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PMC fact.12 loudspeakers

PMC fact.12 loudspeakers

For the fact.12, PMC did not rely entirely on its own R&D facilities, but took advantage of one of the country’s most remarkable research institutes. The National Physical Laboratory in Teddington is probably visible from space; it’s certainly pretty obvious from most heights on Google maps. Several hanger-sized buildings with white roofs take up half the national debt’s worth of prime real estate in south west London. The place was established over a hundred years ago so that it could measure things. Quite why you need so much manpower and space to do the job of a tape measure is not clear, but they do take the job seriously. One of the things they measure is sound – the acoustics division has some remarkable facilities, including a room with a 30 second reverberation time that is unsettling to converse in, and more than one substantial anechoic chamber. Plenty of speaker researchers have access to such chambers, but few (if any) have harnessed the know how of a research department on this scale.

It was here that PMC founder Pete Thomas, his son Ollie and the rest of the engineering team went to try and measure what sound waves do when they leave a loudspeaker. Essentially we are talking dispersion, which is the pattern of sound as it is sent out into the room and the way that this effects our perception of a speaker’s character. Using laser interferometry of the air itself, PMC and the NPL team managed to reveal how sound disperses at different frequencies and how the nature of the crossover and the shape of the front baffle effect that dispersion. The benefits of this research can be seen in the precise shape of the flange around the midrange dome of the fact.12 loudspeaker, and heard, if you can spot such things, in the crossover slopes that PMC used for this model.

If the fact.12 looks familiar it could be because it has the same proportions as the fact.8 that was launched a couple of years ago. Put the two side by side however and it’s obvious that the 12 is more substantial. They share an attractive narrow but deep footprint and have chrome plated outriggers that provide stability and a solid anchor for stainless steel spikes. Those not wishing to puncture the parquet can invert these for a rounded ball end. The review pair that PMC supplied came in a white finish that made the 12 look particularly elegant and modern, the contrast with black drivers being far more appealing than with the magnetically attached grille. For a big speaker the fact.12 is surprisingly room friendly, especially if you like a bit of contemporary styling, which as a tasteful Hi-Fi+ reader you undoubtedly do.

 

Those black drivers may look run of the mill, but contain two firsts for PMC, a 50mm midrange dome and metal coned bass drivers. The dome is based on PMC’s 75mm dome that you see in its pro monitors and bigger domestic loudspeakers, I asked Ollie why they used a dome rather than a cone and he pointed out that this is the case across the range. The reason being that dispersion is better with a dome, cones are more directional, and, equally important, they prefer the timbre of domes. He accepts that there is a trade-off in terms of power handling at lower frequencies, which is why the bass drivers on the fact.12 cover the range up to 500Hz. I did ask why they didn’t simply employ the 75mm dome in this speaker and discovered that on the practical side its magnet is too wide to fit inside the box. On the sonic side a smaller dome can do high frequencies with greater ease, which might explain many of my findings.

The tweeter is the only part that the 12 shares with the other fact models, it’s a Sonomex dome with a metal grille that’s designed to enhance dispersion. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? The bass drivers are very long throw types with profiled aluminium cones that have a special coating designed to minimise resonance. As with all PMCs, the drivers are loaded with an advanced transmission line (ATL) rather than a reflex port. That’s what the two black lozenges are at its base; they are the twin-vents on an ATL and sit at the end of a 3.3 metre line. As is usually the case, the line is damped in such a way that only the lowest frequencies make it to the outside world in order that they remain in phase with the driver output.

PMC understands as well as any professional monitor manufacturer that room acoustics play an integral part in the sound of any loudspeaker. For this reason they have included switches that allow you to tune the response of the fact.12, these are on the lozenge shaped terminal panel, and offer plus or minus 1.5dB in the treble and a 3dB variation at low frequencies.

The fact.12 is in another league to most of the dynamic loudspeakers I’ve encountered, and it has qualities that none of the panel speakers that have come my way have been able to deliver, primarily in the dynamics and low-end speed department. This is a phenomenally fast loudspeaker across the board and the better an amplifier is in this respect the better they sound. In fact, the same goes for everything you use with the fact.12; it lets you know precisely what it’s doing, be it good or otherwise. It’s the sort of speaker that takes no prisoners, but it also has the ability to reach the parts that others can’t and has a refreshing effect on everything you play.

