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HUG - here for all audio enthusiasts

The Harbeth User Group is the primary channel for public communication with Harbeth's HQ. If you have a 'scientific mind' and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - audio equipment 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 should be accessible to non-experts and able to be tried-out at home without deep technical knowledge. From a design perspective, today's award winning Harbeths could not have been designed any other way.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings area is you. If you are quite set in your subjectivity, then HUG is likely to be a bit too fact based for you, as many of the contributors have maximised their pleasure in home music reproduction by allowing their head to rule their heart. 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 only, although HUG is really not the best place to have these sort of purely subjective airings.

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

That's it! Enjoy!

{Updated Oct. 2017}
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A note from a scientist and second-generation Harbeth owner

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  • A note from a scientist and second-generation Harbeth owner

    Dear Alan,

    Having just bought a pair of SHL5+ speakers, I wanted to write a note to you, partly in comment on how delightful the speakers are, partly in explanation of why I chose to buy Harbeth speakers, and partly to add some data to the demographics of your customer base.

    To provide some demographic context, you might notice from my HUG profile that I currently live in the USA, but I grew up in the southern England. I studied and have made a career of physics (I work at a national lab in nuclear astrophysics research).

    I also grew up in the presence of a pair of Harbeth speakers (I believe they were Dudley Harwood's HL Mk I - my dad bought them in either the very late 70s or the very early 80s), which made a lasting impression on how I listen, and what I expect from audio equipment. I don't know how many second-generation Harbeth listeners there are, but you may add one more to the list!

    After a decade or so without audio equipment to speak of (due to various aspects of life, bouncing from place to place as a student and postdoc), a few years ago I began investing in audio gear again, and recently decided to upgrade my speakers, feeling that they were the weakest link in my audio chain. I'd always had a pair of Harbeths in mind and, having experience of my dad's original model (and a taste for their sound and appearance), I recently decided to make the SHL5plus purchase without auditioning them (there's no dealer local within several hours' drive of me).

    They arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I could write in praise about aspects of the speakers and their performance - but you of all people know them in more detail than I ever will. Suffice to say that they are a first-class product, and I'm immensely happy with them. Instead, here are a few details of why (in addition to my expectations of a high-quality speaker with a natural timbre and minimally coloured sound) I chose to buy Harbeths.

    Something that added to my confidence in buying a pair of Harbeths (without audition) is your straightforwardness with regard to the relative magnitude of the effects of factors within the audio chain, many of which are grossly over-emphasized in the consumer audio industry. Some of the claims attached to certain products are darkly comical - comical for the ludicrousness of the claims, and dark because I feel that many manufacturers/retailers are taking advantage of well meaning, but perhaps ill-informed, people. I recently saw advertised an a major audio catalogue an AC power cable (simply three Ohmic strands, with a male and female plug on each end, and a ferrite bead worth maybe $1), retailing for $250 (reduced from $500, so it must be a bargain!) which claimed to "greatly reduce your system's noise floor, increase dynamics, and make your system sound more natural". Utterly absurd!

    Your vocal objections to such claims reassures that Harbeth products are likely to have time, money and effort invested solely the areas that matter to a well-functioning and well-built speaker. Also in this vein, it is reassuring to hear someone speaking openly about the role of psychoacoustic ambiguities in assessing sound. The malleability of the human brain with regard to compensating for its sensory input is quite astounding, and anyone who has laid in the sun with their eyes closed and reopened them to blue-tinged vision ought to easily appreciate this. One can observe these kind of "correction factors" in all the senses. The culinary field is based on this, where the matching of flavours is central to how they are perceived, and how the presence of one flavour (and indeed different textures and even colours) can affect how another flavour is perceived.

    A second and more personal factor is that, in current times of large impersonal corporations selling mass-produced products, value resides in buying from smaller businesses, where there is opportunity to interact on a human level. In much the same way as it is vastly preferable to me to buy meat from a local butcher or farmer, or records from an independent record store (or beer from a pub!), I appreciate being able to buy audio equipment from people, rather than from a faceless commercial front.

