"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound from microphone to ear, achievable by recognising and controlling the numerous confounding variables that exist along the audio chain. The Harbeth designer's objective is to make loudspeakers that contribute little of themselves to the music passing through them.

Identifying system components for their sonic neutrality should logically proceed from the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance. Deviations from a flat frequency response at any point along the signal chain from microphone to ear is likely to give an audible sonic personality to the system at your ear; this includes the significant contribution of the listening room itself. To accurately reproduce the recorded sound as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would be best advised to select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

For example, the design of and interaction between the hifi amplifier and its speaker load can and will alter the sound balance of what you hear. This may or may not be what you wish to achieve, but any deviation from a flat response is a step away from a truly neutral system. HUG has extensively discussed amplifiers and the methods for seeking the most objectively neutral among a plethora of product choices.

HUG specialises in making complex technical matters simple to understand, getting at the repeatable facts in a post-truth environment where objectivity is increasingly ridiculed. With our heritage of natural sound and pragmatic design, HUG is not the best place to discuss non-Harbeth audio components selected, knowingly or not, to introduce a significantly personalised system sound. For that you should do your own research and above all, make the effort to visit an Authorised Dealer and listen to your music at your loudness on your loudspeakers through the various offerings there. There is really no on-line substitute for time invested in a dealer's showroom because 'tuning' your system to taste is such a highly personal matter. Our overall objective here is to empower readers to make the factually best procurement decisions in the interests of lifelike music at home.

Please consider carefully how much you should rely upon and be influenced by the subjective opinions of strangers. Their hearing acuity and taste will be different to yours, as will be their motives and budget, their listening distance, loudness and room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you. Always keep in mind that without basic test equipment, subjective opinions will reign unchallenged. With test equipment, universal facts and truths are exposed.

If some of the science behind faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over Harbeth speakers is your thing, this forum has been helping with that since 2006. If you just want to share your opinions and photos with others then the unrelated Harbeth Speakers Facebook page may be for you. Either way, welcome to the world of Harbeth!"

Feb. 2018
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Group-think: What would a Harbeth amplifier look and feel like?

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  • #76
    QUAD bling?

    Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
    Possibly Quad ?
    With the same thought in mind, googling EH + Quad reveals he had a pair of bespoke chrome plated ESL 57's. Truly, truly horrible. Even for the 70's when good taste was optional.

    Did this man not have one redeeming feature?


    • #77
      Inbuilt attenuation

      Originally posted by acroyear View Post
      Interesting, I wasn't aware of those smaller amps with gain. So you have the zamp V3? At $350 seems a nice purchase. So in practice are you keeping the gain all the way open or a little lower?

      I think gain on a power amp adjusts sensitivity, I'm not sure quite how it works but fully open might correspond with its quoted sensitivity and as you reduce the gain the sensitivity is reduced, I normally set gain so that 85dB or so is front volume control about half open (12 oclock) which typically has a normal amp way into clipping for CD for eg.
      I'm using a wonderful preamp that use to be in my main system. It has an option for -10 db attenuation so I use it in the preamp and run the zamp at full volume.


      • #78
        Old ESLs

        As it so happens I took my old QUAD els 57's out of storage yesterday, to sell them. However, once again I was moved by the quality of the sound. They are so detailed, and the midrange is so clear.

        For all their now more evident shortcomings, they remain a truly remarkable design. I decided to keep them, and lend them to my son.

        Chrome grills are indeed bad taste.


        • #79
          Another British hero from past.

          I am now in urgent need to make new amplification at new site in a room of an area approx. 18 m2 so I made an inspection of my "collector's" garderobe. The set of QED C300SA preamp and P300 power unit sounds after all these years marvellous and very natural coupled to mid-sized monitors and Marantz 63KI. Robust made, simple, but very well engineered electronics , probably wasn't the cheapest one when introduced in late eighties. The set was inspected by my local serviceman after I bought it and his opinion was "extraordinary, no-nonsense production, military quality PCBs and excellent parts inside". Today they make interconnects and cables only.

          More details (in German):



          • #80
            Some further, further thoughts ...................

            Some common threads from above are the questions and / or statements "Why should Harbeth even consider producing an amplifier as it would be a major departure from (and unrelated to) the existing speaker product line?" "Who would buy such an amp when there are already very many to choose from?"

            So what could be the unique selling point of a Harbeth amp that would make it attractive to owners of Harbeth speakers in particular?

            I have just read an interesting article "Fazed by phase" by Keith Howard in the July issue of HiFi News. He identifies 2 areas of potentially audible phase distortion in loudspeakers: the roll-off of the low-frequency driver and the cross-over between drive units. It would be feasible to design a digital section in a Harbeth pre-amplifier which produced an output voltage having an inverse phase to that generated by the loudspeaker to which it would be connected, and thus give a near zero phase error from the speaker i.e. closer to the waveform at the input to the preamplifier. Variants of such a digital section in a preamplifier could be customised to match each speaker in the Harbeth range. This could be achieved by using a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) programmed for each speaker type. If the buyer changed his speaker to another model in the range he would be able to re-program the FPGA to match the new speaker.

            At a later stage the functionality of the FPGA could possibly be expanded to include correction for room effects (a need identified earlier in this thread).

            There are many unknowns of course:

            Would the corrected signal actually produce an audible improvement in the sound quality of the loudspeaker?

