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HUG - here for all audio enthusiasts

Since its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition has been to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless. Knowledge is human independent and replicatable. However, we live in new world where thanks to social media, 'facts' have become flexible and personal. HUG operates in that real world.

HUG has two approaches to contributor's Posts. If you have, like us, 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 area of HUG is for you. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and can be easily understood and tried with negligible technical knowledge.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings sub-forum is you. 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.

The Moderators' decision is final in all matters regarding what appears here. That said, very few Posts are rejected. HUG Moderation individually spell and layout checks Posts for clarity but due to the workload, Posts in the Subjective Soundings area, from Oct. 2016 will not be. 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.

That's it! Enjoy!

{Updated Nov. 2016A}
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Active Domestic Speakers

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  • #31
    I too am an aspiring Harbeth owner, but I do have a spare Quad amp and a spare Beresford DAC ready to drive them from my laptop or from a Squeezebox - a computer source and decent inexpensive DAC will beat many a big name CD Player.

    But if you are taking a more conservative approach I have read the Denon mini systems are well thought of - and YEECN confirms that. In all of the mini systems it's the speakers that let them down.

    A couple of years ago I was running the British Army Chaplaincy Centre in Germany. In the chapel we had a very cheap mini system with plastic speakers. It had a remote control so you could start and stop a CD at any track from anywhere in the chapel. I was convenient, but sounded awful; and if, in the absence of a organist, it was used to play hymns it just could not cope. I found a very old pair of Wharfedale speakers - probably an 8" bass-mid driver and about two cubic feet. I wired them in and the transformation was indeed amazing. Top flight HiFi it was not, but it filled the chapel (80 seater) very decent sound.

    The mini-system was plastic and built to a (low) price, but it was competently engineered and had sufficient power to drive those lazy old Wharfedales that were build in the days when 10w would be a lot.

    I am not an expert on mini systems, but others may advise you.

    There is one caution: the amplifier must be powerful enough so it does not clip when the music is loud. Clipping knocks the top off the waveform, and the leading edge of the clipped waveform is very high in high frequency components. That can damage a tweeter.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clipping_%28audio%29

    Comment


    • #32
      My 'financial necessity'* would keep me to something more like the 450 Yamaha A-S700 than a micro system, but it is only a small step up compared to some of the gear other members here are using. (I like the reports of the build quality of the Yamaha and that it is supposed to have quite well designed tone controls and a non-fatiguing sound.)

      'Yeecn' saying he was getting a good sound from the Denon DRM37 (albeit pressed into service reluctantly) was very encouraging.

      * I have to try and get P3ESRs and a half decent new amp and a DAB/FM tuner into a very inflexible 2K budget and without resorting to the vagaries of used equipment.

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      • #33
        The Denon mini delivers 30W per channel. Does that sounds small to you?

        Consider this - 10 times increase in power translates to 2 times increase in loudness. So a 300W amplifier is only TWICE as loud as a 30W amplifier. A 100W amplifier is only marginally louder than a 30W amplifier. 30W was considered very powerful not too long ago, and even now hardly any tube amplifiers goes beyond 30W.

        Last weekend I took the system out for a Resident Association BBQ in the playground. The 'tiny' 30W was able to flood the playground with music. It is definitely loud enough for normal listening in a living room.

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        • #34
          Thanks yeecn. I am not a power-hog and I like to listen at 'reasonable' domestic volume levels to (mostly) BBC radio 4 and 7. My musical tastes don't run to heavy metal (or even 'heavy' classical). I would be interested in the Yamaha (even if it were 50 watts rather than 90) because of the reviews that all seem to mention good build and an emphasis on a detailed and balanced sound that does not major on the sort of 'slam' that seems to be the vogue nowadays. In fact the 'negatives' from one well-known UK magazine review were describing exactly what I like! (The A-S700 even looks nice to me in a classic 1970s Japanese hifi sort of way.)

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          • #35
            I drive a pair of P3-ES-2's with a Linn Sneaky DS with 20 W of power (I think chip-based). This works very well, even in a bigger room, but the Linn has its volume limits (and so does the P3).

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            • #36
              I have driven my P3ESRs with my main amp, which has 100 watts per channel, and a smaller amp I own, which is rated at 25 watts. Both produce very satisfying volume levels (for me) in my small listening room (about 12' by 11').

