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Wayne Myers (AudiocRaver)
- 4-way Tower
- Frequency Response: 32 Hz – 22 kHz (± 3 dB)
- Power Handling: 450 W
- Sensitivity: 91 dB (2.83 V/1 m)
- Impedance: 4 Ohms
- Woofer Size: 6.5”
- Midrange Size: 1.5"
- Tweeter Size: 1"
- Crossover: Absolute Phase™ / 100, 700 Hz, 3.5 kHZ
- Tuning Port: Single, On Front ~12" From Base
- Dimensions: 45.5" H x 9" W x 14.7" D
- Weight (Each): ~66 lbs.
- MSRP (Pair): $2,920
The Phase Technology PC-9.5 is a 4-way tower with dual woofer and single low-midrange with 6.5” glass fiber/RPF™ composite solid piston with NBR surround, 1.5" Patented woven synthetic soft dome midrange, and 1” Patented woven synthetic soft dome tweeter.
Phase Technology Website
Setup and Placement Flexibility
The Phase Technology PC-9.5 were not overly difficult to place. None of the models evaluated placed themselves with total ease, and the PC-9.5 ended up taking about the typical amount of time and number of moves to get right.
While the imaging and soundstage performance was quite good, they did exhibit one little quirk that sent me on a merry chase. Our first evaluation track, Ode to a Butterfly, starts out with banjo near the right side of the soundstage, usually just inside of the right speaker. For some reason we were never able to surmise, that banjo could not be tightly localized by the PC-9.5, and it sounded like each note had a separate spot in the soundstage, spread over a two-foot width. I must have tried a dozen different adjustments of angle and location to try to settle down that banjo, and was never able to get rid of the effect. I started wondering if it had always been that way and I had somehow never noticed, even having heard that track several hundred times on many systems. Is was enough to make me start doubting my sanity, or wonder if some prankster had inserted a modified mix of the track into my evaluation track folder for the fun of watching my consternation. I finally gave up and moved on. No other speakers we evaluated shared that banjo localization problem, and no other instrument on that or any other track displayed the same quirk on the PC-9.5..
Some speakers have qualities that jump out to impress you, yet have flaws that keep you from loving them. Others are quiet and unassuming and end up being solid performers. The PC-9.5 are more the latter type. No grand show, no big disappointments, they just performed in a solid fashion and did their job. This is the way most speakers should act.
I noted that they were "airy and authoritative," simple and unassuming -- solid.
Frequency Response, Bass Extension
On Ode to a Butterfly, the midbass response was just enough emphasized that the instruments all had a tubby effect. I could not help but visualize an over-sized guitar, a baritone mandolin, and a viola being used as a fiddle, all over-large enough to have their resonances shifted down about half an octave. The mandolin seemed a bit hollow-sounding, too. That is the only track where this was in evidence.
I liked the way the PC-9.5 handled mids and highs. The crisp guitar and mandolin strums and the rich string bowing sounds from the fiddle were lifelike and lively, natural and smooth, airy and accurate. I would call this one of their particular areas of strength. The pianos on Struttin' With Some Barbecue and Chant had a lively tinkle to them. Struttin' With Some Barbecue sounded incredibly live, and a bit raw as it should, yet with refinement and control at of the same time.
The tonality of male and female vocals was truthful and rich in energy. On Baby I'm a Fool, the strings were wonderfully spacious, and Melody Gardot's vocal resonance was full and powerful but well-controlled, a balance difficult to achieve and the main reason I like that song as a test track. The PC-9.5 handled the close-up detail in her voice in a way that seemed particularly intimate.
The soaring synthesizer on Rhinestone Eyes also had a richness that hinted at some upper-mid over-emphasis, yet still was properly controlled and true to its source. Shallow was downright crunchy, and the big snare drum had an extra degree of power in its punch.
A slightly boxy tone, indicating an lower-mid / mid-bass emphasis, only showed up a couple of times, once on the male vocal part on Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm. That same emphasis gave the punchy snare drums on Rhinestone Eyes and Shallow their powerful kick.