 

The work that Ollie and the team put into improving dispersion manifests in an incredibly open sound, this has the effect of bringing the soundstage into the room and making the speakers disappear. If the source is up to it. With many CD players this is not the case, the sound remains resolutely between and no higher than the speakers, but a good streamer produces a truly walk in sound field that is replete with spatial detail and cavernous depth. Playing Laura Marling’s ‘Breathe’ proved an intoxicating experience not least because of the dynamic range that this speaker reveals. The nuances of her vocal, the shape of bass notes, the all round immersion created by Marling and her team but usually only hinted at, it’s truly transporting stuff. A veil has definitely been lifted and it’s going to be very difficult to go back. That extra transparency means you not only hear all the quiet bits that other speakers fail to resolve but the influences behind the work. For the first time, it became apparent that there’s a lot of Led Zeppelin in the guitars and drums on Once I Was An Eagle. The truly perceptive Zep head will probably have spotted this without so much assistance, but I need all the help I can get.

I worked my way through Herbie Hancock’s River, the songs of Joni Mitchell and got to ‘The Jungle Line’ where Leonard Cohen speaks the lyric over some superb piano. His voice is deep, rich and sonorous, revealing more of the insight in the lyrics than Joni’s version, while Hancock shows just how solid his left hand can be. The fact.12’s bass is unfeasibly fluent, there is no sense of overhang whatsoever, which is uncanny for a box loudspeaker. This is not an ordinary box of course, apparently the ATL is a high compression type which requires very stiff drivers but gives much tighter control over what comes out of the vents. That also explains the low sensitivity of course. But it’s worth it.

Out of interest I persuaded PMC to lend me a pair of Bryston 28B monoblocks to find out what benefits would accrue if serious amounts of power were available (they’re good for a steady 1,200 watts, I believe). The result was higher resolution, quieter backgrounds and a greater appreciation of the speed this speaker is capable of. The bass got tauter and I was able to switch the level to the 0 or flat setting without running into trouble. Now it was possible to hear exactly what type of colourations were afflicting various components in the chain and I soon realised that the Naim NDS streamer is rather better than it had previously seemed.

Compared to the Bowers & Wilkins 802 Diamond the fact.12 sounds lean and fast. It’s not as obviously detailed but has a greater sense of musical fluency. It’s not as substantial sounding in the bass but goes down virtually as far in extension terms and, again, is faster. I didn’t have any other speaker that comes close to the performance and musical thrills that the fact.12 can deliver, but I did have a few other sources and amps to try. Not least among them being the Longdog Audio VDT1 tube DAC, suffice to say for now that it worked a charm with this speaker. You can hear the tubes, but what they do has such a positive effect that even for the most fervent solid-stater, all is forgiven as you are swept away by the music.

 

This speaker is one of those rare hi-fi components that tells you so much about the music and the rest of the system that it becomes difficult to make notes about. It’s clear that it is a milestone product, one that puts PMC into the premier league of loudspeaker brands. Not only does it look exquisite for a decent size speaker, it is second to none in terms of transparency, pace, imaging and dynamics. Some will prefer a heavier sound no doubt, but I suspect that the fact.12’s presentation is more accurate because of its speed, heaviness is more likely to be an artefact of cabinet materials than the recording. Unless you’re talking about thickener, don’t worry, if you put on ‘Enter Sandman’ you can hear the thickener. Alternatively try Jimi Hendrix at Miami Pop; he didn’t need thickening and neither do these.

Technical Specifications

Freq response: 26Hz – 30kHz

Sensitivity: 84dB 1w 1m

Effective ATL (Advanced Transmission Line Length): 3.3m (11ft)

Impedance: 8 Ohms

Drive Units: LF: 2 x fact 140mm (5.5”) super long throw bass units damped coating; MF: fact 50mm (2.0”) super clarity soft dome ferro-fluid cooled mid-range with machined aluminium dispersion plate; HF: fact 19mm (0.75”) high-res SONOMEX™ soft dome ferro-fluid cooled with 34mm wide surround

Crossover Freq: 400Hz, 4kHz

Input connectors: 3 pairs 4mm PMC Ag terminals

Dimensions: H 1110mm (43.7”) + 25mm spikes; W 168mm (6.1”) + 100mm (3.2”) ingot feet; D 420mm (14.9”) + 23mm (0.9”) terminals

Weight: 26.0kg 57lbs ea

Available finishes: white silk, rich walnut, graphite poplar, tiger ebony

Price: £11,995 per pair

Manufacturer: The Professional Monitor Company

Tel: +44 (0)870 444 1044

URL: www.pmc-speakers.com

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