British manufacturer PMC’s IB series of passive midfield loudspeakers have become something of a staple in studios and mastering rooms around the world. PMC is now making an active version of the IB2, available with extension bass cabinets as the IB2S XBD-A (the IB2S-Active cabinets are $34,000/pair, the IB2S-XBD-Active—reviewed here—are $58,000 for two master cabinets and two bass extension cabinets).
The full-range component of the system is largely reminiscent of the passive version and with the same 3-driver complement. Round the back are both analog and digital (AES) inputs and jacks for cabinet linking. Internally, everything is digital until reaching the 4kW of power amplifiers in a full system; if you choose an analog input, your signal will be converted into digits for level, EQ and crossover control, and then back to analog for amplification.
Although extra conversions theoretically degrade the signal, there was no sign of this in practice, the advantage gained being a wide degree of system control. The bass extension cabinets are not subwoofers in the conventional sense (although they could be used as such, for example, as the LFE channel in a surround rig), but are a means of spreading the bass load in a room when combined with the similarly shaped full-range cabinets—the bass boxes contain the same LF driver and amplification as the full-range, and have the same LF frequency response.
My workspace at Lowland Masters is a purpose-built building with a very true response right across the frequency range. Keith Tonge and Andy Wilson of PMC installed the speakers, each cabinet being a hefty two-man lift, and we needed about half a day to get everything in, up and fine-tuned. At something under 2m high, the complete system is certainly imposing. We made fine adjustments to the default flat frequency response (rated at 20 Hz-25 kHz) with the neat wired remote/monitor controller, taking the mid and high levels down a touch (my preference in monitoring is for a slight treble roll-off).
I was then straight into a fairly intense work period over the three weeks before the system went to its next destination in Vienna, and although to be thrown in the deep end in this way was at first daunting, after Day One, I never looked back: The speakers provided what I can only describe as an open window into sound, and made it a joy to adjust things, or make no changes as it was usually very clear what was or wasn’t required (or indeed, to simply listen). I’ve never been able to hear into the lows and low-mids better than with this system, and I could identify and fix bass issues my usual speakers might not alert me to.
Although the system cost may be eye-watering compared to other good loudspeakers, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that, in my opinion, these PMCs still represent value for money of a kind; they may be well beyond any speaker budget I’m likely to have access to, but their performance is quite extraordinarily good in a matter-offact, un-hyped way, while remaining immensely listenable. With the IB2S XBD-A, PMC has succeeded handsomely in its quest to make an ultimate, no-compromise monitor for the midfield.