March 7, 2012

Sub-liminal!! PMC TLE-1 Sub Woofer.

Since my little rendezvous with the Rhythmic Audio F12 sub woofer not too long ago, and found the experience to be highly addictive. I begun to wonder if the PMC TLE-1, a high quality sub, retailing for RM$12,900 each, would do the trick in my smallish 10ft x 12ft room? Hmm.........

A call to AV Designs confirms the availability of the TLE-1, and within a few days, this handsomely built, slim design sub, with two six and a half inch bass driver incorporating PMC's proprietary ATL(Advance Transmission Line) technology, was in my man cave, awaiting to be set up. This PMC TLE-1 sub is an active design and comes with it's own 2 x 150W Bryston supplied power pack, read plate amplifier! Initial set up was a fairly easy affair, which once removed from the shipping carton, I proceeded to affix the four screw on spikes on all four corners of the bottom panel. After that, I proceeded to place the TLE-1 right next to my right speaker, from the same stables. Then the only other thing left to do was to connect the cables. A pair of XLR and RCA inputs are provided. I used the XLR option to go along with the rest of my system, all XLR wired. The only remaining cable to plug is the power cord. That's the easy part of the set up.
The PMC TLE-1, sitting right next to my Fact 8 main speakers. The TLE-1 was designed to visually match the PMC Classic series loud speakers, the latest with i moniker. Note that picture here taken is without grille to show the driver units. The actual review was based on the grille in used. This is due to the sub frequencies beaming and drawing attention from the music. With the grille in place, acting as a diffuser, the sub frequencies no longer draw attention to them selves.

We now come to the difficult part of the set up. Finding the right spot in the cave to place the PMC TLE-1 is hard work. The TLE-1 has to be reasonably far away from side walls to prevent bass re-enforcement which muddies the bass quality. The lack of a rumble filter also made it difficult to place in the context of my room. The sub kept picking up my turn table hum for some reason, causing the twin woofers to flap uncontrollably the moment the stylus hit the record, which is strangely solved by toe-ing in the sub slightly, so that it's paralleled along side my Fact 8 speakers did the trick. I did try other spots but all those places still had the sub picking up the turn table hum. It went back to the original spot where I first started. I then proceeded to dial in the sub parameters to suit my room and system.

Since the PMC Fact 8 extends all the way down to 28Hz @ -3db, the TLE-1's frequency dial would have to be set pretty low at 22Hz, to ensure a good, clean overlap. Then there is the sub level dial which allows me to match the sub output to complement the main speakers, and lastly, a phase dial which compensates the sub/speaker integration and reduce room mode interaction.
Attaching the floor coupling spikes to the bottom panel of the TLE-1.

The very simple 3 knob, 2 button, control panel of the TLE-1. From left: gain level, frequency roll of ON/OFF, variable phase, XLR or RCA input and frequency roll off point. 

It was nearly a month of experimenting with set up within my man cave, before I was satisfied and proceeded with the serious listening sessions. Actually, James Tan of AV Designs offered to help me with set up, but I declined because I wanted to try it out on my own(it's a man's thing, I guess). I am sure James has had more than enough experience to making setting up the TLE-1 a painless affair.

The moment I managed to successfully integrate the sub in to my system, I started to hear the lowest of bass notes, such as those pesky 20Hz from a pipe organ, which would've been previously rolled off naturally by the Fact 8 main speakers. The lowest notes like those 20Hz are actually more felt than heard. It manifest itself as a slight vibrato under your throne and if you stand close enough to the ATL port behind the TLE-1 with bell bottom pants, it should be flapping uncontrollably! The bass notes were clean with clear definition of note to note transfer on instruments like bass guitar and double bass. Listening to The Best Of Yazoo(remember Alison Moyet then in her prime?, who kinda reminds me of Adele today), one of my favourite electronic punk bands of the 80's, keyboard bass keys had gained a kind of electronic texture and substance to them.

However, adding a sub-woofer to the equation didn't only benefit the bass region. I felt there was an overall improvement to the whole sonic picture being presented by my system. It made the system sounded bigger than it actually was. The sound stage scale grew and imaging qualities included a sense of elbow room between the musicians, that includes the 3D stage layering effect. In "live" recordings, the venue acoustics becomes more apparent and convincing, transporting me to the actual concert event(with lights off). Often when increasing bass bandwidth, treble extension too will naturally be felt, and this PMC is no different. The highs took on a softer, less shinny brilliance, yet retaining all it's "air" quality, un soiled.

Obviously, dynamic range, both the macro and micro kind improved as well. When playing large scale orchestra music, such as Telarc's Round Up, featuring the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, conducted by Erich Kunzel. I heard harder hitting tympani(track 2, William Tell Overture), more forceful horse foot galloping effect(track 1, Sounds of the West) and surely, more surreal 20Hz rumble in track 3, The Magnificent Seven. With added dynamic range, comes excitement thrill ride of the sonic kind, where music dives deep in to the sub abyss and then rebounding the very next instance, all the way to ultra highs.
The back panel of the TLE-1 sub woofer. Note the stereo XLR input used to connect to my pre amp. Make sure left/right channel connection is correct. The TLE-1 would sound phasey if the channel connection is reversed between left and right!

On the whole, mating the PMC TLE-1 sub woofer to my resident Fact 8 speakers brought about an exciting musical synergy, never before experienced in my system.  Once dialed in completely, the TLE-1 would cease to exist in the sonic picture, not drawing any attention to it self. After a few weeks, I had begun to take it for granted, in the fit and forget manner. I had visitors who came and was un-aware of the existence of a sub woofer, yet left wondering how the Fact 8s could go so low in to the bass department. I would say mating the TLE-1 sub woofer to the Fact 8 main speakers sounded more like having a "mini-me" pair of PMC MB2i-XBD in my cave!

More experienced visitors would often ask why they didn't hear the sub, and would request me to disable the TLE-1 from the system. Once disabled, it became so obvious, how very subtle, the ways of the TLE-1, working to extend the last few hertz of the bottom octaves that we had taken for granted, in the listening experience. This sub is not for the "wham-bang-thank you ma'am" crowd. It's too cultured for that. I'd rather call it a musical sub instead, but that doesn't mean it can't do AV duties either, as I've heard a pair of them TLE-1 in action inside AV Design's premium home theater demo room.

Another prominent fellow blogger, Audioing who came to listen, even suggested that I operate a pair of TLE-1s, instead of a single sub, to take the whole experience to an even higher level. I know where that devil is coming from, and can only agree with him whole heartily!

PMC loud speakers are sold by AV Designs, contact Tony or James at 03-21712828.


HS said...

Big E,
Two subs is the way to Audio Nirvana. It eases fine tuning setup for phasing and timing.

AudioING said...

Big E,

Why running a check on "where you come from? " You scare people off.

Big E said...


You're right! 2 subs is best, Easier to balance and set up.


I am not a scary person. Be very afraid. Ha! Ha!