Harbeth Speakers- Doing Something Right....

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by avanti1960, Jul 25, 2019.

  1. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    Certain models of Harbeth speakers are sold out at their Fidelis AV distributor- and have a SEVEN to EIGHT WEEK LEAD TIME despite recent price increases this year. Of course they are a supremely high quality audiophile caliber speaker but- What is going on?

    Overseas buyers ?
    Made in UK bottleneck keeps supply low, demand and mystique high?
    They are that good?
     
  2. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Didn't you used to have Harbeth speakers of your own?
     
  3. benzo

    benzo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ft. Worth, Tx, USA
    Lean manufacturing, it's the way of the world now. Most of my vendors have a similar lead time for standard stock products that IMO should be on the floor to ship at any time. Very aggravating..
     
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  4. bhazen

    bhazen Infinitely Baffled

    Location:
    Newcastle, WA
    It's been like that for awhile with Harbeth. Seems like when I ordered my first pair (C7ES3's, back around 2012) it took ages for them to get here.
     
  5. theprivateer

    theprivateer Active Member

    Location:
    Singapore
    Alan Shaw has always made a big deal about how their order books are constantly full, especially with orders from Asia. To me, it’s a brand with relatively small production scale - and also sales volume - compared to the big dogs like Focal or B&W anyway.

    Most Harbeth buyers are a bit of a different crowd, small but with high brand loyalty and less likely to change models frequently. A month or two wait is less likely to deter potential buyers.

    Finally, it’s a brand with very little new News, so whenever something slightly interesting like the Anniversaries come out, loyal fans pick it up as an excuse to change over their treasured models.
     
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  6. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Forum Resident

    Location:
    East Bay, CA
    Yes.

    Anyone outside of the UK is an overseas buyer. I would predict that there are more customers worldwide than in the UK alone.

    Harbeth has been extremely successful in reviews for the last 5 years, and, the 40th Anniversary series, in particular, has also increased customer demand because of the increased engineering specification. This has resulted in an increase Harbeth's overall market share, unlike the market share of other high-end speaker manufacturers. This is documented by Alan Shaw in a video interview.

    Manufacturing in the UK does not mean there is a "bottleneck" purposely keeping supply low. I don't understand what you are alluding to here, other than possibly casting aspersions on British manufacturing on the whole.

    Nor does "mystique" impact product manufacturing TAKT time. Harbeths are entirely hand-made, and are manufactured, calibrated, and QC'd in matching pairs by a small workforce. The 7-8 week "TAKT time" (what you refer to as the the "lead time") is the result of the the manufacturing, calibration, and QC cycle time and the customer demand.

    Yes.
     
  7. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Forum Resident

    Location:
    East Bay, CA
    Lean manufacturing actually decreases manufacturing process cycle time and TAKT time. It does not increase it. "Batch and queue" manufacturing causes increases in product TAKT time.

    Keeping unsold inventory in stock is a poor manufacturing best-practice and results an in manufacturing operation's COPQ (cost of poor quality).

    Delivering product based on TAKT time results in increased quality and also profit for a company. A company that is not profitable is not sustainable, and cannot continue to fund product research, product manufacturing process development, QC procedure development, nor pay staff.
     
    HiFi Guy, CraigVC, papatwo and 2 others like this.
  8. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, Idaho
    'Alluding to'... good grief. Alan is smart enough to not ramp up production with all the attendant costs that would involve. That's all that means.

    Are they that good? As good as they are expensive? No.
     
    nstereo, Baaronj, Benzion and 2 others like this.
  9. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Forum Resident

    Location:
    East Bay, CA
    Alan is building conforming product as fast as his TAKT time allows. This is the only sustainable way to run a manufacturing business.

    Value = Quality/Price

    Do you actually own a pair of Harbeths?

    To know if their Quality is commensurate with their Price to provide a sufficient value proposition driving their sales demand?
     
  10. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    Could have something to do with their cabinets being supplied by a competitor. Maybe they have to take a backseat on the production line.

    Regardless, the back orders are not an issue exclusive to the Harbeth brand. Graham, Stirling, and Spendor Classics have similar availability stateside. These brands also sell in far greater numbers in the East Asian market.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2019
    SandAndGlass and Slippers-on like this.
  11. bruce2

    bruce2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Connecticut, USA
    Aren't their cabinets supplied by Spendor? Speaking of which, my new Spendor A1s sound so good to me I would love to compare them to the Harbeth P3esr, and see if the Harbeth really sound any better for the extra $500 they cost.
     
    Tawaun A Williams likes this.
  12. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    Yes.

