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The ATH-CK10 of Speakers

A Review On: Fostex Pm0.3 G Pare

Fostex Pm0.3 G Pare

Rated # 97 in Computer Speakers
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Pros: Small form factor, accurate, flat, natural sounding, wide and realistic soundstage and positioning, loudness

Cons: Average built quality, underwhelming amps, availability, limited potentials, no height nor depth in soundstage

     I stumbled upon these in the need of a studio monitor, when listening to the HD600 everyday for a few hours have made my head hurting and ears ringing quite often. But I live in a small college apartment with colleagues next to poor isolating rooms, so my choices were limited. The Japanese engineered Fostex company has again lived up to their name, with the Fostex PM0.3 (not just their headphones are good, ya know!). Incorporating a small and personal form factor, but not losing neutrality and sound quality (soundstage, lows-mids-highs, accuracy and details, etc) at the same time in spite of a 3-inch driver.


     The small form factor means more room for your desk or portability for travel. Though the built quality and materials are not top notch (fake wood, plastic, PCB, rubber, nothing metallic or fancy) they are backed by a 1 year warranty (authorized retailers only). The overall construction is above average nonetheless (you get what you paid for). The built-in amps power them to sonically reproduce adequately even without a solid-state/tube preamp; they sound great and impressive right out of the box and just plugged into your computer's onboard soundcard. The sonic performance of these speakers are similar to that of some even larger and more expensive monitors (compared to the ones I've heard, a few Audioengine, Mackie, Swan, and the Edifier R1900T series, etc.); it is just unbelievable of how these sound for the size they are. While the soundstage is not the best in the industry, they do feel particularly realistic and wide enough. Instrument imaging and staging is very, very good. Sound signature is extremely similar to the audio-technica ATH-CK10 IEMs, and I am very confident in saying that after hearing between the two for 4 months, there is about a 90% similarity; the neutrality, details, imaging, and forgiving of low bit-rate files and poor sources; (2014/01/01 update edit). They are great all-rounders and perfect for any genre. The best point of all however boils down to this: you can listen to them at quieter levels, yet still hear all the details and accurate reproduction of your audio files.


    Moving away from the good things, these monitors do have a few bottlenecks however: the small build leads to more money for a higher and dampening stand and walls, for the tweeter to be at the same level of your ears; the volume knob is on the back, which could be hard to reach or adjust for those who need to do so often without multimedia controls or a preamp with volume knob/control ready at hand. Personally, I think the most unfortunate drawback is while the unit has a MSRP of around 8000 yen (roughly 100 USD), it is hard to find one in North America under even 150 dollars (for around 200 USD you can get the PM0.4 (one inch bigger) which in my opinion from audition is it's only slightly better in overall SQ). For information on PM0.3 and amping, please refer to Headzone and amprepairs' comments of this review, thanks.


    All in all, I recommend the Fostex PM0.3 as one of many solutions to any amateur or even professional audio enthusiasts/composers/producers who are looking for a very intimate yet revealing set of small active speakers. Please remember this: if size is not an obstacle to you, then definitely pick something else, but if you need something small and powerful, this is definitely the #1 choice. There are not a lot of small sized speakers out there that are active and as neutral as these; they even have great value if you can find a good deal/price (around $150 brand new or lower)!


