pl | en
Active stand-mounted speakers

Price: 4150 EUR + 30 EUR remote control

Manufacturer: Studio van der Brug

Joe Hayes
phone +61 7 3103 2995


WWW: Solphonique

Text: Marek Dyba
Photos: Marcin Olszewski, Solphonique

Long, long time ago … - that's how I could the story begin for young readers who can't even imagine today times when all we had were two channels of state owned television with nothing really worth watching on them. There was no internet either. Kids then spent days playing with others outside, and the only additional kind of entertainment was … reading books. Yes, there truly was a time when reading was a great way of spending free time (and I mean reading paper books not ebooks). Back then I started to read a series of books by Alfred Szklarski telling a story about adventures of a young boy named Tomek Wilmowski, who traveled the world together with his father and some friends. The first part was titled „In the land of Kangaroos” - yes, the main character visited Australia. I was a kid then with no knowledge of National Geographic channel or access to Internet – so for me stories about koalas, dingos, kangaroos, or so bizzare creatures as platypus or short-beaked echidna sounded amazing and unbelievable. Today all you need to do is to turn on one of many channels or do a quick google search to see movies or pictures of any creature, and to learn all about them there is to learn. Surely it is convenient but since it comes effortless it doesn't have the charm of discovering something new anymore.

But today, even though world has become one small global village sometimes you can still make a remarkable discovery – years ago these were marsupials, and today it might be an audio product coming from the same continent. I already had a pleasure once to review such a remarkable discovery from Australia – Cymer monoblocks from this country's biggest tube guru Elson Silva (guy with Brazilian origin by the way). When preparing for that review I did a research in the web for information about the guy and his products. I found just few pieces of information only on Australian audiophile forums. This time I received for a review Solphonique Dwarf speakers and learned that even less information was available about them that there had been about Cymers. I found no review, no customer's opinions, and even manufacturer's website was not too informative. So meeting Dwarfs was like discovering an uncharted land.

As we can read on manufacturer's website: „Solphonique speakers are based on a revolutionary new science that takes sound into new dimensions. The technology behind these speakers is Solacoustics, a system that radiates sound in much the same way as the sun radiates light. The phase coherent sound field allows for previously encoded phase information in a recording to be perfectly reproduced. The result is a complex time-space environment in which the acoustic holography of the original recording is recreated.” To be honest I don't really get the idea but obviously designers are not willing to share their secrets.

When you look at Dwarfs you can see what makes them different from other speakers (apart from having amps and DSP installed inside). The tweeter is placed on this horizontal black metal part face down. This way sound hits this black metal radiator below that together with cabinet's top is tilted backwards and my guess is that the angle of this tilt is not coincidental – it might allow this phase and time alignment mentioned by manufacturer. Woofer is placed below in a standard manner. Cabinet is vented with BR port placed in the back panel. The back panel is somehow also unusual. First of all you won't find speaker bindings there. If you think about it for a second it becomes obvious but it is kind of a surprise at first anyway. Manufacturer installed D-class amps in both speakers. One of the speakers is a master and the other is a slave. Signal might be delivered to master speaker in couple of ways. First of them is with analogue RCA cables (from a CD player for example). Than we have to connect both speakers together to relay signal from master to slave. We do that with very non-audiophile looking cable with small jack termination on both sides that looks nothing like most fancy garden hoses from leading cable manufacturers. We can't forget about plugging both speakers to power outlets with power cords delivered alongside speakers (also very ordinarily looking ones). Dwarfs are equipped with remote.

But lets go back to the interesting back panels. Another unusual connections we can find there are S/PDIF input and output plus USB socket, single subwoofer output and RCA output from amplifier. Manufacturer obviously realized when designing Solphoniques that many customers would use these speakers in middle to big size rooms which meant they would make a good use of a subwoofer in a system. There is a possibility to deliver a signal up with resolution to 192 kHz via S/PDIF input – great news, but what's the output for? Well it's an option of communication between speakers. USB port serves two purposes – first of all you can use it to deliver signal directly from your computer. But there is also a second purpose – before you start to use Dwarfs you need to upload to them some configuration files and digital filters settings. There is also good news for those who like to try to adjust the sound to their preferences – you can create your own configuration file and save it for future use. I didn't even touch this last option – just used whatever configuration and setting were uploaded by Distributor.

