April 8, 2010

Fact Or Myth? PMC Fact 8 Loudspeakers.

PMC Fact 8 is a tall and slender 2 way speaker design featuring ATL bass loading.

Odiosleuth said I would like this PMC Fact 8 speakers, and suggested very authoritatively that I should really, really ask for a review. As the saying goes, "Ask and ye shall received!", and so it was, the Fact 8 delivered to my door step, courtesy of AV Designs.
The first thing you'll see as you open the box to unpack your new PMC Fact 8 speakers.

As I unpacked the PMC, I was greeted with this message "It's A Fact, you have purchased the world's finest loudspeakers". What an ambitious(perhaps a little arrogant too?) message, I thought to my self. Let's see if that's fact or myth!
The accessories and manual pack.

Packed on the top of the box is an accessories pack consisting of a key chain(your keys to join the PMC club???), a spirit level, 2 sets of 4 self locking sharp or round bottom spikes for speaker out rigger to floor interface, a piece of special cleaning cloth(to keep that pristine finished wood veneer spotless) and a very comprehensive manual(there's some pretty interesting product facts inside).


Typical British low key design flair on the Fact 8. I used small brass coasters to sit the spikes so that my parquet flooring remains un marked.

The review sample pair of PMC Fact 8 looked impeccably made, book matched rich walnut veneers, smoothed panel joints, custom finishing touches that includes matt grey mid/bass driver and tweeter surrounds with the ATL front port metal mesh finished to match. The final midas touch is the solid chrome aluminium ingots used as out riggers at the bottom with a matching subtle chrome finished PMC badge just above the ATL front port. The design cue is classy, and will certainly fit in to many well appointed interiors of today's lavish life style homes.
Fact 8 is a pair of beautiful speakers that does not need to apologize for performance.

The SEAS custom ed built tweeter for PMC.


The 5 1/4 inch mid/bass driver is also SEAS built to PMC's specs.
The 24db steep slope passive x-over is assembled on a military spec PCB and uses +/-5% tolerance Solen caps with custom would coils and hand matched resistors, for accurate L/R chanel balance.

Setting up the speakers are relatively easy. Screw in and lock the 2 sets of 4 out rigger to floor interface sharp spikes(as I had chosen), and proceed to place the speakers in the room then wire them up to my Pass Aleph 0 power amp. I started off my usual place where my Audio Physic Spark last left, which is 36 inches from the back wall and 19 inches from the side walls. I moved the speakers around a bit and eventually settled for 40 inches from the speaker's back wall and 18 inches from the side wall, both measurements taken from the outer corner of the back panel. The speakers are separated apart by about 6ft. I also toed in the speakers just very slightly, about 2 degrees or so, just to get a bit more mid range density, as the Fact 8s can sound a little lean if firing straight ahead. Once the final spot is confirmed, I leveled the speakers by adjusting the spikes to balance, then firmly locking them with guidance from the spirit level supplied by PMC.
My choice of single wiring method. Note the silver coated buss bar connectors to match the custom speaker cable terminals.


These silver coated terminal jobs are a joy to use, offering good finger grip and feel.


There are 2 other variables with the Fact 8. First, this speaker allows bi-wiring or bi-amping, however if like me, having only a pair of speaker cables, one would have to choose how to wire with single wiring. There's 3 options, connect both positive and negative to the highs(for more high frequency out put), or connect em' both to the mid/bass(for more mid/bass out put), and lastly connect one to the highs and the other to the mid/bass irregardless(I used positive for the highs and negative for the mid/bass for balanced tonal out put). Either way the 2 pairs of silver coated buss bar(to match the custom silver terminal jobs which are a delight to use!) connectors provided by PMC remains in place. Having said that, the buss bar connectors should be taken off if one should opt to use bi-wiring or bi-amping.
The isolated speaker cable terminals with tonal adjust ability switch panel.

The other variable is two little toggle switches located just on top of the speaker cable terminals, one labeled HF and the other LF. The PMC Fact 8 is a 2 way design loaded with a 3m long ATL(Advance Transmission Line) bass tunnel. The HF switch allows the user to select +2, 0, -2db of high frequency out put. The LF switch allows the choice between 0, -3, -6db of mid/bass frequency out put. This allows the Fact 8 to suit a variety of room size, from small to reasonably large. In my cluttered and lightly treated 10 x 12 x 9ft(W x L x H) audio cave, I inter played with the toggle switches and the speaker wire connection a bit to fine tune the sound, but eventually settled back with my original wiring option and toggle switch setting of 0db for HF and -6db for LF. All review notes all based on these mentioned settings.

