Chances are that anyone reading this review is passionate about music and sound quality, and that most will agree that the audio component that plays the biggest role in determining the sound of recorded music reproduced at home is the loudspeaker. In recent years, many have argued that the second-biggest role is played by the room itself. Having reviewed speakers and electronic components for almost a decade now, I wholeheartedly agree with both assertions -- I’ve experienced their truth first-hand in my listening for reviews of speaker after speaker, and heard how each speaker has interacted with and performed differently in my well-damped listening room. Most of these speakers have been well engineered and built of high-quality materials, with cutting-edge drivers and electrical components installed in dense cabinets designed to optimize driver performance and minimize resonances.
The Professional Monitor Company (PMC)’s all-new Fact Fenestria costs $65,000/pair USD, and is the cost-no-object culmination of the best technological advances PMC has made since the company’s inception, in 1991. Oliver Thomas, son of PMC founder Peter Thomas, told me that this new flagship was almost five years in the making. Along with Toby Ridley, PMC’s research and development engineer, and Elliott Whyte, one of their top electronic design engineers, Thomas was one of three men responsible for the Fenestria’s design and development.
From the moment I first laid eyes on the Fact Fenestrias, I knew they were something special. For starters, each speaker comprises no fewer than eight major components: two bass enclosures, one midrange/tweeter enclosure, a large plinth, and four damping side panels that PMC calls planar wings (available in White Silk, Rich Walnut, Graphite, and Tiger Ebony finishes). Each speaker is shipped in five boxes, and fully assembled stands 66.9”H x 14.6”W x 24.5”D and weighs 176 pounds.
David Frost, PMC’s business and development manager, flew out to assist in assembly and setup, but even had I not been so fortunate, PMC’s website provides an easy-to-follow instructional video that outlines each step in unpacking and assembling a pair of Fenestrias. That done, the Fenestria is an intriguing speaker to look at -- no currently available speaker is like it. Its entire design philosophy revolves around decoupling each subenclosure from the others, to minimize the transmission of resonances, as well as decoupling each Fenestria from its environment to minimize residual room resonances. All of this is accomplished three ways:
1) Cabinet decoupling: In most speaker cabinets, much of the low-frequency vibration produced by one or more woofers is typically transmitted to the cabinet, and thence often to the drivers responsible for communicating the more delicate midrange and high frequencies, thus interfering with those drivers’ ability to accurately reproduce the soundwaves within their bandwidths. To isolate the midrange and tweeter from these lower-frequency vibrations, Thomas, Ridley, and Whyte decoupled the bass cabinets from each other, and housed the midrange and tweeter in their own subenclosure, the Nest (more on this later).
2) Each subenclosure is isolated from the others with anti-vibration (AV) mounts that were developed using various measurement and analysis techniques, then tuned to damp specific frequencies.
3) Vibrations that typically radiate from the side panels of traditional speaker cabinets tend to obscure the stereo image. This artifact is caused by the ears detecting sound from multiple uncontrolled sources with apparent simultaneity. The four planar wings of each Fenestria use mass damping to reduce vibrations emitted by the side panels proper by vibrating in opposition to the rest of the speaker. PMC claims that the wings are effective “into the lower midrange frequencies,” and reduce the interaction between the speaker and its environment.
Through discussions with Frost as I helped him assemble the speakers, and with Oliver Thomas afterward, I was able to learn much about how each subenclosure is constructed. Each speaker’s two bass subenclosures form that speaker’s top and bottom components, stacked mirror-fashion with the midrange-and-tweeter subenclosure between them. The bass boxes are made of CNC’d panels of high-density fiberboard (HDF) that vary in thickness from 18 to 30mm, and bonded together with a heavy-duty adhesive to form the woofers’ internal Advanced Transmission Lines (ATL) and external enclosures. While no groundbreaking changes have been made to PMC’s ATL technology, long used in their speakers, Frost and Oliver Thomas told me that its geometry has been tweaked, and that the inner sound-absorbing materials are new. Each ATL in the Fenestria is nearly 8’ long, and vents through the front of the speaker, at top and bottom, via a new, “aerodynamically optimized” Laminair port. These ports, loosely modeled on the principles used to design Formula 1 and Le Mans class racecar diffusers, have been shaped and sized to eliminate turbulence and chuffing in the air vented by the ATL.
