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Thread: Dear Mr. Alan Shaw

  1. #1
    condreetf Guest

    Default Dear Mr. Alan Shaw

    Dear Alan Shaw:

    I just purchased a brand new pair of Harbeth C7ES-3s. I am a devotee to the BBC Monitor style of loudspeaker. I have owned 2 pairs of Rogers LS35as, and I currently own 3 pairs of Spendors, one being a floor stander. I have had the privlege of hearing many well known speakers. My father owned Quad amps and ESLs. I recently heard the Wilson Sophias. I was ready to move on to deeper bass, a deeper soundstage, and music reproduced on a larger scale.

    I am writing to thank you for your personal involvement with the development of your products, and your customer base. It is extremely refreshing to see a no nonsense approach to advising buyers of your products on how to enjoy them. There is no other company or owner who has come out and preached simplicity over audiophile madness.

    For example, you do not subscribe to expensive, exotic speaker cable use, you do not make, sell, or suggest expensive "mandatory" stands, you do not claim lengthy "break in" periods, and you do not introduce new models every two years.

    People who choose to buy your speakers are shopping with their ears, not their eyes. Not to say that the hand crafted cabinets do not inspire admiration in those of us who understand the care and craft that goes into them, but there are those who would rather be dazzled by very expensive paperweights made in Italy or France.

    Being a high end audio consumer is treacherous. Silver or Copper speaker wire? Cryogenically treated interconnects? Stock AC cords or Aftermarket? Expensive isolation devices? SACD or Redbook? To listen to your best "audiophile buddy" and/or local salesman, you need to spend AS MUCH on your peripherals as your electronics and loudspeakers to get the "full potential". An easy couple of thousand dollars on items that not one musical note travels through, like a "rollerblock" for you preamp, or a serpent inspired powercord for your amplifier.

    Thank you for informing us, appreciating us, and for making excellent loudspeakers.

    I can tell you WE appreciate your attitude and the way you do business.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Default Perfect sunsets and loudspeakers ...

    That's very kind of you to make those comments.

    I was driving towards an outstandingly beautiful sunset thinking of your message. A sunset and good speakers have something in common. As they are, they do not need any adornment. There is nothing material that can be added to transform either experience other than good friends and perhaps a gin and tonic (better: a gin and lime?). They are complete in themselves.

    Harbeth is in the hugely wonderful position of having a full order book and an iron grip on the commercial wheels that are necessary to power a successful enterprise - we are definitely here for the long run and to give 100% value for money. .

    Our situation is so different and less stressed from most others in the industry that it's hard to convey to you just how lucky we are. Every morning I wake-up and count my blessings and with that mindset, we just don't have any time or interest in peripheral issues. To many audio sellers the sales of the accessories, gadgets and gizmos you mention provides bread and butter to their families and we must respect that. Everyone has a right to make a living and every consumer has the right to decide yes or no.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  3. #3
    condreetf Guest

    Default C7ES3 - 'it's about dimensionality'

    Mr. Shaw:

    I am waiting on pins and needles for the delivery of my cherry C7's. I am enjoying the last few days of my trusty Spendor S3/5s. They are dear old friends, but alas, there is a new sheriff coming to town. I had first thought to keep them, and add nice REL B3 sub for some weight and bottom. But getting a sub to integrate with monitors is hell. There is no substitute for full range or near full range speakers. When I heard the C7's, it was no longer about bass... it was about dimensionality. It was frightening. It was like dusting off old photographs.

    I had a wonderful experience with my dealer. I had a relaxed, unhurried audition at his place, with my own music, then he brought them to my listening room.....I wrote him a check. FYI...I heard them with his gorgeous Pathos Logos Integrated Amp, Resolution Audio two box cd player, and DNM cable. All potential buyers should have this excellent service.

