Review: Fostex PM0.3/PM-SUBmini 2.1 Monitor System

By Frank Wells. For $250, there’s not much else available that would perform at this level.
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It's been a long time since I've reviewed any “value-priced” speakers, mainly because I'm spoiled for choice and have high expectations and standards for monitor loudspeakers. When the Fostex PM-SUBmini was introduced at this year’s InfoComm, something about the combo of the sub and a PM0.3 left/right pair seemed promising. While not perfect, they have not disappointed.

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Features

The PM0.3 ($99 per pair, street) offers two rear-ported cabinets, roughly 4- x 7.3- x 5-inches each, weighing 1.5 lbs. The LF driver is a 3-inch cone and the HF driver is a 3/4-inch soft dome tweeter. Twin 15 W amps are housed in the left/active monitor; one feeds the components housed with it while the other feeds the second monitor (connected via eighth-inch jacks). The passive crossover is centered at 2.65 kHz. Rated frequency response is 110 Hz to 20 kHz, +/- 3 dB. Input is unbalanced via an RCA jack pair or an eighth-inch TRS jack. The powered speaker has a DC input for the provided line-lump supply.

The sealed PM-SUBmini ($150 street) is 7.9- x 7.3- x 9.2-inches and weighs 16.3 lb. Its 50 W amp feeds a 5-inch woofer. Input and through (to feed the PM0.3s) are RCA jack pairs. Power is direct AC in (two-prong).

Controls are minimal on both cabinets: a rear-panel volume/power switched pot on the PM0.3s, a volume knob and 180° polarity reverse on the PM-SUBmini and a final sub crossover frequency control. The crossover control sweeps from 60 Hz to 150 Hz, with about 70 Hz the recommended setting for use with the PM0.3. The LF is somewhat boosted at the higher crossover frequencies.

In Use
Fidelity is good. Imaging is good but not superlative. Frequency performance is decent: flat enough to not make me twist my head when listening. The PM0.3s are voiced a touch bright—more noticeably at higher listening levels. Dynamics are satisfying. Volume out (without watching those little woofers flap and obviously distort) is more than sufficient for close near field/desktop use, though there’s not the headroom for other applications. Another LF octave would be nice, but a bit too much to hope for given the package. The LF can be smoothed out by playing with the levels and crossover controls. I would not use the PM0.3s without the sub. I wish the LF roll-off could be controlled on the PM0.3 so I could let the sub do a little more of the work.

Summary
I could buy this set up at retail for $250. I haven’t experienced anything at that price that would perform at this level; everything else I’ve tried in that range would have been quickly set aside.

When I'm reviewing monitors, I listen to a compilation CD that I've used for decades. I listen over and over, volume up, volume down. I'll listen critically at an optimum (85 dB-ish) level to the whole disc critically at least once, then let it roll whenever I am at my desk, turning it up and down appropriate to my workflow. Essentially, if a performance aspect attracts my attention, that's usually negative. If the music just makes me happy, the little nuances and fills tickle my ears, that's positive. Mostly, I'm in the positive camp with these.

What did I expect from the combo? Less than I got, for sure. For small footprint desktop use, maybe on that desk where you pay your bills, the PM0.3 and PM-SUBmini system is a nice package for less than critical applications, and it won’t do much damage to your checking account.

Contact: Fostex International | http://www.fostexinternational.com