This is my first post to this forum. I have posted only once or twice to other audio forums but I have read about Dennis Murphy's designs for many years, noting the Ellis 1801 and his designs for Salk audio. When I learned about his launching of the Philharmonics, the combination of Dennis' reputation and plus very favorable pricing, I made the bold decision to order a pair without auditioning them.
The Philharmonic 2 speakers arrived 5 weeks ago. Dennis Murphy had customized his design for us with custom cabinets (walnut veneer boxes with black lacquer fronts), and with upgraded components, including Sonicap, Jantzen Superior caps and some Mundorf silver/oil caps for tweeter bypass.
First, I will describe our set-up and listening habits. Our listening room has a 10' ceiling height and is roughly 13' by 21'. The speakers are roughly 7' apart on a long wall. I don't often listen to audiophile recordings. Much of what I listen to may not be perfectly recorded.
I had never before owned full range speakers. Instead, I had been using monitors, initially ProAc 1SC and most recently, Usher BE718 (original model, not the one marketed in the US with updated crossover). After about a year, I replaced the Be tweeters with Usher's Diamond tweeters.
The ProAc 1sc is extremely engaging but has limitations. As with most mini monitors, the upper octaves are slightly exaggerated and the mid-base is boosted to compensate for the lack of deep base. In all, they are very musical with the right equipment and when playing the right music. However, the treble can be a bit bright and may lack desired sheen for brass. The Ushers, on the other hand, have a somewhat warm midrange, an occasional hard upper midrange, and a Be tweeter that, at times, sounds a bit aggressive.
Currently, I use a Buffalo DAC with Arduino Volume control and a Pass F5 (my Buffalo DAC is built for higher output to compensate for its lack of gain). As you may know, the Pass F5 delivers only 25 watts, 8 ohms, 40 watts, 4 ohms. I chose the Philharmonic 2 rather than the 3 because of its higher efficiency. You may wonder how the low power output of the Pass F5 can drive the Philharmonics; for my listening habits they perform beautifully.
Impressions of the Philharmonic 2:
The Philharmonics deliver sound that is very even across all spectrums, without perceivable emphasis in any frequency. They are extremely smooth without rounding things off and produce a sound that is clean, free of grain, and without harsh edges. , They are also extremely transparent and rich with detail.
Prior to the Philharmonics, some of my favorite violin recordings were hard to listen to. Renaud Capucon's Brahms Violin Sonata (Virgin) sounded thin and hard. The same was true of his rather bright Mozart concertos. With the Philharmonics, the violin loses it's etch, gains detail and airiness, and projects its woody resonance.
In Christian Tetzlaff and Leif Ove Andsnes' recording of Bartok's violin sonata, the Philharmonics deliver the voice of Tetzlaff's violin from soft whisper, without blurring any detail, to intense attack, without a hint of harshness or glare. They also reveal Andsnes' extremely dynamic, sometimes ferocious piano playing with great articulation and clarity, without overshadowing the violin. Listening to this piece on the Philharmonics is truly thrilling.
I often listen to solo piano recordings. The philharmonics appear capable of delivering the instrument's full spectrum. (I had been previously been accustomed to listening on monitors.) With the Philharmonics, I am able to hear more detail and better articulation from the left hand, plus an incredible but natural sounding shimmer from the RAAL tweeters.
In Leif Ove Andsnes' recording of Grieg's lyric pieces, recorded in Grieg's drawing room on his own Steinway model B, the Philharmonics were able to produce the piano's bell-like treble and rich mid-register. This is especially evident in Homesickness (op57), and The Brook (op62).
In Jean-Efflam Bavouzet's recording of Ravel's Jeux d'eaux on a 1901 Steinway D, the Philharmonics produce breathtakingly shimmering highs. In Bavouzet's Haydn sonatas (Chandos), I was able to hear the bright and vivid Yamaha CFIIIS with the superbly fast and nimble action for which it is known.
In Sviatoslav Richter's incomparable 1971 recording of Schumann's Symphonic Etudes, the Philharmonics deliver a lower range with detail, richness and clarity that I had never known was there. In my first listening it drew me in, immersed me completely, and left me with an incredible high.
I recently acquired a recording of Janacek's Sinfonietta, by Rafael Kubelik and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, (Orfeo). (I am interested in this piece because it is referenced repeatedly in Haruki Murakami's novel IQ84.) In its final movement, in its climax, 12 trumpets in unison play across the broad sound stage. The Philharmonics deliver the trumpet's metallic shine and the full sonic splendor of this live performance
The Philharmonics are no less remarkable with vocal performances. In Christian Gerhaher's recording of Mahler's Lieder, his baritone voice comes through with, richness, clarity and conviction. In Um Mitternacht, the emotion in Gerhaher's voice comes across with breathtaking and piercing anguish.
In Alban Berg's Seven Early Songs, performed by Barbara Bonney, (Nacht, Die Nachtgail), her warm and crystalline voice soars before you with incredible grace and ease. The Philharmonics deliver this performance with an intimacy and immediacy, as if you were there, able to hear and see the shape of her mouth.
Last but not least, in Billy Holiday's Lady in Satin, the Philharmonics reveal clarity and definition in the bass that I had not heard before in this recording. They also reveal a fragility in her husky voice that magnifies the impact of this deeply moving performance.
With these speakers, I find myself listening to music from beginning to end. I become so fully drawn in that I forget about the equipment entirely, as it no longer seems to stand between me and the performance. For this, I would like to thank Dennis Murphy, for this wonderful pair of speakers and for his willingness to work with us so generously throughout the process.