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This review first appeared in the September 2009 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity. - Ed.

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacula
Review system: Go here
Review component retail: €1,400/pr.

When reviewing the Phoebe II loudspeakers from Audio Academy, I already knew that they would soon be replaced by a much more expensive new model (relatively speaking – they remain a quite inexpensive product) but also that the previous version would continue to be available for some time. So we decided to review it anyway, a good decision seeing that the Phoebe II turned out to be exceptionally well designed and inexpensive to receive our Polish Year 2007 Annual Award here. Later I recommended them several times to inquiring readers. I just revisited this review here and couldn't believe how quickly time flies. There was my daughter in the photo. Now she is much bigger and a living example for how quickly things change.

It's been two and half years since (issue No. 35, March 2007) and only now the new version finalized. It took that long to work out all the details of the shape and sound. I dedicate that last sentence to those who claim that it takes two weeks to build a good-sounding loudspeaker. This in fact is a completely new design, albeit with the same 830 x 190 x 290mm cabinet as before. Even the weight remains 14kg but the sensitivity has increased a tad to 87dB.

Another important factor is the impedance now at 4Ω. While at first glance this looks like the predecessor and remains a floorstanding two-way floorstander with front port, the drive units are different. The aluminum tweeter is exactly the same as in my own Dobermanns or the 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 is very promising. The mid/woofer is from Visaton with a die-cast basket and coated paper cone. No more Vifa and Scan-Speak then.

Sound: 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, CC.
  • Depeche Mode, Sounds Of The Universe, Mute/EMI Music Japan, TOCP-66878, CD+DVD
  • 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
  • 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

I must say that Mr. Michał Kęcerski, owner and designer of Audio Academy, did one helluva job here. His inexpensive but nicely finished loudspeakers present a wide range of features which are usually reserved for far more expensive products. Replacing my reference Harpia Acoustics speakers is usually quite painful. This time it went smoothly and without problems. The main sin of most loudspeakers is colorization - too much of this, not enough of that (same type of distortion). Each company has to make its own compromises (there are no perfect speakers and never will be) but most can't handle the balance between rich timbre and detail. Perhaps it’s the drivers they use? I don't know.

Anyway, the Phoebe III reaches a far better compromise than most the up to 5000 PLN speakers one finds in the audio shops. Replacing the Dobermanns didn't hurt because the loudspeakers from Łódź present a great tonal balance. Not too cold, not too warm, the ratio between all ranges is exceptionally well balanced. This shows nicely on piano recordings i.e. Jun Fukumachi At Steinway (Take 2), What A Wonderful Trio! by the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio or Adam Makowicz’s Unit where electric Fender piano rules. Each time the difference between individual recordings was clear. I have absolutely no doubt that we get a better sound from the first FIM recording but also that generally speaking the sound range in those particular recordings is a little limited and on the warm side.

Makowicz sounded wonderful – rich, organic, with incredible energy in the lower midrange which is often sacrificed for better articulation. There was no need to play around with it. The articulation of this midrange was exceptionally good. That was confirmed with vocal recordings like Songs In A Mellow Mood by Ella Fitzgerald where Ellis Larkins accompanies her on piano. The voice was presented strong and rich without additional warmth or weight. The sound of this recording is not particularly saturated or rich. If any component of the system colorizes the midrange or upper bass, you hear it instantly not as saturation but thickness.

The second thing to highlight is the great coherence of the sound. These loudspeakers sounded as though they had just one driver to reproduce the whole range, probably from low distortion and accurately matched phase. That's what I often miss in other loudspeakers. It’s what puts Harpia Acoustics products so high in my private esteem. The Phoebe III does the same. It produces the sound as a whole—without warming it up like certain tube amplifiers which then is often mistaken as coherence—plus a high level of detail. That’s the key to success. In this particular case it’s shockingly so as any reviewed speaker also has flaws and these aren’t expensive. Coherence rewards the listener with internal peace. Our brain needn’t work hard over and over again to process the data. There is no need to recalculate because the data aren’t damaged.