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Customer Review


PA-6B Bookshelf Speakers

$399.00

Your Name
 
Rating (5 stars being the best)
 
Review
 
 
 
 

Below are the rave reviews we are getting on our speaker systems.
You can link to these sites or read the reviews here
.

AudioPhile Audition:



Background and Previous Gear


Over the years, I have written about speakers as different and exceptional as Electrovoice’s giant Patricians (with which I grew up - a pair no less) featuring mighty 18-inch woofers and horn-loaded mid-range and tweeters; Quad’s classic ELSs (the most transparent sounding radiator screens ever); B&W’s first non-ionic dynamic-electrostatic hybrids with the ELS unit plugged into a conventional rectangular box; Spendor Audio’s version of the acclaimed LS3/5As; some of Infinity’s startling first attempts at full-range realistic sound; and, more recently,  Wilson Audio’s breathtaking blends of power, delicacy and accuracy.

I was therefore surprised that writing about Premier Acoustic's PA-6F Home Theater System turned out to be as challenging as writing about any of the above superficially far more complex musical instruments. Not because Premier Acoustics’ home theater system turned out be anything less than superb. In fact, there has been a suspicion that Premier has built upon the standards for sound reproduction laid down by many of the historically most important companies as well as their current competition. For example, you can hear how strongly Premier competes against competitors like Klipsch who, with their history of horn-loaded systems, represent in a sense the heritage of those giant Patricians.

Writing about the PA-6F has turned out to be challenging for a reason that has not existed prior to the recent development of the multichannel Super Audio CD and the arrival of the multichannel DVD as the standard for video. The result has been that sizing up the PA-6F  under such circumstances has been so musically exciting that listening to new releases as they arrive, and old favorites as they wait on the shelves, has become totally addictive.

I began by using a variety of recorded material to determine just how good the two Premier towers alone were in a conventional stereo setup. The electronics were all Naim Audio, very clean and powerful, a Nait 2 integrated unit driving a NAP 140 amp. The CD player was Naim’s impeccable 5i. The CDs I used for evaluating the sound were CDs I know well, some of which come from the early days of stereo. And the speakers I was using before I switched to the PA-6F were a pair of Spendor Audio’s big SP2/3s.

Test Sources Used


For testing low bass and transient response, I used the “You Look Good to Me” cut on We Get Requests: The Oscar Petersen Trio (Verve). For big orchestral workouts, I used soundmeister Herbert von Karajan’s Vienna Philharmonic Decca recordings including waltzes by the Strauss family, Holst’s Planets (with the awesome bass notes in Uranus), and symphonies by Brahms, Beethoven and Dvorak. For detail and timbre, I used the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble’s Swiss recital (Claves). For vocal purity, I used Chanticleer’s self-recorded Anniversary Album. For piano sound, I used Frederic Chiu’s recital of Schubert songs in Franz Liszt’s transcriptions (Harmonia Mundi) and pianist Ekaterina Dershavina’s performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (Arte Nova). For opera, I used Electrola's 1959 recording of Weber’s Der Freischütz which is not only a fine performance but one of the most atmospheric recordings ever made (check out the Wolf Glen’s finale to Act II). And, as a postprandial delight, Neville Marriner’s classic account on Argo of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

In each case, the system performed either close or equal to the legendary speakers listed above. They were extremely neutral, so you didn’t feel you were listening to the speakers (although this was one of the decadent joys of the pre-digital age, it is far exceeded by the joy of listening to accurate natural sound in a realistic ambient environment). The two beautiful towers handled power effortlessly and, even without the subwoofer that is added for multichannel listening in the home theater array, they growled and thumped convincingly, whether it was the string bass in the Oscar Petersen cut, or the monstrously low brass and percussion in the Holst. When, on occasion, they lacked the last ounce of bass, they didn’t go ballistic but handled the situation with elegance and grace. They were transparent to a wonderful degree both on the Bach Variations and the Schubert-Liszt transcriptions, most impressive since the piano remains the most difficult instrument to reproduce, and on the Vivaldi, enabling the strands of inner detail to be heard without over-accentuating them. 

About Premier Acoustic 


Before I go into how well the PA-6F handled the multichannel challenges and opportunities presented by a few primo symphonic and operatic DVDs, some background on Premier Acoustic is in order.

The owners of Premier Acoustic have been in the home theater electronic business for more than 20 years. In order to maximize both quality and value, Premier has taken the best features from many “top of the line” speaker manufacturers that are available in today’s market and created an affordable, sleek and clean sounding speaker line. From the low end bass response of the powered subwoofer, to the high end of the soft dome tweeters, each speaker is designed to reproduce its specified frequency response as perfectly as technology allows. The complete PA-6F home theater system is guaranteed to have a frequency response from as low as 24 HZ up to 20KHZ.