    You are correct in that dealers must make a living too. They do have to feed the family, and I totally understand that. And to be fair, I had a dealer today ( I was shopping for QED cable to use with the C7's) tell me swapping out power cords and using DACs and all this stuff is "chasing ghosts". But two weeks before, in the REL shop, the dealer told me I "had" to try this power cord, that it would blow my mind. Let's face it, HiFi accessories are sold mostly to those who listen to the hardware, and not the software. Thats cool. High end audio is a hobby, not a cheap one, but a hobby. It kept my dad plenty busy.

    Yes, great speakers ARE like a sunset. Glorious, and quite often enjoyed as is.

    Its funny, because, for some reason, I too have been thinking about how fortunate I am. I am certainly not wealthy, but I do ok. I can afford a pretty neat audio system, I just bought a home, and I don't have to pay for gas!! (company car).

    I understand your statement about being lucky in your position, because a lot of the high end manufacturers are really struggling. Audio Research just sold them selves to a big holding company, the same ones who own Sonus Faber. Its really tough to survive making things with a 1950's or 60's era commitment to quality. It really is.

    My dream one day is to have my own high end audio distribution company. Hence my handle, Condre ETF...its from my wife's name Connie and my name Andre, hence Condre, in the tradition of Spendor and Harbeth! ETF is for Exotic Tube Fire...Im partial to tube amps.

    I've got stacks of cds waiting to be rediscovered...cmon Mr UPS man.....!

    Andre
    San Diego, CA

  4. #4
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    Default Harbeth - contentment.

    Quote Originally Posted by condreetf View Post
    ...Yes, great speakers ARE like a sunset. Glorious, and quite often enjoyed as is. Its funny, because, for some reason, I too have been thinking about how fortunate I am. I am certainly not wealthy ...
    You make a profound point about contentedness. I wonder if, looking across our user base, most Harbeth customers are by nature, contented humans. Were they contented when the bought their Harbeths or did owning Harbeths rub off some of that contentment on their life? We frequently hear that ownership of Harbeths brings to an end the neurosis of hi-fi gathering; the owner can turn his back on the fear that he's missing something in his equipment, his music and his life. Fear is the most powerful motivational tool but it needs the oxygen of self-doubt to survive. Harbeth users have reached a point where they have insulated themselves from the hype.

    I liken myself - and perhaps most Harbeth owners - to an adult labrador or golden retriever, snuggled down, watching through a half open eye the young pups rushing around experiencing this and that, but perfectly contented and at peace. I've been there, done it, extracted every molecule of thrill from the experience of messing around with hi-fi - I just want to listen to clean, clear natural music now.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Dear Mr. Alan Shaw

    Alan,

    What you say certainly strikes a chord with me.

    I have been on the hif-fi journey so to speak for a long time and have been to expensive destinations only to find that I have felt let down and somewhat unfulfilled.

    I did spend some time in the land of Harbeth for around two years about 8 years ago and regretted leaving it ever since. Now that I am back with a pair of Harbeth C7's I have realised that there is no point in chasing ones tail looking for the next best thing. The answer has been with Harbeth all the time.

    I am now content at the end my hi-fi journey safe in the knowledge that, for me, this is as good as it gets or maybe more importantly as good as I want or need it to be.

    Rob

  6. #6
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    Default Harbeth products stand the test of time ...

    My dear Alan, anyone would think from the way you've posted your comments that you're in your nineties...;-)

    However, being of the same age as you, I do know where you're coming from to a large extent - honestly - and am almost re-winding myself to my audio career "origins" to re-plant myself with decent, legendary products that have stood the test of time. Looking back over forty years now, I can see that I've made some terrible mistakes with my audio system choices and gone off on tangents that have always led to dissatisfaction in the long term. One or two product choices have been good ones and I only passed them on due to financial or marital reasons.

    One thing that may interest some of you Harbeth owners is that firstly, one very rarely sees older Harbeth models coming up for sale, which means that their owners love them and that Alan's full order book must be to new customers of the brand, rather than established owners "upgrading."

    To have a company like Harbeth being carefully managed with full order books compared with one or two (now) famous UK based companies relying on annual price increases and expensive (for the consumer) ventures into pastures they once ignored or derided for their sustained future is quite something (I hope I've not said anything out of turn here...).

