What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Wed, 25 Sep 2013, 5:11pm

PMC Twenty 21

Tested at £1485
100100
5

If you’re looking for a top class pair of small standmounters these are well worth a listen

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For

  • A surprisingly authoritative sound from a small package
  • Impressive detail resolution and agility
  • Fine build

Against

  • Don’t sound half as impressive when played at very low levels

We’re big fans of PMC’s Twenty series. So far we’ve reviewed two of the four strong range and raved about both.

Now it’s the turn of the ‘entry-level’ PMC Twenty 21 standmounter, though at almost £1500 the 21s are hardly an entry-level product.

PMC Twenty 21

Design

The 21s have the same sloped-back design as the rest of range, and can look a little odd at first. It’s done for both aesthetic and technical reasons.

The uneven shape reduces the build-up of internal standing waves – and, of course, it makes the speakers stand out on the shop floor.

MORE: PMC Twenty 22 review

The drive unit complement is unique to the Twenty range. On the surface, a 27mm soft-dome tweeter combined with a 14cm doped-paper mid/bass driver doesn’t sound like anything special, but both units are extensively engineered and take into account the lessons learned from the development of PMC’s excellent high-end Fact range. In short they’re good. Very good, in fact.

PMC Twenty 21

Set up

Once given a couple of days to run-in these speakers shine. That wasn’t our first impression, though. Placed a metre or so out from the rear wall and playing at a relatively quiet level, they were a little disappointing.

The 21s sounded perfectly acceptable, but lacked the all-round balance and skill we had come to expect from the Twenty range. These are small speakers, but even then we wanted a little more bass weight and power.

PMC’s trademark bass-loading method – a transmission line, where the bass component of the rearward output from the mid/bass driver is used to augment its forward sound – just didn’t seem to work as effectively as we know it can.

PMC Twenty 21

Things changed notably, however, when we started to fine-tune the performance. The first step involved moving the speakers close to a rear wall. Moved to a distance of 15cm the 21s sound far more balanced tonally. 

They aren’t unusually fussy about toe-in but, as usual, it’s worth taking a little time to get this just spot-on to enjoy the best compromise between soundstage width, focus and solidity. Biwiring improves transparency, and using nice solid stands such as the Custom Design 104 Signature (or PMC’s dedicated Twenty supports) gives everything a lift.

Sound

Get it all right and the 21s deliver a huge, beautifully layered image.

It also helps to turn the volume up. Now we’re not saying the Twenty 21s require party levels of volume to shine, but there’s a marked difference in character between the PMCs playing at late-night whisper levels and what we would consider normal listening levels.

The speakers gain notably in bass presence and authority, and dynamics grow impressively. All speakers alter character to a certain degree with volume change, but with these monitors the effect is more pronounced than normal.

The 21s, once we’ve fine-tuned their placement, now sound special for the money, delivering a solid, well-integrated sound of impressive scale and power. Used this way it’s hard to believe such a grown-up sound can be had from speakers that barely stand 33cm high.

PMC Twenty 21

They also sound remarkably composed when pushed very hard, remaining in control at far higher levels than we would ever use on a regular basis.

You can add terrific detail resolution and a fine sense of timing to the list of plus points, and a nice even tonal balance.

This impressive breadth of abilities means that these PMC speakers sound right at home with a broad range of music. We are engrossed when listening to Holst’s Saturn – where the speakers’ soundstaging and insight take centre stage – and danced along with Prince’s Gett Off (not a pretty sight, admittedly). In both cases these PMCs simply got out of the way and let the music flow.

Verdict

Our first impression was that PMC had been a little ambitious with the pricing of the Twenty 21s. Having got them to sing, we feel they’re one of the best speakers around at this price level. An easy five-star verdict.

 

MORE: Best Hi-Fi speakers

 

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