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Philharmonic BMR Tower Measurements & Conclusion

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 BMR Tower outdoor testing

The Philharmonic BMR Towers were measured in free-air at a height of 4 feet at a 2-meter distance from the microphone, with the microphone raised to a 7.5’ elevation that was level with and aimed at the tweeter center. The measurements were gated at 8-milliseconds. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 400 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 200 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/24 octave resolution.

BMR Tower 3D freq Response

BMR Tower 2D freq Response

The above graphs depict the BMR Tower’s direct-axis and horizontal dispersion out to a 90-degree angle in five-degree increments. Information on how to interpret these graphs can be read in our article "Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II". As we have come to expect from Philharmonic, this is superb behavior from an extremely accurate loudspeaker. The response is overall very flat with an ever so slight lowering of output as we get into the tweeter’s bandwidth. If that reduced tweeter output is audible at all, it would be heard as a very slight softness with regard to a speaker with a totally neutral response. Then again, this speaker preserves a wide dispersion out to a very far angle, so it may have a greater degree of higher frequency acoustic reflections with regard to other speakers that could shore up any higher frequency softness. The wide dispersion also leads to more lateral reflections which can give rise to a more spacious sound. Indeed, that is a quality that I perceived in my listening. The off-axis response bears a very high correlation to the on-axis response, so this is a loudspeaker that will sound the same at nearly any horizontal angle in the front hemisphere. That quality also allows it to be predictably equalized for those who want to play with the response via DSP.

BMR Tower polar map 90 degrees 

The above polar map shows the same information in the preceding graphs but depicts it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, 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 dispersion behavior more easily. More information about interpreting this graph can be read in our article, "Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II".

The BMR Tower can be seen maintaining a strong and even response all the way out to 70-degrees off-axis. For tonal balance, this speaker has no ‘sweet spot,’ at least on the horizontal axis. The entirety of the front area of this speaker is the sweet spot. It’s a rare speaker that would sound reasonably good at a 70-degree angle, which is almost a right angle of the BMR Tower’s forward-facing direction. Any reflected sound will have the same timbre as the direct sound, so it’s a speaker that doesn’t need any acoustic treatments to sound good. Acoustic absorbers could be used to diminish lateral reflections which might sharpen up the soundstage at the expense of spaciousness, but why buy such a wide dispersion loudspeaker and not take advantage of its unique properties to begin with?

BMR Tower polar map 180 degrees 

To get a better understanding of the directivity, I have expanded the view of the BMR Tower’s dispersion out to the full 180-degrees. Here we can see how rapidly output falls off as we move behind the speaker. The front hemisphere is mostly red, and the rear hemisphere is mostly blue, with only a thin strip of green separating them that hovers around 90-degrees. The evenness of these color strata nearly touches the ideal dispersion pattern for a wide dispersion loudspeaker. We saw similar behavior in the BMR Philharmonitor, but the BMR Towers seem to hold the control of this dispersion down to a lower frequency likely on account of the larger bass driver cone, larger front baffle, and front-mounted port. In this graph, we get a wider view of the slight bump in the response at 600Hz which is a port resonance. It is likely too narrow in bandwidth and too low in level to be audible and exists only as a small blemish of academic interest in an otherwise magnificent showing by the BMR Tower.

BMR Tower low frequency response 

The above graph shows the BMR Tower’s low-frequency response captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground at a 2-meter distance in a wide-open area). The response can clearly be seen to be very smooth, but that won’t matter much since most rooms will wreck the response with typical low-frequency acoustics. The point is, whatever problems might be heard in the low frequencies, it will not be due to the speaker, which is working just fine in this range. The BMR Towers have terrific bass extension, and the knee of the response lay just above 20Hz, so Philharmonic’s claimed 22Hz tuning frequency does pan out. This is a truly full-range speaker that digs deeper than many popular subwoofers. Below the tuning frequency, the response does drop off at a 24dB/octave rate characteristic of vented systems.

BMR Tower vertical responses 

The above graph shows the response of the BMR Tower at a sampling of some vertical angles. The construction of the ribbon tweeter as well as the MTM layout of the midrange drivers should have some constricting effects on the vertical angle of dispersion. In these measurements, positive angles are above the tweeter and negative angles are below the tweeter. One surprising thing we see is that the two sides of the tweeter do not mirror each other in responses. I would have guessed that they would be much alike since the driver layout is symmetrical from the center of the tweeter which is our measurement position. What changes from that position is the enclosure; the cabinet ends right above the upper midrange driver but it continues below the lower midrange, of course. Somehow the extension of the lower front baffle is taking a toll on the midrange frequencies at that angle. This indicates that the BMR Towers are best listened at or somewhat above the tweeter height.  That shouldn’t be a problem given that the tweeter is set at about a three-foot height from the ground, so unless the listener has an especially low-slung listening position, they will be listening at or above the on-axis angle.

BMR Tower impedance 

The above graphs show the electrical behavior of the BMR Towers. Here we see a relatively benign load for the speakers, and any amplifier should be able to drive them without issue. While most speakers have their impedance minima from 100 to 200Hz, the BMR Towers has its minima at 6kHz which doesn’t see nearly as much output from most content as the mid-bass range. The dip in the lower frequency saddle centers around 23.6Hz indicating the port’s tuning frequency. The upper peak of the saddle is slightly larger than the lower peak, and that indicates that the resonant frequency of the enclosure is lower than the resonant frequency of the driver but not by much. The bottom line to all of this is that the BMR Towers don’t have any special requirements for the amplifier.

I measured the BMR Tower’s sensitivity at 85.4dB for 1 meter at 2.83v which is very close to Philharmonic’s specification of 86dB. This is a bit lower than most tower speakers of its size, but then it digs quite a bit deeper than tower speakers of its size, so that is an expected trade-off. If you want these to get loud, you will need to supply them with some power, and I would be aiming for at least 100 watts per channel if not more. 

Conclusion

BMR Tower pair8Before bringing this review to a close, I will briefly go over the strengths and weaknesses of the product under review, and, as always, I will start with the weaknesses. However, a list of weaknesses would be a short one with a product as strong as the BMR Towers. They don’t have any real weaknesses, especially when pricing is considered. If I were to nit-pick, something that they might be criticized for is the lower-than-average sensitivity for a full-sized tower speaker. This criticism doesn’t hold for anyone who wants the kind of low-frequency extension they have; extension comes at the expense of sensitivity. It’s a necessary trade-off of the design, and they can still get pretty loud if supplied with enough wattage. They just aren’t a great candidate for a 5-watt tube amp. And even this critique is a stretch since an 85.4dB sensitivity isn’t terrible; it is simply a bit less than most towers of this size which tend to have sensitivities somewhere in the higher 80’s dB range (and again, they don’t normally have such deep bass extension).

Let’s now get into the strengths of the BMR Towers, which are many. First and foremost is the sound quality. The BMR Towers are capable of a spacious soundstage yet still have well-defined imaging, so if you want an expansive, enveloping sound, they are a great choice. With an almost totally neutral response out to such a wide angle, those who want accurate sound reproduction do receive it in these speakers. They add nothing nor do they subtract anything from what is in the original recording. They don’t have a personalized sound signature by the designer based on his taste in tonal balance. This being the case, the BMR Towers could easily be used as studio monitors for any sound engineer who wants to know the truth of their recording. If the recording sounds like hot garbage, the BMR Towers are not going to hide that fact. And if the recording sounds sublime, the BMR Towers will not interfere with that quality in any way whatsoever. In terms of tonal balance, they are blind to content in the best possible way.

BMR Tower kylo 

One of these woofers is not like the other.

The BMR Towers have extraordinary low-frequency extension. No subwoofer needed.

Also, as mentioned, there is the extraordinary low-frequency extension. The only subwoofers that can surpass the BMR Towers in deep bass extension would necessarily be very large. The only advantage in adding subs to BMR Towers is addressing the effects of room acoustics. Such a system would still benefit by running the BMR Towers as ‘large’ speakers though, as additional low-bass emitters which help to average out the peaks and dips of room modes. However, sophisticated equalization would certainly be advised in that setup. If you are looking for loudspeakers that do not need the addition of subwoofers in order to reproduce seriously deep bass, the BMR Towers are very capable in that regard.

Outside of the sound quality, the BMR Towers look very posh with their curved cabinet and high-gloss finish. As was mentioned in the “Appearance” section, these look like they cost more than what they actually do, even upon closer inspection. If I saw them at an audio show knowing nothing about them and was asked to guess the cost, I would guess more than twice their $3,700 asking price. And, unlike some high-end loudspeakers, they have the sound to back up their looks.

BMR Tower closeThe build quality is very good, and the parts are all befitting of a high-end speaker. The Revelator bass driver and RAAL tweeter are some pricey components. The Tektonic BMR midrange drivers are not all that pricey, but they are excellent performers as is evidenced by the sound and measurements. The crossover circuit doesn’t exhibit any shortcuts or cost-cutting, and the cabinet is solid as well. The extensive packing of these speakers can’t have been cheap for the manufacturer as well, but it’s a worthwhile assurance for buyers so these high-value items arrive undamaged from shipping. It is a high-end loudspeaker throughout, and that even extends to the packaging.

Much like the BMR Philharmonitors before them, I found the BMR Towers to be a remarkably good value. They cater to champagne tastes on a wine budget, to use an old cliche. $3,700/pair is not a small sum of money for most people for a pair of loudspeakers, but it is a bargain for what you get in the BMR Towers. Philharmonic Audio does not spend much money on promoting their products because they don’t need to: word of mouth has created a demand that has kept their inventory low. I don’t see this changing anytime soon, so those who manage to grab a pair of BMR Towers in a timely manner are a lucky few. Indeed, I consider myself lucky to have spent time with them since there wasn’t anything that I played on them which wasn’t enjoyable. Those on the market for floor-standing speakers anywhere near their price range would do very well to strongly consider them since the BMR Towers are certainly among the top loudspeakers at their pricing. Well done Philharmonic!

