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INTRODUCTION - PLEASE READ FIRST TO UNDERSTAND THIS FORUM!

"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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  • A.S.
    started a topic The death of the specialist high street audio dealer?

    The death of the specialist high street audio dealer?

    This is a fork of a thread which started discussing the vinyl experience, here.

    ================================================== =======

    Wow. What an extraordinary thread {see above note} this has turned into. From a simple, grovelling if you like, admission on my part that for years I've failed to grasp the attraction of the vinyl experience, but now do, I have a PM that I'm belittling someone's life because I don't engage with streaming. Has the world gone completely mad? I though prior discussions about cables etc. could fray the odd nerve or two, but this is ridiculous.

    By all means use streaming, enjoy streaming, subscribe to streaming, it keeps the wheels of big, global commerce turning. As I've said repeatedly, it's not for me any more than vegetarian food is. I don't personally need streaming, and if you do, and extract value, I'm truly delighted for you.

    But let's not forget one small but vital detail that may not have flashed across the collective conscience. Streaming does not, will not and cannot put more than scraps bread on the table of your specialist hifi dealer, nor musicians, nor anybody connected with making a living out of live music. In that respect alone, setting aside all others, it quickens the demise of bricks and mortar high street audio dealers by commoditising music and hence high-end hardware. Those are the facts. Streaming, convenient or inevitable, fun or fascinating, does not lie comfortably on a forum such as this - a specialist audio manufacturer's forum - because it is not likely, en masse, to motivate consumers over the specialist, high-end dealer's door step.

    My loyalties, personal and business, are to keeping our dealers in business and healthy, and if that's interpreted as hostility to those who are passionate about their on-line audio life, I'm sorry. But I see the bigger picture.

  • willem
    replied
    Easy Chromecast

    Well, for me the smartphone is always in my pocket, and I find that very convenient. But I admit a button on a piece of hardware has a special kind of simplicity. For my purpose the Sonos speakers were a non option (not good enough), and the Sonos amplifier too anaemic.

    Also, we already had a lot of legacy gear - there is a lot of path dependency in audio, unless you want to waste money. The Chromecast was a very economical upgrade to our existing systems.

    Leave a comment:


  • Kumar Kane
    replied
    EAsy Sonos

    While I agree that Chromecast is a great deal, after trying it side by side with Sonos, I find the latter to be more easy to use. As a simple example, to start music playing or stopping it with Chromecast, one must use the handheld device, after finding out where it is and waking it up. Every time. With Sonos, there are start/stop buttons on the hardware; once a music source or playlist is selected, start/stop is a button press on the Sonos device, no need for the handheld. Likewise for changing the volume.

    Sonos costs a lot more to add to a hifi amp, but in my view the convenience available by features such as these over many years of use are value for the money. Sonos pricing is actually such that it makes a lot more financial sense to buy their all inclusive units that include wireless+amp+speakers in one box, instead of a Sonos front end unit that can be wired to a 2 channel amplifier.

    Leave a comment:


  • willem
    replied
    Digital perfection

    In fact, even a 35 euro Chromecast Audio is audibly perfect, I think: http://archimago.blogspot.nl/2016_02_01_archive.html Plug it into an existing high quality amplifier, and you are done for streaming Qobuz, Spotify, TuneIn internet radio and the like. Add a NAS approached via BubbleUPnP and you can access all your ripped cd's and downloads, up to 24/96. Technically I do not think there is an argument.

    Leave a comment:


  • Nessuno
    replied
    Lossless codecs are lossless

    Originally posted by pkwba View Post
    Thanks again for explanations and links. Excuse me if I impose myself on you draining your professional knowledge
    You are welcome!

    but in theory is it possible the flac files of the same "depth" can vary in quality depending on the program used for their conversion from wave ones? I made a try with GoldWave and everything is OK.
    The only possibility for this to happen is that the specific implementation of the coder or the decoder is broken!

