Why are Harbeth speakers expensive while its drivers are not.


Hi, 
Sorry for my dumb question, but I checked online for drivers of Harbeth, they use Seas drivers and their in-house drivers. 

For the Seas driver, the price is only around $100 each. Considering the  so why the Harbeth speakers are so expensive? 

Thank you. 
quanghuy147
I think that they are priced what the market will pay. They have gone up a great deal in the US and prices are on the high side compared to overseas. There is value to the design insight and many people are willing to pay that price. They are very nice speakers but I went a different route partly due to price in US. 
Rule of thumb is that materials are 20% of the price.  For speakers, 2/3 or so is the cost of the cabinet.

For a $4K speaker, materials would cost $800.  The cabinet would be $550 of that and $250 would be for drivers, wire, cross-over, etc.

Is what it is.


Rich 



^^^^ Yep , Only way around it is to build your own .
And I always thought it was the DRIVERS that were expensive, they claim to put a lot of R&D into those drivers......hmmm go figure. My brother Demo'd a pair of SL5s against his OLD re furbished JBL Century 100's and could not see spending the extra extra (cough) money they commanded. ROFL. And he has a AYON tube integrated amp! 


Matt M
Nostalgia costs, big time. 

Most speakers use lowest cost good enough drivers to minimize price point.

In general the two way speaker that started in the 70's is really one big cost compromise - one less driver but always of limited performance.

The tweeter is made by Seas to spec but I think the Radial2 drivers are custom designed and made by Harbeth.  For what it's worth, Harbeth speakers are like really nice furniture that happens to sounds nice too.  Honestly, I don't think they are worth it new but used they can beat out most monitor speakers in that price range and worth the price. If you're going to buy new and you want that BBC sound, you may want to consider the Spendors. 
Some of the best sounding speakers you could ever own. Lots of R&D and  time into the designs.  Price is based on performance and simple economics. They are worth it is because they sound better then competition at the same price point.  
+1 grannyring!
Grannyring is right. When the Monitor 40 got its first rave review years ago, they cost around 7k, now the latest version is over 14k. It wasn't that many years ago, and I should have bought a pair, but the point is that even then, they performed at a higher level than other 7k speakers, and if they didn't, people wouldn't be paying 14k now.
:@quanghuy
You should research other speaker manufacturers. It might surprise you how many also outsource their drivers. BTW,most won’t give that information. Hint: If they don't say they make their own drivers then you know they don't!
It's impressive when a company designs and builds their drivers in-house, e.g. Vivid, but in the end, it's the result that matters. Some designers make an art out of sourcing the best blend of drivers and the best crossover to couple them with. 

douglas_schroeder,

I think that it was you who wrote that rave review I'm thinking of..am I right? 

As a former engineer, I worked on my share of proposals writing both tech sections and working on the cost bidding.

The price for a 'thing' needs to include the time to pay for the design, prototyping, testing, quality assurance, documentation- all this time is a cost to pay all the people working on just getting the 'specs' completed.

Then there is the time in setting up the plant to do the manufacturing run, and the time in plant to then start making the item.  Everyone on the line has to be paid.

And the plant has to be paid for -usually a lease to be paid to the actual property owner.  Then there are the utilities for the plant (lighting, electricity, water, maintenance).

Then benefits for the workers - they should have benefits, right?  Health Care, a savings or profit sharing plan, etc.

And then the actual profit for the company - that is why they are in business.

Don't forget advertising costs, travel to shows, meeting with distributors.

All those costs then get prorated into how many units the company thinks they can sell (along with all the other products the company makes).

The cost of a 'thing' has to factor in ALL those other costs - not just the parts.  
Thanks ekikt. That's an excellent breakdown. We tend to forget all that is involved.
Thank you everyone for your info. I learned a lot today. I have a small pair of Harbeth, I love its sound - the BBC sound, but somehow feel that it is too expensive for its performance.  

In the future, possibly, I will buy drivers, especially, full range ones to build 'my speakers' . I guess fullrange is the easiest because you dont have to build the crossover. 
The simple answer is if they sold it at a lower (or higher) price, the decrease in revenue would not make it economically feasible to produce the speaker.

Selling at a lower price decreases revenue and creates a higher demand. Selling at a higher price decreases demand and can result in lower sales, especially if there are competing products at that price point. As an example, if you sell 100 widgets for a dollar, the revenue stream is $100.00 which covers labor, overhead and profit. If you decide to increase profit by raising the price 10 cents, that may result in selling, say, 90 widgets and the total revenue is $99 which means a loss of a dollar. Or your sales can collapse completely if there are multiple widget competitors who kept their price lower.

