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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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Myths, Misunderstandings and Misinformation - a few home thruths in hifi

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  • #16
    A fair point. How would you test this?

    Incidentally, I am spending the difference in cost between cables on some music.

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    • #17
      Some consider that moving coil phono cartridges are intrinsically superior to moving magnet phono cartridges. Is that a myth? Or is there evidence to support this?

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      • #18
        Originally posted by witwald View Post
        Some consider that moving coil phono cartridges are intrinsically superior to moving magnet phono cartridges. Is that a myth? Or is there evidence to support this?
        That's an interesting question. With respect to automotive suspension design it's preferable to have low 'unsprung' weight, ie keep the weight of wheels/tyres low as this allows them to be better controlled by the springs and dampers which are attached to the (much) heavier chassis. Which weighs more - the coil or the magnet?

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        • #19
          Power conditioning

          This seems more popular in the US, which has the reputation of having 'dirtier' mains power than is relevant in Europe. I know very well from my youth that cheap amps with unregulated power supplies would click and pop if something like a fridge turned on and off elsewhere in the house, so it is nothing to dismiss out of hand. However I also know, having designed and built the brutes, that a good regulated power supply will maintain a constant DC voltage under a wide range of load conditions, supply voltage variations and supply noise spikes. If you have such a supply then power conditioning would seem to be pointless, especially since modern amp designs are a lot less sensitive to variations in the DC than they were when I was a lad. However some high end equipment deliberately avoids using a regulated supply, for reasons unknown to me. For some people power conditioning may thus be a Princess.

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          • #20
            Adding second harmonic distortion is a good thing: Myth, misunderstanding, or misinformation?

            The respected audio mastering engineer, Bob Katz, discusses the issue here:

            https://www.innerfidelity.com/conten...res-distortion


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            • #21
              Originally posted by BarryS View Post

              That's an interesting question. With respect to automotive suspension design it's preferable to have low 'unsprung' weight, ie keep the weight of wheels/tyres low as this allows them to be better controlled by the springs and dampers which are attached to the (much) heavier chassis. Which weighs more - the coil or the magnet?
              It is generally believed that MC cartridges sport lower moving masses. However, quality MM cartridges are able to offer as low or lower moving mass than some MC cartridges. For example, the state-of-the-art Technics EPC-100CMK4 with 0.055 mg of effective tip mass, of moving magnet design. Comparatively, the popular Denon DL-301 moving coil cartridge has an effective tip mass of 0.270 mg.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Tryant View Post
                Adding second harmonic distortion is a good thing: Myth, misunderstanding, or misinformation?
                Matter of personal taste. Some class A amps, from the Lynsley Hood in 1969 to some Nelson Pass designs nowadays, seemed to be liked precisely because they introduced low even harmonic distortion. I think they sound coloured, even if the colouration is attractive.It would be preferable to have a 'clean' amplifier and then use DSP to adjust the sound to your taste, but this would not suit vinyl rigs.

                Since listening to music is a highly subjective experience it is difficult to label the favouring of 2nd harmonic distortion as being inherently wrong, but I wouldn't want to have it forced onto me.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by chrisj1948 View Post

                  Matter of personal taste. Some class A amps, from the Lynsley Hood in 1969 to some Nelson Pass designs nowadays, seemed to be liked precisely because they introduced low even harmonic distortion. I think they sound coloured, even if the colouration is attractive.It would be preferable to have a 'clean' amplifier and then use DSP to adjust the sound to your taste, but this would not suit vinyl rigs.

                  Since listening to music is a highly subjective experience it is difficult to label the favouring of 2nd harmonic distortion as being inherently wrong, but I wouldn't want to have it forced onto me.
                  There is no doubt, as this has been a very well researched subject, that humans attribute certain subjective characteristics of tonality to particular types of audio distortion. After all, the very fact that musical instruments have any sort of character of sound when playing the same pitched note is directlybecausethose instruments generate different harmonics. So a violin playing the same E flat as a pipe organ sound completely different because their harmonic nature is completely different, but the fundamental frequency is identical.

