It’s less than four years since we first encountered the PMC GB1.
Unlike the other models in the lower reaches of the PMC line-up, which grew ‘+’ suffixes around the time that the GB1 was launched, the latter never got a ‘+’ sign, presumably because it had effectively already been ‘plused’ prior to its introduction.
Instead, this cute little floorstander goes straight to ‘i’ status, having just undergone the same comprehensive series of improvements throughout the other ‘+’ models (and the larger OB1).
PMC's new and improved speakers
Whereas those 2004 ‘+’ improvements were retrofittable to earlier models, the changes this time are more comprehensive and extend to the cabinetwork. Regrettably, therefore, upgrading earlier models to the latest spec is not possible.
PMC mentions three major changes between the GB1 and GB1i. Chief amongst them is a brand new Solonex soft dome tweeter, co-developed with Norwegian driver specialist SEAS.
To keep pace with the improved top-end detail and resolution, has required improvements in the bass/mid driver and adjustments in the crossover network. The enclosure has also been beefed up and given a superior surface sheen.
A fourth, and possibly more significant change, is that the price has increased from 2004’s £995 to £1,275 per pair in its latest guise. Part of the increase is doubtless due to the natural inflationary order of things, though hopefully the improvements elsewhere serve to justify the price hike.
Sturdier and neater build
In essence the GB1i fills an obvious gap between the tiny standmount DB1i, and the significantly larger floorstanding FB1i. The smaller 140mm main driver used in the DB1i, loaded by a full-length (2.4m) transmission line similar to that found in the FB1i, is only possible with a floorstanding design.
However, what sounds logical enough in concept apparently proved quite recalcitrant to execute in practice, especially in terms of damping the line and locating the termination.
That small main driver results in a very neat ‘super-slim’ floorstander, which now features an enclosure made from tougher, more dense MDF than before, with a better quality real wood veneer (cherry, oak and maple as standard) and a deeper surface sheen.
The whole thing sits on a reassuringly chunky shaped plinth, ensuring secure spike accommodation and excellent physical stability. The main driver uses a cast frame and a 95mm paper cone, while the new tweeter has a 28mm soft fabric dome.
A high-quality crossover network is fed via twin terminal pairs, permitting bi-wiring or amping options.
The tiny main driver used here inevitably limits the low frequency output, but the generous transmission line (tuned to 40Hz) helps a stereo pair deliver decent output down to 30Hz (-6dB) under far-field in-room conditions.
Output throughout the bass region is somewhat dry and restrained, so although the smoothest and most even bass delivery is found when the speakers are positioned well clear of walls, the overall tonal balance might well be preferred with the extra bass available from some close-to-wall reinforcement.
But take care not to overdo this, as the overall evenness is also adversely affected. Sensitivity is rated at a relatively modest 87dB, but that’s partly because the load seen by the amplifier never falls below six-ohms, ensuring that this loudspeaker is easy-to-drive.
The pair matching was pretty good for our samples, though some minor resonance ripples are visible especially around 170Hz. Although it wasn’t possible to compare the GB1i directly and subjectively with its GB1 predecessor, comparison of the measurements proved very interesting.
Apparently the on-axis responses of the two versions are very similar indeed, but the integrated, averaged far-field response of the new version is altogether superior to its predecessor, indicating that the off-axis behaviour is now significantly better than before.
The improvements are visible with both drive units, the bass/mid looking significantly smoother towards the top of its operating range, 700Hz – 1.5kHz. While the lower treble, 2.5 – 4kHz, is much better filled than before, so the treble as a whole is smoother and less isolated.
An engaging audio experience
Certainly the first and overwhelming impression was of an open, engaging and communicative sound quality, notably free from boxy effects and with fine focus and spacious imaging.
Not too surprisingly, the second impression is that a bit more bass weight and welly would have been welcome too, but that’s pretty well inevitable when trying to fill a good size (4.3x2,6x5.5m) room with just a pair of 140mm drivers.
And if the bass does err a little on the dry side, it does at least have good agility and plenty of instrumental discrimination, so the whole experience remains thoroughly enjoyable.
Effortlessly bright music
While we wouldn’t suggest that this speaker is likely to be the right choice for listeners who favour heavy rock or techno material – we didn’t even bother to dig out the System of a Down or Chemical Brothers – it really came into its own with subtle acoustic and vocal material.
The Be Good Tanyas Hello Love is a pure delight, on either vinyl or CD, and Frazey Ford’s sometimes almost indecipherable vocal lines are unusually clear and easy to make out.
The overall character is on the bright and light side of neutral and although the top end does sound a little obvious, it always sounds sweet and detailed, too, adding convincing air and spaciousness.
But it’s in the midband that this speaker really shines, showing the inherent advantage that a small main driver usually has over larger examples, especially when reproducing voices and speech.
PMC makes a step in the right direction
Speaker design invariably involves some form of swings’n’roundabouts compromise, and here it’s undoubtedly the midband that is the winner, with all that it means in terms of superior vocal expression and subtlety.
Speech sounds particularly realistic, helped as much by the narrow cabinet, which mimics the width of a human head, as by the small driver.