PMC Fact 3 loudspeakers (Hi-Fi+ 79)

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PMC Fact 3
PMC Fact 3 loudspeakers (Hi-Fi+ 79)

The Fact range represented PMC’s first dedicated home loudspeaker project; previous models were domestic variants of the company’s professional studio monitor systems. But, until recently, it wasn’t much of a ‘range’, with just one floorstander in the line. The new Fact 3 standmount shows it wasn’t just a one-off.

The first Fact speaker – the Fact 8 - is slim and elegant, and the new one continues the trend. It is designed to work with PMC’s custom single-column bolt-in and mass loaded stand and the whole package is very ‘now’, design-wise. There aren’t many speakers that would sit comfortably on the pages of arty-interior design magazine Wallpaper, but the Fact 3 gets closer than most.

Initially, PMC thought of the Fact 3 as being a separate entity from the stands; the two were priced separately and the idea was that people could pick and choose the right support for the job. Problem is, the thin form factor means it’s easy to knock over unless the speaker is bonded to the stand, and Blu-tack and its kin can end up ripping veneer in some cases. The Fact 3 stand, by virtue of being bolted to the speaker with a single M8 sized thread, is going nowhere fast. You have to get the right amount of tension on the thread; too loose and you have a speaker that will spin around in a stiff breeze, too far in the other direction and you risk overtightening and threading, but the stand is simple and logical and a perfect match.

The Fact models retain a lot of what goes into the pro-am models, such as the small, high quality long-throw drive units and the ATL transmission line system. But it also includes things that draw audiophiles like moths to a flame, such as silver bi-wire terminals, magnetically applied grilles, high-quality components in the crossover and that lovely finish. It’s a very different finish to the likes of the extreme high-end, though – which often draws more upon rich, glossy design, as befits the luxury car owner market such loudspeakers attract today. My take on this is that both reflect the kinds of modern homes these speakers are likely to go into. What is particularly attractive about the Fact models from an audiophile perspective is they manage to turn in a particularly fine sound and stay fashionable in the process. That’s a ‘you can have your cake and eat it’ moment (a particularly odd maxim, unless there is an army of non-cake eating cake buyers out there).

In the Fact 3, we have a two-way, three driver design, featuring a pair of 140mm doped paper mid/woofers and a SEAS-sourced 19mm ‘Sonomex’ soft dome tweeter, in pretty much exactly the same configuration as the original Fact 8. The output of these can be tailored by judicious use of toggle switches on the back panel. The bass can be flat or cut by three or six decibels, while the treble can add or subtract two decibels overall away from the neutral. The idea behind this at the LF is to help compensate for room nodes or less than ideal surroundings, while the HF is there to help overcome heavily damped or extremely live surroundings. In a small London living room, I found a 3dB cut in the bass and no treble adjustment worked well, without making the sound too lean in the process.

Perhaps the biggest difference between PMC’s pro-am range and the Facts is the latter’s driveability. It’s not too much of a reach to see why PMC distributes Bryston in the UK, when viewed through the pre-Fact range; they are speakers that need some muscle to drive them properly. The Fact 3 is a far less demanding load on your amplifier. While I don’t envisage the speakers being used with flea-powered Class T or SET amps, and while the speaker seems almost exclusively comfortable with solid-state amp designs (I suspect those bass drivers need an amp with decent damping factor levels to come to life), it doesn’t need arc-welder voltage or current levels to sing. The 89dB sensitivity and relatively benign eight ohm load show – at least at a surface level – that the speaker is not an amp-crusher, but I suspect some balance would be in order. So, no to partnering the Fact 3 with a 20W Class A design (unless you are listening in a very small room at polite levels), but also no kilowatt power unless you want big boxes in the room. Moderation is key.

