Why are so many companies like harbeth making old speakers designs and charging thousends?

Hi everyone I am a little confused about the speaker market. I had been two dealers that sell totally different products. The one I had been to which I bought my forests from sells Totem And Monitor Audio and B&W. though I went to the other that sells Harbeth And audio note speakers which they recommended me buying. And the problem I have trouble understanding Is when I spend thousands on a speaker. Especially my next big purchase. That has no real new technology and is the size of my dads old conerwalls and never use to cost Thousands to build. With no technological advancements. to a product such as the totem that is small compact and modern for the wife approval , and to be more exact. The new Element line and technologically advanced like the torrent driver. Which I can get the same speaker as the same cost or less of the audio note and Harbeth and dose not need to take up the whole room or look like the 70's. Whats your opinion? Would you buy a product that is a 30 year old design that costs 5 times as more with the only diffinceses as upgraded silver wire and upgraded crossover components. To a thousand dollar woofer that is machined not stamped and has so much magnetic flux that it ca lift a car and no crossover?
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I know but if it all about that its sounds good. But why charge twice as much or more then what it costs to manufacture it. And is it not all about giving most affordable sound for the most reasonable cost of the parts and technology or true cost. What ever happened about giving the best sound for the most real cost?
But why charge twice as much or more then what it costs to manufacture it.

Twice as much? In general, manufacturing costs are about 20% of the list price.
Usually 20% for manufacturing, 20% for R&D, 20% for Advertising/Marketing, and 40% for dealer markup.

What ever happened about giving the best sound for the most real cost?

That business model is still out there, you just have to open your eyes and look around. No one is forcing you to buy Harbeth speakers.
Like dweller said, never mind the speaker, buy it for the sound. You have cars makes that rest on their laurels, mimicking what they looked and performed like 50 years ago. Audio is no different. People and makes can buy into their own hype and therefore feel no need to improve, albeit incrementally.

I don’t mean to sound so harsh when it comes to Harbeth but every time I listen to them, I walk away feeling "meh". Others are bowled over by the sound so if you aren’t enamored by them, then by all means, walk away and don’t look back.

All the best,

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Harbeth does indeed have new technology with the drivers and crossover. Not sure where you pick up on the notion they did not? 
Marketing efforts would have us believe much if not most of what's really evolutionary tweaks equals reinventing the wheel. My own speakers are based on designs some of which originate in the late 20's (the mid driver; based on RCA's 1428 field coil unit) , and I find them substantially more rewarding than most newer designs. Go figure. 

More audio note is where I was going with it, I just used harbeth as an example compared to the old bbc monitor.
There are so many brands of speakers available and at all price points. It is a buyer's marketplace and you'll be able to find precisely what you want if you're patient. The only criteria I consider important is "how does it sound ?" Technology in and of itself is irrelevant in my opinion,  bottom line is sound quality /performance,  Some design concepts are so fundamentally right as to be timeless. Technology claims can be legitimate or marketing hyperbole. At the end of the day you still must decide by listening. 
Every bit of audio gear is built to a pricepoint . For example, POS chi-fi caps can cost a piddly few cents each and then they range all the way to the high-end build Mutdorfs ... Google them for a summary of the differences .

Harbeths are top-end quality build kit (UK) instead of shoddy crap build and shoddy labour made Chi-Fi, and has been emphasized above, that is why they sound so good...

in in this hobby you get what you pay for ... Full stop.
".... the only diffinceses as upgraded silver wire and upgraded crossover components. To a thousand dollar woofer that is machined not stamped and has so much magnetic flux that it ca lift a car and no crossover?"(I made no corrections, just copied and pasted)    The only component of a speaker system YOU left out, in the above rant, is the cabinet.   Improvements have been made by numerous companies, regarding materials to make them less resonant also, not to mention improvements/advancements in every other transducer necessary(midranges, tweeters, etc).    As others have stated, if you don't appreciate the progress made, or the sound, save your money and relax.
I didn’t mean to imply that Harbeth doesn’t innovate with newer technology but in the end they seem to strive for the same sound (very mid range centric at the expense of the extremes). A well proven but old formula. My auto analogy would be something like a modern Mustang: same looks, same NVH, despite now having fully independent rear suspension and a newer platform. Despite all the advances, they haven’t really changed the car and for the money, you can get better, unless you’re into nostalgia, or in the case of Harbeth, their house sound.
If you like it, fine.

