In 2010, happenstance brought together Cody Hiebert and Nathan Funk, igniting the spark that would become Funk Audio. Cody, with a burgeoning passion for audio science, began shaping his own ideas into tangible designs. It wasn't until 2012 when Cody crossed paths with Caitlyn Harbottle that the pieces truly fell into place. Caitlyn recognized Cody's unwavering passion for audio, and in 2014, she encouraged him to transform his passion into a thriving business - thus, Harbottle Audio was born.
The genesis of this venture can be traced back to a series of disappointments in my quest for audio gear. Despite my modest skills as a musician, my exceptional ability to perceive sound accurately compensated for any shortcomings. I could tune a drum kit or guitar by ear with remarkable precision. As I delved deeper into audio with Nathan's guidance, I uncovered the multifaceted world of audio nuances, all linked to a common root cause: theoretical excursion. This revelation became my motivation to explore innovative solutions and to exercise prejudice against all matters of distortion and compression.
My love for music and movies has been a lifelong passion. In my earlier days, I would immerse myself in music using rudimentary computer speakers and cheap earbuds. While I enjoyed it, I never truly grasped the full potential of audio until I encountered Cody's two-channel hi-fi system after we got married. The clarity and richness of the sound opened my ears to a new world. Over time, I discovered that I possessed an innate ability to discern quality sound without any preconceived bias due to the fact that I rely solely on my ears to interpret what I hear. This awakening coincided with witnessing Cody's speaker design sketches and finished systems, leading me to believe that his talent deserved greater attention and investment.
In audio design, TS parameters serve as the cornerstone, outlining the driver's theoretical performance. Though they offer only a starting point, these parameters have very little to do with real-world performance as it relates to clean sound and more to do with providing a design starting point. The problem is that there are more instances where TS parameters are used to decipher the end goal, and almost with blind allegiance than the creators intended, as a simplified starting point from which to form an engineering baseline. In other words, it becomes the engineering principal itself rather than a partial set of incomplete descriptive parameters used at the start process of the methodology. And this goes a few steps further in bass from 100 Hz down to infrasonic; the decider is often viewed as displacement of the driver through its travel, which is based on parameters founded on 2.83 volts (1 Watt @ 8 ohms), not the complex and far more dynamic context of real content. Referencing theoretical displacement as the indicator of speaker ability was probably the first thing I learned that was the exact wrong thing to do because with every driver I owned, the sound changed so much before I hit my displacement goals, and some of the drivers I bought off the shelf couldn't hit calculated displacement at all, and some sounded like they were falling apart after 50 to 60 applied volts, extremely far from their theoretical capability limits. So I kept asking myself, "Where is the real content use stroke limit on this driver?"
We had a breakthrough when we analyzed the coil, magnet, and suspension in relation to their intended functions, considering factors like physics and electricity behaviors, including vector physics, magnetic flux, and phase change. Simultaneously, we realized that design simulations could be deceptive, as they assumed maximum excursion was actually attainable, and speaker driver compression (a distortion that is often ignored and rarely talked about) didn't exist. The reality was far more complex, with some drivers compressing significantly at lower volumes, leading to an unnatural listening experience.
In this narrative, a common theme emerges: the concept of "applied watts to displacement" remains largely theoretical. While a driver may claim to handle substantial wattage, identifying its true limitations is a nuanced process. Factors like thermal constraints, suspension dynamics, and inductance linearity can all contribute to a speaker's performance. Furthermore, these limitations often cascade, making the root cause challenging to uncover. This insight underscores the importance of an amplifier's role in shaping the frequency response, the impact of the speaker enclosure adding or taking away from that shape, and the DSP's ability to optimize sustained playback without compromising quality. In essence, evaluating performance solely based on displacement calculations is akin to assessing a tool's suitability based on size rather than its actual functionality. It became evident that a deep understanding of electromagnetic-mechanical-structural engineering was essential, and for this, I would need a team. We started Harbottle and named it after Caitlyn and her family; I kept my friendship with Nathan Funk well intact through some tribulation, and a man that I deeply respect as a craftsman and friend, our machinist Jordy Wallace of Focusworks EDC. This team loves audio as much as Cody does and has dedicated decades to the precision and delicate balance of physics.
Speaker drivers aren't just air movers; they possess the power to sculpt sound precisely as intended or, conversely, inadequately if pushed beyond their design limits. And so the question is, how much of their stroke limit is designed to be used.
This realization forms the genesis and bedrock of LDLC - Low Distortion Low Compression, our engineering method, and proves to be its continued enforcer and paladin. We understand that all sources of compression and distortion, not just mechanical linearity, erode the immersive sense of realism in audio content. That's why we hold ourselves to exacting standards, guarantee stroke limits to as near to mechanical bottom as possible, and meticulously craft superior products that uphold the essence of sonic realism. We revel in the art of delivering an unparalleled auditory experience.
Raw Driver Owners thread - read about our drivers from the client point of view.
First Generation GUJ
This driver has been redesigned and named RIDGE.
It still maintains the underhung motor topolgy with neodymium magnet structure.
The RIDGE 18 and 21 will deliver about 4 db more across the frequency response over the counterpart GUJ measures found on databass.