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.

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{Updated Jan. 2017}
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"Why we like Harbeth speakers" - Users feedback

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  • #91
    Originally posted by weaver View Post
    Just to check that the other way - how much would you expect to pay for say a Bryston 2B SST2? Current UK price looks to be around 3000 including VAT.
    Agreed.. I am often appalled when I see north American gear advertised in the UK mags.. stuff like VPI, Audio Research, etc. carries such a stiff penalty in the UK (and I'm sure other countries) that I'm surprised any of it gets sold abroad.

    It's painfully obvious that the majority of this is related to currency fluctuations in the global markets. I wouldn't be surprised that many audio manufacturers investment books are tied to the almighty US$ or perhaps the Euro, which in light of recent currency issues would be playing a great deal of havoc with peoples bottom lines.

    Let's face it, even without the currency flip issues, a "distributor" is basically absorbing all the additional costs that Alan points out in his "blue sky" thinking note above. They are the ones that have to push out the product, and warehouse it.. and in many cases provide after sale support.

    If you think that doesn't cost $$$ these days, then you're deluding yourself. So, in many ways it doesn't surprise me that products outside of their native market are hit with a horrible premium. Whether or not you can stomach the extra cost to get into a product that you find affinity with, is ultimately your choice.


    • #92
      Double D:

      None of what you say is responsive to my specific question about relative price variations within the line. I'd appreciate it if someone could provide a specific answer, not just a general one about costs, which we all understand perfectly well. It costs no more to ship one box than another, so that doesn't explain why the markup on the Super HL5 is so disproportionately high. It's far higher than even the Monitor 40.1, which is a bigger and heavier box, and should cost more if it were simply a matter of costs.


      • #93
        Is it possible that there is a bizarre tarif applied to speakers with an output over a given frequency limit?

        The SHL5 being the only one with a super tweeter.

        [Quite possible spurious - but at least it focusses on your issue!]


        • #94
          Me too (wanting to understand why SHL5 is prices as it is). There must be a logical reason.
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK


          • #95
            EricW said: At this time, the Super HL5 is 2280 in the UK, with a 200 premium for rosewood, my preferred finish. So, 2480 - VAT included. At current exchange, $3761 Canadian dollars.

            The price of the rosewood Super HL5s in Canada is $6000 ($5999) plus combined sales tax (here in BC) of 12%, so $6720: almost double the UK price.

            I really don't know... the information posted on the CDN distributors site shows a price of $5,299 CDN for the standard cherry finish.. so, unless there is a huge uptick on the premium veneers ($700 sounds a bit high) from the CDN distributor, then I'm not sure how to explain this.
            I would suggest that Alan perhaps contact Gunnar at Planet of Sound Distribution and get some clarification as to what they are adding on top for their distribution markup on the premium finishes here in Canada.
            Just for clarity, our new HST (combined GST and PST) rate here in Ontario is 13%


            • #96
              This is indeed the "uptick" - $700. I note it's quite inconsistent with the $200 premium for rosewood on the P3ESR, which is only marginally more than the premium charged in the UK (100).

              Also, I'll repeat it one more time, because people seem to keep overlooking it: the UK prices include sales tax. North American retail prices do not include sales tax, which must be paid on top of the posted price. So when doing a pricing comparison, it is important to keep that in mind. That means, for example, that the $700 price premium for rosewood on the Super HL5 becomes an $800 premium, more or less, once you factor in the taxes. That compares to a $300 premium - tax included - in the UK. A significant difference, and surely not one explained by cost of importation alone.

              But let's not focus exclusively on the veneer: the base price is too high as well. I don't see why the distributor needs vastly more profit on the Super HL5 than on other Harbeth models, unless he's cross-subsidizing, but that seems unlikely.

              Look, I know it's my choice - buy or not. And I've chosen not to. So, apparently, has at least one other HUG member, who sought out a second-hand pair instead. Maybe that's not a concern to Harbeth, given the state of its order book, I don't know.

              If someone is providing a necessary service, I don't begrudge him charging a reasonable price for it. But as a consumer, I don't want to be gouged. If the importer can make money at a roughly 30% markup on other Harbeth models, he surely doesn't need a 70% markup on the Super HL5. Unless, as Alan says, there is a logical explanation. If there is, I'm all ears.


              • #97
                Good point Eric... and I'd probably just assume that it is in fact the distributors cut on top.

                If it's any consolation... at least the pricing in Canada is similar to the US pricing.. which typically we get the shaft on.

                The only one that can properly answer this would be either the distributor, or Alan who would have to obtain clarity from the distributor.


                • #98
                  As my question on post 81 wasn't answered, I'll ask it again:

                  Does Harbeth factory have already sold directly to some customer?



                  • #99
                    We do supply and have always supplied to countries where there is no Harbeth distributor. If we believe that the stated destination is not true, or if there is ambiguity about the final destination, we will not accept the order. In these rare cases we insist on shipping directly and not via an agent in the UK or abroad. We must have certificated evidence that the speakers were truly exported to the stated destination to satisfy the UK authorities, who periodically inspect our shipping records in detail as so much of out turnover is exported.

                    There is a considerable amount of communication with the customer, invoicing, packing and despatch paperwork. It is time consuming. It is not what we are set up to do, but it gives us a very clear understanding of the complexity of the distributor or retailers life. Because it distracts staff from bulk-production work we do not discount. I'm sorry, but that is as much as I can say here.
                    Alan A. Shaw
                    Designer, owner
                    Harbeth Audio UK


                    • Hi Alan,

                      Thanks for the clarification. It looks like 11:25 PM in England. I wish you a good night.



