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|"What you don't know won't hurt you." That's sage advice. Especially when it comes to comparing -- or rather, not comparing -- a monitor speaker with a 16Hz-solid monster tower fortified by four EQ'd-out rear-firing 10-inch woofers. After I disconnected my customary Zu Definition Pros, it took a few days of break-in for the Pianos and the perceptional distance time bestows. Forget about mondo bass and the unfettered velocity of high efficiencies. Settle into the place of eliminating a $10,000/pr mental reference to fairly assess the AADs on their own terms. Believe me - it's amazing how quickly our bio computer adapts. While I was adapting, I decided on what amp to leash the PMM1s to. I needed something power and dollar matched. Out with the 2wpc Yamamoto, in with the overachieving, overbuilt, underpriced Onix/Melody SP3 integrated. Its 38wpc of push/pull 6550 juice proved more than enough oomph and control to take the Pianos through their paces. Most listening occurred at 11:30 on its dial. I admittedly didn't scale back on the source or cable end of things. Changing more than one item at a time in a reference context is simple sloppiness. It makes for unreliable results.
Granted, my marble-topped plant stands looked funky rather than appropriate to continue the AADs' elegant styling. But being the proper height and structurally solid, that's what the boxes did perch on for the duration of their stay. Into the Zanden's well went one of my favorite 2005 CDs, Andreas Vollenweider's first new album in five years called, simply, Vox [Kinko Music 17562]. The title cleverly indicates that this out-of-sight multi instrumentalists has finally picked up vocals (and very well, I might add). The little black 'uns (whose shiny polyurethane skins attracted dust like mad; dust in the high desert is plentiful and replenished hourly - free) soon began to proudly wear their custom drivers on their sleeves. The boat-hull construction seemed to do just what it was designed to do, too - avoid cabinet talk and perhaps even cause a bit of internal air compression to speed up exiting through the port.
Like all Vollenweider albums, Vox is a showcase for exquisite production values and expert recording techniques. Plus, it contains significantly extended low frequencies. The PMM1s really dished out the midbass power on tap here. While the lowest octave was merely hinted at, you'd not miss it unless you knew, from prior acquaintance with true fullrangers, what else there was to be mined. Yes, you can overdrive this speaker but you really have to push hard for that to occur. Anyone in an appropriately sized room and with the sensibility to go for a monitor in the first place won't even come close to experiencing it. You're more likely to drain your amp first, especially if its power rating was matched sensibly rather than overkill.
However, to really blossom and strut its stuff, this speaker wants to be goosed a bit. It sheds a few veils and takes on a more decisive energetic mien when its wick is lit a bit higher than just half mast for background listening. Soundstaging, as you would expect, is gargantuan. I pulled the speaker apart as far as my setup allows -- 9 feet center to center -- and center fill stubbornly refused to collapse. Nor did it begin to double to have you listen to two sources rather than the unified virtual source stereo is supposed to conjure up. The tweeter doesn't make any nasty noises but is revealing enough to help support a full dose of buzz when a bass player pops a string to make it growl and spit out some high harmonics for a flash or a saxophone squeal does the same higher up.
The mid/woofer, however, was the driver I kept returning to. The drum'n'bass-heavy groove leading into "Enchanted Rocks" really cranked. It had more impact and weight than seemed sensible for the lack of true artillery on tap. Drum rolls rolled, especially fun on "Paper Walls" below the African chanting. The various saxes and bass clarinet by crackerjack woodwind player Daniel Hueffers had fully believable timbres. Even sitting well off-axis avoided the weird staggering or ghosting some speakers elicit. Especially on voices, those incur sudden fractal blips that spread out through space rather than stay put on the spot the singer occupies in the stage. Not here. Translated, this indicated little lobing in the crossover region, something high-order crossover advocates often cite as an advantage of such topologies.
The flip side of that equation can be reduced responsiveness at low levels and not fully liberated jump factor such as the 1st-order Gallo Ref 3.1s enjoy for example. That's in fact true for the PMMs. They're not as rhythmically sharp as one of Roy Johnson's Green Mountain Audio speakers, other minimum network designs. The AADs aren't woolly or indistinct, mind you. They just don't sit on the very edge. They are a bit more relaxed in that regard. Add the buxom lower registers that are within their reach and the end result is a slightly warm, fulsome speaker without any indications of treble zippiness or steeliness. It's rather dynamic for the breed but ultimate scale -- the endless swell of extended crescendoes -- is naturally limited by Physics and displacement.
|Everyone around the block a few times knows that in audio and especially speakers, voicing is a big deal. Speakers that measure ruler-flat usually sound boring. Triangle in France builds in a deliberate treble lift for an exciting, subjectively fast and energetic sound. Descendents of the famous BBC Rogers model counter with their own target curves. Especially when a speaker is a monitor with necessarily restricted SPLs and limited bass reach/heft, voicing becomes a dominant concern. You're trying to create a plausible illusion with only half a driver tool kit to do it with.
This latest AAD model is balanced very well to have you quickly forget its diminutive stature. To support apparent bass quantity, the curved walls of the chassis help prevent ringiness and its attendant impression of bloat and lacking control are successfully banished. Simultaneously, treble energy seems slightly turned down to help downshift the tonal center and support the credible impression of a fully bass-anchored presentation.
The PMM1 doesn't come across as dark but rather, meaty and just slightly soft. The higher you crank it, the more it sheds that softness but it'll never turn hard and sharp unless you go plain mad on the dial. Soundstage perspective is more mid hall than row 5 as you'd expect from these descriptions.
|In conclusion, this speaker is as fine as it looks - a fully mature product with plenty of field experience behind it. I doubt it breaks any records in its genre other than packaging and bringing in the goods at a lower price than expected. Other than? This is condescension talking. In truth, it's a consideration far more important than a cheap throwaway comment. iPod sales prove that it's not listening to music (on the go) that's in danger but audiophile-type sit-down listening. Anything that combines friendliness of decor, size and wallet with bona fide performance supports the inevitable counter movement - now, to actually do something about it. It's the counter movement to the prevailing cheap'n'cheerful thrills for the masses that are unexposed still to the considerably better and thus labor under the misapprehension of satisfaction from ignorance: Bose and MP3. What you don't know can't satisfy you.
That's the kind of product AAD Audio has fashioned here. It's a li'l but smart speaker one can unhesitatingly recommend to newbies and hard-core 'philes alike. Take a Cambridge Audio Azur 540D DVD player, the Onix/Melody SP3 and a pair of PMM1s and you'd be rocking for sane and good-looking coin. That's the kind of product we need more of - not another ego-driven assault at breaking the sound barrier but a concerted effort to appeal to slim wallets, smaller spaces and folks who've got a -- very big -- life outside of audio and all its silly but diehard obsessions.
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