July 18, 2011

The Truth-sayer – PMC IB2i Loudspeakers

I was tempted to title this write-up “Bass! Bass! Bass!” to highlight the PMC IB2i loudspeakers’ phenomenal bass performance, but thought the better of it eventually. Well, while such a title is apt to describe my astonishment hearing the big PMC's bass, it would not be doing justice to its also impressive prowess in other areas really.

This is the first pair of loudspeakers I write about on Hifi Unlimited. I always had some apprehension when it came to loudspeakers. Loudspeaker performance is very room dependent, so it will involve quite some work in positioning. I may also have to run them in. In any case I’d have to endure some days of sub-par music listening.

There was also concern on my resident amplification, a pair of Pass Labs XA60 monoblocks. With only 60w/8ohm on tap without increase in power for lower impedance, I always thought that matching them with loudspeakers that were relatively easier to drive was a must.

PMC IB2i fully clothed

So, when James Tan of AV Designs suggested that I listened to his PMC IB2i, the first thing I told him was I wasn’t sure whether my amps could handle them. He told me the IB2i was not difficult to drive. Still, the next thing I did was to go to PMC’s website to look at its specs.

They read like this:

With an impedance of 4ohm and minimum recommended amp power of 120w, It did not bode well for me. Nevertheless, being the brave souls we are at Hifi Unlimited :-), I took delivery of the IB2i’s regardless. I was very tempted to listen for myself the PMC sound, and secretly I also wanted to put to rest once and for all the driving capability of my Pass Labs.

The IB2i is heavy. Two of AV Designs’ staff members helped to carry and install them in my room. The pair came with their matching PMC 14 inch tall open frame stands. The IB2i lists for RM59,500 including the stands. The look is classic British studio monitor. The substantial rectangular box is an antithesis of the slim floorstanders that are fashion nowadays. However, I found them to be quite handsome in a purposeful and butch kind of way.

PMC original stand for the IB2i. It comes with cups integrated into the spikes. The cups made moving the loudspeakers around for positioning very easy. The cups can be removed once the optimum position is found

Oh, let me first get one point out of the way. My Pass Labs XA60 monoblocks could drive the PMC IB2i to satisfactorily loud levels in my room. At very very loud levels, a couple of friends told me they could detect some harshness in the treble region. That was it. So James was correct when he told me they weren’t a difficult pair of speakers. I was also happy to know that my Pass Labs could stand up to the challenge.

The IB2i can be tri-amp’ed or tri-wired. PMC provides solid copper links to connect the terminals if you are only single-wiring, like me. I found that the iB2i had different sound balance depends on the terminals I plugged the loudspeaker cables into. When I used the mid terminals, the sound was a little too midrange-forward for my taste, likewise the treble terminals with the highs. I found the sound to be balanced when I used the bass terminals. Your mileage may vary.

3 pairs of terminals at the back

Further refinement in the treble was had when I removed the copper links between the mid and the treble terminals and replaced them with jumper wire from Transparent, linking the bass terminals directly to the treble terminals.

The pair of IB2i’s apparently required further run-in. At first, the sound was quite rough in the mids and highs, they were a little incoherent too. However, the bass performance was already phenomenal.

So, I endured. After about a week of nightly listening, the sound became more acceptable. At the 2-weeks point, it was already quite good. At the third week, they were very impressive!

Like all PMC models, the IB2i is transmission line loaded

Did I say the IB2I’s bass was phenomenal? It was fast, deep and impactful. And it could start and stop at the drop of a dime. The bass resolution was one of the best I had heard, it readily showed up the difference in bass performance between different frontends. I was glad that I still had the TAD-D600 CD Player at the time. The PMC really showcased what the TAD could dig up in the bass region. Playing Marcus Miller’s ‘Bruce Lee’ from his album ‘Silver Rain’, the entire room was pulsating with tight and deep bass. Every note was cleanly delivered. There was no overhang, no blurring. I could hear notes plunging the depth with amazing pitch definition, whereas in my past experience things would have degenerated into a blob of undistinguishable sound. The PMC IB2i’s were also amazing at portraying speed. The transient from a bass guitar pluck was startlingly fast.

The PMC IB2i’s turned me into an electric bass guitar freak. I am seeking out more CDs from Marcus Miller, Nils Lofgren and Dean Peer now.

Soft dome tweeter and PMC's proprietary dome midrange unit

While I have been going on with its bass, I must say that the IB2i was a very well integrated loudspeaker. The 3 drivers sounded seamless together, the bass handed over smoothly to the mid and the mid to the treble. I bet if measured the response curve would look pretty flat. The mid had the traditional Brit virtues, being natural and sounding very truthful with vocals. The highs were clean while a little self effacing, not attracting attention to itself. I think some may yearn for the treble to be a little more sparkly and possibly richer, for example, for cymbals and high hats to stand out a little more in the mix, such as that from tweeters made from more exotic materials. However, PMC has strived to achieve an excellent balance with this loudspeaker, so it may be a choice between a least coloured sound with the PMC, or one with certain sound spectrum sticking out.