All the best,

Www.ohmspeakers.com sell updated and refurbed versions of their old box designs similar to modern Harbeth for essentially the same price they cost 40 years ago.   Don't know how they compare sound wise but the originals were always one of my favorites back in the day and the new versions must be as good or better.   A pair of refurbed Ohm H speakers is a pretty formidable speaker for only  $800 a pair these days.   When available.  
Look at the fit and finish of those speakers.....in a world of particle board and vinyl veneer those are not cheap to produce.  
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Ever hear of "supply and demand" or "economies of scale"?  Harbeth is a smaller shop with very high standards.  They don't have a huge factory in China mass producing plastic junk.  The UK has extremely high costs for manufacturing but in this case, you get what you pay for, quality.

Personally, I wish the big boxes of 30.1 or 40.1 were a little more modern sounding but I'd never compromise that amazing sound for looks.
Over the years I have owned many LS3/5A type speakers including Spendor,KEF,etc. IMO ,the Harbeth P3ESR is the most musical one yet. The fit and finish is outstanding ! And it ain’t only the silver wire that makes ’em sound so good !
Because they can!

IMO they are no better than Acoustic Research speakers from the 70’s.

I owned and liked AR speakers in the 70's.  To each their own.
There are a few good points made here. I know very well how premium boutique 
Parts most certainly can make a average loudspeaker very good.
With the Harbeths the only thing special is their patented midrange driver .
6 moons foes hood in depth coverage the crossover is well below average in my opinion not 1 top brand product yo be found Anywhere.
I emailed them several times totally No response. Ripoff IMO.
Just imagine how much better they would be using Top Crossover parts 
The ones in here from Taiwan Really for  $6k .it is your money !!
Hi Jake -

No, you are not wrong in your observations.  

About 10 years back, I was considering buying the Dragonfly monitors made by Soundsmith, which listed at the time new for $1600.  I had heard the monitors at an audio show and absolutely loved them.  But life got in the way and $1600 was more than I felt comfortable spending at the time.  Fast forward to today and the same speakers cost $6000 ... 3 1/2 times more.  Hell if I can figure out why.  I scratch my head like you are doing now.     

What everyone has said makes sense ... if you don't like the Harbeths or you like some other brand better or the price makes no sense to you ... or whatever ... don't buy them.  


Hi Bill (Grannyring ),
You have extensive experience modifying many different audio products. What do you think of the stock crossover in your Harbeths?  Are you tempted to do any mods on them? 
Do you think Harbeth cost to do business has increased past 30 years?  Wages, material, insurance ...

1970's Flashback 

Cost of a new home: $71,800.00
Median Household Income: $16,461.00
Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.15
Cost of a gallon of regular gas: $0.86
Cost of a dozen eggs: $0.85
Cost of a gallon of Milk: $1.62

I do not have a personal grudge or dislike for harbeths I had personably I demoed and loved sound there sound so much. I almost bought a pair. But my dad was the one who brought up this topic idea. Which had some points to it, and made me think twice would you want to spend money on something that takes quite a bit of real estate in a starter home with older technology. Or a speaker that sounds as good or the same. With the same price smaller foot print and newer technology, that's all. Also person was going to spend 10,000 or more you would want some new technologic advancements with it for that price. But who am I to say, speakers are a on a persons taste and like. It's like what like in the end and personally the sound,do you drink in the morning coffee or tea, or a cappuccino. No one person is the same.
Don't begrudge the real estate the speakers take up, there is no replacement for displacement. These smaller speakers are much harder to drive, which leaves you using a crappier sounding higher power ss amp.  There have been no technological advances in speakers, in fact most newer designs sound much worse. You can't beat a paper driver  with a high efficiency magnet in a big box.  The advent of the transistor sent speaker development completely in the wrong direction. 
Charles, I would not attempt to mod the 40.1 as they are voiced perfectly in my estimation. I think I may do more harm than good:)

They are the kind of speaker that makes one forget about upgrades etc...Sure I could most likely extract a tad more resolution, but most likely at a cost to musicality. 

It appears from the posts above that the answer is high manufacturing costs in Britain and some people like the sound enough to pay the price.

I disagree with the idea that improvements in speaker technology have not improved the sound of speakers over the last 40 years.  That's just crazy.

Some people prefer the sound of older designs or older speakers, and there's nothing wrong with that, but there are a lot of amazing new speakers out there.


Good questions. You can see from the responses that opinions vary as to pricing and value in the market, understandably.

From my limited knowledge it does seem that newer designs (last 10-15 years) allow some smaller speakers to produce lower frequencies than some past models. I'm sure there are many exceptions.

