"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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Headphone horrors: earbud headphones for use in the gym - Item 1

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  • Headphone horrors: earbud headphones for use in the gym - Item 1

    I've been meaning to touch on this subject for ages. Basically, I have a little problem. I can't resist the shiny, sexy packaging that ear bud headphones come in, with the promise of spectacular sound quality for a few pounds, nor the metallic colours ... the BS about newly discovered headphone miracle technology ... I'm a complete sucker for all of it. And yes, I do use headphones at the gym (and in the sauna, where I've started a new trend in personal entertainment la mode), and yes, good sound does matter, and yes, they don't last forever. My main pusher is the supermarket.

    Occasionally, and I do mean very occasionally, I find something quite reasonable for my investment threshold of about $10. Most often, I'm so disappointed that I rip the plug off after five seconds, cursing my own gullibility, and sometimes, like today, I find a set which is so unspeakably appalling, so unbelievably colored, so abysmally low-fidelity despite the attractive cosmetics that I am in awe of the marketing genus that has collared me. The sound is best described by imagining that you are listening to cheap loudspeakers in the room with your head rammed up a chicken's bottom, that is, your entire head buried in a chicken carcass*. It's that good.

    Feel free to contribute your "gym go-no go" list, as I just can't believe that there is not something out there that is tolerably good sounding. The ranking system is out of 5 *****. So here is our own WhatFiHeadphoneAGoGo rating system.

    Item 1: Philex 79134IS

    Supplier: Wilkinsons general store
    Cost GBP 1.80 (around $2.70) - very inexpensive
    Blue/white moulding, blue flexi chord
    Marketing blarney: None. No claims about sound quality
    Sound quality: Half a star
    Value for money considering price/performance: Half a star
    Fit to ear: The first pair of earbud 'phones that as supplied do not fit my ear. The rubber grommets are too large. No alternatives supplied

    *{Moderator's comment: CAUTION! Do not try this at home no matter how tempting: serious risk of asphyxiation.}
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    Etymotic ER4S

    Have a pair of these for over 15 years. Still available and unchanged in design .
    Worth spending the extra. ( order them directly from States) The first and still best (IMHO) universal in-ear phones.


    • #3
      Expensive does not mean indestructible

      Originally posted by P.C. View Post
      ...Worth spending the extra.
      I think the problem with these (or any expensive earbuds) is that they are just as likely to get ripped apart and broken as cheaper options when undertaking any sort of vigorous exercise.


      • #4
        Moulded to fit

        I've been using a pair of Etymotic hf3 for over 5 years. Excellent sound quality but to get the best out of them (or any other in-ear devices) it's worth having personal moulded inserts made by you local audiologist.

        Ups the cost but makes them fit more securely and improves sound quality.


        • #5
          Also recommended....

          Ive also been using Etymotics for many years. They sound good and block out a lot of external noise. In the gym however, I can only use them on machines with little or no impact - elliptical, bike, etc.

          The sound of your footsteps is just too loud on the treadmill...


          • #6
            A recommendation

            I don't have a no-go, but this is a go. Bought a pair about a year ago, and have been very happy with them for gym use.


            I would buy another pair of something happened to them.

            Previously, I'd used some Sennheiser wrap-around-the back-of-your-head headphones because they were supposed to be water resistant to some extent, and I sweat a lot when I exercise. They never felt very comfortable. The Panasonics haven't had any issues due to my sweat.


            • #7
              Body noises

              Another Etymotics fan here!

              As with every IEM, is mandatory to create a tight seal in the ear canal. This has the serious drawback of acoustically coupling both the cable and the skull bones to the tympanums, so that every scratch of the cable and every vibration that generates or otherwise reaches the skull bones like when running or eating, causes very appalling noises. This effect is well known as "michrophonic".

              A way to partially get rid of it is to make an acoustic short circuit between the cable and the bones, wearing the phones "cable up" and looping the cable around outer ear. This anyway only avoid noises transmitted along the cable, so it solves the problem only when sitting (and not eating!).

              P.S. Etys have the best sound, but I find them rather uncomfortable to wear, at least with not custom moulded inserts. For daily listening with my iPhone I use Apple IEMs (not stock Apple earbuds): same transducers maker (Knowles which by the way are inside a lot of other balanced armatures IEMs), similar sound signature (a little more bass and a little more distortion at mids, as they use two way transducers) and more comfortable to wear even for hours on end.


              • #8
                Custom fitting?

                Personally not a fan of using custom molds for the ER4S. as the molds don't attach easily to the long thin body ( unlike other rmonitors designed from the off with custom molds)

                The white triple flange silicone tips work best for me but Etymotic offer various alternatives to best fit every users ears. Also their customer service and out of warranty support is top quality.


                • #9
                  Sealing the ear

                  Originally posted by P.C. View Post
                  The white triple flange silicone tips work best for me but Etymotic offer various alternatives to best fit every users ears.
                  Well, it depends on your ear canal's size and shape: I have not so deep but rather wide ones and the left is even wider than the right. Larger triple flange tips are not large enough to seal it, the foam ones could do, but I find them too noisy and uncomfortable.

                  Custom molding is not an option where I live. Finally I foud a solution by reversing inside-out the outer bigger flange of the smallest triple flange ones: this way the contact area is shorter and wider and this makes for a perfect seal.


                  • #10
                    Quality v. durability

                    To Alan, quality earphones, exercise and saunas don't mix.

                    To the Etymotic fans here, they are not the best. There is no best. They are however, undoubtedly better than Alan's 1.80 GBP model, with or without grommets.


                    • #11
                      Item 2: Tesco Hudle accessory 'phones

                      Continuing our own private WhatFiHeadphoneAGoGo rating system.... maybe the perfect all rounder?

                      Item 1: Tesco Hudle Earphones 'Tangle free cable' (only identified on simple carton by bar code 5 053526 503376)

                      Supplier: Tesco supermarket (own brand)
                      Cost: GBP 5.00 discounted (around $8) - be quick, looks like end of line half price
                      Cosmetics: Red moulding, red very flexible, no tangle cord
                      Marketing blarney: "Full frequency response range"
                      Sound quality: ***
                      Fit to ear: Perfect fit as supplied and two alternative grommets supplied
                      Value for money considering price/performance:

                      Just about perfect. Rich sound, great fit, no-tangle cord. Curiously, the EQ in my MP3 player had almost no effect on the subjective sound quality in the mid/upper range even when fully boosted. Not hifi, but thoroughly acceptable.
                      Attached Files
                      Alan A. Shaw
                      Designer, owner
                      Harbeth Audio UK


                      • #12
                        Item 3: Tesco Technika

                        Item 1: Tesco Technika `In ear headhones black...'

                        Supplier: Tesco supermarket (own brand)
                        Cost: GBP 1.50 (around $2.25)
                        Cosmetics: Black moulding, standard cord
                        Marketing blarney: "High quality sound and rich bass"
                        Sound quality: **
                        Fit to ear: OK fit as supplied and two alternative grommets supplied
                        Value for money considering price/performance:

                        Just about passable if your MP3 player has basic EQ. Best used in a super-heated sauna filled with exhausted and large sweaty chaps and one chatty female, necessary to distract you from the unfortunate sonic limitations.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK