Philharmonic Audio Affordable Accuracy Plus - David among Goliaths?

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jonbee

Some here may know I've been seriously into audio for 53 years, with a particular fondness for speakers- I've owned over 250 pair of good speakers, including 150 or so standmounts, with about 35 pairs of stndmounts retailing for $1500-7200.
I started out as most younger folks do looking for the giant killers, cheaper speakers that could stand among the $$$ models. Speakers from the past such as the Spica TC-50, Dynaco A-25, and Large Advents from the '70s and 80s still have their adherents, for good reason. Epos 11 and 14, Ascend Sierras, etc. Revel M20s, etc, etc. I've owned all these and many more.
As I could afford more costly speakers I moved away from budget speakers, and generally found the better higher priced units were simply better, particularly in higher rez systems.
That said, these Philharmonic Audio Affordable Accuracy Plus threaten this conclusion.
Simply put, these $350/pr. recent creations from Dennis Murphy, given quality input and power, are as good sounding as any $1000/pr. speakers I've ever owned, and give chase to the $2000 up class of standmounts.
Murphy uses plain simple vinyl wrapped black boxes from Dayton Audio, along with a remarkable measuring and sounding very cheap 6.5" Dayton woofer, then tops it with the marvelous and NOT cheap ($102 ea.!) Morel MDT32S silk dome tweeter, tied together with a sophisticated 14 element crossover (looks like maybe 24db/octave). A tweeter and crossover design of this quality and sophistication are unheard of anywhere near this price, IMO, and Dennis absolutely shows his stuff with these.
So- how do they sound? Clear, transparent, neutral, wide range, and very spacious. Great depth, width and projection. Really low coloration, very good instrumental positioning.
Very inefficient, with solid, tight bass to below 40hz. and a top end that goes way out there with no hash or glare, but superb top end separation. They need quality power and a fine source, and won't play real loudly.
OK, they're good, but how good?
My favorite standmount of all I've had is what I now own, Revel Gems, which were the cost no object launch product for the Revel Co. in the late '90s. They cost $7200 without stands, were Stereophile Class A and to this day sound wonderful from top to bottom. Very detailed, yet perfectly balanced and integrated. The most satisfying small speaker I've owned. They used twin 5" titanium woofers and a Scanspeak 9700 tweeter. They are not as fast overall as some modern units, such as Accuton ceramics, Raal ribbons or beryllium tweeters, but are very convincing as is.
So- in direct comparison, how do the Phils do?
Extension at the top and bottom is very close- both go below 40Hz. and as high as I can hear.
The top end in general is pretty close- both spread percussion instruments over a wide field, and show no distracting artifacts.
The Gems are more efficient and will play much louder without complaint.
The top end balance of the Phils is a little hotter in the presence zone, but that is mostly by design, I think. Revel built in a 2-3 db. drop in this range, as their research showed listeners tend to prefer this, while the Phils are very flat across the spectrum.
The Gems sound a bit more neutral and easy on the ears overall, but just a bit.
Lastly, the Gem's titanium woofers are faster, more transparent and clear from the lower mids and down, as might be expected, but the difference does not call attention to itself, as the Phils are still very uncolored and flat in all ranges.
So, I don't think I'll drop the Revels, but I've never heard a real budget speaker that merited this kind of comparison to a superb speaker 20X the price. To me, these are the Spica TC-50s of today.
If you need speakers for a second system, or just don't want to pay big $ for premium standmounts and don't mind chunky vinyl wrapped cabinets, I recommend you buy a pair before Dennis changes his mind or retires. Make sure you feed them well, as these are legitimately high-rez, particularly from the mids on up.
Info here:
https://www.philharmonicaudio.com/aa.html
As always, your mileage may (and probably will) vary.
Have fun!

« Last Edit: 3 May 2021, 02:40 pm by jonbee »

jonbee

I forgot to mention that I'm using these in a 12x17 foot bedroom. They are replacing my Egglestonworks Fontaine, a marvelous $5400 speaker which I decided were overdriving the room. The Phil's match the Fontaine in nearly every way but efficiency. They sound as good in a larger room as well.

Rocket

Hi Jonbee,

Thanks for the review and even I'm a bit surprised by your assessment.  Everyone knows that Dennis designs a great speaker and crossover. 

Cheers Rod

NoDisco

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 107
Are they still open? I heard they closed.

Rocket

Hi,

Dennis has re-opened his business but is limiting it to the affordable monitors and the BMR monitors.

Cheers Rod

charmerci

Are they still open? I heard they closed.


That was a while ago. He has a helper now and no longer hand wires every crossover anymore. He also produces a stand alone, BMR/RAAL tower too.

NoDisco

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 107
I will have to hit him up. He wouldn’t be too much of a trip for me.

Factorz

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 168
I picked up a pair of BMR's from him recently. Really quite impressed, and dealing with him was first rate.

Rocket

Hi Guys,

I'd like to buy a pair of BMR's but I can't justify having a third pair of speakers :).

Cheers Rod

smargo

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 551

If you need speakers for a second system, or just don't want to pay big $ for premium standmounts and don't mind chunky vinyl wrapped cabinets, I recommend you buy a pair before Dennis changes his mind. Make sure you feed them well, as these are legitimately high-rez, particularly from the mids on up.
Info here:
https://www.philharmonicaudio.com/aa.html
As always, your mileage may (and probably will) vary.
Have fun!

there are at least 3-5 different companies that offer standmounts that sound very good for $350 - $500 - the last thing i need is someone to  tell me these speakers
are any better than what ive owned - Im so tired of people telling me that - only to ultimately find that the speaker isnt what i thought in my head it may sound like.

also what if i dont have expensive equip to feed them- can i just feed them average equipment? will they still sound good?

jonbee

there are at least 3-5 different companies that offer standmounts that sound very good for $350 - $500 - the last thing i need is someone to  tell me these speakers
are any better than what ive owned - Im so tired of people telling me that - only to ultimately find that the speaker isnt what i thought in my head it may sound like.

also what if i dont have expensive equip to feed them- can i just feed them average equipment? will they still sound good?
I'm not suggesting that you will like these better than what you have (that involves personal taste), but the parts quality and crossover design is way beyond any other speakers I know of at that price, more typical of $2000 speakers, and Dennis is a great designer. To my ears, they are  a stunning success.
The Morel tweeter is very resolving; so if there are problems up front you will hear them. This is not a matter of price, but performance.
In my bedroom I'm using a Parasound Z dac/pre/amp stack, and at about 50 wpc it is just enough for a small room, and just clean enough to sound good. A better front end sounds better of course, but an underpowered (current drive, not nominal watts) amp and edgy front end is not going to work well with these.

mr_bill

jonbee - I love reading your posts and always have, you have had so many great speakers and any comparisons you make are informative and valuable to me, thanks for your detailed posts and sharing your journey and findings with the rest of us addicted speakerphiles,

PS, I just found a local set of large advents and jumped on them - looking for forward to hooking them up and also will check out the Philharmonics

mr_bill

Jonbee - have you owned any of Dennis's other Philharmonic BMR speakers?

mcgsxr

Thanks for the post, I have always wanted a set of something touched by Dennis and had assumed it might be Salk in time.

I'm happy with my current speakers (Totem Model 1's), but I too love chasing the dragon of standmount/monitors.  There is just something about them, even if I pair them with a sub they still image like few other things.

jonbee

Jonbee - have you owned any of Dennis's other Philharmonic BMR speakers?
No, but the bmr looks sweet.
I don't know how long he'll still be in business. I'm glad I scored a pair of these. A classic, imo.
I have owned totem 1 sigs myself. Remarkable for the size, particularly imaging. The Phil's have some of that imaging magic too, while having a very flat top end.

DMurphy

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  • Posts: 1507
    • SalkSound
Thanks for the review Jonbee.   It's hard for me to be objective about my own work, but I do think the AA+ is pretty special, thanks in no small part to the Dayton 6" woofer that costs almost nothing but can be tuned to go amazingly low (albeit at low sensitivity).  The Morel tweeter is a very solid workhorse that, unfortunately, has become so expensive that it has done in the AA+.  You'll notice that it's no longer on my web site.  I sold out of the 50 pairs of pre-wired crossover boards I had commissioned from Bennic (they do the boards for Revel as well) and wasn't up to the logistics of selling another 50 pairs of kits, so I tried to get Meniscus Audio to take the AA+ over.  They currently offer a kit version of my BMR.  Mark at Meniscus wrote back that the Morel had increased to $102 a piece, and that they couldn't offer a full kit with the Parts Express woofers and cabinets for less than $540/pair.  I think the AA+ would be worth that if they had higher quality cabinets, but neither Mark no I think it's a commercially viable product as is.   

I just got off the phone with Mark to see if he would be interested in selling the original version of this speaker, which used the much less expensive Daton "Silky" tweeter that's a reverse-engineered version of the Morel.  I sold hundreds of those speakers and they achieve about 95% of the performance of the AA+.  The main difference is a more pronounced peak at 15 kHz (common to most domes).  I'm sending Mark the schematics and we'll see if he can bring it in at a manageable price.  (BTW, I have almost no choice in tweeters other than the Morel or Silky because the cabinets are routed for a 110 mm faceplate rather than the standard 104 mm, and that narrows the field down to these two plus one that I don't particularly care for.)  Thanks again for sharing your opinion of the AA+.  I'll report back on the status of the alternative kit.   

johnto

One of my friends has the Phil 3, which is a tremendous speaker going down to 20 hz. The quality of the parts used are amazing. They will shake be the walls.

jonbee

Dennis,
I'm sorry to hear they are no longer available, but I have mine. :thumb:
It's such a good speaker. I listen to them daily, in spite of having the $7200 Revel Gems and $18,000 Avalon Opus speakers in my other systems here.
They did seem to be too good to be economically viable at $350.
The Spica TC-50 was $420 in the early '80s, as I recall, (about $2k in today's $) and it was considered to be the bargain then. A similar speaker, too.
I've heard good things about the Dayton tweeter, though. Your crossover is key with either.
They would still be great if they even come close. People should know about them.
« Last Edit: 4 May 2021, 02:50 pm by jonbee »

DMurphy

  • Industry Participant
  • Posts: 1507
    • SalkSound
I'm going to give one other tweeter I found a try.  Twice the price of the Silky, but less than 1/3 the price of the Morel.   I really would like to find a viable replacement for the AA+.  And thanks again for taking the trouble to write your review.   

jonbee

Dennis,
FWIW, I think the balance seems slightly tilted up. Not a bad thing for me, but they might work better in mediocre systems with slightly less tweeter output.
Thanks for offering such great speakers at accessible price points!