The Six Speakers Involved

The specifications for each of the six speakers are not the only things that are beautiful about the PA-6F.  The system available in black or cherry (real wood, too), with both the top and bottom sides of the cabinets custom finished in a black, high gloss piano lacquer. So, not only do these speakers sound the best in their class, they bring style to any room in your home. In fact, ever since the PA-6F arrived in our home for its trial run, my wife has been not so subtly hinting how nice it would be if we left the Spendors in the closet.

The facts, just the facts:


The handsome PA-6F floor standing tower speaker is designed to bring out  a wide range of sounds whether they are being used for a DVD experience or just plain old stereo Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Premier has incorporated dual 6/12" polygraphite woofers to deliver bass as low as 35 HZ. The tweeter is one of the clearest available for home speakers that I have heard.

2-Way System
Dual 6 1/2" Woofers
1" Soft Dome Tweeter
8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 89dB 1 watt /1 meter
Frequency Response: 35HZ -20KHZ (±3dB)
Wattage: 50- 175 Watts
Size: 39.5" x 9" x 12.5" (H x W x D)
Weight: 66 pounds
Cherry or Black Piano High Gloss Finish

The handsome but unobtrusive PA-6C center channel is designed to bring out voice and dialog, and has been engineered to deliver details from the smallest whispers to the loudest shouts. Premier has incorporated dual 6/12" polygraphite woofers for genuine bass response. The tweeter is soft and clear, producing highs as high up as the human ear can hear.

2-Way System
Dual 6 1/2" Woofers
A 1" Soft Dome Tweeter
8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 88dB±3dB
Frequency Response: 55-20KHZ
Wattage: 50- 175 Watts
Size: 21.9" x 9.8" x 8.5" L x D x H
Weight: 22 pounds
Cherry or Black Piano High Gloss Finish

The good-looking but appropriately small PA-6S surround speakers are designed to bring out the surround feel of DVD movies. Whether it’s bullets flying overhead, or helicopters buzzing at uncomfortably low altitudes, Close matching with the timbres of the frontal speakers also assures a natural surround soundfield for multichannel music reproduction. The PA-6Ss have been engineered to make you duck! The alignment of two 6 1/2" polygraphite woofers are at roughly a 90 degrees angle, while the tweeters fire straight ahead.

2-Way System
Dual 6 1/2" Woofers
A 1" Soft Dome Tweeter
8 Ohms
Sensitivity 88dB±3dB
Frequency Responses 80-20KHZ
Wattage 50- 150 Watts
Size:12" x 10.5" x 10" (H x W x D)
Weight 17 pounds each
Cherry or Black Piano High Gloss Finish
 


The PA-12W powered subwoofer is a spectacular performer, discreet when it needs to just subtly enhance the low end of a solo cello, or totally out of its mind when Also sprach Zarathustra calls out for those low, low organ tones. It also handles huge explosions, the footsteps of dinosaurs, or just strong bass guitar and drums. The alignment of a large 12" polygraphite woofer, and a built in 500 watt amp makes this sub fill any room with clear bass. And Premier has provided easy to use controls to tune the PA-12W.  An adjustable crossover custom sets the frequency response, a volume control sets the output, and an auto on/off switch power on the PA- 12W as soon as the slightest hint of bass hits your LFE track.

12" Active Subwoofer
Sensitivity: 85DB 1 Watt 1 Meter
Ohms: :8 Ohms
Frequency Responses: 24HZ-20KHZ ( +/- 3DB)
Wattage: 200- 500 Watts
Size: 19" x 14" x 19" (H X W X D )
Weight: 56 pounds each
Color: Cherry or Black
 
Wondering how it sounds on multichannel DVDs?


Oh yes, I promised to let you know how the PA-6F performed on multichannel SACDs and multichannel DVDs. In a word, breathtaking. No, make that stunning. For the testing, I used a Sony DVP-NS755V and Outlaw’s versatile and user-friendly 1070 receiver, with 65 watts per channel into 8 ohms (more on the 1070 in a separate review).

For the pièce de résistance, I used the following DVDs: José Montalvo’s spectacular, almost X-rated production of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s magnificent opera, Les Paladins (Opus Arte); Heinz Spoerli’s ballet set to Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, conducted by Neville Marriner (DG); Bernard Haitink’s nearly complete Mahler symphonic cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic (Philips); Leonard Bernstein’s mid-80s performances of Shostakovich’s Symphonies 6 & 9 with the Vienna Philharmonic (DG); and, for a change of pace, a South Korean pressing of the French movie, Asterix et Obelisk.

