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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.

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{Updated Oct. 2017}
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The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

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  • The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

    Hi everybody,
    It's been more than 3-4 issues of our big magazine, the "Sound & Vision" here in Greece, that SHL5s are not any more presented as reference speakers for the magazine's tech team, as they used to be for several years. They don't even show them in the comparison tables... I guess they became "old". I've seen a kind of similar policy in other big US magazines, several British ones, etc.. Perhaps the local distributor wouldn't care to spend as much as the press would desire for promotion, perhaps other brands want to push their speakers, as far as the crisis is getting tougher every day, and so on...

    I think Alan would avoid a comment on these all... It might be considered a normal behaviour for the commercial role of the press, any press... But the whole world of media is trying -in some way- to create consumption robots, doesn't it? Stupid creatures that get hypnotized looking at the tv or press ads. I guess the SHL5w didn't lose their excellence in one night, did they? What was lost, is neutral advice to the people, no matter the cost.. Just anything to promote sales, don't give a s...t about what is a landmark in science or art, just sell!

    But this is an old story... Yet, Thank God, I'm older than the story, and -as we say in my country- I don't buy nylon stockings for silk ones. I just bought the magazine -had stopped it long time ago- to see if anything new. Next time i'll buy another issue, it will be only if i 'll need something to kill my time, being in the W.C. Except if they will learn to respect the possibility that they are facing serious readers with mental integrity and memory. Will they ever do so?
    Thanks for reading,
    Thanos

  • #2
    Re: The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

    Your magazine probably has the same problems as our mags, in that they no longer have sufficient readers to make the magazine viable and so they have to rely on advertising revenue. This, of course, means that the mags need to attract advertisers by promising favourable reviews and the promotion of products over those which don't advertise. The interests of the readers are secondary to pleasing the manufacturers.

    I have spoken with three GB manufacturers just recently, who have been approached by a magazine promising good reviews and features but only if they book regular advertising.

    Another, less controversial point, is that the magazines seem to think that we want to read only about new products and have no interest in anything more than a few weeks old. Which is why many manufacturers are continually updating their products to Mk.2, Mk3 or Mk25 status, simply to get magazine coverage. Meanwhile, sensible companies which keep models unchanged for years on the basis of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it ' rarely get the publicity they deserve.

    Comment


    • #3
      Greek hi-fi magazines

      Thanos - fear not! There is another magazine "Hi-Fi Race" which uses Harbeth speakers as their reference. They currently have SHL5 and M30 and another pair is on order.
      Harbeth PR,
      Harbeth UK

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Greek hi-fi magazines

        Originally posted by harbethpr View Post
        Thanos - fear not! There is another magazine "Hi-Fi Race" which uses Harbeth speakers as their reference. They currently have SHL5 and M30 and another pair is on order.
        Thanks a lot,
        I'll try to find it.
        It's not that i'm against new things, but HIFI DAVE, as he very well put it in his previous comment, is right. There is some distance between educative info and promotion.
        Harbeths are all time classics, IMHO, and they present a kind of measure for the common man in terms of how you can spend a certain low budget to get absolutely honest and fine music reproduction for many-many years. This needs no promotion, but it does put things in an order. The press should reconsider it's role. Who's the final link in the chain? The manufacturer or the buyer? What are the average financial and technical buying criteria amongst the vast numbers of populations worldwide? You start from there. You don't just care of how you'll sell a bunch of products, get your money and go to hide in your village for the rest of your life. Harbeth, Spendor, Quad and other such brands, even in the midst of this crisis, they do represent not only a name and a machine model, they are HOUSES, houses in music History, at least for me...
        So, they'd better get their asses to work for the every day intensively growing price sensitive millions of people worldwide, as the latter have the right to bless themselves with music, which is and will always be the cheapest expensive luxury in life and culture.
        Thanks again,
        Thanos

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

          One of the problems we face in the press is that there appears to be a substantial increase in the number of manufacturers and products on the market. Although many of these manufacturers are one man and a kitchen table enterprises, the problem there is that everyone's got to start somewhere.

