PHOENIX

by

PRECISION TRANSDUCER ENGINEERING

List Price: $5,700/pr

 

by

BRUCE BROWN

 

Does the Phoenix Rises Above the Others?

 

           In Greek mythology, the Phoenix rises above the ashes from its predecessor to take on a new life. Throughout hundreds of years,this can be applied to just about any company or product. Maybe it’s an influx of cash, or the case of going back to the drawing board.

 

Precision Transducer Engineering is a company that specializes in powered loudspeakers. With over 20 years in the business, they build everything in-house according to sound scientific principles.  Powered speakers are nothing new. I don’t know if you could buy a passive computer speaker now if you had to. Every recording studio has powered speakers and more mastering studios are going the powered route. Certainly makes sense. The manufacturer knows exactly how the speaker works, so why leave it up to the consumer which amp would work the best? Certainly the average consumer doesn’t have a clue. Why not let the manufacturer choose the correct crossover and amp to get the best sonics available from their speakers? Saves a lot of guesswork and money, especially if you choose an underpowered amp and/or use incorrect crossover points.

 

Enter the PTE Phoenix. This powered speaker has an active crossover, whereby allowing the designer to have the freedom to provide much better control over a speaker than a designer of a passive speaker. Take the bass for example. The Phoenix increases the voltage at 30Hz by 6dB, thus creating a flatter response. You couldn’t do this in a passive design. With the freedom of using different voltages, their own filters and 3 separate amps in one box; PTE has taken away all the guesswork and built a damn good speaker!

 

The Phoenix is a stand mount speaker that is approximately 28”H x 12”W x 15”D and weighs 74lbs. Just before taking delivery of the Phoenix speakers, I took out my ACL and MCL and couldn’t negotiate stairs very well. I was wondering how the heck I was going to get them to my studio. Thankfully they came double boxed and packed very well. I just knew for sure that sliding them down a flight of stairs was going to damage them. I guess if they survived that, then they could just about survive any FedEx or UPS jockey.

 

Since the speakers must be stand mounted, Sound Anchor stands were sent along with the speakers. The stands were 24” tall, which put the tweeter height approximately 38” from the floor. This was perfect for my listening position. There are 2 inputs on the back of the speakers, RCA unbalanced and XLR balanced. Input impedance is 5.09k ohms and 14k ohms respectively.

The reason the speakers are so heavy is that PTE uses 3 separate amps in one box. Most of the time manufacturers will cut corners in the power supply or just use a class-D plate amp and call it good. Not these guys. They use a 130-watt class AB amp for each driver with over 20 amperes of peak current available any time! You want it loud? They can certainly play loud without any sense they’re giving up the ghost or distorting. I saw peaks over 110dB! Good for +/-2dB from 32Hz to 20kHz, you’re not left wishing you had a subwoofer, though PTE has now developed a sub, called the Foundation specifically for the speakers.

 

Since these speakers use active crossovers, this allows the manufacturer to build in user adjustable switches so the consumer can tailor the sound to their liking. For folks with smaller rooms, there is a switch called “Low Frequency Equalization” to facilitate speaker placement near a corner, near a wall or just free standing. If you have to place these speakers near the front wall or corner where there is bass buildup, these speakers will still work. Just flip a switch and just enjoy the beautiful music!

 

There are also switches for tweeter level controls. This allows you to adjust the tweeter up or down 2dB. For my listening, I left the controls at “0” for the tweeter and “Free Space” for the woofer. The speakers were bolted to the Sound Anchor stands and placed approximately 67” from the front wall and 39” from the side walls with toe-in just so you could see the inside face of the speakers. I was sitting just outside of an equilateral triangle at about 8.5’.

 

I guess Mark Thoke at PTE felt I was a great candidate to review his speakers because as a studio owner, I’ve heard my fair share of powered speakers, good and bad. The brands I’ve heard in my rooms are Adam, Focal, Genelec, KRK, ATC, Yamaha and Barefoot. Currently I have Focal Professional Twin6/Solo6/Sub6 monitors in my surround room. The Focal Twin6 monitors are very similar to the pair under review. Both have dual 6.5” woofers with a tweeter in the middle. While the Focal’s have a Beryllium tweeter, the Phoenix uses a dual-magnet Scan speak. Both speakers have about the same wattage, though the Focal’s use class D amps. You can definitely tell by the weight. The Focals are a paltry 30 lbs.!