The results were so spectacular that it became very difficult to return to simple audio discs. Somehow, the added visual element enhanced the listening experience in a deeply subtle way. [There is also the opposing faction who prefer to look at that the other way around...Ed.]  It was the Mahler Fourth Symphony which got me first, the richly upholstered deep bass of the Berlin Philharmonic reproduced with the kind of depth and velvety texture that goes beyond even the live concert experience and takes you into the most profound and ecstatic reaches of the composer’s soul. The cycle is a controversial one in an interpretive sense, lacking the stark emotional intensity and contrast that many conductors and listeners think reflects the composer’s true intentions. But Haitink, who comes from the tradition of the great Dutch conductors that began with Willem Mengelberg (who worked closely with Mahler in the first decade of the 20th century) has undeniable authority in this music. The experience is a visceral one, decadent to some and vastly profound to others, and the PA-6F system is immensely impressive, with a transparency that removes any barriers between the music and the listener. The two Shostakovich symphonies with Bernstein have similar qualities, although the emotional intensity is much more jagged. The Stravinsky ballet, one of Marriner’s signature pieces in his early analog days with Argo, is quite brilliant, dynamically rich and timbrally clear and detailed. Again the Premier Acoustic system performed with audiophile glee.

The Rameau opera is quite a different treat, with nude men and women, as well as animals of all sorts, scampering across a multilevel stage, using all sorts of multimedia magic. The sound is brilliant and a tremendous challenge to speakers because of the composer’s demanding use of a wide range of voices, and the unusual but distinctive sounds of the original instruments. Everything comes across with stunning impact. The same is true of the French blockbuster Asterix et Obelix, never released in the U.S. because the essence of the comic books on which the movie is based is a never-ending series of puns which it would be impossible to translate (and sub-titles don’t help much, either). Still, with the PA-6F holding forth, if French humor on a Rabelaisian scale is your thing, you will appreciate what the system is contributing.

I expected that, after the DVDs, the SACDs would seem more subdued. Instead, they had a musical coherence and integrity, dynamic range and tonal bloom of such beauty that I was quite amazed. I had selected a motley crew: Bernstein’s New World Symphony with the New York Philharmonic on Sony, a delightful program of Respighi (two works for mezzo and orchestra, and the dance music for La Pentola Magico) on CPO, Hesperión XXI’s newest recital (music from the Occident and the Orient, 1200--1700) for Harmonia Mundi, and Julia Fischer’s set of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Pentatone.

I listened to these over and over. The Dvorak confirmed its standing as perhaps the greatest single recording ever made of the popular symphony, with Bernstein’s love and enthusiasm bubbling over in every bar. The Respighi had tremendous delicacy and a magical feel for the singer, Damiani Pinti. On the Hesperión XXI concert, the thrill of each individual exotic instrument struck home to the heart and soul, and the singing had an eerie presence. On the Bach, you could hear each nuance, each movement of the bow on the string, in a miraculous performance by the young German virtuoso.  On the multichannel SACDs the soundfield in which I was immersed was more seamless in all 360 degrees than some HT surround setups I have heard in stores.   
 
Wrap Up

Premier likes to compare their PA-6F to Polk Audio, who by using the same tweeter is able to boast of a similar frequency response, and Klipsch, who use the gold polygraphite woofer. The cabinet design, Premier likes to say, is similar to Boston Acoustic and Energy. But I say, just because it sounds great, and equals its competition, how much does it cost?

The answer is: About half of the price of similar systems from (for the time being), more well-known speaker manufacturers such as Polk and Klipsch. Although Premier Acoustic’s suggested list price for the PA-6F is $1989.00, it can be widely found online from factory authorized dealers for $999.00 delivered (that means that the shipping is free). If you bought a similar system from manufacturers like Boston Acoustic, Polk, Energy and Klipsch, the price would be over $2500.00.  And Premier also offers a full 5-year factory warranty. 

The only complaint I have heard so far is from my Spendors, crying out in pain - and perhaps in vain - from their closet.

 -- Laurence Vittes

 

Premier Acoustic
PA-6B Home Theater System
Reviewed By: Parker Clack
Page 1

 


I have been a user of the same set of speakers for the past 10+ years for my surround setup. I currently have a Definitive Tech speaker setup for my mains, center and surrounds. They have served me very well over the years. I also have an SVS sub. It is a one of a kind so I really can't say what model it is but it is very similar to the 16-46 PC–Plus in design.