Setting the price to cover expenses and make it worthwhile to produce a product is tricky, especially when there is fierce competition for the consumer's dollar. 
I'm a Harbeth lemming.  They just sound right to me.
It's a business.  They sound great. They have overhead taxes etc. When you develop something you should charge for it! 
I currently use the P3SER, and they are superb. I bought them used, as I almost invariably do with audio components, and am quite comfortable with the value that they represent in that context.
Roxy54, perhaps you are thinking of Doug Schneider of Soundstage.com. I am Doug Schroeder of Dagogo.com. He did the review of the Harbeth 30. I have done no Harbeth reviews.  Our identities are confused by others fairly often. 
For a $4K speaker, materials would cost $800.  The cabinet would be $550 of that and $250 would be for drivers, wire, cross-over, etc.

Can you build me cabinets for $550?  I would appreciate that very much.

If Harbeth used custom drivers for each of their speaker line the cost would be $$$$$.  You would have to order a minimum of probably 100 drivers for each speaker line before you would even get a price break and maybe even more.  I don't get why this question is even asked here and on other threads.  The cost to build a component is expensive.  The design and manufacturing of a chassis is very costly, almost as much as the parts.  Copper is not cheap, to have a piece of aluminum cut out is costly, and there are minimum requirements.  I purchased a few chassis on eBay to get my projects started years ago and two chassis from eBay  cost me over $300 from China.  Using custom drivers may help the sound but then again if they change the line and do not use the same customer drivers then the consumer is screwed.  They would not stock drivers that they would not use anymore.

Also when you design a component, there are so many variables in resistors, wire, caps, wood, metal, connectors, that you cannot possibly try every one.  You may try a few based on what you know or recommendations of others, but you cannot try every combination.  Once you are in production, minimum quantities can help drive down the material costs.  How many designs of a particular speaker line did they try before it sounded right to them.  Prototype after prototype to get the sound correct and then the actual manufacturing of the final speaker cabinet.  Then there is shipping boxes and foam (figure over $100 per box for a 30lbs component.  Then take 30% for corporate taxes, payroll tax, SS tax, unemployment tax, etc.  Dealers want 30-50% off retail to sell you components, so you are left with a small margin over your total costs.

As I have mentioned in my posts recently, I build DACs, Preamps, Phono stages and amps.  I have over $40K in initial parts expenses just to build  and test the prototypes.  And I would imagine that my expenses are relatively low compared to Krell!  Look at the new chassis Dan builds now.  Got to be $5K per chassis.

Happy Listening.

   
US price

40.2 - $14695
30.1 - $5495
Super HL5 Plus - $6395

UK price (in US dollars using google)

40.2 - $13229
30.1 - $3307
Super HL5 plus - $4094

I guess fullrange is the easiest because you dont have to build the crossover.
Look at Voxativ, especially in the context of this thread.
I just wish Harbeth would open a plant in China…they could put a 40.2 in every home in the world! *sigh*….
I own a pair of Harbeth Super HL5's that I bought about ten years ago. I have always enjoyed them. So, maybe seven or eight years after I got my SHL 5's, Harbeth introduced the SHL 5 plus. I am not sure how many years Alan Shaw dedicated to refining the SHL 5 plus to make it better than the SHL 5. It was years, though, and he is a professional. He has all of the necessary resources and a particular aesthetic. He built upon a traditional speaker that dates back to the Spendor BC-1 and/or its BBC equivalent, the LS3/6. Suffice it to say, it's difficult, expensive and time-consuming to make a speaker like this better than its predecessors. If we want someone to do this, we need to pay for it and the cost of the SHL 5 plus reflects that work. It seems expensive to me, too, as do the other speakers produced by Harbeth including the 40.2, 30.1 and HLP3 ESR.

Harbeth is a successful company and is selling a very well-reviewed product in the SHL 5 plus. I don't know how many SHL 5's or SHL 5 plus speakers Harbeth has sold or will sell but I bet that it is not that many when one considers all of the work just to develop and refine the speaker. Maybe if SHL 5 plus speakers sold in quantities rivaling iPhones or big screen TV's, SHL 5 plus speakers would cost a whole lot less.

Like it or not, we participate in a hobby with not so many other people. It does not cost less to refine a product that sells relatively few sets than to refine a product that sells in greater quantities. And the fact that the SHL 5 plus costs $6,395 in the US means that not so many people can afford them. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in September 2014 that U.S. median household income was $51,939. It has almost certainly risen some since then but not enough to put a pair of SHL 5 plus speakers in every household. 

Were it as simple as building a pair of two cubic foot boxes, putting some stock drivers into them and soldering together a simple crossover to get a pair of speakers that better the Harbeths, wouldn't a lot of people just do that? In my mind, Harbeth owners hire Alan Shaw to work years and years to refine something that suits our taste and meets some reasonable technical standards. The cost of the materials is certainly relevant but, in my mind, does not represent the primary source of value.
"Selling at a lower price decreases revenue and creates a higher demand."

I can affirm from experience that is not always the case, particularly in a luxury or image-oriented market.  Without other info, people will first assume something is worth about what you charge for it, and will virtually never assume it is worth more than that!  Charge too little in hifi or software and sales will approach zero.
From what I can assess very expensive drive units aren't necessarily more than that: very expensive. I'm not saying they're incapable, but quality drivers can be made for much less (why then spend more?), and implementation is key. It seems to me the drivers in Harbeth speakers are capable of doing what they're meant to do, and a lot of research goes (and has gone) into their voicing and tonality by ear, to a degree that seems unequaled. The late Peter Snell chose rather standard looking drivers for the A/II model from Becker, Philips and Audax, but the speakers allegedly sounded wonderful (have only heard the later A/IIIi which was not of Mr. Snell's voicing, but a friend of mine has extensive experience with both models, and clearly favored the older A/II's). On the other hand, the Living Voice Vox Olympian's/Palladium's use drivers from UK-based Vitavox (among others) which cost downright fortunes (some £3,100/3,300 for the bass and midrange driver respectively, a piece), but these are clearly chosen following extensive tuning and implementation and for very specific purposes.
What's interesting is also Harbeth's attention towards enclosure "tuning," regarding them as an essential part of the overall sonic imprinting and contribution. Many if not most manufacturers seem almost (blindly) hellbent on killing vibrations first and foremost, rather than "playing along" with their contribution in having an ear for their signature, and this way they may end up with detrimental sonic by-products not intended. Going by the non-resonant enclosure approach, when rather successful, I find exposes the sound of the drive units all the more (and not necessarily for the good), and moreover has a tendency to deaden the sound in ways that comes off unnatural to my ears. Harbeth's approach seems a rather smart one, in that they combine a sensitive ear for live, natural sound, and knows how to apply or convert this into engineering and construction that will eventually present a fairly authentic sonic facsimile.    
Nice comment made by phusis...Not easy to make a speaker.  $100 for a tweeter isn't cheap by the way.  Focal inverted domes used to cost $45, morels for less than 50, dynaudio 6" could be had for $130, scan speaks woofer/midrange for less than $100... But putting it all together and making it sound its best is a long process of trials and errors.  The quality of the drivers is one thing, the expertise is really what makes a difference.
Well this is interesting. 

It seems to obvious to suggest that perhaps those far more expensive drivers would not...
A. Sound as good as the ones Harbreth uses.
B. Match the crossover.
C. Are as reliable.
D. Are as musical sounding.

Sorry for the mix-up Doug!
John 
All great points above. I can only add to what davt said about what the market wll pay (or bear). It would scare the hell out of me to be a speaker manufacturer in this day of countless manufacturers. Anyone can go out of business at any time. If a company such as Harbeth marked their product up 1000 %, I wouldn't hold it against them. It simply doesn't matter how much it costs If the public isn't willing to pay the retail price. If Harbeth believed they could sell 10000 speakers a year CONSISTENTLY, they would be willing to sell for a lot less. Another factor comes into play then; would they really want to see their speakers in BestBuy! Scary, scary, scary.
One further thought. I wouldn't expect a speaker manufacture to change out drivers overtime the driver company called to say they have a newer " better sounding " driver available. 
Further the speaker manufacture, Harbeth in this case would have to change the model or put a II after it to designate the change. 

Price is based on the perceived value of Harbeth speakers by customers and not by how much they really cost.
I recently finished building the Linkwitz design, LX minis, and put together the "cabinets" for about $200 by purchasing the flatpack from Madisound. The dipole designs are much easier to get right than the fancy boxes, and these also use an active crossover and seas drivers. The sound is certainly different than the Harbeths. The stereo imaging is about the best I have heard.  Seigfried  has certainly spent the time to improve on his earlier designs, and charges only $100 to allow you to reproduce them. Give them a listen  and a look on the internet.
I bought a pair of dealer demo P3’s around 6 mos ago. Started them off in my main room, driven by Croft phono Int, I bought for them shortly after. In that room I ran a Tsd-15, Amadeus, A23 SUT. They were clearly able to show the potential of that front end...very detailed, and spacious. I have heard people describe them as warm and fuzzy, but not IMHO. Then I chose to set them up in the bedroom, so I can enjoy them more often. Currently have the Croft and Sony PS1 on the top shelf of an Ikea Besta TV stand, which is about 22" high with legs. Stays well below the drivers, and allows them to image nicely. Very enjoyable, but a turntable is in the works. Also thinking about getting back in to digital, since it’s a bedroom system, and I don’t wake up to my cartridge spinning in the dead wax (-: Wonderful speakers!
When a OLD speaker from the 70’s (JBL Century 100) can sound close too or every bit as enthralling as a pair of these Harbeths it really makes one think ... Do I want to spend thousands of dollars to upgrade...NOT! I think these are the most over priced speakers in todays market, all these costs mentioned above have been in place for decades with this company, they should be making speakers in the 3k to 7k range ...NO more for what they are offering! IMHO that is. Also, there are many companys (besides Harbeth) out there charging way too much for their products ...but like someone already said " Its what the market will bear".

