Bob Barrett is a versatile writer and knowledgeable hi-fi enthusiast whose work for HomeTheaterReivew.com runs the gamut from mid- to high-end home theater to audiophile components and speakers. He also specializes in high-performance and high-end headphones.
Made in the U.S.A. That's not a statement you will find on many speaker boxes these days. It seems almost every company outside of a few mega-dollar brands have moved production to China but not Power Sound Audio (PSA). PSA began building subwoofers a little over five years ago in Mineral Ridge, Ohio, and selling the products Internet-direct to consumers...and they still do today. Since the company's inception, co-owners Tom Vodhanel and Jim Farina have been steadily perfecting their craft while building a reputation for delivering high value accompanied by exceptional customer service. If you email or call PSA with a question, it will likely be Tom or Jim who answers.
More recently, PSA has been expanding its product line beyond subwoofers to include an assortment of home theater speakers. This review is focused on the most recent addition to the line, the MTM-210T tower loudspeaker ($999.99 each). According to PSA, the primary design goal for the MTM-210T is, like all of PSA's speakers and subwoofers, to "be faithful to the original recording." More specifically, Tom also said that their goals include "high efficiency, extension deep enough to integrate with any quality sub, accuracy both on- and off-axis, and affordability." To see for myself how well PSA did in achieving those goals, I evaluated the MTM-210T in 2.0-, 2.2-, and 5.2-channel configurations.
Since potential customers will likely consider purchasing the MTM-210T tower loudspeakers as part of a full home theater setup, Tom Vodhanel recommended the company also send me an MTM-210C center channel ($799.99), two MT-110 bookshelf speakers ($625 each) for surround service, and two S1500 subwoofers ($999.99 each). This enabled me to experience the new tower speakers as part of a full, dedicated 5.2-channel PSA home theater system. I should mention that, while I requested the bookshelf speakers for surround duty, PSA also makes a dedicated surround speaker (MT-110SR) for wall mounting that's based on the MT-110 bookshelf driver configuration. Tom suggested that performance is nearly identical and opting for the bookshelf speakers thankfully allowed me to avoid drilling holes in my walls. While all of the speakers above can be purchased individually, package discounts are also available through the speaker system builder options on the company's website. The package price for the speaker system I reviewed (excluding subwoofers) is $3,799.
Any reviewer will tell you that one of the most exciting parts of the job is unboxing a new product for evaluation. It reminds me a bit of those Christmas mornings growing up in Upstate New York, but of course without the wrapping paper, the decorated tree, or fresh snow outside. It's that anticipation of opening up something new and first putting your eyes on it that is so much fun. As I opened the sturdy PSA cartons and removed the new tower speakers, several things struck me right away. First, these speakers are big! With dimensions of 50 inches by 11 inches by 16 inches, they are even larger than my reference Aerial Acoustic 7T speakers. Second, tipping the scale at 84 pounds each, these are surprisingly heavy for speakers at their price point. However, with a sensitivity rating of 98 dB and a nominal impedance of eight ohms, the MTM-210Ts should be light on their feet when it comes to reproducing dynamic soundtracks.
Third, the driver complement includes a one-inch titanium compression driver combined with a cast aluminum exponential horn driver for the upper frequencies, flanked both above and below by 10-inch high-efficiency drivers providing the bass. These speakers come with a textured matte-black finish that is definitely unique. The special mix that's applied is a formula that PSA perfected over time to achieve the current aesthetic. I've not seen another consumer speaker with this finish. It reminds me more of a professional audio speaker. An advantage of the finish is that it reflects less light than any other finish I've seen, which should be a big plus for the home theater purists among us that work to achieve a near black environment. The towers have radiused edges and corners, as does the entire speaker line, so there are no sharp edges. Visually the towers are the traditional box shape with parallel sides and a flat top surface. After the last several years of experimenting with various curved cabinet designs, a number of manufacturers are returning to the more traditional shape. The speaker grilles are large enough to cover the speaker complement but leave the textured finish on the front face exposed below the drivers. There is only one set of gold-plated binding posts on the rear of the towers, so there are no options for biwiring or biamping the PSA speakers.