          However many pages I have to allocate for reviews, there are never enough of them to cover all the new products out there, and that makes it almost impossible to cover those products that have long product life cycles more than once.

          This is a great shame, because it does give rise to a case of unending upgraditis, both in the buyers and in the manufacturers. And yet, strangely, those who write about the stuff tend not to change their equipment frequently, despite being exposed to the latest and (supposedly) the greatest.

          It would be great to suggest to readers to exercise moderation and a considered approach to audio, but any time it's suggested, it tends to fall on deaf ears. I suspect sometimes literally. Perhaps the changes in the world economy might make people more cautious and hesitant in their hi-fi buying. Better that than burn out.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

            Originally posted by AlanSircom View Post
            ....This is a great shame, because it does give rise to a case of unending upgraditis, both in the buyers and in the manufacturers. And yet, strangely, those who write about the stuff tend not to change their equipment frequently, despite being exposed to the latest and (supposedly) the greatest.

            It would be great to suggest to readers to exercise moderation and a considered approach to audio, but any time it's suggested, it tends to fall on deaf ears. I suspect sometimes literally. Perhaps the changes in the world economy might make people more cautious and hesitant in their hi-fi buying. Better that than burn out.
            No doubt these are realistic observations. Still, I think the audiophile press would serve itself, its readers, and the industry by more frequent articles on classic designs that stand up well today. Good journalism, and a refreshing change from the tyranny of the new.

            ...Along with some of those guy-in-his-garage-workshop-genius-designer stories.

            Look to the Economist as an example; in times where many print periodicals are struggling to stay alive, it enjoys an enviable reputation for cultivating the intelligence of its readers, not pandering to the lowest common denominator...

            -paul-

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            • #7
              Re: The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

              It's an unfortunate fact of life that the mags now have become far too commercially minded in that they need advertising revenue to stay alive. They haven't got sufficient readers to keep them afloat. This means that the reviews and a lot of the content is irrelevant drivel and extremely biased.

              In the good ol' days, the magazines were written by enthusiasts and engineers for the benefit of the readers who paid for the running costs of the mag when buying it each month. Therefore you would read month after month and year on year about the same good products until they were genuinely superceded. Nowadays the mags have to align themselves with the manufacturers and publicise their new models as they become available at an increasingly faster pace, even if they're no better than the previous model.

              Fortunately, if you know where to look, there are a few manufacturers who do make great gear, don't keep changing models to garner publicity and don't rip their customers off. Very often these manufacturers don't advertise their products and so you won't read about them in the mags but you've found a great one on this forum.

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              • #8
                Re: The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

                Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                It's an unfortunate fact of life that the mags now have become far too commercially minded in that they need advertising revenue to stay alive. They haven't got sufficient readers to keep them afloat. This means that the reviews and a lot of the content is irrelevant drivel and extremely biased.

                In the good ol' days, the magazines were written by enthusiasts and engineers for the benefit of the readers who paid for the running costs of the mag when buying it each month. Therefore you would read month after month and year on year about the same good products until they were genuinely superceded. Nowadays the mags have to align themselves with the manufacturers and publicise their new models as they become available at an increasingly faster pace, even if they're no better than the previous model.

                Fortunately, if you know where to look, there are a few manufacturers who do make great gear, don't keep changing models to garner publicity and don't rip their customers off. Very often these manufacturers don't advertise their products and so you won't read about them in the mags but you've found a great one on this forum.
                Unfortunately, there's a touch of rose-tinted myopia at play here. The running costs of a hi-fi magazine have rarely been paid for by the readership. In almost all cases, the earnings generated from the readers account for a proportion of the 'out the door' costs (paper stocks, printing and distribution). Magazines have to rely on advertising, benefactors or being a tiny cog in a larger wheel of advertising to survive. This has always been the case.

                A significant part of the change in tone of magazines has not necessarily come from the downturn in readership. It is specifically due to the outcome of Walker WIngsail Systems v. Yachting World and IPC Magazines, 1994. Subsequent moves from objective to subjective testing in all kinds of magazines were the direct result of this case. And, as the UK publishing industry is (was?) one of the most vibrant on the planet, what happened here echoed around the world.

