PA-6F System and DVD Video The True Home Theater Test
But can these speakers explode a space ship?
Movies are the most practical test for any 5.1 speaker system. When I first laid eyes on the PA-6F system I anticipated the center speaker would be a problem. The MTM design with the great gaps of driverless real estate along the front looked haphazard, and didn't fill me with confidence. But after listening I was pleasantly surprised, as the speakers were able to hide many of the design's inherent flaws. Still though, the PA-6C is definitely a flawed center channel speaker, and if I had to pick a weak link in the chain that would be it.
The first movie to be tested was the original Matrix from 1999, long before the franchise wore out its welcome. The scene I skipped to is entitled Follow The White Rabbit - it's where Neo decides to join some friends at a club. This scene documents Neo's first meeting with Trinity, and she whispers in his ear about his disconnected feelings while an aggressive Prodigy beat plays loudly out the front and center channels. This is a great test for any Dolby Pro-Logic or Dolby Digital system, because if you can hear what the heck Trinity is saying over Prodigy, then you've got a center speaker that isn't badly affected by dispersion.
Problems with dispersion are common with center channel speakers. Delicate voices are easily drowned out by the front speakers, which often leaves people cranking up the volume to hear dialogue and then turning it down again when the action heats up. This can usually be avoided by staying clear of cheap M-T-M (midrange-tweeter-midrange) center speaker designs. The center speaker is easily the most underrated speaker in home theater - a beefy center with great clarity and the ability to push air in front of an audience is the difference between Home Theater and just watching TV with lots of speakers.
Back to Trinity and Neo's conversation: through the PA-6C, I am pleased to say it sounded excellent, and I had no problem making out what Trinity was saying. It speaks to the center's ability to articulate middle highs, so, you should have no trouble hearing voices.
Unfortunately, the PA-6C's performance in handling action wasn't up to the task of the Matrix's many fight scenes. There is famous scene at the beginning where Trinity is kicking cops around a room (you may have seen it lampooned on a number of occasions). Trinity is hanging in the air in slow motion, and is laying a heel into a police officer. The cop flies backward and hits another cop and together they both hit the wall. That kick can be broken down into jarring impacts that take turns coming out each speaker, but its climactic final impact of the two cops on the wall is almost completely limited to your center channel. After hearing the front and sub contribute to the several smashes around the room, the sound of the same impact coming out the center speaker seemed anemic.
My disappointment comes from comparing its sound to the incredible rumble you get from fronts that can make you feel the impacts. In this case, it becomes very obvious you're listening to a little speaker.
To be fair, the two most recent center channel speakers that have had time in my system have been NHT's SC-1 and Paradigm's CC-570. Comparing the two speakers is like night and day. I was really displeased with the SC-1, and found it could be easily bested by any competent center channel speaker. Premier Acoustics' PA-6C easily outperformed the SC-1 in volume, bass response and dispersion.
The next film I tested was Pitch Black and its crash landing scene near the beginning of the movie. After a narration by Vin Diesel, the crash starts and debris is whipped through the ship, producing some excellent surround effects. The climax has the small craft crashing down through a reflection in a close-up view of the pilot's eyeball. It's one of the better space ship crash landing scenes ever made. The PA-6F system lent the crash landing a crisp, tight and palpable tension. The bass from the sub added the few pieces of over the top boom that we all love in an action movie. The front speakers did their part by providing lots of intensity and detail in the scene where measures were taken to save the doomed ship. But that center speaker, try as it might just couldn't keep up with the fronts, so you get a reserved quality to the high-action sequences. You probably wouldn't notice the center was holding back if you didn't compare it with Paradigm's excellent CC-570 - that system really opened up the scene with details you had no idea were present when listening to the PA-6C. But then, it's important to keep in mind that the CC-570 retails for around the price of the entire PA-6F system.Next: Conclusion