A standmount has a tough job to perform. Larger floorstanders essentially pre-select room size, because few people are willing to put up with a big pair of speakers dominating a small room. Standmounts, however, end up in smaller rooms where their smaller form factor doesn’t intrude. The trend seems to be swinging back to standmounts after years of tower speakers driving the market – and a good standmount needs to do the seemingly impossible; have enough bottom-end to energise a typical space, but not so much that it swamps smaller ones. PMC’s bass contour helps, but in a big room the floorstander helps all the more.

That’s kind of the key thing about the Fact 3; it’s the Fact 8 for everyone else, and that isn’t faint praise; the Fact 8 was one of the most well-balanced, ‘right-sounding’ speakers we’ve heard in its class. The Fact 3 just opens that option up to a new set of listeners, while adding no downsides in the process (not an easy task). It has that same sense of musical poise and balance that the Fact 8 does so well, just in the sort of package that will attract a larger audience with a smaller room. There’s a precision about the Fact sound. It’s not as ‘studio monitor’ (detail and sound analysis uppermost) as PMCs pro-am designs, but it’s not hard to hear the family resemblance. Those thin front faces make this a remarkably good speaker at key aspects of imaging, with a large soundstage projecting into the room really well. If you are looking for electrostatic-like image placement, this scores a ‘good’ rather than an ‘excellent’, but what it lacks in focus it more than makes up for in image width.

I’ve found PMC draws strong opinion from audiophiles. Most love the speakers for their honesty and accuracy, but some dislike the sound, seemingly for exactly the same reasons. They seem to want fireworks, even when fireworks are not the order of the day. The Fact 3 doesn’t do that; if there are fireworks on the recording, there are fireworks in the listening room, if there aren’t, there aren’t. It’s that simple. Those determined to extract an exuberant experience from every track are going to want something with less control, less poise, less precision and ultimately less accuracy than the Fact range. For me though, honesty is the best policy.

This honesty is the Fact 3’s winning hand. It does everything so well, but with an air of calm, level-headed restraint that never gets in the way of the music. In a way, it does this even better than the Fact 8 because the size of the speaker acts as a limiter. In the Fact 8, its biggest drawback is its inability to play at headbanger levels, but in the Fact 3, the chances are it will go into smaller rooms where the headbanger level demands are appreciably lower, so it’s less likely to hit its end stops next to its bigger brother. This makes the Fact 3 a speaker that is always in its comfort zone and practically nothing is going to phase the design. Does that spell a speaker that never gets out of first gear? No, it’s a speaker that has capabilities that far beyond its demands.

Where this becomes apparent is in moving from singer/songwriter material to full-scale orchestral or heavy rock. To say the Fact 3 took the change in its stride is understatement; everything I threw at it (and I do mean everything, when you start bringing out Oz Mutantes discs, you know you are on to something both special and pretty much invulnerable) was handled honestly, accurately, dynamically and with a large soundstage.

I’m personally surprised and happy that I made it the whole way through the review without recourse to ‘that’s a Fact’ punning. Perhaps it’s because this elegant standmount brings so much to the party, there’s no need to reach for the joke book. Or perhaps it’s because it’s one of the most professional packages around, that off-hand quips seem cheap. But the fact remains that this speaker is going to remain a popular choice because of its excellent combination of designer-label looks and highly refined sound, and that’s a fact. Oh damn!

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Frequency Response: 35Hz – 30kHz
Sensitivity: 89dB 1w at 1m
Effective ATL (Advanced Transmission Line)
Length: 1.7m (5.6ft)
Impedance: 8?
Drive Units:

  • LF: 2 × fact 140mm (5½”) precision drivers
  • HF: 1× fact 19mm (0.75”) high-res SONOMEX™ soft dome ferro-fluid cooled with 34mm wide surround

Crossover Frequency: 1.7kHz
Input Connectors: Two pairs, 4mm silver terminals
Dimensions (WxHxD): 15.5x53.5x30cm
Weight: 9.5kg
Available in four finishes
Price: £4,100 per pair (including stands)

Manufactured by Professional Monitor Company
URL: www.fact-speakers.com
Tel: +44 (0)870 4441044

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