I also have the Focal speakers on Sound Anchor stands so I thought this would be an even match. Boy was I wrong!

 

What’s the saying? It’s like taking a knife to a gunfight. But I was the one holding the knife and the Focal speakers were down for the count. It wasn’t really a fair fight. The PTE Phoenix speakers were just better in every way. They could go lower. They were more coherent. They had better bass definition. They had better midrange clarity. They had better top end air. The only thing they couldn’t do was play louder, but the Focals at over 110dB don’t really sound that great. To me, the PTE Phoenix speakers are the best powered speakers I have heard….. period!

 

Before the end of the review I took delivery of a pair of Wilson Audio Alexia’s. At about $50K a pair, the Alexia’s are the best sounding speaker I have heard in my room… so far.

While I was breaking in the Wilsons, I connected the Phoenix speakers to my pre using balanced JPS Labs Aluminata IC’s. I was doing some RCA Living Stereo transfers at low level and all of a sudden I was startled by a bass crescendo. I had never heard such dynamics at low level before. It was frightening. The more I listened, the more I was convinced that these speakers were just as good playing at lower volumes as they were at fff. It was as though you were using a bass contour or loudness switch you see on some of these consumer receivers. According to the Fletcher-Munson curve, this shouldn’t be happening. And though, cut after cut, this was the most coherent speaker I’ve ever heard at low volumes. The same characteristics were present at mid-volume and at full-tilt-boogie. I don’t even hear this out of my $50k speakers. It’s amazing.

 

          

The bass transients are razor sharp with no over-hang. The frequency response of these speakers go down to 32Hz, but it certainly feels like they go lower. I wasn’t longing for more bass output, that’s for sure. Upper bass was pristine and not making the mids muddy at all. I couldn’t hear the transition from woofer to tweeter; it was silky smooth without any roll-off from upper mids to lower treble. While they may not move as much air as the Wilsons, they certainly make up for it in impact. These drivers are fast. They make a sound and get out of the way. I think the audiophiles call it PRaT. What ever that means, it will certainly make you tap your toes and give you goose bumps.

 

           So what’s with these audiophiles that are so against self-powered speakers? There are several speakers over $100k that are powered on the bottom end people think nothing of it. I know, because I had a pair. It was a relief not to have to provide mega-watts of power to push 4-15” drivers.

 

I think it’s all about synergy. Audiophiles get on this merry-go-round trying to match up amps and cables to speakers.  I’ve even done it, going from solid-state to tubes and then back to solid-state. Using cables with networks, then cables without networks. It’s maddening. What I want is just to go into my listening room and play music without having to worry about if I’m using the right amps with these speakers. I’m wondering now if my Pass Labs amps are doing my Wilsons justice, but I digress. If I were to start all over again, the PTE Phoenix would be my first choice to forget about the equipment and just enjoy the music! At $5,700/pr., it’s a no-brainer. The Phoenix has arisen!!

 

Because of its superior engineering and osound quality at $5,700 per pair - including the built in amplifiers - the PTE Phoenix represents a superior value and thus it is awarded out rare Maximum Mojo Award.

 

 

 

Associated equipment:

Studer A80RC MkII tape machine

Playback Designs MPS-5

MSB Tech Diamond DAC

 

EMM Labs Switchman 3

Doshi Audio Alaap

Pass Labs XA-160.5

 

Wilson Audio Alexia

Focal Twin6

 

 

Listening:

RCA Living Stereo Series:

Bruch: Scottish Fantasy, Vieuxtemps: Concerto No. 5 - Heifetz/Sargent

Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben – Reiner

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue – Fiedler

Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe – Munch

 

Sonny Boy Williamson – Keep It to Ourselves

Shelby Lynne – Just A Little Lovin’

Chance Hayden – The Family Tree

Jovino Santos Neto - Current

 

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