Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2010 4:56 pm
I recently purchased a pair of PMC TB2s+ studio monitors and have been living with them for a couple of months now. They're not a new product, but I haven't seen many in Australia so I thought another review might be useful to those thinking about taking the plunge.
PMC (Professional Monitor Company) are a relatively new company, founded only in 1990, but have already made waves in both the professional and consumer hi-fi markets. PMCs basic philosophy is that a professional monitor need not be vastly different from an audiophile hi-fi speaker, and focus on delivering low distortion, high accuracy speakers regardless of market. In fact, many of PMCs hi-fi speakers are the same as the studio speakers but for a different finish! Most of PMCs range employ what they like to call their "Advanced Transmission Line" system, which is essentially a number of padded baffles placed in precise positions within the speaker cabinet to increase the theoretical length of the box. The result, according to PMC is deeper, smoother bass without the issues of regular ported designs.
The TB2+ is the revised edition of the original TB2. What was changed for the '+' revision, I'm not entirely sure, but some internet posts would suggest it was a new tweeter and a slightly modified crossover. The general consensus seems to be that the changes were for the better. The 's' in the model name denotes the speaker is the studio version; black instead of cherry veneer. The TB2s+ features a 17cm low frequency driver and a 27mm soft fabric dome tweeter. Both drivers are housed within a cabinet measuring 20x40x30 (WxHxD), which of course features PMCs Advanced Transmission Line system.
Unboxing the speakers I was initially struck by how good they look. The large PMC logo on the side is subtle and not overbearing, and the cabinet size seems to look right. Of course, it doesn't really matter how they look if they sound great but I personally want speakers that make me smile when I look up from the desk, not want to turn the lights off. The speakers were well packaged and the documentation thorough. However, I probably didn't need all the promotional material and catalogues provided! The manual suggests a break in period of 15 hours of normal use, but I of course wanted to get to know my new friends right away!
I first placed the TB2s+s on the meter bridge of the console at Tracking Station, my place of employment. I connected them to the amplifier we usually use to run our Yamaha NS10s via the binding posts on the rear of the PMCs (of which there are 4 for bi-wiring or bi-amping). I don't know the specs of the amplifier off the top of my head, but I do know it is Australian Monitor brand, and that it is really loud.
I first played some of my favorite music through the PMCs just to get a feel for them. I instantly got a feeling I've only had with a couple of other speakers, the Meyer HD-1, and Proac Studio 100, to be specific. It's the feeling that the speaker isn't even there. The feeling that the output of the volume control is somehow directly wired to your ears. It's a really pleasant way to listen to music, almost like lifting a wall from between you and the music. After an hour or so of listening to music I was convinced of 'the sound' but how well they worked in practice was yet to be proven, as I hoped they'd be more than a great speaker to listen to my favorite songs through!
Over the month following I have mixed a record and 2 EP's and I think the biggest compliment I can give these speakers is that I've already forgotten that they're new speakers. I'm not a big believer in "getting to know" a speaker so as to compensate for what it lacks. I just want to make the mix sound good, and then find it sounds good elsewhere*. After mixing the lead track off a record I made that month, I burned a CD and played it on my home hi-fi system. What do you know? It Still sounds good. Put it on my portable iThing**... still sounds good! I was beginning to see the merit of these speakers.
Whilst mixing the feeling I described earlier prevailed. I turn up a fader, the sound goes in the ear. End of story. I didn't even consider the sound of the speakers, or even wonder "is that going to be too much low end on other systems?". Speaking of low end, it's good. PMC claim it goes down to around 40Hz, which seems legitimate to me after listening for a while. I don't hear any of the weird bumps or resonances in the low end that are so common in small ported designs. The top end is enjoyable, and the great news is, you can turn them up really loud and it doesn't hurt. I just managed to write a monitor review without using the phrase "non-fatiguing". Oh wait, I just did. I'm a sucker for a soft dome tweeter, so for those of you who like a metal one, or the more modern ribbon design, then your milage may vary. The crux of the matter is, the small, mono reference speaker I have to check vocal levels and low end action on a 'consumer' system is getting less and less use as I feel comfortable just mixing away until it sounds right. It takes away some of the guess work, which can only be a good thing!
The Down Side
No review is complete without the mandatory 'cons' section even if you really do like the product, so here it is. the 2200 odd Australian dollars you pay only gets you halfway there. Unlike purchasing an active monitor, you've got to choose and of course purchase (or steal) an amplifier. The amplifier, in my opinion is what's going to make or break the deal with these speakers. After running the speakers off the ridiculously over spec'd amp (maybe 300 watts a side?) amp at Tracking Station, I gave the TB2s+s a run on an Alesis RA150. The Alesis is a reasonably well regarded mid priced studio amp. It's like owning different speakers, seriously. What exactly sonically the difference is might be hard to explain in words, but what I can say is that I became frighteningly away the speakers were there, and felt I could work for significantly less time. If you're considering these speakers, unfortunately you'll have to budget in for a serious amplifier, and make sure it's capable of delivering miles more than you'll ever ask of it.
The PMC TB2s+ is a serious speaker. I've enjoyed the fact that I can mix do a mix, print it, and send it to the client without checking on another system and without fear of later finding the mix too bright or muddy. I've said it about twenty times in this review, but I think it sums it up: They're not speakers so much as cables between your monitor controller and your brain.
*With the exception of the NS10m, with whom I battled, and came to love.
*"iThing" is a phrase coined by Rob Squire of ProHarmonic.
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