                Essentially this suit hinged on claims and counter-claims of a highly technical nature. The manufacturer made striking claims about the performance of a yacht, these were tested and found wanting by Yachting World's technical team, the manufacturer went legal and - despite the claimant's own expert witness almost agreeing with the Yachting World review - the case went against IPC magazines and Walker Wingsail Systems plc was awarded ?1.485m plus costs. It is believed this was because no one understood what either technical expert was talking about and sided with the claimant because he looked like the little guy.

                The precedent set by the aforementioned libel suit has effectively defanged specialist magazines, because no company can survive the threat of a multi-million pound suit. Subjective reviews are slightly less likely to end up in court, because of 'fair comment' rules (If I say product X sounds like a bag of spanners in my opinion, it would be difficult to sue over that comment; if I also said that it has a measured peak at 1kHz and the manufacturer disputes that claim, a law suit is easy to establish). The end result of sidelining the technical editor role has meant that subjective reviews (in all things) have become more and more subjective, and claims made by manufacturers are taken at face value.

                However, magazines often review products that have little or no advertising in that particular magazine. Unfortunately, these often get overlooked because there are so many little guys these days who advertise off the back of a review for a few issues.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

                  I'm not so sure about that. If you take a look at the magazines in the 60's, 70's and halfway through the 80's, you will see very little advertising but huge readership and the reader was King. Magazines had a far greater percentage of editorial to advertising than they do now.

                  As for advertising, most of us know that the advertiser gets the favourable review as the magazines can't bite the hand that feeds them. We both know that some magazines often offer favourable reviews to manufacturers if they take advertising space. It's a common ploy and I know many manufacturers who have been offered such deals.

                  You also get the 'old pals' reviews. How can you give anything but a rave review to your mate's products ?

                  Then you tell us about a 1994 court case which has frightened mags off of criticising reviewed products. Is that why you rarely see anything negative except 'the layout of the remote could be better' ?

                  So what is the point of reading a magazine for the 'technical' reviews ? A lot of it is fiction and sometimes inaccurate. It would be easier to allow the advertisers to write their own reviews.

                  It's a great pity how our mags have deteriorated over the years so that now most people find them boring and predictable. No wonder the circulations have plummeted to a few thousand.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

                    Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                    I'm not so sure about that. If you take a look at the magazines in the 60's, 70's and halfway through the 80's, you will see very little advertising but huge readership and the reader was King. Magazines had a far greater percentage of editorial to advertising than they do now.

                    As for advertising, most of us know that the advertiser gets the favourable review as the magazines can't bite the hand that feeds them. We both know that some magazines often offer favourable reviews to manufacturers if they take advertising space. It's a common ploy and I know many manufacturers who have been offered such deals.

                    You also get the 'old pals' reviews. How can you give anything but a rave review to your mate's products ?

                    Then you tell us about a 1994 court case which has frightened mags off of criticising reviewed products. Is that why you rarely see anything negative except 'the layout of the remote could be better' ?

                    So what is the point of reading a magazine for the 'technical' reviews ? A lot of it is fiction and sometimes inaccurate. It would be easier to allow the advertisers to write their own reviews.

                    It's a great pity how our mags have deteriorated over the years so that now most people find them boring and predictable. No wonder the circulations have plummeted to a few thousand.
                    Sorry, but I respectfully disagree (well, I would have to wouldn't I?).

                    There is no successful magazine model that exists without advertising, unless you have an angel. It simply doesn't work. Bear in mind that with DTP, many of the costs have gone down in real terms, because you are not paying compositors to work hot metal presses and having de-unionised the print media, the rates paid to journalists has dropped too. It's a mantra in publishing - 'readership covers the back end costs' (meaning print, paper and distribution) - everything else needs to find money from somewhere else.

