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.
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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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Just took possession of my new P3ESRs on the weekend and I'm in love! They are the most natural sounding speaker I've ever owned. Harbeth, you exceeded my expectations in every regard.
The craftsmanship is superb, the cabinet making is finer to anything I've ever seen in a speaker. As you can see from the photos, the figured Rosewood is book-matched like a fiddle back. The left and right speakers even match one another! A real shocker, this means that the veneer used for the L and R speaker was hand picked (they would have been cut successively from the same part of the log). This goes for the front and back, not just the sides.
I don't know if this community is aware of how lucky you are with the fit and finish of Harbeth speakers. (I'm an amateur violin and cabinet maker -- so I'm very picky.) They are superior in sound and aesthetics to the well known (and far more expensive) Italian speakers they replaced. The finish of the Harbeth's is at a level I'd expect from bespoke furniture.
And the sound? What can I say, natural and effortless -- the way music sounds.
... Harbeth, you exceeded my expectations in every regard. The craftsmanship is superb, the cabinet making is finer to anything I've ever seen in a speaker....
Thank you for the kind words. We here at Harbeth UK really appreciate them.
Since you bring the subject up - and I've never felt able to discuss this before - I'd like to reveal a one aspect of how we are able to achieve and maintain such a high standard. It may shock you. To witness it yourself would I'm sure (as it does me) make one feel physically sick. But this is what's going on in the background to keep the standards up.
From time to time on production we (sometimes collectively, many issues are extremely marginal) say to ourselves here that a particular component, a cabinet or a screw, whilst functionally perfect just doesn't look as good as we think our customers expect or deserve. As you know with woodworking, every tree and every veneer leaf has its own characteristics. In truth, there is no such thing as a perfect tree or perfect cabinet because nature encourages randomness in everything. But some cosmetic issues whilst entirely natural may look ugly or like man made mistakes to the untrained eye. Those features result in considerable tension between our suppliers and ourselves, much exchange of high resolution photos or even videos discussing a particular point on a particular cabinet. For example: we may say to the supplier that such and such a veneer characteristic looks like (for example) a scratch. They say, possibly truthfully, that it is a natural veneer characteristic of that tree, perhaps stressed during growth in a way that created a microscopic fissure in the grain. They explain that this feature runs deep into the tree and hence through an entire leaf-bundle from which many cabinets have been veneered. In this situation we have to take a commercial view on this. Does the feature look natural? Would it concern a customer who has no understanding of trees or veneer and the range of variations that we know are perfectly natural and normal? What can we do about it? Should we accept it and make-up the speaker?
Remembering that every veneered cabinet has been made possible by the sacrifice of a living tree, we are conscious of our environmental responsibilities. But there comes a point when the cabinet maker digs his heels in and will not budge, will not offer to re-veneer or rework, and we are not entirely happy with what we see. A commercial stalemate has been reached. What then?
As a teenager I was greatly intrigued by the TV advert for John West tinned fish. The strap line was "It's the fish John West reject that make John West the best". Remember it? The actor swept a pile of unmarked tins off the table leaving only the premium John West cans. (Can't find this original 70s advert on YouTube). And that approach is exactly the one we use in extremis when we have reached the end of the negotiation with a supplier: we just have to throw the parts away and absorb the cost. So, for the first time, photographed a couple of months ago at the end of our financial year, you can see for yourself what we have to do to remove parts from stock and to be sure that they won't re-emerge in the supply chain.
This is the hidden cost of assuring you of the highest possible Quality, the conversion of many thousands of pounds of cherry, rosewood and ebony cabinets into scrap wood loaded into two skips. This took one and a half days to perform. I was hands-on for the first day. A tragic waste but the lengths we go to to protect our brand reputation and your satisfaction. And not only did we take the hit on the material cost, but as we couldn't burn these cabinets (the bitumen would have caused unacceptable environmental damage) we had to pay GBP 500 to have the scrap taken away to a refuse site.
We have many videos of cabinets being scrapped that we've filmed over the years, but rather like watching aircraft being cut-up, it's rather distressing and not really suitable for here.
Nice score Chris! All Harbeths have beautifully matched veneers, but your's are particularly nice! Mine are Black Ash, so the figuring isn't as noticeable but it still looks great, and I always appreciate the attention to detail. The pair that I demoed in the store had the Rosewood finish, so I'm aware of how it looks in person.
It's funny seeing your pics with Mac gear in the BG. I used to have a Mac integrated, and a couple years ago I swapped it out for a more compact Cyrus. Just over the weekend my wife and I were in a furniture store that amazingly has a full blown McIntosh system on display that they were spinning records on. She commented on how cool the gear looked and we remembered how nice the Mac gear sounded in our home.
I really wanted to get a new Mac amp, but the only problem is size - they're 22" - plus deep, and we've gone through a big renovation/redesign of our apartment, so the Mac gear just doesn't fit! I've gone more stealth recently, swapping out slimline floorstanders for a pair of P3's - perfect apartment set up. In the future the electronics might change, but the speakers are staying the same!
Enjoy your new speakers
Alan, thanks for that inside info on your cabinet QC - it shows in your products and I greatly appreciate it!
...What a shame it is not viable to sell on the veneer seconds, though. I guess it just wouldn't be worth the while?
There are a couple of issues here. Any income from what is, as you can see, a straight bottom-line financial write-off would be most welcome by my finance department, but I have to look at a bigger picture.
1) There is the issue of 'leakage'. That is, the world is full of bargain hunters. And whilst many of these are sincere end users on limited budgets who would truly appreciate a pair of Harbeths normally out of reach there are plenty of others who would see it is an opportunity to sell-on and make a profit. We can't isolate them from each other. However, those intent on reselling would not make it clear that the cabinets were classified as 'graded' from the outset. The consequence is that the new owner would judge our normal quality on these substandard cabinets - and that denigrates our brand reputation.
2) and this is very interesting to me, is that whenever we have made a few of the not-so-seriously-imperfect examples available as 'charity speakers' the uptake has been almost nil and we've ended up scrapping them anyway. This must mean that those actually in the market for Harbeth i.e have the money and are ready to spend it, simply expect and are willing to pay for the proper A1 grade. A discounted price is no temptation if quality is actually lowered.
My experience with 2) rather confirms my instinct that quality is of paramount importance, and the Harbeth customer is not only willing and able to pay but will not compromise. We know that many customers research the Harbeth brand maybe for years before buying and that it is usually the last pair of speakers they buy in their lifetime. And that is why we have to set the quality bar so high. And yes, if it means that in extremis we have to trash cabinets, drive units, fixtures and fittings we must do so. We don't actually have an option if the Harbeth brand reputation is to be preserved and grow.
One substantial advantage of being the designer, director and shareholder is that I can afford to take a long term view over decades, not days and weeks.
To witness it yourself would I'm sure (as it does me) make one feel physically sick.
It does. They're actually very affecting pictures to look at (particularly the last). It's tempting to suggest an alternative use (if not charity speakers, then DIY kits or something of the sort), but I'm sure you've thought it through and have considered everything.
I can only express gratitude for the lengths you go to maintain quality, at financial and even emotional cost. Makes one feel good to be in the Harbeth camp.
The "little" Harbeth looks great and the veneer match with the stand. What type of veneer are those?
They are actually sonus faber stands originally designed for the concertino speaker. The wood on the sides is actually walnut. In the photo it looks like it matches but it doesn't really. I may remove the side panels on the stands and replace with rosewood when i get the time. All in all the stands are a good match, they look nice, are very sturdy and seem to be at the correct hight (27 in)