Matt M
Ain’t nothin’ like dem JBL’s for playin’ Donna Summer at full throttle! 
Why single out Harbeth?  Like every other speaker out there, price is set by what the consumer is willing to pay, not the cost of manufacture.  People have money to burn and these guys cater to them.  
It is not always about $$$$$. How many of you think that if these " more expensive drivers " would sound amazing that Harbeth would not use them. 

I don't. 

Matt,
I can understand what you are saying, but if you have heard the Harbeth 40.1, I think you would feel differently because it 's performance is far superior to an older JBL, as nice as they may be.
As others above have pointed out, why spotlight Harbeth? Last week I heard a pair of SHL 5 Plus's and I thought they were excellent. i have also heard the others in their line...and all are IMO excellent speakers. There are so many other "offenders" out there that are charging multiples of what Harbeth asks...and IMO not getting any better sound ( many not even as good). Why not use them as an example??
I hate to say this, BUT compared to so many of the competitors, I feel that Harbeth's are actually a deal! 
Oh, who really cares how much the drivers cost and the other parts that make up the speaker, if the manufacturer can make them sound great; isn't that what it is really all about?
What would you rather have, a speaker that sounds like crap and uses ultra pricey components for a high price??
daveyf- All great points. Especially about other speaker manufacturers. Like the ones charging 45K for a 10" woofer, mid, and tweeter..... And then 65K for the next model, with an extra woofer. I'm not necessarily complaining about these guys, but it does seem crazy to single out Harbeth!

Manufacturers are raising prices because many audiophiles are buying on price and name brand not value per $ spent. So if your offerings are not costly enough your not considered  to be audiophile quality. A audiophile will buy the line that sure we use cheaper everything than our competition but we have the magic and the others do not. Trust me transducers greatly effect the end result of a loudspeaker design. Sure a good designer can  take cheap and make a passable end result but give them better quality and end result is better quality.
Selling high-end speakers is a difficult business. It's normal for the consumer to pay a lot more than the raw cost of the parts used. As other people have commented above, there are many good reasons for that... You pay for the end product, which is a combination of multiple components "working" together. Typically cheaper drivers with properly designed crossovers/cabinets sound a lot better than expensive drivers with bad crossovers. If you don't want to pay the premium speaker manufacturers charge, take a look at some DIY designs. DIY speakers would be the best bang for the money as you would not have to pay for R&D, marketing, and all other expensive that make a speaker with $100 driver cost $10K+. The problem is you would not be able to audition a DIY speaker before you make it... 
I bought a brand new pair of SHL 5 Plus's this year and my purchase wasn't out of desperation or anything. I don't feel as though I got ripped off any more so than I would feel with any other speaker.  One of my closest friends is the owner of a hi-fi shop and sells Raidho, Sonus Faber, Dynaudio, Revel , Maggies and the list goes on. I've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to listen to all this great gear. For my ears and taste in music the SHL 5 speakers are perfect and at times hauntingly so. I had to keep my REL B3 and it integrates very well. I'm picking up some after market binding post jumpers this weekend (Nordost) so we'll see how that goes. I personally don't think this rig could sound any better than it does now. Take a good look at a Radial driver some time. They're rather impressive.

Happy listening!
donjr1,246 posts02-23-2017 11:33amI bought a brand new pair of SHL 5 Plus's this year and my purchase wasn't out of desperation or anything. I don't feel as though I got ripped off any more so than I would feel with any other speaker.  One of my closest friends is the owner of a hi-fi shop and sells Raidho, Sonus Faber, Dynaudio, Revel , Maggies and the list goes on. I've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to listen to all this great gear. For my ears and taste in music the SHL 5 speakers are perfect and at times hauntingly so. I had to keep my REL B3 and it integrates very well. I'm picking up some after market binding post jumpers this weekend (Nordost) so we'll see how that goes. I personally don't think this rig could sound any better than it does now. Take a good look at a Radial driver some time. They're rather impressive.

Would appreciate if you can update on the Nordost jumpers. I tried bare Rega wires between the binding posts of the SHL5 Plus and the differences were minor to my ears. The stock metal links went back in. Nonetheless I may be trying some proper jumpers with terminated ends sometime in the near future though I'm not looking to spend huge money on this.