The standup bass on Strange Fruit seemed almost taller than usual, perfect for this track. The upper-mids and highs of the Dobro guitar were especially detailed and pulled that instrument forward in the mix where many speakers almost allow it to be lost over there on the right side by itself.
There was one under-damped resonance that did some ringing when struck by a particular bass tone. The standup bass on Reasons Why activated it a few times, and it clearly took a little settle time for the PC-9.5 to get it back under control.
Soundstage and Imaging
The soundstage and imaging, other than that confounded opening banjo, were exemplary, the imaging very sharp, solid, and tightly localized, and the soundstage wide and almost overly-deep. The sense of specific depth acuity was fair, somewhat in evidence but not very sharp. It was a natural and engaging soundstage, not stellar, but a solid performance.
The BOOM of the opening drum on Chant was not as tightly localized as I would have liked, but that turned out to be a difficult percussive sound for other speakers to manage, also. Centered female vocals were imaged to precision, with the vocal sheen and sibilance centered right on the main vocal sound, no wandering or smearing. The standup bass string buzz near the end of Ode to a Butterfly is also a telltale imaging test, and was exactly where it belonged, not shifted left or right like some speakers will allow.
I noticed a couple of times the soundstage seemed especially deep, which I enjoyed, yet on California and Reasons Why, it seemed like the centered vocal was farther back in the soundstage them usual. I suppose that is what you get when you go looking for the deepest soundstage you can find, sometimes a sound you want up front will end up farther back than you might like. At the same time, that distant trumpet on Strange Fruit seemed even more distant than usual, and I loved it. A spacious soundstage is an organic creature of sorts, and can sometimes surprise you where it places instruments and sounds, having a soundstage attitude of its own.
The Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm song is on my track list because of the complex yet well-organized way the soundstage is mixed. The PC-9.5 handled that mix wonderfully. It was spacious and well-controlled, all elements accurately placed and with wide-open separation around each image source. The ability of the PC-9.5 to tightly image the big standup bass on Strange Fruit says a lot about its ability to localize with precision. The guitar and mandolin on Reasons Why were also very tightly localized.
Clarity & Power Handling
The PC-9.5 played cleanly, handling loud rock tracks with ease. The punchy snare drum on Shallow is on the edge of clipping in the recording, and can push a lesser speaker into dynamic compression. The PC-9.5 never indicated being anywhere close to feeling compressed or lacking extra dynamic range on this track.
The booming bass strikes at the beginning of the Star Trek orchestral track were handled readily, and had a nice depth with the PC-9.5.
On Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, the ride cymbals had a clear "ting" and the crash and other cymbals were clear with no hashing of their complex tones. The clear handling of upper-mid and high frequencies was exemplary for cymbals, bells, and triangles.
Performance at Final Position With Audyssey MultEQ XT32
The PC-9.5 benefited quite nicely from the application of Audyssey MultEQ. Imaging was sharpened and the sense of depth acuity improved markedly. The slightly boxy tone was gone, and the under-damped ringing bass tone was well controlled.
As with the other models we evaluated, the PC-9.5 did not need MultEQ to sound good, but they clearly benefited from it. I noticed no downside to its use. The soundstage was made a little more predictable in specific instrument placement, perhaps not quite as deep as without, but barely enough to even notice. I would call the PC-9.5 a speaker that could benefit from carefully-applied correction or sparingly-applied parametric equalization, but also a thoroughly enjoyable speaker without.
Performance Close to the Front Wall
The PC-9.5 did not fare well close to the wall, in either the zero-listening-angle setup or in the zero-toe-in setup. The soundstage and imaging were non-specific, with only a general sense of where any particular instrument or sound was coming from on the few tracks I heard there. Bass response was highly emphasized, even though the port was well above the floor and on the front surface of the cabinet. The PC-9.5 would be a poor choice for this kind of replacement.
