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Positive Feedback ISSUE 50
july/august 2010

audiodiscourse

 

Audio Ramblings - a Brief Stint with the PMC PB1i Loudspeakers and Amazing AC Cords from Luminous Audio and Interconnects from Jade Audio
by Dave Clark

 

ramblings

Good stuff these PMC loudspeakers! Yeah, definitely a cut above that of their studio brethren, the PMC PB1i will exceed their somewhat diminutive size in just about everyway one could imagine. Not that these are that small, but then again they ain't all that big either. Standing about 43" high and sporting two (roughly) 6.75" woofers in true transmission line along with the 3" midrange and  and .75" tweeter these guys put out some serious sound and at some silly-crazy loud levels with no hint of compression, strain, or grain. Yeah they also go way deeper and with way more output that one would ever expect considering their size in all aspects: cabinet and drivers. No, they don't really rival the output of my Reimers in terms of loading the room or moving air, but man they come mighty close.

Now when I said cut from the same cloth as their studio brethren, I meant that in all aspects—good and bad. No doubt the PMC PB1i has been tamed down a bit for the home market, but for sure one can easily hear their 'studio monitor' bloodline. Yeah, these are more of the "this is the truth and nothing more" crowd than those that fall from the "this is what what we think you might like cause we have some degree of coloration or whatever to flavor the sound sonically" side of the audio fence. Way more honest and real than colored and, well... having a character or sound more of their own rather than just presenting what is in the music.

PMC PB1i in room

So this means that they are perhaps more for the mind and less for the heart... not a bad thing, just what a studio-type speaker had better be all about—getting across as accurately as possible what's on the tape or whatever. But this also means that bad stuff will sound more bad than maybe you would like. Not that they are ruthlessly revealing, that they ain't. Nor are they sterile or analytical, but yeah they do have a 'character' that either you get or you don't. That character is one of truth and linearity. One where nothing really stands out sonically to bring any attention to its presence. The PB1i's have great balance from top to bottom. Clean, fast, dynamic, and little if any 'whatever' to get in the way of the music. Nice indeed! And the bass slam and control... and punch and extension... man, now how they do that!?

Oh, they do that with a 'real' transmission line in a relatively small-er box enclosure. Visit the PMC site to get the complete skinny, but the rectangular vent at the bottom front is the 'ending' end of the line—bass-wise that is!

These guys go deep and go deep LOUD. They do not hint at deep bass, they give it to you in spades. Clean and articulate, fast and dynamic, yeah... they are fun to listen to when the bass hits the pedal. And they never seemed to strain or complain as the volume goes higher and higher; and I pushed them hard. No doubt a result of being that studio bloodline as who wants a speaker to crap out during a mix-down cause it can't handle the bottom-end at live-like levels?

PMC PB1i and Nordost jumpers

Nordost Norse Jumpers on the PB1i.

Oh and they are tri-wired-able. Seems that all the PMC line is designed that way to allow for either tri-wiring or tri-amping if one so chooses. Which would suggest that their crossover is rather complex (again see the site). Now the way the speakers are voiced is to use the supplied jumpers meaning that they sound the way they should with what they come with. Swapping out these jumpers for a different jumper (as shown above when I did just that with the new Nordost Norse jumpers) will change the sound in a way that is not how the speakers should sound.

Well, okay, then so would going with tri-wire speaker cables and tri-amping, so I am not so sure I really get the idea here, but, well... the Nordost Norse jumpers did change the sound to a degree of opening things up and raising the resolution knob a click or two. I realized more sparkle and presence. More extension and what not. Hey, they are silver and sure, going from gold-plated nickel bars to silver plated copper mono-filament wire will do that, so yeah they did alter the sound in a way that reflects more of what they are made from than anything else—gee who would of thought? But in the end either you like the difference or you don't. So while it might not be what PMC wanted them to sound like, in the end it is our system and music, and so yeah... I tended to prefer the sound/music with this shift in presence and presentation. Plus they look really cool! And they worked!

