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Opportunity! Student thesis on the correlation of sound level (loudness) and sound quality


Staff member
As readers of HUG will well know, Harbeth's design approach and evaluation process for audio performance is based on the well established academic principle that there is a perfect correlation between how loud the audio event is (explosion, alarm, musical instrument and perfomance, audio electronics, loudspeaker) and how it is subjectively perceived. We have proved this to our entire satisfaction, and applied the knowledge to create successive generations of highly respected loudspeakers.

The consumer audio (as opposed to the professional audio) industry proceeds as if there is no correlation whatever, as the subject is not discussed or even considered and rejected, in consumer audio reviews and retail audio demonstration. It is 'the elephant in the room'.

This company believes that a fresh review of all previous published research is long overdue to validate the long-held academic position, and to place the subject in the context of today's manufacture and marketing of audio equipment globally. A comparison of consumer audio marketing techniques since the 1950s is also required to create a context for the project.

Harbeth is considering offering a bursary to fund a student or students currently registered at a UK university and reading a relevant subject, to take-up this project and prepare a comprehensive overview of the issue. Fresh thinking, an open mind and the ability to conceive and run subjective/objective comparisons to support academic conclusion is essential. A fascination with audio and/or the ability to play a musical instrument is neither required nor ideal in the interests of impartiality. A hearing test will be necessary to establish a perception baseline.

There is neither the time, need or desire on behalf of Harbeth to influence or steer the project towards a verdict, so a suitable student would have to demonstrate the ability to work progressively and autonomously towards a conclusion that would stand-up to proper international scrutiny.

A formal project pre-approval by academic staff at the university, who will be expected to monitor progress, will be required.

Apply to Harbeth HQ by email marking your mail "Student research bursary".


Staff member
Something has to be done to manage this perpetual issue. Of course, we have no difficulty accepting that just as with cars and their tuning and adornment, folk want to share their subjective and emotional experiences. The problem is that a manufacturer's own forum, such as HUG, is not the best place to do that when such feedback may be contrary to the spirit and objectivity of the original design. Even worse, recommendations for ancillary equipment may be deemed as unauthorised recommendation by the designer when in fact the manufacturer may be aware, unlike the public, that some ancillary equipment offers extremely poor value for money, and may well degrade the overall performance.

Interesting to note that after-market car engine oil additives, such as molybdenum, promoted to the public as offering guaranteed fuel saving and wear resistance - surely good things - find no 'advertising' opportunity on car manufacturer's own web sites and forums. One has to conclude that the public has neither the skill, interest nor technical resources to explore any hidden negative characteristics consequent upon introducing unauthorised design changes, and which the car maker is all too technically aware although the public blissfully unaware.

My core observation is that it is extremely foolish to believe that the most true-to-source-recording system sound can ever be achieved by the random combination of audio equipment in the absence of careful and dispassionate appraisal of such equipment on the lab bench. Such a random cobbling together of audio gear will inevitably place the system sound on a continuum between dreadfully cloudy and clear sky. Objectively then, where does your system lie, and objectively again, what is the primary limiting factor? You simply cannot answer that factually unless there was some technical logic in the assemblage of the entire system.

If we strive for a truly (that is, objectively) great home audio system, then its design and construction must be predicated on scientific reality. Only then we can settle back in the certain knowledge that for our budget and motivation, we have actually maximised our personal audio nirvana. Any other strategy leaves nagging doubt.


Active member
Yes, a direct approach might the successful. The University of Southampton has "several collaborations with industrial partners and welcome enquiries for new collaboration."
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