Component Reviews

Premier Acoustics PA-6F Home Theater Speaker System

A true surround speaker system with tower front channels at a cost close to some HTIB systems

Published on October 13, 2006

Premier Acoustics PA-6F Home Theater Speaker System
Premier Acoustics PA-6F Home Theater Speaker System
SRP: $1989.00

Premier Acoustic
3859 Valley View Blvd #30
Las Vegas NV 89103
(702)688-0367
sales@premieracoustic.com
info@premieracoustic.com
www.premieracoustic.com

 


Background and Previous Gear

Over the years, I have written about speakers as different and exceptional as Electrovoice’s giant Patricians (with which I grew up – a pair no less) featuring mighty 18-inch woofers and horn-loaded mid-range and tweeters; Quad’s classic ELSs (the most transparent sounding radiator screens ever); B&W’s first non-ionic dynamic-electrostatic hybrids with the ELS unit plugged into a conventional rectangular box; Spendor Audio’s version of the acclaimed LS3/5As; some of Infinity’s startling first attempts at full-range realistic sound; and, more recently,  Wilson Audio’s breathtaking blends of power, delicacy and accuracy.

I was therefore surprised that writing about Premier Acoustic’s PA-6F Home Theater System turned out to be as challenging as writing about any of the above superficially far more complex musical instruments. Not because Premier Acoustics’ home theater system turned out be anything less than superb. In fact, there has been a suspicion that Premier has built upon the standards for sound reproduction laid down by many of the historically most important companies as well as their current competition. For example, you can hear how strongly Premier competes against competitors like Klipsch who, with their history of horn-loaded systems, represent in a sense the heritage of those giant Patricians.

Writing about the PA-6F has turned out to be challenging for a reason that has not existed prior to the recent development of the multichannel Super Audio CD and the arrival of the multichannel DVD as the standard for video. The result has been that sizing up the PA-6F  under such circumstances has been so musically exciting that listening to new releases as they arrive, and old favorites as they wait on the shelves, has become totally addictive.

I began by using a variety of recorded material to determine just how good the two Premier towers alone were in a conventional stereo setup. The electronics were all Naim Audio, very clean and powerful, a Nait 2 integrated unit driving a NAP 140 amp. The CD player was Naim’s impeccable 5i. The CDs I used for evaluating the sound were CDs I know well, some of which come from the early days of stereo. And the speakers I was using before I switched to the PA-6F were a pair of Spendor Audio’s big SP2/3s.

Test Sources Used

For testing low bass and transient response, I used the “You Look Good to Me” cut on We Get Requests: The Oscar Petersen Trio (Verve). For big orchestral workouts, I used soundmeister Herbert von Karajan’s Vienna Philharmonic Decca recordings including waltzes by the Strauss family, Holst’s Planets (with the awesome bass notes in Uranus), and symphonies by Brahms, Beethoven and Dvorak. For detail and timbre, I used the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble’s Swiss recital (Claves). For vocal purity, I used Chanticleer’s self-recorded Anniversary Album. For piano sound, I used Frederic Chiu’s recital of Schubert songs in Franz Liszt’s transcriptions (Harmonia Mundi) and pianist Ekaterina Dershavina’s performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (Arte Nova). For opera, I used Electrola’s 1959 recording of Weber’s Der Freischütz which is not only a fine performance but one of the most atmospheric recordings ever made (check out the Wolf Glen’s finale to Act II). And, as a postprandial delight, Neville Marriner’s classic account on Argo of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

In each case, the system performed either close or equal to the legendary speakers listed above. They were extremely neutral, so you didn’t feel you were listening to the speakers (although this was one of the decadent joys of the pre-digital age, it is far exceeded by the joy of listening to accurate natural sound in a realistic ambient environment). The two beautiful towers handled power effortlessly and, even without the subwoofer that is added for multichannel listening in the home theater array, they growled and thumped convincingly, whether it was the string bass in the Oscar Petersen cut, or the monstrously low brass and percussion in the Holst. When, on occasion, they lacked the last ounce of bass, they didn’t go ballistic but handled the situation with elegance and grace. They were transparent to a wonderful degree both on the Bach Variations and the Schubert-Liszt transcriptions, most impressive since the piano remains the most difficult instrument to reproduce, and on the Vivaldi, enabling the strands of inner detail to be heard without over-accentuating them. 

About Premier Acoustic 

Before I go into how well the PA-6F handled the multichannel challenges and opportunities presented by a few primo symphonic and operatic DVDs, some background on Premier Acoustic is in order.

The owners of Premier Acoustic have been in the home theater electronic business for more than 20 years. In order to maximize both quality and value, Premier has taken the best features from many “top of the line” speaker manufacturers that are available in today’s market and created an affordable, sleek and clean sounding speaker line. From the low end bass response of the powered subwoofer, to the high end of the soft dome tweeters, each speaker is designed to reproduce its specified frequency response as perfectly as technology allows. The complete PA-6F home theater system is guaranteed to have a frequency response from as low as 24 HZ up to 20KHZ.

The Six Speakers Involved

The specifications for each of the six speakers are not the only things that are beautiful about the PA-6F.  The system available in black or cherry (real wood, too), with both the top and bottom sides of the cabinets custom finished in a black, high gloss piano lacquer. So, not only do these speakers sound the best in their class, they bring style to any room in your home. In fact, ever since the PA-6F arrived in our home for its trial run, my wife has been not so subtly hinting how nice it would be if we left the Spendors in the closet.

The facts, just the facts:

The handsome PA-6F floor standing tower speaker is designed to bring out  a wide range of sounds whether they are being used for a DVD experience or just plain old stereo Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Premier has incorporated dual 6/12″ polygraphite woofers to deliver bass as low as 35 HZ. The tweeter is one of the clearest available for home speakers that I have heard.

2-Way System
Dual 6 1/2″ Woofers
1″ Soft Dome Tweeter
8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 89dB 1 watt /1 meter
Frequency Response: 35HZ -20KHZ (±3dB)
Wattage: 50- 175 Watts
Size: 39.5″ x 9″ x 12.5″ (H x W x D)
Weight: 66 pounds
Cherry or Black Piano High Gloss Finish

The handsome but unobtrusive PA-6C center channel is designed to bring out voice and dialog, and has been engineered to deliver details from the smallest whispers to the loudest shouts. Premier has incorporated dual 6/12″ polygraphite woofers for genuine bass response. The tweeter is soft and clear, producing highs as high up as the human ear can hear.

2-Way System
Dual 6 1/2″ Woofers
A 1″ Soft Dome Tweeter
8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 88dB±3dB
Frequency Response: 55-20KHZ
Wattage: 50- 175 Watts
Size: 21.9″ x 9.8″ x 8.5″ L x D x H
Weight: 22 pounds
Cherry or Black Piano High Gloss Finish

The good-looking but appropriately small PA-6S surround speakers are designed to bring out the surround feel of DVD movies. Whether it’s bullets flying overhead, or helicopters buzzing at uncomfortably low altitudes, Close matching with the timbres of the frontal speakers also assures a natural surround soundfield for multichannel music reproduction. The PA-6Ss have been engineered to make you duck! The alignment of two 6 1/2″ polygraphite woofers are at roughly a 90 degrees angle, while the tweeters fire straight ahead.

2-Way System
Dual 6 1/2″ Woofers
A 1″ Soft Dome Tweeter
8 Ohms
Sensitivity 88dB±3dB
Frequency Responses 80-20KHZ
Wattage 50- 150 Watts
Size:12″ x 10.5″ x 10″ (H x W x D)
Weight 17 pounds each
Cherry or Black Piano High Gloss Finish

 

The PA-12W powered subwoofer is a spectacular performer, discreet when it needs to just subtly enhance the low end of a solo cello, or totally out of its mind when Also sprach Zarathustra calls out for those low, low organ tones. It also handles huge explosions, the footsteps of dinosaurs, or just strong bass guitar and drums. The alignment of a large 12″ polygraphite woofer, and a built in 500 watt amp makes this sub fill any room with clear bass. And Premier has provided easy to use controls to tune the PA-12W.  An adjustable crossover custom sets the frequency response, a volume control sets the output, and an auto on/off switch power on the PA- 12W as soon as the slightest hint of bass hits your LFE track.

12″ Active Subwoofer
Sensitivity: 85DB 1 Watt 1 Meter
Ohms: :8 Ohms
Frequency Responses: 24HZ-20KHZ ( +/- 3DB)
Wattage: 200- 500 Watts
Size: 19″ x 14″ x 19″ (H X W X D )
Weight: 56 pounds each
Color: Cherry or Black

 
Wondering how it sounds on multichannel DVDs?

Oh yes, I promised to let you know how the PA-6F performed on multichannel SACDs and multichannel DVDs. In a word, breathtaking. No, make that stunning. For the testing, I used a Sony DVP-NS755V and Outlaw’s versatile and user-friendly 1070 receiver, with 65 watts per channel into 8 ohms (more on the 1070 in a separate review).

For the pièce de résistance, I used the following DVDs: José Montalvo’s spectacular, almost X-rated production of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s magnificent opera, Les Paladins (Opus Arte); Heinz Spoerli’s ballet set to Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, conducted by Neville Marriner (DG); Bernard Haitink’s nearly complete Mahler symphonic cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic (Philips); Leonard Bernstein’s mid-80s performances of Shostakovich’s Symphonies 6 & 9 with the Vienna Philharmonic (DG); and, for a change of pace, a South Korean pressing of the French movie, Asterix et Obelisk.

The results were so spectacular that it became very difficult to return to simple audio discs. Somehow, the added visual element enhanced the listening experience in a deeply subtle way. [There is also the opposing faction who prefer to look at that the other way around...Ed.]  It was the Mahler Fourth Symphony which got me first, the richly upholstered deep bass of the Berlin Philharmonic reproduced with the kind of depth and velvety texture that goes beyond even the live concert experience and takes you into the most profound and ecstatic reaches of the composer’s soul. The cycle is a controversial one in an interpretive sense, lacking the stark emotional intensity and contrast that many conductors and listeners think reflects the composer’s true intentions. But Haitink, who comes from the tradition of the great Dutch conductors that began with Willem Mengelberg (who worked closely with Mahler in the first decade of the 20th century) has undeniable authority in this music. The experience is a visceral one, decadent to some and vastly profound to others, and the PA-6F system is immensely impressive, with a transparency that removes any barriers between the music and the listener. The two Shostakovich symphonies with Bernstein have similar qualities, although the emotional intensity is much more jagged. The Stravinsky ballet, one of Marriner’s signature pieces in his early analog days with Argo, is quite brilliant, dynamically rich and timbrally clear and detailed. Again the Premier Acoustic system performed with audiophile glee.

The Rameau opera is quite a different treat, with nude men and women, as well as animals of all sorts, scampering across a multilevel stage, using all sorts of multimedia magic. The sound is brilliant and a tremendous challenge to speakers because of the composer’s demanding use of a wide range of voices, and the unusual but distinctive sounds of the original instruments. Everything comes across with stunning impact. The same is true of the French blockbuster Asterix et Obelix, never released in the U.S. because the essence of the comic books on which the movie is based is a never-ending series of puns which it would be impossible to translate (and sub-titles don’t help much, either). Still, with the PA-6F holding forth, if French humor on a Rabelaisian scale is your thing, you will appreciate what the system is contributing.

I expected that, after the DVDs, the SACDs would seem more subdued. Instead, they had a musical coherence and integrity, dynamic range and tonal bloom of such beauty that I was quite amazed. I had selected a motley crew: Bernstein’s New World Symphony with the New York Philharmonic on Sony, a delightful program of Respighi (two works for mezzo and orchestra, and the dance music for La Pentola Magico) on CPO, Hesperión XXI’s newest recital (music from the Occident and the Orient, 1200–1700) for Harmonia Mundi, and Julia Fischer’s set of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Pentatone.

I listened to these over and over. The Dvorak confirmed its standing as perhaps the greatest single recording ever made of the popular symphony, with Bernstein’s love and enthusiasm bubbling over in every bar. The Respighi had tremendous delicacy and a magical feel for the singer, Damiani Pinti. On the Hesperión XXI concert, the thrill of each individual exotic instrument struck home to the heart and soul, and the singing had an eerie presence. On the Bach, you could hear each nuance, each movement of the bow on the string, in a miraculous performance by the young German virtuoso.  On the multichannel SACDs the soundfield in which I was immersed was more seamless in all 360 degrees than some HT surround setups I have heard in stores.   

 
Wrap Up

Premier likes to compare their PA-6F to Polk Audio, who by using the same tweeter is able to boast of a similar frequency response, and Klipsch, who use the gold polygraphite woofer. The cabinet design, Premier likes to say, is similar to Boston Acoustic and Energy. But I say, just because it sounds great, and equals its competition, how much does it cost?

The answer is: About half of the price of similar systems from (for the time being), more well-known speaker manufacturers such as Polk and Klipsch. Although Premier Acoustic’s suggested list price for the PA-6F is $1989.00, it can be widely found online from factory authorized dealers for $999.00 delivered (that means that the shipping is free). If you bought a similar system from manufacturers like Boston Acoustic, Polk, Energy and Klipsch, the price would be over $2500.00.  And Premier also offers a full 5-year factory warranty. 

The only complaint I have heard so far is from my Spendors, crying out in pain – and perhaps in vain – from their closet.

 – Laurence Vittes
 




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