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Philharmonic Audio BMR Philharmonitor Measurements & Conclusion

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BMR outdoor testing3

The Philharmonic BMR Philharmonitors were measured in free-air at a height of 7.5 feet at a 2-meter distance from the microphone, and the measurements were gated at a 8.5-millisecond delay. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 250 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 110 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/12 octave resolution.

BMR Spinorama Responses

The above graph shows the direct-axis frequency response and other curves that describe the speaker’s amplitude response in a number of ways. For more information about the meaning of these curves, please refer to our article Objective Loudspeaker Measurements to Predict Subjective Preferences.

These speakers exhibit a superbly neutral response.

This is a number of notable attributes within these curves, and they are all good. The direct axis, listening window, and early reflection curves exhibit a superbly neutral response. That means that this is a very accurate loudspeaker both on and off axis. The uniformity that the sound power and early reflections curves show that this is a very wide dispersion speaker, as its design would indeed suggest. Both directivity indexes are very flat and show no sudden changes or irregularities. That means the BMR Philharmonitors should have a very consistent beamwidth over frequency, where the off-axis response holds a tight correlation to the direct axis response. This all adds up to a wide dispersion and flat response over off-axis angles as we shall see below.

BMR horizontal response 3D waterfall

BMR horizontal response 2D waterfall

The BMR Philharmonitor's are speakers of truth.

The above graphs depict the BMR Philharmonitor’s lateral responses out to 100 degrees in five-degree increments. As was suggested by the above directivity index curves and ‘First Reflections’ curves, we can more explicitly see how the wide the dispersion is and how well it correlates to the direct axis response. These are outstanding measurements that show an extraordinarily neutral response. These speakers are more than sufficient in accuracy to be used as mid-field studio monitors for recording engineers. They tell the truth about whatever signal is sent to them without adding or subtracting much of anything. There is an ever-so-slight rise above 9 kHz, but this is going to do very little to color the sound reproduction. This is the most neutral loudspeaker I have yet measured. Normally I comment on how a speaker might do a particular frequency band well such as the midrange or the high frequencies, but this does everything well. Nothing stands out; it is all superb. The integration between the drivers from the crossover is very well done, especially since the drivers used are all dramatically different in design.

BMR Polar Map 100 degrees

Philharmonic BMR Philharmonitor Horizontal Response +/- 100 degrees: Polar Map 

The above graph shows the same information that the preceding graphs do but depict it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, these polar maps use color to portray amplitude and this allows the use of a purely angle/frequency axis perspective. The advantage of these graphs is they can let us see broader trends of the speaker’s behavior more easily. The first thing to note about this measurement is the extraordinarily even dispersion out to an astounding 80 degrees. There is some mild waist-banding a bit above 1 kHz, but that only squeezes the response down to 60 degrees or so. That isn’t likely to be deleterious on the sound at all. The dispersion in the tweeter’s frequency band is a sight to behold: very smooth, very linear, very even within its entire range. This RAAL tweeter lives up to its reputation here as a first-rate tweeter. The dispersion is so wide here that a polar map showing 100 degrees off axis doesn’t quite give enough context for how extraordinary this dispersion pattern is, so let’s expand this angle to a full 180 degrees:

BMR Polar Map 180 degrees

Philharmonic BMR Philharmonitor Horizontal Response +/- 180 degrees: Polar Map 

Keep in mind that the above graph is showing the complete horizontal dispersion of the BMR Philharmonitor, so the very top and very bottom of the graph is showing the response directly behind the speaker. The reason why I am posting this graph is to more clearly show how well-controlled the dispersion is here. What this graph is telling us that that the sound is being projected in a wide but controlled angle, so almost anywhere in front of this speaker will provide a well-balanced tonality. The sound of this speaker does not change its character over a very broad angle in front of it. The reason why this is important is that much of what we hear from a speaker in room is due to the acoustic reflections from room surfaces and large objects rather than direct sound from the speaker itself, and these reflections come from off-axis angles from the speaker. If the off-axis response of the speaker is erratic, that will be heard, so even if a speaker has a nearly perfect direct axis response, it can have a poor tonality if the off-axis response is markedly irregular. That is especially true for a speaker with dispersion as wide as we see with the BMR Philharmonitor. The wider a speaker’s dispersion is, the greater the ratio of reflected sound to direct sound, so it is critical that a speaker of this design type holds an even, uniform dispersion, and the BMR Philharmonitor does this magnificently well. Their tonal character does not change much with respect to angle. 