Physical and Visual
The finish for the PC-9.5 was a glossy piano black, very attractive and well done. The PC-9.5 cabinet design is all curvy and acoustically free of hard edges and corners. They are slightly swept back and a bit massive, not easy to hide, but why would you want to? In the PC-9.5, you see form and function working together with elegance in a simple yet powerful package.
Overall Listening Experience
While writing this review I experienced the journey of growing to like the Phase Technology PC-9.5 all over again. They start out simply and unassuming, like a soloist starting out a song with a simple, accurate style, but by the time they are done, you realize you have just witnessed a powerful and memorable performance. Another impression was that they know their strengths and do not over-reach, like Clint Eastwood's catch phrase in Magnum force, "A good man always knows his limitations." There are imperfections, but enough positive qualities that you end up with a warm spot in your heart for them.
In other words, they sneak up on you. Nice move.
Leonard Caillouet (lcaillo)
When placed near the front wall on axis to the listening position, they had the usual bumps in response at around 40 Hz and 120 Hz that Sonnie’s room creates in most speakers and overall exaggerated bass that one would expect in any near wall placement. The exaggerated bass did seem to distract from other detail. I would not want to live with these near the wall. The image was still present, just without much precision. As said with all of the other speakers, this is the pattern that most produce. These were actually easier for me to listen to in this condition than many other speakers. When the speakers were turned to the orientation perpendicular to the front wall, the soundstage widened a bit, but still did not produce much depth. Overall balance was similar.
As we moved to the optimum listening position, the image opened up nicely. The location of the instruments seemed to be pin point through much of the speaker’s bandwidth but seemed to drift from upper midrange to highs. One of the characteristics of speakers in this price range seems to be greater consistency in character across the drivers. The Phase Tech was certainly so. I never got the feeling that I was listening to more than one driver. I did not hear anything that really stood out, like for instance the very low distortion and extension in the highest treble in the RAAL tweeter. But there is something very pleasant about a seamless product like this. Obviously, most attention to detail in the design is necessary to get such consistency. I can’t say that they performed any magic, but there was not a single deficiency that I could point out in these speakers. Overall, the character is smooth, perhaps fine linen if one is using fabric analogies.
Clean and smooth dominates my memory of these. I comfortably moved to the front row when someone else was playing Jazz at the Pawnshop fairly loud, closed my eyes and could sense that I was near the front of seating in a jazz club. The midrange and upper midrange would be my pick for the place that these shine best. Vocals and the space around them, subtle breath sounds and trembling, and the sense of emotion from great female vocalists, or their quirks are all coming through clearly. The lower midrange is clear, but a slight excess in bass response was, I found, a little distracting and perhaps limiting the performance here. Many would find this to be a positive thing, like Sonnie, who leans a little more to a heavier bottom end.
They can rock. Opening up the amp on the Stevie Ray Vaughn track and on the Talking Heads never seemed to strain them and they delivered on the impact expected from this kind of music. I found myself more comfortable playing them loud than many other speakers I have experienced. They had no edge when listening to Eva Cassidy let go or on the Melody Gardot track that tends toward sibilance. So where is there room for improvement? I can’t say that there are any obvious deficiencies, but I also cannot say that these speakers called me to listen for extended periods of time. While I felt that there were no missing eccentricities to Joni Mitchell’s voice, I was not seduced to listen more and more. The magic wasn’t there, but the speakers were competent in all areas that I look for. Maybe the tendency toward a bit heavier bass and the smoothness did not capture my attention. At this level it is a matter of personal preference, and while I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Phase Techs, they just did not resonate with me and did not make me feel the emotion in the music like, for instance, the Martin Logan Montis. Perhaps not a fair bar to set, as the Montis are three times the price, but that is what I felt when listening to these speakers. This is a speaker in which you will be hard pressed to find anything you don’t like.
It is the kind of speaker I would buy if I wanted a speaker for life, that I knew I would never get tired of listening to. These folks have been making speakers and components for many decades and the refinement and quality of build is pretty obvious. It is a speaker that I would expect to be going strong and still be comfortable with a generation later.