I bet if you shop around you can find something that fits your tastes and your home layout. Buying used (wisely) can take some sting out of mistakes and make upgrading less painful.

Good luck in your search.
Audi's Quattro system was first introduced in 1980. So the basic technology is 36 years old, and yet it remains the best of its kind, as anyone who has driven aggressively under adverse conditions will attest.

I collect (mechanical) vintage watches, and, among many others, own a Girard-Perregaux High Frequency Chronometer from the early '70s that is accurate to within two seconds a day. That is as good as any mechanical watch ever produced, in spite of the fact that important strides have been made in both materials and manufacturing over the last half-century.

I am currently using a re-capped, 45 year old Accuphase E-303 integrated amp, and the sound is excellent in my system. What is it driving? Harbeth P3ESR speakers. Both components were purchased used.

Are there sold-state amps with newer technology that I could have bought for around 1100 Euros that would sound better? Perhaps. Significantly better? I'd be surprised, frankly.

Are there speakers featuring newer technology that I could have bought for 1800 Euros that would sound better? Perhaps. Significantly better? Again, I'd be surprised, though the Harbeth's are admittedly well-suited to my listening tastes and current space.

I am not a die-hard Harbeth fan, as these are my first pair. But a really good, basic design, executed finely (which was/is the case with both above-mentioned companies), doesn't necessarily require the latest, available technologies, or even materials and manufacturing capabilities, to be of high value. 
Hi Bill,
You have no plans to modify your Harbeths,  this is a first for you. I wonder how long you can resist reaching for your soldering iron 😊😊. What amplifier are you using to drive them?
I do for the person who said totems sound crappy and only sound good with ss amps. I truly disagree with that statement I use a 60watt tube amp with the forest and it sounds better then solid state with tubes, with half the wattage. And also tryed out the new element earths out. With the torrent driver are even more esier to drive with lower wattage amps and sound even better! Esapacialy since they have no crossover.

My amp will surprise you Charles. It happens to be a great value and where I think audio, high end audio, is heading. Lyngdorf TDAI amp with internal pre, Dac, and  near miraculous room correction. The room correction is just out of this world and utterly shocked me when engaged. 

I hear the Harbeths the way the designer intended! No modding this piece I'm afraid. First digital amp I really love. 100% digital unit! 

I know several folks who sold off $30,000 separates in sonic favor of this simplified approach. It did that for me also. Cost me $4,000. 

Great match with the Harbeth speakers. No overblown mid-bass no matter where I place them because of the room correction feature. Up against the wall is no problem even. 

This amp is a poster child example of audio progress and value. 

Which had some points to it, and made me think twice would you want to spend money on something that takes quite a bit of real estate in a starter home with older technology. Or a speaker that sounds as good or the same. With the same price smaller foot print and newer technology

@jakecanada , you would be surprised at how much money people spend on "older technologies". Just look at the popularity of tubes and vinyl.

Newer technology does not necessarily translate into better sound.
Just as smaller is not necessarily better.

If you want a smaller speaker, that's fine. I have space restrictions myself.
I don't question why some speakers have to be so big though.
Different strokes for different folks.
I agree. I saw an early Jaguar (E type 4.2) at a wine festival and talked to the owner awhile. It was the most beautiful car I have ever seen. The lines were perfect to me, like it was designed out of a dream, I suppose it was.

The owner said he loved it but was nervous driving it as it had no side mirrors. The original owner ordered it that way to preserve the lines.

Sorry for the off topic post, but there were several newer supercars there that missed the perfection of that car, to me anyway. A rolling piece of art. 

Congratulations on the sucessful mating of the Harbeths and the digital amplifier. 
I once heard the  Super duper HL5+ plus with Lyngdorf. Wild demo in that it fixed the Harbeths. It would behoove them to mechanically align the drivers, which of course wouldn't make them HL5s anymore.
"...and Heaven is in your mind..."

Art is in the eye of the beholder, as is the sound to the ear of the listener.

One will obtain or strive for that which fulfills their goals within their means.

Since that's all pretty relative and subject to all manner of parameters that can be discussed Endlessly with no real substantial conclusion, IMHO...

Do what you like at the price point you can live with.  Spend more of your time listening....less time fretting about perfection.  I suspect we'd all be happier campers if we did so.  'Perfect' seems to be an elusive little sprite, dancing on your shoulders, whispering "What if..."

