The one thing that PMC was quick to demonstrate with the PB1i is its ability to play at high levels, those two bass drivers provide an ease and consistency at any volume but which comes into its own then the wick is up. That said these speakers remain much the same at moderate levels, revealing the depth, width and scale of everything you play. They therefore excel at stereo imaging which can be extraordinarily physical with the right recording. I played the Avishai Cohen Trio quite a bit and there was no getting away from the solidity of the band leader’s double bass, its big wooden body standing between and in front of the speakers in visceral fashion. On another track, the drums are placed well behind the rest of the band in an unusually tangible fashion. I thought that this might be down to the MSB source, but got the same result from a Moon CD3.3 player, too.
If this speaker has a character, it is a relatively relaxed bottom end. Because the bass really breathes you don’t get the same solidity or tightness that you get with a well built ported box. But put on the right track, one with a solid kick drum and that tight, powerful drum sound comes through. All of which makes me suspect that the ATL approach could well be the less distorted. The fact that there is so much range of bass character available from the PB1i suggests that it is not making much of that character up itself, rather it is revealing it in a truthful fashion. With the Moon player, however, the overall result was a little soft and I got much better results with the other two sources at hand, so you still need to match front and back ends to get the right final balance.
My B&W 802Ds produce tighter bass, great definition of leading edges and more character seems to come through the midband. However, its presentation is completely different and while power handling is slightly greater and overall resolution higher the amount of extra detail that one can confidently say is coming from the recording and not the speaker is not so great given the three grand price differential.
The PB1is do like a bit of power behind them. I tried using a Leema Tucana integrated, which is a pretty powerful unit. While it produced an engaging and revealing result, it was not terribly comfortable at higher levels in what is admittedly quite a large room. One interesting point was that the speaker didn’t need that much space behind it to give an even response, I kept them a metre clear of sidewalls, but only needed half that behind them. Obviously different rooms will work in different ways, but with a speaker that goes down as low as this and with as much power, this was closer to the wall than experience suggests would work.
One’s attention is drawn to the bass because it reveals so much instrumental timbre, shape and depth in everything that goes down there, but the mid and top are easily on a par. It wouldn’t reveal as much about the qualities of recordings without a stunning midband and it wouldn’t reveal the shape of recording venues without good treble extension. Of course, all three elements are bonded together seamlessly by the fourth-order crossover.
Speakers with this type of crossover can have great detail resolution, but a poor sense of timing. While there are snappier sounding speakers out there, the PB1i is right on the money when it comes to this critical factor. Not only does the bass breathe but it is also fast, that’s why you can hear so much detail and why it can stop on the proverbial dime.
This is a hugely entertaining and revealing speaker and one that I was genuinely saddened to see leave the listening room. In tandem with a decent source and a powerful amplifier, it can create the illusion of musicians in the room with remarkable ease. And even with a compressed slab of Frank Zappa, it transports you to that other world where all that matters is the sound.
PMC PB1i floorstanding loudspeaker
Type: Three-way, four drive unit floorstanding loudspeaker
Impedance: 6 ohms
Frequency response: 24Hz-25kHz
Drive units: 27mm Sonolex soft dome treble, 75mm soft dome midrange, 2x170mm doped cone bass
Crossover freq.: 380Hz, 3.8kHz
Input connectors: 4mm sockets (3pr)
Dimensions (WxHxD): 204 x 1084 x 401mm
Finishes: oak, walnut, black ash,cherry
Options: magnet shielding