November / December 2023
Editor's Lead In
There's no two ways about it; perceived value counts for a lot. No matter how well something performs, there's every chance it'll be disregarded by some in favour of something that looks better. The PMC Prodigy 1 loudspeakers I recently tested with some colleagues (review on page 14) could well fall victim to such misfortune, but for the sake of PMC's efforts and anyone in the market for ~$2,000 standmounters, I really hope it doesn't.
When comparing their build to KEF's class-leading LS50 Meta, I politely used the Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy metaphor for their differences in stature (the PMCs tall and slim, the KEFs shorter and stockier), though I could've also made a Beauty and the Beast one (the PMCs being the 'Beast') to communicate the gulf between their aesthetic attraction.
Now, don't get me wrong, that second analogy shouldn't be taken literally; the Prodigy 1 are far from beastly looking. It's just that, comparatively speaking, they wouldn't last long in a market-wide knockout beauty contest, with their traditional box shape, finger-mark-magnet matte finish, and more black than is good for it without much in the way of embellishments. We aren't short of speakers an interior designer would happily embrace, and kudos to those brands who offer competitive sound and attractive cabinets throughout their catalogues.
The thing is, while looks are important, a
'plain' design in hi-fi can actually be a sign of greatness. A modest, understated finish can signal that a
speaker's design and manufacturing cost, ultimately relayed to the consumer, has been predominantly put into its engineering. And the more money that goes into the engineering side of things generally translates to a greater potential for its performance to blow your socks off.
Like 99.9% of speakers, the Prodigy 1 would've been designed with a retail price in mind, so in order to meet it, the design, parts and production process must fall in line. Thankfully for the Prodigys, PMC was able to implement some of its existing tried-and-tested technologies here (see the review!) — technologies that, of course, directly contribute to their exceptional performance. Save for the distinct vent on their baffle, there's a lot of that tech you can't see, that doesn't add to the perceived value but very much does their actual — performance-based — one.
All of that might not have been possible had PMC opted for costlier wood veneers or borrowed the sloped-back cabinet shape of the next-range-up Twenty5i series. Or even its mirrored rear panel. Either that or they might have cost 10 to 20% more, or — gasp — become the only PMC speaker not manufactured in the UK in lieu of a cheaper manufacturing facility.
It even made the grilles an optional extra to keep costs down, which to some people might reasonably be a step too far. I would've perhaps made the case for a premium-cost wood-veneer finish option, too.
This isn't to say that the most handsome loudspeakers aren't fulfilling their performance potential because money has been spent on beauty care. And I'm sure some readers consider both must-haves, which is, of course, perfectly reasonable.
But if you're demo'ing a bunch of them — or anything else — at a dealer, just bear in mind that if one doesn't make a great first impression when it's brought into the room, that doesn't mean it won't make a lasting one. In fact, there's every chance it will.
Oh, and I should say that these PMCs aren't the only examples of perfectly executed hi-fi contained within the following pages. You're in for a treat with this issue's 'High-End Review', for one. The annual publication of the EISA Awards lies inside too, with each winner representing the best-performing product in its respective category, chosen by 60 specialist magazines (including yours truly) and websites from all around the world. Australian Hi-Fi's British sister publication, What Hi-Fi?, will have also just announced its Best Buy awards by the time this issue hits readers' laps. So if you're looking to upgrade this side of 2023, you have plenty to point you in the right direction.
Subscribe To Australian Hi-Fi Magazine