Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless. Black – Ex-Demo
Linn Selekt DSM Katalyst (pre -amp) – 2 months old
Matrix Audio X SPDIF 2
Matrix Audio Quattro II
DEAL OF THE DAY
Chord Hugo 2 – Black – 3 months old A1 condition
2014 Midwest Audiofest Tent Sale & Vintage Audio Swap
PMC Twenty.26 Floorstanding Speaker Review
It must cause a bit of confusion that a well respected and marketing savvy brand like PMC makes two loudspeakers at virtually the same price. The twenty.26 retails for £5,995 and fact.8 is £6,495 so they are not precisely the same but at this level the difference is small enough to undermine the traditional hierarchy of price and quality. PMC clearly realises that not everyone is looking for the same thing in a loudspeaker, the sheer variety of options on the market would seem to back this up, especially those from brands that have stood the test of time. A B&W does not sound like a Monitor Audio yet both companies sell plenty of speakers at a given price. This is because of the variables involved with musical taste and room characteristics, not to mention aesthetic preferences. PMC describe the fact.8, a two-way floorstander that’s slimmer and more conventionally shaped, as being like porcelain, it’s refined and elegant. They think of the twenty.26 as being closer to earthenware, it has the same tonal balance yet is more beefy and has the get up and go to reproduce vigorous music in a visceral fashion.
The twenty.26 is the largest model in the twenty series, it stands just over a meter high before you add spikes, and has the distinctive backward lean common to the range. This is not merely to evoke Maxell tape adverts of yore but provides a degree of mechanical time alignment between the drivers, the operational centre of a tweeter is further forward than that in a cone driver like the seven inch bass unit used here, the tilt gets the centres of the three drivers into the same vertical plane. Those drivers consist of a 27mm soft dome tweeter with ferrofluid cooling to minimise compression at high levels, and a metal grille to enhance dispersion and provide protection. The twenty.26 is the only three-way in the series and features a 50mm soft dome midrange that was developed from a dome of the same size on the £12k fact.12. It has a large 50mm voice coil, very low moving mass and high power handling and is a key to this speaker’s appeal. The bass driver has a natural fibre, see doped paper, cone with a cast alloy chassis and a long gap/short coil motor system for greater power handling.
When these units are combined with PMC’s preferred advanced transmission line (ATL) loading you have a speaker that despite its lower than average 86dB sensitivity will play as long and hard as your amp can take it. Transmission lines are an alternative to the reflex or sealed box loading found in most other loudspeakers, they have a surprisingly long folded ‘line’ or funnel that connects the rear of the bass driver to the vents on the front baffle. The idea being that rear output from the bass unit augments the lowest frequencies and remains in phase with them. The transmission line is lined with carefully selected foam that filters out all but the lowest notes, the result is addictively clean bass.
PMC is also very keen on wide dispersion or spread of sound. They try to make the dispersion characteristics of the drivers as similar to one another as possible and the dispersion of the whole system as broad as it can be. The benefit is that sound which bounces off the walls has the same character as the direct sound that goes straight to your ears.
It’s worth mentioning the crossover in the twenty.26. Being a three-way with aspirations to high SPLs this has to be both sophisticated and bomb proof. PMC uses milspec glass fibre circuit board, thick copper tracks and steep, fourth order (24dB/octave) slopes to ensure that there is minimal overlap between drivers and maximum linearity. The company’s pro audio background means that all their speakers will play at high level with minimal effort, but if like me you’re not a headbanger (anymore!) they seem to be equally effective at sensible levels.
I used the twenty.26 with an ATC P1 (150W) and Naim’s new NAP 250 DR power amplifier, an amp that seemed well suited to the job despite a fairly modest 80 Watt power rating. I hooked the speakers up with a single run of Townshend Isolda DCT speaker cable using the middle of the three sets of binding posts. Should you so desire it’s possible to tri-wire this speaker but I would try replacing the gold plated jumper bars with short pieces of speaker cable before going to the expense. Less is sometimes more when it comes to cable.
The first thing that needs to be said about the twenty.26 is that it is a stonking loudspeaker, give it a great signal and you get a truly spectacular sound. It brings more of the scale, depth, dynamics and bandwidth out of the recording than most of the competition at the price. The power in the bass is to die for, it extends way down to the grumbliest, darkest of nether regions and remains controlled and articulate all the way. The mid is exemplary, revealing, immensely subtle and capable of sending shivers down your spine with the right piece of music. And the treble is clean, smooth and strong, it doesn’t draw attention to itself but reproduces high notes in a solid and tactile fashion that makes bells seem as real as kick drums.
These qualities are apparent with everything you play but if there’s a voice in the mix the transparency of that midrange dome lets you know just what it’s feeling and how it’s being articulated. This is true of Adele, Joni Mitchell, John Lurie and well, everyone else I played. Some have been recorded better than others of course and that is not down played, you get big differences between recordings, Ryan Adams’s Gold on DSD is in the room real while a live recording of the same artist puts him in the venue where some canny German managed to get such a great sound. But you know it’s him and you know what he’s saying. I particularly like the way that the twenty.26 is so revealing in the context of an effortless presentation. You get a lot of slightly bright speakers that deliver oodles of detail but the balance gets in the way of the music. That is not the case here, this speaker is a slave to the signal, the better that signal is the better they sound.
Alison Krauss sounds sumptuous singing Lie Awake in high res 24/96 while Led Zeppelin’s Wanton Song is clearly compressed yet has considerable power and drive when given sufficient wick. That led me onto ZZ Top and It’s Only Love, a track that revealed a gorgeously meaty bass line underneath the scorching guitar of Billy Gibbons. The brilliance of vinyl is naturally also very clear with these PMCs, the quality of timing is obvious as is the way that the sound escapes the cabinets so well that you can close your eyes and it’s impossible to point at the speakers. The better digital pieces did the same thing to be honest, the musicians are seemingly in the room thanks to the solidity of the imaging.
You can throw anything at this speaker and be guaranteed a coherent and musically fluent sound, in fact it’s the densest material that reveals just how good they are. A lot of speakers, even high end ones, sound great if you stick with relatively simple music but start to lose composure if you put heavy music on. These PMCs take everything in their stride, which is both a reflection of transmission line loading and the quality of the overall design.
If you are looking for a speaker that does it all and won’t dominate the living room I strongly recommend hearing the PMC twenty.26, and while you’re at it see if you can find anything better for less than ten G, it won’t be easy. In comparison with the fact.8 the twenty.26 is an easier speaker to use, it’s more relaxed and less inclined to show up limitations in the system but seems very transparent to recordings. It’s not quite as fast as the fact.8 but offers more low end power which makes it more fun, so as a long term fact.8 user I am wondering whether the time has come for a change!
Available Finishes: Walnut, Amarone, Diamond Black, Oak
Crossover Frequency: 380Hz & 3.8kHz
Dimensions: H 1062mm 41.8” (+25mm spikes) x W 190mm 7.5” x D 439mm 17.3” (+16mm grille)
Drive Units: LF PMC twenty series, lightweight doped 7”/177mm cone with cast alloy chassis, MF PMC 50mm twenty series dome mid-range, HF PMC/SEAS®, 27mm twenty series, SONOLEX™ Soft dome, Ferrofluid cooled
Effective ATL™ Length: 3.3m 11ft
Frequency Response: 27Hz – 25kHz
Impedance: 8 Ohm
Input Connectors: 3 pairs 4mm sockets (Tri-amp or Tri-wire)
Recommended Amp Power: 50 – 300W
Sensitivity: 86dB 1W 1m
Weight: 22.5kg 49 lbs
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