BMR vertical waterfall 3D

Philharmonic BMR Philharmonitor Vertical Response +/- 100 degrees

The above graph shows the BMR Philharmonitor’s response behavior along its vertical axis where zero degrees is directly in front of the tweeter, negative degree values are below the tweeter, and positive degree values are above the tweeter. It should be said here that the vertical response isn’t nearly as critical as the horizontal response, so an imperfect vertical dispersion is much less of a problem. There are a few interesting features in the graph of the BMR Philharmonitor’s vertical response. One thing we can see is that while the BMR midrange driver has a wide vertical response, the RAAL tweeter has a narrow vertical response. This is no surprise, given their designs, but it is interesting to see their behavior on this axis. We can see two notches that occur around 30 degrees above and below the tweeter; these are cancellation nulls from the midrange driver and tweeter at a distance difference that puts their overlapping output out of phase around their crossover frequency. We also see some waist-banding at far off angles from cancellation between the woofer and midrange driver. Again, nothing here should alarm readers, since performance on this axis isn’t nearly as important as the horizontal axis. The lesson here is that these speakers are best heard within a 20-degree vertical angle of their tweeter; that will very likely be the case in any normal speaker system.

BMR Low Frequency groundplane

Philharmonic BMR Philharmonitor groundplane bass response

The above graphs show the BMR Philharmonitor’s low-frequency responses that I captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground in a wide open area). We can see a nicely flat response with a shallow rolloff starting at around 70 Hz. At a bit under 40 Hz, the rolloff becomes considerably steeper since it is below port tuning. This shallow rolloff is normally a good idea in order to take advantage of low-frequency room gain. Tuning the speaker flat down to the port tuning frequency would likely result in a boosted bass response in typical room use. In my own room, the bass sounded very natural, so a dead flat response down to the port tuning of 34 Hz would likely have sounded like somewhat exaggerated bass.

BMR Impedance

Philharmonic BMR Philharmonitor Impedance and Phase 

The BMR Philharmonitors deserve their reputation as top-notch loudspeakers and an outstanding bargain.

The above graphs show the electrical behavior of the BMR Philharmonitors. The impedance and phase stay within safe limits of almost any amplifier. The most taxing region here would be at about 1.5 kHz where the minima occurs at 5.4 ohms with a -5.3-degree phase angle. That would only be a hard load for the cheapest of amplifiers if the speaker was played loud with content in that range. Overall, this speaker should be an easy load with the vast majority of amps. Philharmonic’s spec of this speaker being a 6-ohm load is conservative. We can see from the saddle dip in the low-frequency region that the port tuning point is just above 30 Hz which makes this a very deeply-tuned bookshelf speaker. The equal heights of the impedance peaks in the low frequencies indicate that, despite this speaker’s unusually low port tuning frequency, its port length looks correct for the enclosure size. There are no wrinkles or ripples so the enclosure seems to be well damped and braced with no evidence of worrisome cabinet resonances.

I measured the sensitivity of the BMR Philharmonitor to be 84.1 dB at 1 meter for 2.83v. This is only a tad under the 85 dB that Philharmonic BMR close upspecified, but it is still close. To be honest, I am surprised a bookshelf speaker that is tuned this deeply can muster an 84 dB sensitivity. That isn’t much lower than average. As was said before, these aren’t the most efficient speakers that can be had, but they aren’t badly inefficient either. An 50-watt amplifier would suffice for most people, but they can handle more amplification than that. Dennis Murphy reports that he uses a 200-watt amplifier with his pair without issue, although there are many factors that affect how much wattage a speaker can safely handle. Using such high wattage for brief moments of a peak in wideband music such as orchestral recordings might be fine but dumping the same amount of energy into a very narrow frequency range continuously could destroy a driver.

