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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.

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


Feb. 2018
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The death of the specialist high street audio dealer?

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  • #16
    Don't need stores

    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
    There is anecdotal evidence of some correlation between streaming and a general increase in awareness of "quality music" and of consumers pursuing that by purchasing (a little) more physical media. As a minor by product of downloads, that's possible, but not witnessed amongst my three grown up children.

    But our primary interest here in HUG is physical audio products, since the enterprise that runs this group make physical audio products, which need to be demonstrated in physical audio stores.

    My question then is, and I'd like to understand the truth, after investing as little as $40 in a steaming device (Chromecast etc.) almost certainly not bought in a specialist audio store, did it motivate you to visit a specialist audio retailer? Did that purchase spur you on to explore upgrading any worthwhile part of your system core? How much time passed before you went, and what did you actually buy there.
    Well due to what i learnt here on HUG i ceased being an audiophile and sold all my fancy gear , I purchased my Harbeths without listening in a store i just trusted the ethos and philosophy behind them, I purchased via mail order an industrial cd player made by tascam that cost not much at all and also bought a yamaha receiver via mail order. I didn't need to listen to this equipment as i had learnt that that it makes little difference and i am very happy with it and see no point to ever walk into a hifi store again , these hifi stores really are as bad as audiophilia full of voodoo and porkies.

    I don't buy records any more as they seem a waste of money they deteriorate and aren't that good for the environment and the sound is flawed , digital media has little impact on the environment.

    Im sorry Alan but the reason i no longer see the need for specialist hifi stores is down to what i have previously learnt from you on this forum.
    For that i thank you sincerely though as I have never been happier with my audio rig , this modest non audiophillic machine into my c7es3 with budget electronic store speaker wires and el cheap interconnects is splendid.

    IM a bit confused on this new stance but still applaud your style in making damn fine speakers thank you for that

    Comment


    • #17
      The human sales interface!

      I did of course buy my Harbeth speakers from a dedicated Harbeth dealer who is credit to the brand. I liked them so much I bought another pair without listening.

      As to the rest of the audio, I think I used just about every sales channel except a visit to an audio dealer:

      - My amplifiers were advertised on a European audio site and actually came from Michael at HiFi-Bauernhof.

      - My turntable I saw at a show, I spoke to a reviewer (he used it for 3 months) and two owners and purchased by phone.

      - My phono stage is made by a chap working from home (in the UK), discussed by phone, sent by courier.

      - My pre-amp is made by a chap working from home (in Poland), discussed by email, sent by post.

      - My DAC was sent to my home by a dealer who works from home. I compared it to a couple of others.

      - My streamer was bought over the phone from an audio dealer in Scotland, as he is the UK distributor and had stock.

      - All recently purchased cables from StudioSpares, a pro audio online supplier, and one set from Maplin.

      - My multi-disc spinner was bought last week from StudioSpares, as I was browsing their catalogue at their warehouse trade counter waiting for them to get some cables.

      - SSD drive (music store) from Amazon.co.uk

      Other than the amplifiers from Michael, everything else was purchased new.

      Not a lot of good news there for audio dealers, unless you sell speakers or are national distributor for a very successful Korean brand.

      Comment


      • #18
        The desire of Harbeth ownership

        Originally posted by Tinnitus View Post
        Well due to what i learnt here on HUG i ceased being an audiophile and sold all my fancy gear , I purchased my Harbeths without listening in a store i just trusted the ethos and philosophy behind them, I purchased via mail order an industrial cd player made by tascam that cost not much at all and also bought a yamaha receiver via mail order. ...
        I 100% agree with this. This actually motivated me to sell my vinyl rig as well. All the Internet objectivests say that transducers are all that matters and I tend to agree. The good thing for harbeth is that the one tangible piece of audio gear worth spending money on (and simultaneously enjoying as a physical item of desire?) is the loudspeaker.

        Comment


        • #19
          Selling flummery

          Originally posted by Tinnitus View Post
          see no point to ever walk into a hifi store again , these hifi stores really are as bad as audiophilia full of voodoo and porkies.

          Im sorry Alan but the reason i no longer see the need for specialist hifi stores is down to what i have previously learnt from you on this forum.
          For that i thank you sincerely though as I have never been happier with my audio rig , this modest non audiophillic machine into my c7es3 with budget electronic store speaker wires and el cheap interconnects is splendid.

          IM a bit confused on this new stance but still applaud your style in making damn fine speakers thank you for that
          This reflects exactly my opinion, and the sad thing is the high end stores will focus on typical audiophile equipment for streaming and converters. Together with the cable nonsense these shops will sell just 'inflated air' (to quote Louis van Gaal).

          Comment


          • #20
            Winderful Budapest

            Originally posted by A.S. View Post
            Thank you for the observational feedback. More appreciated.

            In a few moments we will be seated in mid price sears in the Basilica here in Budapest, a lovely, relaxed clean city with fascinating architecture. It's a mixed concert from the Duna String Orchestra. It will be interesting to note the demography of the audience.

