Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

Have You Seen?


As many of the best stories do, this one started over a beer. Or two. At the tail end of Saturday at the High End 2024 show in Munich, Germany, Anders Ertzeid, Hegel Music Systems’ VP of sales and marketing, mentioned that they had a fridge full of beer that they needed help with. I am always keen to assist—from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.


Matt Bonaccio and I had 20 minutes to kill before the scheduled start of our demo in PMC’s room, so we sat for a spell and chatted with Ertzeid. We were getting ready to leave, and Ertzeid noticed that we’d finished our beers. Before we could stop him (not that we tried that hard), he’d cracked another of those 0.6L bottles and stuffed them into our hands. We only had five minutes until our demo, so we headed over there with essentially full beers in our hands.

The room was pretty much empty, this being the end of the day and Doug Schneider having arranged a private demo. Greeting us were commercial director Oliver Thomas, business development manager Phil Millross, and owner and founder Peter Thomas, who’s also Oliver’s father. The PMC room was actually more of a theater, with 21 speakers configured as an 11.4.6 Dolby Atmos setup, and all the surround speakers suspended on sturdy-looking scaffolding that extended up the walls and across the ceiling.

Arrayed across the front were three BB6-XBD-A speakers—which are really freaking large in person. There were also four BST subs, each weighing 330 pounds. The rest of the speakers were from PMCs’ Ci custom-install lineup, arrayed overhead and around the sides and back.


Oliver was in charge of the demo, and he started off with a forlorn-sounding Billie Eilish track, which spread itself out all over the place in an appropriately surround-ish manner. Just to show he wasn’t messing around, next up he threw down a Yello track that quite literally made my hair move, the bass was so low and powerful. Here the surround and height effects were startling, whooshing around and seeming to go in one ear and out the other. After that, Oliver played some jazz and a nifty track from King Crimson’s first album, “In the Court of the Crimson King,” all equally cool and engaging, with depth and surround effects tastefully spread across the top and back.

There was a moment I need to share with you. There are times in my life when an experience has proved to be more intense than seems possible, and most of these have happened on motorcycles. Riding along the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah. Pulling 240km/h on the Autobahn chasing Erik Buell. Stuff like that. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but I generally don’t seek these events out—they seem to find me.


Now I have another such moment to carry forward into my dotage. The last track Oliver played was the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” a stadium song if ever there was one. The separation of instruments on this song from 1971 was astounding. The drums occupied much of the center, and the definition was by far the best I’ve ever heard, with Keith Moon’s loose, multi-limbed thrashing picked out in remarkable detail. The guitar rocketed all over the place, while the elemental, trademark synthesizer filled the sides and back. It was magnificent, huge, volcanic.

I was utterly caught up in the experience, dispensing with any attempt to remain an audio professional. When Roger Daltry exclaimed, “We’re all wasted!” Matt and I hoisted our beers’ pointy heads skyward to heaven. We were immersed in this music, in this performance—and we participated with enthusiasm, without the slightest self-consciousness or irony.


I’ve seen the Who live, and I’ve heard them play “Baba O’Riley” live, and I have to tell you, it wasn’t as good as listening to it on this PMC system. Perhaps two beers on an empty stomach had something to do with it. But regardless, at the end of this song I felt weak, weepy. This doesn’t happen very often these days, if at all. I turned to Oliver and said, “I remember when my daughter was born. Listening to this song was like that, but more intense.”

The final kicker came when I asked Oiliver how much this system costs. He looked around and did some mental calculations and responded, “around €300,000,” with a deadpan look on his face.

“Including amps?” I responded.

“Yes, cables as well,” he said with a wry smile.

Gawdalmighty. I visited a half-dozen rooms this weekend where you could spend more than that on a CD player . . .

Jason Thorpe
Senior Editor, SoundStage!