDs can/will overload amplifier input stages. The Trigon amp has seven inputs, all of which have the same sensitivity. The digital volume control is graduated 00-99. Hardly surprising from what we've seen that with a typical CD player outputting 2.0V rms on peak level, the volume control cannot be advanced above 66 otherwise the output to the speakers is severely clipped. Since none of us know (without test equipment) instant by instant how close a CD is mastered to zero (maximum) level, if the user wants to be absolutely sure he is not driving the amp into momentary clipping, he must not advance the volume above 66.

            Needless to say, I've just soldered together two in-line attenuators between the CD player analogue outputs and amp inputs which permit a fully loud CD to advance the volume control to 90.
            As you noted in a prior post, the Trigon includes a facility to adjust the input sensitivity - by +12dB according to the manual. However, they seem to neglect to specify a nominal sensitivity value. Does the input overload (with a ~2V input signal) occur at a volume setting of '66' when the input sensitivity is at the nominal '0dB' setting, or does it still occur even when adjusted to the minimum sensitivity setting? In other words, if the input sensitivity is adjusted to the least sensitive setting, is an external attenuator still required (in series with the output of a CD player) to allow operation of the volume control on the Trigon throughout its full range without experiencing overload/clipping?

            Comment


            • #7
              DAC as a volume control

              Originally posted by A.S. View Post
              ... Needless to say, I've just soldered together two in-line attenuators between the CD player analogue outputs and amp inputs which permit a fully loud CD to advance the volume control to 90. I've also checked the primary DAC we will be using to be sure that it too is not overdriving the amp and marked on the DAC volume control a setting above which it must not be turned up.

              What hope has the poor consumer? The bonkers thing about today's audio scene is that the technology far outstrips the media and the public's technical appreciation, even superficial appreciation of the issues, yet the commoditisation of this advanced technology treats it all as plug and play. Which it is not. And I'm talking as an ordinary punter who is just mildly more aware of the issues that most, not as an in-depth specialist.
              Alan, so in effect you are using the DAC volume control as an attenuator also? I have wondered about using one specifically as an input attenuator as well as for making connections, I'd be interested how in practice that works out for you, especially in finding the best level on the DAC vs the amplifier volume control.
              Getting to know my C7ES3

              Comment


              • #8
                Audio electronics - getting to the base facts quickly

                Originally posted by acroyear View Post
                Alan, so in effect you are using the DAC volume control as an attenuator also? I have wondered about using one specifically as an input attenuator as well as for making connections, I'd be interested how in practice that works out for you, especially in finding the best level on the DAC vs the amplifier volume control.
                I've learned more about digital interfaces in the last 48 hours than in the previous 48 years! Not at a deep theoretical level, but simply as an ordinary user. For example, despite my previous joy at the functionality of the Cambridge unit just three days ago, and still waiting for the APTX dongle, it's not a go-er I'm sorry to say for our purposes at Bristol.

                Having gone out and borrowed/purchased a number of broadly similar units by functionality, it seems to me, based on very primitive technical testing with basic techniques and equipment - prior to listening to music - that there are significant design trends in the DAC arena, as there are in many areas of high fidelity equipment. Based on what I have experienced across this small and possibly unrepresentative selection of DACs that I have amassed, it suggests to me a rather common aspect of human nature has possibly impacted on design, as it has with amplifiers (SET) and speakers (Transmission lines), that of myopia: designers placing one single, solitary aspect of the design into pole position and downgrading all other aspects to inconsequence or inevitability. In short, a potential to misread the big picture by focusing too precisely on the very small picture. It's far from unique to high fidelity design, history is littered with examples, and one which comes to mind as I type is the British Comet jet aircraft of the 1950s where trendy square passenger windows not only cost countless lives due to destructive stresses on the airframe, but cost the UK its lead in jet passenger aircraft. Finally, conventional round windows were designed-in. You cannot beat physics no matter how many lives you throw at attempting to do so.