                      • Originally posted by EricW View Post
                        If there is, I'm all ears.
                        Hi EricW, imho its competitive price point setting. If anyone here follows cars you’ll understand why BMW, Mercedes and Audi price within countries their Z4’s vs. TT’s/ 3 series vs A4’s vs. C Class’/ 5’s vs. A6’s vs E class’s etc. But the pricing gets out of whack (proportion wise as you have pointed out) between countries for many different reasons, demand (and affordability) being a major one, and others like weather (on coupes for example or where the vehicle is esoteric ( eg. too small or too big and it could swing the price high or could go low)).

                        But back to your question, think the SHL5 situation seems to be precedence based (and possibly demand based) as far as I can observe as a consumer. For a similar 2 cubic foot 2/3 way BBC tradition loudspeaker the competition is offering it at, guess?, an almost similar price (if not slightly more expensive). But when we move up to the large 3 way market, the M40.1 loses out price wise but then its possibly a much better speaker than the competition etc. I consider the competition to be the “S”.

                        For a large speaker, and ill say it again, the SHL5 is at the boundary of being portable enough to be moved around and friendly enough for a domestic situation while having most if not all the advantages of a large speaker. Perhaps the distributor is also pricing this in?


                        • Hi kittykat: yes, this has occurred to me and it's probably a factor. I suspect, however, that the primary consideration is the fact that North American retail prices were set back when the pound/dollar (whether US or Canadian) relationship was substantially different, and the retail price might have been justifiable then on the basis of then-prevailing exchange rates but looks like a much worse deal now (for North American consumers). If I'm correct about this, then one reason that the other Harbeth models are not as out of whack, price-wise, is simply that they're more current and prices were set after the pound had started to depreciate.

                          I can understand that once a price has been established in a market, you can't re-adjust every time the currency rates fluctuate - there has to be some stability. You'd also rather not go backwards. However, when there's been a substantial and persistent shift of relative currency values over time, and nothing is done to reflect that, then somebody is making substantially more than they used to, and in this case I'm pretty certain it's the distributor.

                          So let's assume that the distributor is trying to maintain a stable price. I get that. However, if the currency swing had gone in the other direction, I don't doubt for a second that the distributor would have raised his prices fairly quickly - he'd have to, or he'd go out of business. So the question becomes, at what point is the consumer entitled to see some of the benefit of a longterm change in exchange rates? It seems to me there's no simple answer. The distributor may say, as long as the speaker keeps selling, there's no problem. And maybe that's right, at least from his point of view. But from my point of view, I don't like it because it's costing me more than I believe it ought to. From Harbeth's point of view, I'm not sure it's an ideal situation either, because losing a sale is losing a sale. They have plenty of sales on the books now (and long may it stay that way), but you never know when that can change.

                          But this is all just speculation on our parts. I'd really like to know from the people who are situated to know for sure, either Harbeth or Harbeth's distributor(s). Maybe the reasons will be regarded as confidential, and will not be shared. All I can say is, there's a lot of information out there these days, and you can't expect that people won't find information in the public domain anywhere in the world. You also can't fault people (I hope) for wanting to be treated fairly. If I'm going to cover your costs when things go up, I'd like to get some consideration when things go down.


                          • Hi EricW, yes, you raise an important determinant as well ie. exchange rates. The AUD went gangbusters until recently when it has fallen approximately 16% from the peak. Where do distributors draw the mean/ median for a meaningful exchange in these volatile times? We’ve seen it here as well when auto prices were raised when rates fell but remained the same when it went back up. Some Japanese manufacturers passed on the savings though.


                            • Pricing and distribution policy ...

                              I have set in motion an investigation and overnight I have received adequate information to draw a line under this subject. I do not feel that the minutia of our pricing policy should be discussed in an an open forum and I'm sure as professionals - including lawyers - you will understand this and respect our position.

                              First, our NA distributors sell everything we can supply, and within days or weeks of its arrival. The demand is growing in NA. Our UK retail prices do not reflect the true operating costs in those extremely expensive business environments and there may also be a l issue of, as suggested, cross-subsidies. If anything, the Harbeth UK retail price list is too low, and we hear this very often from UK dealers who say that, on a side by side comparison with other models, 'Harbeth outperforms speakers costing twice as much'. I am satisfied that there are sound long-term reasons why the prices in NA are set as they are. Doubtless the prices could be lower if we were selling millions of units rather than tens or hundreds with the overheads spread far thinner.

                              So I think that our next step, thanks to drawing this issue so forcibly to our attention here, is to review the UK retail prices to be sure that each model is contributing properly on a value-performance basis. I would add that our market intelligence is better than you might imagine: we log all approaches and monitor the occasional out-of-territory enquiry. For example, we are well aware that a few identifiable prospective customers have scoured the world seeking a bargain, which is directly contrary to Harbeth's distribution policy as it voids the warranty and puts our relationship with the distributor under the microscope. Nobody benefits from that, which is why such approaches are immediately reported to us at UK HQ.

                              We have nothing more to add to this.
                              Alan A. Shaw
                              Designer, owner
                              Harbeth Audio UK


                              • Alan, thank you for your response and the inquiries you have made. I appreciate your looking into it, and I do understand and respect your position.

                                Two thoughts:

                                1) If there is a price rise in the UK, I fear this may make me unpopular with UK HUG members. Sorry. (On the other hand, you've been warned: buy now if you can.)

                                2) On a more positive note, if Harbeth books increased corporate revenue as a result of my persistent and no doubt somewhat annoying inquiries, you may feel free to express your gratitude by sending me a pair of Harbeths, gratis. The Monitor 40.1s if you're feeling exceptionally generous, but any model will do, really. If you need my shipping address, just let me know. : )