The other day I got a call from Lloyd Winston with Home Speakers Direct and he asked me if I would be willing to review a new speaker line that they got in. I said sure send them on. So in about 5 days I had a complete 5.1 speaker system setting on my doorstep. I asked him to send me the bookshelf version as I already have a tower speaker system.

The owners of Premier Acoustic have been in the home theater electronic business for over 20 years. They have taken the best features from many “top of the line” speaker manufacturers that are available in today’s market and created an affordable, sleek and clean sounding speaker line.

The speakers (with the addition of the subwoofer) have a rated frequency response of 24 hz all the way up to 20 khz. The black lacquer tops and bottoms bring a great since of style to each of the speakers. They are available in cherry and black color cabinets. I personally got the cherry cabinets. They are a light cherry in color with piano black tops. The look is very sleek and elegant and the cabinet boxes are very well constructed. The grills can be easily removed if you prefer to see your speakers with the grills off.

Speaker Specifications

 


The PA-6B fronts are small enough to fit inside a cabinet or sit on a shelf. They have incorporated a 6/12" polygraphite woofer and a soft dome tweeter.

2-Way System
6 1/2" Woofer
A 1" Soft Dome Tweeter
8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 88dB 1 watt /1 meter
Frequency Response: 55 HZ -20 KHZ (±3dB)
Wattage: 50- 175 Watts
Size: 18.1" x 21.8" x 12.6" (H x W x D)
Weight: 28 pounds
5 year Warranty
Cherry or Black Piano High Gloss Finish

 


The PA-6C Center channel is designed with dual 6/12" polygraphite woofers and a soft dome tweeter.

2-Way System
Dual 6 1/2" Woofers
A 1" Soft Dome Tweeter
8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 88dB±3dB
Frequency Response: 55-20 KHZ
Wattage: 50- 175 Watts
Size: 25.4" x 12.6" x 11.2"
Weight: 22 pounds
5 year Warranty
Cherry or Black Piano High Gloss Finish

 


The PA-6S Surround speakers are designed with two 6 1/2" polygraphite woofers at roughly a 90 degrees angle, along with a front-firing tweeter.

2-Way System
Dual 6 1/2" Woofers
A 1" Soft Dome Tweeter
8 Ohms
Sensitivity 88dB±3dB
Frequency Response 80-20 KHZ
Wattage 50- 150 Watts
Size: 300x280x193mm
Weight 17 pounds each
5 year Warranty
Cherry or Black Piano High Gloss Finish

 


The PA-12W Powered Subwoofer is designed with a large 12" polygraphite woofer, and a built in 500 watt amp.It also includes an adjustable crossover to custom set the frequency response, a volume control to set the output and an auto on/off switch to power on the PA- 12W as soon as that bass hits.

12" Active Subwoofer
Sensitivity: 85DB 1 Watt 1 Meter
Ohms: :8 Ohms
Frequency Responses: 24 HZ-20 KHZ ( +/- 3DB)
Wattage: 200- 500 Watts
Size: 21.7" x 22.7: x 17.7" (H X W X D )
Weight: 56 pounds each
5 year Warranty
Color: Cherry or Black

Hardware:


Outlaw Audio 950 Pre/Pro
Outlaw Audio 770 Power Amp (200 watts RMS per channel x 7)
2 Parts Fusion HTPC with HDA Mystique Sound Card DTS-ES, DD-EX, Dolby Digital, DTS and Dolby Digital Live.

Software:


CDs
Genesis - Platinum Collection
Extreme II - Pornograffitti
Peter Gabriel - So
Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill
Al DiMeola - Elegant Gypsy
Beethoven's Ninth - conducted by Herbert von Karajan
Flim & The BB's - Big Notes
Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery

DVDs
Batman Begins
The Matrix
Toy Story II
Teminator II
The Eagles - Hell Freezes Over Fleetwood Mac - The Dance

 


Performance:

When I listen to a set of speakers the bottom line to me is how transparent they are. That is do they add anything to the sound that has not been recorded. Are they flat? Are the highs too much? Is the bass not low enough or too boomy? Do they breathe what you put into them back into the room?

I really tried to give these speakers a wide range of music and dynamics. I wanted to see how they would handle the really quite passages of Karajan conducting the 9th all the way up to the synth performance of Emerson in Brain Salad Surgery. It didn't matter what I threw at them they handled all the dynamics of the music without coloring it in any way.

I have been used to listening to bipolar speakers for a long time but that really didn't seem to matter much as these speakers really gave them a run for their money in overall performance. In many cases I could swear that I was hearing additional bits of music and dialogue that I hadn't heard before.