                    In other words, if you saw a magazine that didn't have a lot of advertising, it was being paid for by other means. Sometimes that was thanks to being bolstered up by advertising vehicles elsewhere in the group, sometimes due to a benefactor or a 'silent' sponsor. There was no golden time when magazines were free from the strictures of advertisers, I'm afraid. Just practices that were quietly put out to pasture and replaced with the slightly more transparent word 'advertorial'.

                    But I suspect this is yet more rose-tinted views of the past. I have an archive of old issues of magazines. There are an awful lot of advertising graveyards (page after page of quarter-page and half page adverts), a lot of 20-page Laskys adverts and the rest in there, even before CD hit the streets.

                    Editorial and advertising are (and must remain) independent. Like most writers, I would struggle to name any advertisers within my magazine (I know what's on the outside back cover, because I see that in the rack). Any product that is put up for review gets a fair crack of the whip, whether the product belongs to an advertiser or not. That also applies to reviewers who form friendships with manufacturers and any other potential source of bias. If those sources of bias influence your reviews, you are an ex-reviewer. I have (and probably will again) drop people for this.

                    No advertiser has ever been offered a good review if they advertise on any title I have ever worked on. Ever. And if a magazine were to do such a thing, I would take them to the PCC. If an advertising person even intimated such a concept to a prospective advertiser, I would see to it that they were immediately removed from advertising. If you have real evidence of this occurring (rather than idle gossip) let me know.

                    The 1994 court case does remove effectively remove criticism to mild comments about the products, yes. It also leaves the reviewing process open to taking things at face value. Today, I feel the main value of a review is visibility, to a market that still largely refrains from making buying decisions from online sources. This means we are reaching an increasingly aging demographic, but we remain the sole way of reaching that audience. And they remain an audience of audio buyers. Which means that no, no matter how bland or easily impressed the reviewers are, they could not be replaced by advertisers.

                    There are a number of reasons why people stopped reading hi-fi magazines. The gradual sidelining of specialist magazines in favour of eye candy gadget magazines, and the eventual rise of the group publisher that views that specialist hi-fi industry as a bunch of weirdos who should just buy an iPod and have done with it. The repetitive nature of modern magazines is largely predicated on readers no longer needing (or wanting) to know about the subject in anything more than a surface level (because they are more used to eye candy gadget magazines), on a market so ruined by aggressive price cutting that the only possibility of making margin is on attachment sales (and the attendant demands by readers to be better versed in cables because their dealers seem intent on discussing cables) and on a severe lack of vision all around that means we are all chasing exactly the same people who bought hi-fi 20 years ago and hoping that they don't die before we all retire.

                    If the hi-fi magazines are bland, it's only because an industry helped make them that way.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

                      I won't argue this out point for point because it is Harbeth's Forum and it isn't fair to do that.

                      Please don't think that I am criticising your mag in any way. I only look at mags I receive free, I do not buy Hi-Fi mags and haven't done since the 60's. Your mag I would need to pay for and so I haven't seen it for a few months now. I am talking about other mags, not your's.

                      I won't go into this anymore because it might cause upset but what I have described does occur regularly. If you are in any doubt, please feel free to e-mail me and I will supply more detail but I think you already know what I am talking about !!!

                      As for 'the industry' making mags bland, this is a chicken and egg thing but just take a look at Japanese mags and those from Hong Kong if you want to see how it should be done. They are absolutely stunning and impossible to put down even if you can't read a word of them. That's the way our mags should be.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

                        Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                        I won't argue this out point for point because it is Harbeth's Forum and it isn't fair to do that.

                        Please don't think that I am criticising your mag in any way. I only look at mags I receive free, I do not buy Hi-Fi mags and haven't done since the 60's. Your mag I would need to pay for and so I haven't seen it for a few months now. I am talking about other mags, not your's.

                        I won't go into this anymore because it might cause upset but what I have described does occur regularly. If you are in any doubt, please feel free to e-mail me and I will supply more detail but I think you already know what I am talking about !!!