Conclusion

At the beginning of this review, it was stated that one of the purpoBMR outdoors2ses was to see if the BMR Philharmonitors lived up to the hype surrounding it in social media. Sometimes some products develop an online excitement with users who swear by them simply from being convinced by all the hoopla and buzzwords, but when a more sober analysis is done, the said product’s advantages typically weren’t all they were cracked up to be. After carefully spending some time listening to the BMR Philharmonitors and carefully measuring them, I can say that they deserve their reputation as top-notch loudspeakers and an outstanding bargain, even at their not inexpensive pricing.  

Before bringing this review to a close, I will briefly go over their advantages and disadvantages, as I normally do for all products that I review, and I will start with their disadvantages but there are very few with the BMR Philharmonitors. At $1,350 per pair (not including shipping) they are not inexpensive, but considering their performance, they are a bargain. I don’t know of a more accurate or neutral loudspeaker that costs less. And they deliver all of this superlative performance while still looking very nice. I could say that they are rather large and heavy for bookshelf speakers, but these are bookshelf speakers with the performance goal of having low-frequency extension on par with tower speakers, and with bass extension digging down into the 30 Hz range, they actually exceed many tower speakers in terms of extension, so that criticism would be hollow. You cannot get a reasonable level of deep bass output in a small package, and these speakers do an excellent job of providing deep bass output in a reasonable size and shape. I don’t know how that could be done better. I could nitpick by saying their sensitivity is a tad below average, but given their bass extension versus size, as I said before, I am surprised that the sensitivity was as good as it is, and it’s not likely to be a problem for any sensible users. So basically, I can’t level any serious criticism against the BMR Philharmonitors. What it sets out to do, it does extremely well, and it does it for a very reasonable cost. I might only say that those looking for speakers for loud parties or head-banging or something for a dedicated theater in a large room will want to look at higher-output designs.BMR pair close4

Now let’s go over the advantages of the BMR Philharmonitors, many of which were already mentioned as counters to any serious criticism that one could have against them. As was said before, their sound quality is outstanding. There are many speakers that cost many times the price of these without equaling their sonic accuracy. Their dispersion is wide yet very well controlled. Their bass extension is the best I have seen from a bookshelf speaker, and the bass quality itself is superb much like the rest of the frequency range. As I said before, I can’t really pick out a standout aspect of its sound quality because it does everything so well. They are one of, if not the most linear speakers I have yet measured. In fact, they have such a linear response both on and off axis that they nearly attain a certain ideal for those who are interested in wide-dispersion loudspeakers. Wide dispersion loudspeakers have the advantages of broad coverage of an area with a consistent tonality so listeners could be seated anywhere in front of them and hear a similar response. They also have a greater ratio of reflected sound to direct sound, and this can give them a more open and spacious character. 

I don’t know of a more accurate or neutral loudspeaker that costs less.

Also, as was mentioned, they look pretty sharp. Gloss black in a cabinet with rounded corners is a fairly standard approach to get a nice-looking loudspeaker, but hey, what can I say, it works. Of course, finer finishes are available at higher prices, but the standard gloss black looks pretty swank to me. One detail that I can appreciate is the grille uses magnetic fasteners, so the front baffle has that much of a cleaner appearance without the grille since there are no grille guides. The overall build quality of the BMR Philharmonitors is very good and easily meets, if not surpasses, what one would expect at this price point. Another point in their favor is that their electrical behavior makes them an easy load to run on most amplifiers.

BMR pair17

As a loudspeaker reviewer, I receive a lot of loudspeakers, and sometimes I run across a product so delightful that I am tempted to purchase it for myself. The BMR Philharmonitors is one such product. The only problem is that I have to spend so much time using other speakers under review that I seldom get a chance to use my own equipment anymore, and speakers as good as the BMR Philharmonitors ought to be used frequently instead of put away in a box somewhere for use only during certain occasions. So, it is with a heavy heart that I am returning these. However, those looking for a high-quality and very high-fidelity loudspeaker that they will end up listening to often should give the BMR Philharmonitors a very close look because for most people I am sure they will absolutely be keepers. Philharmonic Audio offers a two week trial with any of their speakers where the buyer only has to pay shipping costs, so potential owners can demo these without much risk or expense. To bring this review to a close, I can only say that I am hoping that I get another opportunity to spend someday with the BMR Philharmonitors; to paraphrase Vera Lynn, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I am hoping we will meet again!

