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Price: 1400 euro (pair)

Distributor: Audio Academy

ul. Kopernika 22
90-503 Łódź
tel.: (0-42) 676 74 82
tel. kom.: (0-48) 501 040 064


WWW: Audio Academy

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Marek Dyba

Already when reviewing Phoebe II loudspeakers from Audio Academy I knew that they would soon be replaced by a new model. We knew that the new one would be much more expensive (in percentage, because in fact they are still quite inexpensive products) but we also knew that the previous version would be also still available for some time, so we decided to review it anyway. And that was a good decision – Phoebe II turned out to be exceptionally well designed and inexpensive, and they received 2007 Annual Award (HERE). Later I recommended those speakers several times when answering to Readers letters. I just took a look at this review (HERE) and I couldn't believe that time flies so quickly – there was my daughter on the photo – now she is much bigger and she is a living example of how quickly things change… It's been two and half years since I wrote version's ‘II’ review (it was included in issue No. 35, March 2007), but it is only now that new version has been finally finished – it took that long to work out all the details of shape and sound. I would allow myself to dedicate the last sentence to those who claim that it takes two weeks to built well sounding loudspeakers. It turns out that in fact this is completely new design, but with the same cabinet as before (830 x 190 x 290 mm). Even the weight is still the same (14 kg), but it's sensivity changed – now it is slightly higher - 87 dB. Another important factor – impedance – now it is 4 Ω. So at the first glimpse it looks like its predecessor. But only for a short moment.. Those are still floorstanding loudspeakers, two way, front bass-reflex. But the speakers are different – there is an aluminum tweeter, exactly the same as in my own Dobermannns and used also in Aeon - studio monitors by APS. In my opinion this is one of the best (dome) tweeters on the market. Its application in such inexpensive loudspeakers seems really promising. The other driver comes from Visaton - it's low-midrange driver with die-cast basket and coated paper cone. So no more Vifa and Scan-Speak


Discs used for listening sessions:

  • Ella Fitzgerald, Songs In A Mellow Mood, Decca/Universal Music Japan, UCCU-9642, SHM-CD.
  • Yoko Ono, Open Your Box, Astralwerks, ASW 88710, CCD.
  • Depeche Mode, Sounds Of The Universe, Mute/EMI Music Japan, TOCP-66878, CD+DVD; review HERE.
  • The Beatles, Abbey Road, Parlophone/Apple/Toshiba-EMI, TOCP-51122, CD.
  • Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio, What a Wonderful Trio!. First Impression Music, FIM DXD 079, silver-CD; review HERE.
  • Adam Makowicz, Unit, Polskie Nagrania, PNCD 935, Polish Jazz vol.35, CD.
  • Jun Fukumachi, Jun Fukumachi At Steinway (Take 2), Lasting Impression Music, LIM DXD 038, silver-CD; review HERE.

I must say that Mr Michał Kęcerski, owner and designer of Audio Academy, did hell of a job here. Inexpensive, nicely finished loudspeakers present a wide range of features usually reserved for much more expensive products. Replacing my reference Harpia Acoustics speakers, usually quite painful, this time went smooth and without any problems. The main “sin” of most loudspeakers is colorization of the sound – there is too much of this and too few of that (it is the same group of distortions). Every company has to make its own compromise between pros and cons (there are no perfect speakers and there never will be any), but most of them can't handle the balance between rich timbre and how detailed the sound is. Perhaps it is about the drivers they use? – I don't know. Anyway with Phoebe III a compromise has been reached, and much better one than in most loudspeaker in the price level up to 5000 PLN that you can find in audio shops. As I said, replacing Dobermanns didn't hurt, and it is because the loudspeakers from Łódź present great tonal balance. Not too cold, not too warm– simply the ratio between all ranges has been balanced exceptionally well. It is nicely shown by the piano recordings e.g. Jun Fukamachi At Steinway (Take 2), What A Wonderful Trio! Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio or Unit Adam Makowicz, where electric Fender piano „rules”. Each time the difference between individual recordings was very clear. I have absolutely no doubts that we get a better sound from the first FIM recording, but also that generally speaking sound range in those recordings is little bit limited and on the warm side. Makowicz sounded wonderful – in rich, organically warm way, with incredible energy of lower midrange, that is often sacrificed for better articulation. There was no need to play around with it, because it is the articulation of midrange that is exceptionally good. It was also confirmed during listening to vocal recordings like Songs In A Mellow Mood Ella Fitzgerald, singing along with solo piano (played by Ellis Larkins). The voice has been presented in a strong, rich way, but without additional warmth or weight. The sound of this recording is not particularly saturated or rich, so if any element of the system colorizes midrange or higher bass, you can hear that instantly but not as “saturation”, but rather „thickness”.

