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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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Best purchases ever

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  • #16
    Plenty of power

    It could be considered consistent but rather boring repeating that I have SHL5+ powered by Quad 909 Mono 300wpc and P3ESR powered by Quad 909 Stereo 140wpc, so I already have 4 best purchases.

    The fact that I have huge power reserves will now allow me to get my next best purchase, from Poland, hand wired dual mono stepped attenuators (64-step/1db) with remote control that can be operated in both dual mono and stereo, for the huge sum of $700, which is about the same as the total component cost, if not a bit of a loss leader.

    I will now be able to address the problem that age has diminished hearing in my left ear faster than in my right, no doubt due to having a telephone attached to it for a significant part of the day.
    http://www.hattor.pl

    Comment


    • #17
      Passive preamps.

      Originally posted by ssfas View Post
      It could be considered consistent but rather boring repeating that I have SHL5+ powered by Quad 909 Mono 300wpc and P3ESR powered by Quad 909 Stereo 140wpc, so I already have 4 best purchases.

      The fact that I have huge power reserves will now allow me to get my next best purchase, from Poland, hand wired dual mono stepped attenuators (64-step/1db) with remote control that can be operated in both dual mono and stereo, for the huge sum of $700, which is about the same as the total component cost, if not a bit of a loss leader.

      I will now be able to address the problem that age has diminished hearing in my left ear faster than in my right, no doubt due to having a telephone attached to it for a significant part of the day.
      http://www.hattor.pl
      Do not forget to connect it to power amp with as short as possible interconnects :). In my opinion the best if well shielded.

      Mine the best buys as regards to preamps are undoubtedly these from Siltech's Sphinx series.

      ATB

      Comment


      • #18
        PSU DAC interference?

        Originally posted by ssfas View Post
        It could be considered consistent but rather boring repeating that I have SHL5+ powered by Quad 909 Mono 300wpc and P3ESR powered by Quad 909 Stereo 140wpc, so I already have 4 best purchases.

        The fact that I have huge power reserves will now allow me to get my next best purchase, from Poland, hand wired dual mono stepped attenuators (64-step/1db) with remote control that can be operated in both dual mono and stereo, for the huge sum of $700, which is about the same as the total component cost, if not a bit of a loss leader.

        I will now be able to address the problem that age has diminished hearing in my left ear faster than in my right, no doubt due to having a telephone attached to it for a significant part of the day.
        http://www.hattor.pl
        Deciding on different 'control/power' units gets a little trickier for me.

        A power amp plus: traditional ampliying preamp or a DAC with analog volume control or a passive attenuator????

        I know DAC/passive provides sufficient voltage to drive most power amplifiers with CD as source but a generally respected non foo audio designer suggests that their amplifying preamp is better than their own volume controlled DAC as it would give better dynamic contrasts because of the preamps larger current from the larger power supply (own words). Trouble is, I am in no position to refute or verify that statement.
        Getting to know my C7ES3

        Comment


        • #19
          Amplifying DAC or ....

          Originally posted by acroyear View Post
          Deciding on different 'control/power' units gets a little trickier for me.

          A power amp plus: traditional amplifying preamp or a DAC with analog volume control or a passive attenuator????

          I know DAC/passive provides sufficient voltage to drive most power amplifiers with CD as source but a generally respected non foo audio designer suggests that their dedicated amplifying preamp is better that their own volume controlled DAC as it would give better dynamic contrasts because of the preamps larger current from the larger power supply (own words).

          Trouble is, I am in no position to refute or verify that statement.
          That argument beats me: if the signal from the DAC is perfect (as it should be) all a volume control should do is move the signal to the next stage in exactly the same shape, albeit somewhat attenuated.

          Comment


          • #20
            DIY passive attanuation concepts

            The Siltech uses ALPS potentiometers.
            http://www.hificollective.co.uk/pote...ue-beauty.html

            A critical component and it seems this version is an audio "standard" - cost inclusive of sales tax about £15 or €20.

