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Harbeth in Malaysia (from HUG)

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Post by Anwar on Wed Jan 01, 2020 8:35 pm

I posted a question about new Harbeth importer/distributor in Malaysia in Harbeth User Group (HUG), given that Sam Chan of Tropical Audio has retired.  If you have HUG account, you can view it here:

https://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/threads/harbeth-in-malaysia.79733/

If you don't have HUG account, let me summarize it here (up to 8pm 1/1/2020 only):

My original question posted on Dec 17, 2019: In Harbeth website, Tropical Audio (M) SDN BHD is still listed as the dealer for Malaysia. We in Malaysia know that Mr Sam Chan is winding down his business - his shop was sold. All Harbeth speakers at Sam's shop, both new and display units, have been sold as well.  Please enlighten us who will be the new Harbeth dealer for Malaysia. Thank you.

Alan Shaw replied on Dec 17, 2019: We've been studying this market for some time. The first question has to be 'is there actually a market for Malaysian consumers in Malaysia'? Or is there an opportunity to tranship to just about everywhere else? Convince me.

Harbeth sales person replied on Dec 17, 2019: From January 2020 the Malaysian market will be covered by one of our existing dealers - CD Acoustic who has partnered with Asia Sound Malaysia. They have showrooms in 2 separate locations, Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. We are just finalising their first order so you will be able to hear Harbeth speakers at their showrooms from February.

On Dec 18, I posted this: Thank you for the replies. IMHO, this new dealership arrangement, that Asia Sound Malaysia needs to import thru CD Acoustic Singapore, rather than directly from Harbeth UK, will shut down the Malaysia market. Based on indicative price by Asia Sound's dealer, the price will increase 50% or more compared to Tropical Audio's price, since the Singapore company also needs to make money from sales in Malaysia.

Alan Shaw posted this on 31 Dec 2019:  You have enjoyed the benefits of unauthorised discounting for many years. It has seriously disturbed the global market for Harbeth and was under intense scrutiny by our sales manager. When repeated cases of customers making long international flights to KL solely to buy discounted speakers came to light, we had to investigate. There is an obvious expected correlation between GDP, disposable income and sales.

Harbeth speakers are fairly priced to allow the distribution chain to cover costs and make an adequate living to provide long term support to customers.  We accept a rebalance of demand/price in a market to support our global vision of a clean distribution network and to finance long term customer care.  Speakers we export to a territory we expect to remain in that territory not to be thousands of miles away a week later creating Warranty registration issues for their owners.

Another post from Alan Shaw same day: Noted. This issue was basically out of control. One way or another, it has run its course. If you bought in Malaysia first-hand (brand new) and you live in Malaysia you should be entitled to Warranty if you register.

For clarity, Malaysia is a self governing country that does not extend beyond its geographic border. Malaysia territory and sales market most definitely does not extend into Singapore, another self-governing territory nor to Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Australia or anywhere else.

Then I posted this 1 Jan 2020: If in other countries Harbeth can deal directly with importer in each country, then why for Malaysia, Harbeth refused to deal directly with Asia Sound, instead Asia Sound needs to import from Singapore through CD Acoustic? CD Acoustic should sell and make money for local market in Singapore, consistent with your comments above about territory.

Asia Sound has been importer of Rega and other brands for many years. They have good distribution network. Asia Sound should be allowed to import directly from UK to reduce unnecessary costs due to multiple exchange rates (from UK pound to Singapore dollar, then Singapore dollar to Ringgit Malaysia) and also multiple shipments (from UK to Singapore, then Singapore to Kuala Lumpur). These cost savings can be passed to the local Malaysia Harbeth customers. Otherwise, Harbeth in Malaysia will be overpriced.

Finally, AS replied:  I am not going to enter into protracted discussions on HUG about finely balanced commercial decisions. The observations you make are obvious.

I will say though that our Singapore agent is our longest standing distributor - customer No.1 back to the beginning of Harbeth - and he has commercially suffered for many years due to the situation in Malaysia. Now is the time to try and reverse the balance.

We have in place performance metrics and will continue to monitor the situation in that region closely. If further fine adjustments prove necessary, we will not hesitate to make them throughout our global sales network.


In summary, Alan Shaw wants to make CD Acoustics Singapore happy, not to make his end customers happy.  What will happen next is that if we want to buy brand new Harbeth loudspeakers in Malaysia from Jan 2020 onward, we will need to pay around 30-50% more than Sam's price, depending on model.  That will make Harbeth in Malaysia really overpriced, and not worth to even consider it, given competitive price by other speaker brands.

If you have HUG account, please share your thoughts in the HUG thread.  Otherwise, I would like to hear from others here in hifi4sale.


Last edited by Anwar on Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:08 am; edited 2 times in total
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Post by WillT on Wed Jan 01, 2020 9:27 pm

The first question has to be 'is there actually a market for Malaysian consumers in Malaysia'?

We is ikan bilis la. Not bad. Small fry insignificant. Hahaha ... this is what we are to the omputeh.
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Post by tweakman on Wed Jan 01, 2020 9:40 pm

Bro, do you know the prices in Singapore (converted to ringgit) and the prices of Asia Sound in Malaysia?