PMC PB1i in room

At $13k (actually $12,999) these are not affordable speakers and clearly fall into a price range that is, well... pricey. Fit and finish is rather good, but overall they do not look (on the outside) like a speaker that costs $13k should cost. Then again, I am not sure I  know what a $13k speaker should look like, so perhaps this is a moot point. Even so, you are getting a furniture-quality box that can easily fit into most domestic surroundings—no speaker from another planet, that they ain't.

Where PMC put their money was into the drivers and what you can't see: the transmission line, the crossover, and the internals of the cabinet. Naturally this is where the majority of the money should go and not into some fancy box that walks the walk, but can't talk the talk. An amazing speaker that does so much from a rather small company from England that knows what they are doing... recommended!

Nuff said... now onto a wonderful and amazingly affordable (when one considers how well they do what they do musically to my music) AC cord. Yeah... an AC cord, but not just another wire with a fancy jacket and fancy plugs at either end. No this is a little bit different. See Tim over at Luminous Audio has taken his Power Lnyx cord and gone a few steps down the road a bit in terms of what engineering can do to an AC cord resulting in the Mega Power Lynx ($599 for 1.5 meters). The Mega Power Lynx are made of 9 gauge composite 99.7% OFC stranded copper in a star quad configuration along with a large, high-gauss neodymium magnet installed at each end of the cord. The cables are terminated with Japanese made, silver-plated, 120 Volt Audio Grade Edison and IEC connectors.

Seriously now... I have never heard such a dramatic change or difference—and one for the better in all respects—from swapping in or out an AC cord. I mean... crap, these cables are amazingly good and the cost is so reasonably right! Of course I shouldn't have said that as Tim will raise the price (though knowing Tim he is not the sort to do such a thing), but man these cables compete with other cords costing 5 times what they go for!

luminous mega ac cord

I thought my system sounded damn fine, but with these on the Claytons, everything, and I mean everything moved up a few notches sonically. More color and richness to the tonality of the music, more life, more vividness, more dynamics... more more of what is there in the music. Sweet... plus, the bass seems to be going deeper, while being faster and tighter, all with more growl and slam. It was like the I gained a few more hertz's of bass output which I know is not going to happen... but damn it Scotty, I asked you for more and you came through! Texture, presence, definition... wow. Never heard it like this before.

I mean, it was there, I was not missing it or sitting there thinking how it would be nice to have more of this and less of that... till I swapped these in and all of sudden it was like I turned up the "this is good stuff" knob to 10! No trade-offs I can discern... no, it just keeps getting better. They do not hype the music nor do they appear to hype any one frequency... they just tend to maximize the music via maximizing the signal flow. Give them some time to settle in and be prepared to hear a wonderful shift in the wow direction.

luminous mega ac cord

Not too stiff to work with nor do they appear to be the least component dependant (I am using them on the Claytons M200 amplifiers and Cary SLP-05 preamp without any tradeoffs) they will make reasonable bends and sit where you lay them, The magnets are interesting as they do like to attract whatever they can, so be careful. I have had no issues with these being the least bit detrimental to other cables or components, so no worries there. Though on the other hand I would keep whatever away that could be affected by a strong magnet field. Highly recommended!

Another cable product new here are the interconnects from one Jade Audio. Completely new to me, Jade Audio is the child of one JD MacRae and features silver and gold (depending on the cable; either pure gold or a combination of gold and silver) along with organic materials... in this case cotton. From the Jade site..."Vibration is eliminated through cotton dielectrics and cotton bats which dampen even the slightest potential distortion. Beyond the unique vibration control techniques, Jade Audio incorporated a design that is fully unique among all cables built today."

Jade sent me their entry Vermeil interconnects which feature 9.99% pure gold plating over a 99.99% pure soft temper annealed solid silver wire. (Vermeil Gold $650.00 - one meter RCA, $150.00 each additional half meter $850.00 - one meter XLR, $225.00 each additional half meter.)

