"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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We may need MRI scan after all - audio nervosa

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  • We may need MRI scan after all - audio nervosa

    Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
    Soul and emotion in music can be measured by the way people react. You can use MRI scan. In short, the differences one hears between two level matched amplifiers is just in the head.

    I was kidding then but now it has turned out to be true after all. Those who are highly passionate about Hi-fi sound and equipments may be neurotic . In an article published in the Time Magazine more than 53 years ago Dr. Henry Angus Bowes, clinical director in psychiatry described typical behaviour of some audiophiles which applies to me as well. (I am being polite here - actually I think it applies to a big number of us...LOL)

    I have to reevaluate how I spend my time listening to music now on. It is indeed an eye opening.


  • #2
    Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
    I have to reevaluate how I spend my time listening to music now on. It is indeed an eye opening.
    I didn't think you were kidding because recent advances in brain research and MRI scanning (a subject which interests me as a one curious about how we sense our world) has thrown open the whole basis of how we think.

    I've been aware for decades that an extreme interest in audio equipment as opposed to a genuine interest in music defines this industry. I don't think it's healthy. I have only the mildest interest in equipment and can happily live with what I have. Many posts here over the years have talked of the financial ruin that many addicts face. I've tried my very, very best to counsel those sadly afflicted with audio nervosa to get off the merry-go-round. A few have and have improved the quality of their lives, and can redirect that (misapplied?) energy to improving the quality of their families and other peoples lives. But rather like giving up smoking, the doctor can look you in the eye and tell you that it's killing you; but if you're addicted, you won't hear him.

    I find the mania for illusory improvements deeply disturbing and even a little frightening. But no matter how many words I write, no matter how I explain that without properly controlled comparisons, you might as well stick a pin in a hi-fi catalogue when purchasing, no matter how we talk about how visual cues dominate our thinking (thanks to evolution) those seriously afflicted are far beyond our intellectual reach. It makes me very sad for them when there is so much need for genuine human-to-human contact in our communities.

    As for the Harbeth amplifier, or indeed any Harbeth branded product, I promise you that I will redouble my effort to cool-down our marketing effort so as not to inflame any of the poor souls who would feel compelled to purchase to feed their habit. We don't need their money; we don't want their money. We do want them off the treadmill.

    I'm going to add your line to Time magazine to the main 'what we are about' guide. Thank you.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK


    • #3
      STHLS5 - thanks for sharing the article. It gave me a flash of understanding of the audiophile phenomena.

      I like to recommend you a book Mapping the Mind by Rita Carter. It has many more examples of similar obsessive compulsive behavior displayed in other aspects of life.

      The is one of the few books that I recommend to everybody. It changed how I view life in a very fundamental way.

      Human being are much more conditioned that we thought. It is linked intimately to our capacity to learn - as in forming a conditional reflex like riding a bicycle. But the flip side is that we can get conditioned into systems of believe, unproductive habit patterns etc. Additions are forms of conditional reflexes - expressed as a negative manifestation.

      I have gone through a phase of being conditioned into the audiophile search for the ultimate sound. I had expressed that it took hard work to get myself out of it - I was not joking. The sane voice of Alan and the many decent people in HUG helped a great deal.

      I knew about this trap for years, even written an article about it here. But I still find myself falling for it again and again.

      Human being are EXTREMELY vulnerable, but yet we are constantly being bombarded with all sorts of propagandas and being exploited from all sides. We need the protection of a collective culture where we can relax with the assurance that we will not be exploited. HUG is an example of this type of culture.

      I may seem to be on a crusade against the audiophile industry at present - but that is a reflection on how deeply I sunk into it. I need to explore and expose all the devices used by the industry to get me hocked. This is what I need to do to extricate myself out of it - and be sure that I don't get hocked again. It was a terrible ordeal to have to confront it fully. You can see the abuse that I have to suffer here:

      The audiophile industry is not a innocent club of music lovers. It is a culture of exploitation of the addictive nature of human being. I uttered the term 'cult' spontaneously while talking to Alan when he was visiting KL. Audiophile industry has all the features of a cult. The confrontation The confrontations I had to go through with the industry 'insiders' is similar somebody who want to leave a cult. I can see that clearly now.
      Last edited by yeecn; 21-05-2010, 10:00 AM. Reason: clarifications


      • #4
        Yeecn, life is full of extremities. When your are too attached to something you become a slave to it.

