Once again, Paul White disrupts his studio listening system, this time to audition Tannoy's diminutive PBM5 IIs.
Tannoy are best known for their dual concentric speakers, but I must confess to having a soft spot for their smaller, conventional two‑way systems of which the PBM5 IIs are a recent example. These small speakers are designed for the home listening market, but like many other small Tannoys, a significant number are sure to find their way into small recording studios.
Stacking up at just under 12 inches in height, the PBM5 IIs are based around a passive two‑way driver system mounted in a ported cabinet. The cabinet port faces to the rear to reduce the effect of port noise at high listening levels, and though the bass end is left in the hands of a five‑inch driver, with an injection moulded cone suspended in a roll‑rubber surround, both the extent and depth of the bass reproduction is impressive, even though there's little happening below 50Hz.
The top end extends to around 20kHz and is handled by a three‑quarter inch, soft‑domed polyamide tweeter, crossed over at 2.6kHz. The crossover itself is hard‑wired and uses high grade polypropylene capacitors and selected inductors, while the cabinets are made from high density medite (a form of MDF). In order to reduce the effect of cabinet edge diffraction, the cabinet corners are radiused as is the tweeter faceplate aperture. A plastic, grey veneer finishes off the whole package nicely and a removable grille is included for domestic users.
Connection to the speakers is via conventional binding posts fitted to a recessed plastic panel, and as usual these can accept either bare wires or banana plugs. There's no provision for bi‑wiring, but then it's arguable whether there would be any advantage in doing so on such a small system.
With a sensitivity of 89dB per Watt at one metre and a peak power handling of 85 Watts, the PBM5 IIs are capable of belting out plenty of level, and surprisingly cleanly too. As is usual with small ported speakers, the bass end has been deliberately tuned to produce a very slight peak at around 80Hz, below which it drops off quite rapidly. Even so, on pop material, you still get a surprising impression of bass with plenty of slam, but without any excess coloration or dead spots. You also have to really wind the level up before the PBM5 IIs start to sound boxy.
The midrange is handled quite nicely — one of the benefits of using a small diameter bass/mid driver — and the top end is reasonably well behaved too, though there's a hint of aggression at around 12kHz which can be fatiguing when listening to bright material for any length of time. Another benefit of a small speaker where the drivers are close together is that you get a wide angle of dispersion, and this in turn makes the speakers more forgiving when used in a reflective environment, such as an untreated home studio room. Wide dispersion also tends to go hand in hand with good stereo imaging, and the PBM5 IIs do not disappoint here either.
Ultimately, you can't have a small speaker system without there being a few compromises, the most obvious being bass extension and bass accuracy. Similarly, there's a limit to the maximum signal level you can produce before the sound starts to distort, and I've no doubt that one of the reasons the PBM5's bass end sounds so impressive when you wind the speakers up is that a significant degree of second harmonic distortion creeps in. Even so, the sound is nominally accurate, the lack of very deep bass means that critical midrange detail is easier to focus on, and when used in the nearfield, your ears are likely to cry for mercy before the speakers do!
Most importantly, the sound is also subjectively pleasing, and though the tweeter isn't the smoothest I've ever heard, it's not at all bad, especially when you consider that the PBM5 IIs fall into the budget end of the monitor market.
The bottom line is that you could produce good mixes on these speakers, and if you're pushed for space in a small home setup, the PBM5 IIs have enough range to use as your only monitors. In the larger studio, they are fine for nearfield use or simply as an alternative set of speakers for mix evaluation, and I certainly prefer their sound to that of the industry standard Yamaha nearfield monitors, which I still find too aggressive.
Once again, Tannoy have proved that just because they specialise in dual concentric speakers doesn't mean they can't build a competitive, two‑way design. Check them out!
- Generally smooth sound.
- Acceptably low colouration at low to medium listening levels.
- Plenty of perceived bass end.
- Don't need a huge amplifier to drive them.
- A few bumps and dips in the high end response add a little harshness to some material.
- Bass end is tuned to impress rather than being entirely honest, but not to the extent where the monitors are misleading.
A useful nearfield and home studio monitor for applications where compact size is important.