    Reading through the Harbeth forum, I've been very impressed with your openness and (as far as I can tell) honesty about Harbeth design and philosophy. That level of personal interaction with your customers (potential or current), in my opinion, gives Harbeth an additional edge over most contemporary manufacturers. Furthermore, when discussing a subject, you actually pull out data to explain your argument, which elevates this from being solely a vehicle for interaction with your customer base to being a place of informed discussion and education. As a physicist, I find that to be invaluable and highly commendable.

    Finally, the life cycle of Harbeth speakers is of considerable value. If, as some manufacturers would have you believe, there's a distinct and noticeable improvement to sound quality with the introduction of every new model, and a new model comes out every year or two, it stands to reason that there would be absolutely overwhelming differences in sound quality between models manufactured now and those made 20 years ago.

    Although there are of course advances in materials and design taking place, there is clearly is not the night-and-day difference that this would necessitate; instead it is appears (to a large extent) to be a product cycle driven by people in marketing departments to fuel sales. That's a very successful business model, no doubt (the car industry is built upon that approach) but it is not one I wish to buy into, given the choice. If equipment becomes obsolete because of genuine improvements, or even logical business decisions (such as sourcing parts/materials) that's fine and fair - but for a model to become obsolete because of a marketing committee seems like a very strange system to choose to buy into, as a "consumer" (a loaded word in itself).

    In my field of research (which is not as well-funded as some more "current" fields, such as dark matter hunts) we sometimes run cutting-edge experiments using analogue electronics modules (amplifiers, discriminators etc) that were designed and built in the 1970s and 80s. In some cases, these modules are no longer made, and no current viable alternative is commercially available, so they are sought-after, valued, and maintained by labs and university research groups across the world. In other cases, essentially the same model has been in production for decades - maybe minor tweaks have been made to make use of more modern components, but the changes are minimal, because they do the job, and do it well.

    Fads don't drive our choices in research equipment - they are precision instruments chosen for their performance and longevity - and it is with this attitude that I elected to buy Harbeth loudspeakers.

    In short, I think you are doing something refreshingly right at Harbeth, both in terms of speaker design and as a business, and I genuinely hope it long continues.

    Best wishes,

    Steve

  • #2
    Bravo!

    Bravo Dr Steve!

    Thank you for sharing and I believe your brief and correct summary of the Harbeth community and products sum up everything very well, especially so for those wound-be Harbeth owners reading our forum! I was one of them too!...before I decided to buy the 5+ in late September!

    Best Regards from a fellow SHL5+ owner,
    Ian.

    Comment


    • #3
      The Harbeth Alternative

      A sensible, logical and encouraging post by Steve. With a scientific background myself, I fully endorse what he has had to say. Steve uses the word 'Consumer' in exactly the right context. We are constantly pressured to acquire the next car, watch, mobile phone, etc.

      I stand back and ponder on that old saying, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' My car will last 20 years, given regular maintenance. My mobile phone is 3 years old and still works perfectly. How many new iPhones have been launched in the last 3 years. ?

      Thank goodness for manufacturers like Harbeth and their ilk. Long may they continue to present an alternative to rampant consumerism...

      Comment


      • #4
        Low-depreciation strategy

        I am not a natural scientist but an economic historian. So I can appreciate the scientific argument, but I add my economic take: keep depreciation low, and you can have top gear. So I have always had a policy to think hard what I wanted, buy very good quality, and then not look back.

        I have done that with the camera I bought in my student days (a Nikon), with my touring bike (a handbuilt Rohloff bike if that means anything to people here), and with my audio bought in the 1970's (Quad 33/303/fm3 -still used after a recent overhaul) and Quad ESL 57 speakers (only recently replaced).

        As a result I have spent less per annum than most people, and have had better quality products to enjoy. Of course, in the audio field I have added a CD and later a DVD and, later again, a BD player. The original Linn Sondek LP12/SME/V15 3 will be for sale once I have ripped all my lp's.

        Comment

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