PMC’s Keith Tonge on the QB1-A

What’s special/new about the PMC monitor system launched at AES?

The QB1-A really does raise the bar regarding detail, transparency and resolution for large soffit mounted monitors. It’s a major departure from your traditional main monitor that has been only really used to get a vibe or impress the client. It’s a proper analytical tool with analogue and digital inputs, desktop remote (with plenty of features and custom EQ settings for each user’s personal taste), 4,825W per channel of audiophile Class D amps and a quartet of our piston drivers that drive an extremely effective transmission line. It gives you the detail, level, and vibe all in one package, so there is no need to wander to another room or another set of monitors for a reality check.

Will it be suitable for mastering purposes as well as mixing/recording?

There would be no reason why you wouldn’t use the QB for any application. We believe that a good monitor is a good monitor and those that are pigeon holed for ‘tracking vocals only’ for example really mean that there is some heavy contouring to the response and they aren’t a monitor at all. Thanks mainly to the function of the Advanced Transmission line bass loading the detail, balance and the dynamics remain identical at all levels so proximity and level don’t really have a baring. Weight may be an issue if you want to balance them on the bridge though as they come in at 150kg/330lbs each!

What are the design elements (features and functions) to consider for a monitoring system for mastering?

Our mastering clients are extremely demanding as they look for so many attributes in a monitor ie: transparency, defined image placement, high level (when required), and the really tricky one, an identical balance at all levels. Designing a monitor to excel in every region is certainly a challenge but it comes down to having that holistic view of what is required rather than focusing on an individual aspect of performance to the detriment of everything else. Mastering requires an extremely natural, neutral, open balance so it’s vital that the monitors have a very wide even dispersion so any reflected audio is as close in frequency response to that direct from the drivers. The ear/brain is extremely clever at identifying reflections that differ in response from those direct from the drivers, and when they do vary it makes for an unnatural and fatiguing session.

Keeping coloration to an absolute minimum is paramount so we would preclude reflex designs and horn loading for example and avoid elements that could create a ‘character’. It’s also essential that all electronics and driver designs are very much audiophile quality with enormous headroom so everything is working well within their limits. 

To what extent do you ‘customise’ systems for different studios?

We have an extensive range from smaller two ways all the way through to twin cabinet large-scale monitors all of which can be produced in vertical or horizontal forms with matching centre channels and subs so we have the building blocks to match the ideal system to any room for both stereo and multichannel. Dispersion and tonal balance of all the models are alike which is ideal for multichannel set ups, especially where space for the surround channels is tricky, so customising systems isn’t an issue. In addition our vents (the transmission line output) features on the front baffle of all our models so soffit or free standing are both options, moreover the ATL bass loading technology, with its smooth and extended bass doesn’t suffer from positioning and proximity to boundaries like the traditional ported/reflex cabinet, which makes each design just that more adaptable for more environments. 

How important are the actual room acoustics in bringing out the best from monitor systems?

Room acoustics have a huge bearing on the perception of a monitor’s performance and the larger the monitor and the greater the listening distance this becomes even more apparent. We put an immense effort into understanding the environment in which the monitors will be used and like to create the ideal environment where the monitor can be installed ‘flat’ rather than relying on room DSP or unnecessary EQ – it makes for better mixes that do translate. If it’s a ground up build then we work with the world’s leading acousticians to guarantee an ideal platform for the monitors to function, then when the monitors are installed we spend time with the studio designer and client ensuring the final balance is ideal.

What are your most popular monitors for Mastering applications?

The mastering fraternity plum for our three-way designs in 99% of cases like the IB2S-A, MB2S-A or the largest model in our range the BB5 XBD-A. At the very top end the BB has become one of those standards in mastering with so many rooms around the world featuring the same high end kit list of EQs, converters, and BBs. Those who prefer a more close up and personal style of monitoring use the AML2 or the new twotwo’s (Active 2 ways) like Capitol Studios Mastering department, Darcy Proper at Wisseloord, and Nigel Palmer at Lowland Masters to mention a few. This could all change with the launch of the QB1-A, large-scale, single box, three-way, active, which features our typical ultra-high resolution response but features both analogue and digital inputs.

Has the move to online mastering and the new playback formats – iTunes, Blu-Ray etc – necessitated changes in monitoring set-ups/speaker design?

No not really, a good monitor is a good monitor, though we have seen an increase of smaller rooms being used which has been great for us as our smaller monitors have the identical balance and feel as the much larger models so a smaller model in a smaller room can be extremely effective.

And the revival of interest in vinyl – does mastering for vinyl require a different approach?

Not at all, our clients are really looking for the same transparency for production of all formats.

How do you account for the continuing success of PMC monitors?

Our clients, they do as good a selling job as we do! We also pride ourselves on having the ‘holistic’ and open minded view of designing a loudspeaker where every element is considered regarding its bearing on sound quality. Everybody at PMC is a true listener with a real passion for audio rather than simply manufacturers of boxes.

We have always believed that the same monitor should be used throughout the production process and ideally the same one in the home…. and that monitor would be a PMC, of course!