|Phase Technology Premier Collection (PC) 3.1 Home Theater System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Ed Masterson|
|Tuesday, 01 October 2002|
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As an audio enthusiast for over 20 years, I was surprised to learn that Phase Technology has been building speakers since the 1950s. Unlike many speaker companies in today’s global economy, they build nearly every part of the speaker themselves. This includes the speaker cones, baskets, voice coils, inductors and enclosures. They go so far as to actually coat their own wire for the voice coils. Even if you have not heard Phase Technology speakers, you most certainly have heard their speaker drivers in other manufacturers' products. They have manufactured drivers for nearly every major brand-name speaker manufacturer in the world. Phase Technology holds a number of influential patents, including that of the soft dome tweeter, a product that they introduced and patented in the 1960s and later licensed to a vast number of companies.
The Phase Technology theater speaker package reviewed here comes from their Premier Collection series. This package included three PC 3.1 II multipurpose speakers priced at $600 each, two PC 6.1 surround multipurpose speakers priced at $425 each, and their PC powered subwoofer, priced at $1,000. The PC 3.1 front left and right and center channel speakers are available in Natural Cherry, Honey Oak, and Black Ash furniture-grade real wood veneers. The PC 6.1 surround speakers are available in Natural Cherry, Honey Oak, White (with white grille covers) and Black Ash finishes. The PC subwoofer is available Natural Cherry, Honey Oak, and Black Ash furniture-grade real wood veneers as well. Phase Technology backs up their quality claims with a 10-year limited warranty.
The PC subwoofer measures 16 inches high, 15 inches wide and 19 inches deep, and weighs 65 pounds. It uses a 10-inch driver with a high-density Mica/Graphite/Polypropylene composite cone, which has a butyl rubber surround in a ported, highly-braced MDF enclosure. This powered subwoofer boasts a 300-watt amplifier with servo control and is designed to integrate with the rest of the PC series speakers. It has a variety of features including a 180-degree phase switch, user-adjustable crossover, volume control, speaker-level crossover inputs and outputs, and a switch to disable the line level input filter for connection to a subwoofer output on a theater processor. The user adjustable frequency response is rated from 22Hz to 150 Hz +/- 3dB.
The PC 3.1 loudspeaker is used for the front left, right, and center channels. It measures 22 inches high, 8.25 inches wide, 11 inches deep and weighs 40 pounds. The rated frequency response is 36Hz to 22kHz +/- 3dB. The sensitivity is rated at 92dB. This is a higher than typical sensitivity, which means that even modestly powered receivers should have no problem driving them effectively. This three-way design includes a one-inch soft dome variable axis tweeter, a one-and-a-half-inch soft dome midrange, dual six-and-one-half inch RPF™ solid-flat piston bass drivers with butyl rubber driver surrounds, and an Absolute Phase™ crossover network, all housed in a ported, braced MDF enclosure. The soft dome midrange and tweeter drivers are mounted to a plate that can be rotated for horizontal or vertical installations. For optimum performance, these speakers require stands, which must be purchased separately.
The PC 6.1 multipurpose loudspeaker is used for the left and right surround channels. It measures 13.75 inches high, 8.25 inches wide and 5.75 inches deep, and weighs 20 pounds. The rated frequency response is 80Hz to 22kHz +\- 3dB. The sensitivity is rated at 91dB. Again, this is a higher than average sensitivity and should represent an easy load for any amplifier or receiver. This two-way design consists a one-inch soft dome variable axis tweeter, a single six-and-one-half-inch RPF Kevlar-laminated solid flat piston driver with a butyl rubber driver surround, and an Absolute Phase crossover network, again in a ported and braced MDF enclosure. A wall-mounting bracket is included with each speaker.
Upon initial inspection of these speakers, I was very impressed with the build quality. Two of the PC 3.1 speakers were finished in the Natural Cherry veneer and one was finished with the black oak veneer. I really liked the look of the Natural Cherry finish. The radiused edges are a very nice styling feature. The grill shape finishes off the conservative yet elegant look.
The cabinet build quality of the PC series speakers is exceptional when compared to other speakers in this price range. All of the speakers in this package were impressively heavy for their size. When I performed my usual knuckle-rap test on cabinets, they felt as solid as some of best (and much more costly) speakers that I have heard. All of the speakers except the subwoofer use high-quality gold-plated binding posts for solid, confident connection. My experience has shown that a properly-designed stand can dramatically affect speaker performance. Unfortunately, Phase Technology does not produce matching stands for their speakers, so you will be forced find a good match yourself.
Phase Technology offers some unique design features that set their products apart from the typical speakers in this price range. First, they use a soft dome midrange, which was chosen due to its extremely low mass. It weighs less than a tenth of a typical four-inch midrange cone. This gives it the ability to move more quickly and be controlled more accurately. It’s pretty obvious that the lighter the driver, the more quickly you can start and stop it. Secondly, they use a tweeter design that allows a degree of adjustment, which helps compensate for off-axis listening. Thirdly, they use Unicell™ anti-diffraction foam around the midrange and tweeter to absorb unwanted diffracted sound, so that all you hear is the output of the drivers themselves. Next, their RPF solid piston driver is essentially like most other cone woofers, except that these have ultra-light foam that fills the conical cavity. This is said to increase the stiffness of the driver, as well as to attenuate any sound from inside the box as it passes through the driver. This design also changes the dispersion pattern for the driver and works to achieve another design goal of good off-axis response in the vertical plane. They use a phase-aligned Absolute Phase crossover, which is said to help with off-axis response. There is no questioning the importance of off-axis response. Early reflections are responsible for many negative aspects of music reproduction. The best way to limit this negative interaction is to increase its audible quality. Finally, they have a proprietary mechanism designed to limit driver excursion in order to avoid bottoming out and potential damage when it is overdriven. This acts like a soft clipping device for the speaker and should eliminate overheating and the eventual dynamic compression that comes with it.