Each bass cabinet is finished in matte black to complement a 15mm-thick, secondary front baffle machined from a single piece of acrylic composite. This secondary baffle is “floated” over the primary baffle with an array of magnets, and isolated from the cabinet with a foam gasket. Between the primary and secondary baffles of each bass subenclosure are sandwiched two 6.5” woofers, each rigidly bolted to the main cabinet. These four woofers per speaker -- PMC calls them piston drivers -- are unique to the Fenestria, and were several years in development. Each cone is a diaphragm comprising two skins of triple transverse-weave carbon fiber sandwiching a core of multicellular Rohacell foam. The mass of these skins has been reduced using a special manufacturing technique that limits the diaphragms’ absorption of adhesive and lacquer, and the cones are driven by a motor assembly that includes two beefy ferrite magnets each 5.5” in diameter, 3.15” thick, and weighing 5.5 pounds.
Between the two bass subenclosures is what PMC calls the Nest: a single piece machined from a billet of aluminum, and shaped to reduce baffle diffraction while isolating the midrange driver and tweeter from any structure-borne vibrations emanating from the bass boxes. When I first looked, the Nest appeared simple and elegant; a closer look revealed that its complex mounting structure, milled from HDF, both fastens and decouples the Nest to and from the rest of the Fenestria with a series of specially designed AV mounts, and connects all six drivers of each speaker through a set of robust terminals.
At first glance the Fenestria’s midrange driver may look familiar, but it’s actually all new. For starters, its 3” (75mm) diaphragm is made of cotton, not the silk found in other PMC midranges, and is doped with a new mix of chemicals. The result is a material claimed to be inherently well damped, lightweight, and structurally rigid enough to retain its shape, with no hint of resonance or deformation, well beyond its bandpass of 380-3800Hz. Any rear-fired energy is directed through its pole piece into a tuned, acoustically inert chamber, milled from aluminum.
Directly above the midrange driver is the new Sonomex tweeter, mounted in the Nest with a stainless-steel retainer ring, but decoupled from ring and Nest by an Aureole: PMC’s 1.4” (36mm), silicone-damped suspension mount. The tweeter’s diaphragm is made of the same material as the midrange’s, but is only 0.75” (19.5mm) in diameter. Cooled with ferrofluid, its motor is based on neodymium magnets. During my first listen to the Fenestrias, I was astounded and intrigued by how well the outputs of all six drivers combined to create the impression of a point source of sound -- especially considering the Fenestria’s imposing size. This is a testament not only to the high qualities of design, implementation, and build of the drivers and their impressive enclosures, but also of the crossover and tuning.
When I first laid eyes on the Fenestria’s crossover, I was a bit gobsmacked. Its sheer size is impressive -- it fills the interior of the speaker’s plinth. When I asked Thomas about its design, he began by stating that it’s the most advanced, highest-quality crossover PMC has ever developed. It’s also the most complicated, using fourth-order slopes throughout, while offering the user control of tilt filters for the high and low frequencies. The crossover’s parts quality is top notch: specialized dual, opposed wire-wound resistors and capacitors; new film and dielectric construction; 2mm-thick glass-fiber boards; heavyweight, gold-plated circuit traces; and oxygen-free copper throughout. Special attention was also paid to component topology, spacing between sensitive components, and of course, isolating parts from vibrations inside the plinth, which is CNC’d from a single piece of HDF. On the rear of the plinth are custom-designed, low-resistance, hex-shaped Rhodium five-way binding posts, and knobs for adjusting the high and low frequencies within a range of ±3dB. The Fenestria’s four woofers hand off to its midrange driver at 380Hz, and the midrange to the tweeter at 3.8kHz.
PMC warrants the Fact Fenestria for 20 years.
When the Fact Fenestrias arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of how difficult they might be to set up, considering their size and the limited space in my 22’L x 12’W x 8’H room -- after all, they might prove to be simply too much speaker for my space. But it took David Frost and me only a little more than an hour to assemble and position them. We found that they sounded best when placed a couple of inches and degrees from where my reference Paradigm Persona 7F floorstanders normally sit. In fact, the Fenestrias took less time to dial in than most speakers I’ve reviewed. This was partly due to their adjustability.
Driving the Fenestrias was my usual band of reference components: an Intel NUC computer running Windows 10 and Roon, a PS Audio DirectStream DAC (with Bridge II network soundcard), an Audio Research Reference 6 preamplifier, and a pair of Simaudio Moon Evolution W-7M monoblock amplifiers. Kimber Kable Select 6063 speaker cables linked the Fenestrias to the W-7Ms, while KS 1116 interconnects made all remaining analog connections, and Clarus Crimson provided all digital links and power cords. All electronics were plugged into a Torus AVR 20 power conditioner.