It appears that Alan Shaw is not convinced there's really a big enough harbeth market in Malaysia to appoint a new distributor to replace tropical audio.

If the prices of Asia Sound is indeed at least 50% higher, then it doesn't matter anymore if there was a big enough market.


Last edited by tweakman on Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:39 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : To correct typo)

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Post by ongaaron on Wed Jan 01, 2020 10:36 pm

Good luck to Asia Sound if they cannot match Sam’s price. Nobody in Malaysia is going to pay RM9k for P3esr.

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Post by WillT on Thu Jan 02, 2020 12:25 am

Price of P3ESR rosewood in Singapore is about rm8,900. 😬
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Post by ZHAM on Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:42 pm

HUG has configured the thread and has made it to be dormant i.e. not opened for further replies. 

So sad that Harbeth a.k.a AS has made such decision (not to appoint a direct distributor in Malaysia) based on the so-called assumption that the Malaysia's market was just tiny for Harbeth.

I remember clearly on Sam's philosophy in selling Harbeth in Malaysia. The main philosophy was to let as many malaysians to get an opportunity to own Harbeth at a VERY REASONABLE PRICE as well as to promote his belief that listening to most natural sounding speakers should be the ultimate culture. He has working so hard since early 80s for achieving such philosophy and along the way we have enjoyed the benefit of the same.

This latest Harbeth's business standpoint is seems may defeat (most likely) all the tireless Sam's hard works for the past good years. 

Dear Sam, thank you very much for your outstanding efforts and wish you happy retirement. Hope that your health will ease whilst you are enjoying your retirement.

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Post by Anwar on Fri Jan 03, 2020 2:56 pm

Yes, AS has blocked the "Harbeth in Malaysia" thread which I started.

While Sam sold Harbeth at very good price, his old-fashioned business model is flawed.  I can only hear Harbeth speakers with Quad electronics, which was a turn off for me.  Not everybody outside KL can come to listen/buy at his Setapak's shop.  Self transportation of speakers and stands can be a challenge for many.

If the importer of a loudspeaker brand also sells through their dealers' network, then we can hear the loudspeaker paired with other brands of electronics, closer to what we have at home.  Having dealers near where we live facilitate easier audition followed by purchase and delivery + installation by dealer.  This will lead to greater sales for the country represented by the importer.

The real issue right now is why Malaysia importer/distributor has to go through another company in Singapore instead of directly with Harbeth UK.  I guess potentially there will be price fixing to discourage cross-border purchase.

Worth reading this:
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_18_4601
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Post by STC on Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:51 pm

I have always enjoyed Harbeth showroom sound during the KLIAV shows. It will be interesting to see how the new distributor/dealer going to setup their Harbeths this year. 

Alan’s remark that our market was insignificant came as a surprise to me. Whatever it is Harbeth depends on the Japanese market then anywhere else. Hard to believe there are more Harbeths owners in Spore than Malaysia.  

Personally, I wouldn’t bother to buy from someone so condescending about consumers grouse about the pricing or insinuating a long standing dealer about how they conducted their business. Not publicly anyway.
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Post by mofaz on Fri Jan 03, 2020 9:21 pm

In his interviews he does comes across as a typical snobbish Englishman..

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Post by WillT on Fri Jan 03, 2020 10:55 pm

At the cheapest we will be paying Singapore prices. So for the P3ESR it will be up against the ProAc Tablette 10 Signature. ProAc bookshelf speakers not tha cheap too, the better ones that is.

The M30.2 will be pitted against something like the Dynaudio Special Forty or a ProAc D2R. That would be competitive.

Biar la. It is what it is ...
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Post by ryder on Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:19 pm

ongaaron wrote:Good luck to Asia Sound if they cannot match Sam’s price. Nobody in Malaysia is going to pay RM9k for P3esr.

Does anybody know how much Asia Sound is selling the Harbeth Super HL5 Plus now? RM21k? Do they sell the M30.2 40th Anniversary and if yes how much is the price.

Suddenly the Harbeth brand seems to appear high end already with the new distributor or dealership's all-new "high-end" prices. I recall buying my first pair of Super HL5 (non-Plus at that time) from Tropical Audio 10 or 11 years ago at RM8.9k only if my memory doesn't fail me. The cheapest Harbeth you can buy in the world I think. I'm glad i got my final pair of Harbeth speakers from Tropical (SHL5+) as they will likely be my final pair of speakers that will follow me to my grave. Well, everything will eventually come to an end and it is unfortunate that there is no successor to take over the baton and continue with business at Tropical Audio, and keeping prices down to affordable levels. With the mark-up by the new dealer(40% or 50%?) it is true that we will likely see a drastic drop of new potential owners. At least the boss can now hang up his boots and enjoy his life to the fullest now.


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Post by WillT on Wed Jan 15, 2020 5:38 pm

ryder wrote:
ongaaron wrote:Good luck to Asia Sound if they cannot match Sam’s price. Nobody in Malaysia is going to pay RM9k for P3esr.