Just shortly about people behind this design. Solphonique speakers are designed and built by legendary Australian acoustician, Joe Hayes. The team includes also award winning designer, Brad Serhan, who's responsible for Orpheus loudspeaker fame. Both guys well known in their own country make an attempt to conquer also other corners of the world – will they succeed? Time will show but I guess they stand a chance.


Discs used during listening sessions:

  • Bill Bourne, Lester Quitzan, Madagascar Slim, 3 Continental; T & M 016.
  • Pink Floyd, The Wall; EMI Japan, TOCP-53810-11.
  • Heifetz, Double concertos, RCA Victor; 09026 63531 2.
  • Mighty Sam McClain', Keep on movin', AQ-CD1031.
  • Tao Ruspoli, Flamenco, WILDCHILD!; 10452.
  • Joey DeFrancesco, Falling in love again, Concord Jazz; CCD-2160-2.
  • Stargate OST, muz. David Arnold, 5050466 3079 2 7.
  • Matthew Doyle, Tony Lewis, Stormbird, HDW 4509.

It is always a big question which is better – to get brand new products in perfect shape for a review, or rather not so perfect demonstrative pieces that are already well broken in. To be honest I prefer the latter option and that's what I got this time. I am mentioning it only in case somebody notices some flaws on the pair of Dwarfs we took pictures of – yes, these were not in perfect shape but at their peak performance which (for me) was more important. There is something about Dwarf's look that attracts attention. Marcin – who took pictures for this review – simple said they were very photogenic. Well, you call them whatever you want, but despite their original look, or maybe because of it, many might find them attractive. Lets conclude they look interesting and good and lets fast-forward to the description of the sound.

Solphonique speakers are not very impressive at first. To be honest their task to impress me was even harder because I started to listen to them right after I sent back wonderful Dynaudio Special 25, which I liked a lot and recognized them as one of the best monitors I had ever listened to. For the first two days I left Dwarfs hooked up to the system to give them time to „come together”. Only after that time I started to listen to them seriously. Although Dwarfs are not typical monitors (as they are active) they still offer set of virtues characteristic for this kind of speakers. Generally speaking sound is not spectacular, at least not from the first moment we hear it, but there are some aspects that I was really impressed with like spectacular, huge monitor-like soundstage. Soundstage might be created in many different ways.

Dwarfs build extensive soundstage starting behind speakers line. Everything is happening „over there” and if the group of musicians is big enough (like on Pirates of the Caribbean) the closest of them are behind speakers line and the last ones are far, far away in the next room behind wall. The good thing is that even the furthest instruments can be heard „loud and clear” – every single detail is delivered precisely and clearly. Another characteristic thing about monitors – they simply disappear from the room when they play the music – that happens to Solphonique loudspeakers too. You don't even need any significant distance between you and speakers – soundstage is always wide and music flaws not from the speakers but from some place behind them.

The general impression of the sound delivered by Solphoniques was as it would be bit darker than usually, or darker than sound I was used to. Was it about this very specific placement of a tweeter? Maybe. Is it w flow? The longer I listened to tested subjects the less I cared – I simply accepted that this was the right way to present the music. Bow instruments on above mentioned recording sounded bit darker as if they would play bit lower tone then usually. The whole recording gained by that a darker atmosphere which I really enjoyed by the way, but at the same time I wondered if the tones were as vibrant as before. To make sure I used a „simpler” recording by Midnight Blue band. Percussion cymbals and trumpet are very important participants of that recording and they sound fabulously vibrant. It didn't take me long to confirm that the general presentation was bit darker but the subtle change was about the timbre without any loss in terms of vibrancy. Perhaps there was no such fantastic smoothness and coherency as delivered but extraordinary Esotar2 tweeter used in Dynaudio Special 25, but those speakers delivered this particular recording in the best way ever, so Dwarfs that offered only slightly worse performance had nothing to be ashamed of. Vocals appeared to sound bit warm but it was this kind of absolutely natural warmth. This was no surprise considering that Australian speakers were driven by D-class amps. From my point of view this way of presentation was a clear advantage. Choosing D-class amps for these speakers couldn't be an accident – digital amps were small while having significant output power and emitting small amounts of hit. Plus the sound was something in between tube and SS world. Dwarfs don't try to cheat – I mean you will get nice, strong, taut bass but not the lower one – such small cabinets can't offer you that. I wrote that Special 25 sounded like small floor standers but Solphoniques they sound like monitors, period!. This is a premeditated effect as Australian designers assumed that anybody who needs lower bass or more bass would use subwoofer so they provided a dedicated output for such an addition to a system.

