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"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.

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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 http://bit.ly/2FEgoAy may be for you. Either way, welcome to the world of Harbeth!"


Feb. 2018
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Ribbon tweeters: Pros and Cons

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  • Ribbon tweeters: Pros and Cons

    I note that recently there have been a number of speakers with ribbon tweeters introduced by reputable UK companies e.g. Quad Z series, Proac Response D48R, Monitor Audio PL300II. Is this just a fashion or have some of the known problems with ribbon tweeters been solved (uneven frequency response, difficulty of integration with conventional mid-range drivers) by applying modern computer-based design methods?

    In principle a ribbon tweeter can provide a more extended frequency response and potentially better transient response.

    Is there any likelihood of Harbeth introducing a speaker with a ribbon tweeter?

  • #2
    A couple of months since I posted this but no response?

    I've found another UK manufacturer that's using a planar magnetic ribbon for its tweeter: NEAT IOTA etc. The only limitation given in the review I read (Stereophile, including measurements) was the small lateral dispersion available, +/- 5deg.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by davidlovel View Post
      A couple of months since I posted this but no response?

      I've found another UK manufacturer that's using a planar magnetic ribbon for its tweeter: NEAT IOTA etc. The only limitation given in the review I read (Stereophile, including measurements) was the small lateral dispersion available, +/- 5deg.
      With a conventional round tweeter, we can expect sound adiated in 180 degrees from its diaphragm, much as acoustic instruments would. If the tweeter is a vertical strip, we can expect a very different radiation pattern.

      It's likely then that the interaction of the source sound wave and the room will give a different, possibly very different sonic experience, one sounding more natural and familiar to a listener accustomed to the sound of acoustic instruments, live.

      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

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      • #4
        Originally posted by davidlovel View Post
        In principle a ribbon tweeter can provide a more extended frequency response and potentially better transient response.
        The on-axis frequency response curve of a typical ribbon tweeter appears to be quite similar in extent to that of a typical dome tweeter. However, many ribbon tweeters based on the EMIT design have a characteristic rising top-end, which is often left untamed. This might lend a perceived "openness" and "crispness" to the sound quality, interpreted by some listeners/reviewers as "better transient response". Depending on which side of the high-fidelity fence that one sits, that characteristic behaviour may be a good thing or it may be a bad thing.

        In a loudspeaker driver that is behaving linearly, the transient response is inextricably linked to the frequency response. The ribbon tweeter may have a somewhat more extended high-frequency response, hence it has a better transient response. Ribbon tweeters do seem to have more peaks and dips in their frequency response curve, though, and so these will colour the sound quality compared to the more flat behaviour of a dome tweeter.

        In a typical application, a ribbon tweeter is also usually taller in size than it is wide, in a ratio in the range 2:1 to 3:1. As a result, its vertical dispersion will be characterised by a strong frontal lobe and then a number of side lobes on either side. This can be beneficial in a recording studio near-field listening environment, as the intensity of the sound reflection from the table or mixing console upon which the loudspeaker sits will be reduced.

        Of course, the ribbon tweeter has a visual cachet, as it looks "different" to the standard dome tweeter offerings.That may be a good enough reason for it to be used by some manufacturers, irrespective of its quantitative and qualitative performance.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
          With a conventional round tweeter, we can expect sound adiated in 180 degrees from its diaphragm, much as acoustic instruments would. If the tweeter is a vertical strip, we can expect a very different radiation pattern.

          It's likely then that the interaction of the source sound wave and the room will give a different, possibly very different sonic experience, one sounding more natural and familiar to a listener accustomed to the sound of acoustic instruments, live.
          An interesting perspective Alan (pun intended). I'm now even more intrigued with the possibility I raised in the original post. For example could a version of the SHL5+ be produced with the tweeter and super tweeter replaced by a single vertical ribbon tweeter - there appears to be enough real estate on the front to do this? Given your track record for brilliant integration of drivers in the current Harbeth range, I'm sure you could do this with a ribbon tweeter and the existing radial 2 mid/bass driver. I guess it would be a commercial risk to sales of the existing SHL5+ so what about a parallel product (SHL5+R perhaps) to test the waters?

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