Within minutes of David Frost and I agreeing on the final resting places and crossover settings of each Fact Fenestria, the focus and purity of their midrange reminded me of PMC’s larger-than-life-sounding IB2 minimonitor, which I’d reviewed six years before. I recalled how impressed I’d been by the IB2s’ holistic yet pinpoint imaging, which contributed to their wonderfully realistic sound. Each of those characteristics was immediately audible through the Fenestrias, but unlike with the IB2s, they didn’t define the Fenestria’s sound -- they were only the tip of the iceberg. As you may have gathered from the technical description above, the Fenestria is all about purity: purity of signal, purity of sound, and purity of the music they reproduce. It’s the last that’s trickiest to accomplish, and while most speaker makers have approached the challenge by investing heavily in outstanding drivers, exotic crossovers, and lavishly executed cabinets that look beautiful, and measure beautifully in an anechoic chamber, it’s been my experience that few of these models’ sounds actually match their impressive specs.
The Fenestria did not sound like one of those speakers. Yes, it has six very high-tech, expensive drivers, and yes, it relies on an exotic crossover network to feed those drivers and a bespoke cabinet to house them. More important is how each of these components has been designed to work with and complement the others, to help the speaker adapt to its environment by interacting with it as little as possible. That’s what makes this speaker special.
Take, for example, “Orinoco Flow,” from Enya’s Watermark (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Warner Bros.). The initial percussion instruments displayed focus, and were presented deep on the soundstage. Enya’s voice enters soon after, but through the Fenestrias it was projected so far out into the room that it sounded as if it were coming from all around me, opposed to somewhere between me and the speakers. The scale of the soundstage was huge and consequently immersive, but most alluring was how each voice and instrument on the stage, particularly the background chorus (Enya again, overdubbing herself), was projected well outside the speakers’ walls, as well as precisely imaged. The electronic bass was solidly dead center, but with a depth and heft I hadn’t before heard in my listening room. Supplementing the apparently vast space, the PMCs were effortlessly yet consistently communicating the layering, specificity, and size of the instruments -- all of it sucked me into the music and made this track truly alluring.
I heard much of the same when listening to Willie Nelson and Sinéad O’Connor’s duet on Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up,” from Nelson’s Across the Borderline (16/44.1 FLAC, Columbia). Nelson’s voice and the acoustic guitar were projected dead center and about a foot in front of the speakers. The body, focus, and immediacy of his voice contributed to a sense of tangibility further complemented by the silkiness of O’Connor’s voice. As the drums kick in, each pounding on skin was articulated with convincing slam and enough spatial specificity to indicate that the drums were positioned about 5’ behind the voices. Tapped cymbals were delicate, yet replete with enough microdetail and definition that I could hear each tap and shimmer independently. And while Don Was’s electric bass is by no means the center of attention in this track, it was resolute enough to imply that its strings were being plucked from the forefront of all else on stage.
Listening to Diana Krall’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” from her wonderfully recorded Live in Paris (24/96 FLAC, Verve), I was immediately prompted to dim the lights, close my eyes, and forget that it was a pair of massive speakers in my room singing and not Krall herself. Etched in space precisely between the Fenestrias, Krall sounded live and robust, yet refined and articulate. Microlevel details were again on full display: I could hear the breath supporting Krall’s vocalizing, identify each time her foot pressed a piano pedal, and appreciate the subtle decay of each richly drawn piano note as it floated into silence.
Kicking things up a notch, I cued up “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1” and “Pt. 2,” and between them “The Happiest Days of Our Lives,” all from Pink Floyd’s The Wall (16/44.1 FLAC, Capitol). I feared that the Fenestrias’ size and total of eight woofers might overload my room with boomy, uneven bass. Instead, they showed me what they’re capable of. In the opening seconds of “Pt. 1,” Roger Waters’s plucked electric-guitar notes emanated from outside each speaker, but remained perfectly in tandem and in focus. As Waters begins to sing, his voice expectedly pushed toward the sides of the soundstage, among his and David Gilmour’s electric guitars, each nuance beautifully layered on the stage yet distinct and separate from the others, to leave nothing at the center of the stage but the holographic sounds of children playing. As “Pt. 1” fades and “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” takes over, the Fenestrias re-created, starting from what seemed like 5’ behind the speakers, the sound of the helicopter approaching from afar better than any other pair of speakers I’ve heard in my listening room. It was almost as if I were listening to this track through my multichannel system, where the intensity of sound coming through the surround channels increases, to imply that the helicopter is about to fly overhead. Then the kick drum and cymbals slammed home at center stage, pressurizing my room beautifully, and showing me just how convincingly eight woofers can work together to produce precisely controlled bass down to and below the bottom of this speaker’s specified frequency range of 23Hz-25kHz.