            Is the phase response of all the Harbeth speakers known, or can be calculated, with sufficient a currency to make such a design feasible?

            If not how difficult / expensive would it be to measure the phase response characteristics of all the Harbeth speaker models?


            • #81

              I wonder if there's any follow-up you could share with us on the project?

              Did it even get a green light? I'm interested to hear as I still haven't found a perfect amp for my Harbeths and would like to know if I should continue with the chase or just wait for the Harbeth amp.


              • #82
                Audiophile's quandary?

                Originally posted by Milosz View Post
                I wonder if there's any follow-up you could share with us on the project?

                Did it even get a green light? I'm interested to hear as I still haven't found a perfect amp for my Harbeths and would like to know if I should continue with the chase or wait for the Harbeth amp.
                In the meantime, while waiting for Harbeth's amp one can pick up any well engineered British amplifier - Harbeth speakers will sound with all of them excellent and the same way provided we listen to the music at the same level of loudness! :)



                • #83
                  A proper specification for a great amp?

                  Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                  That's more than enough food for thought. Thanks to everyone who has contributed: as expected, a most thoughtful and honest appraisal of the entire issue in under 50 posts. An astonishing effort.

                  I will be meeting with our partners in this project tomorrow. I think that there is a clear divide between what is theoretically technically possible and what from a business/marketing perspective is do-able and right. One thing I can assure you of is that we would never overstretch ourselves financially, technically, mentally or physically.

                  I greatly appreciate your input which covers far more (technically) than I could have gathered in weeks of market research. Your ability to contribute so professionally and even-handedly to such open debates is one of the defining characteristics of the Harbeth User Group.

                  Again, many thanks.
                  If Harbeth do not proceed with production of their amplifier, perhaps the ongoing discussion in the Shock! Horror! Probe! thread will help decide on the specifications we should look for when choosing a suitable amp.


                  • #84
                    Based on my other amp discussion I discovered two very nice integrated amps from a look and feel point of view that match the timeless understatement elegance of Harbeth:

                    Hegel Röst and Creek Evolution 100A. Both have plenty of digital I/Os, USB and network audio, as well as balanced XLR audio inputs. If well designed, what else is needed than a volume control and an input select wheel? I think some level meters would be nice if they can show correct values but this can be digital within the OLED display and should not be too overly present (keep the understatement).

                    Give it the watts it needs to drive the Harbeth speakers. Provide proper input sensitivity and allow adjustable balanced audio levels to match it with professional studio equipment.

                    No tuner, instead focus on proper wireless audio to allow streaming of any web radio station from mobile devices or computers. Web radio and online music is definitely an ongoing strong trend so it needs proper support. Don't make your own app for that, you'll burn your fingers and it's hard to maintain and keep up with latest developments. Focus on really good Bluetooth and maybe AirPlay. AirPlay is the right thing for Apple users (iOS and macOS). You need to check your customer base but on the price level of Harbeth I would assume a majority of your customers uses Apple so they will appreciate it. Me too :-). You need a license from Apple for AirPlay (see

                    A wooden cabinet would be nice like the Sonus Faber Quid.


                    • #85
                      What would a Harbeth amplifier look and feel like?

                      The Quad 34/303 combination would be a good place to start.
                      I have been using this combination for years to drive my Harbeth P3-ESRs
                      and have never had the desire to replace it.

                      Martyn Miles



                      • #86
                        Originally posted by mactrix View Post
                        A wooden cabinet would be nice like the Sonus Faber Quid.

                        Not so difficult to craft a stylish cabinet when the power supply section is contained in a separate big black ugly box:


                        • #87
                          What do you mean by wireless? The reality of modern streaming is that you use either an Apple Airport Express or a Google Chromecast (will also work with an IPhone). Of these, I think the Chromecast is preferable because you do not need your phone once the casting has started. With the Apple Airport Express, you either need to keep your phone active, or the amplifier needs to have Airplay built in. SInce streaming technology is changing so fast, having it outboard makes more sense in my view. Systems like Bluetooth are getting better but they are still not fit for high quality audio.


                          • #88
                            The Sonus Faber Quid is quite old. Today's engineering should allow to have the power supply inside. I am also not saying a Harbeth amp needs to be the same form factor.

                            willem, you're right about Apple Airport Express (for Apple users). The optical audio output allows digital audio pass-through to the amp's optical input. Maybe easier than direct AirPlay integration in the amp.


                            • #89
                              The late Franco Serblin designed his Sonus Faber speakers with an a 50w amp called the Musica (a follow up to the Quid posted below). The Musica was reportedly designed by Marantz in Germany. SF later commercialized it -- I had a chance to hear it with an older pair of Souns Fabers (Guarneri Homage?). Nice combination.

                              As for a Harbeth's interest in the "digital side of the design in terms of hardware, software features, GUI and technical interface with streaming systems"... I can't speak for others but my personal goal is to experience music in the format the producer chose to master the recording itself. That means a digital interface that can accept high resolution PMC and native DSD sources. The latter is a giant pain the the backside for the consumer. Server technology, computer audio playback and even DAC technology is changing so fast that even companies who specialize, update their products frequently. My advice would be to run away from the idea altogether. But what do I know? My main criteria in my last amp purchase was to find a capable product that has a stellar phono stage


                              • #90
                                Given that the concensus here on the HUG is that all competently amplifiers sound the same - what is the point in a Harbeth amplifier ? There's no way it would sell for £300, as the oft recommended Yamaha does.