              Comment


              • #37
                Originally posted by TSH59 View Post
                Thanks yeecn. I am not a power-hog and I like to listen at 'reasonable' domestic volume levels to (mostly) BBC radio 4 and 7. My musical tastes don't run to heavy metal (or even 'heavy' classical). I would be interested in the Yamaha (even if it were 50 watts rather than 90) because of the reviews that all seem to mention good build and an emphasis on a detailed and balanced sound that does not major on the sort of 'slam' that seems to be the vogue nowadays. In fact the 'negatives' from one well-known UK magazine review were describing exactly what I like! (The A-S700 even looks nice to me in a classic 1970s Japanese hifi sort of way.)
                Hi TSH59,

                I don't want to "press" any decision making, but definitely go and get the A-S 700... I happened to see with my own eyes three times within the past 20 years an opened Yamaha integrated and couldn't believe how they managed to use such a good quality of materials to build a tank-proof device at such a low price... And we did it together with a friend of mine, an electronic engineer. We opened as well (even against the warranty terms) the all new A-S 1000, and was equally amazing. As for the sound, you don't need anything more to learn except these that the whole world knows: Fine allrounders, smooth and 100% reliable. Built to last. A friend here uses the "old" DSP A-3090 since it came out in the market, with excellent results both in stereo and surround. It beats down many contemporary AVR's at three times the price... So, if you can afford it, just go and get it, IMHO.

                Regards,
                Thanos

                Comment


                • #38
                  hi TSH 59

                  Please check out (the tech download especially) of the A-S700 which was just reviewed in Aust hifi (one of the few magazines which still does test measurements).

                  http://www.avhub.com.au/ProductRevie...ctReviewID=461

                  Im (non trade) and a big Yammy fan and feel similar to what Thanos has described ie. superb engineering and value. The A-S are made in Malaysia and the 2000’s and 1000’s come with a 5 yr warranty (where I am). I compared the tech measurements of the A-s2000 (also measured in Aust hifi) and A-s700 and there is actually not much difference between the two. In fact the A-S700 has lower distortion across a wider freq. range. The A-S700 loses out in channel separation & s/n ratio, due likely to the full dual mono balanced config. of the A-S2000 which costs 3x more.

                  One of the things ive realised after this harbeth experience (and awakening) is to be a slightly more hardworking consumer. I use to go straight to the conclusion of reviews and disregard the tech measurements (which seem to be more dependable for electronics than for speakers). This weekend was spent going through stereophile’s amp measurement graphs (I now skip their BS opinions and writeups, ditto for all the garbo UK magazines which make woman’s day reviews of lipsticks look far more sophisticated).

                  The things I learnt

                  1. Reviewers don’t know what they are listening to. Why are they praises for amps like naim and rega which are full of harmonics. Ditto most tube amps, some of which measure terribly esp. Prima Luna’s. Am I missing something here?
                  2. There is some correlation between measurement and listening but bias kicks in. I see UK magazines giving faint praise to good solidly engineered amps like the Yamahas, Denons (but Marantz and Rotels seem to be getting praises) without a full rational reasoning.
                  3. There are indeed some superb measuring amps (eg. Brystons and some Marantz power amps) and there seems to be some correlation between measure and sound.
                  4. You still see UK mags praising items of questionable build quality –(the British brand which starts with “R and ends with N”). The question is why?

                  Cut a long story short. You can’t go wrong with an A-S700 at a good price. It will blow away the cheaper Naims and Regas if you want clean, low distortion & low harmonics together with great engineering.

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    Originally posted by kittykat View Post
                    ...
                    4. You still see UK mags praising items of questionable build quality –(the British brand which starts with “R and ends with N”).
                    Que? Am I being thick? I can't tell what brand this refers to.

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                    • #40
                      Originally posted by EricW View Post
                      Que? Am I being thick? I can't tell what brand this refers to.
                      the turntable maker. one guy said the volume control sticks to the fascia and is hard to turn it...

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        Originally posted by kittykat View Post
                        Why are they praises for amps like naim and rega which are full of harmonics. Ditto most tube amps, some of which measure terribly esp. Prima Luna’s. Am I missing something here?
                        You might be missing the fact that harmonic distortion in electromechanical transducers (speakers, cartridges, analogue tape records) is an order of magnitude higher than that of a reasonably well designed amplifier. Somewhere A.S. posted some scary numbers on the performance of drivers, and links to a comparative study of the tape recorders which were used in the pre-digital recording era.

