My Philharmonic 3’s - Refining the refined...

ICTWoody

No longer a junior member
So I was going to sell my Dennis Murphy Philharmonic 3 loudspeakers. I had a buyer... I got cold feet.

A little history about how I ended up with Phil 3’s. I started out with some passive KEF LS50’s a number of years back when they were really the “flavor of the year”. I really enjoyed the KEFs... but I wanted something as good, but with a bit more low end. After a lot of research I wound up purchasing a pair of Salk Somgtowers which were designed by Dennis Murphy and Jim Salk. They were GREAT speakers. They had all the best qualities of the KEFs, but more musical, more bass... just great.

Time passed and I loved the Salks... but again, I wanted just a little more low bass without running subs. I was so impressed with the Songtowers I called up Dennis and talked with him at length about my room, what I liked about my STs and whether or not the Phil 3’s could be that much closer to an perfect speaker for me. He said they have all the best qualities of the STs but a bit more detail and more bass... but he said he thought they would be a great step up. I started saving. When this pair of rosewood veneered Phil 3’s showed up on Audiogon a few months later, I had to have them.

After a few years of dialing in my system I was satisfied. The Phil’s with Modwright electronics was just sublime. Eventually I was playing with more vintage Altec stuff and listening more to my “2nd” rig and I felt like the rig in my listening room was being underutilized. I decided it was time for a reset, like we do and sold off most of the rig. The Phil’s however were special and after a few days of listening in my big room (pictured) I decided they’d get stored for a bit. This was about a year ago.

Well I decided it was probably time to part with them since they haven’t been used in many many months and so I put them up for sale several weeks ago. I had a lot of interest... but when I started taking them apart a bit ( top modules off etc...) to figure out shipping I realized they weren’t an all-out build. There were some citizens issues with the tweeter and mid not fitting in their rabbited out recesses as well as they could. The midrange was kinda up over the lip a bit on both speakers, screws weren’t flat to the bezel... just what I would call QC issues, but I’d kinda glazed over cause of how good they performed. I also took note of the kinda cheap “Parts Express Level” binding posts between the upper and lower modules, and the back inputs. I also noticed the wiring was just run of the mill copper, nothing wrong with that, but when I looked at the way the wires were frayed where attached to the tweeter and mids... the workmanship just lacked a bit.

I found myself thinking “man... these are awesome, yet I think I can make them better.” And that leads to where I am today — modding a pair of Dennis Murphy’s Philharmonic 3’s “Woody style.”

To be continued...

- Woody

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ICTWoody

No longer a junior member
Step One: Rewiring

As I mentioned... the basic components of the internal wire is just fine. Quality stuff... but not great. The internal wiring was mostly a good quality 12g OFC... bulk spool stuff. The wiring from the midrange was also 12g, but a stiffer wire... kinda like standard hookup wire, but stranded. The wire from the RAAL tweeter was 14g or 16g OFC.

The 2nd issue was just some QC... the hole on the terminal tabs on the mid was too small for the 12g wire to go through. It was like you jammed what you could through.. and then it frayed around it. But then you kinda just wind it up around the terminal tab and solder in place. I’m sure it was functionally okay... but it wasn’t great. Similar issue on the tweeters. It was a short 1.5 inch or so segment soldered to the input pads, and then a longer length was twisted to that and soldered. Wrapped with electrical tape for insulation. (Pics attached)

Over the last few years I’ve really become fond of Duelund wire products and decided that was the route I was going to go here. I decided on their 12g tin plated copper for everything that was 12g, and 16g for tweeter to lower module. I used the new 12g X 2 which is braided together in a single outer cotton jacket. This wire is about $31 a meter from partsconnexion. I needed about 10m total. The 24” or so from tweeter to lower module I used single runs of 16g Duelund sleeved together in techflex.

Where all the wiring connects to the crossovers everything was twisted and soldered and wrapped with electrical tape. Again, functional... but not optimal, to me. I used Cardas Silver solder and shrink wrapped throughout. Really tried to keep things neat and tidy and high quality in my workmanship.

I also decided I was going to minimize binding posts. I don’t plan to bi-wire, so I am going with a single pair of Cardas binding posts on the inputs (reversibility easily if needed in the future) with custom binding post mounting plates (more on those later) and for the upper to lower module connections, since a single uninterrupted wire was kinda out of the question I used 100% copper “clamps” from McMaster Carr. It’s as close to bare wire as I could come up with while still making it easyish to remove the upper module as needed.

More to come.

- Woody

Before examples...

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After Examples....

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ICTWoody

No longer a junior member
Metal Finishing and Custom Parts:

Today I picked up the parts I had powder coated. Pictured here are the binding post plates for the single Cardas binding posts, the NEW custom outriggers designed by me, and the bits and pieces to accommodate the spikes and leveling adjustment. I’m very happy with the selected “Black Krinkle” powder. It’s a very close match to the bezels around the tweeter and midrange.