Because the sound was so exactly defined yet so organic, my thirst for volume grew confident. I turned the volume way up. The synergy of the kick drum and bass absolutely thumped, punching their way into my room and my chest with a captivating sense of solidity, impact, and transient control. Throughout “Pt. 2” I was enthralled by these speakers’ composure; their sound was never anything less than clean and immersive, with precisely drawn instruments and a sense of effortlessness that implied that I’d barely scratched the surface of what they could do. Even more impressive was how tonally accurate the Fenestria was under pressure. Not once did I hear any hint of strain, compression, or cooling off in tonality -- quite the contrary. The Fenestrias’ sound remained warm, fulsome, and composed, no matter how hard I pushed them -- kind of like burying the needle of a high-end luxury car, then realizing you still have two more gears to go.
There are few 5.5’-tall, six-driver, multi-cabinet speakers costing around $65,000/pair -- I lacked a direct competitor with which to perform an apples-with-apples comparison with the PMC Fact Fenestrias. I did have my Paradigm Persona 7Fs, which, while not the Fenestrias’ equal, are full-range speakers that perform well beyond what one might expect for their price of $25,000/pair.
For instance, despite having two fewer woofers per speaker, the Paradigms dug a bit deeper in the bass than did the PMCs. They also sounded ever so slightly more articulate. I heard this while listening to the bass line of “Thanks to You,” from Boz Scaggs’s Dig (16/44.1 FLAC, Virgin) -- I could hear the Fenestrias rolling off right around their specified limit of 23Hz, whereas the Paradigms sounded happy to dig down past 20Hz, to communicate the full depth of the bass line. On the other hand, the Fenestrias produced more bass volume in my room, punched harder, and, despite having twice as many drivers and nearly twice the internal volume, sounded more isolated from their surroundings. I also noticed that the Persona 7Fs were considerably easier to drive than the Fenestrias, an observation supported by their specified 92dB/W/m sensitivity vs. the Fenestria’s 86dB.
But when I redirected my focus above the lower octaves, the Fenestria proved, again and again, to be the more enjoyable speaker to listen to. In “Don’t Give Up,” Nelson’s and O’Connor’s voices were more naturally communicated through the PMCs, offering superior focus, body, and tangibility. Instruments and voices were also more precisely layered in space, with a sense of more space between them, and the warmth of the midrange didn’t diminish as listening levels approached 100dB -- as they sometimes did with the Persona 7Fs.
Conversely, I consistently heard a wisp more microdetail from the Personas. The decays of Nelson’s plucks of his guitar strings sounded a hint more sustained, I could hear the saliva in Krall’s mouth when she moved closer to the mike, and the Persona 7Fs let me more easily discern the shimmer of the tambourine in Enya’s “Orinoco Flow.” Yet despite the Paradigms’ ostensible faint advantage in outright detail and bottom-end extension, the fluid, organic ease of the Fenestrias’ midrange, top-to-bottom coherence, and phenomenal imaging abilities proved more appealing and involving every time.
PMC’s Fact Fenestria is one of the most gratifying and sonically involving speakers I have reviewed. It’s a complicated design, but PMC’s seamless integration of quality components and innovative technologies has enabled the Fenestria to “disappear” from the room -- and the music -- by functioning better in the room than any other speaker I’ve reviewed. Obviously, PMC is on to something -- I hope to see some of the technical savvy incorporated into the Fact Fenestria trickled down to other, less costly PMC models, because it really, really works. My highest recommendation.
. . . Aron Garrecht
- Speakers -- Paradigm Persona 7F
- Subwoofers -- JL Audio Fathom f112 (2)
- Amplifiers -- Simaudio Moon Evolution W-7M (monoblocks)
- Preamplifiers -- Anthem AVM 60, Audio Research Reference 6
- Digital-to-analog converters -- EMM Labs DV2, PS Audio DirectStream
- Sources -- Oppo Digital BDP-103 universal BD player; Intel NUC computer running Windows 10, Roon
- Interconnects -- Analysis Plus (USB), Clarus Crimson (S/PDIF), Kimber Kable Select KS 1116 (balanced)
- Speaker cables -- Kimber Kable Select KS 6063
- Power cords -- Clarus Crimson
- Power conditioner -- Torus AVR 20
PMC Fact Fenestria Loudspeakers
Price: $65,000 USD per pair.
Warranty: 20 years parts and labor.
43-45 Crawley Green Road
Luton, Bedfordshire LU2 0AA
Phone: +44 (0)870-4441044
Fax: +44 (0)870-4441045