        I have to apologize for turning what supposed to be a manufacturer proud moment of announcing a new product since 1977 into a debate whether audiophiles are neurotic or not. In any other manufacturer forum I would be probably banned. Now looking at my post I realized what I done was out of too much attachment to Harbeth and my love for my amplifier. Despite all the talk about being level headed, sound engineering, you can't tell the difference between amps and etc etc, I would say I wasn't honest in expressing my opinion since it was clouded with my attachment to Harbeth and my amp.

        I am so attached to Harbeth and proudly say this is the most natural speaker. Harbeth has established its right to the title and I am proud to own such product. But when it comes to a new product I was a slave to my own pride and resisted the idea because I was more worried whether the amp may actually sound better than mine or it may be not be accepted as the ultimate reference like the HArbeth loudspeakers command which may be a small black spot in Harbeth unblemished status.

        You are equally guilty because you too are attached with your believe that audiophile industry is a big scam (which I agree 100%) and attempted to "force" your opinion. (I use the term force because that's how the other side of the camp would perceive your opinion).

        Ask yourself why wasn't you be satisfied with sound of your mini combo or transistor radio? You wanted something better and your heard the difference in Harbeth and your amp. But would you dare to say 100% people outside would able to tell the difference or even to judge Harbeth to sound better than the mini combo. I am sure my daughter's preference will be the flashing lights and moving display with rhythm in the mini combo more to her liking than your Harbeth setup.

        I read the hifi4sale forum and was looking forward to the actual ABX test. You may also look up Arny Kruegar the inventor of ABX equipment for the the data of various blind test results. Even there you may find the are amplifiers that sounded different indeed. Your proposal of Denon against say a 250 watter Krell will definitely sound different if you drive a 4 ohm speaker above 85db and peaks reaching 100db. I heard the difference when I compared a decent yamaha amplifier with mine playing Patricia Barber - Black Magic women with the highest spl level 103db (I didn't use Harbeth to do this insane demo!). There are many other variables you have to determine and agree before the ABX test.

        Just my humble thoughts.


        p.s. Two weeks ago I saw the book recommended by you and Life after Death - Deepak Chopra. I bought the latter. You should read this book. it also talks about how we really condition our mind.


        • #5
          The Audiophile Deception

          Knowing that the audiophile industry is a big scam is one thing. But finding out the actual mechanisms at play that gets one buy into the whole game is much more difficult to ascertain. It is not a rational process where one can sit down and think through it. Mind control? hmmmm ...... how does it takes hold in my case?

          I did not know where to begin to think - except and uneasiness deep down that something is still amiss. How did I buy into this bullshit? It was this uneasiness that prompted me to keep pocking - and being an annoyance to certain people. It wasn't until a couple days ago that it distilled down to the following:

          1. There is a better sound to be achieved.
          First of all there is no objective measurement to how a 'better' sound sounds like. It is not that there isn't a 'better' sound. It is only that nobody can tell you exactly how to judge a 'better' sound. But that is not important. What is important is that you accept that your equipment is inferior - and can be improved. Our judgment and memory of sound is so nebulous that it makes it extremely easy to be manipulated. Below is how it goes.

          xxxx wrote:

          CN Yee wrote:
          The exotic amplifiers proponents claimed that the 'cheap' amplifiers are not adequate for 'true' music enjoyment. The skeptics (people like me) don't believe so. So the exercise is to establish whether the claim is true.
          Sounds like someone here is having a serious bout of inferiority complex....
          Thank you.
          Just the point I want to get to. There is a thing called marketing, which is a beautified term for propaganda. The manufactures, the dealers and the reviewers works hand-in-hand to form a pervasive propaganda machine. The moment you pick up a hi-fi magazine, the moment you walk into a store, you are subjecting yourself under the propaganda.