    Being a lossless algorithms, for any flac implementation is mandatory that the decoded output data are byte per byte identical to the ones contained in the source file. In order for the decoder to check against data corruption (or decoding errors during test phases), every flac file carries between its metadata a checksum of the unencoded source data.

    If for "depth" you mean bitdepth, then although one of the "tricks" flac uses to reduce file size is to shrink the number of bits needed for each sample when possible (in fact highly dynamical tracks compress the less), the original format of the source is always restored by "inflating" every sample on output to the original depth.

    The same is not true for lossy codecs like mp3, vorbis etc... where source samples are converted internally to floating point and then the bitdepth of the output is mainly implementation dependent.

    Leave a comment:


  • pkwba
    replied
    Sonos - splendid system.

    [QUOTE=Kumar Kane;39806]
    Originally posted by pkwba View Post
    But when you invest some reasonable sum of money in technically advanced and up-to date streaming station it would be wise to know why some part of delivered music is not on par with what was declared (or maybe expected from my side only?).
    /QUOTE]
    Yes, but consider that all it takes to start from a zero base is USD 200, if a stable home WiFi network is in place. That will get you a box that contains all necessary hardware and software that is close to state of the art, to have music of surprisingly good quality playing from streamed services. That's if you choose the Sonos route, and I am sure there are cheaper options.Throw in another USD 100 and you can get a NAS box that can hold music from maybe a couple of thousand CDs, giving you music from both sources, wirelessly streamed.

    I don't see that as a big gamble. That money will buy just half a dozen or so LPs now? Or maybe 30 CDs?
    I am considering buying such a system with NAS as a present to our daughter. She loves unproblematic listening to the music. Matched with very good amp and excellent monitors in her possesion will give her a lot of satisfaction .

    ATB

    Leave a comment:


  • Kumar Kane
    replied
    Negligible investment

    [QUOTE=pkwba;39797]But when you invest some reasonable sum of money in technically advanced and up-to date streaming station it would be wise to know why some part of delivered music is not on par with what was declared (or maybe expected from my side only?).
    /QUOTE]
    Yes, but consider that all it takes to start from a zero base is USD 200, if a stable home WiFi network is in place. That will get you a box that contains all necessary hardware and software that is close to state of the art, to have music of surprisingly good quality playing from streamed services. That's if you choose the Sonos route, and I am sure there are cheaper options.Throw in another USD 100 and you can get a NAS box that can hold music from maybe a couple of thousand CDs, giving you music from both sources, wirelessly streamed.

    I don't see that as a big gamble. That money will buy just half a dozen or so LPs now? Or maybe 30 CDs?

    Leave a comment:


  • pkwba
    replied
    Some further questions about streaming quality and reality of vinyl resurrection ....

    Originally posted by Nessuno View Post
    As a matter of fact, now I can think of at least two reasons to justify real differences in audio data between CD vs downloaded files vs "streamed" that can cause what you experienced, even from theoretically identical master sources:

    1) CD with pre-emphasis curve applied https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emphas...Red_Book_Audio (maybe older pressing). In case of ripping, the resulting file must be passed through a de-empasis filter on playing or the difference from the CD will be easily audible.

    2) The most insidious one: Watermarks https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_watermark which sometimes recording labels embed in the files they sell and which could cause audible artifacts: http://www.mattmontag.com/music/univ...ible-watermark

    My two cents: specialized press, audio manufacturers and all the musical market driving forces should educate customers and push labels to stop gambling with data, instead of quibbling about vinyl resurrection and the like...
    Thanks again for explanations and links. Excuse me if I impose myself on you draining your professional knowledge but in theory is it possible the flac files of the same "depth" can vary in quality depending on the program used for their conversion from wave ones? I made a try with GoldWave and everything is OK.