Pricing:


This is like not only getting the cake, the icing and being able to eat it too. It is also someone coming in afterwards and asking you if you would like another cake. In other words a great bang for the buck.

PA-6B 229.00 a pair
PA-6C 189.00 each
PA-6S 229.00 a pair
PA-12W Sub 299.00 each

Model #: PA-6B Home Theater System that I auditioned.

Price: $1,689.00 MSRP - only $899 delivered!

Warranty on all the speakers is 5 years.

Conclusion:

If you are looking for a good 5.1 speaker system that not only looks great but at the same time delivers on performance this is the speaker system to get. Throw in the fact that the complete system is only $899 or $999 (if you go with the tower mains instead) you are going to have a hard time finding anything that can give you this kind of bang for your buck.

Highly Recommended


Who is Premier Acoustics?

Company spokesman Eric Winston says:

Premier Acoustics has been in the home theater electronic business for over 20 years. We have taken the best features from many “top of the line” speaker manufacturers that are available in today’s market and created an affordable, sleek and clean sounding speaker line. From the low end bass response of the powered subwoofer, to the high end of the soft dome tweeters, each speaker is designed to reproduce its specified frequency response perfectly.

 

At the top of Premier Acoustics’ line of Home Theater Speaker Systems is the PA-6F. The system is named after the PA-6F front speaker it uses, which is the largest front speaker in Premier Acoustics’ inventory.

 

The fronts are tower speakers, model PA-6F, and feature two 6.5 inch polygraphite woofers and a 1 inch soft dome tweeter. The surrounds are model PA-6S. The 6.5 inch woofers on the 6S are angled at approximately 90 degrees to radiate sound behind the audience. This design is popular among surround speakers because it’s good at diffusing sound; it makes it difficult for the audience to localize the sound’s source, which is a critical element in successful execution of the surround sound effect. The PA-6S models are suited for smaller rooms where the audience will likely be sitting closer to the speakers.

The center speaker is the model 6C, a curious M-T-M (Midrange - Tweeter - Midrange) design. The midrange drivers looked like they might be spaced too far apart to provide proper dispersion into the audience - I was ready for light or hollow sounding midrange from the center channel speaker that couldn’t articulate voices. But the 6C provided enough clear midrange that I never felt left out of the conversation.

 

Each speaker is a combination of handsome design and practical esthetic that will fit easily in most rooms. Premiere Acoustics paid attention to the details by integrating an attractive black piano gloss finish into their design, and even ensuring that the front tower speaker (the largest of the bunch) leaves only a small footprint on your floor. The surrounds can be wall mounted or placed on a shelf or stand. The center speaker at only 22 lbs and 21.9 inches in length, should easily fit on a modest shelf or on a stand on top of most projection TVs, without imposing on the room.

Did the PA-6F System Drop From a White Van?

The powered sub in the PA-6F system is a surprising component. There is no sugar-coating the inherent ugliness of a subwoofer box, no matter how glossy the finish. A powerful sub capable of moving serious air is really just a big heavy cube probably sitting in one corner of the room. It's unlikely anybody ever said of an effective sub: "Gosh, that's an attractive subwoofer you have." The PA-6F is one big ugly sub, but that's a good thing if you're looking for powerful boom in your Home Theater.

The PA-6W is a powered sub, featuring a 12 inch driver with a 200 Watt amp that is capable of shaking most rooms. The specs say it only gets down to 24Hz - a small compromise compared to many more expensive 12 inch, 200W subs that are rated to go all the way down to 20Hz. For its rating I expected less than impressive chest-thumping sound, but found I was pleasantly surprised. I've used established name brand subs with similar specs (Boston Acoustics and Velodyne) that produced only a little more volume and had only a slightly tighter response to rapid deep tones. The Premiere Acoustics sub compares favorably to the big brands, when you consider that its price is less than half for only a minor step down in performance - in fact, this is a common theme among the entire Premiere Acoustics line. The PA-6W Subwoofer is clearly more capable of producing louder, low-frequency effects than some of the comparably priced name brand subs I've heard that come with bookshelf 5.1 kits.

The speakers look like a cross between PSB and Klipsch brands. (With the Klipsch style coming from the copper-hued drivers.) But whether or not the speakers are made to look a certain way, or actually use parts from a manufacturer, is irrelevant. You simply can't judge a book by looking at the cover, so let's dig into the sound quality of these speakers.

