Phase Technology PC60 CA Loudspeaker Review
by Dennis Young
Phase Technology has been in the loudspeaker business for almost 60 years. A true American entrepreneurship, founder Bill Hecht started by building one speaker by hand, per week. If you have been an audio enthusiast for a while, you are familiar with their flat diaphragm midranges and woofers. What many do not know is that Hecht also invented the soft dome tweeter. An interesting story in and of itself, the high frequency driver was originally created as a mock driver to survive the curious finger pokes that their cone tweeters suffered at audio shows. This helped to prevent harm to the real 2" cone tweeters. Later, back in the lab and after a few modifications, Hecht found that the dome was also very good at reproducing sound and decided to put it to work in his speaker designs. Soon after, almost every speaker manufacturer had a license to incorporate soft dome drivers in their speakers.
Today, the helm has been passed from father to son, Ken Hecht. Paying homage to the roots of Phase Technology is the 500 pair limited edition 30th Anniversary PC60 Classic Audiophile loudspeaker. The PC60 CA is made in the same factory, by some of the same employees, as the original. The 2013 edition has been updated with the latest crossover and driver technology. As we will soon see, the PC60 CA is a thoroughly modern design.
The flat woofer geometry not only prevents driver break up, but is physically in line and fires in phase with the tweeter. The cabinets are available in Oak, or the handsome Black Oak that was supplied for this review. Grilles are covered in black cloth over a thin plastic frame. A snappy looking gold Phase Technology badge adorns the bottom edge.
The PC60 CA is a sealed two-way dome and cone monitor, with the 1" dome crossed over at 2kHz to a 6 1/2" woofer.
Easy to unbox, a CD I had just purchased and clumsily attempted to open up almost took longer to unpack. Dense foam end caps cover the ends of each monitor. Instruction manual, warranty card, grills and little rubber feet are supplied.
Evaluation Equipment and Setup
• Sources - h/k TC35C, Ortofon OM 10 Super, Phono Box S/Marantz VC6001/Sony BDP S590
• Amplification - Sherwood Newcastle R-972
• Cabling - MIT AVt 1 Interconnect, MIT AVt 1 Speaker Cables, Monoprice HDMI
• Vapor Audio stands
• Subwoofer Augmentation - Chase Home Theater VS-18.1 (duals), Dayton SA1000 Subwoofer Amplifier
• Light 2" Foam Treatments (Reduce Flutter Echo)
Due to a floor bounce null centered around 112Hz, much of my listening was done with a 150 Hz crossover. I also spent a good amount of time listening with an 80Hz filter just to ensure the PC60 CA were comfortable with that standard. Full range listening at reasonable levels was done with some 2 channel material. The PC60 CA's 4 ohm impedance was a good match for the Newcastle's available 160 w/p/c in stereo. No room correction was implemented, just speaker levels and distance settings. Movie and concert listening was done in 4.1
The speakers were placed about 6 1/2 feet apart, mounted on 25 inch high spiked wooden stands, center of front baffles placed 41 inches from the front wall, and 29 inches from the closest side wall. Main listening position is located 10 feet from each monitor.
The PC60 CA pair did not seem quite broken in upon arrival, although the factory gave them a bit of a run in. I felt they were starting to break in on the third evening of listening, and/or I became accustomed to the sound.
In spite of the 87 dB sensitivity, the PC60 CA have plenty of dynamic capability. Each small adjustment to the volume (1 dB increments on the AVR) registered as a real and noticeable change in level. Completely comfortable at high volumes and great for rock music, I found these monitors unflappable, able to take whatever is thrown at them. If you like it loud, these Phase Technology loudspeakers will deliver. Pretty amazing for a small sealed monitor. The sealed design meshes very well with my subwoofers, allowing the subs to do their job unhindered by interference from the mains.
Not an overly smooth sound, if the program material is harsh, it will be played that way. Rough and raw, more live concert like, clean with plenty of headroom. Makes you want to crank it up and not sorry you did. Very involving with the right program material.
The PC60 CA gave the front of my room a nice, deep soundstage, with reasonable width. Images are not pinpoint, but large and lifelike, very open sounding. Quick, in the nature of phase aligned designs, with no blurring of notes. Played full range, this small, passive loudspeaker excels at low frequency reproduction like no other I've ever heard before.
Watching TV and movies, the PT brings dialogue to the forefront without calling attention to themselves. Presentation is forward without being overly bright, unless the recording is that way. Long term music listening is had without fatigue, although the tweeter can get a little "hot" at the limit, which could be the limit of the speaker or that of my amp. I know this speaker is aimed at the music lover and it performs that task quite well. But there is no reason at all to limit it's use to music only, it can be a workhorse in the HT when called upon.
Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here (SACD 5.1) - This album has some good and not so good points, and is valuable for me to ascertain how a speaker handles the differences. Intro into the album, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", keys were front and center, effects panned around nicely, handing off to the surrounds. Small bell sounds play all around the room, those directed to the front stage were recessed about 4 ft. behind the speaker's baffle, beyond the front wall, seeming to place the sound outside of my room boundaries. Depth like this gives the feel of real soundstage. At the 4:30 minute mark, the band kicks it up. As the music swells, you can hear a bit of compression in the recording and the PC60 CA conveyed this without glossing it over.
The rest of the album has pretty decent dynamics, which the PC60 CA had no issues reproducing. It also has a lot of surround activity making it hard to focus upon the fronts alone, so I moved on to some 2 channel listening.
The Alan Parsons Project: The Turn of a Friendly Card (Vinyl LP) - On the first song, "May Be A Price To Pay", the vocals of Elmer Gantry are forward in the mix, and were presented as such by the PC60 CA, placing the lead singer well in front of the stage, about a foot in front of the speaker's plane. This was done without any sense of shrillness, as can be done with lesser transducers that push the mids and highs into your face. Conversely, the next track, "Games People Play", has vocalist Lenny Zakatek recessed back onto the stage. Both tracks, indeed for the entire album, the stage was wide and spacious, an Alan Parsons trait.
Slacker Internet Radio: Hard Bop Station - A Sonny Rollins song came on, Blue 7. This has a really strong, full bass line, so I shut off my subwoofers and listened full range. The weight of the upright bass was conveyed fully, drums had impact and kick. If someone were to shut off the subs while I was gone from the room, upon my return I probably would not have noticed.
Chicago: If You Leave Me Now (And Other Hits) (Redbook CD) - This album showed the PC60 CA to be just a tad bright in the upper registers, highlighting Peter Cetera's voice, the click of the high hat and horn blasts accentuated a bit. It did make me keep the volume control in check, not listening at quite the levels I hit with the other sessions. This album is, admittedly, fairly hot in the highs, but a good touchstone for me to get a handle on a speaker's highs.
I was surprised to find that "25 or 6 to 4", which is overly hot in the highs and a bit nasally with the lead vocals, did not take my head off in the way many speakers do. I did turn it up a notch for this song. The wah pedal guitar solo was pure joy, raw and unfettered.
Playing "Wishing You Were Here", I shut off the subs and ran the PC60 CA pair full range. Once again, the bass was full and satisfying. Low frequency augmentation does help the perception of a widened soundstage, but I did not feel the stage was diminished in any way. Depth was fantastic, rolling sea surf at the song's beginning taking up the entire left corner of my room. The image expanded beyond the left and front walls, turning part of my driveway outside into a peaceful, virtual beach.
While the PC60 CA is primarily a music speaker, they had no problems performing front stage duties for home theater/concert viewing. Metallica: Through the Never on Blu-ray pushed my subs hard, and the Phase Technology loudspeakers kept up. My guests were tapping their toes, playing air guitar, air drums and generally rocking throughout the show.
Star Trek: Into the Darkness on Netflix and Pacific Rim on Blu-ray were both handled without complaints in my medium sized room. These will not be the loudest L/R choice for home theater use, but the PC60 CA can provide a solid foundation as front of house mains.
The PC60 CA pair grew on me. I became quite fond of them, and before each listening session looked forward to spending time with them. If someone were to tell me that these were to be my last pair of speakers, or they were my "desert island" speaker, I would be absolutely fine with that. Not the last word in resolution or ultimate home theater dynamics, but that never stopped me from enjoying the program material. The PC60 CA presents sound in a forward way, not by shoving it into your face, but instead, inviting you to listen. Those considering the big names at Best Buy would do well to also look at Phase Technology, they might find themselves quite surprised. The dome tweeter, solid piston woofer, Absolute Phase® crossover and solid cabinet work together to sound as one. Soundstaging, depth of soundfield, imaging, dynamics, all were exemplary for a speaker of this size, besting many floorstanders I've heard.
A completely enjoyable experience, whether it be digital music, analog music, home theater, streamed audio/video or movies. The PC60 CA also helped me to determine how much I enjoy my newly revamped turntable and the vinyl I spin on it, and were a useful tool for gaining a new found appreciation for that medium.
Sans subwoofer, the PC60 CA stand on their own better than any small monitor I've ever heard, only at extreme volume levels or for home theater viewing would subs be needed. Performing home theater duty, the PC60 CA offered a good, solid anchor for the front stage for my 4.1 system. For those wanting a full fledged Phase Technology L/C/R, just add a PC33.5 or PC3.5 center to complete the front stage.
These are wonderful speakers and a testament to Phase Technology's past and present. Those searching for a crisp, full sounding monitor should look to the PC60 CA.
Please use the Phase Technology PC60 CA Loudspeaker Discussion Thread for question and comments.