The IB2i’s also surprised with excellent imaging capability given the bulk of the boxes. The soundstage was detached from the loudspeakers and nicely spread out behind the loudspeaker plane. Images were also well focused. The scale was also very good, lifelike and not overblown.

True to its studio monitor pedigree, the PMC IB2i will not add any flavour of its own. I have resisted using the word ‘neutral’ thus far, as some may take it to also mean ‘dull’ or ‘bland’. But this PMC was in no way like that, it would just faithfully reproduce the music signal it was fed with, evinced by the different performance I got by swapping frontends or making adjustments to equipment further upstream.

The IB2i is simply TRUTHFUL.

The PMC IB2i is a full-range loudspeaker capable of filling a big room with uncoloured and true-to-source sound. I'll especially miss its bass when they are gone. If you are looking for an honest and highly capable pair of loudspeakers you should go listen to the PMC IB2i.

PMC is distributed by AV Designs. Contact James Tan at 03-21712828


Ken said...

I always feel that the sound of PMC speakers are very close to the ATC speakers, though the ATC do sound airier in the highs.

I also feel that you haven't maximised the sound of this speaker yet. Just look at the specs
1. recommended power of 120w to 500w
2. impedance of 4 ohm.
This is one current hungry speaker. No matter what the dealer may say, this is not an easy speaker to drive. If you can get a 200w Class A speaker to drive these speaker, I feel you would marvel at the overall sound, not just the bass. You are just getting the hint of the bass with your amp.
If you want to try the sound of the bass, you should try Bjork's Post album. Play track 2 (Hyperballad) and track 5 (Enjoy). Listen to how well the speaker handle the lows while differentiating the highs and mids.

OdioSleuth said...

Hi Ken,

Thank you very much for your excellent feedback. Your experience with ATC is invaluable.

The PMCs are still at my place for a few more days. I'd really love to hear your firsthand opinion about the PMCs. Would be grateful if you can come over to my place for a listen this weekend!

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Hi OS,

For a speaker that isn't maximized like what Ken said, it sure sounded REALLY good.

I admit, I always thought Pass amps were rather polite but I was proven wrong that night at your place. I thought your Pass Labs were a rather good match with the speakers. If anything, it was loud enough for me. You are right, the bass control was very good. Tight, taut and deep. No wonder you turned bass guitar freak for a while.

The IB2s were a very good match to your system and room. I felt.

Ken said...

Hi Odiosleuth,

I will most probably drop by this Sunday.

Hi Capernaum,

Please do not equate loudness with amp wattage - speaker sensitivity. It doesn't work like that. Most power hungry speaker can go loud with low wattage amp. But when you can actually use a high wattage amp with these type of speakers, then you will hear a totally different type of sound.
When you have that you would hear a more relaxed yet powerful sound.


OdioSleuth said...


Ah...you mean that listening session with TAD + Pass Labs + PMC. That one will be etched in my memory for a long long time.


Aiyah, regret to tell you that AV Designs has decided to collect the PMCs from me tomorrow.

They have to get ready for the upcoming KLIAV Show. The PMCs will be in their demo system.

Anyone who is interested in the PMCs, please be sure you catch them at the show.

Khor.Eddie said...

Mr. Ken!
Wah! You have not come to this blog for a long time. Are you very busy? I always look forward to your perceptive comments as I am more interested in them than the reviews. Hope you can share your view more on this blog.

PMC is like my dream girl. But I cannot afford them yet. So can only listn in the HiFi show.

Ken said...

Hi Eddie,

Thanks for your comments. I will only write in when something interesting pops out.
But I have been known to ruffle a few people with my comments in the past. LOL

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...


You, me both! :-) Looks like we both share the same dream girls. Luckily they make twins or doubles or clones...hahaha...you can walk into AV Designs anytime to catch a listen. James/Tony is very accommodating.

I agree with you on loudness/wattage/sensitivity. I can only say that with more quality power, the IB2i will probably sound better.

I never knew PMCs to be power hungry speakers.

I remember driving a pair of LB1s in my room to great undistorted levels with just 55watts.

Ken said...


I don't know how to explain to you. Let me put it this way, I just want to stress that that the loudness level that you describe may not be the same as what I had in mind.

Please also note that the LB1 is a small monitor compare to the IB2i or the ATC SCM100 that I own.