            When I went from integrated to power amps I needed volume control. Not wanting another audio box, my phono stage had space inside, so I had added:
            1. 1 x line input
            2. ALPS potentiometer
            3. Source switch (line, MM phono, MC phono) - not remote controlled

            I have the motorised ALPS - costs £36 - because I'm lazy.
            http://www.hificollective.co.uk/pote...motorised.html

            So I turned a phono amp into a phono passive pre-amp. It is silver wired, but all the same the total component cost was probably about £150. I don't really know as 12 months later I have yet to receive a bill.

            My DAC plugs in to the line input, which makes for a simple system. It is a passive switch, although my suppler said he could put in the simple valve gain stage that he uses in his active pre-amps. I declined.

            So the issue is how critical is the industry standard ALPS potentiometer? I would have got a stepped attenuator put in, but there is no room for it, especially when motorised.
            http://www.khozmo.com/products_dale_shunt.html
            (This is an old model, the new one is 64-step 1db each)

            The Khozmo and Hattor are the same guy in Poland - he's been making attenuators for years and puts them in little boxes as passive pre-amps. His cost $100 standard per unit, but you can pay £50 to £1,500 from other suppliers. With a stepped attenuator the signal just goes through two resistors. The ALPS never struck me as being very hi-fi.

            With regard to acroyear's comment, I have also read that people consider the pre-amp with gain to be ultra-critical, and they spend £1,000's on them, when I have only ever considered a pre-amp to be a switch with voltage control.

            So is the next best purchase going to be a box containing two motorised stepped attenuators, some wires and a few sockets? The direct cost for the unit ($700) is less than the UK component cost as the UK (trade) parts supplier adds 50% for his profit. Or is the £15 ALPS perfectly sufficient?

            Comment


            • #21
              It's all about connection flexibility

              I think a traditional pre amplifier makes sense only if you still have analogue sources, as these tend to have rather different output levels that have to be brought up to the same level. That is what I still use in my main rig, because my wife will not let me ditch the record player, and because she understandibly likes the quick convenience of a traditional fm tuner for news broadcasts (no fumbling with internet radio if you are already late for the news).

              Digital sources include a tv set top box with its own dac, a BD player with its own dac, and now a Chromecast with its own dac. Input sensitivities are quite well matched thanks to Peter Walker's foresight and some changes when the unit was refurbished, but it is a mess of (sometimes Y) cables.

              If all your sources are digital, the most elegant solution is a dac with multiple inputs and a volume control. This is what my son has and he uses a Beresford TC 7510 dac (2x coax and 2x optical) with volume control. Interestingly the digital output of his Philips TV into the coaxial input of the dac even at the TV's loudest output setting is not as loud as the CC and the PS3 into the optical inputs (I have no idea how and why).

              If you only use one source, as I do with my desktop system with usb input into an ODAC usb DAC the simplest solution will often be a dac of the appropriate type (usb, optical or coax), plus a separate volume control like the Emotiva Control Freak or the Shiit Sys (the latter if you also need to switch between two sources).

              I don't think there are any sound quality issues other than that my recently refurbished dear old Quad 33 is probably a bit long in the tooth with its antequated S/N (even so the main rig still sounds very well). I honestly think it all depends on what you want to connect.

              Comment


              • #22
                My best buys ....

                My best buys have been the Harbeth SHL5s, and then the M40s. Next are EQ units; one analogue and one digital (for ease of use and versatility, I prefer the analogue).

                Comment


                • #23
                  Behringer EQ

                  A bit dull but my Benchmark DAC 2 has impressed me with its functionality, build and, dare I say it, it's sound. It serves as preamp, too, having analogue inputs, so one less box.

                  For bang for buck, the Behringer DEQ2496 serving room correction.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    More on passive preamps

                    Replying to my own post.

                    A Modwright (a brand featuring in the newsletter images) pre-amp was advertised somewhere with pictures of the internals. Motorised ALPS inside a $3,500 pre-amp, so it can't be that bad.

                    I spoke to my amplifier maker, first time in a while, and by some bizarre coincidence he ordered one of these attenuators from the same guy in Poland. He apparently has an ebay store.
                    http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/arekkallas...p2047675.l2562

                    The amplifier maker told me that a key issue is capacitance and this can be dealt with by a buffer stage (whatever that is). He said he can easily put one in. For the same reason, short low-capacitance cables to the amplifiers are advisable. (pwbka provided the same advice by PM). I think we sort of did a deal that I would buy the unit and he would modify it and test it. We'll wait until his unit turns up and he checks it out.