Fly swatter the little twit...;)  Get back to the basics, 'listening' as opposed to 'art of listening'.  The latter is mere recursion, an exercise in frustration.  You will never be happy always searching....
Before I got a pair of Harbeths, I went through an anti-cone ’n dome phase.  I thought a box with drivers was old technology - which it is - but thought more recent technologies would always be better.  With an open mind I’ve come full circle and much better off...

IMO Hartbeths sound better than their old school looks would suggest - but I can see how someone would question purchasing a pair on their looks - with all of the new sleek speakers out there.  But they have top quality components and highly skilled implementation of those components.  Like most speakers, the cabinetry is a big chunk of the cost, and the workmanship is first rate.

They have professional pedigree, and that’s just what speakers look like in a studio, post production suite, or broadcast booth - Alan Shaw sticks to a formula he knows and it works for some people..
The trouble is a lot of the newer designs are dictated by WAF. Now  with the transistor more power is available cheaply so they can go smaller and smaller with the box and still get bass response. A lot of the design development goes into making speakers pretty and unique not necessarily into getting better sound.  Earlier Jake said something about driving his totems with a 70 W tube amp. His point was that they are not that inefficient. But to me that is still incredibly inefficient.  If the transistor was never invented they would've focussed on making speakers more and more efficient so you can drive them with 3 W. Also it is expensive to make an efficient speaker. You need to use more expensive magnet materials and more of them. So it is much easier and cheaper for them just to use more power and make them less efficient. And then the dynamics suffer. You get way more impact and dynamics out of high-efficiency speakers than out of low efficiency speakers. 
You stated that "you get way more impact and dynamics out of high-efficiency speakers than out of low efficiency speakers."
In your opinion what is the efficiency rating that separates low efficiency from high efficiency? What sensitivity/ impedance rating is the point of demarcation?
There is no exact point as my explanation is definitely an oversimplification.  Other factors come into play such as complexity of crossover and what if you were hoping to pair with. I prefer to stick with SET and more specifically 845.  Personally I would go no lower than 95 DB efficient. You also have to be very careful because speaker manufacturers lie about their specifications. 
Last year I spent several months sweating over a speaker upgrade, though the "Harbeth sound" is "not my cup of tea", I can understand why people like them...and I'd say the same about a number of other high-quality offerings from Magico, Wilson, Sonus Faber, and a few other manufacturers whose products I auditioned.

As for Harbeth, their speakers do have a sort of "old school" construction, which also has a sort of "charm" about them.  All the models I auditioned were "easy on the ears" and "easy on the eyes", beautifully crafted with real wood veneers!

As for the price they charge, I feel the marketplace determines the "right price" for items, if they didn't sell well at their price points, Harbeth would need to make changes, but it seems that they don't have trouble selling them at the prices they offer.
Companies like Harbeth and Magnepan which have been around for several decades are like the automotive equivalent of Porsche.  They developed a product that worked when originally introduced and were well received, then they continued to refine and improve their products over the years.  They don't create a "new model" every year or two, I guess the saying " If it ain't broke don't fix it" applies here.  Some people, myself included, appreciate a timeless design on some things, others don't, AND THAT'S O.K., if something doesn't appeal to you for aesthetic reasons move on.   However,  companies that have been in business for 5 or 6 decades and continue to receive positive reviews must be doing something right.
There are tons of speakers at tons of price points (I guess that goes for all the gear).  That is one part of what is the beauty of this hobby, albeit that it can seem very confusing until you get into it a while and realize that there is no commonly held sweet spot and it is all subjective. 

But here's my direct response:  if you don't think that speaker technology has advanced sufficiently to support the price of new speakers by any given manufacturer, buy a vintage used pair!  I've been buying used speakers from A'Gon, Ebay, and Craigslist for quite some time, and I've been very pleased with the results.  I've also met a lot of nice people that way.

This allows me to do long-term trials with a given speaker brand in my own house on my own gear, something I never could afford if I went straight for the newest flagship model.  Some day I will probably decide I like a given house sound the best and splurge for their flagship, but until then, I am enjoying the variety and affordability of used stuff.  People love their audio gear and much if it is well cared for!

Plus with each type of speaker, my taste in music temporarily shifts:  B&W good for hard rock, Magnepan good for progressive and jazz, etc.  Fun stuff to try out!
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I do the same. I'm very happy buying older models for much less.

Just bought some JSE .6 stand mounts for my bedroom. They sound great to me. At some point I'll probably rotate another speaker in and sell of give these to a buddy.

I hope to hear some Harbeths at some point, and think I will like them.

Fun hobby!