"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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A technology of their own: anti-mass sentiment and the high-end audio community

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  • A technology of their own: anti-mass sentiment and the high-end audio community

    A female dissects male domination of audiophilia for her master's thesis.

    Wasn't quite sure where to post this. Very interesting read, covers the history of audiophilia and the motivations behind it. Some of it may be uncomfortable reading for some of us. ;)

  • #2
    Audiophiles called upon the ambiguous quality of "musicality" to debunk the "perfection" of digital.

    This is fantastic.

    Audiophiles thus called upon the ambiguous quality of "musicality" to debunk the "perfection" of digital audio. Since musicality cannot be clearly defined the audiophile was able to employ the term at will to explain his qualms with digital sound.
    Pretty much.

    I look forward to reading the whole paper.

    Thank you for sharing it.


    • #3
      Wisdom indeed

      Indeed, lots of pearls like the one below are in it:

      Audiophile emphasis on component parts and the incessant need to alter and fine-tune equipment did not lend itself to the clean and tidy conception of the modern living room. Millard (1995) notes, “Instead of masquerading as a piece of furniture, the component system unashamedly announced its function with an array of dials and switches that reminded one commentator of the cockpit of a B52 bomber” (p. 217). Tinkering with audio thus became the means through which men were permitted to evade the drudgery of conjugal living. Perhaps the later resistance to ‘black box’ technologies that limit user engagement with the artefact are in part a refusal to sacrifice the private time and space afforded by more complex audio systems.
      LOL. And how true. I shall use this on another forum where I am a member!


      • #4

        Looks like some interesting reading, thanks for sharing it.


        • #5
          It'a all a spin

          As I've observed and reported many times, we here at Harbeth, with our non-nonsense broadcast roots, are completely bewildered, confused and even upset by 99% of the beliefs, rituals and activities of those who are sunk deep in audiophilia. Living with an chronic 'audiophile' must be a sort of life sentence for a wife or partner, as we observed in the video of the Greek HiFi entusiasts - remember it?

          When hardware of any sort displaces the very reason for the equipment to exist and it is placed on a pedestal and worshiped, where the shining, sexy alter is in the middle of the domestic living space, there is something seriously unbalanced in healthy family life, and that means audiophiles are predisposed to be victims of the marketing pimps who stalk such personalities. The uncomfortable truth is, trust me on this, that looking across the entire audio market, there has been negligible or nil improvement in domestic audio quality since the CD arrived 30+ years ago. You can read all you like, month after month that finally the ultimate this or that has been released, but surely you know in your heart of heart that that is just marketing BS. The media exist only in a business climate of successive competitive product creation, and obviously take maximum advantage of the opportunity to act as (paid) knowledge gatekeepers for the general public.

          Thank god we read so often that after a lifetime of financial and emotional waste, the listener has discovered Harbeth, and the miserable hamster wheel finally comes to a stop. Then listening to music can begin, so sadly often in the autumn years of life.
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK


          • #6
            Very interesting read indeed. Thanks for sharing. I just wonder if these words of wisdom are from the wife or daughter of an audiophile. I can see a lot of personal experience in the text.


            • #7
              Our hearing: a diminishing resource

              Originally posted by A.S. View Post
              Then listening to music can begin, so sadly often in the autumn years of life.
              Too true. I had an incident recently where after a couple of minutes of exposure to an extremely loud smoke alarm (it was triggered after a minor kitchen mishap, and I was fanning something underneath it to try to clear the smoke and get it to shut off), my left ear has felt somewhat numb since then. I'm going to an audiologist to get my hearing checked to see if there was any actual damage, or it's just a lingering symptom. But it's not the kind of thing that would have affected me when I was younger.

              What it reminds me is that, like any other physical capacity, hearing acuity is a finite and, sadly, diminishing resource. Of course one can still deeply appreciate music with less-than-perfect hearing (or no one over the age of 21 would be able to listen), but what a shame not to take full advantage of the best years of one's hearing capacity, and waste them instead fiddling around with equipment.

              Life is short. We should all make the best use we can of it, and devote it to that which really matters: great music at home.


              • #8
                Mythology and methodology

                This could be an interesting read, though I'm made skeptical of her research when she makes the quite erroneous claim that the magazine Stereophile is very pro-digital while The Absolute Sound is anti-digital.

