A little over two weeks ago I took delivery of the Avalon PM3 speakers. I said at the time that they were immediately impressive; over two weeks later and dozens of hours in, that doesn’t even begin to describe the sheer awe that these leave me with on a daily basis.
Let’s back up a little though. The PM3 is the brainchild of Neil Patel and as he puts it, these speakers are directly derived from the SAGA using the same bespoke drive units and high quality cross-over components and topology.
The PM3 (and the PM series in general) do depart from older Avalons in other ways. The first is cabinet material; you’ll notice that the cabinets do not have that knuckle-blistering thud when wrapped and as a result, nor do they have the sheer weight (kg) of older commensurately sized Avalons. They are in fact some 30% lighter, now made from a new composite material that has been in development for many years. The PM3 therefore weigh in at a relatively modest 52 Kg each.
In an industry where cabinets have grown increasingly heavy, dense and inert, this is indeed an interesting departure.
I believe that this new cabinet is likely responsible for some of the PM3’s finest virtues. More on this later. Like most Avalons the PM3 are a relatively compact design and the £/size ratio is perhaps lower than that of many of their contemporaries. The £/performance on the other hand to my mind, is second to none.
The PM3 retain Avalon’s signature faceted stealth like front baffle and trapezoidal leant back design. This now combines with the new cabinet material in a way that seams to create an almost living, breathing, organic entity. The whole speaker now acting like a musical instrument.
Avalon’s exquisite attention to detail and finishing options remain, albeit that they have now introduced a more contemporary finish they call “Polychrome“ The more traditional stunning wood veneers are also available.
So, to the sound, Neil Patel has truly pulled off an extraordinary tour de force with the PM3. They do subtle and delicate, detailed and organic, at the same time as offering explosive dynamics and the most real tangible sound staging, to compare with the best Electrostatics.
These speakers play real music. They are insightful and incisive. They strip a recording bare and then reassemble it in the way it was originally intended to be. They literally take you into the recording studio where, though you can’t adjust a thing, you hear every sound track that the recording is made up of, each layered in its own space. I have rarely heard a speaker sound so live, so real, so tangible.
No wonder then that PM stands for Performance Monitor
Be warned though the PM3 demand to be driven and they can play loud, really loud; the 250W Analog Domain M75D/P did a very fine job in producing a sound so authentic that I felt compelled to turn up the volume. The PM3 only too easily and happily, responded by filling the room (mine is some 4m x 5m) with a visceral immersive sound that with every increase in SPL simply brought you closer to the performers. Before you know it you’re in the front row and your neighbours will be banging on your walls/door/ceiling.
Playing the PM3 at low volume is equally insightful but simply puts you back several rows in the audience.
It is a much used cliche that this or that component is transparent, a window into the recording, a mere reflection of what it is paired with. Never has this been more true of any component. The PM3 reflected every change in the system that was made from the cabling, the ground boxes and ground wires the mains cables to the source components. The equipment used, see list at the end of this article, was not super high end (ok so perhaps the speaker cables and interconnects are a little excessive!) or immensely esoteric yet the sound derived was some of the most rewarding I have heard in 30 years in the business and 45 years an Audiophile.
The Specs suggest that these speakers are relatively easy to drive (89dB) and present a benign nominal 4Ohm impedance to the amplifier. This may be true however, because of the PM3’s ability to stay clean, pure and coherent they simply invite being driven. Any good amp with plenty of power, will do however the PM3s will simply tell you if it’s the right amplifier for you. What they allow you to do is tailor and tune your system to your specific and exact requirements.
So whether you want that front row concert seat or studio mixing desk experience where only SPL will do, you simply need to turn the volume up up up. Then you’ll get that true visceral gut wrenching experience. If on the other hand you want a more relaxed yet still compelling mid or back row experience turn the volume down accordingly.
So changing the volume on the PM3 simply takes you nearer or further from the performance. This may sound obvious, but I believe is a rare experience in most hifi systems!
In writing this I realise that I have gushed and eulogised and revered these speakers. Can a speaker really be so good and so complete? The bottom line is a resounding yes!
The PM3 are £46,000, so do sit in that more rarefied atmosphere where they compete with the the best of the rest YG, Magico, Wilson etc. To this listeners ears, none of these other brands have sounded so real, so fresh, so expressive, involving and simply musically enjoyable as the PM3.
Speaker reviews often focus in turn on a speaker’s bass, midrange and top end describing each as if it were somehow independent of the whole. Not so here, with the PM3 you are not drawn to any particular area of the spectrum you are just immersed in the whole expressive involving experience.
When there is a massive bass line in the recording, the PM3s are true to it, fast dynamic, articulate and low. When there is a rasp in the voice or a shimmer of the cymbals again, you hear it in all its nuance. These speakers somehow manage to be more insightful into the recording, stripping it bare and reassembling it in all its complexity, in a way that makes sense, like never before.
Every line in its own space, detailed and defined yet still part of the whole.
You’ll find yourself digging deep into your record collection anxious to hear them all again with a fresh and new perspective, those recordings you thought you knew so well will be heard as if for the first time. The PM3’s will bring a new level of insight, enjoyment and appreciation to each recording.
The PM1 were impressive the PM3 even more so and from what others have said the 2s and 4s are in the same vein. It seems to me that Avalon have nailed it with the sound of the new PM series, perhaps they will become a benchmark that will inform, define and direct the sound of speakers for many years to come.
SME Model 20/12A
Clearaudio Titanium V2
Tom Evans The Groove
T+A DPD 3000 HV
Analog Domain DAC
Analogue Domain M75P & M75D
Entreq Olumpus Speaker & Interconnect
Entreq Atlantis Interconnect
Entreq Silver Tellus Infinity
Entreq Olympus 10
Alain Abensur Choice HiFi 12/05/20