To continue from the Jade site..."These conductors are sleeved in an unbleached cotton dielectric, this allows for only 5% of the wire surface to be in contact with the cotton leaving the remaining 95% in air. Cotton is second only to air as the best dielectric (meaning the least energy storage possible) so these wires are in effect given a perfect electrical potential. The additional benefit is dampening the conductor from macro and micro vibration, a little understood but easily proven influence resulting in smear and loss of clarity.

The conductors are then incorporated with cotton piping that helps provide strength and relieve stress from the wires. An outer protective jacket is made from Carbon Fiber weave; this provides a durable covering as well as efficient absorption of high frequency interference. There is no Teflon in contact with any conductor for this design after discovering that Teflon created an unnatural brightness in every design we tried it with. In fact the conductors in these cables never touch any material other than cotton, air or the solder points at the connectors."

I should pass on that JD has been awarded a Patent for the design.

jade audio interconnects

Jade Audio Vermeils are the interconnects with the jade colored jackets

Sweet and organic, holographic and rich... these cables are for the music lover and not the guy who is more into sound and gear. That is, these cables will make you forget about listening for something as opposed to listening to something.

Let them sit and leave then alone (they are not really shielded per se in the sense of having a shielded jacket so routing them to eliminate any noise issues is important) and you will be rewarded in a beautiful presentation rich in color and tonality. The Jade cables will though fall more into the richer side of neutrality being more 'colorful' and sweet. Not syrupy in the least nor of the 'euphonically colored' side of things, the Jades will remind you more of the best of tubes as opposed to the best of solid-state.

Meaning a rounded more relaxed presentation, one where space and ambiance is evident in spades... being 'naturally' rich in details and presence the Jades might sound at first softer or less resolving as competing other cables. I would say that you are still hearing the same level of details or whatever (as is evident when going back and forth with other cables in house), it is just not being pushed to the forefront or for a lack of a better explanation hyped due to some resonance in the wire. Based on Jade's explanations (and that of JD in conversations about his cable and their design) it would appear that the use of cotton, the cables' geometry, and hence the control of resonances seems to have paid off. You get it, just not there to draw attention to itself. With the Jades the music is presented without any smear, grit, grain, hype, or whatever.

jade audio interconnects

Luminous Audio Mega Power Lynx AC cord and Jade Vermeils in the background

Details and whatnot are presented with a more delicate touch. One where the emphasis is not on the bits and pieces, but no the whole sonic tapestry. Nice and orgasmically organic. Organic?! What the #$@! is that all about? How can music sound organic? Think in terms of being artificial and/or less real. Yeah, I know that what we are playing back is a mere semblance of what was real, but we all know that sometimes it just sounds more real... more right... more organic and less fake. Make that less hifi-ish and more repetitive of something live and not synthetic. More like real people playing there or here... depending on one's preferences.

Though will all that in mind, the Jades also present the music with a slight emphasis in the bottom end... yeah, the bass is a wee bit softer and rounder, but match them with the Luminous cords and you got a match made in audio Heaven. This is no doubt the gold speaking here... of which the Vermeils in being only part gold had less of than the all gold References that I was only able to listen to oh so briefly before returning them to their owner (JD borrowed these from a customer so I could have a listen).

Now they are also rather delicate in that one should treat them with respect and courtesy. No rough housing as they have the weight of a feather... well make that cotton and so when you handle them, keep that in mind. Highly recommended for those in search of a cable that stresses 'musicality of the whole' over the "look what I can do" with the parts.

Naturally, cables will be different for different people and certainly be different in different systems, so with these two cables, you really do need to try before you decide to buy. For me, both are now a part of my reference.

PMC Loudspeakers
http://www.pmc-speakers.com

Luminous Audio
http://www.luminousaudio.com

Jade Audio
http://www.thejadeaudio.com

 

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