    ATB

    P.S. Last Saturday we were shopping with my wife in big local center so I went to their audio department. Entry-level turntables from world renowned Far East audio companies attracted my interest the most. Honestly, after some palpative obductions I can swear that monophonic suitcase type "Bambino" gramophone from my early youth was a super rigid superstructure compared to those plastic shoddy devices. The most rigid element of them must be surely 180 plus gram longplay put on their platter. The quality bamboo sticks from true Chinese restaurant would be better tonearms. And all that for one third to half price of modern copy / replica of cult DD super quiet and panzer rigid Technics. Forsooth those marketers have no mercy upon teenagers trying to join "vinyl resurrection" ....

    Leave a comment:


  • pkwba
    replied
    On the same side of barricade.

    Originally posted by Kumar Kane View Post
    Don't trouble yourself to do this, unless it is of interest to you/Jeff. I for one am sold on the value of streaming services, used in combination with a local NAS that contains both lossless CD rips as well as 256 kbps iTunes purchases. I even run mixed source playlists without at times knowing what source is playing.

    There is another factor at play here, I must point out: I no longer search for reasons why I ought to not use streaming or lose any sleep over possible quality compromises by using 256 kbps AAC files; I have too much listening enjoyment now available on tap to ever go back to the inconveniences of legacy kit.

    On the other hand those that are still attached to legacy kit may well search for reasons why streaming quality is not good enough, critically comparing things to locate even tiny differences in an artificially quietened room. Differences that they would never have picked up if they were listening to the music in normal conditions without bending all their attention to this fault finding task. The key thing now for me is the music should play without drop outs/stuttering, and the system is at that stability and up time level for over a year now.

    And the stories I read here and elsewhere about how the best of musicians are quite happy with what may be mediocre kit by "HiFi" standards doesn't make me yearn to go back to fiddly turntables and the clutter of CD racks either. I just consider myself lucky to live at a time when so much magical tech is so easily and cheaply available. Why look for reasons why it cannot be used?!
    Don't take me wrong. I am not against new techniques of delivering music our homes. But when you invest some reasonable sum of money in technically advanced and up-to date streaming station it would be wise to know why some part of delivered music is not on par with what was declared (or maybe expected from my side only?).

    Definitely I enjoy this new device and opportunities it gives enormously as well as Spotify and downloads via computer. My curiosity about quality the streaming can bring even now is in no contradiction to your views. Nevertheless I will be also picking up physical disks with music yet for some next years. Even LPs if I find any rarity that is in my spotlight . Music matters.

    Leave a comment:


  • Kumar Kane
    replied
    Attached to the past?

    Originally posted by pkwba View Post
    I'll report factual differences if there are any in the range of dynamics, but it will not happen very soon ...
    Don't trouble yourself to do this, unless it is of interest to you/Jeff. I for one am sold on the value of streaming services, used in combination with a local NAS that contains both lossless CD rips as well as 256 kbps iTunes purchases. I even run mixed source playlists without at times knowing what source is playing.

    There is another factor at play here, I must point out: I no longer search for reasons why I ought to not use streaming or lose any sleep over possible quality compromises by using 256 kbps AAC files; I have too much listening enjoyment now available on tap to ever go back to the inconveniences of legacy kit.

    On the other hand those that are still attached to legacy kit may well search for reasons why streaming quality is not good enough, critically comparing things to locate even tiny differences in an artificially quietened room. Differences that they would never have picked up if they were listening to the music in normal conditions without bending all their attention to this fault finding task. The key thing now for me is the music should play without drop outs/stuttering, and the system is at that stability and up time level for over a year now.

    And the stories I read here and elsewhere about how the best of musicians are quite happy with what may be mediocre kit by "HiFi" standards don't make me yearn to go back to fiddly turntables and the clutter of CD racks either. I just consider myself lucky to live at a time when so much magical tech is so easily and cheaply available. Why look for reasons why it cannot be used?!

    Leave a comment:


  • Nessuno
    replied
    Education, stupid!

