The PMC GB1i standing proud.


The PMC GB1 speakers were one of the two shortlisted candidates[to fit in to my 10 x 12 x 9(W x L x H) feet room, which I think is common size to most Malaysian terrace type houses] when I last went speaker shopping in late 2007. Reason I didn't get it?

I put the Audio Physic Spark in my room and I didn't bother to look further. It somehow just sounded right in my room. But then in the back of my mind I had always wondered what if, I had got the PMC GB1 instead? So when James of AV Designs demoed the new "improved" PMC GB1i during last year's KLIAV Show, I was impressed by it's dinky size, but the sound projected was way..... bigger and surprisingly hall filling!I asked to try it out in my room and James agreed.

The new tweeter with deflective plate and 5 inch mid driver.

The main differences between the i series and the older PMC series is the new tweeter, sourced from SEAS and built to PMC's specs. The 5 inch mid range driver is an in house refinement of the earlier design. The back baffle of the speakers are now veneered matched to the other 5 sides as opposed to the previously black painted finish. It definitely looks a lot more classy then the older GB1 model. The last difference is probably the additional plinth, which now houses 4 adjustable spikes on the outer perimeter wider off the speaker's body, to give the 3 feet high floor stander better stability.

I placed the PMC GB1is in the usual place where most speakers sounded good in my room, which is 36 inches from the back wall and 16 inches from the side walls, about 6 ft apart from each other, and 5.8 ft from my listening couch. I tried various degrees of toe in as per advised by the manual, but liked the sound best with speakers just firing straight ahead in to the room, without toe in. I eventually settled the speakers closer to the back wall to about 34 inches away for better bass response without compromising much of the stage depth perception. The sound review is formed at this position without it's protective grilles attached.

The generic quality bi-wire able binding post. Note the bottom curved plinth with spikes attached.

The new tweeters are certainly airier and much smoother comparing to the earlier GB1 series that I heard. The highs integration to the mids are much more seamless now. The mids have that magical robust body to it(not unlike the LS3/5A BBC style monitors), as any self respecting British speaker should. The ATL(Advance Transmission Line) tuned bass goes very deep(spec to 25hz), much deeper than available with my Audio Physic Spark(spec 33hz). The bass, like the mids have a very robust and tune full quality to it. The PMC GB1i, just like my Audio Physic fits my room size to the T, as they both have 5 inch drivers that didn't excite the room modes. The sound stage projected is huge with very defined depth perception. Vocal imaging centered within the sound stage is solidly anchored with realistic rendering of voice, chest and body.

Comparing to the Audio Physic Spark which is more "ying", the PMC GB1i sound is rather on the "yang" side of the tonal palette. The PMC is warmer sounding compared to the Audio Physic's strict neutral tonality. In classical recordings, where my resident speakers gave strings with only a hint of woodenness to the portrayal of violins, the GB1i gave the same strings with more of the wooden body in comparison. If the AP Spark sounds a little on the hifi..ish side, the GB1i sounds more like live music. Both speakers will paint a very different perspective of the sonic picture of the same musical scene, if you know what I mean. The PMC has lower sensitivity rating at 87db, which if compared to the AP Spark, rated at 90db will sound louder at the same volume setting.

I like this warranty seal! Tops the "feel good" factor as you unpack the PMCs from it's transportation box!

Ultimately, my Pass Aleph 0 which are also of warmish nature in tonality, is not the best partner to the PMC GB1i, which I suspect is just too much of a good thing. The Pass Aleph, with only 20db gain, sounds O.K., but it was the 29db gain Bryston 3B SST2 turned out to be the most synergistic partner to the PMC. With better drive and control to the bass. The overall sonic transient, dynamics goes louder and harder too. The Bryston's lighter tonality does balances the PMC's darker presentation better. Heck! even my DIY quassi class A rated LM3886 power amp tonally suited the PMC better, though with less resolution. I have a strange suspicion the PMC will rock hard with Naim or Creek amplification too.

However, with speakers at this RM10k price point, there will be areas of design compromise in the process of scaling down from the bigger and more expensive higher end models. On the PMC GB1i, I can only point out 2 areas which are compromised, other than the usual scaling down of bandwidth, dynamic range and transparency, compared to the bigger models like the FB1i or even the EB1i. First, whilst the ATL tuned bass is even handed and gutsy most of the time, some bass instrument like the one in track 6 of Tsai Chin's Lou Ge CD just manages to catch the bass lines off guard by lingering around just a little too long. It doesn't happen very often, but it does happens in say 1 song out of every 12 CDs or so. The other area of critic is the highs. High hats must have attack, sustain and then decay in to air, to sound realistic. In the area of attack, or lack of is where the PMC could have done better. The attack factor is there alright, but the PMC just seems a little more subdued in that department. However, having pointed out it's 2 minor faults, I must say I only heard them when it was partnered with my Pass Aleph. When powered by the Bryston 3B SST2, I did not managed to catch PMC off guard, even if it's only for a brief 2 hour session. Hence it could very well be an issue of partnering equipment synergy.

With the Audio Physic Spark now phased out in favour of the newer Sitara, which I am told by Adrian of Audio Image that it ain't coming to Malaysia, means that the PMC GB1i is still one of "THE" must audition speakers to any one with RM10K budget and shopping for speakers to suit their 10 x 12 ft room more or less! The other contender is probably another PMC, it's the re-issued LB1 Signature in Tiger Wood finishing, which I am told by those whom heard, it sounds fantastic!