Does anybody know how much Asia Sound is selling the Harbeth Super HL5 Plus now? RM21k? Do they sell the M30.2 40th Anniversary and if yes how much is the price.


Asia Sound says price not yet finalized. Stocks arriving around late Feb to around March. We shall know then. Wait and see.
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Post by crittertoo on Thu Jan 16, 2020 1:18 am

AS - "We've been studying this market for some time. The first question has to be 'is there actually a market for Malaysian consumers in Malaysia'? Or is there an opportunity to tranship to just about everywhere else? Convince me."

AS - When repeated cases of customers making long international flights to KL solely to buy discounted speakers came to light, we had to investigate. 

AS -  Speakers we export to a territory we expect to remain in that territory not to be thousands of miles away a week later creating Warranty registration issues for their owners

Maybe it's the cross selling of Harbeth Malaysia to other regions that made it what it is now ? AS has made it VERY OBVIOUS he is not too please. Reaping what Harbeth Msia has sowed for all the years now - maybe ?

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Post by peter chan on Thu Jan 16, 2020 11:00 am

I ever worked for both USA and UK speaker manufacturers.
For sale territory control :
They have either
a control of serial number for a sale region
/ country or
a special marking hidden inside the box
The authorized service center will first check the above before the warranty service to be carried out.

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Post by peter chan on Thu Jan 16, 2020 11:03 am

quote from crittertoo above :
""Maybe it's the cross selling of Harbeth Malaysia to other regions that made it what it is now ? AS has made it VERY OBVIOUS he is not too please. Reaping what Harbeth Msia has sowed for all the years now - maybe ?""

Above is true from manufacturer point of
view.

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Post by Anwar on Thu Jan 16, 2020 1:39 pm

What actually happened was many Malaysians working in Singapore bought Harbeth from Sam.  There were also some from India who came to KL to buy Harbeth spkrs from Sam.  It is not Sam who exported the speakers to other countries.

It is the same if we go to Adelphi, Singapore and buy hifi stuffs there to be brought back home.  Will the manufacturer penalize or bad mouth the dealers/distributors?

If you read HUG postings, only then you know the real character of AS.
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Post by crittertoo on Thu Jan 16, 2020 2:41 pm

Anwar = "If you read HUG postings, only then you know the real character of AS"


If AS is an asshole then why give our hard earned money to him ? I doubt AS is out to SCREW Malaysian users but the cross selling got way out of hand.


To me Peter Qvortrup of Audio note is an ass hole and con man...i will never spend a single dollar on AN products but I will spent thousands on Kondo.


Consumers have the power to buy OTHER products. Choice is yours

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Post by samazzah on Thu Jan 16, 2020 4:08 pm

Crittertoo, it seems you make a statement about cross selling. Well, ask yourself this what do S’pore dealers attempting to do? Cross selling.
No fan of Harbeth though, but S’pore dealers know all too well that to survive in a tiny island nation, cross selling is key
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Post by samazzah on Thu Jan 16, 2020 4:29 pm

But to be fair to S’pore, it was likely that Sam could only buy in small quantities each time and as a manufacturer that is not good. S’pore dealers with their more powerful Sing dollars could make much bigger purchases and that is why S’pore wins everytime. Also not helped by M’sian duties to be paid up front each time
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Post by Anwar on Thu Jan 16, 2020 4:45 pm

samazzah wrote:But to be fair to S’pore, it was likely that Sam could only buy in small quantities each time and as a manufacturer that is not good. S’pore dealers with their more powerful Sing dollars could make much bigger purchases and that is why S’pore wins everytime. Also not helped by M’sian duties to be paid up front each time

Not true.  Sam ordered in large quantity, hence he received quantity discount.  For example, he ordered 10 sets of M30.2 at once.  Sam also use shipping by sea, not by air, hence cost savings.

Sam used to run a lean business.  Own shop with no rental and no workers (his elder sister helped him).  All these costs savings passed to Malaysia Harbeth customers.  What is so wrong with that???

Despite all these cost savings, the price of M30.2 in KL was comparable to the price in Singapore (SGD converted to RM).


Last edited by Anwar on Thu Jan 16, 2020 5:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by samazzah on Thu Jan 16, 2020 5:13 pm

Actually 10 units is a small order. Sam was a 1 man show, thus he could only make small purchases but if he were like S’pore ‘companies’ then it would have been a different story. Nothing beats size.
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Post by tweakman on Thu Jan 16, 2020 7:15 pm

Anwar wrote:What actually happened was many Malaysians working in Singapore bought Harbeth from Sam.  There were also some from India who came to KL to buy Harbeth spkrs from Sam.  It is not Sam who exported the speakers to other countries.

It is the same if we go to Adelphi, Singapore and buy hifi stuffs there to be brought back home.  Will the manufacturer penalize or bad mouth the dealers/distributors?

If you read HUG postings, only then you know the real character of AS.
I agree no one can fault Sam when people come here to take advantage of the attractive pricing because of the weaker ringgit. We frequent Singapore too to take advantage of the better prices when our ringgit was doing well. Because I think Singapore relies a lot on international customers, I find AS's comments about alleged transhipment/cross selling by Sam to be rather unfair.

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