            Next year is Harbeth's 40th, and with our invigorated marketing dept., user feedback that can be relied upon is especially welcome at this time. Internally, we see 2017 as something of a rebirth, or at least, a restatement of our little brand.
            Alan,

            I'm glad you enjoy the visit in Budapest. Have a nice time and fun in Hungary.

            Best regards
            Zsolt

            Comment


            • #21
              Audition, where?

              Originally posted by icewater View Post
              I 100% agree with this. This actually motivated me to sell my vinyl rig as well. All the Internet objectivests say that transducers are all that matters and I tend to agree. The good thing for harbeth is that the one tangible piece of audio gear worth spending money on (and simultaneously enjoying as a physical item of desire?) is the loudspeaker.
              I would agree that loudspeakers are important, maybe the most important piece of an audio system, but for this reason how is possible to buy them without listening in a store?

              Comment


              • #22
                All brought to my door

                Originally posted by carlob View Post
                I would agree that loudspeakers are important, maybe the most important piece of an audio system, but for this reason how is possible to buy them without listening in a store?
                Surely this is the core point.

                Doubtless anything can be bought on-line from formal leather shoes to Ferraris, but if buyer remorse is to be minimised, it must be best to trial run the product by personal, physical acquaintance. I wonder then how many serious audio hardware already buy their shoes or car on line. Can we expect the extinguishing of nice shoe shops or motor showrooms following the same 'let them perish' philosophy?
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

                Comment


                • #23
                  Just send it back culture

                  Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                  Surely this is the core point.

                  Doubtless anything can be bought on-line from formal leather shoes to Ferraris, but if buyer remorse is to be minimised, it must be best to trial run the product by personal, physical acquaintance. I wonder then how many serious audio hardware already buy their shoes or car on line. Can we expect the extinguishing of nice shoe shops or motor showrooms following the same 'let them perish' philosophy?
                  I have a lady business partner. A box arrived last week, containing 8 pairs of shoes, 2 models of different colours and sizes. 6 or 7 of the 8 pairs will go back. Free delivery and collection. It's the Net a Porter business model, and highly successful for selling expensive fashion clothing.

                  So there's your answer.

                  It may be that audio dealers are more the problem than the solution (Dave, don't take this personally). Audio dealers are the end point of the traditional sales channel. I am sure many manufacturers and brand distributors would like to send out demo units (with a credit card number as security) direct to customers and then make the sale remotely. Dealer loyalty prevents this. However, this is the preferred route for several new brands. An example is Schiit DACs and amps, although demand is so high you have to wait months for a demo unit.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Brand name is important

                    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                    Surely this is the core point.

                    Doubtless anything can be bought on-line from formal leather shoes to Ferraris, but if buyer remorse is to be minimised, it must be best to trial run the product by personal, physical acquaintance. I wonder then how many serious audio hardware already buy their shoes or car on line. Can we expect the extinguishing of nice shoe shops or motor showrooms following the same 'let them perish' philosophy?
                    It is sensible to visit a dealer to evaluate speakers, but it can only give an idea of whether the speaker will 'fit in' when you get it home. What about the scenario where a potential buyer wants to audition 3 brands making up his shortlist but only one is handled by a local dealer. Such a buyer could make the wrong decision purely because of the time span between getting to hear his shortlist at different dealers.

                    Things have moved on since my first sole purchase of hifi gear in January 1977 *. Good dealers now let you take equipment home to audiition. That is very admirable, but I usually do not take up such an offer because I would feel more tied to make some purchase even if the speaker turned out to be less than I was expecting. The more I think about it though this option demands less of the dealer's time which I am very conscious of when potentially in the market to make a purchase. This could be a service offered by the manufacturer as well dealers.

                    * IIRC the only thing I auditioned at the dealer's way back in 1977 were the speakers. There were about 3 full width shelves at the back of the basement room with about 25 pairs of (bookshelf) speakers all wired up. A big rotary switcher could change the speaker being listened to. I do not think I actually listened via the amp or turntable which I bought at the same time as those speakers. I do not think I picked the speakers because they sounded the best at that audition. It would have been difficult to get more than a rough idea of what each speaker was capable of. I picked them because I had previously heard good things about the Acoustic Research brand, that their speakers were designed with the aid of their own anechoic chamber, lots of testing for the design stage and during production, generous full international warranty, low coloration and flat frequency response.

                    So to me brand name can be very important along with the background to what that brand stands for.

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      All brought home

                      I did have the fortune to been able to listening to Harbeth P3ESR and M30.1 in my home. The P3ESR I got per mail for a week long home dem. The M30.1 I got to listen to at the dealer's. After that I got them to listen at home for a weekend.