White Van and Build Quality

I must admit that when the speakers first came in the mail I was skeptical about Premier Acoustics and its products. Who is this company? Why do their speakers look like a hodge-podge of other products? It had me thinking of white van speakers. "Electronics sold from a white van" is a euphemism for a rip-off deal. White van products are usually made-up name brands designed to sound close to an established brand (think Klapsch or Philadelphia Acoustics), but which offer a ridiculously low price tag. Really though, they’re just a rip-off, likely built from spare parts that fell off the plane from a South East Asian sweatshop.

 

Once unboxed, I took a closer look at the moldings around the drivers, the seams on the speaker boxes themselves and the speaker wire binding posts. From the perspective of build quality, I saw no apparent problems. Many hi-fi aficionados might balk at the very idea of any seams on speaker boxes, but hey, this system retails at just under $1000 for the entire 5.1 kit. This is a fact I had to keep in mind as I inspected the speakers and started making comparisons to more expensive models. The gold-plated binding posts were very secure, and the plastic casings that bolted them down felt solid as I put some bare 14 gauge wire through them. The PA-6F front speakers are bi-wireable, but I did not use them in this configuration. Each of the speakers is built with a ported design, so they’re fairly sensitive compared to others I’ve used.

The Space Makes All the Difference in Sound

Test Receivers

Powering the PA-6F system is my Arcam AVR-200, a decent quality 80 Watt-per-channel receiver that boasts high current from its Toridal transformer. In 2.0 and 2.1 mode the Arcam slips into a 90 watt-per-channel mode for stereo sound only. I also ran the speakers literally for days on an older Denon AVR-3200. What can I say - I’m a sucker for receiver models that start with AVR.

Out of the box, the initial test was to break the speakers in with the Denon. The break-in was a veritable party that started with loud music in the early evening and didn’t stop until dawn. The volumes probably never went above 85 db, but the sub’s own volume control was pushed up a few times to get a feel for how well it could move air in the room. It performed admirably. Although the speakers weren’t abused, they were certainly stress-tested, and they stayed in that test setup for days, running at lower volumes almost non-stop. Then it was time to put them into my home theater system for some critical listening.

Testing Room

The room in which I was listening is a carpeted one, 30 feet deep by 19 feet wide. The acoustics are quite good. While carpeted, there are wooden walls so the opportunity for acoustic reflections exists - but since the room is large, the speakers aren’t placed any closer than 1.5 feet from any wall.

The PA-6F front speakers displaced my NHT ST-4 speakers that were being powered by a two channel NAD amp at 100 WPC. The rest of the speakers are powered by the Arcam receiver at 80 WPC. No bi-wiring was used for this test. I calibrated the sound using an analogue Radio Shack dB meter and the Arcam receiver’s test tones for white noise. When suitable balance and positioning was achieved I commenced with the test.

2.0 and 2.1 Stereo Music Listening

The first test was in 2.0 (front speakers only) using a Cambridge Audio Azur 540D DVD, DVD-Audio and CD player. The first album to test was 1993’s Into the Labyrinth by Dead can Dance. It’s one of the finest-produced CDs I’ve ever heard, recorded on location in an old Irish church called Quivy. The CD will test your system’s ability to capture latent harmonics in the recording, as the harmonics in the 19th century cathedral contribute acoustics to the CD as if they were another instrument.

The music of Dead can Dance is an eclectic mix of vocals by Lisa Gerard and Brendan Perry and a variety of world instrumentation. (Lisa Gerard’s chanting vocals have been heard on the soundtracks of films by Michael Mann as well as Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.) Into the Labyrinth was a perfect test of the front speaker’s soundstage. Any speaker system can present the illusion of a church hall’s harmonics when playing back through 5.1 speakers through Dolby Pro Logic II. The PA-6F pulled off the illusion adequately in 2.0 and 2.1 modes.

 

The PA-6F front speakers performed remarkably, as I was expecting noticeable loss of low end when unaccompanied by a sub. Although bass is not a strength with these speakers, the complete kit does include a sub. The strength in this case is definitely the soundstage.

The music enveloped me as I double-checked to see if the center and surrounds were active. There was certainly no mistaking the lack of bottom end, which the recording would expose mercilessly with a few tones from an organ. The speakers were at their best when presenting the middle highs of the human voice, and Gerard’s voice was particularly gripping when the merest echo was picked up from the recording. The neutrality of the sound quality was very strong in the PA-6F’s, and showed nothing of the harshness that is common in ported speakers in this price range.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my ST-4s by NHT, despite the fact they cost me nearly twice the price of these PA-6F front speakers. In head to head comparison the NHT-ST4 offered slightly better neutrality and uncolored sound and was the clear superior in bass response thanks to their side-firing woofers. Still, I caught myself wondering: If I had to buy all over again is the modest gain in neutrality and a little extra bass worth the extra cost? I think so, I’ve always been of the opinion that you should buy the best you can afford at the risk of slightly overspending. This trims the chances of looking for a replacement in the future which saves in the long run.