    Doubtful, I can't imagine they sound better based on my audition of P3s and A4s. Probably the other way around if anything.
     
    bruce2 likes this.
  13. Norco74

    Norco74 You can tell me by the way I walk...

    Are they good? Yes

    As good as they are expensive? That is a matter of taste versus what the competition is offering in the same price range and obviously your budget.

    I listened to the HL5 plus a few times. This is definitely a speaker I can live with for a long time. A bit too pricy with the current exchange rate.
     
    Baaronj, avanti1960 and Strat-Mangler like this.
  14. Mintsauce

    Mintsauce Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hertfordshire UK
    I bought Shl5+ in Tiger Ebony earlier this year. It was just under three weeks from the point I ordered them to the day I was able to collect. This is in the UK, I absolutely love them, well worth the wait!
     
  15. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    From what I heard from a dealer, the number of builders of their speakers is quite small, and the same week that they fired or otherwise lost an employee, another one unexpectedly died. That created quite a backlog. For this dealer, it is quite a problem because his other primary brand of speaker is Audio Note and they are reliably slow in getting orders filled.
     
  16. benzo

    benzo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ft. Worth, Tx, USA
    "Lean manufacturing " was the wrong term, I suppose. I'll agree that keeping unsold inventory on the floor costs a company money; it also serves customers better with much quicker turnarounds. In the case of a luxury purchase such as a loudspeaker, this is acceptable. Unfortunately this practice seems to have become the norm across many industries, though. I sell industrial airblast machines and many vendors are experiencing similar lead times. In this case, the practice is unacceptable and only leads to lost sales. Cheers!
     
    timind likes this.
  17. Larry Seinfeld

    Larry Seinfeld Forum Resident

    Location:
    Philly Pa. USA
    I got 30.2s in March. It took only a week for dealer to get from east coast supplier.
     
    Rickchick likes this.
  18. maglorine

    maglorine Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Fairport,NY
    It’s a balancing act. Efficient production and responsive supply don’t always go hand in hand. Do you have long leadtimes for materials? Is your demand seasonal or lumpy? What are your payment terms? There are many factors at play. Outsiders are rarely able to peg the root cause of these disruptions. Hell, insiders sometimes can’t pin down the root causes correctly.
     
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  19. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, Idaho
    Speaking of cabinets, I have a friend in the business who swears Harbeth gets their cabinets from China. I keep telling him he's crazy. Anyone heard anything about this?
     
  20. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    That's Bull. A major dealer (won't disclose which for obvious reasons) who moves a lot of these speakers, told me that Spendor also makes the cabinets for Harbeth and Stirling.

    It makes good business sense.
    Instead of dealing with the challenges of Chinese manufacturing, you contract it out to an experienced, local company, which allows on-site QC, instead of stationing a permanent party overseas. Also minimizes transportation costs. These two advantages will go far in minimizing the difference in labor cost.
     
  21. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    ^This excerpt aligns with with what I've been told:

    Spendor is unique in having its own cabinet-making plant in the UK, and the company also supplies cabinets to other British speaker brands - including some of its direct rivals

    From Spendor A7 review | What Hi-Fi?
     
  22. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    If US sales were large enough for a distributor to hold a large inventory of speakers, it would be possible to make quick delivery. But, that is not the case with Harbeth and Audio Note and a wide range of other companies. Also, when a small, single order for a few items is made by a dealer, it might not be practical to fill that order and ship just one or two items. My local dealer does not get a shipment from Audio Note until the order becomes big enough to lower the unit cost of shipping. Overseas shipping can be extremely costly. This dealer got a shipment of speaker drivers from Japan where his shipping cost was $10,000 (obviously, these had to be very valuable speakers to make incurring this cost worthwhile).
     
    DeRosa likes this.
  23. Blair G.

    Blair G. Senior Member

    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Demand exceeds production capacity, happens everywhere including my business.
    Increasing capacity though is a slippery slope so I doubt things will change.
    I liked the Harbeths I’ve heard (primarily the smaller ones) but not enough to buy them.
     
    weirdo12 likes this.
  24. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    Absolutely not- more like the idea that they do not want to expand production to maintain quality. A good kind of bottleneck if you will.
    The word that comes to mind is astonishing. Astonishing that they can make loudspeakers that are quite expensive at face value relative to the offerings on the market- in an era where the audiophile base is dismally small and select compared to the market for mainstream home electronics, and yet they have a continual 2-month waiting list for their products. Astonishing.
     
  25. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    Yes, but the C7ES3s that I used to own were purchased on the spot at the dealer (3 years ago or so) . I was spoiled by that experience.
     
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