          Just walk to a hi-fi shop, and choose one of the higher end speakers, and tell the shop owner that you intend to pair it with whatever cheap amplifier you have. The reaction will invariably be: “not a good match”, “won’t drive it properly”, “sound stage won’t be right”, “the sound won’t opens up”, “flat”, “lifeless”, “even a deaf person can hear the difference”. You will be shown a list of equipments that you should be getting with the speakers.

          Say you ended buying the speakers. But even before you get home you are already thinking of when you can afford to come back for a new amplifier, CDP, interconnect and whatnot. You got home and listen to your priced possession for a while, and you start to imagine what the new equipments could do to improve the sound, and maybe start hearing all sorts of defects in the sound. And all sorts of voodoos begin to appear in the home – silver interconnect, RM500 power cords, acoustics bells, acoustics CD marker - all the while ignoring the greatest enemy in sound reproduction – the room.

          This was my actual experience. I almost wanted to buy a secondhand Proac some months back – until I was told that my Denon AVR won’t do the job. It was just as well, as I went for an audition of Harbeth a few days later and purchased a pair of C7 and a pair of P3 within the first hour of auditioning, and never looked back. But even after I purchased the Harbeth I spent a few more months shopping for a ‘proper’ amplifier, and accumulated a few pieces of AV equipments that I don't need at the mean time.
          There are of course all sorts of supporting devices to reinforce this notion. But once one buy into the notion - one is in for a rough ride. We begin to imagine differences where there is none. There will always be better equipments to look forwards to, and it never ends.

          There are other aspects to the deception. But I think I have done enough to let the whole thing go.


          • #6
            Living the simple life ...

            Originally posted by yeecn View Post
            ...There will always be better equipments to look forwards to, and it never ends. There are other aspects to the deception. But I think I have done enough to let the whole thing go.
            By chance on the BBC last night, and filmed just a few miles from here, was a programme about turning away from reckless consumerism and taking up the simple life inspired by the 12 century catholic monk, St. Francis of Assisi.

            The Revd. Peter Owen Jones (the same age as me) is the part-time minister of three small parishes near here, and he's made a series about self sufficiency - in particular, trying to live without money. As he says, our generation is searching for the meaning or life, to be found in getting closer to nature. I think it perfectly describes the Harbeth philosophy of simple, honest products. You'll see the countryside that surrounds the Harbeth factory, and an insight into village life - little changed for centuries. I think this adds another dimension to the discussion about audio nervosa.

            I am not sure if these programmes are available outside the UK - would you let me know?

            Interview with Peter Owen Jones

            How to live a simple life Pt.1
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK


            • #7
              Originally posted by A.S. View Post
              I think it perfectly describes the Harbeth philosophy of simple, honest products. You'll see the countryside that surrounds the Harbeth factory, and an insight into village life - little changed for centuries. I think this adds another dimension to the discussion about audio nervosa.
              What you have created are truly beautiful. The P3ES2 that I setup in the bedroom have been giving me a lot of enjoyment. I got home from work - give the P3 an affectionate pad, put on the music, and allow myself to sink into the music. There is no urge to look for the bigger sound of C7 downstairs, no desire to upgrade to P3ESR, no need to compare it with anything else. The P3 is simply beautiful as it is. It is a master piece in and of itself. It inspires affection and admiration. The C7 is beautiful in the same way as well. This is the type of products the world needs now.

              Originally posted by A.S. View Post
              I am not sure if these programmes are available outside the UK - would you let me know?
              Unfortunately it is not.....


              • #8
                Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
                ...published in the Time Magazine more than 53 years ago Dr. Henry Angus Bowes, clinical director in psychiatry described typical behaviour of some audiophiles which applies to me as well...
                I was really surprised that all of this story is from Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec, which is a city at the far west end of Montreal's island. About 40km from my home.