I slid more variety into the 2.0 testing, including some straight guitar-oriented rock. I threw in Blur’s Song 2 for some aggressive rock treatment. Screaming guitars sounded excellent, but after stepping out of the Labyrinth’s Quivy Church, Blur sounded like cardboard by comparison. Radiohead’s True provided clearly-defined sound, articulate vocals and Radiohead’s signature synth sounds. Popping in Neil Young’s Harvest Moon exposed a hint of overpowering mid-bass for my taste. This seems to be common in budget speaker systems trying to mask weak low end. But the PA-6F weren’t plagued with this issue at every turn as I’ve heard in many budget speakers. The recording probably had much to do with the perceived bump in midbass and overall I was pleased with the speaker’s musicality.

Everything above was tested in 2.1 mode with a 60Hz crossover to the sub, so only the deepest bass would get the sub. Leaving the front speakers to reproduce anything down around 80Hz was tough on the PA-6F’s, despite being rated at up to 35Hz. I tested the crossover at 60Hz and 80Hz and found they both sounded very good.

Multi-Channel Surround Sound Music

Multi-channel audio comes off as a bit of a gimmick to some, while others see it as a revolution in music. For me it's a great way to practically guarantee a high quality recording from a studio. Rarely have I brought home a DVD-Audio disk and been disappointed in the recording - the same cannot be said for CD.

Diana Krall's S'wonderful, a rendition of a Brazilian Jazz tune sung in her relaxed style, is the perfect test for your tweeters. Every sentence of the song starts with an extended Ssssss. All those Ss sung in Krall's relaxed middle highs are a perfect test of a speaker's sibilance. I am pleased to report that the distortion sometimes heard when the letter S is pronounced into the mic was, in this case, at a minimum - the tweeters were able to roll with the S's like a speaker system worth twice the price.

 Frank Zappa's Halloween is one of my all-time favorite DVD-Audios. The disk contains a reproduction of a memorable concert from the late 70's, featuring bouncing bass drums, singing guitars and even a sitar performance thanks to Ravi Shankar. The recording quality is excellent; Zappa pushed the limits of recording technology in his day, and these Halloween concerts were actually recorded specifically for Quadrophonic.

When I closed my eyes, I was immersed in sound and could hear the crowds cheering all around me. The track Zeets had a particular encompassing effect, where the drum beat seemed to circle the entire room. The timbre seemed well-matched and the complexity of the individual drum beats wasn't lost on the smaller surround speakers. Most 5.1 speakers systems will present compromised rear effects just because - let's face it - they get away with smaller, cheaper surround speakers. Only occasionally do you really find full frequency range coming out of the surrounds, and then it's understood that it won't sound as full as the fronts in a full sized 5.1 system. In the case of the PA 6F, the cohesion of the single sound effect circling the room was surprisingly well done.

But can these speakers explode a space ship?

Movies are the most practical test for any 5.1 speaker system. When I first laid eyes on the PA-6F system I anticipated the center speaker would be a problem. The MTM design with the great gaps of driverless real estate along the front looked haphazard, and didn't fill me with confidence. But after listening I was pleasantly surprised, as the speakers were able to hide many of the design's inherent flaws. Still though, the PA-6C is definitely a flawed center channel speaker, and if I had to pick a weak link in the chain that would be it.

The first movie to be tested was the original Matrix from 1999, long before the franchise wore out its welcome. The scene I skipped to is entitled “Follow The White Rabbit” - it's where Neo decides to join some friends at a club. This scene documents Neo's first meeting with Trinity, and she whispers in his ear about his disconnected feelings while an aggressive Prodigy beat plays loudly out the front and center channels. This is a great test for any Dolby Pro-Logic or Dolby Digital system, because if you can hear what the heck Trinity is saying over Prodigy, then you've got a center speaker that isn't badly affected by dispersion.

Problems with dispersion are common with center channel speakers. Delicate voices are easily drowned out by the front speakers, which often leaves people cranking up the volume to hear dialogue and then turning it down again when the action heats up. This can usually be avoided by staying clear of cheap M-T-M (midrange-tweeter-midrange) center speaker designs. The center speaker is easily the most underrated speaker in home theater - a beefy center with great clarity and the ability to push air in front of an audience is the difference between Home Theater and just watching TV with lots of speakers.