                  And, amplifier distorton is nothing more that an emphasis of certain harmonics - second, third, fifth or whatever - which means that, depending upon which particular ones are emphasised in the amplifier, the pipe organ could be made to sound as sharp as the violin. Indeed, the synthesiser takes a bank of pure, distortionless laboratory-grade audio oscillators tuned to the fundamental note and adds harmonics and attack/decay factors such that at a touch of a button, the performer can sound like a flute, a guitar, a piano or a drum.

                  Yes, it's been known for perhaps 100 years that even order (2nd, 4th, 6th...) harmonic distortion is highly attractive to the ear in modest amounts. I'd guess that 90% of audiophiles would prefer the sound of a system with mild even-order harmonics to a strictly distortion-less sound.
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                    There is no doubt, as this has been a very well researched subject, that humans attribute certain subjective characteristics of tonality to particular types of audio distortion. After all, the very fact that musical instruments have any sort of character of sound when playing the same pitched note is directlybecausethose instruments generate different harmonics. So a violin playing the same E flat as a pipe organ sound completely different because their harmonic nature is completely different, but the fundamental frequency is identical.

                    And, amplifier distorton is nothing more that an emphasis of certain harmonics - second, third, fifth or whatever - which means that, depending upon which particular ones are emphasised in the amplifier, the pipe organ could be made to sound as sharp as the violin. Indeed, the synthesiser takes a bank of pure, distortionless laboratory-grade audio oscillators tuned to the fundamental note and adds harmonics and attack/decay factors such that at a touch of a button, the performer can sound like a flute, a guitar, a piano or a drum.

                    Yes, it's been known for perhaps 100 years that even order (2nd, 4th, 6th...) harmonic distortion is highly attractive to the ear in modest amounts. I'd guess that 90% of audiophiles would prefer the sound of a system with mild even-order harmonics to a strictly distortion-less sound.
                    Let's put audiophiles to the side for a moment.

                    If even-order harmonic distortion is highly attractive to to the ear in modest amounts, why then wouldn't most people in general prefer the sound of a system with mild even-order harmonics?

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                    • #25
                      The term mid-fi, which i feel is used by some to malign what are otherwise good pieces of well priced high fidelity kit. Most use 'mid-fi' in reference to 'high end', an equation to price, when in reality some expensive high end kit really only produces mid-fidelity.

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                      • #26
                        HARMONIC DISTORTION

                        Originally posted by Tryant View Post

                        Let's put audiophiles to the side for a moment. If even-order harmonic distortion is highly attractive to to the ear in modest amounts, why then wouldn't most people in general prefer the sound of a system with mild even-order harmonics?
                        This has nothing whatever to do with 'audiophile' and everything to do with normal human hearing. Most people indeed would love the addition of mild even-order harmonics, especially 2nd and 4th. 'The more the merrier'?

                        This is one of the easiest issues in audiology to create your own personal experiment and test the effect on yourself using an oscillator (or DSP software) that permits the addition of harmonics in controllable quantities.

                        There is an excellent YouTube video here. Note that there are a number of vertical sliders marked 1 - 8. Number 1 represents the pitch of the fundamental note, No2 is the second harmonic, No3 the third harmonic and so on. The amount (loudness contribution) of the fundamental and harmonics is controlled by how high the slider control is in each of the harmonic columns (and some other rotary controls we can ignore).

                        You can see at 1min 20' that the fundamental note is given a loudness of 100% (fully up) and the harmonics are all set to zero contribution. As the operator increases the loudness of the various harmonics by sliding their volume controls vertically, a very distinctive sonic character is attributable to even quite small amounts of high-order (higher numbered) harmonics such as 6th, 7th, 8th.

                        Also note that at about 1min 23', when the 2nd harmonic slider is dramatically raised there is just a warming of tonality, certainly not the nasty buzzing sound that is heard as the higher-order harmonics sliders are raised. This sonic 'warming' or fattening of sound caused by lots of second order harmonics is well demonstrated at 2 min 33'.

                        Folk love a big, fat sound. Why wouldn't they?

                        This YouTube video shows a typical modern DSP 'harmonic exciting' as part of the production of modern music. In the opening of this video when the first with/without comparison is made, we hear a sharper, more 'gritty' sound. We can deduce therefore from what we have observed in the first video above, that this implies that high-order harmonics have been added.

                        Can you imagine how difficult is to find really clean demo pop music to showcase Harbeth speakers potential at the Bristol show?
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

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