I allowed the speakers to settle in a bit while running the drivers in for about a month, before I start some serious auditioning. As the speakers run in, some of the upper mid sibilant notice able before is now gone and the tonal balance is neutral, in a very slightly coloured yet attractive way. The highs are extended with lots of air, and are about as smooth as the best fabric dome tweeters out there. High hats and cymbals have the right texture and decaying qualities that's hard to beat. As any proud British speaker should be, the mids are truly enticing and has the special quality that accentuates vocals with articulation and diction so well. I played Diana Krall's Quiet Nights CD's bonus track 11 tittled "How can you mend a broken heart", and I've never heard her sound so alluring and sensual to boot, never mind the vocal porn, I bet you'd enjoy that too as much as I did. Hmmm.................... The bass, despite it's -6db out put setting of my choice, is up to the job, thanks to my room's bass reinforcing +6db @ 48Hz resonant mode. Bass lines are well defined, tight with good transient speed and easy to follow. The bass response extends much lower then my Audio Physic Spark too.
The humpty dumpty 75W Aleph 0 is good enough to power the towering Fact 8, rated at 88db @ 8 ohms to satisfyingly loud levels. The Fact 8 is a slim tower design but makes up for the box volume with a deep cabinet.

The Fact 8's noise levels are non existent, with no music playing and pre amp volume setting up to my usual listening level, I stuck my ear right next to the tweeter, I heard no hiss, in fact I heard nothing at all! I guess this attributes to the next two performance parameters about to be discussed.

The Fact 8s are the most transparent sounding speakers I've came across so far. Every single little detail of the recording, if it's retrieved from the source, in my case the Marantz CD7 and preserved through the Pass pre and power amps along with cables, the Fact speakers will reproduce the details extracted, no matter how minute it may be. I frequently found myself hearing things I've never heard before, even on recordings that I know like the back of my hand! Now all those details and resolution is nothing if not presented well within the sound stage and along with the rest of the music where it should be, that will sound too analytical, which the PMC is not. Everything has it's place and that makes all musical instruments sound realistic.

Transient and micro dynamics are amongst the best of the dynamic driver kind, probably very near the speeds of panel speakers. Macro dynamic swings are equally impressive with added dynamic shading and contrast highlighted to make orchestral classical music sessions a highly enjoy able roller coaster thrill ride. Drum kits are especially real sounding. Playing Eva Cassidy "Live At The Blues Alley" CD, the snare drum kit never sounded so right like this! It's as if I am playing the snare drum and the stick attack, followed by an extremely short decay burst of skin tone is reminiscent of the real thing. I know, as I speak recalling from a drum practice session experience over the weekend!

The Fact 8 also exhibited excellent linearity in sound reproduction. When listening in low volume level, I could still hear all the recording details just as when playing my normal listening volume. When playing music at loud volumes, there's never any signs of strain or driver cone break up distortion. This pair of speakers also showed a peculiar characteristic, sometimes when playing music at a medium to high volume levels, the speakers will start to sound a little on the edge, but that's not to be construed as edginess either. Face with this situation, most listeners would do the natural thing by backing off the volume. However, I've also found that bringing up the volume one notch at this point will not only take away the "on the edge" sound, the speakers would respond by sounding even sweeter! This reminds me a bit like the movie Speed of a few years back, starring a young Keanu Reeves and girly looking Sandra Bullock then, both trapped in bus full of explosive that will blow up if the bus slows down to below 50 miles/hours. When ever faced with an obstacle, Keanu does the opposite of slowing down and just goes for it full throttle! The Fact 8 also encourages that sort of a "Gungho" Keanu Reeves behavior, when it comes to musical volume!
This is a complex "live" recording CD to play, and the PMC Fact 8 does it so...... effortlessly.

Sound staging and imaging has always been a PMC forte, as I've previously encountered with the GB1i and then the OB1i. The Fact does not disappoint too, and does it just as well, if not better than the OB1i. It has the uncanny ability to transport one to the venue, of a live recording being played, like Patricia Barber's Companion CD, which I've heard like thousands of times in the last 10 years or so. I was playing track 7, "Black Magic Woman" to two visitors, and after the 10 minute performance, both stood up to clap their hands along with the sound of the Jazz bar atmosphere still playing, audience claps, small talk, glass hitting sound and all ! They commented how life like the performance was, especially the part after 7 minutes in to the track, where all the musical instruments, like the double bass, the drums and percussion plus Patricia's Hammond B3 were jamming together with the electric guitar . It's complex and fast paced performance would have most lesser pair of speakers or system resulting in audible compression, lost of bass control, sibilant highs and even exhibiting signs of instruments all over the place! But not the PMC Fact! It held every single playing instrument in place within the sound stage, solidly anchored with depth of stage layering to boot. One of the visitor further commented for the first time he heard the drummer's kick drum action so well separated with each kick of different strength and intensity, yet still sounding far back, locked in it's place along with all the other instruments within the sound stage! This kind of musical experience, can't be easily bought, not even with a whole lot more money.(yeah right!, except that the PMC Fact 8 cost RM$29,500/pair) With this kind of staging and imaging quality, who needs more?