                    There is an London, UK company (Tisbury) that makes passive pre-amps for £130. On the same ebay link.
                    http://www.tisburyaudio.co.uk/mini-passive-preamplifier
                    They describe their potentiometer at length and also stress the importance of capacitance to maintaining sound quality.

                    MODERATOR: AS started a thread on passive pre-amps. Can this and the last post be moved there?
                    http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/s...st-signal-path

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Attenuation at input stage of pre-amp.

                      Originally posted by ssfas View Post
                      The Siltech uses ALPS potentiometers.
                      http://www.hificollective.co.uk/pote...ue-beauty.html

                      A critical component and it seems this version is an audio "standard" - cost inclusive of sales tax about £15 or €20.

                      When I went from integrated to power amps I needed volume control. Not wanting another audio box, my phono stage had space inside, so I had added:
                      1. 1 x line input
                      2. ALPS potentiometer
                      3. Source switch (line, MM phono, MC phono) - not remote controlled

                      I have the motorised ALPS - costs £36 - because I'm lazy.
                      http://www.hificollective.co.uk/pote...motorised.html

                      So I turned a phono amp into a phono passive pre-amp. It is silver wired, but all the same the total component cost was probably about £150. I don't really know as 12 months later I have yet to receive a bill.

                      My DAC plugs in to the line input, which makes for a simple system. It is a passive switch, although my suppler said he could put in the simple valve gain stage that he uses in his active pre-amps. I declined.

                      So the issue is how critical is the industry standard ALPS potentiometer? I would have got a stepped attenuator put in, but there is no room for it, especially when motorised.
                      http://www.khozmo.com/products_dale_shunt.html
                      (This is an old model, the new one is 64-step 1db each)

                      The Khozmo and Hattor are the same guy in Poland - he's been making attenuators for years and puts them in little boxes as passive pre-amps. His cost $100 standard per unit, but you can pay £50 to £1,500 from other suppliers. With a stepped attenuator the signal just goes through two resistors. The ALPS never struck me as being very hi-fi.

                      With regard to acroyear's comment, I have also read that people consider the pre-amp with gain to be ultra-critical, and they spend £1,000's on them, when I have only ever considered a pre-amp to be a switch with voltage control.

                      So is the next best purchase going to be a box containing two motorised stepped attenuators, some wires and a few sockets? The direct cost for the unit ($700) is less than the UK component cost as the UK (trade) parts supplier adds 50% for his profit. Or is the £15 ALPS perfectly sufficient?
                      1. Yes and no. In older models Siltech (manufacturer of Sphinx audio products from Netherlands, now logo and brand limited to renowned cables) used mechanical stepped attenuators at the input (gain match) and acclaimed Alps potentiometer as a main volume adjustment what is very natural and convenient for music lover. Later they switched to integrated circuits and processors, even more stable and remote controlled what attests their then high technical level and professional understanding the problems of audio amplification , either bow towards comfort of the client. Below the photo of "manually" operated pre-amp: to the left 2pcs of 10-steps separate gain attenuators one for each channel, on the right Alps two channel volume pot:

                      Click image for larger version

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                      2. Passive phono amp or phono amp with passive equalisation?

                      3. Motorised stepped attenuators for sure will be more convenient than hand operated only :). If possible to use them in double mono mode they can serve additionally instead of well precise balance pot. Nevertheless, in my humble opinion, attenuators, although very handsome, won't replace true preamplifier, especially if very low voltage must be amplified:

                      Click image for larger version

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                      BTW - in both cases, of mechanical or electronic control, Spinx electronics, after all those years, have been still silent and not crackling, hissing etc. Well and responsibly manufactured hi-fi, no magic but sensible use of good components, profound professionalism and knowledge in their application resembling the best years of great Philips. Unfortunately, like some other ambitious companies now belonging (e.g. British QED) to history in this field of activity...

