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Philharmonic Audio Mini Philharmonitor Bookshelf Speaker Demo Report



  • Product Name: Philharmonitor Mini Bookshelf Speaker
  • Manufacturer: Philharmonic Audio
  • Review Date: January 05, 2018 00:00
  • MSRP: $695/pr. (sealed ver); $750/pr. (ported ver)
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!

  • Cabinet       Cherry or piano-black lacquer mirror finish
  • Tweeter       RAAL OEM Ribbon
  • Woofer        Zaph Audio ZA14W08 5” Aluminum Cone
  • Crossover   4th Order Linkwitz-Riley at 3200Hz
  • Freq Response       65Hz-20kHz +/- 2 dB sealed, 55Hz-20kHz +/-2dB ported
  • Sensitivity    84.5 dB (dB/2.83v/1M)
  • Box Alignment         Sealed or Ported
  • Dimensions  12”H x 7.5”W x 11”D sealed
                           14"H x 8"W x 11.8"D ported
  • Weight     16lbs ea. Sealed
                     20lbs. ea ported

Located in Maryland you’ll find the small humble speaker manufacturer Philharmonic Audio run by Dennis Murphy. Not only is Murphy a renowned speaker crossover designer, but he is also the principal violinist in the Washington Philharmonic Orchestra and plays lead violin in two tango orchestras.  Dennis Murphy designed many crossover units for companies such as Salk Sound and Ellis Audio.  He also has many speaker DIY kits such as the MBOW1 and CAOW1.  I was fortunate enough to correspond with Dennis Murphy and acquire a pair of his Mini Philharmonitor 2-way loudspeakers for an in-home audition.  The model used in this demo was a modified sealed speaker cabinet from Parts Express, the Dayton Audio TWC-0.25CH which also is available as a ported version for a slight up-charge.


The speakers were delivered intact from FedEx with about 1” thick foam on the sides and some extra thick foam pieces protecting the corners, top, and bottom.  The speakers were also covered with white fabric bags to provide an extra layer of protection on the finish.  In addition, the magnetic speaker grills were attached to the cabinet with painter’s tape and were additionally protected with a thin piece of cardboard about as wide as the grill. The magnetic grills snap onto the front baffle at the spots of the four screws that secure the baffle to the rest of the cabinet. The RAAL tweeters were covered in a magnetic strip used to protect the ribbon from being damaged.  These have to be slid off slowly and carefully as to not disrupt the shape of the ribbon.

philharmonitor mini with packing material.jpg

In my 1400cu. ft. media room, the Minis were set up in place of my front speakers on stands 3.5 feet from the listening position.  Dennis mentioned that these speakers were designed for desktop and/or surround use.   As with the BMR Philharmonitor that I reviewed previously, these speakers do not need to be set up in a toe-in configuration.  I have a modest 5.1 set-up powered by a basic Pioneer VSX-531-k AV receiver, Playstation 3, and an older HSU STF-2 subwoofer.  The Minis can go down to about 65Hz; slightly lower in-room, so the STF-2 was only occasionally needed. The sealed models that were used in this demo are 12” high by 7.5” wide at the front, tapering to 4.5” at the back and 11” deep.  The ported models are 14” high x 8” wide at the front, tapering to 4.5” at the back x 11.8” deep. 

philharmonitor mini with grill on.jpg      philharmonitor mini rear image.jpg

Both are available in a cherry veneer or piano black lacquer finish.  These speakers have a very reasonable asking price of $695/pr. for the sealed version and $750/pr. for the ported models.  We find this to be an extraordinary price to performance ratio considering these speakers have the same open and neutral sound of Dennis’s more expensive BMR Philharmonitors which retail for $1,350/pr. 

philharmonitor mini front angle.jpg     philharmonitor mini woofer closeup.jpg

The Minis are in a 2-way speaker configuration with the same RAAL tweeter used in the BMRs and a Zaph Audio ZA14W08 5” aluminum cone woofer. The frequency response is 65Hz-20kHz +/- 2dB for the sealed demo model and 55Hz-20kHz for the ported version.  They also have 84.5dB (2.83v/1M) sensitivity and weigh in at 16lbs each for the sealed models and 20lbs each for the ported models.

Listening Tests

For this demo, I used the speakers extensively by themselves and occasionally added my HSU STF-2 just for kicks.  I selected a few tracks from various types of musical genres to show just how capable these speakers are.  If there is a type of music that these speakers didn’t play well, I couldn’t find it. I used a variety of sources such as FM Radio, CDs, and Internet radio (specifically Pandora) and they all sounded exceptional with these speakers.

FM Radio

“Island in the Sun” by Weezer

FM radio is not the most pristine quality of any recording, but it is decent.  One of the tracks I selected from this genre was “Island in the Sun” by Weezer off their self-titled “Weezer” album also known as the “Green Album”.  Right off the bat, there was great stereo separation of the two guitars and Patrick Wilson’s drums.  The first guitar was on the right and the second came in at the left.  The solid drum hits and Rivers Cuomo’s vocals were dead center.  The speakers picked up the sound of fingers moving along the strings of each guitar.  The backup vocals came in subtly from both speakers.

“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson

Another track off FM Radio that I found to be a real good example of the capabilities of these speakers was “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson off the famous “Thriller” album.  This song is not a loud and in your face song, but a subtle mellow pop song.  It is one of the best tracks that played through these speakers for this demo.  The multiple voice recordings of Michael came from all around me.  Michael’s main vocal track was centered.  This song had a great soundstage.  The various instruments used were displayed with great separation.  The bass beat seemed to come from “behind” everything.  Each sound was very distinct and one never overpowered the other.