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarStarStar

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About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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Recent Forum Posts:

everettT posts on January 21, 2020 13:08
PENG, post: 1364131, member: 6097
By the way, I only mentioned BMR vs Phil 3 in a small room because in a larger room, even just a medium large room, the BMR may not be loud enough for some people. No issue for me though as my average spl requirement is only 75 dB from 10-11 ft.

When I compared them with my R900, I noticed the difference in spl was about 5 to 6 dB from my listening position. The Phil 3's sensitivity is the same as the BMR's, but it probably can handle twice as much power input, and should be enough to make a noticeable difference in a medium sized room, all else being equal.
The revelator woofer can handle gobs of power ..
PENG posts on January 21, 2020 12:43
By the way, I only mentioned BMR vs Phil 3 in a small room because in a larger room, even just a medium large room, the BMR may not be loud enough for some people. No issue for me though as my average spl requirement is only 75 dB from 10-11 ft.

When I compared them with my R900, I noticed the difference in spl was about 5 to 6 dB from my listening position. The Phil 3's sensitivity is the same as the BMR's, but it probably can handle twice as much power input, and should be enough to make a noticeable difference in a medium sized room, all else being equal.
ryanosaur posts on January 20, 2020 13:30
D Murphy, post: 1363895, member: 88657
I would have to be there to come up with any explanation. Also, I've never used the 3's in home theater or the BMR's as surrounds, , so I don't know how they sound in that application. The effect of the 3's open back is pretty unpredictable. I don't claim there's any clear science to it. Maybe the mixing in cinema sound tracks brings out something from the 3's that doesn't occur with with a closed back.
I'm still probably less than 15% HT usage on my rig… Getting into Multi-Channel Music (5.1 SACD and DTS Discs) was one of my biggest goals with this system. They do not disappoint, though (across the board, regardless of programming!).
D Murphy posts on January 20, 2020 13:19
ryanosaur, post: 1363795, member: 86393
Hi Dennis! Always good to see you here.
Thank you for your thoughts and knowledge. I can't say I disagree.

Perhaps it is the smaller room bringing more of the Di-Pole sound out? More direct reflections from the front and sides due to proximity?
Of all people, you know I'm curious and eager to learn about what's going on here. I certainly am not going to claim to have the answer, but I do know I can hear something in the Mids of the 3s that I don't get from the BMRs.

Is one particularly better than the other? That's like asking if I prefer Cake or Ice Cream. To which I simply answer, “Yes!”

Both are remarkable, and I'm still grateful to have these wonderful boxes around me!

(But seriously, Dennis, I'd love to hear more from you about what might be happening in my room, please.)

Cheers!
I would have to be there to come up with any explanation. Also, I've never used the 3's in home theater or the BMR's as surrounds, , so I don't know how they sound in that application. The effect of the 3's open back is pretty unpredictable. I don't claim there's any clear science to it. Maybe the mixing in cinema sound tracks brings out something from the 3's that doesn't occur with with a closed back.
Swerd posts on January 20, 2020 11:26
PENG, post: 1363848, member: 6097
No kidding!!! I had been comparing my R900 with the BMRs with two pairs of speaker wires connected to the A21. One time (just yesterday), I picked the wrong wires on the right channel of the BMR, it took me a couple minutes to realize I was listening to just one speaker. I felt embarrassed that it took so long.

I was listening to Anne Akikko Meyers Seasons dream album, only a few instrument was playing. Her violin seemed to come from the middle, so that's the excuse.

Isn't the violin supposed to be on the left though? I know the BMR has very good off axis response, but I thought the violin should be quite directional? I might have been distracted at the time too.
This could be an example of expectation bias at work. You believed you connected both speakers and were listening in stereo. Your brain did its best to turn a single speaker's output into stereo .

In your defense, the short time I heard the BMR speakers in my home, back during the BMR Road Show, I thought these speakers were the best I've ever heard at creating a broad stereo image. I didn't try listening to a single speaker, but I'm not surprised at what you described.
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