                        As for 'the industry' making mags bland, this is a chicken and egg thing but just take a look at Japanese mags and those from Hong Kong if you want to see how it should be done. They are absolutely stunning and impossible to put down even if you can't read a word of them. That's the way our mags should be.
                        I agree that this is not the place to get into an argument about the state of the press. I will email you for more details.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

                          Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                          I won't argue this out point for point because it is Harbeth's Forum and it isn't fair to do that.

                          Please don't think that I am criticising your mag in any way. I only look at mags I receive free, I do not buy Hi-Fi mags and haven't done since the 60's. Your mag I would need to pay for and so I haven't seen it for a few months now. I am talking about other mags, not your's.

                          I won't go into this anymore because it might cause upset but what I have described does occur regularly. If you are in any doubt, please feel free to e-mail me and I will supply more detail but I think you already know what I am talking about !!!

                          As for 'the industry' making mags bland, this is a chicken and egg thing but just take a look at Japanese mags and those from Hong Kong if you want to see how it should be done. They are absolutely stunning and impossible to put down even if you can't read a word of them. That's the way our mags should be.
                          It sure hasn't gone unnoticed by some that the Japanese are serious and educated about their hobbies to a level one doesn't see here in the states. Hi-Fi is but one area where Japanese hobbyist's involvement leans toward meticulous fascination (check out Japanese bicycling magazines, they are not as thin on substance, nor as advertisement packed as their UK/American counterparts). I was in Osaka some years back with fellow bicycling hobbyists from around Japan and the US. We hobbyist's had many variations on the classic English hub-gear bicycles (which enjoyed their peak of popularity with Raleigh Industries expansive manufacturing facilities). During the three day Osaka event I spoke to many Japanese who to a person knew what a "plus four" was, or what a planetary gear did - yet the same inquiries to fellow American's drew but blank stares. In my opinion, Japan is a country that embraces niche markets, and nurtures interest in details of same like few places I've seen anywhere else.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The Japanese .... and how things tick

                            Originally posted by Pencey View Post
                            .... In my opinion, Japan is a country that embraces niche markets, and nurtures interest in details of same like few places I've seen anywhere else.
                            So true. Harbeth has been available in Japan since 1977 - thirty two years - and what impresses me on my visits and regular interface with the Japanese is 'attention to detail'. It is no accident I'm sure that Japan is, and always has been, one of Harbeth's top three markets, and I believe that there are more HL Compact family speakers installed and working there than any country on earth.

                            The Japanese are - and I know this personally - fascinated by how things tick. As I've been cautioned - 'you Westerners do not ask probing questions about how consumer goods work ... you rarely take off the lid and look inside. We Japanese look inside first and from that can estimate the designer's objectives, even personality.'
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: The press, always the press... (consumption robots?)

                              Gentlemen,

                              I won't argue with anybody for anything, being or not being into the Harbeth site. I'll just restore the thoughts and discussions to where I started with a few (I'm afraid very true) observations. Their meanings & explanations surely concern everyone of us, especially Alan ... and Alan...
                              What I say mainly concerns music lovers, and very much Harbeth philosophy lovers, I believe. So,

                              1. Mags don't sell much anymore (in comparative measuring with populations' quantitative and qualitative data). Internet is cheaper and easier.
                              2. The ground can absorb a certain amount of rain. More rain, much rain, and then we have a swamp. Same thing happens with the press and its informative role.
                              3. Fundamental reason of existence for the hi-fi makers (both industrial and smallish) is to serve the art of music and its role to humans. Not just sell machines, images and fashions.
                              4. Long life and tradition of every product on earth are the children of keeping measure. A quality meal is always better than a large meal. And never forget that you go on healthy when you're still a bit hungry when leaving the table. Wealthier too...
                              5. Success and balance in what you do comes when you're in creative dialogue with the vast consuming society, by combining your personality with people's common sense. Not when you try to lead them or to just follow them. Both ends will prove disastrous.

                              I'm not establishing a doctrine, I'm not a teacher or a V.I.P. And I do respect and appreciate you all and each one separately. Hope we all agree with these thoughts, much or less.

                              Thank You for reading,

                              Thanos

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