Back to Trinity and Neo's conversation: through the PA-6C, I am pleased to say it sounded excellent, and I had no problem making out what Trinity was saying. It speaks to the center's ability to articulate middle highs, so, you should have no trouble hearing voices.

Unfortunately, the PA-6C's performance in handling action wasn't up to the task of the Matrix's many fight scenes. There is famous scene at the beginning where Trinity is kicking cops around a room (you may have seen it lampooned on a number of occasions). Trinity is hanging in the air in slow motion, and is laying a heel into a police officer. The cop flies backward and hits another cop and together they both hit the wall. That kick can be broken down into jarring impacts that take turns coming out each speaker, but its climactic final impact of the two cops on the wall is almost completely limited to your center channel. After hearing the front and sub contribute to the several smashes around the room, the sound of the same impact coming out the center speaker seemed anemic.

My disappointment comes from comparing its sound to the incredible rumble you get from fronts that can make you feel the impacts. In this case, it becomes very obvious you're listening to a little speaker.

To be fair, the two most recent center channel speakers that have had time in my system have been NHT's SC-1 and Paradigm's CC-570. Comparing the two speakers is like night and day. I was really displeased with the SC-1, and found it could be easily bested by any competent center channel speaker. Premier Acoustics' PA-6C easily outperformed the SC-1 in volume, bass response and dispersion.

The next film I tested was Pitch Black and its crash landing scene near the beginning of the movie. After a narration by Vin Diesel, the crash starts and debris is whipped through the ship, producing some excellent surround effects. The climax has the small craft crashing down through a reflection in a close-up view of the pilot's eyeball. It's one of the better space ship crash landing scenes ever made. The PA-6F system lent the crash landing a crisp, tight and palpable tension. The bass from the sub added the few pieces of over the top boom that we all love in an action movie. The front speakers did their part by providing lots of intensity and detail in the scene where measures were taken to save the doomed ship. But that center speaker, try as it might just couldn't keep up with the fronts, so you get a reserved quality to the high-action sequences. You probably wouldn't notice the center was holding back if you didn't compare it with Paradigm's excellent CC-570 - that system really opened up the scene with details you had no idea were present when listening to the PA-6C. But then, it's important to keep in mind that the CC-570 retails for around the price of the entire PA-6F system.

For just under $1000, you can get a complete 5.1 speaker system that consists of two front tower speakers and bookshelf-ready surround and center channel speakers. It’s a very good price for what you’re getting as surprisingly enough, these speakers sound as good as recognized brands that sell for much more.

The strong points of this system are the PA-6F front speakers and the PA-6W subwoofer. Together they make a formidable 2.1 combination that covers everything from deep, chest-thumping bass to crystal clear treble.

The sub features a 12 inch driver and a built in 200Watt amp. The whole package is quite heavy, weighing in at 56 lbs, but it’s very well built and sturdy - unlike many of the too-narrow budget subs you’ll find that accompany some higher-priced 5.1 systems. That the sub is rated down only to 24Hz rather than 20Hz is a concern for me, but from a practical view it didn’t seem to make any difference to my listening experience. I did perform side-by-side comparisons with the much more expensive Velondyne sub that is rated to 20Hz. The Velondyne of course is the better sub for explosive and fast bass response. But for most Home Theater viewing where you’re looking for lots of rumble, the PA-6W will perform remarkably.

The front speakers are bi-ampable with two sets of sturdy binding posts. However, they don’t have the option of carpet spikes - unless you are able to find a third party measure - which could be a problem on a thick rug. Also, the speakers leave a narrow footprint, so they may not be the most stable.

The PA-6S’s are good surround speakers for bookshelf models. They are well suited for a smaller room where the audience has to sit closer to the surround channels than they might like. The side-firing drivers and direct-firing tweeter serve to diffuse the sound in a more circular pattern around the audience, as opposed to direct-firing speakers that need to be a certain distance from the listener before you hear them correctly. The surrounds are a suitable match for the front speakers as they’re a smaller variation, but there isn’t anything specifically extraordinary about them.

The center channel speaker, PA-6C, is this speaker system’s weakest link. It appears to be par for the course for speaker systems at this price range to go cheap on the center channel speaker; but for once I’d like to see a Home Theater speaker system give the center speaker its due. The center channel is even more important than the front speaker for Home Theater. But this center isn’t bad, it’s a good match for the system - it just lacks the kind of air-pushing power you need to get the most from the center stage of your Home Theater. Consider upgrading the center with another ported center channel speaker that employs a design with separate tweeter, midrange and woofers, it’s an all around superior design but will certainly cost substantially more.