    Good luck to Alan and his company. The products are sublime and the "BBC heritage" is in very safe hands...........

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Harbeth products stand the test of time ...

    What's changed during these past 20 years since I've been running Harbeth is not me, or our products or our values and beliefs, it's the world. Are we now observing the end of the throw away culture? Is the consumer (as I have been) sick and tired of a culture that promotes - yes actively promotes - the voracious consumption of natural resources for consumer products that end up in land-fill just months later? With oil at a record $130 a barrel, and oil being the raw material for all plastics, looks like snap-together-chuck-away consumerism is unsustainable. Real value is and always has been what the discriminating consumer will invest in.

    Hi-fi speakers should last 20+ years. Ours do. The best audio investment that you will ever make.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  8. #8
    condreetf Guest

    Default Built-in obsolescence - not Harbeth!

    Alan, you tapped into one of my favorite rants. Around the early 80s, stuff stared being made like shit..to put it bluntly. I just turned 40. My father was a hifi nut....and he bought the stuff with the best reputation He did quite a bit of research . He had Quad amps and ESLs that he bought in the mid 60's and they lasted until the mid 80's. He also bought some Revox equipment including a tuner/preamp, power amp, and one of their earlier Reel to Reels. He subsequently bought a Revox A77.

    Dad passed away last year, and I have his Revox equipment in my bedroom. After some minor attention, it is STILL WORKING and sounding great. No to mention a 30 year old Tandberg tuner integrated amp that I just sold that was in working order. He had Rogers monitors that lasted 20 years. Our first VCR lasted 11 years!!!!

    I was shocked..I say SHOCKED at the change in build quality that started to happen in the late 80's. All in the name of a disposable mentality, churning, and profit. I had VCR after VCR that lasted 2, maybe 3 years max...like it was pre programmed to fail.

    Just got my C7's delivered and I am on cloud 9.

    FYI, Ive settled on QED Silver Anniversary speaker cable. Its silver coated 99.999 OFC with airlock termination...no soldering. Highly recommended.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Built-in obsolescence - not Harbeth!

    Quote Originally Posted by condreetf View Post
    ...I was shocked..I say SHOCKED at the change in build quality that started to happen in the late 80's. All in the name of a disposable mentality, churning, and profit. I had VCR after VCR that lasted 2, maybe 3 years max...like it was pre programmed to fail....
    I cannot speak for the entire global audio industry, but it was the impetus from the BBC that underpinned the British speaker industry. The BBC were only interested in how a speaker sounded, that it could be made for the lowest possible cost (the BBC is funded from UK government, so always has to justify expenditure) and was (note was) completely impervious to styling and cosmetic considerations.

    In short, the BBC designed and ordered capital equipment not consumer goods and the overarching consideration with capital equipment is that it must 'earn its keep' and work day in, day out for years with minimal or zero maintenance. A 'BBC monitor speaker' (of the type Harbeth makes) has a job to do - to give professional sound engineers the confidence in their recording balance. The initial purchase cost is only one part of the Total Cost Of Ownership over 20 years. Even if the initial ticket price is higher than other solutions, what really clinches the deal is the lowest total cost spread over the working lifetime. That definitely doesn't mean the cheapest initial purchase price.

    All Harbeths are in fact capital equipment, presented in consumer clothing. Harbeth is really an industrial company making capital equipment. The mindset we have here is therefore completely opposite to that of a consumer-goods manufacturing company who need short product life cycles and constant upgrades to keep the money flowing in.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  10. #10
    condreetf Guest

    Default Re: Dear Mr. Alan Shaw

    Suffice it to say, I'm looking forward to the next 3 months, as well as the next 20 years with my new acquisition!


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Dear Mr. Alan Shaw

    Harbeth loudspeakers certainly wear very well, not just physically but sonically as well. They are timeless indeed!

  12. #12
    Tran Khoa Guest

    Default Thank you for the SHl5!