                        So as long as distortion from the amplifier is (apparently) less than about 1% it get buried in all the other distortion - and apparently our ears only object when distortion gets to something like 3% THD.

                        Sorry to be so anecdotal about this - just wanted to make a quick note as we are now going really OT. Alan's comments about distortion (which I've almost certainly misrepresented) should be in other threads of the "ask the designer" section - though the site's search facility is either broken or I'm struggling to drive it!

                        BTW have you had the chance to compare the Yamaha amp against the low-end Naims and Regas?

                        In the UK, Japanese amps are under-rated and are often a good second-hand option. However thanks to a Naim-nut friend I've had plenty of opportunities to listen to Naim gear and while I don't understand the Love of Naim I can't say that the amps ever sounded offensive (BTW a lot of the Naim "house sound" comes from their use of tantalum capacitors in certain parts of the amplifier circuit - build the same amp with different parts and the sound is more conventional).

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          Hi honmanm

                          You have a good point, which if I’ve read correctly, means that speakers are the weakest link and i totally agree with you. But this does not detract from the fact that there are by varying degrees differences between amplifiers on a test bench. Even though I always say “there are no differences between amps”, it’ll probably be more accurate to say “there are few perceivable differences between decent amps”.

                          My belief, and it’d be great to have a discussion on, is that the sum of parts of design (and choice of parts like you mentioned) does contribute to a sonic signature (which would invariably be reflected in measurements). I have heard the Naims in isolation and thought I heard they sounded “different”. They sound thicker, richer and has a “driving” beat. Im sure this is further from what it was meant to be, than say an amp which measured “cleaner”. Whether all this comes out in a blind comparison is another issue.

                          Having said all this, i am convinced I am not hearing the SHL5’s as it was meant to be (or to its full potential), cause ive fallen foul, and currently using a KT88 amp. It has its limitations and weaknesses.

                          Comment


                          • #43
                            As far as I know, there are two main theoretical advantages to an active speaker:

                            1) improved efficiency, and
                            2) improved sound quality

                            Now, I would think #1 is definitely important if you're doing sound reinforcement (i.e. operating a PA system), perhaps important if you're running at tremendous loudness levels in a recording studio. In a normal domestic environment, I would think it's a complete non-issue, given that any decent combination of amp and passive speaker will likely play, with ease, as louder as or louder than you want to or should be playing anyway.

                            That leaves #2. In theory, I imagine there's potential for better sound, if the system is well designed, and all the pieces truly optimized to work with each other. But just because something's potentially better doesn't mean that that potential is realized, or even likely to be realized, and your system is now far more finicky and less flexible.

                            The best systems I've heard (with passive speakers) are so shockingly good (M40.1 included in that number) that I really can't imagine wanting anything better at home. I suspect there's far more to be gained by optimizing the room environment (and perhaps the source) than worrying about going completely active.

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              An active loudspeaker has the crossover at line level - before the power amplifiers.

                              Line level crossovers introduce less distortion, especially around the critical crossover frequencies.

                              The power amplifiers are immediately connected to the drivers, which gives them better control.

                              The amp and speakers can be designed of a piece, and with good engineers that offers advantage.

                              But, comparing the best passives with available domestic actives, who knows? Has anyone done a survey?

                              Distortion seem to be

                              1. Driver distortions.

                              2. Crossover distortions.

                              3. Enclosures distortions (resonances)

                              4. Room effects.

                              How are these distortions to be ranked? If the crossover distortion is small compared to the others then clearly it matters not.

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                I've not done a survey but I've certainly had a lot of active speakers through my hands over the years and can't really see the attraction other than the theoretical.

                                Early days we had the Likes of Linn, Linn/Naim, Arc/Naim, Arc/Nytech combos and yes, active did always sound better than passive but that was because the amplifier count went up significantly and/or was entirely different.

                                Later days I have had demo speakers which run passive or active by plugging in the mains. With these, we could always get the passive sounding better than active by using better amps to those internal to the speakers. Where the actives scored was that they were good value with the amps on board and were very robust.

                                See also post no.2

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