Las Vegas 2013: PTE is the real deal

I had an obligation to stop by PTE (Precision Transducer Engineering), given how taken Mal Kenny was with the room at RMAF. The Phoenix ($5,700/pair) are active, that is, they come with their own amplifiers built-in — you just need to plug-in the speakers and wire them up to a source (or preamp).

I’m not a fan of active speakers. There are too many parts, and therefore many things that could go wrong. Component swaps are also problematic. But mostly, they sound like ass. Now, I say that, sitting here in my office staring at an obvious counter-example, the truly excellent Audioengine A5+. This speaker is exactly what I was thinking about when I turned the corner and came into the PTE room at the Flamingo Hotel.

The Phoenix is a D’Appolito array design, that is, the mid-woofers bracket the tweeter in an over+under setup. This kind of arrangement does some things really well, things that generally include a beguiling sense of mid-range present-ness, and the dual-driver also tends to mean that neither has to work as hard to present the music — that is, there’s less distortion. Each cabinet weighs a surprising 75lbs in it’s 28″ high cabinet — stands are a must. I did say that they’re active, right? Think: three amps. And yes, it’s bi-amped. If that’s confusing to you, that’s fine; audio pal Mal Kenny explained it this way:

In technical terms: this is what happens when engineers write their own marketing material — you can’t hear anything over the sound of heads hitting desks.

Sensitivity and impedance are irrelevant; frequency response is a healthy 32Hz (-3dB) and flat all the way up past dog hearing. PTE says that the on-axis and off-axis response is pretty much identical all the way up to the crossover point.

  • Antelope Gold w/ Voltikus (w/ an old Philips CD player for a transport)
  • PTE MMMC-R phono preamp in a solid mahogany box ($1,600)
  • T+A 1230R preamp
  • Luxman 441 turntable with Soundsmith Hyperion cartridge

Okay, so here’s the deal — you want detail and musicality in a package that, while not precisely affordable is still on the low-end? You have to hear these things. I want my own pair. Yes, really. They’re scary-good. And if you take out the cost of an external amp, they suddenly start looking scary-sexy.

Oh, and hook me up with a Hyperion cartridge, too — I love finding SoundSmith fans, especially in places I’d least expect them.

Nice work, here! Another Best In Show contender.


  1. From PTE

    “It uses one amplfier for each driver 2 are used for the woofers and one for the tweeter. It is Bi-amped. This is a more conservative way to do the Bi-amp configuration but results in better dynamic range and bettter long term reliability.

    Mark Thoke

  2. I like to also add to my previous comments, I don’t know Mal Kenny, but I’m glad you got Scott’s attention & he swung by the room!! These are on my short list for this year! Wish there was someone who is a dealer on the east coast so as to log more listening time w/ the PTE’S!!

  3. Nice to get a “pro” positive affirmation on the pte’s! Sounds/ looks like the same set up @ rmaf 2012. Presence is in abundance w/ these Spkrs! Would love to find a better looking pr of stands to compliment the spkrs! Thanks for covering these & the positive affirmation! ! (PS. The manufacturers description is priceless! … “hear the banging of heads against desks!?” LOL

  4. Oh man, you are going to ruffle some feathers with that. There are a lot of folks out there that thing active monitors > all, because somehow little itty bitty plate amps and active crossovers beat any passive and and amp combo out there. Why they think this, I have no idea.

    Most of the active monitors I’ve heard (and I’ve even owned a few) have little to no soundstaging ability because the huge waveguides they use are designed to fight reflections, not produce good imaging. And aside from that, they’re BORING. Most are tools designed to help production engineers find flaws in their mixes. I’m amazed at the people that think Mackies or worse, M-Audios are somehow the worlds greatest speakers.

    Also, you might want to review your photos a little bit more closely, it says “Bi-Amplified” right on the tin. 🙂

    • It’s weird, but the cabinet and literature says the speaker is bi-amped. It also says … that each cabinet has 3 amps, one per driver.

    • Dave have you actually heard these? These soundstage & image like a sonofagun!!! Notwithstanding the bi/triamp situation, this application/spkrs works sonic wonderment to my ears!! (Discovered/heard them @ length @ RMAF 2012. Mackie/M-Audio monitors aren’t in the same universe / galaxy as the pte’s!! Not remotely. Only in that they have their own amps for the induvidual drivers. The similarity stops there.

  5. “I did say that they’re active, right? Well, each driver in the Phoenix gets its own 130wpc amp — this thing is tri-amped. ”

    The Phoenix ($5,700) is bi-amped. The Statement ($60,000) is tri-amped.

    • That is what the literature says — bi-amped. It also says that the Phoenix has three 130 watt amplifiers — per cabinet.

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