Definitive Technology PowerMonitor 700 Speaker System
There are some things you just don't expect to find together—say, peanut butter and foie gras or Anne Rice's vampire Lestat in a Garlique commercial. Other combinations may be more desirable and more elusive: a multiterm politician with integrity, for example, or computer products that not only work as advertised but do so consistently (wow, what a concept!). Rarer still is that mythical, mystical creation, immortalized in song and story and lusted after by speaker designers since the invention of the voice coil: the bookshelf speaker with bass.
I know. The mere thought gets you all warm and goose-bumpy, doesn't it? Subwoofer/satellite systems have come close to producing such speaker nirvana—especially when you can hide the sub away and vehemently deny its existence until your buddies threaten to tear the place apart unless you come clean about the source of the bass. However, while three-piece speaker systems can be great, they're not always the answer. Sometimes, you just can't include a subwoofer in your system (i.e., domestic harmony or space constraints simply won't allow it). Those who have ever lived with bookshelf speakers sans subwoofer know the pain and suffering that's involved. First, there's the cravings, the unfulfilled feelings, and the depression. (Unfortunately, there's no BassoDerm patch to get you through this stage.) Then, there's the embarrassing period when you just turn your receiver's bass control all the way up. (At this point, you don't care that your coworkers are beginning to talk behind your back.) Finally, you reach the stage where you deny there is any such thing as bass response. You convince yourself that it's all an illusion that the elite have created to keep the masses enslaved.
Well, my friends, if you've known the heartache of basslessness, if you've ever been debassed, or if you're currently bassmentally challenged, your days of suffering are over. Thanks to Definitive Technology's PowerMonitor 700, you can now walk with your head held high and your tone controls set to neutral. Here, ladies and gentlemen, available for the first time to ordinary human beings, is a bookshelf speaker with balls—er, I mean bass.
Lest you think that Def Tech is just being loose with the definition of a bookshelf speaker, like calling War and Peace a thin novel, let me assure you that's not the case. Sure, there are smaller bookshelf speakers out there. The PM700 comes in at a modest 16.75 inches tall. While that's taller than a vinyl LP, it's still within reason for a bookshelf speaker; and, at only 6.8 inches wide, it won't take up a lot of real estate on a shelf, either. More problematic is the 14.125-inch depth, which is still 14.125 inches no matter how you look at it. If you're planning to place the speaker in an entertainment cabinet designed to hold 17-inch-deep equipment, though, the depth shouldn't be a problem. So the PM700s are big enough to be respectable, but not so big that they're repugnant.
Like the majority of Def Tech's speakers, the PM700 is elegantly finished with glossy black end caps on its top and bottom. Although it looks similar to Def Tech's bipolar offerings, the PM700 is a forward-radiating speaker. Since it isn't a bipole, this speaker works on a shelf, in a cabinet, on a stand, or even as a center channel (it's video-shielded, so you can place it as close as you want to your TV). A black sock on the front and sides covers the PM700's naughty bits, while a peek at the back reveals a port slot, the AC power cord, a red LED, an LFE input, hefty gold-plated five-way binding posts, and a volume control for the woofer.
Several of the items in that last paragraph should have caught your attention: a bookshelf speaker with an AC power cord, an LFE input, and a volume control for the woofer? That's right. In addition to a 1-inch aluminum-dome tweeter and a 5.25-inch cast-basket upper-bass/midrange driver, Def Tech has surreptitiously slipped an 8-inch subwoofer and 250-watt amplifier beneath that soft sock. In other words, what you expect to be a standard, run-of-the-mill two-way bookshelf speaker is actually a dynamic three-way powerhouse that's liable to get you kicked out of your apartment or cited by your local homeowner's association for disturbing the peace.
You're just not supposed to be able to get this much bass out of a speaker this size. I was impressed by the PM700 prototype that I heard at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but listening to the real thing in my own room with familiar demo material was really electrifying. After being amazed by the way the PM700s convincingly breezed through Jennifer Warnes' "Way Down Deep" (The Hunter), I dug out other discs with demanding bass passages, like Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" (So), Loreena McKennit's "All Souls Night" (The Visit), and—I couldn't resist—the Red Elvises' "Rocketman" (I Wanna See You Bellydance). I know it sounds cliché, and I hate to say it—but damn, these speakers rock!
The PM700s handled the pressure so well, I moved on to Jim Keltner's "Drum Improvisation" from Sheffield Lab's Drum & Track Disc for a final test of the PM700s' courage under fire. I hate being repetitive, so I'll say this: Damn, these speakers roll! The drums pounded, and the PowerMonitors came charging through, ready to tackle the next task.
Obviously, I found the PM700s to be quite a phenomenal pair of bookshelf speakers, but that's not to say you won't benefit from a good subwoofer if you have the room for one. The PF15TL+ that Def Tech sent along blended perfectly with the PM700s whenever I added the sub during music listening. It turned what was an impressively fulfilling experience into a near-ecstatic one. That's doubly true for the Keltner drum piece, which went from being an enjoyable piece of bass artistry to being an all-out frontal attack on the senses.
Exceptional bass response isn't all these speakers have going for them, either. If it were, it'd be like putting a Ferrari engine into a Yugo—all muscle and no finesse. Happily, the detail and precision of the PM700s' mids and highs offer an elegant counterpoint to the majestic low-end power. Classical music and jazz are just as impressive through these speakers as rock and rap.