Harbeth - more than the sum of the parts ...
We all know that the Harbeth sound is soft, warm, extremely detailed, easy on the ears, natural etc. and sound like real music, not hi-fi. But how unique is it? Can it be bought for less from another brand? How close do other brands come to the Harbeth sound?
I think that the answer is truthfully this: to the casual observer not interested in audio, probably all loudspeakers sound the same. To them, all TV's look the same, all cars drive the same and all cameras take the same pictures. But we know that once you own Harbeth's that's the end of the hunger for transparency and low-level detail. Now, what would another designer or brand have to do if they wanted to copy the Harbeth performance? Is there a single magic button they could press to transform the ordinary speaker into the extraordinary one? The answer is no - because if it was that simple, they would have surely done it 13 years ago when we launched the Harbeth RADIAL cone.
So, a Harbeth is a holistic solution and is the sum-total of these (and more) key ingredients. They all have to dovetail together harmoniously.
- Advanced cone technology in Harbeth designed and made woofer and midrange drivers
- Thin wall, critically damped, rectangular traditional-BBC cabinet, removable front / back
- Harbeth SuperGrille
- Complex multi-function crossover
- Designed for optimum performance at moderate listening levels (this is a crucial design factor)
- Designed by extensive computer simulation plus exhaustive listening tests on real music
- Designed as professional instrument that happens to find a home market
- Voiced and balanced by one person who hands the prototype to production only when he is totally satisfied that the design is market-worthy
- Optimally damped throughout the speaker's signal path to eliminate ringing and coloration
- Constant awareness during design that a Harbeth must be sweet and detailed together
- Rejection of current audio fashions in any part of the design as they introduce unwanted harshness
- 50+ year heritage of carefully documented BBC speaker research to draw on constantly throughout the design
- Daily, hourly, continuous use of the most sophisticated audio analysis equipment to augment (and explain) sonic characteristics and to keep design 'grounded' in science
- Recognition that the truly great audio researchers have passed on - we need only continue their pioneering work by ever more careful study of their legacy to make great loudspeakers
- Commitment to a business, audio, ethical and social responsibility unchanged by time
Pick only one or two features from the list and you will not have a Harbeth - a Harbeth is a combination of all of these. As for the future - is there still more to discover from our BBC legacy? Absolutely. The more I study of the breadcrumbs left by our predecessors the more clues I see for the way forward but, the relatively easy solutions (like RADIAL) we've already implemented. The challenge is the next generation of technical progress which must not in any way disturb the famous Harbeth sound. That's why I am so cautious. It must truly be progress not change for the sake of change.
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK