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I brought up tubes on purpose. The distortions generated by some of them—their tonal balance and withdrawn treble—similarly affect the listener to relax and rest. But without doubt, such presentations are in fact quite poor – nice, uninvolving and having little in common with reality. The Phoebe III goes about it differently. THD and phase distortions are very low to produce no so-called fatigue (this word is rarely used these days but very succinct). On top of that we get great dynamics on nearly every possible scale. The speakers will not play as loud and freely as larger speakers with bigger woofers yet within their limitations, they will produce an open and amazingly dynamic sound.

Credit goes mostly to the very nicely tuned bass. The bass reflex works with ‘caution’. There is no vain pumping of air and they are easy to place. The Phoebe's bass doesn't go very low and the frequency range is similar to those in big monitors but the larger cabinet eases the bass reproduction not in terms of reach but relaxation. It doesn’t choke as readily as monitors do. Usually small floorstanding speakers are forced to go low to differentiate them from their monitor brethren in the same line. Not here. This is a very good example of a rational approach to speaker making.

Rich vibrant sound, flat frequency response, great dynamics – those are the main advantages of the speaker in question. Using them you can build several different systems where the cost of the speakers will match the accompanying electronics; or others where the value of the speaker cables alone will be higher already. No matter, it is a solid recommendation for anybody looking for good sound. Of course there are also flaws and I will mention them shortly. Praise alone is worthless if you want to expand your knowledge. But here I can leave the flaws for last as they aren’t important to either the electronics and cables selection or the preferred music.

The first system that would fit Audio Academy's speakers consists of the Xindak CD06 and V10 amplifier, the latter a tube deck with limited output power but plenty of drive for the Phoebes. You will get a somewhat (in the positive sense) warm and vivid sound with nice timbre. If you are afraid of tubes, you can always use a transistor amp like the Marantz PM6003 still with Xindak's CD player. To get to the next level, I would choose Leben’s CS300, the STELaudio DAC-4, the Audionemesis upgraded DC-1 or the Benchmark DAC-1 with either a Cyrus CD Xt SE transport or North Star Design Model 192 MkII. For another step up, I would amplify the speakers with the Struss Chopin MkIV integrated. Each change will pay off and you will hear more with every upwards step.

And, these aren’t flawless loudspeakers or drivers. The cabinet and crossover give the sound a specific sonic signature. Although the top end is very good, it is bettered by the Dobermanns where it is deeper, more vibrant and more easeful somewhere between 5-7kHz. You can't really talk about an emphasis but the perception with the Phoebe III compared to the Harpias is that this band down to about 3kHz plays bit stronger. I don't think it really does and instead guess that the lack of lowest bass has our brain interpret the sound accordingly. The bass here is not really low which should not be a problem with good recordings. The bottom end of a double bass simply won’t be as massive as what you get from bigger loudspeakers. But electronic music is really impressive.

The most obvious difference between big expensive speakers and the Phoebe III is that the latter choke on higher volume levels. As mentioned before, dynamics are great and so is the overall clarity. But with the volume up and lots of instruments on the stage, the sound confuses a bit which affects the midrange to get pushier. But we have to remember that these are inexpensive, midsize loudspeakers. One cannot expect perfection. The soundstage is very good but the emphasis is on the acoustics surrounding the instruments, on what's between them rather than on overall size or room acoustics as a whole. Everything is in its place without holes, the soundstage is quite big but you can do better if you spend more.

And obviously, the scale of sound produced by the Phoebe III is not as expansive as over the Dobermanns. You can't rewrite Physics. You will not get as natural a reproduction of the "open your box" scream from Yoko Ono's eponymous record as you would from bigger loudspeakers. But I would like to emphasize that the intensity of the midrange is outstanding such that we can't talk about a small sound. This is most assuredly not the case.