After attaching the footers to the speaker bottoms with a standard Phillips screwdriver, I started with the towers in the same spots where my reference tower speakers are normally positioned. While listening to a familiar test track I like to use, I made minor adjustments to the toe-in and distance from the front wall until I was satisfied that I had optimized the imaging accuracy and soundstage width. I ended up with the speakers angled toward the listening position about 15 to 20 degrees, seven feet apart, and the baffles about 58 inches from the rear wall.
I placed the center channel and bookshelf speakers on heavy stands, and I located the two subs near the front corners of the room where my reference subs normally reside. Since both the PSA and my reference subs are sealed designs, I expected the PSA to perform in much the same manner as far as its interaction with the room, and that turned out to be the case. After making the usual connections to my reference electronics using a loom of Wireworld Silver Eclipse 7 cabling, I manually adjusted the settings of both subs according to PSA's included instructions. Since these subs don't have dedicated room correction calibration software included, I utilized the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction software on my Marantz AV8801 preamp/processor to calibrate the subs and other five channels for my room.
For 2.2-channel listening, I went into the bass management settings on my Classé CP-800 preamplifier to redirect low frequencies below 80 Hz on the MTM-210Ts to the subs. The Classé's remote conveniently allows me to rapidly switch back and forth between 2.0- and 2.2-channel configurations so that I can do a fair sonic comparison. After playing music through the system for over a week to break in the speakers, I was ready to start some critical listening.
To begin my evaluation, I started with some familiar two-channel female vocals. In streaming the hi-res version (HDTracks, 24/96) of Sara Bareilles singing "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" from her live album Brave Enough: Live at the Variety Playhouse (Sony Legacy), I was impressed with the MTM-210T's ability to resolve fine details in the recording. This intimately played track with just Sara singing and playing the piano was a joy to listen to through the PSA tower speakers. The piano is one of the most difficult instruments for a loudspeaker to reproduce in a lifelike manner, and the MTM-210Ts did not disappoint in that regard. Transients were portrayed in a lifelike manner, from the first strike of the keys to the resonating decay of notes from the piano. In the quiet beginning of the song, the piano was locked into a narrow band of the soundstage at the center position. The speakers accurately portrayed the vulnerability in Sara's pitch-perfect voice as she softly sang the first few lines of the song. At the 1:50 minute mark, Sara changes the key she's playing to a bass-heavy sound while increasing the volume of her singing, causing the vocal and instrument soundscape to expand to the width of the speakers. At the same time, crowd noise expanded to wrap from side to side of my listening position. The MTM-210T's ability to create a natural, wide soundscape brought me closer to that feeling of sitting in the middle of the audience witnessing the concert in person. All of the dynamics of the performance came through in a more lifelike manner than expected from a speaker at this price point. For this particular track, switching between 2.0 and 2.2 channels yielded no difference in the sonic presentation. But then again, that makes sense because there shouldn't be any musical information below the 40- to 50-Hz limit of these speakers with just a vocal and a piano playing.
Another tune of note was jazz vocalist Gregory Porter's song "Hey Laura" (HDTracks, 24/96) from his Liquid Spirit album (Blue Note). Gregory's vocal styling seems to have been influenced by Cole in no small way. His rich, warm tone and vocal control were beautifully reproduced by the MTM-210Ts, and the speakers did a brilliant job of re-creating the acoustics of the intimate recording space. Instruments were placed across the soundscape with pinpoint accuracy, and significant air was present between each instrument in this laidback, soulful performance. Switching from 2.0 to 2.2 channels with this track resulted in a very subtle difference in sound, with a touch more bass foundation creating a slightly better overall balance to the recording. This difference wouldn't have even been noticed if it weren't for the ability to quickly switch back and forth using the Classé preamplifier. I noticed differences on a few other recordings as well, where the sound seemed a bit fuller in 2.2-channel mode. These recordings were bass-heavy tracks of either classical organ or hip-hop music.
In addition to listening to a variety of two-channel music, I also listened to several Blu-ray discs of music concerts to see evaluate the musicality of the MTM-210Ts when integrated into the full PSA 5.2-channel surround sound configuration. I decided to listen to the classic "You Know I'm No Good" in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray disc I Told You I Was Trouble: Amy Winehouse Live in London (UM3). I was completely drawn into the recording. The drum sounds were taut, the horns had such a realistic sound, and with the crowd noise all around my listening chair, I was completely drawn in. Amy's scats and runs reminded me of a talent lost too soon. The PSA speakers brought me close enough to the ambience of a live event that I got lost in the moment and just enjoyed the show.
