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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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  • #16
    The underlying economics of success?

    Originally posted by EricW View Post
    ... I don't think you can compare the (theoretical) prospect of Harbeth expanding to a bubble comprised of inflated and over-collateralized real estate...
    Unfortunately you can. You only have to look at the graph-link I put in the previous post here to see that, looking back twenty years, our growth was exactly synchronous with the stock and property value explosion in Japan. I could overlay the two curves as they track each other, season by season. The difficulty now is to try and separate the external economic factors (stock market, savings returns, house prices) from the true underlying increase in demand for Harbeth and to attempt to isolate that as a business model. What is really odd is that the last 15 months or so - since the start of the global financial shakedown in the Autumn of 2008 - has seen a dramatic increase in our sales, most markedly in the UK. Why is that? We don't advertise, there have been no UK reviews, we don't have a travelling sales force, we don't incentivise the dealers, we have strict commercial rules of supply .... and yet - yet - business has grown. But why now?

    Because we just don't understand what the basic economic engine that drives our progress is, we are naturally cautious. Conversely, if we understood the precise levers and wheels of success, we'd build a bigger machine for sure! Everything we do is about nurturing and protecting the Harbeth baby for the very long term; a fine line between over-feeding and under-watering.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    • #17
      Re: The underlying economics of success?

      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
      What is really odd is that the last 15 months or so - since the start of the global financial shakedown in the Autumn of 2008 - has seen a dramatic increase in our sales, most markedly in the UK. Why is that?
      (speculating...)
      (a) money is tight, so there are more people wanting to get off the upgrade carousel and buy something that will last?
      (b) those who have only mortgage debt are smiling, they suddenly have more disposable income
      (c) just as chocolate is reputed to sell better in a recession, there is suddenly more appreciation for the Harbeth sound and the brand's "traditional" values*
      (d) the pound has lost 20% against other currencies, making British products relatively more affordable

      It would be interesting if someone in the trade (hifi_dave?) could tell us whether their customer profile has changed in this period....

      * in the motor-car world, Morgan comes to mind.

      P.S. I last bought new speakers in 1988, about 6 months after the market crash.
      Last edited by honmanm; 21-01-2010, 04:50 PM. Reason: added possible reason (d)

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      • #18
        Depenadbility and comfort

        Those are my thoughts entirely. I am not sure it necessarily works at a conscious level, but in hard times we naturally seek dependability and comfort. The Harbeth sound is reassuring, it is a sound you can settle with for the long term.

        As someone who has really felt the effects of the recession, over the last 12 months I have bought nothing but necessities... and a pair of SHL5s. I bought them as an investment, knowing that in 5-10 years time I wouldn't regret it.

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        • #19
          Re: The underlying economics of success?

          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
          ..... What is really odd is that the last 15 months or so - since the start of the global financial shakedown in the Autumn of 2008 - has seen a dramatic increase in our sales, most markedly in the UK. Why is that? We don't advertise, there have been no UK reviews, we don't have a travelling sales force, we don't incentivise the dealers, we have strict commercial rules of supply .... and yet - yet - business has grown. But why now?
          Yes, that is the really interesting question, isn't it? It doesn't seem likely that it's simply a matter of chance.

          Some hypotheses:

          1. Harbeth is much better known and established as a brand now than in 1990: you've been around long enough that there's a degree of trust that you're here for the long haul. Likewise, you attract customers who buy for the long term, not "flavour of the month".

          2. The Internet has become a strong sales tool and drives demand because it makes it very easy for people around the world to connect and communicate about Harbeth - perhaps it makes traditional advertising and marketing less important (would be interesting to know what percentage of sales are either someone who's already owned Harbeth, or has a friend/acquintance who owns Harbeth).

          3. In a world where few things are perceived as being stable, genuine and offering real quality and value, Harbeth has found a way to stand for the best of what is old (BBC tradition) and new (unique materials) in a blend that is hard to emulate but is very appealing. Modern and traditional at the same time. People want value and stability, a safe long-term investment, all the more so as the world seems to become more chaotic and unreliable generally.

          4. People now differentiate more between true longterm value and ephemeral value.

          Just a few thoughts.

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          • #20
            Re: The underlying economics of success?

