HARBETH: Buying them on-line; beware – your money is at risk

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The thread starts: From time to time, Harbeth speakers appear on on-line trading sites. These can be described as "brand new", "as new condition", "in sealed cartons", "unused", "just tested and repacked" or similar.

This post is to caution prospective bargain hunters that they are putting themselves at risk. There is no warranty outside the country of original export from Harbeth UK's factory*, and worse, there is a serious risk that the buyer will either receive substitute obsolete old-model Harbeth speakers, used speakers, competitor models or even home made speakers. A fancy colour photograph lifted from our marketing material of speakers or cartons is not a guarantee of what you will receive - it is a tease.

In a recent tragic case, an unwise buyer handed over significant money to an on-line site who he knew was unconnected with the Harbeth Official Distribution Network and took a punt. He lost his money. The speakers he was promised have serial numbers which we were able to cross-check in our ISO logs with a pair the whereabouts of which we are certain in a far removed country. There was never a possibility that the buyer could be supplied with that pair, because they are not for sale. Their elderly owner is entirely delighted with his speakers and was horrified at the though that his beloved Harbeth serial numbers had been 'stolen'.

Credible, long-term equipment manufacturers have formal distribution channels to protect the brand reputation. That translates to a standard of service which their customers demand and expect right through the ownership period, which in our case is decades. Fly-by-night backstreet or internet merchants have no loyalty to or investment in the brand whatsoever; their objective is to part the excited bargain hunter from his cash and then move on. We have no place in our Network for anything other than controlled distribution to protect you. You cannot buy a new Mercedes or genuine Rolex from a street market for the very same reason and only the most naieve consumer would be suckered into such a belief.

The Harbeth factory in its nearly 40 year history have never made for stock, and are never likely to: orders are produced in sequence according to trade customer's exact requirements of model, specification, veneer and packing - some distant markets mandate additional carefully considered packing to protect the speakers in transit. It is inconceivable that there is fresh 'surplus' brand new, current model Harbeths floating about, unsold in dusty corners around the globe.

*Harbeth UK is mandated by ISO to keep detailed records concerning every pair made. These include details of the customer, by invoice number and country. If we export to country A, we will honour any after care needs (should there be any) only in country A. Should a buyer in country B acquire the speakers, sealed or not, he will have to apply to the original seller in country A for service. No Authorised dealer in country B will support him, nor will the factory.

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