    Originally posted by pkwba View Post
    To be more precise and confirm or deny my subjective experiences...
    As a matter of fact, now I can think of at least two reasons to justify real differences in audio data between CD vs downloaded files vs "streamed" that can cause what you experienced, even from theoretically identical master sources:

    1) CD with pre-emphasis curve applied https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emphas...Red_Book_Audio (maybe older pressing). In case of ripping, the resulting file must be passed through a de-empasis filter on playing or the difference from the CD will be easily audible.

    2) The most insidious one: Watermarks https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_watermark which sometimes recording labels embed in the files they sell and which could cause audible artifacts: http://www.mattmontag.com/music/univ...ible-watermark

    My two cents: specialized press, audio manufacturers and all the musical market driving forces should educate customers and push labels to stop gambling with data, instead of quibbling about vinyl resurrection and the like...

    Leave a comment:


  • Nessuno
    replied
    Volume normalising

    Originally posted by Jeff_C View Post
    Anyone know for a fact whether normalisation is applied or not?
    In Spotify is an option under user's control. I don't know for sure what others do, but I'm leaded to think that they behave the same. Apple for example has a volume normalization switch in iTunes for local tracks, maybe it's the same with its streaming service.

    Leave a comment:


  • ssfas
    replied
    Need for on-line

    Originally posted by Kumar Kane View Post
    Having noticed that Leica is available on Amazon, I did some browsing and I was a little surprised to see other names on-line as well - Gucci, Cartier, Prada, Rolex, Bvlgari, Mont Blanc, Waterman - to name the few I looked for.

    I have no idea of how online prices compare with those on high street. I also don't know how many people that buy this stuff, will buy online, unless the price difference is very significant. Warranties aren't an issue, Amazon is very reliable in this regard.

    One valuable feature about Amazon are the user reviews; most are by bona fide users and offer very useful insights. If the price difference isn't too high, I wouldn't be surprised to see the reverse happening here, people using on line reviews to choose, but buying in brick and mortar stores to first touch/see the product. And to be pampered in person. Perhaps to be seen buying there as well, and for all the other benefits of retail therapy.

    This seems to be an interesting subject for a marketing thesis, and probably has been done already. Accessing this might be useful for anyone interested in high street audio dealerships.
    As with many audio brands like Onkyo, Pioneer (owned by Onkyo) etc, many camera brands such as Sony focus entirely on Amazon sales as profit margins are so low that it is just not viable to have own-brand stores and the multi-brand high street stores have all but disappeared.

    With regard to "single-system" brands, there are two leading well-known UK audio brands who actively promote this approach, and they are not alone. Some camera brands do that, it is perhaps a bit of an elitist approach these days, and cross-brand compatibility seems to be a more favoured approach.

    The only compatibility issue with Harbeth is the relatively low sensitivity, although it doesn't stop some people using valve amplifiers.

    Leave a comment:


  • pkwba
    replied
    Loudness levelling.

    @Kumar & Jeff

    To be more precise and confirm or deny my subjective experiences I will borrow from one of my audio "buddies" power amp with precise and quick digital readouts and then I'll report factual differences if there are any in the range of dynamics, but it will not happen very soon ... Unfortunately I haven't got any option to write the music files to local storage (although real transfer of the network is 0,2 to 0,3 Tbps), or else the check and comparison would be an easy as pie (computer analysis).

    I've got only vintage refurbished marantz power amps (sm8 and sm500dc) but their "analog" meters are not precise enough to lead an investigation properly. My digital universal meter is also to slow for such tests

    ATB

    Leave a comment:


  • Kumar Kane
    replied
    Loudness levelling?

    Originally posted by Jeff_C View Post
    Anyone know for a fact whether normalisation is applied or not?
    I don't know, but I had noticed that obtaining the same sound levels as Apple Music delivers, the now defunct Rdio needed the volume control to be further forward.
    Last edited by Kumar Kane; 28-04-2016, 01:56 AM. Reason: clarity

    Leave a comment:

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