Mocną stroną Dwarfów jest prezentacja instrumentów akustycznych. Bardzo namacalnie, ze sporą porcją dynamiki wypadły np. nagrania flamenco. Może życzyłbym sobie ciut większego udziału „pudła”, ale to taka fanaberia nabyta przy słuchaniu dużo droższych zestawów. Interesująco wypada prezentacja instrumentów dętych – o trąbce już wspominałem, ale również np. saksofon ma piękną barwę i dynamikę. Dość ciepło, ale w sensie takiego naturalnego ciepła, wypadają wokale. Teoretycznie nie powinno to dziwić, bo średnica jest najczęściej mocną stroną wzmacniaczy w klasie D, a taki właśnie napędza Dwarfy, ale ja oczekuję takiego brzmienia raczej z kolumn napędzanych lampą. Dla mnie to spory plus tego zestawu – klasa D nie została na pewno wybrana przypadkiem – niewielkie rozmiary wzmacniacza, wystarczająca moc, niewielka ilość wydzielanego ciepła i brzmienie, które łączy cechy wzmacniaczy lampowych i tranzystorowych. Z tranzystorów wzięta jest spora dynamika i dość krótki i punktowy bas (to po części zasługa zatkania przeze mnie otworów bas-refleksu – nic nie poradzę, niemal każda kolumna z BR dla mnie brzmi lepiej po zatkaniu wylotu i tyle). Dwarfy nie próbują oszukiwać – tzn. powyższe uwagi odnoszą się do wyższego i średniego basu, bo oferowane pasmo nie ma zbyt dużego rozciągnięcia w dół. O ile w przypadku jubileuszowych Dynaudio pisałem, że grają jak małe podłogówki, tak tu Solphonique grają jak monitory, kropka. Wynika to chyba z nieco odmiennych założeń. Australijscy konstruktorzy przyjęli od razu, że jeśli ich kolumny będą używane w większym pomieszczeniu to będą uzupełnione subwooferem – dlatego wzmacniacz wyposażono od razu w stosowne wyjście. Oznacza to, że duża, gęsta muzyka nie będzie miała odpowiedniego wolumenu, masy. By to uzyskać trzeba dodać do systemu subwoofer, ale to dotyczy zdecydowanej większości małych kolumn.


Calling Solphonique Dwarf monitors would be a great understatement. What we get are monitors plus amplifiers, plus DSP (digital sound processor) and even USB DAC. So this is an almost complete system – we need to add only some kind of source and that's it. This source could be even your laptop. This makes it difficult or maybe rather pointless to compare these speakers with others. Dwarfs offer high quality sound and some qualities typical for monitors – good spacing, precise phantom imaging, they also disappear completely from the room. Upper part of the range offers lots of air, great vibrancy and impressive reverberations. Midrange is slightly warmed up but only to the point when bow instruments, acoustic guitars and vocals sound naturally warm. Upper and mid-bass are taut, dynamic, well differentiated. Only the lowest bass is missing but it is no surprise considering the size of cabinets and drivers. Designers preferred to deliver extra output for subwoofer rather than force speakers to produce low bass in an artificial way. One more bonus for customers – programmable DSP – if you care enough you might create your own settings, save them and use them whenever you want. This is a product different from all others plus you get an impressive performance – so maybe it is worth giving them your own try? You might get to like them.


Solphonique Dwarf Active Digital are small, two-way bas-reflex speakers. Drivers come from Norwegian Seas and Canadian Solona. Technology behind them is called Solacoustic - Solphonique speakers radiate sound like the sun radiates sunlight, illuminating every part of the original signal into every corner of the room. Tweeters are placed on kind of metal beam with their diaphragms aiming down right on to another metal part that looks like radiator. All elements are precisely aligned in a way that allows to achieve perfect phase coherence at every frequency, in every part of your room Amplifier mounted inside speaker's cabinet is a D-class AS2.100 made by Dutch company Hypex (in fact two amps – one in each speaker). The tested version includes also a digital module that allows signal to be delivered not only by RCA interconnects but also in digital form by S/PDIF or USB cable. One of the speakers (the one with control panel) serves as a master, and the other as a slave. Signal from master to slave is deliver either by coaxial cable or by another with with small jack connectors. Both speakers need to be plugged to power outlet to provide power for both amplifiers.

g     a     l     l     e     r     y

Reference system: