PBN Audio, a southern California company headed by Peter Norbaek, was showing two of the largest speakers at the show, the enormous MR!777 and MR2!5 speakers, as well as a variety of PBN electronics. Peter Norbaek was quite generous, and during a lull in traffic allowed me to listen with my own music right in the sweet spot.
Words and Photos by Grover Neville
The sound was amongst the best in the show, clean, clear, fast and dynamic. Those big woofers didn’t sound boomy at all, but rather tightly controlled down into the deepest registers, in the way only large boxes and woofers do. They most surprised me by also playing intimate music with an appropriate sense of scale, something I find very large speakers struggle with at times.
The MR2!5 told me what was good about some excellent recordings like The Weather Station’s album Ignorance, but also revealed flaws in Boling and Rampal’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano which requires a very insightful speaker to display. There’s a funny pan to the left channel that happens early into the first track, and a subsequent strange phasing in the piano that sounds almost as if the analog transfer was done incorrectly or a fader bumped. On most speakers it’s present but subtle, while on some very high resolution systems the incident is distracting. The PBN speakers didn’t give me any excessive high end, but chugged right along, giving me faithfully what was on the digital transfer.
While I didn’t get a chance to hear any analog in the room, one of PBN’s extremely cool GrooveMaster Vintage Direct Professional turntables was on display. There’s too much that’s interesting about these to cover in one show report, but I’d encourage you to read up on them on the PBN website.
Digital duties were handled by a PBN Olympia DX DAC, and amplification was done by PBN Olympia EB series amplifiers. Though warm, the amps seemed unflappable at any volume, and I suspect the PBN electronics are as capable and overbuilt as the speakers. From what I heard at least, everything from PBN is well worth laying ears on.
All Equipment from PBN Audio
- MR!777 Loudspeaker – $85,000 USD
- MR2!5 Loudspeaker – $30,000 USD
- Olympia LXi Preamplifier – $22,000 USD
- Olympia EB-SA3 Stereo Amplifier – $27,500 USD ea / $55,000 USD pair
- Olympia EB-SA1 Stereo Amplifier – $15,000 ea / $30,000 pair
- GrooveMaster DN308 Pro Turntable – $30,000 USD (not including tonearm or cartridge)
- Olympia PXi Phono Preamp – $22,000 USD
- VibraPlane Turntable Stand – $6,500 USD
- Olympia DX Digital-to-Analog Converter – $17,500 USD
Photos continue below, and more T.H.E. SHOW 2021 coverage can be found HERE.
About The Author
Grover Neville, Contributor
Grover is a recent transplant to Los Angeles, CA, and a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, where he studied music, creative writing, and how to wear skinny jeans. After graduating Grover pursued a freelance career in audio, doing professional research in the fields of Auditory Cognition, Psychoacoustics, and Experimental Hydrophone Design.
Before moving to Los Angeles, Grover worked and lived in Chicago, Illinois as a mixing and mastering engineer, working in genres such as Avant-garde Classical music and Jazz. As a recent transplant to L.A., Grover now works in the music, video game, and film industries.
He is also actively pursuing a career as an independent musician, composer, and producer. Grover wrote for Innerfidelity and Audiostream, before finding his forever-home at Part-Time Audiophile.