However, the Fact 8 does offer much, much more. I also felt that the highly convincing sound staging and imaging portrayal also has something to do with the way the speakers handle imaging to staging scale ratio. The imaging is nearly life sized, and all instruments are scaled accordingly vis-a-vis it's place within the 3 dimensional sound stage. Comparatively, the Audio Physic Spark just renders everything in 5/8 size and not totally in the correct scale ratio within the instrument's image either.

PRaT(Pace, Rhythm and Timing) factor is also king with the PMC Fact 8, I thought this was one of the missing ingredients that made classic PMC speaker designs like the OB1i less than compelling, due to a lack that X-factor perhaps. I did not feel the music being played any faster than need be, but it certainly did not hang on to a note longer then necessary. This is unlike some high end speakers that I've heard tend to have an effect, like as if time was elongated so that every minute detail can be zoomed in to provide superb transparency factor. To me however, this kinda like analysing a musical event in stop motion imagery.

The Fact 8 has the the right amount of warmness to make classical string instruments sound just right too, I mean the string to wood resonant reverb ratio. Not only is the violin, guitar or piano string sound clearly presented, followed by the resonant decay of the the wooden body, fading into nothingness, the Fact will also subtly point out the playing intensity and technique of the performer. I think the term "effortless" best describes this speaker's musical performance.

As some of you would have already known by now, that I play and listen to all genres of music. The PMC just loves them all. However, with the level of transparency and resolution on offer, the PMC will let you know if a recording is not up to par, but does it ever so musically, that it is still some how an enjoy able, if flawed experience.

To sum things up a bit, the PMC Fact 8 does actually lives up to it's lofty sonic ambitions and does very little wrong. I can only fore see a down side that, it could sound a little lean, should it be incorrectly set up or partnered with un sympathetic up stream equipment. However, the Fact 8 makes up for it with adjust ability and easy setting up options(at least you have adjust able options here compared to other speakers!).

After living with the PMC Fact 8 for about 6 weeks or so, I tried returning it to AV Designs, but just couldn't, I could not go back to the AP Spark either, good as it was. It was a though decision(finance wise) but I guess this announcement will have to come sooner, rather than later. "Ladies & Gentlemen, Audio Physic has left the building!" And now, that's a Fact (8)!

PMC is sold by AV Designs, contact James Tan, tel no.016-3280237

12 comments:

kkthen said...

congratulations. Finally get your new love after review so many speaker.

mikelau.2 said...

Bro PuchongWong,

You were not one of the 2 clappers were you ? heh heh

GCK said...

Congrats Willie, now you got a redundant spk. Bring those CDs over when you come over to listen to the Medea :-)

mikelau.2 said...

Willy,

From your comprehensive review & if I read your summary correctly I can see a Bryston 4bsst in the horizon ! heh heh and a big big makan too. cheers

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

I went, I heard and I was conquered.

Good post Willy, it was everything you described and more.

Your whole system is just phenomenal. Certainly one of the BEST I have heard.

At this juncture, I don't know if it was the FACT 8 which did your system justice or your system was doing the FACT 8 justice.

When I heard the FACT 8 at AV Design, I thot they were so good but when I heard them at your place, they were breath takingly good. I had to remind myself to breathe when Pat Barber was playing Black Magic Woman...awesome...whichever way I looked at it.

Congrats!

Ng said...

I am happy that you have upgraded your speaker to The PMC Fact 8. I am sure this is a big jump from the Audio Physic Spark. It is a right progressive upgrade path.
I have a small suggestion for you: This are based on my personal experience and what I read. I think you should try experiment to move your two Pass Monoblock behind the speakers to avoid some early reflection, although it cannot be consider too frontal; It is no- no to place a coffee table between the speakers and the listening position, although your placement are not too front. Maybe you have try this before but with a better speakers as in any high end system, every little things become critical!!!Let me know your comments and see if you can hear and audible improvement as you are talking about a high resolution system: a 5-10" placement could make a difference.

Big E said...

Hi!

Thank you all for sharing my joy. It's been a pleasure.

GCK,

We shall meet up soon.

Felix,

Thanks for the kindest praises. I trust your ears!

Ng,

Thanks for your suggestion, I'll certainly look in to moving the amps further back.

Big E said...

Mike,

You're one big devil!

PuchongWong said...

Big E:
Grapes that can't be eaten are sour, they will only stand aside and applaud until their hands got injured, just feel good in your heart, do they have such courage?? I will always support you.

mikelau.2 said...

PW,

heh heh, typical of you. Your reply, comments & "SUPPORT" is distinctly "CHAP AYAM" too....non commital...chap ayam f(r)iend ? Hee hee get ready for makan.

mikelau.2 said...

Willy,

I will not forget Diana Krall for a long time, when she was in your room ! With the upstream gear/s that you mentioned, she could probably come sit beside you ! Just TRY it. ha ha

Big E said...

Mike,

Diana Krall, I like!

Ha!Ha!