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Thanks Don. Almost correct. Actually, that pair of P3ESR (the master reference pair) were in santos rosewood.
Background situation: there are just a handful of cabinet makers in the UK serving the domestic speaker industry these days, and profit seems to continuously elude them*. Our concern for some years has been the nightmare 'what-if' scenario should there be any further unexpected contraction in that already narrow supply base. Perhaps surprisingly, there are others who seem willing and able to enter the supply chain now with the right quality and who seem to be able to source beautiful veneers at a realistic and reasonable price for our customers. But we need to winkle-out these suppliers.
We have no intention of again being dependent on one or two suppliers such that they can can double - yes double - the price of our cabinets when we ask for 'exotic' veneers. We have also suffered price increases ranging (in the last twelve months) from 22% to 31% on our cost of cabinets which of course we just can't pass on to you. If we can introduce new suppliers, match or even improve quality and keep costs down and customer choices up I'm going to do just that. My staff and I want to work with rosewood and ebony again - we miss it and you want it - but we're not going to be screwed (that's how it seems) again. Single sourcing was always a risky strategy and we've learned the hard way.
* As UK hifi brands have been acquired and moved to Asia, speaker production in the UK has shrunk. There are very few of us left solely manufacturing speaker systems in the UK. As the industry has shrunk from hundreds of companies to just a handful, so has the supply of material to the industry contracted. I don't think that you can buy UK made capacitors or resistors any more, nor can you buy ferrite magnets or voice coils ... thanks to government policy, manufacturing in the UK is almost finished. So, for us to survive and grow, we need to work with the realities of the supply situation and always be aware of the spectre of further contraction of suppliers. During the last year or two, we have invested heavily in purchasing stock of small, critical piece-parts to protect us (and you) but warehousing is itself expensive.
As far as the new P3ESR is concerned: After the back log of orders are filled, is there likely to be a special edition regarding cabinet choice other than the Cherry and Eucalyptus ? With this comes the understanding that there would likely be a premium for a more exotic wood species. I love my Cherry SHL5's , but something more exotic would be welcomed !
Actually if you look on page 2 of the May 09 Newsletter you can see the article "rosewood returns". Here. To quote "To celebrate the conclusion of the four-year design process, Harbeth is delighted to be offering a rosewood veneer finish. ?This reminds me of the glorious days when we were proud to offer this stunning finish?, says production chief Andy Sinden". There is a picture of a rosewood cabinet. As you would expect for a natural veneer from cabinet pair to cabinet pair there are differences between the veneer patterns but all look exotic.
I can assure you that I would not have exposed the rosewood P3ESR prototype to public scrutiny back in January 09 at THE Show in Las Vegas if I hadn't been willing to actually offer rosewood! We have substantial orders for rosewood and we have plenty of cabinet stock on order.
As to backlogs and lead time : I need to cover this in more detail as a separate post, but there may be some misunderstandings. Briefly, a consumer manufacturing business cannot operate efficiently without a production lead time. If I look back over the past 32 years I can see that, on average, our lead time is about 14 weeks from order in to order out the door. That's 14 weeks ? 4 weeks.
Why is this necessary? Why can't we take orders on a Friday for delivery Monday next?
Many reasons, but the two most significant are limited storage space for cabinets and finished speakers and the lead time for piece parts.
What do you mean 'lead time for piece parts'? How does that effect production?
Well, of the 14 weeks (our average lead time) about 12 weeks represents our position in the order queue at our cabinet makers .... they too have a lead time for wood and veneer from their suppliers and those suppliers have a lead time for felling trees and preparing the veneer .... and so on. So you see, we don't just dream up a lead time to irritate our customers, we have no choice but to pass on the cumulative lead time throughout the entire supply and manufacturing chain and ask our trade customers to plan ahead and form an orderly queue! Every manufacturing business operates this way from Sony downwards. Even though you can buy a Sony tv or Mercedes car at the local store for immediate delivery do not think that big companies have short manufacturing lead time: they don't - they insist that their sales channels buy stock whether they want to or not. We don't operate like that - we don't force stock onto anyone.
When will Harbeth's lead time drop to zero?
I sincerely hope that it never will. That would imply that we had no orders on hand and that our suppliers were awash with unsold materials which they could deliver to us immediately. There will always be a lead time - and I guess that it will continue at about ave. 14 weeks. But that really shouldn't effect the consumer at all. It actually doesn't matter whether our manufacturing lead time is 4, 14 or 40 weeks: the flow to the market will still be the same providing orders are regularly placed on us.
I've been downstairs to production and delightfully they are making the very first batch of P3ESR. They're rosewood! I have take a couple of pictures which shows the typical variations in veneer between paired cabinets; all look wonderful.
Alan's youngest son David is seen on the right. He's on holiday from University and he's helping out on the P3ESR production line. In fact he is just completing his placement year in industry (at Fujitsu UK) and returns to University for his final year in September.
Here is the situation today. This may well change depending upon many factors so please always check with your dealer to avoid disappointment.
WE DO NOT OFFER ALL MODELS IN ALL VENEERS IN ALL MARKETS! There are many economic and marketing reasons why individual markets take some models/veneers and not others. We cannot become involved in discussing or changing these business decisions made by local distributors!
The current situation regarding veneer availability at October 2009 is:
Standard domestic finishes:
Cherry (all models)
Maple (P3ESR only) A few pairs of C7ES3 available incl. pair for Finnish customer*
Black ash (P3ESR only)
Premium domestic finish:
Eucalyptus (not available on P3ESR)
Standard professional finish:
Texture grey - M20, M30, M40.1 only
Rosewood (all models)
Tiger ebony (later this year, some models hopefully - please ask your dealer! This will not be a continuously available veneer so if you have the chance to buy it, please do so).
* Please note: these and all other speakers on order will be delivered as per Order Confirmations issued relative to the back-order pipeline, currently full to Feb 2010.