It has been nearly five years since mastering expert Hank Williams of Nashville’s Mastermix invited me to listen to his PMC TB1 monitors. I immediately purchased a pair and have remained a PMC (Professional Monitor Company) devotee ever since. The TB1s have a nice smooth top end, a full rich middle and a tight punchy bottom end. They are nonfatiguing, and most importantly, I do my best work when I am listening to them.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, post production
Key Features: Two-way, six-inch carbon fiber/Nomex woofer, 1.2-inch silk dome tweeter, Bryston biamplification
Price: $5,200 per pair
Contact: PMC/Bryston at 800-849-2914, Web Site
+ Wide frequency response
+ Extremely accurate
– Expensive (but worth it)
– No power indicator
The Score: If your goal is the highest possible quality with no regard to price, then the PMC AML-1 is the right speaker for you.
Now entering its second decade in existence, U.K.-based PMC, distributed in North America by Bryston, has released its first compact active monitor, the AML-1 ($5,200 per pair). This new monitor promises to have all of the merits of the PMC tried-and-true transmission line designs, including minimal distortion and accurate low-end response. Additional benefits include extended bottom end (down to 33 Hz), neutral yet dynamic performance, consistent balance at different volume levels, higher SPLs without distortion or compression and lower coloration than comparable speakers.
From the custom drive units to the OS-Con capacitors utilized in the key areas of the speaker’s power amplifiers and crossovers, every component in the AML-1 is high-quality. The 15.8-inch high by 7.9-inch wide by 12.4-inch deep speaker’s low frequencies are reproduced by a six-inch carbon fiber and Nomex flat piston bass driver. A 1.2-inch silk soft dome driver reproduces the high frequencies. A low-noise active crossover integrates the two drivers. A 100W (continuous) [RMS] LF amp and 80W (continuous) [RMS] HF amp provide more than adequate power for the boxes. Both the amplifier and the crossover designs are licensed from Bryston. The 35.25-pound AML-1 boasts a usable frequency response of 33 Hz – 22 kHz.
The AML-1’s various user controls are located in a compartment on the top of each loudspeaker. The 3 dB LF rolloff can be activated at 50 Hz, 80 Hz or 160 Hz. The 50 Hz LF tilt has a 500 Hz knee and can be set at -12 dB, -9 dB, -6 dB, -3 dB or +3 dB. The 10 kHz HF tilt has a 1 kHz knee and can be set at -5 dB, -2.5 dB or +2.5 dB. An EQ in/out button activates the equalizer circuit and a corresponding LED glows either red or green depending on the status of the switch.
The AML-1 is available in blue/black (as shown) or the less visually aggressive gray/black. Other colors are available on request.
The AML-1s included documentation explains that the speakers require a “running in” time of at least seven days before optimum performance is reached. My demonstration pair had already been used for a previous review so they were past their burn-in period and they sounded great right out of the box.
I spent substantial time listening to several extremely familiar recordings. I was shocked when I heard small details (reverb trails, panning nuances, breaths, etc.) that I never realized existed. The longer I listened to the AML-1s the more I fell in love with their performance.
In my mind, there are two primary factors that define a good pair of studio monitors. Firstly, they should have an honest sound. Great recordings should sound great but poor recordings should not. My complaint with a large percentage of today’s monitors is that they hype the sound and give a false impression that the program material sounds better than it truly does. When I am listening at home, I want everything to sound good, but when I am working in the studio, I want to know the difference. Secondly, good monitors should be nonfatiguing. On occasion, I need to be able to monitor for 14 or 15 hours a day, and I cannot afford to feel fried and burned out at hour eight. Listening fatigue is primarily a result of distortion (both speaker and amplifier); the higher the distortion, the higher the fatigue (at full output, the AML-1’s have <0.009 percent distortion) . The AML-1s are clearly a winner in both of these areas.
My first opportunity to work with the AML-1s was in mixing three songs for producer Brent Milligan. I immediately felt comfortable mixing on the monitors. I found their accuracy to be stunning, especially on the bottom end. Their clarity and detail is mind blowing.
My only complaint with the monitors is their lack of a power indicator LED on the front of the speaker. I am a firm believer that if the piece of gear can be turned on and off, you should be able to determine its status at a glance. The AML-1s are the only active monitors I have encountered that do not include this feature.
After two weeks of recording and mixing on the AML-1s, I am sold. At $5,200 per pair, the PMC AML-1s are expensive, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are worth the price. If money is no option, the PMC AML-1s should be at the top of every studio and engineers must-have equipment list.