    Just owned the SHL5.
    After 20 hours listening.
    I want to say thank you and all the love for Harbeth.

  13. #13
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    Default Happy, contented Harbeth owners have escaped from the hifi treadmill!

    Quote Originally Posted by condreetf View Post
    I am writing to thank you for your personal involvement with the development of your products, and your customer base. It is extremely refreshing to see a no nonsense approach to advising buyers of your products on how to enjoy them. There is no other company or owner who has come out and preached simplicity over audiophile madness.

    For example, you do not subscribe to expensive, exotic speaker cable use, you do not make, sell, or suggest expensive "mandatory" stands, you do not claim lengthy "break in" periods, and you do not introduce new models every two years.

    People who choose to buy your speakers are shopping with their ears, not their eyes. Not to say that the hand crafted cabinets do not inspire admiration in those of us who understand the care and craft that goes into them, but there are those who would rather be dazzled by very expensive paperweights made in Italy or France.

    Being a high end audio consumer is treacherous. Silver or Copper speaker wire? Cryogenically treated interconnects? Stock AC cords or Aftermarket? Expensive isolation devices? SACD or Redbook? To listen to your best "audiophile buddy" and/or local salesman, you need to spend AS MUCH on your peripherals as your electronics and loudspeakers to get the "full potential". An easy couple of thousand dollars on items that not one musical note travels through, like a "rollerblock" for you preamp, or a serpent inspired powercord for your amplifier.

    Thank you for informing us, appreciating us, and for making excellent loudspeakers.

    I can tell you WE appreciate your attitude and the way you do business.

    Thank you.
    I joined this group just yesterday, and I have to say that it reflects the quality of the speakers-from what I have by word of mouth, never having heard them yet! The last time I checked out Harbeth speakers a few years ago, they were not available in India, so I got myself the Spendor 3/5 Se, which I have been very happy with.

    Harbeth continues to not be available here, and this time around I will find a way to get them!

    But before that, I wanted to write an appreciation of all I found here, on this forum. I find that I am not the first to do this, and I can do no better than endorse fully the sentiments in the letter above. I have read many of the posts, and I have to doff my hat at the quality level of the posts in general, and at the responsiveness of Mr Shaw and some of the Harbeth dealers.

    Having been through the snake oil gullible customer phase in my life in high end audio, I am now looking for simplicity. I bought a Quad 99/909 combination eight years ago, and I thank myself for not having sold it in the buying selling upgrading part of my life. I am also not averse to new technology, and at my age, I suspect that my ears can't tell as much of a difference as they once did, to reject it. I have my entire CD collection on lossless files on an iPod, and now have a way to use an external DAC to feed the analog signal to the Quads. I get the convenience the iPods provide, with CD quality sound. I also play a Rega P5, but to be honest, I do not find a huge different in the sound between the two sources. Perhaps, once I get Harbeth speakers, I will!

    I also found myself smiling at a response - Harbeth owners tend to be contented people. I am guessing it works the other way around, Harbeth owners are perhaps people that have come off the hi end audio equipment treadmill, and it is the decision to do that, which ups the being content situation. And being fortunate to myself have a very lovable example of the breed, a young golden retriever also helps, I agree, a great example to learn how to be content from!

    I can live with the Quads for the rest of my life, the 909 certainly looks robust enough, and if I wasn't moving to a larger room, I wouldn't be changing my Spendors.

    Hi end audio seems to be facing a lot of challenges as customer tastes change, but Harbeth seems to have got it right by being in the kind of sweet spot that will always have customers - I suspect by a combination of accident and design. I wish you every success in the future.

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    Default

    The question of contentment - I wonder if there is any customer profile study on the age of people who buy for the first time a pair of Harbeth speakers. From a number of posts here, many are in their 40s; is that a turning point in our lives (I am in my 40s too and I bought my shl5 last year) that we start to appreciate a piece of equipment that can last for the next 20 or more years, that we have gone into a period of contentment?