The second thing I want to point out is great coherency of the sound. Loudspeakers sound like they had just one driver reproducing the whole range, and the sound is internally very well unified (read as coherent). I think it derives mostly from low distortions and accurately match phases. That's what I often miss in the other loudspeakers. And that's what puts Harpia Acoustics products so high in my private hierarchy. Phoebe III do the same thing – they produce sound as a whole – without warming it, like in the „warm” tube amplifiers which is often mistaken as coherency – with great level of details. It's the key to success – in this particular case found at shockingly – at least in this context, as reviewed speakers have also their flaws – low price. It gives Listener internal peace, like our brain doesn't have to work hard over and over again to process what one hears, and doesn't have to “recalculate” because the data it gets are undamaged. I brought up tubes moment ago on purpose – distortions generated by some of such devices, their tonal balance and withdrawn treble effect listener in similar way, allowing him to rest and relax. But no doubts that such presentation is in fact quite poor even though nice and uninvolving, but still having not too much to do with the reality. Phoebe III do it in a different way – all distortions are very low (THD and phase) and that is why we can receive them without so called fatigue (this word is rarely used these days but it is so adequate).

On top of that we get great dynamics in every possible scale. The speakers will not play as loud and freely as larger speakers with bigger bass driver. But within their limitations they will produce open and amazingly dynamic sound. Credit goes mostly to very nicely tuned bass. Bass-reflex works with “caution” - no vainly air-pumping, that is why it is easy to place them in a room. Phoebe's bass doesn't go very low, frequency range is similar to those in big monitors. Bigger cabinet eases reproduction of lower range. Bass doesn't go deeper but the lower end is more relaxed, it is not so easily “chocked” as in the monitors. And it makes sense – small floorstanding speakers are usually forced to go low to make a difference between their and same line's monitors frequency range more evident. But not in this case – this is a very good example of rational approach to speaker's making.

Rich, vibrant sound, flat frequency response, great dynamics – those are the main advantages of speakers in question. Using them you can build several different systems – ones where their cost will be the same a the cost of accompanying electronic equipment, or other ones where the value of speaker cables will already be higher. It is a solid recommendation for anybody looking for a good sound. Of course there are also flaws and I will mention them in a while as this is not a praise, cause praises are worthless if you want to expand your knowledge. I can leave flaws for the end and they are not important factor in neither selection of accompanying electronics nor cables and surely not for the preferred music. First system that would fit Audio Academy's speakers would consist of Xindak CD06 and V10 amplifier from the same manufacturer. V10 is a tube amplifier with limited output power but it absolutely has enough juice to drive Phoebes. You will get a bit warm (in a positive way), vivid sound with nice timbre. If you are afraid of tubes you can always use some solid-state amplifier, like Marantz PM6003 still with Xindak's CD player. To get to the higher level I would choose Leben CS300, D/A converter STELaudio DAC-4 (there will be a review on Sept. 16th), DC-1 Up-grade Audionemesis or Benchmark DAC-1 with Cyrus transport CD Xt SE or North Star Design Model 192 MkII. To take another step up I would amplify speakers with Struss Chopin MkIV. Each change will pay off – you will hear more with every step up taken.