                      It is without doubt best to test loudspeakers a a dealer's showroom and even better to listen to them in your room with all the dependencies, size of room, dampening furniture etc.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Inappropriate business model for speakers

                        Originally posted by ssfas View Post
                        I have a lady business partner. A box arrived last week, containing 8 pairs of shoes, 2 models of different colours and sizes. 6 or 7 of the 8 pairs will go back. Free delivery and collection. It's the Net a Porter business model, and highly successful for selling expensive fashion clothing.
                        The Net a Porter business model with speakers' boxes? Shipping companies will be very happy with that, basically the distribution margin you save goes directly to increase Fedex (or another multinational) revenues. Furthermore all those retail giants or logistic/shipping multinationals are usually located in a "friendly" tax jurisdiction so they don't even pay taxes in your country - but they are killing the stores in your country. Sorry, I prefer the old model (even if I know that it is not going to survive).

                        And what you do if you have technical issues or you need some advice on the product, phone a call center in India?

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Better understanding the market

                          So we seem equally split between the two camps -
                          • Specialist audio dealers provide doubtful added value to the sales process and have, inevitably, been outmanoeuvred by more efficient and convenient sales methods, specifically on-line retailing. High Street stores better adapt to that reality, or die
                          • Specialist audio dealers provide an opportunity for the would-be customer to acquaint himself with at least a sub-set of available equipment choices, and that provides a useful service to the consumers especially in the area of loudspeakers. There is no on-line equivalent to this valuable hands-on (or ears-on) interface between product and consumer.

                          Is that a fair summary?

                          This is going to be a most useful insight to our new marketing team, starting next week. If you do wish to contribute to the discussion but directly and not in public we'd love to hear from you either to marketing@harbeth.co.uk or by Skype, face to face.

                          We'd also like to put together a 'panel' of a few of the less regular contributors, those who lurk but rarely contribute, to discuss subjects like this in private. If you are interested in contributing to discussions not about audio hardware itself, but to the realities of the modern specialist audio relating scene as you have experienced and your personal interactions with audio dealers over the years, we'd like to understand that marketplace better, and what better than a Skype conference call linking other consumers. The more input we have, the better!

                          P.S. It does not matter which country you live in, and you don't have to speak perfect English, you just have to be able to explain your experiences adequately. Oh, and to be available at your local time equivalent of approx. mid-day UK time. We have a web cam here, we'd like to see you, but if you don't have a camera, as long as you have clear audio, that's fine.
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Amazon shipping

                            Originally posted by carlob View Post
                            The Net a Porter business model with speakers' boxes? Shipping companies will be very happy with that, basically the distribution margin you save goes directly to increase Fedex (or another multinational) revenues. Furthermore all those retail giants or logistic/shipping multinationals are usually located in a "friendly" tax jurisdiction so they don't even pay taxes in your country - but they are killing the stores in your country. Sorry, I prefer the old model (even if I know that it is not going to survive).

                            And what you do if you have technical issues or you need some advice on the product, phone a call center in India?
                            The worrying thing is that you express the normal concerns with the online model.

                            My wife is an Amazon reseller and the reality is that:

                            1. Volume shipping costs are incredibly cheap.
                            2. Amazon have a policy that they enforce that the customer is always right. Any complaint, a product is normally replaced free of charge. Return shipping for faulty goods is free, returns just not wanted are paid by the customer. This works as the level of returns is normally very low.

                            Amazon retailers usually maintain a high level of customer service. I have bought audio direct from overseas manufacturers (Hattor, ODAC) and received excellent customer service. Often the customer service and technical issues are better dealt with by the manufacturer rather than the dealer, as is the case with Quad.

                            The amount of tax fraud by Amazon resellers is shocking - sales tax and personal taxes. Like you, I hope this is cracked down as in the UK non-payment of sales tax (VAT) effectively gives the fraudulent trader a 20% profit advantage.

                            The reality is that, as long as there is a demand for a product, someone will supply it. It may just not be the same people who supplied it 10 or 20 years ago.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Ask the public

                              Alan, as the largest European audio show is around the corner, perhaps it is an opportunity to collect some survey data from random visiting audio consumers.

                              Perhaps HUGsters could assist in compiling a questionnaire. There may even be a bright spark who could implement this on a touch-screen monitor.

                              It could even be implemented online.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Refocus on the core issue - Loudspeakers

                                Originally posted by ssfas View Post
                                The worrying thing is that you express the normal .....
                                That's a very reasonable explanation of a generalised on-line business model.

                                Can I just ask, please, that as this is a manufacturer's forum, and that this manufacturer only manufactures loudspeakers, and quite heavy and large ones at that, that future comments concerning on-line retailing are specifically addressing selling "high end" loudspeakers, not shoes, cars or whatever.

                                I think we all, as modern consumers, use and take advantage of on-line retailing generally, but here in this thread on HUG we are not chewing the subject over out of academic curiosity, we are discussing in in the context of loudspeaker marketing, sales and distribution. Nothing else here on HUG please.

                                The issue seems to have been somewhat skirted around: how do you propose to substitute the dealer's role in bringing to market such products, large, heavy and expensive, as, say, SHL5+ or M40.2? The fact that plastic Bluetooth speakers can be sold in their millions on-line is irrelevant to this forum.
                                Alan A. Shaw
                                Designer, owner
                                Harbeth Audio UK

                                Comment

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