  15. #15
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    Default

    I fell in love with harbeth when i was late twenties and by then I know Harbeth is music companion of my life....
    "Bath in Music"

  16. #16
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    Default Giving up on the 'snake oil'

    Quote Originally Posted by C K Chan View Post
    From a number of posts here, many are in their 40s; is that a turning point in our lives (I am in my 40s too and I bought my shl5 last year) that we start to appreciate a piece of equipment that can last for the next 20 or more years, that we have gone into a period of contentment?
    It takes everyone time to recognise the treadmill for being just that and unfortunately, I guess this has to be learnt by almost everyone by being on it long enough to. I should know - I cleaned out my shelves the other day and I found an exotic cable that was used to connect a dedicated power supply to a tube buffer that was in turn used between the preamp and power amp.

    Looking back, I now see that all three pieces were pure snake oil! Simpler is better takes a lot of wisdom to "get", I guess. My Quad 909 should be for life, it has done 6 great years, and now I am looking for Harbeths for something similar. So I can focus on just the music and the voices. And where the Harbeths are concerned, I guess they don't look exotic enough for the set that sees music as opposed to hearing it, to opt for them, and again, I think it takes time to get to that stage with all the rampant promotion and ads that are so in your face all the time.

    And I am guessing there are quite a few like minded folks here who use different equipment, but think similar.

  17. #17
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    Default Battleship grey

    Quote Originally Posted by Kumar Kane View Post
    ... And where the Harbeths are concerned, I guess they don't look exotic enough for the set that sees music as opposed to hearing it, to opt for them...
    Well styling is and always will be a mater of individual taste.

    But the key point is surely this: Harbeth speakers are not intentionally consumer products. They are capital equipment which means, they perform a specific task, and they keep performing that task year in, year out. You can think of them being the battleship grey high tec gadget found in a state of the art control room. Hugely understated, perfectly functional. The fact that by changing the case colour to, literally battleship grey we sell them to professionals proves the point. I can think of no other speaker brand that offers just one series of products and successfully sells the same product in two cloaks to two separate markets.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  18. #18
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by A.S. View Post
    You can think of them being the battleship grey high tec gadget found in a state of the art control room. Hugely understated, perfectly functional. .
    That reminds me of the Quad 909! No longer state of the art perhaps, and a small, solid and heavy block of metal with no buttons except the on/off on the rear. Indeed, if it were not for the heat it throws off, the best place for it is somewhere it can't be seen. But it is robust, reliable, focuses on the midrange, and puts out as much power as I will ever need at home. I am very sure it will love a Harbeth pair and vice versa. Both appear to just be means to an end, not an end in itself.
    End of promo plug! And I have no connection with the company, of any kind.

  19. #19
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    Default Wine bottles ....

    Quote Originally Posted by Kumar Kane View Post
    ... I am very sure it will love a Harbeth pair and vice versa. Both appear to (be) just be means to an end, not an end in itself.
    Agreed. High fidelity listening at home should be about music, music and more music. The gear is as you say, just the route to that objective. When the equipment mania gets a grip though, it pushes out the appreciation of music.

    HiFi gear is analogous to the glass bottle that holds a fine wine. When the shape, colour and style of the bottle becomes more fascinating than the contents of the bottle, the vineyard is doomed because even vinegar is palatable.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  20. #20
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    Default

    I am waiting on pins and needles for the delivery of my cherry C7's. I am enjoying the last few days of my trusty Spendor S3/5s. They are dear old friends, but alas, there is a new sheriff coming to town. I had first thought to keep them, and add nice REL B3 sub for some weight and bottom. But getting a sub to integrate with monitors is hell. There is no substitute for full range or near full range speakers. When I heard the C7's, it was no longer about bass... it was about dimensionality. It was frightening. It was like dusting off old photographs.
    I bought a pair of C7's and while I was initially satisfied with the level of bass, I ended up purchasing a REL B-3 and I am very happy with that decision. It added exactly what you describe weight and bottom and integrating the sub was not all that complicated when you followed their instructions. If your budget allows, I would suggest you give one a try after a few months of familiarizing yourself with the C7s

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