                Each has writers on its staff who favor analogue, but neither is clearly pro or anti either medium. These magazines provide entertainment with little useful information, though Stereophile does at least provide measurements of products it reviews.

                For many here, I think, the audiophile world has long ago lost any credibility in the mythology it still too often promotes.

                {Moderator's comment: Didn't she say that may have been the opening gambit, since relaxed?}


                • #9
                  Period under review?

                  Originally posted by Ned Mast View Post
                  {Moderator's comment: Didn't she say that may have been the opening gambit, since relaxed?}
                  My analysis comprises primarily of an examination of two ďundergroundĒ audio
                  publications. One publication, Stereophile, is pro-digital, while the other magazine, The
                  Absolute Sound (TAS), takes a vehemently anti-digital stance. Having first unpacked the
                  socio-cultural dimensions of audiophilia through the history of sound recording I
                  analysed the discourse of audiophiles in these publications from 1978-1985, the period of
                  digitalís introduction.
                  Harry Pearson was vehemently opposed to digital recording in its early days. JGH embraced it.


                  • #10
                    Her analysis was based on the publications between 1978 and 1985.

                    Originally posted by Ned Mast View Post
                    This could be an interesting read, though I'm made skeptical of her research when she makes the quite erroneous claim that the magazine Stereophile is very pro-digital while The Absolute Sound is anti-digital.

                    {Moderator's comment: Didn't she say that may have been the opening gambit, since relaxed?}
                    To be fair, she does say, "I analyzed the discourse of audiophiles in these publications from 1978 to 1985, the period digital's introduction." Given the respective editors' attitudes toward digital during that period, her characterization is apt.


                    • #11
                      Its all an illusion

                      So true. This is why I avoid either "musicality" or "perfection". Both can be aspired for but neither can be achieved subjectively or objectively.

                      And that's why I like brands that are unobtrusive, look good, allow me to play my CDs and do not need a degree in Engineering to operate or enjoy. Specially ones that only allow a volume control.


                      • #12

                        The digital v. analogue matter is discussed from pages 97 on.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK


                        • #13
                          Escape from solitary listening at home?

                          Originally posted by EricW View Post
                          Life is short. We should all make the best use we can of it, and devote it to that which really matters: great music at home.
                          Or, even better, go to great music live.

                          Having just been to two concerts and a ballet in the last 4 days and just done some bookings for the autumn ROH opera and ballet season, HiFi is feeling like the cheap alternative.

                          I was at a performance of Mahler 1 last night (LSO/Haitink) and it did occur to me that we are fooling ourselves to think that for such large scale music any domestic recorded reproduction can be close to the real thing, for all manner of reasons. Moreover, I was sitting next to a friend who took his wife along. He is a Mahler nut, she does not know the music at all. She clearly enjoyed it a lot, but I doubt she would have listened to it at home.

                          I also feel that home audio has made me into a solitary music listener. I go to the ballet, opera, dance, theatre etc, with my wife and friends, we often also go out for a meal afterwards and it is very sociable. I usually go to concerts on my own, partly because my wife is not into concerts that much. I've even found myself going to concerts and avoiding people I see and know. Last night was my first outing with a music group run by my luthier's wife, about 30 people and I knew 5 or 6 of them. It was my first 'social' classical music outing in a while and it was quite nice to actually have a chat.

                          Perhaps home audio has negative social implications. Did the authoress consider that?


                          • #14
                            Bonkers quack science

                            A hilarious take on the listening fatigue effects arising from listening to digital audio:

                            "Dr. Diamond asked his subjects to stand with one arm extended while listening to a recording. A tester then attempted to push a subjectís arm downward by applying pressure to the subjectís wrist. The test professed to demonstrate that when a digital recording was played the subject was unable to resist the downward pressure, yet when an analog recording was played the subject was able to maintain an outstretched arm."

                            Made my day, that one.


                            • #15
                              The therapy of tinkering

                              I find a lot of merit in the idea that one of the motivations underlying audiophilia is the attempt, probably unconscious, by many adherents to carve out an exclusively "male" zone in an otherwise female (or seen as such) domestic space. Part of the pursuit, at least, seems to be driven by a desire to express agency and expertise, needs which may feel unmet both at home and in the large corporate workplace, which confers little autonomy on the individual.

                              Looked at that way, in terms of the underlying psychology, we can perhaps sympathize with the pursuit, which only becomes harmful when it starts to involve unaffordable expense and/or isolation from normal family and social relationships.