The $3,000 Speaker Derby Phase Technology

Phase Technology
The other cagey veteran of this speaker group was the Phase Technology system, another prime example of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy. Some of you may be fooled by Phase Tech's relative lack of household-name status into thinking that it's a small company that lacks the pedigree of the others in this test—or that it doesn't have the resources to overhaul its lines too often. Phase Tech is actually a small part of one of the larger speaker manufacturers in the country, United Speaker Systems, which makes many speakers that most of us know under different brand names. Needless to say, the PC Series hasn't been around this long because of a lack of resources. It's here because it's still one of the best systems available at this price.

Our left, center, and right models were actually the semi-new PC 3.1 II models ($600), which are a minor tweaking of the PC 3.1. They use two of the company's RPF (Rigid Polymer Foam) 6.5-inch woofers; a unique, variable-axis 1.5-inch soft dome midrange; and a 1-inch soft dome tweeter. Phase Tech's reliance on soft domes is hardly surprising; after all, they invented them in 1967.

The PC 3.1 IIs also use the company's proprietary Absolute Phase crossover system, the goal of which is precise balance that ensures that the system is acoustically and electrically in-phase. Among other things, this improves off-axis response. They're magnetically shielded, as well.

Surround duty went to the PC 6.1 ($425), a direct-radiator with the 6.5-inch RPF woofer and 1-inch, variable-axis soft dome tweeter. The PC 6.1 is available in natural cherry, honey oak, and white and black ash veneers. The subwoofer was the HV-1200 ($600) from the Velocity Series, which uses a 12-inch mica/graphite polypropylene woofer and a 250-watt servo-controlled internal amp with phase and gain control. The sub is available in a black finish.

I've been a fan of Phase Tech's musical performance (movies, too, for that matter) since my early days in this business, and that opinion didn't change here. With "Katy Hill," I thought that this system's soundstage was the most stable and best defined of the group. John agreed, commenting that he liked the delineation between instruments here. Geoffrey and Amy seemed less convinced on that point. Geoffrey felt the fiddles ran together some, and Amy didn't think that the PC 3.1 IIs were as clear overall as some of the other front speakers had been. We all agreed on the warmth that they delivered with all three musical tracks, and Geoffrey particularly liked the PC 3.1 IIs' smooth top end. He also felt that the bass was strong here, meshing with the rest of the system better than other speakers in the test.

With movies, the system remained solid and consistent from the top of the frequency range to the bottom, as both Geoffrey and I noted at various points. Amy and I were in agreement on the accuracy and clarity of the surround channels, and Amy commented on an intricacy of ambient events that she hadn't noticed with other systems. My only issue with these surrounds was one that's far more difficult for them to avoid as direct-radiators: localization. They didn't provide the diffusion that a good set of dipoles can, but the payoff comes with multichannel music, where these surrounds will put most any dipole I know of in its place. John felt that the bass was thin at times during Gods and Generals, but he liked the lack of boom that the sub demonstrated. Amy also noted the fact that the sub avoided any temptation to be overbearing, yet it remained forceful and readily apparent.

Phase Tech center channels are known for their smooth off-axis response, so I paid particular attention to the reactions of whomever was outside the two prime seats at that time (we played musical chairs throughout all of the demos) and put myself out on the edge during both movie tracks. The PC 3.1 II performed as I expected it would—wide, stable, and coherent even at the more-severe angles. Maureen agreed, as she sat to the far left during Private Ryan, commenting on the quality and warmth of the center-channel image that she heard over there.

• Unique, effective crossover system
• Nice balance of convenience and performance

At A Glance: Phase Technology PC 3.1 II Speaker System

Subwoofer: HV-1200
Connections: Line- and speaker-level ins, LFE in
Enclosure Type: Ported
Woofer (size in inches, type): 12, mica/graphite poly cone
Power Rating (watts): 250
Crossover Bypass: Yes
Available Finishes: Black
Dimensions (H x W x D, inches): 14 x 19.5 x 18.25
Weight (pounds): 38
Price: $600

Speaker: PC 3.1 II
Type: three-way, L/C/R
Tweeter (size in inches, type): 1.5, soft dome
Midrange (size in inches, type): 1, soft dome
Woofer (size in inches, type): 6.5, RPF (2)
Nominal Impedance (ohms): 6
Recommended Amp Power (watts): 20–250
Available Finishes: Cherry, Oak, Black Ash
Dimensions (H x W x D, inches): 22 x 8.25 x 11.75
Weight (pounds): 40
Price: $600

Speaker: PC 6.1
Type: two-way, surround
Tweeter (size in inches, type):1, soft dome
Midrange (size in inches, type): N/A
Woofer (size in inches, type): 6.5, RPF
Nominal Impedance (ohms): 6
Recommended Amp Power (watts): 20–150
Available Finishes: Black Ash
Dimensions (H x W x D, inches): 13.75 x 8.25 x 5.37
Weight (pounds): 20
Price: $425

These listings are based on the manufacturer's stated specs; the HT Labs box below indicates the gear's performance on our test bench.

Ratings: Phase Technology PC 3.1 II Speaker System

Build Quality: 93
Value: 92
Features: 91
Performance: 91
Ergonomics: 92
Overall Rating: 92

General Information
PC 3.1 II L/C/R Speaker, $600
PC 6.1 Surround Speaker, $425
HV-1200 Subwoofer, $600
Phase Technology
(888) 742-7385
Dealer Locator Code PHA

HT Labs Measures: Phase Technology PC 3.1 II Speaker System

• PC 3.1 II L/C/R Sensitivity: 87 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz

• PC 6.1 Surround Sensitivity: 87 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz

This graph shows the quasi-anechoic (employing close-miking of all woofers) frequency response of the PC 3.1 II L/C/R (purple trace), HV-1200 subwoofer (blue trace), and PC 6.1 surround (red trace). All passive loudspeakers were measured at a distance of 1 meter with a 2.83-volt input and scaled for display purposes.

The PC 3.1 II's listening-window response (a five-point average of axial and +/–15-degree horizontal and vertical responses) measures +1.11/–3.91 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. An average of axial and +/–15-degree horizontal responses measures +1.20/

–4.13 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The –3dB point is at 60 Hz, and the –6dB point is at 43 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 3.53 ohms at 152 Hz and a phase angle of –56.59 degrees at 84 Hz.

The PC 6.1's listening-window response measures +1.88/–5.98 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The –3dB point is at 83 Hz, and the –6dB point is at 70 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 3.95 ohms at 218 Hz and a phase angle of –47.69 degrees at 129 Hz.

The HV-1200's close-miked response, normalized to the level at 80 Hz, indicates that the lower –3dB point is at 35 Hz and the –6dB point is at 29 Hz. The upper –3dB point is at 129 Hz using the LFE input.—MJP