July 9, 2012

10Qs For Andy Wilson, Technical Manager, PMC Loudspeakers.

James Tan(left) of AV Designs and Andy Wilson(right) of PMC Loudspeakers.

I had the good fortune to talk to Andy Wilson, Technical Manager for PMC Loudspeakers. He was in Kuala Lumpur to complete a few active speakers installation for PMC clients, to ensure that the speakers are set up and optimized for sound quality to meet strict standards, required by company policy. I caught up with him just before he made the dash for the airport on his return journey home to UK.

Big E: Hi! Andy, your first time in Kuala Lumpur?

AW: No, second time actually. I was last here more than a year ago.

Big E: With a name like Andy Wilson, do you feel perhaps people may ask if you could perhaps be working for the other high end loudspeaker company in the US?

AW: Ha! Ha! Other than name sake, I share nothing in common with the other high end speaker company in the US, with one exception, both are speaker manufacturers with a design priority for excellent sound quality!

Big E: As Technical Manager at PMC, what are you responsible for?

AW: I go around setting up, installing and optimising all PMC active speaker systems for clients.

Big E: Can you elaborate exactly what are considered active speaker systems by PMC?

AW: Well, technically anything upwards, starting from the PMC IB2S XBD-A in the product catalogue is considered  an active speaker system. These are not just a pair of speakers, but a whole integrated system solution, including electronic x-overs, amplifiers and finally, the actual speakers themselves.

Big E: So if I shall hit the jackpot tomorrow, and do buy a pair of MB2S XBD-A, you'd come to install, set up and optimise the pair of speakers in my home?

AW: Absolutely!

Big E: Can you elaborate step by step, exactly your installation, set up and optimization process of a pair of PMC active speakers?

AW: I would first measure all drive units again, to make sure they are performing up to specifications before I do anything else. This is to ensure that the internal wiring and drive units are not some how damaged in transition between our factory and the client's place. Even though we do measure the speakers before the leave the factory, it's still better to make sure everything is in order, before I proceed further. I then proceed to hook up all the components that make up the speaker system.

I then start physically placing the speakers in the given room, usually about 1/4 of the way in to the room from the front staging wall. I then try to balance between the bass response and sound staging depth by moving the speakers forwards and backwards from the front stage wall, at this point of setting up all the parameters on the electronics x-over is left in it's neutral setting. It always a compromise between the two(between bass response and sound staging) . Once I get the bass response correct, than I'd work on setting the mid range gain, followed lastly by the tweeters. This is to ensure I get a fairly even tonal response from the pair of speakers. The final step in the process is to do an in room frequency sweep measurement to confirm with what I heard.

At this stage, the client will be called in to give his opinion on the sound quality and small degrees of final adjustment can be performed to suit his or her preferences. Another round of in room frequency sweep will be performed to confirm the tonal response differences, compared to my original setting.

Big E: I noted in the set up process you did not mention any x-over point adjustment for the active speakers?

AW: You're right, there's no x-over point adjustment allowed in the PMC active speaker system design. The x-over points are pre-set at the factory and I can only change the gain setting of the drivers.

PMC BB5 XBD-A, the biggest, baddest speaker in the range.

Big E: What happens when you get an acoustically poor, or un-suitable room which does not do justice to those PMC big boy active speakers?

AW: There have been cases like that before, but thankfully it's not often we have a problematic room. The PMC active speakers are pretty room friendly, despite their size, but just don't put them in to too small a room, after all, they are still big speakers, and they do need room to breath. Our knowledge able dealers like James, will usually advise potential clients about the suitability of a PMC speaker model for the room size available, which usually ensures the speaker room match equation is workable in the first place.

Big E: I noticed that the latest PMC IB2S XBD-A uses in-cabinet class D amplifier modules instead of the usual Bryston supplied amplification in previous products. Is PMC choosing to go class D from here on, without Bryston?

AW: The class D amplifier modules are only specific to the IB2S XBD-A. We will continue our association with Bryston for all other active speaker models. And quite frankly, I personally feel analog amplifiers are still the best solution for sound quality. The only reason we selected class D amplifier modules for the IB2S XBD-A is because of the market positioning for this model, which is meant for home/small studio installation environments, hence there are budget and space restrictions that we have to consider in the product design. It's a work horse pro-model, rather than a hifi speaker used for domestic environment, where sound quality take precedence above all other considerations.

Big E: Which area or market are all the big boy PMC active speaker systems going to most?

AW: In Asia they mostly go in to big custom home theater installations, and in Europe and US, where they mostly go in to recording studios. I think it's because Asian homes tend to be bigger, and are able to accommodate very ambitious home theater installs. The typical European home is too space restricted for the PMC active speaker systems, we tend to put them in to studios. In the US, most of our active speaker systems go in to Hollywood studios for sound track and music recordings, and some big custom home theater installs too.

Andy's ride to the airport manage to arrive for pick up on time, and with that I wished him Bon Voyage, he very quickly left my 10Qs session. I wish to thanks James and Tony of AV Designs for arranging this talk session.

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