            I have to agree more than enough with Eric, he's putting the matter on a very reasonable, experienced & balanced basis. I would like to add and a bit different comment, actually the other side of the same coin, coming from my 32 year experience of the wider Greek (and not only) market area:

            People are getting very tired, frustrated, opposed, even angry, suspicious and extremely doubtful nowadays about almost everything strongly and repeatedly advertised. The era of strong advertisement dies. The era of "Marketing, the king of Economy" dies. I shall not examine whether a product has got value or not, so to justify its marketing strategy. I'll just say that every new day, we individually try to stand away from this "brain storm" type of pushing products through the media. It creates reaction, opposition, even subconsciously so. The more they try to feed us, the less we eat. We feel that we are not faced as individuals -in a flattening world- but as a mass. Then come all the above feelings, followed by a big "NO"... many times even without a "THANKS"....

            In a globalisation environment you can't have your portion of food intact and well served, while the one next to you is struggling for solutions in financial, social & behavioural problems and issues. Shiny ads and companies should lower their profiles and maintain more silent quality and longevity against quantity, sales increase and "push more" strategies. All this might well be a psychological issue of human reaction, but it surely leads to sometimes devastating results. Once again, I feel that the commonly understood MEASURE has been fading out, for quite a long time now...

            And once again (as always before) Harbeth stands on the opposite bank of this river, and for this, Bravo!

            Regards,
            Thanos

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            • #21
              Re: The underlying economics of success?

              I probably would not underestimate a return of traditionalism in the product value sense as well. The group from which Harbeth is associated with in terms of philosophy has actually thinned. in my lexicon of association -cars=german=Porsche* and for loudspeakers it is loudspeaker=british=bbc=spendor/ harbeth/ rogers. The industry has changed and the only one which has really hung on to the original values is Harbeth. Each time I read about the suggestion of Harbeth surround sound, floorstanders, centre speakers, subwoofers or Harbeth amplifiers, I wince. To me, it would be Harbeth selling out and pandering to a majority while diluting the brand value. in my humble opinion that would be the biggest damage that could ever be done to the brand ie. making products which have mass market appeal.

              I feel that your UK sales growth is due to your unwavering focus on core issues and realisation by British lovers of music that there is already a high standard set domestically, made locally, so why buy anything else?

              it?ll be interesting to hear though, even if anecdotally, market share trends if this hypothesis is true ie. domestics eating into foreign sales.

              * Porsche brand philosophy product = 911, then they went into SUV?s and now sedans. The issue is more complex than this but a lot of traditionalists have question marks on their heads.

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              • #22
                Re: Record number of visitors?

                I think Thanos's and Kittykat's posts are right on the money.

                Though I could be wrong, I think the Internet has fundamentally changed the rules of the game by making information much more easily accessible than it used to be and at the same time making empty marketing and hype much easier to spot. Before, you had to rely on marketing to some extent because it was one of the main ways to get information about a product.

                I suspect people feel much more empowered to make up their own minds than they did in the past, and as a consequence they are much less inclined to be pushed around by marketing and advertising. And people have become much more media-savvy generally: they not only know when they're being manipulated, they also know what the tools are.

                I also think that the fact that people feel they've found a product, and it hasn't been pushed onto them, is also very important - it means feeling like a participant rather than a pawn. Maybe, deliberately or not, Harbeth's marketing strategy turns out to be perfect for the world we now live in: just be really good at what you do, offer real value, and let the word spread. Seems to be working. Maybe you no longer need much more than that.

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                • #23
                  Re: Record number of visitors?

                  Agree with you EricW regarding the internet. It is a "leveller" in a sense, and can prove to be a democratic tool. i feel that net users will become more sophisticated over time, and be able to sift the rubbish from the truth, hence the mention of critical thinking earlier on, and how it was covered by others months ago.

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                  • #24
                    Re: Record number of visitors?

                    Originally posted by harbethpr View Post
                    Just curious as to why record number of (143) visitors on line yesterday. Any idea why? Thanks!
                    Maybe because of the post by Alan Sircom on AVGuide.com a couple days earlier.
                    http://www.avguide.com/forums/harbeth-p3esr

                    AVGuide readers curiosity has been piqued about the company that is doing so well when others are failing/being bought out.

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                    • #25
                      Re: Record number of visitors?

                      residual values are more likely to hold or be up. look after your speakers well everyone!

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                      • #26
                        Re: Record number of visitors?

                        Originally posted by kittykat View Post
                        residual values are more likely to hold or be up. look after your speakers well everyone!
                        The "Harbeth" badge alone must be worth loads of money - a legendary sign of quality!

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                        • #27
                          Re: Record number of visitors?

                          Originally posted by nicedoc441 View Post
                          The "Harbeth" badge alone must be worth loads of money - a legendary sign of quality!
                          surely you dont mean the plastic bit hot-glued to the grille? :-)

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