I wish they made a bi-amped active version of this monitor with a little bit more power.. Like Genelec 6010 but cheaper.
Thanks for your feedback Headzone. I wish these were bi-amped as well, though I'm not sure if it would make the sound any better, it's surely nice to have more power, in the non-passive set. Even Audioengine A2's are bi-amped, and they are smaller than the PM0.3. However I am not a fan of Audioengine's sound signature; too coloured and not neutral.
I have recently bought 2 pairs of Pm0.3d,I'm using the two left hand speakers in a passive setup
with an external amplifier on an installation job.
I'm using the two active right speakers as my studio monitoring setup,so each speaker has the amp module in it,leaving the lefthand channels unused,
What I intend to do is bi wire and bi amp the tweeter from the unused left channel output in each speaker,thus doubling output power to the drivers, and giving the benefit of having a seperate psu for left and right channels,as well as doubling the capacity of the power supply.
I have also been experimenting using r/c lithium polymer batteries in place of the switchmode psu,the lipo cells are capable of discharging huge currents of 60 amps or more continously,and although the pm0.3 wouldnt draw anywhere near this current,having all that current on tap certainly reduces distortion on the peaks noticably,the batteries also dont have the rf hash that is inherent in a switchmode giving slightly cleaner performance on the treble end,to my ears.
The goal is to make a truly portable monitoring system,with a bit more headroom than the standard Pm0.3,all you need to do is cut a trace or two on the crossover board and wire in
the left channel on the tweeter,I'll let you know how it goes...
I've bi amped my two right hand pm0.3's,
I split the crossover high and low pass sections,cutting two tracks on the x-over board.
Added an extra pair of wires from the left channel output (just where the left out mini jack connects to the amp module)to the high pass section of the crossover,
On the input side I connected a .0022uf cap from right channel input(now woofer input)
to left input(now tweeter input)this cap reduces the amount of low frequencies sent to the tweeter amp,Anyway I'm very happy with the results,
Thers one mod I'd recomend to all owers of the pm0.3,I noticed chuffing sounds from the ports at medium to higher volumes,I found a lip just inside the port exit which was causing turbulence,a piece of 600 grit sandpaper was rolled up and used to polish the port exit to the same diameter as the tube..
This simple two minute mod yeilded much better control in the bass end and a lot less
huffing and puffing from the port,
I'm now using 2x3 cell 2200mah lipos as a power source,I find the switchmode very tiring on the ears so it has been relegated to battery charging duties!
I'll buy two battery monitor/balance charger modules from hobbyking about $8 each ,they'll charge both batteries in about 2.5 hours using the power adapter,and have a cell voltage display.
So is class d really that good?
the pmo.3 uses 2x tda8932 in bridged mono configuration,
so 2x30w into 8 ohms but harmonic distortion is around 10% at this level,so anything above 10watts per channel is really horribly distorted.
When you clip class d amps it gets very ugly very quickly!
lots of higher order odd harmonics,
nasty and fatiguing on the ear.
The real benefits of class d are,low power consumption and light weight,
relative to conventional class a/ab amps....
I'll be back,as the man said.
I've had a few days with the pm0.3's now,
And just to prove my ears and sences weren't deceiving me,I disconnected the tweeters from the digital amp module,ran an extra few feet of cable out through the port,and connected up the tweeters to a leak delta 30,also 15 watts per channel,
The leak design dates back to late 60's.
I've been listening to Miles Davis,Chet Baker,lots of trumpet,and lots of intermodulation distortion with the digital amp on the tweeter.
,even at low levels,it just sounds bad!
Theres a lot going on in terms of power/thermal management within the digital amps,
any artifacts from this processing are to some degree audible,
The difference the class ab leak amp made,despite being over 40 years old,was night and day....So there's portability out the window!
The 3" Mid Bass is still running off the fostex module for now,I might try the sure 2x50w tda7492 amp that I recently got,
Sooner or later  the fostex (20 cent a pop) amplifier modules will be ripped out,
either to be replaced with binding posts or better amplifier modules,
It looks like a lot more than 12-15 volts is needed to do class a/b properly,
Most of the 12/15 volt car ic's are class b which is useless for hifi,
Seems like the only option is  twin power supply rails,or at least 40v single ended supply
12-15 clean watts class a/b,for the tweeter, will be costly in terms of power and weight.
thanks for giving your feedback on the PM0.3 at my review. Unfortunately, I have no real experiences with customizing/DIY'ing these, and am sorry to hear about your bad test results and disappointing aural experiences. I only use it directly through my Cambridge Audio DacMagic Original via Digital Out without any preamping, with morrow audio RCA cables, and have used them as it is out of the box. I've tried them once each with preamps on my Audinst hud-mx1, Carot One Fabriziolo, and Schiit Asgard 2, but was not impressed with the outcome. These are really just computer monitors, that give a neutral monitor like sound. I will add to my review that these aren't really the ideal choice for anything besides Mid-Fi listening through a computer. They are only good for the sound they have for its sizes.
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