Saturday, 24 May 2014

PMC twenty™ 21: A Loud Small Box

As I was venturing out for a new front speakers for my home cinema, I was suggested with a few options. Basically, it must provide me with the following:
  1. Slim sized cabinet
  2. Clear sound for my late night movie watching
  3. Looks good (possibly piano gloss finish to compliment my new SVS sub)
  4. Good with stereo sound as well.
Having to cancel my projector installation and the purchase of the new Samsung curve UHD TV, I no longer need to look into the option of in wall speakers. Hence, when James Tan of AV Designs agrees to loan me a pair of showroom unit of PMC twenty™ 21 speakers, I said  to myself....why not?

Quoted from PMC website:

'The twenty™ series is the next generation of simply elegant, handcrafted British loudspeakers that follow in the lineage of world-wide acclaimed PMC designs.'
This series was actually launched to commemorate their 20 years experience in the industry.

SPECS & BUILT

I have always been impressed with PMC speakers each time I get to listen to them in AV Designs especially the Fact series. How can a very slim looking speakers provide such a huge soundstage was beyond me. And knowing that the twenty™ series is based on the Fact design, I had big expectations.

However, when I unboxed the pair, I realised that they are actually quite a small bookshelf. Previous experience with bookshelf's such as EPOS and Mission, they were still quite big relatively speaking.

The piano gloss finish was beautifully done on these pair. Wrapped into a white protective bag, the speakers comes with a cleaning cloth, manual and warranty card and of course PMC's famous magnetic grille.

It is relatively a light pair of speakers, weighing 5 kg each. Easy to handle by just 1 person.

The drive units consists of lightweight doped 140 mm cone with cast alloy chassis for the low frequency and a 27 mm SONOLEX soft dome for the tweeter precisely installed into a 'slanting' box design.

PMC provides an option for end user to biwire or biamp via a sturdily builds 4 mm speaker terminals.



Other specifications:Dimensions:
H 325mm 12.8” × W 152mm 6.0” × D 277mm 11.0”  (+6mm grille)

Frequency Response:
50Hz – 25kHz
Impedance:
8Ohm

Sensitivity:
87dB 1w 1m









THE SETUP

Home Theatre: 

Stereo Music:
  • My standard set up but only tested using CD

FIRST IMPRESSION

As the main objective is for home theatre, I hooked up the 21s to my set up in my upstairs living room. With adrenalin flowing from my recent purchase of a new TV and subwoofer, it was an eye pleasing set up. The glossy finish matches well with my TV and SVS subwoofer.


As the 21s was a show room unit, it was already run in. First went in was Pirates of the Caribbean on ASTRO Byond. It was on a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital source. First impression....LOUDER than my previous Mission 34i floor stander. I just CANNOT believe this small speakers can sound that loud. And this is at the similar volume of -15 that I usually listen to. 

FULL PERFORMANCE

MOVIES
As I started to settle in to do some 'light' movie watching, I realised that my Infinity Centre could not cope with dynamics coming out from the 21s. Even though after the YPAO calibration, I still feel the 21s are shadowing the overall performance of my setup..... but in a good way i.e.: showing me whats lacking in my system.

The 21s copes well with action movies as such. The sound of waves splashing against the ships sounded realistic enough to imagine the room was about to get wet. The pair can easily fill up the room for such effect. 

However, which is not the fault of the 21s themselves, and most probably due to the spacing between the pair, one can easily feel that the loud and room filling sound was still coming from a bookshelf speaker. It is one of those sound character that easily be identified from a bookshelf. Well, at least for movies.

Switched to Bluray movie, Star Wars Part 1.... the pod racing scene (always my favourite scene to test  speakers and sub), the rumbling and stereo imaging from right to left was very crisp. The 21s can easily provide such detailed effect across the room. You can literally sit in any part of my living room, and experience the effect details. The imaging might not be the same, but you surely know how the effect was produced from which direction.

All the above, I found my previous Mission M34i was struggling to provide.

MUSIC ON HFPA

Now.... this is where I find the true 21s performance. The Yamaha was set to pure direct and a Getz/Gilberto HFPA was loaded into the Oppo player. Chose DTS MA (my favourite option).

Wow.... the glorious rich and room filling sound made me shook my head. The Girl from Ipanema track was reproduced with such a rich low end presentation but at the same time, maintain the balance with vocals and string works. Placing the speakers on my rack instead of proper stand may also contribute to the rich bass but at the same time, it was not overwhelming. The overall presentation can be summarised as an engaging speaker with a rich bass signature. 

MUSIC ON SONY CDP

Switch to standard 16/44.1 CD and feed the digital signal to the Yamaha, the presentation was brought down a notch. Using the same track on normal 2 channel audio, there was a distinct different. Volume sounded less loud and I had to crank it to -10 before the speakers started to sing again with a decent performance. The bass was still there but not as rich as the one on HFPA. It might the CD but at the same time, the 21s should be able provide at least a musical scenario. But it was relatively sounded a bit mundane.

Not satisfied, I brought the speakers down to test it with my 2 channel hifi set up.

MUSIC ON MUSICAL FIDELITY SET UP

Hooked up the 21s on a single cable to the MF M6i 200 watter integrated amp. Feed through the same track via MF M1 CDT and M6 DAC..... and it was definitely a different presentation compared to be driven by Yamaha AV receiver.

The sound changed into a more detailed and lively presentation. Again, the 21s didn't have any issue to fill up the room at the normal 10 o'clock on the volume knob level. The bass even sounded more dynamic than the HFPA. These babies can really SING. No sign of struggle at all.




The best part now is that I get to experience a more balanced sound across all frequency. The vocals on Girl of Ipanema, sounded properly layered in the musical arrangement. And for the high frequency, it produces such clarity that it made the album sounded alive again.

Feed a bass heavy track from Metallica's Enter Sandman track, the 21s reproduces Lars's bass drum with such a clean but extended and room filling signature, making you wonder again how this small speaker is doing it. Not only it is small but also slim. I would attribute this magnificent character to the ATL (transmission line) technology that PMC have put into their speakers.

VERDICT

The 21s is in a league of its own. It can  be a great solution for HT fan with a small area to play with. This speaker can easily smile at any musical/movie genre thrown at it. With the beautifully finish of piano gloss and couple it with the unique slim and slanting cabinet design, PMC have brought out the best of both worlds....High WAF with an elegant look and a very musical experience.

It may not be the best idea to use them as front speakers but not to say it can't cope with movies, but I do feel that the 21s suits better in a 2 channel music, driven by a well built dedicated 2 channel amp.

My journey for the quest for the front speaker did not end with this..... so wait for my next review of my journey to upgrade my home theatre.

PMC is sold by their one and only official distributor in Malaysia... AV Designs which is located on Mezzanine floor, Bangunan Rohas Perkasa, Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur.

The 21s is retailed at RM9,100 a pair. For demo, please contact James Tan on 016-3280237 or Tony Low on 012-2330771.

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