PMC Speakers are sold by AV Designs, tel: 03-21712828

16 comments:

Ken said...

Hi Panzer,

Your review of the PMC is the best I haved read from all the reviews you have posted in this blog. Like I always say, when I read a review, I can roughly guess what the hardware sounds like which your review has managed to do.

I agree with you that PMC is a touch dark but like the ATC speakers, you need a high current/wattage amp to drive it. Then you will hear all it's glory. The reason I say this is because you have discovered in some cds that the bass "linger too long". This to me, means that the amp is not able to exert enough control on the driver.

Knowing your room, I think the better match to your system would be the ATC SCM35. The newer batch of ATC speakers have a much more extended HF which will suit your warmer sounding ancillaries. Also, 3 way speakers are able to communicate more seamlessly when compared to a 2 way because a single driver would have to work doubly hard to give you the mids and lows as compared to 2 drivers which can do that.

Again YMMV;-)

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...

agreed. panzer has improved tremendously in his writing. proud to have him here.

jay said...

Mr Ken,

you sure know your British speaker..

IME, Bryston amps are amongst the best to coax out some juice from these British beuties..high current all the way and you realize that these are the only speakers you need.

as far as PMC goes,the bass tend to be a tad more pronounced a la Wilson speakers.Personally I prefer ATC,followed by Harbeth then PMC AND SPENDOR JOINTLY....

I do not own any of those mind you,there are not beutiful enought to look,but if I AM in A MOOD FOR SOME serious music , I always leave my Sonus at home and take a 5 minutes drive to my friends place and let his linn-bryston-ATC rig send me to music wonderland

Ken said...

Hi Jay,

Yeah, started with the Castle speakers, then Epos, later AE. After that I used QLN (Swedish?) and now ATC.

My ATC SCM100 is really not that hard to drive but to make it sing, you will need a strong pwr amp. Am using the Rowland 8 which puts out 250w. Wish I could have more;-P

IMO, PMC are close cousin to ATC because both started from the professional side before venturing to home hifi. PMC also has their own 3" drivers which ATC is famous for.

km ng said...

Anybody thought of going the active way, ie, PMC speakers with Bryston active crossover and power amps?

By going active, the electrical, mechanical and acoustical parameters of the amps and speakers are tailored made and matched for each other - like a well designed and matched car engine/gearbox and chassis.

Please give it a thought (and a listen, of course) and do cast away any preconceived notions or prejudices of active systems.

bumbum said...

AGREED WITH THE ABOVE.

theoratically at least,the active loudspeakers should lead the way..I like the new active range from ATC

Ken said...

Hi KM,

Going active means that you do not have a choice when it comes to choosing the different type of amplification. Where is the fun in that;-P

Felix said...

Panzer,

Nice review. Good reading

I love the 1st photo! Awesome!

Panzer said...

Ken,

I am glad that you've been following my scriblings. Thanks for the pointers too. I always admired your honesty.

ML,

I couldn't have done it without your constant encouragement and pointers. Thanks.

The only British resident speaker ever used in my system was the legendary 80's Epos ES11. It really showed me a lot of insight in to getting good sound outta my equipment and room. I have to thank Felix for showing me the way!
I do hope someday, that I'll lucky enough to have a pair of the LS3/5A in my house playing music in a second system.

hifikaki said...

Panzer,
Proud to be your partner-in-crime! :-)

km ng said...

Hi Ken,

Some active systems with external crossovers do allow you the choice of power amps for your fun.

In addition, you can adjust the crossover frequencies to suit your speaker/room interface for additional flexiblity.

kiarch said...

Hi Panzer,

Good review!

For your second system, I would suggest you try PMC's DB1i instead of LS3/5A.

Think of the impedance mis-match issue between speakers and amplification system; PMC DB1i would fit well with the modern days' electronics = yours.

Although I like to have you, and more people, toying with speakers of my choice, I ought to remind you the issue of impedance matching issue before you take the plunge. I have auditioned DB1i in my system, even with electronics that works well with LS3/5A, works so well with the DB1i too, so I can imagine just how good this DB1i is.

Felix said...

Panzer,

What did I do? :-)

You owe it to yourself what you achieved today. Your vast resource, open-mindedness and keen sense of good sound is what got you here today.

I am just an envious bystander enjoying your good work.

km ng said...

Hi Kiarch aka Jo,

Active amplification will cure the LS3/5a of its impedance mismatch problems with modern amplification.

But then, how would the LS3/5a sound without its heart (crossover)?

kiarch said...

Hi KM Ng,

Without the crossovers, LS3/5A would sound quite different.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo and KM Ng,
Interesting topic this active cross over is. Just to chip in my 2 cents worth, going active does not mean the impedance mismatch problem will go away. A bare mid bass and a bare tweeter driver has its own impedance swings (just like a woman's mood swings ;-) ) depending on the frequency. Going active will allow the amplifier's output stage (be it transistors or OPT) to see the driver directly instead of going through lengths of coils or caps before controlling it (per passive cross over) and this advantage takes precedence over any impedance mismatch problems.
Also, the crossover region is much more precise and controlled in the active method, because in the passive crossover, a slight elevated voice coil temperature (during transients or loud passage) will cause a change in driver impedance and hence it will also alter the passive cross over's effective transfer curve. There are several more issues pertaining to passive cross over but I think this is not the venue to discuss further.

It will be interesting though, to run the LS3/5a using active x-over. Of course lots of ground work are needed to replicate the delicate nature of the 3/5a's cross over transfer curve.

cheers.

WiKin