Just for once, there’s more to this speaker than just a name: this really is a remarkable design, taking all its manufacturer’s pro-audio knowhow and making it surprisingly affordable
For a hi-fi manufacturer, there’s good and bad in having an established reputation in the professional audio field: the good is that it’s virtually a guarantee of fine performance, durability and more – studios don’t tend to chop and change equipment on a regular basis, so want what they buy to be right first time, and keep on working.
On the downside, consumers will probably think that ‘pro grade’ equipment is going to be pricey, especially when you have a range with top-end prices well into five figures, the word ‘Professional’ in your company name, and a reputation for hand-building all your products in the UK.
That’s the problem UK company PMC – the Professional Monitor Company – is tackling with its new prodigy speakers, deliberately with no capital P, : yes, it has ranges of ‘house-trained’ designs in addition to pro monitors running from the tiny to the huge, but with even the smallest model in its domestic Twenty5 i series, the 21i, clocking in at well over £2000 – thanks to everything from the drivers upwards being handmade, and the range of classy real wood veneer finishes, clearly even these models are likely to be a luxury choice for most consumers.
The prodigy range – there are two models, the bookshelf-sized prodigy1, and the compact floorstanding prodigy5 we have here – tackles that via a series of component and production choices designed to keep costs down, enabling each to be sold for about half the price of its Twenty5 I series equivalent. Note that we’re not talking cost-cutting here – everything in the new speakers is to the same standard as in the ritzier wood-clad models – but rather sensible management of expenditure without impacting on performance.
All of which means the prodigy5 speaker is a stunning-sounding design for the money, easily taking on anything else at the same kind of price, and evoking sheer delight and surprise that these anonymous-looking speakers – just 92.5cm tall complete with stabilising plinth bars and spikes – deliver so much of the music, and grab the attention so immediately and relentlessly.
Anonymous-looking? Well, that’s down to the only finish available, but even this is a satin black paint of exceptional quality, giving the speakers a really purposeful look, while the absence of grilles – they’re an extra-cost option because, the company says, ‘no-one much uses them’ – also adds to the technical look here.
And the drive-units are tried and tested PMC components, the 27mm soft-dome tweeter also being used in the company’s studio monitors, and the 13.3cm mid/bass driver, with its natural fibre cone and long-throw design for bass power, having served time in PMC custom install speakers. That these are familiar drivers helps simplify the design and production process, enabling the company to work with the known performance to minimise the crossover layout, and allow some greater margin in component selection. But for all that, these are still speakers built in the usual PMC manner: by hand, in the company’s UK factories, and with listening to the speakers, both individually and in pairs, not just as major a part in the quality control process as measurement, but the final arbiter before the finished product is signed off.
Much has also been done here to ensure these speakers perform: the tweeter is designed for wide dispersion, extending the listening ‘sweet spot’ so more people can enjoy the same sound quality, while the bass tuning uses the same Advanced Transmission Line technology found in most PMC designs, complete with the company’s airflow-smoothing Laminair vent.
ATL uses a folded chamber within the speaker to turn the energy from the rear of the mid/bass driver into useful extra output at a vent to the bottom of the front baffle, where it can reinforce the bass, while Laminair enhances this effect while reducing any distortion.
The effect of all this is immediately apparent when the Prodigy 5 is fired up, even on the end of very modest amplification: not only do these little speakers sound huge, with a depth and speed of bass to shame many a larger – and much pricier – design, but they also have clarity, focus and definition that sets new standards at their price. As side benefits of their design, they don’t need massive amplifier power to perform – though they’re a riot when you do hit them with some extra welly – and that ATL design is much less fussy about room positioning than conventional ported speakers, so you needn’t be too concerned if the space you have means they have to be used fairly close to walls.
Used with the NAD 3050 integrated amp, which has sufficient power without breaking the bank, the prodigy5 quickly establishes a breathtaking sound, thundering out live rock while still giving gentler jazz or classical music plenty of room to breathe, and casting an entirely credible – and totally captivating – stereo soundstage, in which every element of the mix is clearly audible. Push them hard, upping the level and playing some pulsing electronica or all the power of a massive church organ, and they’ll do a fine job of pressurising the air in the listening room to give that ‘felt as much as heard’ effect that really tingles the spine, while with small-scale acoustic music that sense of performers in the room is just as rewarding.
And the other advantage of this design is that it really will grow with your system, responding exceptionally to amplifiers with more power or resolution. Upping the ante to the latest-generation Naim NAP 250, fed from the NSC 222 streamer/preamp, saw the little PMC floorstanders gaining extra punch and bite in the bass, allied to an even crisper view of voices, instruments and the recorded acoustic, and further increasing the appreciation of just how fine both the design and the execution of these Prodigious speakers really are.
Not only are these thrilling speakers to listen to, they’ve also been designed to be fuss-free in set-up and operation. They’ll sound big and exciting in most rooms – even small spaces – and, given a few days use to run them in, deliver a remarkably integrated sound across a huge range of musical genres.
A £2000 pair of speakers on the end of electronics at almost six times as much? It sounds like an entirely unbalanced system, perhaps, but works amazingly well. These new affordable PMCs are something seriously special, being sensitive enough to inject new life into all-in-one systems or modest amps, but also able to grow as your set-up develops.
Frank Zappa Basement Jam
Taken from the only slightly chaotic Funky Nothingness three-disc set, this is just the kind of intricate, boogying track that lets the PMCs’ combination of weight, speed and openness do its stuff. It’s all a bit mad and magnificent.
James Horner A Call To Arms
Horner has an enviable catalogue of soundtrack credits, but this one, from the 1989 Civil War movie Glory, is a sensational opening, combining the soaring voices of the Harlem Boys Choir with great grumbling chords to evoke the heroism – and horrors – of battle.
Lucinda Williams This Is Not My Town
From Williams’s Stories From a Rock’n’Roll Heart, her first album of new material since recovering from a stroke in 2020, this is a soulful, moody rocker allowing the PMCs to focus on her careworn voice and the superb combination of backing band and recording.
The esteemed Gramaphone magazine reckons that the prodigy5's far from ‘PMC-lite’, finding them very accomplished speakers thast are both room-and system-friendly, and remarkable value for money
If you’re considering speakers at or around this price, the answer is an unequivocal yes; if you’re thinking of spending more, the advice is just as true: these are superb speakers by any standards, being both beautifully built and wonderful-sounding, and are recommended without reservation.