                About the term "audiophile", in French, "Le Petit Robert" dictionnary tells us that the word was introduced in the French literature in 1980. Very lately compare to this 1957 article.



                • #9
                  Originally posted by Sebastien View Post
                  About the term "audiophile", in French, .... Very lately compare to this 1957 article. Sebastien
                  The 1957 article used the word audiophilia (audio + philia) not audiophile. If you look up online dictionaries there's reference the word was first used in High Fidelity Magazine in 1951. If you google you can find some lively discussion about his article in other forums.



                  • #10
                    Oh Dear, Oh Dear...
                    This thing again... Imagine that you were a shipwreck survivor on a deserted small island, where you could feed and water yourself, awaiting in hope of a ship passing nearby. All you had was a lighter and a small transistor radio that you also -luckily enough- found intact. And you could catch a distant station, listening to some music from the "civilized world", trying not to spend your batteries' energy by using it for a few minutes a day... How much would you appreciate this gift?
                    We still do a lot of talk about this audiophilia... We still do not separate our needs from our wishes, and still do not use a measure or a margin for the latter. The value of music and its contribution to our spiritual and mental elevation is "sui generis", and it doesn't really get influenced by the means through which is reproduced. At least not to a serious degree, as far as we "breathe" it and don't "examine" it...
                    Can everybody please become concetrated to music itself? Lucky us that we managed to have a beautiful reproduction system including these beloved speakers! Don't look further, you don't need to... Enjoy it! Together with your family, hobbies, colors of life!
                    Alan, you're right, once more. But how many more times will you have to write it down, so to pass the meaning?


                    • #11
                      I belong to a rare species.I can concentrate on the music, get lost in the beauty of it all, yet still proudly maintain my forbidden status as a " HIGH END GURU".Scandalous!! Oh I forgot, I also believe quite a few other manufacturers of high end audio equipment, besides Harbeth, have integrity. Of course the rest of them are all part of a world wide conspiracy to cheat us out of our hard earned money and eventually take over the world.


                      • #12
                        "I often think of a scene in 32 Short Films about Glenn Gould. The piano prodigy is maybe eight years old. He sits motionless, head in hands, next to an AM table radio as it blares out a slow, graceful symphony. The sound is just awful, the strings distorted into a whine of white noise. But for the young Mr. Gould, that's quite beside the point. When he lifts his head, he's tearful, distraught, and powerfully moved by the music.

                        Gould reached through the sound into the music, and then through the music into the composer's soul—and he found something powerful. Sonic fidelity (or lack of it) was incidental. He could have listened to that music through a tin-can telephone."

                        The above was from an article called ... guess what .... Audiophilla Nervosa!, published in Streophile.


                        • #13
                          Glenn Gould was a musical genius. I am not, and I suspect neither are you. Few are.

                          Whatever we experience, we ultimately experience in our minds. Gould's experience with a transistor radio may have been as powerful - probably more powerful - than yours or mine with a decent system and a pair of Harbeth speakers. But only because he had spent literally years of practice and study internalizing the meaning and structure of the music he played (and because he was a genius on top of that), so it required only the slightest external stimulus to bring the music to life for him, in his mind. That doesn't describe most of us. I wish it did, but it doesn't.

                          But if you want to sell your two pairs of Harbeths and listen only to a transistor radio, be my guest. I might even offer you a reasonable price on your Compact 7 ES3's - just let me know.


                          • #14
                            Ya i dun mind taking over the a reasonable price do let us know......


                            • #15
                              Read any in depth biography about Glenn Gould and you will learn how fascinated he was with the latest recording technology and state of the art sound. He was a perfectionist who spent countless hours in the studio trying achieve perfection in his performance and the recording of that performance, through endless editing and retakes.He also considered LIVE musical performance to be a thing of the past(he stopped performing live at the peak of his concert career) due to the inherent problems with audience noise,out of tune pianos,the poor acoustics of various concert halls , inferior orchestras etc. God forbid that he may have been another "HIGH END GURU" and a great artist.(Canadian too)