“You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker

The last notable track that I’ll mention off FM Radio, is “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker from his “I Can Stand a Little Rain” album.  The piano was prominent over the other instruments, but not overbearing while the violins were supportive.  Meanwhile, Joe’s vocals were more up front than the piano though smooth, even at high volume.  I got goose bumps because of the passion Joe puts into his lyrics along with the unique vocal range he uses and these speakers conveyed that experience nicely.  The Minis also revealed a few breaths being taken throughout the song.

CD collection

“Band of Brothers Suite One” by Michael Kamen

The first track mentioned from my personal CD collection is the “Band of Brothers Suite One” by Michael Kamen off of the “Band of Brothers” TV score.  The late film composer, Michael Kamen is known for his films score such as the Lethal Weapon series, Die Hard, Robin Hood: Price of Thieves, even Metallica’s S&M live album (he conducted the Symphony portion), and the score to the film “Open Range” was one of his last.  “Band of Brothers Suite One” is one of my favorite soundtracks from one of my favorite mini-series.  The score really drives the emotional drama that unfolds on the screen about the men of “Easy Company” from the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division during the European campaign of WWII.  I have a fondness for musical scores.  They can affect the listener with many emotions, sometimes subtly and other times it is right smack in your face.  In this track, the horns came through subtly to the right of the soundstage and the strings to the left.  When the full orchestra kicked in, the track became grand in scale, filled with so much emotion, especially with the timpani that was felt throughout the room even without the subwoofer lending a hand.  Chilling!

Band-Of-Brothers-Original-Soundtrack- copy.jpg     Coldplay_X&Y copy.png

“Fix You” and “A Message” by Coldplay

Other significant tracks in this category are “Fix You” and “A Message” by Coldplay from the X&Y album.  Both tracks displayed a nice stereo separation when played through the Minis.  During the last 30 seconds of “Fix You”, Chris Martin’s vocals and piano were very distinct.  It sounded like he was there playing in the room with me. Even the pressing of the piano keys was distinguishable.  On “A Message”, near the two-minute mark, there is a subtle guitar that alternates between left, center, and right of the soundstage and back again. 

Pandora Radio

“Instant Summer” (Original Mix) by Klopfgeister

Once I logged into Pandora, I immediately went to my Paul Oakenfold Radio station.  Electronic music is not usually a great genre to use when critically analyzing the audio capabilities of speakers, but it is still a genre of music that I particularly enjoy.  One track I noted was “Instant Summer” (Original Mix) by Klopfgeister from Paul Oakenfold’s DJ Box April 2011 collection album.  This is a very mellow track that has nice stereo imaging of the various electronic sounds.  The main beat hits were solid and the only vocal track that repeats three times in the entire cut is encompassing.

“Throne Room and Finale” by John Williams

Another track in this category was the “Throne Room and Finale” by John Williams from the “Star Wars: A New Hope” motion picture soundtrack.  The reproduction of this track put me back at the Hollywood Bowl.  These speakers revealed the chimes in the far rear left of the soundstage along with the timpani.  The horn section was located to the right with the cellos, bass strings, and flutes.  The violins were to the left.  As you can see, I was able to pinpoint where I heard the individual instruments.  Amazing!

“Drive My Car” by The Beatles

The last notable track off Pandora Radio was “Drive My Car” by the Fab Four off their “Rubber Soul” album.  I picked this song because stereo imaging the Beatles are known for.  To the right, I could pick out Paul’s piano overdub, Ringo’s cowbell, and Paul and John vocals.  Ringo’s tambourine, drums, and George’s vocals and lead guitar emanated from the left of the soundstage.  The bass of the track from the drums and Paul’s bass was subtle but solid.


Minimonitor2As you may well have guessed, these speakers sounded awesome.  Even without the use of a subwoofer, they played exceptionally well with everything I threw at them, especially for desktop use. Dennis Murphy’s crossover genius shined through as the Minis never played deeper than they needed or were designed to.  Even when pushed, the Minis did not hiccup or distort on both the highs and lows.  I did not miss switching on my STF-2, but when I did, more impact was brought to the table.  The subwoofer does not detract from the experience created by the Minis, but turns it up a notch.  This exemplary aspect was similar to the experience I had with the Ascend Lunas plus the Rythmik F12 and Legacy Studio HDs plus the Legacy Metro sub, though the Philharmonitor Minis come in at a much lower price point.  These speakers displayed an equal weight among all components of tracks played through them.  Not one aspect of the soundstage overpowered another, but all came in loud and clear with no harshness.  Thanks in part to the smooth as butter RAAL tweeter.     

If you are in the market for small size bookshelf speakers for desktop use or surround duty in a medium sized home theater with extraordinary sound quality,  look no further than the Mini Philharmonitors from Philharmonic Audio.  With a price point as attractive as it’s sound, the Philharmonitor Minis won’t disappoint.

If you have these speakers, had the opportunity to demo them or any of the other products available at Philharmonic Audio, please share your experiences in the related forum thread below.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Kevin is a blue-collar family man and A/V enthusiast who was introduced to music and movies by the age of five. He took courses on Film Music and Film History in college just for the heck of it along with receiving his BFA in Illustration from Cal State Fullerton. He grew up listening to music on vintage equipment, and soon took an interest in home theater.

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