Sunday, May 8, 2011

Double pleasure at AV Designs

AV Designs has an auditioning room specially set up for both two-channel and home theatre sessions which has been given the thumbs up by PMC owner Peter Thomas himself.


So if you go to AV Designs at Wisma Rohas Perkasa in Kuala Lumpur, you will end up with a double treat.


Seeing triple


AV Designs' James Tan and C.W. Low quickly ushered me into the room and showed me the goodies.


Standing majestically on either side of the Screen Research 126" wide, curved 2.35 format screen are a pair of PMC MB2-XBD Active speakers (driven by PMC-tweaked Bryston amps with active crossover). Behind the screen is an MB2 Active used as the centre speaker. Six PMC Wafer 2 speakers are used as surround speakers and two PMC TLE-1 Sub-woofers fill in the bass at the rear of the hall.


Other electronics include the Pioneer SC-LX83 AV Receiver, the Pioneer BDP-LX91 Blu-ray player, the JVC DLA-RS60 Projector with Panamorph DC1 Horizontal Expansion Lens and Lumagen Radiance XS-3D Video Processor.


That's a pretty expensive AV set-up.




AV Designs' Low posing next to
the stacks of electronic gear.

The PMC MB2-XBD active speakers flanking
the 126" Screen Research screen.


Six units of the PMC Wafer 2s were used as surround speakers.


The JVC DLA-RS60 Projector with Panamorph DC1 Horizontal Expansion Lens 

Two PMC TLE-1 Sub-woofers were used to
 boost the bass at the rear of the hall.

After asking me to put on a pair of active 3D glasses, James started playing Avatar in 3D. The colours were rich and saturated and the images were rendered without distortion. The 3D effect was something else - it was so sharply rendered and stable that the effect appeared 'solid' even when the camera was panned.


And in the scene when the special tree appeared in the movie in the form of a hologram, it was rendered amazingly life-like.


After watching for about half an hour, I removed the glasses and did not feel any eye fatigue - sometimes after watching 3D on LCD TV, my eyes feel strained. Bear in mind I have multi-focal ocular implants in both my eyes after being operated on for cataracts.


After that James played some music DVDs in 2D and both the images and sound were good.


All the videos were played on 2.35 format. To get that format instead of the usual 16:9, you need to hook up the Lumagen Radiance XS-3D Video Processor. Also, the JVC projector can handle only 16:9 and the Panamorph DC1 Horizontal Expansion Lens enables it to project in 2.35 format.


Two-channel pleasure


For stereo diehards, the sound system comprises only the pair of MB2-XBD Active speakers (driven by PMC-tweaked Bryston amps with active crossover) connected to the Bryston BP-26 preamp and TAD D600 SACD/CD player.




The tall PMC MB2-XBD active speaker.

The TAD D600 SACD/CD player.


I had brought along my one and only SACD hybrid disc - Patricia Barber's Cafe Blue and when an SACD disc is inserted, the TAD player plays SACD as default.


I had recently reviewed Marantz's Pearl Lite SACD/CD player and the TAD easily outclassed it in terms of detail, separation and poise. But the TAD is about 20 times the price of the Marantz. The TAD is up there in the esoteric and expensive high-end arena and has to be compared with the Esoteric, Wadia, Spectral and a few other top-range marques.


I also played Sarah Brightman's The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection Gold CD and the first song, The Phantom of The Opera (with Michael Crawford), has a driving bass line that is often rendered lifeless by lesser systems.


The PMC Active speakers did everything right - they are designed for studio monitoring after all.


The third CD I played was The Doors and the song Light My Fire with its splashy cymbals and piercing organ lines can be literally painful to hear on lesser systems. Again the PMC Active speakers did everything right.


However, in the AV Designs' listening room, I discovered that since the PMC MB2-XBD speakers are so tall (about 6') the listening position is vital. (Of course, room size is also important. The AV Design room measures 20' by 23' which seems to work well with the huge speakers.)


When my chair was on the same level as the speakers, my ears were at the same level as the bass driver on the MB2 (which is placed on top of the XBD bass speaker) and the soundstage was projected upwards - the band and singers were on a raised platform above me and the listening experience did not seem natural or comfortable.


When I sat at the back of the hall which was on a raised level, my ears were at the level just below the dome mid of the MB2. The soundstage seemed more natural that way and it was more pleasant to listen to the huge speakers in that position.


So if you own a pair of MB2-XBD speakers, you may have to raise your listening position to get the most pleasing experience.


PMC speakers are famed for their neutrality and transparency and the MB2-XBD speakers are no different. Add to that a tight and fast bass that goes real low (the MB2 is rated to go down to 17Hz) and you have a quite complete sonic experience.


Compared with the ATCs - the brand that the PMCs are often compared with since both make professional studio monitors and both use dome midrange units - the PMCs win with a lower and more detailed bass (ATC's bass starts rolling off at higher frequencies) whilst the two are almost similar in terms of midrange and treble performance (the newer ATCs have an improved tweeter).


The two brands are different regarding where their amps are placed - ATC's active speakers have their amps placed inside the cabinet while PMC's tweaked Bryston power amps and active crossover are placed outside the cabinets like a normal system.


Priced at RM370,000 a pair, the PMC MB2-XBDs would likely be the last pair of speakers that you invest in.


The TAD SACD/CD player (with external power supply), which also costs a small fortune, would be the last SACD/CD player you would buy too.


So it would be advisable to take your time auditioning the TAD/Bryston pre/PMC active system at AV Designs before taking out your cheque book.


And while you are trying to make that expensive decision, you might as well watch Avatar in 3D.



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