"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.

Please consider carefully how much you should rely upon and be influenced by the subjective opinions of strangers. Their hearing acuity and taste will be different to yours, as will be their motives and budget, their listening distance, loudness and room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you. Always keep in mind that without basic test equipment, subjective opinions will reign unchallenged. With test equipment, universal facts and truths are exposed.

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 may be for you. Either way, welcome to the world of Harbeth!"

Feb. 2018
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Enhanced engineering - the quest for perfection ramps up

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  • Enhanced engineering - the quest for perfection ramps up

    There are two executive strategies that can be applied at times of uncertainty (Brexit) - retreat or advance. Retreat is not an option. Advance is what we are investing in.

    For the first time in 30 years I have a personal assistant to help me with engineering future Harbeths. It's been an interesting month, and I've learned much. Perhaps the greatest thus far is that the methods that one develops over a working lifetime working as a solo engineer are not helpful or appropriate for working with a team of two, let alone more. So I have had to review the process by which I share a lifetimes (and more) knowledge.

    Paper is out. Post-it notes are dangerous. Casual chats and throwaway nuggets at the coffee machine are a no-no. Structure, discipline, organisation and the use of collaborative software is of paramount importance, along with video and audio recording, electronic annotation of e-paper and so on.

    The results are beginning to accrue. After a month of solid work on Finite Element Analysis (software modelling of the electro-mechanical performance of loudspeaker drive units), work abandoned over a decade ago without result, we are closing-in on accurate modelling of the entire drive unit down to the smallest detail of shape, material and even glue.

    In addition, we've invested in a state of the art doppler laser scanner, capable of measuring the motion of any point the size of a pin head in a loudspeaker drive unit or enclosure or even speaker stand. Combines, the Finite Element Analysis software plus the laser scanner give us an insight deep into the nature of the parts that constitute a Harbeth speaker. We are now attacking levels of detail that were unimaginable even five years ago.

    The investment in our future accelerates.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    It's easy to be unaware of just how much tacit knowledge one accrues over a working lifetime in any professional capacity. After my intern reaches an inevitable dead end in whatever line of investigation he is engaged in, he naturally taps on my door and asks for an opinion. It never ceases to amaze me just how many seemingly useless scraps of tacit information I have squirreled away in my brain that can be recalled and of immediate use. The thousands of hours and late nights chipping away at one or other speaker design, the dead ends, the blind alleys, the breakthroughs. Although I think that I've been thorough in documenting project progress*, the really useful gems are those that probably aren't documented. Like 'why is the surround glued to the top surface of the cone and not the bottom surface?' or 'does the material composition of the surround really effect sonic purity?' etc. etc.

    The new issue is that with two people generating observations and drawing conclusions in a daily R&D workflow, unwittingly there are two separate knowledge pools accruing. That's not good. A careful review of the issue of Knowledge Management reveals that the management and codifying of tacit knowledge (that is, on the job, undocumented knowledge that is not codified and written down but vital) reveals that software vendors have not quite developed a commercial system for replacing the human brain. Not even IBM offer, in the commercial retail space, a system that is off the peg usable as a knowledge repository. Artificial Intelligence will change all of this, but we don't have those tools now, so we must use the tools we have. All far from perfect. Yet the really big players, the Samsung's and the Mercedes Benz and their like whose business revolve around R&D and innovation, must have very advanced tools for managing corporate knowledge. But they have the resources to build bespoke knowledge management systems from the ground up, and probably have done so.

    *I have my log-books (journals) detailing the design of every Harbeth model back to my first, the original HL Compact of 1987. Until recently, they were hand written with spay-glued printouts from this or that experiment stuck down like a scrap book. Perfectly functional for a solo researcher - of limited use for a team.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK


    • #3
      Fascinating. And possibly about time. There is a discipline called Digital Quality Management. It's a big thing. It's all about how big global businesses manage their digital platforms and data. The leading company in the world was called ActiveStandards, since merged, built by a friend of mine called Simon after getting a doctorate in Biochemistry at Leeds, which business he sold a few years ago for a big lump of money.

      Logbooks are a bit out of date but I'm a strong believer in post-it notes, preferably digital ones.


      • #4
        Also have a doppler laser scanner in the lab I worked for. It's quite powerful (and expensive), but the amount of information it gets is too large, so the final answer depends heavily on the user's skills and experience.

        Good luck Harbeth! Waiting for new models. I'll buy them up.


        • #5
          There is lots of granularity in notes, statements and records which current database and business intelligence technology can’t digest too well. We’re literally confined by the physical way how data is currently stored and joined. We store data by columns and rows and do quite rigid joins and associations. This traditional database approach in itself hinders knowledge connection as much as sentences are an output of the brain, the consumption of it requires as much effort.

          The exercise to get systems like that running are potentially more a linguistic systemisation exercise than an IT project. I work in a place which involves documenting injury incidents and pretty much bound by medical and injury codings. There is a large amount of free text descriptions which go with each case but they are generally not consumed as much as they are invaluable. This detail if used properly could go about tangibly preventing accidents and injuries.

          I watched a tv program sometime back which said that although computers had come a long way in helping to fight crime, there is still a long way to go in connecting cases due to the way knowledge is stored and joined.

          Fascinating area of data.


          • #6
            Agreed, thank you.

            The further my colleague and I get into 3D modelling and Finite Element Analysis (he's now been on this research for 35+ hours a week for five weeks) its clear that without me looking over his shoulder every hour or two (at his huge new 4k 43" monitor) to throw him a clue from the benefit of messing with speakers for 40 years, there is no in-house or indeed out-house repository of relevant knowledge to which he can turn. It's all locked up in my head, and very inadequately preserved. That has to be sorted.

            However, we have made some very good decisions during these weeks which the whole team is benefitting from. We've abandoned flash drives, external HDs, NAS boxes, burned CDs, Dropbox, in-house Linux server and the rest and committed entirely to a collaborative solution. It's already breaking us out of the knowledge silo mentality across the business. It's a pity that I had the luxury of working alone and with any system that suited me personally otherwise I'd have resolved this a long time ago for the benefit of the team.
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK


            • #7
              I cross posted this interesting idea into my community of general practice doctors, as this is a common problem in our field too. People often with significant bodies of knowledge but unable to share their tacit understandings in an accessible manner. Here is an article someone posted in response, which whilst it is in reference to how GP's collaborate, has applications here perhaps...