I won’t be able to get the speakers on their tiptoes until some custom hard maple bases/plinths come in to replace the bottom MDF covers, and a 6.7mm drill bit and M8 tap to finish up the outriggers/adjusters.

The binding post plates will head to the engravers tomorrow to get their custom graphics applied via laser.

- Woody

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ICTWoody

No longer a junior member
Binding Post Plates and Cardas Binding Posts:

Just picked these up from the engraver... they turned out excellent! Had to get the hat-tip to Dennis in there. I think these feel more in line with the value of the speakers. Definitely an upgrade from the PE level plastic cup bi-wire posts.

I chose to go with single posts because of 2 reasons. Half as many expensive binding posts to buy, and also because I really don't want to mess with biwire or biamp on these speakers anymore. Simple. The wiring is there and it can be pretty easily changed if need be in the future. But this is just clean and simple.

Posts are Cardas, purchased from @Pat McGinty — Thanks again for that deal among many!

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ICTWoody

No longer a junior member
Integrated Maple Base/Plinth and Outriggers:

Today my carpenter buddy, Justin, came over and brought the 1 1/8” thick hard maple bases. These replace the stock 3/4” MDF bases. We drilled the holes for the EZ-Lock brass inserts, but I’m waiting on a special driver bit to help me put them in straight. It’ll be here tomorrow. Here’s also a look at the 1/4” steel outriggers. This design should be very secure and stable to the base.

I really like the way the new base makes the speaker float over the outriggers giving that bit of shadow line. I may refine the front outriggers to follow the front speaker face contour... not sure why I didn’t when I originally designed them... probably just cause 4 identical was cheaper than 2 pairs at the time. The sides of the maple may get painted black tomorrow, we’ll see.

If everything goes well, these will be playing music before the weekend.

- Woody

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ICTWoody

No longer a junior member
Final Re-Assembly - Isolation and connections and moving them into use again:

The last couple steps were pretty simple. I replaced the trio of Sorbothan isolation hemispheres between the upper and lower modules with 4 Herbie's Audio Lab Tenderfeet. The Sorbothan had sagged and it made the upper module sit a little back down. I've had good luck with Herbie's products over the years... so I stuck with what I knew.

I got all the spikes and adjusters installed. I have a few spike options, but for simplicity for now I just went with a pretty standard black spike. They do rest in Herbie's Glider Pucks I already had on hand. Even though I set them up with 1/8" of adjustment per foot, where they are currently positioned they didn't need any adjustment. Nice.

I made the final connections between the uppers and lowers using the copper terminals and feeding the excess wire back up into the uppers and routing to the side. Not pictured here is filling back in the Polyfill in the upper modules to control and tune the back wave.

I dollied them into position and hooked them up to my Fairchilds. I was hoping the 65wpc 275's would drive them well. I think they need more current. But for now they are making music and sound great. I will continue to evaluate with more hours on the new wires and will be making some electronics purchased in the coming weeks to build out this system. I want the Fairchilds to stay with the Altecs.

Thanks for following along. More updates will come down the thread since I'm out of "placeholder posts" here.

- Woody

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I am really excited for this/you as I have always really liked those speakers but never knew what they were. It seems like you were usually talking about other gear in your pics or had other projects going on and I was always like, "but what about those really sweet looking speakers that rarely get mentioned". Looking forward to this project!
 

ICTWoody

No longer a junior member
I am really excited for this/you as I have always really liked those speakers but never knew what they were. It seems like you were usually talking about other gear in your pics or had other projects going on and I was always like, "but what about those really sweet looking speakers that rarely get mentioned". Looking forward to this project!
Yeah... these never get as much online love from me around HFH... we're so Altec-minded around here. :-) They are going to get their due, now! Once I finish this thread on the hop-ups, I'll start a thread to follow the progression of the system these will be in. Pretty excited to play with them again.

- Woody
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
I would never had thought I’d see that type of sloppy wire/solder work when judging by the beautiful exterior. Good for you on giving them a second chance at life with a little TLC. Can’t wait to read up on the progress and outcome!
 

ICTWoody

No longer a junior member
Using the web archive, here’s the now gone page on the Philharmonic 3’s. Lots of tech there for the speaker data nerds...

I really like Dennis’ transparency when it comes to his speakers measurements etc...

- Woody

 

MWalt

Active Member
Dennis Murphy is a good guy. I have a pair of Pioneer SP-BS22-LR's that I sent him to do his mods on after he was no longer doing said mods for the public. He only charged me for the parts. They still sit in a bedroom system, much improved from their original state.
 
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