But how good of a job has PSA done at designing their new tower speakers to sonically integrate into a full home theater setup when faced with the challenges of a very dynamic action movie soundtrack? To find out, I first turned to the Blu-ray disc (and Dolby TrueHD soundtrack) of the movie Allegiant (Lionsgate Films), the penultimate installment in the Divergent Series. In chapter 3, as Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Tori (Maggie Q), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and Peter (Miles Teller) scale the city wall, Evelyn's soldiers are seen in the distance racing toward the rebels to prevent them from leaving. Since the cable fence at the top of the wall is electrified, Tris repels back down the wall and runs to the generator powering the fence to set an explosive as gunfire begins flying in all directions. And predictably, she detonates the explosive just as the first of the soldiers' vehicles comes within range. The explosion is quite a dynamic sequence of sounds, and the MTM-210Ts in partnership with the twin S1500 subs did not disappoint in easily reproducing all of the bass dynamics involved in that complicated 3D image. As the action continues, there is intense gunfire exchanged between the rebels and the soldiers, with bullets moving from ground level to the top of the fence and back to the ground toward the soldiers. The PSA speakers conveyed this action in such a realistic manner that I could almost feel the air moving as the bullets whizzed by my head from all directions.
In chapter 18 (The Falcon Flies Again) of the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rey, Finn, and the droid BB8 are running from the marketplace to escape the storm troopers trying to capture them. As they run toward a quad jumper to escape, the ship is blown up by tie fighters overhead. In desperation, Rey and Finn run to the Millennium Falcon, with Rey piloting the ship and Finn taking the gunner position. The PSA MTM-210Ts together with the rest of the home theater setup drew me more into the action with their ability to create a sense of sonic realism. The speakers did so without even breaking a sweat, highlighting the efficiency and speed of their drivers, as well as their ability to integrate so well with the rest of the speakers. Both voices and music were reproduced in a palpable manner.
Sometimes a strength is also a weakness, depending on your point of view. While the PSA MTM-210T is a fast, highly resolving loudspeaker that integrates very well with a quality sub for its price point, it does lack a touch of bottom end when used on its own with bass-heavy music. However, adding a sub to the mix changes everything, showing just how easily the MTM-210T plays its part in effortlessly delivering a balanced, full-spectrum audio presentation.
The speaker is physically quite large and may not work as well in smaller rooms.
Finally, the speaker is only available in the one finish option, which may or may not appeal aesthetically to potential buyers.
Comparison & Competition
Competition at the $2,000/pair price point is certainly fierce. The SVS Ultra Tower speakers immediately come to mind, being that SVS is another Internet-direct company located just down the road from PSA in Ohio. The speaker comes with a one-inch dome tweeter, dual 6.5-inch midrange drivers, and dual side-firing eight-inch bass drivers. Another competitor is the Revel Concerta2 F36 floorstander ($2,000 pair), a 2.5-way speaker with three 6.5-inch woofers, a one-inch aluminum tweeter, and a lens waveguide. Both of these competitors are offered in a couple of high-gloss finish options. While I haven't had the opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison with either of these speakers, I have had the chance to hear both speakers on multiple occasions and had favorable impressions of both.
Power Sound Audio's MTM-210T speakers deliver an awful lot of music and movie sound enjoyment for the money. The guys at Power Sound Audio have knocked it out of the park on the value side of the equation. And the way the MTM-210T speakers seamlessly integrate with subwoofers is fundamental in their ability to bring you even closer to the recording. Very good on their own, the MTM-210Ts are even better when paired with a quality PSA subwoofer or two. No-nonsense home theater enthusiasts seeking a reference-quality image will appreciate the ability of the textured finish on these speakers to absorb more light than just about any other speaker on the market. Customer focused, PSA gives you a full 60 days to audition its U.S.-made loudspeakers in your home. But I'll bet once you try these speakers in your home, you won't be thinking about returning them. Instead, the only question you'll be asking yourself is, "Why can't other companies make affordable speakers this good in the U.S.?" By now you know, the PSA MTM-210T is enthusiastically recommended.
• Check out our Floorstanding Speakers category page to read similar reviews.
• Power Sound Audio S3600i Subwoofer Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Visit the Power Sound Audio website for more product information.