I got a man cave. I play my music loud. I bought big speakers because I need to hear music loud - Marlon Wayans
Being an audiophile, or for those of you who came in late, a music lover can be difficult sometimes. The thing that we, and by we I mean the loose confederation of souls that my passion has forced me to be part of, love the most deserves to be heard in all of its raw, unfettered glory.
Music needs to be heard the way that the artists who wrote and recorded it wanted it to be heard but if you don’t have mountains of spare cash in the budget for the audio equipment, trying to do what the artist wanted you to is next to impossible.
You just have to focus on the fact that you’ll always be hampered by your budget, and be content to enjoy your first love the way that you always have, and probably always will.
At least, that was the way that things used to be. Technology is moving forward at such a rapid pace that what was considered miraculous yesterday, is thought of as commonplace today, and the speakers that would have cost more than a second car a decade ago, are now well within the average budget of anyone with a semi-decent home stereo set-up.
It really is an incredibly exciting time to be stuck in an ongoing love affair with music.
One of the brands that have really started to make a name for itself with financially challenged music fans like yours truly is Micca.
They might be headquartered in Hong Kong, but the speakers that bear their name are built right here in America, so just like the Boss they were born in the USA.
Normally, that kind of thing doesn’t really bother me, but anything that shares a common ancestry with Bruce is alright in my book, so Micca was already starting from a position of power before I’d even hooked the speakers up to my system.
The PB42X is the next step up from Micca’s MB42X range of speakers, and the difference between them is akin to comparing chalk and cheese.
You can do it, but why on Earth would you want to? And the reason for that is the letter at the beginning of model numbers. That P? It makes a world of difference.
The PB42X is a powered speaker system, which means that the speakers contain their own amp, so you don’t have to have one connected to your stereo to run them, you can just hook them straight up and they’re basically ready to go.
And as the bookshelf part of their name implies, they’re not exactly big, so finding space for them shouldn’t be a problem, as they’re designed to fit in anywhere, and everywhere.
Hooking them up to your stereo or laptop, or whatever audio system it is you use to play your music, isn’t difficult as you can just plug it straight into the back of the right speaker (that then connects to the left), and you’re ready to go.
The fact that Micca equipped the PB series with a couple of different inputs was a nice touch and certainly made, and makes life a lot easier.
And being something of a traditionalist and running on the assumption that Micca probably knows the best location for their speakers, I set them up on the bookshelf above my turntable. It seemed like the easiest thing to do, and the right place for them.
Then all I had to do was switch them. The on and off switch is located on the back of the right speaker, which seems to be the hub for all of the Micca’s controls, which again makes life easy as everything is in the same location.
One speaker to power them and one speaker to control them, which given that the first record I played was The Lord of the Rings soundtrack, seemed somehow oddly appropriate.
Pumping Up the Volume
Truthfully, as they’re only armed with fifteen watts per channel, they’re never going to blow you off your feet with either sheer volume or the power of rock’n’roll. But they weren’t made to, that’s not what these speakers are for.
They weren’t designed to deafen your neighbors or be the source of the block-rockin’ beats that keep everyone in your apartment building awake at night.
Micca made these speakers to let music fans listen to their favorite records at a polite, if somewhat louder than they’re used to volume.
As they’ve got an amp built-in, you control the volume that they’ll pump out from the back of the right speaker, so you can turn them up, and then just as easily turn them down when the yoga instructor next door starts banging on the wall and screaming at you.
While I was more than comfortable listening at mid-volume, I thought I should crank them up all the way up, just once, to see what they could do. I really wish I hadn’t.
That’s when the only real problem that I have with these speakers reared its ugly distorted head and made itself known.
At the top end of the volume-o-meter, it doesn’t matter who you’re listening to, whether it’s The Dead Boys or Leonard Cohen, the bass starts to distort and subsumes everything, so all the high end just ends up being overwhelmed and drowning in a sea of bass-heavy sound.
However, it doesn’t really become an issue until you twist that dial around as far as it will, and can go. Heed my warning though, and don’t do it.
Don’t do what I did, as these speakers make more than enough glorious noise to put a mile wide, riff-eating grin on your face at their halfway point.
Looks Aren’t Everything
An ex-girlfriend of mine once spent a whole afternoon telling me that looks aren’t everything and it’s what’s inside you that really matters before she left me for some muscle-laden meathead that she met at the gym.
And while I didn’t believe her then, after spending some time with Micca’s PB42X’s, I actually believe that she meant what she said and that she was actually right. Not about me, I’m a lost cause, but what she said was incredibly accurate about these speakers.
They’re nondescript and they look like any one of a hundred other speakers that you could buy for twice the price.
But that’s the kicker, they look better and sound like speakers that cost twice as much as they do and while they’re not going to win any beauty contests, they’ll look right at home in any average American apartment.
Because that’s who they were designed to please, the average blue-collar, coffee-loving, rock and roll worshipping American.
They were made to make me and you want to turn the volume up and get down with our bad selves.
It Isn’t All Good News…
As I’ve already said, when they’re turned all the way up, they distort and the bass drowns everything else, but as long as you’re not committed to the Nigel Tufnel school of volume control and don’t want, or need, to turn everything up to eleven, there’s no reason why you should ever have to experience that for yourself.
And, if I was pushed a little harder, I’d be forced to admit that maybe, just maybe they do feel a little flimsy and that the build quality wasn’t everything that I thought or hoped it would be, but then again, I wasn’t expecting to get a Cadillac on a Pinto sized budget.
Apart from that? The only other issue that I have with these speakers is that, as I’ve already said, they’re a little nondescript. They don’t have any presence and certainly don’t stand out in a crowd, but then a wolf in sheep’s clothing isn’t supposed to, is it?
It’s supposed to just quietly bide its time in the background until you need to draw on its power and that’s when it’ll show you its fangs and let you know what it’s really capable of.
And that’s exactly what the PB42X is. It’s an audio lion that’s been deliberately dressed up like a house cat so that it can inveigle its way into your way home and comfortably do what it has to.
It'll spin all of your tunes at a satisfactory volume with crystal clarity and doesn’t have to raise its voice to make itself heard. But when it does roar, step back because it really means business.
The Final Word
Were the rumors and hearsay about the PB42X true? Are these speakers really as good as Micca and their ever-increasing fan base would have you believe they are? Absolutely.
They’re more than able to hold their own against speaker systems that cost three times as much as they do, and while they might not fit in with your chosen design aesthetic, they will pump out all of your favorite tunes with a straightforward, and rugged simplicity.
And at the end of the day, what more could any music lover want or ask for?