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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.

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{Updated Nov. 2016A}
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The audio systems of the future?

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  • The audio systems of the future?

    Hi Alan

    I know that current physics laws still dictate a speaker shape and placements, in these days. But I think for the future, speakers and all electronics will be integrated in buildings components like walls, ceilings or floors... Today too many people sacrifice their small rooms to keep an audio system.
    For example the source and the amps could be placed in a different room in order to not interfere with the sound ... of course the source will not be an turntable or cd player. So I'm asking if do you think, in the future, the Harbeth speakers will be put it on the walls with no loss of any benefits in sound? I know there are a few examples of speakers in walls but still not good enough for an audiophile's taste.

    This may be a rhetorical question but we know that the most appreciated quality of Harbeth speakers, no matter how big or small it is, is that when they sings seem to disappear… In-wall solution don't mean necessary no box, but could resolve also the veneers and stands issues.
    What do you think?
    Best regards

  • #2
    Interesting question. Technically, anything is possible.

    But the real answer to your question has nothing whatever to do with technology, and everything to do with business positioning in the marketplace. Can you imagine why?
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    • #3
      Brand positioning?

      Yes... I have imagination and know something about positioning, but like I said that was a question about a possible future.

      I understand the english conservative aproach and I understand that the BBC monitor's history is a great pedigree to work with for many years. But I also think, that new Radial technology sems to be a new key for success. And this key could be stronger even for re-positioning.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by micron View Post
        Yes... I have imagination and know something about positioning....I understand the english conservative aproach and I understand that the BBC monitor's history is a great pedigree to work with for many years....
        No, it really has nothing whatever to do with conservatism. Nor has it anything to do with RADIAL or any other technology matter. I didn't really want to spell it out here in public, but a full and accurate answer would be this ....

        Starting position: Harbeth has a 34 year long reputation for free-standing speaker cabinets. As a UK manufacturer our overheads are many times higher than in China (probably 50-100 times greater). We need a certain minimum sales income to cover those overheads, to remain profitable and viable and to be here for the long run to support you. The ASP (average selling price) of our speakers is much higher than mass-market imported audio products, which greatly diminishes the potential market. Those consumers that do buy, are serious listeners who make time to listen and who enjoy the woodworking of our cabinets. They are buying audio furniture when they buy Harbeth speakers. In short: the value added by Harbeth UK to the cabinet + the woofer + the tweeter + the crossover + the QC assurance + back-office admin. + the logistics + aftercare creates a "value added proposition" that Harbeth's customers will pay for, and we really appreciate that. That's a summary of where we are today.

        Now let's consider moving to in or on-wall speaker production:

        First, the selling prices would be much lower because a) there are strong, established competitors b) the in/on wall speakers are physically much smaller, barely more than the woofer/tweeter and a small mounting wood or plastic frame and as the consumer gets little for his money he wouldn't expect to pay much c) the consumer for such a product would be seeking an unobtrusive 'lifestyle' speaker solution. These users are unlikely to be serious listeners as we here understand it, evidenced by the fact that they're unwilling to make space/pay for freestanding conventional speakers. Such a listener would be unlikely to be interested in cone technology (RADIAL v. paper/polypropylene etc.) so the technical sales argument would be meaningless. Marketing and styling would be far more influential.

        Second, the contribution to our overheads would be negligible if anything. This would dictate that the sales quantity be greatly increased, would choke the UK factory with zero-margin work and put pressure on QC and test resources. Cutting production time would be of paramount importance. Extra staff would be needed to accelerate production - at UK labour costs.

        Third: Even supposing Harbeth UK were to commit to (large scale) production of in/on wall in a stagnant marketplace, the competitive response would be swift and painful. Those already established as suppliers in that arena (almost certainly producing in the far east with the advantages of far lower overheads) would cut retail prices and/or increase dealer profit margins. In addition, they would commit to product marketing, merchandising, promotions, dealer and installer incentives, product updates, reviews and other normal sales techniques to protect their hard-won market share. Harbeth would be strangled out of the market (and quite rightly so).

        Fourth: by the time we realised that we were gasping for financial air, it would be too late and the entire operation would be doomed.

        Conclusion: There is a market for in/on wall speakers. Because the perceived value is low, the prices are low esp. for in-wall which is hidden and difficult to evaluate for price/performance/technology/construction. If a supplier is interested in entering that market they should manufacture those products only where the overhead are minimised i.e. the far east, to stand any chance of succeeding. That's a huge logistics leap from leafy Lindfield.

        As I said, the technological problems are trivial. The business problems are immense.
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

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        • #5
          Thanks for answer

          Thank you for an fast and complete answer, which give us a real knowledge (like all your posts). Hope I'm not create you an disconfort with my rhetorical questions.

          In other way, the wall speakers could be just another product which not exclude the older one (ex. for a complete surround system, with still free standing front speakers and rear in/on-wall ones).

          For me I always think in the future, trying to understand (or "rearrange" ) the present. It's just another brain exercise.

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