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 QualityStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarStarStar
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:

ryanosaur posts on November 21, 2021 16:05
Mikado463, post: 1518824, member: 78272
Thanks for the follow up Richard !

The tube amp does look a little funky IMO with the IC's out front ?
How else better to show off your $1000 cables! All the more so since you'll need an extra 3' per to run them around the front!!!

Mikado463 posts on November 21, 2021 15:19
Thanks for the follow up Richard !

The tube amp does look a little funky IMO with the IC's out front ?
Swerd posts on November 21, 2021 12:57
Here's follow-up from the recent Capital Audio Fest. The Absolute Sound sent at least two people to the show. One of them, Andrew Quint, had some nice things to say about two different speakers. Both are Dennis Murphy designs.

First, the Philharmonic Audio BMR Towers

"Philharmonic Audio is a DC-area company but definitely not one of the “tinkerers” that Alan referred to above. The brand doesn’t have a dealer network but has a worldwide constituency for its speakers. The new BMR Tower ($3700) is a transmission-line design employing a Revelator woofer to produce a reported in-room response down to 25Hz. In a system including a Topping DAC and preamp and a Hypex SMPS1200A400 power amplifier, the speakers fared extremely well on both large-scale orchestral and chamber music. On the basis of sonics alone, the speakers are a bargain; add in the exquisite carpentry and finish and they become an incredible bargain.“

Next was the Salk BePure 2. The photo, unfortunately, was not of the the speaker, but of a 40 wpc tube amp used to drive the BePure 2. The amp cost more than the speakers!

”Time spent in a Salk Sound room rarely disappoints. Jim and Mary Salk were playing a two-and-a-half way floorstander, priced at $6000, that’s so new that it doesn’t actually have an official model designation. (Salk was leaning towards BePure 2—because the speaker has a beryllium tweeter and utilizes two 6? woofers sourced from Purifi in Denmark.) Amplification was provided by a McGary Audio SA2 ($7985), a Class AB Ultralinear output-stage stereo tube amplifier that puts out an honest 40Wpc into an 8-ohm load, when KT88 tubes are used. The DAC was an Exogal Comet ($2500). As always, the caliber of the woodworking and finish was second to none. Natalie Merchant’s rendition of “The Peppery Man” with a gospel quartet was completely absorbing."

https://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/capital-audio-fest-2021-andrew-quint

Andrew Quint’s Best Of Show
Best Sound of CAF 2021
The Voice that Is: Ideon/TIDAL/Siltech
Best New Product
Salk Audio BePure 2 loudspeaker
Best Value
“Actually Fairly Inexpensive” division:
Philharmonic Audio BMR Tower loudspeaker ($3700/pair).
“It’s All Relative” division:
Alta Audio Alec loudspeaker ($10,000/pair)

Not bad for 3 day's of work!

Another TAS writer had more to report, including mention of the $85,000 Kharma Midi Equisite speakers. I only mention that because @Mikado463 had asked about them.
https://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/capital-audio-fest-2021-alan-taffel
tktran303 posts on November 14, 2021 21:59
D Murphy, post: 1515450, member: 88657
Ya think? Looking at the 2012 price list, you could grab a pair of the Mini's for only $56,000/pair, or go a little upscale with the Classique Signature for a mere $125,000/pair. Need speaker wire? You can line up a pair of 2 meter runs of Kharma Enigma Extreme Signature cable for only $32,500. Act fast while the last.






I wise fellow once said to me

"The price race is another problem. If I look at, say, loudspeakers, companies like Kharma put out speakers that are 10 times as expensive as a about 1/10th as well designed. The relativism that rules in a market as utterly democratic as the high end allows situations like this to exist without anyone inside that market asking questions. How are we to establish supremacy in a market that's so saturated and where everything goes? Tough, eh?"
Danzilla31 posts on November 14, 2021 21:56
Swerd, post: 1515345, member: 5544
My last comment about the Capital Audiofest is about vinyl record sales on the lobby floor. I passed through once before leaving that day.

An old Beatles album caught my eye – Yesterday and Today. I bought that album sometime in 1966. For those who don't know this bit of trivia, that album was first released in the US with this controversial cover photo:
51336
It was soon withdrawn and replaced with this:
51337

My album has the second photo. The used album for sale at the CAF had the same photo, but the price tag said $550!! Apparently the second innocuous steamer trunk photo was pasted over the controversial butcher photo. The guy selling the records showed me several features that made identifying the paste-over job easy. As soon as I got home, I found my album, and sure enough it was clearly a paste-over version as well. Hmm … $550 could buy me some medium grade boutique speaker cables.

Even better, my album is mono, not stereo. In the upside down world of oddball collectors, that should make them even more valuable.
Thank you for all the writeups I bet that was so much fun.
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