Joe Alexander (ALMFamily)
I heard the Phase Tech speakers at RMAF, and I was really impressed with how they performed in a small, untreated hotel room so I was really curious with how these would sound in Sonnie's room.
As far as finish, I thought they had a very nice gloss black finish with no discernable defects. The cabinet has some front to back contouring which gives the speaker some character and the gray face of the drivers breaks up the front baffle, but not too much for the person who is looking for something that blends well unlike, say, a Klipsch front baffle appearance. Check out the photo of the side to see just how clear the reflection is – almost a mirror finish. The packaging on these was excellent – plenty of foam for buffering from the inevitable drop.
We started out with them close to the wall and with them toed in. There was a slight smearing of violin and mandolin on the Ode To A Butterfly track. On the Chant track, there was good panning of rainsticks, but the bass sounds just a tad boomy. There was really good separation in Strange Fruit. Overall, the Phase Techs had pretty decent imaging for a wall location – there was a slight compression of the image, but I could still delineate each piece clearly. We then faced them straight out and I noticed the guitar for Strange Fruit images right on right speaker where I did not expect it although there was more separation of violin and mandolin here. Chant had good panning of rainsticks but was still a bit boomy.
We then moved them out into the room and started moving them around a bit to find the best location. This did not take that long at all - they felt like they could really have been placed just about anywhere with similar results. On to the music!
Track 1 - Ode to a Butterfly
Really wide soundstage – clear separation of instruments. Image stays pretty close to the same with head movement to either side – don’t have to lock your head in a spot. Excellent detail on the mandolin – very clear plucks and vibrations.
Track 2 - Chant
Excellent rainstick panning. Low end has good impact and sounds pretty clean. As with RMAF, very close to that ribbon light, airy feel for vocals. Hooey – great piano clarity. Love those key strokes. After two tracks, I can say these are incredibly detailed – excellent guitar string vibration and plucking.
Track 3 - Reasons Why
Sweet, delicate vocals. Image perfectly. Same detail with the plucking of the mandolin strings. Shows good soundstage depth.
Track 4 - Strange Fruit
Image perfectly – separation as well as height for vocals and lap guitar. Nice detail on vocals – first time I noticed the hard “T” at the end of the word “fruit”. Stand up bass has excellent impact, but does not overpower the rest of the instruments. Fantastic vocal detail.
Track 5 - Struttin' with some Barbeque
Very clear trumpet, but does not feel fatiguing and I don’t get that shoulder cringe sensation.
Track 6 - One
Very clean bass drum. Good kick drum detail.
Track 7 - Hells Bells
Excellent lingering bell sounds. Great high hat splash and kick drum impact.
Track 8 - Let It Go
Nice vocal depth of soundstage. Handles vocal dynamics really well – and her “warbling” sequences.
Track 9 - Where Do The Children Play
Just love the string detail – on every track. Good vocal detail here too. Handles 3:20 minute dynamic range extremely well.
Track 10 - Tricycle
Dynamic shift has the feel I like – makes you want to jump each time the shift happens. Very crisp high hat pings – no lingering splash.
Track 11 - Just One Of Those Things
Excellent piano detail – key strokes easily heard.
Track 12 - Walking On The Moon
Nice snare drum punch – excellent high hat splash and horn is crystal clear.
I then listened to Wayne's sequence and the Gardot track – sibilance did not bother me at all with these.
Overall, the Phase Techs are what I remembered from RMAF - just a fantastic speaker. They do the things I love – crisp midbass punch and vocals/piano have that excellent light, airy feel. Low end is ok, but the imaging is not as precise as I would like.
After running Audyssey, Ode's mandolin and violin sequence was a bit more precisely imaged as well as the kick drum in Chant. Reason's vocals seem just a bit more delicate to me and the same goes for the female vocals in Let It Go - powerful, but more delicate. The kick drum in Hells Bells seemed to image a bit looser. It seemed to help overall with just that one small part in Hells Bells that sounded looser detracting from the process.