                      ATB

                      P.S. - Please do not confuse old Sphinx products with contemporary bizzare try to enter the audio market with "modern" valve SAGA amplification concept moderately priced at 85.000 pound sterling. The best example how to diversify activity onto heavy draining high-end snobs' pockets :). Hope xo cognac or old whisky served while auditioning this "marvel".

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        A vast musical library on-line

                        Going back to the original topic of best purchase ever, I think back to my first serious hifi purchases, and the long term strategy behind them: a Quad 33-303 amplifier combo that I bought as a student in 1971, a set of Quad ESL 57 speakers bought in 1976, and Rogers LS3/5a's bought in 1991 for a secundary system. Even if most of these units have now been replaced in their original systems, they have given me stellar musical enjoyment for decades. The initial outlay was substantial, but in the end the annual cost has been small. Buy something good and you only need to buy once (or twice in a lifetime) is a long term strategy that will be familiar to many Harbeth users.

                        My recent best purchase was of an altogether different nature and of far greater cultural importance: a couple of Chromecasts to bring older systems into the streaming world of the 21st century. I must confess that streaming from a service like Spotify has enriched my music listening like never before. Suddenly almost all music that I ever listened to, or might have listened to, is available at the click of a button on my phone. Listening for hours, alternating between 1960's Yardbirds, 1950's cool jazz and Chicago Blues, and Harnoncourt's Bach cantatas was as big a leap as the quantum leap from your private book collection into the world of a large university library. I can wander wherever my curiosity takes me, and it is almost all there.

                        As background, a quick look at the relevant wikipedia pages gives me all the information that I need as well (often desirable given Spotify's disorganized user interface). I may want to taste Qobuz as well, for possibly better sound quality, and a perhaps better user interface for the serious listener.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Audiolab DAC etc.

                          Very impressed by the Audiolab MDAC+, purchased on the basis of design and spec. Does high def very well.

                          The Audiolab 8200CDQ CD/DAC/Pre Amp was an extremely well received product, spins discs, loads of digital inputs, excellent DAC (same as the MDAC), balanced outputs, pre-amps in digital and analogue domain.

                          It has recently been updated, but I've seen a demo unit available half price (£500), which is an absolute bargain for a sensible system. If anyone in the UK interested, send me a message.

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Ideal system

                            My best gear purchases ever have been two pairs of Harbeth speakers (SHL5+ and P3ESR), the last Panasonic plasma TV before production was ceased and... Apple TV with Apple Music family plan.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Best Buy's ... Harbeth are the least room/amp fussy

                              I remember 5 Best Buy's in my 35+ years of HiFi:

                              1. A Pioneer SA 9800 amp I bought when I was 17, my first serious HiFi gear, which sparked a never ending journey. Man, was i proud when I carried the 18Kg Amp to the bus stop. Long sold ...

                              2. My first pair of LS 3/5a, nice biwireable Harbeth. Now quite beaten up optically, but will stay forever

                              3. A pair of Linn Nexus (still with me)

                              3. A flea watt Telefunken Amp module from 1950 around - breathtaking sound (at low levels) for a funny price, pimped with the best Mullard ECC 83 and Telefunken EL 95 I found

                              4. A pair of Sound Faber Guarnieri Homage (the originals), which led to the sales of my M30s (the SF were grossly better in a comparison with friends ... but when I moved I couldn't reproduce the perfection of my long gone Sound Room any more and I had enough or the all too sweet sound. And with 2 young dogs the strings are a no no.

                              Best Buy because I sold them for more than I bought them and am enjoying Harbeth M30.1 now, which seem to be a lot less room critical, they will stay now for good

                              The funny experience of my speaker life (I had so many) is that Harbeth are the least amp and room critical ones, just throw them into a system and they do sound great even right out of the box, no extensive cable/amp/CDP/cable swapping needed

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                My most recent best purchase: a pair of P3ESR SE´s in eucalyptus. They´re playing for two weeks now with a Rega Elex-R Amp and I like them so much! At first, I couldn´t imagine that they would make more music than my old B&Ws (Nautilus 805), but they do definetly. It´s so much fun to listen to any kind of music from classical to rock. These little boxes are unbelievable! Just listening to Chris Thile/Brad Mehldau´s duo record and feeling happy to have that money spent. A new Harbeth fan from Germany.

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