                Now is not the time to probe this matter too deeply, but suffice to say that it does raise questions (again) as to whose side the media are actually on. The questions that are hanging in the air over my workbench have at their core that if I, an amateur audio equipment user can conceive and implement a test strategy that illustrates differences in digital equipment in under five minutes using simple equipment on the office conference table, why aren't other who are paid to be objective doing so? Or are they and I've missed it? Or are they but concealing the results? Or do they not care? Or are they deaf?

                Of course, this is not an isolated instance. Wherever we look in consumer land we see the dismissal of hard objective testing and its replacement with wiffly-washy, wholly subjective, mortgage-paying, page filling, teasing of the reader. No problem with that any more than there is a problem with Playboy in adult hands, but sadly, no more capable of identifying the right audio equipment partner than Playboy is of identifying and securing the optimum life partner.

                The DAC we will be using with my laptop is a Tascam unit, and yes it has a volume control.
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

                Comment


                • #9
                  On the door

                  Originally posted by SChat View Post
                  All the very best for the show!

                  Is there an option for lazy impulsive visitors to buy tickets on the spot or do tickets get booked well in advance?
                  12 on the door, or 10 in advance - you just print out the ticket QR code that comes up on screen when you pay online and take it with you.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Media reality

                    The 'media' are strictly on their own side. They have to be because they exist on advertising revenue. If they upset a manufacturer with a poor review, that advertising revenue would probably be removed. Magazines sell in such pitiful numbers nowadays, that the mags have to rely on advertising for their employment.

                    You can't bite the hand that feeds.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Insight into DACs

                      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                      Now is not the time to probe this matter too deeply, but suffice to say that it does raise questions (again) as to whose side the media are actually on. The questions that are hanging in the air over my workbench have at their core that if I, an amateur audio equipment user can conceive and implement a test strategy that illustrates differences in digital equipment in under five minutes using simple equipment on the office conference table, why aren't other who are paid to be objective doing so? Or are they and I've missed it? Or are they but concealing the results? Or do they not care? Or are they deaf?
                      Interesting, I'll wait with anticipation to see what you have noted with those tests. As somebody who is in the market for a 'post source/pre loudspeaker' set up maybe including a DAC it would be useful to have some insight that might otherwise be lacking.
                      Getting to know my C7ES3

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        We are set up and ready to rock and roll! And jazz and classical and radio drama... it's all here in Room 232. I've just spent a very enjoyable half hour listening to Dark Side of the Moon rather loud. Ah 1973 again!

                        The results of SHL5+ in a hotel bedroom with just a few strategically placed sound absorber panels is remarkable. Add to that a touch of DSP to get the best out of the room (easy to bypass on request at the click of a mouse) and a really satisying sound. I'm not easily tickled but I'm delighted.

                        If you can make it to Bristol show room 232 you won't be disappointed! If you do make it please do say hello!
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Probing questions

                          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                          We are set up and ready to rock and roll! And jazz and classical and radio drama... it's all here in Room 232. I've just spent a very enjoyable half hour listening to Dark Side of the Moon rather loud. Ah 1973 again!

                          The results of SHL5+ in a hotel bedroom with just a few strategically placed sound absorber panels is remarkable. Add to that a touch of DSP to get the best out of the room (easy to bypass on request at the click of a mouse) and a really satisying sound. I'm not easily tickled but I'm delighted.

                          If you can make it to Bristol show room 232 you won't be disappointed! If you do make it please do say hello!
                          Hopefully some video might make it to youtube just to give us all a visual of the event, I'm sure it will be a fulfilling time.

                          I do wonder what type of questions listeners might pose regarding ancillaries, about the cables, the attenuators etc.
                          Getting to know my C7ES3

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Can't touch the life support system

                            Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                            The 'media' are strictly on their own side. They have to be because they exist on advertising revenue. If they upset a manufacturer with a poor review, that advertising revenue would probably be removed. Magazines sell in such pitiful numbers nowadays, that the mags have to rely on advertising for their employment.

                            You can't bite the hand that feeds.
                            I like it when pragmatism accepts reality as it is. Well said, Dave.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Acoustic recordings

                              and you haven't even tried acoustical music yet, good luck there !

                              Comment

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