As already said – those are not perfect, flawless loudspeakers and drivers - cabinet and crossover give the sound specific sonic signature. Although top-end is very good but it is better in Dobermanns – it is deeper, more vibrant, and with much ease specially somewhere between 5-7 kHz. You can't really talk about emphasizing but the perception of Phoebe III, comparing to Harpias, is like this frequency range but also lower circa 3 kHz, plays bit stronger. I don't think it is really so – my guess is that lack of lowest bass makes our brain to interpret the sound in described way. Bass is not really low which should not be a problem with good recording – simply low-end of double-bass is not that strong as you get it from bigger loudspeakers. But for example electronic music sounds really impressive. The most obvious difference between big, expensive speakers and Phoebes is choking of the latter on higher volume levels. As mentioned before dynamics is great, clarity of the sound too, but with the volume up and lots of instruments on the stage sound becomes bit messy which effects in a pushy midrange. But we have to remember that those are inexpensive, middle size loudspeakers and you can't expect them to be perfect. The soundstage is very good but the emphasis is rather on the acoustics surrounding instruments, on what's between them than on size or room acoustics as a whole. Everything is in its place, no holes, soundstage is quite big but you can do better if you spent more money. And one more thing – the scale of sound produced by Phoebes is not as extensive as by Dobermanns –you can't simply deny laws of physics. You will not get as natural reproduction of a „open your box” scream from Yoko Ono's record with same title, as you would from bigger loudspeakers. But I would like to emphasize that intensity of midrange is outstanding and thus we can't talk about “small sound”. This is not a case.


Audio Academy Phoebe III are two-way floorstanding loudspeakers with bass-reflex. Following drivers were applied: – tweeter 27 TBC/GTV from SEAS – and Visaton's low-midrage W 170 S, Ø 170 mm. The tweeter consists of an aluminum-magnesium alloy diaphragm and paper cone coated with material eliminating its own resonance. Visaton is equipped with medium size magnet and inexpensive die-cast basket. Below we find a bass-reflex port. At the back there are single, golden plated binding posts but the space between them is too small. That's a flaw of the whole terminal plate – you buy them together. I think that Audio Academy could think of some kind of upgrade kit – they could call it “special addition” or whatever. They could offer aluminum, nicely described plate with WBT's binding posts. They could also add some better internal wiring, better spikes and so on. Another option could be upgraded crossover – with point to point design, better resistors and cross coils. The costs of such upgrade will be significant – most likely not much lower than the price of the speakers but I can assure you it is worth it! Cabinets are made of MDF and strengthened inside with cross-bars. The interior is dumped with thick felt plates, fixed at the sidewalls, on the top, behind low-midrange speaker, and some also at the bottom of the cabinet. The crossover is fitted to printed-circuit board, that is screwed down to a small MDF block. The latter is glued to the back wall behind the bigger driver. There are polypropylene capacitors (e.g. from Philips) and core coils. Internal wiring (to binding posts and to the drivers) is executed with OFC wire. There is a very nice natural veneer outside. Loudspeakers are equipped with black bases – bit bigger in the front than speaker's outline. They stand on brass spikes with round ends. Speakers are offered with grills.

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
Frequency response: 40 Hz-20 kHz
Nominal impedance: 4 Ω
Sensitivity: 87 dB
Maximum power: 60 W
Recommended amplifier power output: 20-150W
Dimensions: (WxHxD): 830 x 190 x 290 mm
Weight: 14 kg (per piece)

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  • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Prime (tested HERE)
  • Phono preamp: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC (tested HERE)
  • Preamp: Leben RS-28CX (tested HERE; soon to be changed to Polaris II, tested HERE)
  • Power amp: Luxman M-800A (tested HERE)
  • Integrated amp: Leben CS300 (reviewed HERE)
  • Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann (tested HERE)
  • headphones: AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, 600 Ω version (reviewed HERE, HERE, and HERE)
  • interconnects: CD-preamp: Wireworld Gold Eclipse 52 (tested HERE; soon to be changed to Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, article HERE), preamp-power amp: Velum NF-G SE (tested HERE)
  • speaker cable: Velum LS-G (tested HERE)
  • power cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9100 (CD; reviewed HERE) and 2 x Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7100 (preamp, power amp (reviewed HERE)
  • power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip (reviewed HERE)
  • audio stand Base
  • resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD (article HERE ) Turntables change continuously, as do cartridges. My dream setup: SME 30 with Series V tone-arm and Air Tight PC-1 cartridge (also in the PC-1 Mono version).