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Fostex PM.03 Active Speaker Review

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Fostex PM.03 active monitor/speaker. It is on kind loan from a member who bought it new from drop.com and had it shipped to me. I think the model is discontinued and I can't find an accurate price for it. The owner paid US $90 on drop.

The PM.03 is by far the smallest speaker I have tested. I think it is about 6 inches tall:

Fostex PM03 Active Speaker Monitor  Stereo Review.jpg



This is the main unit which then powers the other speaker:

Fostex PM03 Active Speaker Monitor Back Connectors Inputs  Stereo Review.jpg


A laptop sized external supply powers the unit.

Yes there is a tiny port through which incredibly high pressure air escapes.

Product is made in China.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

All measurements are referenced to the tweeter axis with frequency resolution of 2.7 Hz.

Fostex PM03 Active Speaker Monitor  Spinorama CEA-2034 Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


We have a pretty smooth response until the crossover point of 2.6 kHz. Then response gets chewed up with a couple of dips, one at crossover and the other around 6 to 9 kHz.

Oh, please don't go by SPL scale. It is not correct and requires manual compensation (for active speakers) which I did not perform.

Frequency response of early and strongest reflections in a hypothetical room averages out reasonably well:

Fostex PM03 Active Speaker Monitor  Spinorama CEA-2034 Early Reflections Frequency Response Au...png


That helps the predicted in-room response simulation:
Fostex PM03 Active Speaker Monitor  Spinorama CEA-2034 Predicted In-Room Response Frequency Re...png


I have standardized at 96 dBL SPL at 1 meter for distortion measurements. Given how small the PM.03 is, I decided to stop 6 dB lower but even that was not enough:

Fostex PM03 Active Speaker Monitor  Distortion Audio Measurements.png


That is one unhappy "mid-woofer."

Horizontal directivity shows an uneven dispersion:

Fostex PM03 Active Speaker Monitor  Horizontal Directivity Audio Measurements.png


Vertically it is a mess but fortunately, the good side is above the speaker:
Fostex PM03 Active Speaker Monitor  Vertical Directivity Audio Measurements.png


The waterfall graph seems to have an error in it so I am not going to post it.

Note that this is an active speaker so makes no sense to measure "impedance."

Speaker Listening Test
I placed the single speaker on my desktop and ran through my reference tracks. I was pleased that even at extreme, there is no sudden distortion. The amplifier simply runs out of power and that is that. I have had super expensive studio monitors that break up something nasty. Obviously there is little bass here but compared to some junk plastic "computer speaker" you may buy, there is seemingly clean upper bass there.

To see if the dip can be compensated for, I dialed in a 2 dB boost at 2.2 kHz and it made a very positive effect, bringing out the ambiance and separation between notes. Once there, I also put in some salt and pepper in the forum of slight bass boost and that was a very welcome change:

Fostex PM03 Active Speaker Monitor Roon EQ settings.png


With these two quick tweaks, the sound was quite transformed and very acceptable for everyday computer use (e.g. listening to youtube, etc.).

Conclusions
Seems like the target here was to build a small speaker that was not "junk." If so, Fostex seems to have succeeded. With a bit of EQ you get good sound that doesn't distort (subjectively), is not overly bright and does the job better than anything sold from the computer accessory vendors.

Based on low price from drop, and decent subjective experience, I am going to give a cautious recommendation for Fostex PM.03. I say cautious because we haven't tested much in its class. Over time it may turn out to be better or worse than the competition.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Wasted two hours waiting to get into a discount grocery store, and waiting to check out! :( Need to hire a personal shopper so I can spend my time reviewing. So please donate what you can using : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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zenmastering

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Amir, morphing into a mastering engineer :):

"To see if the dip can be compensated for, I dialed in a 2 dB boost at 2.2 kHz and it made a very positive effect, bringing out the ambiance and separation between notes. Once there, I also put in some salt and pepper in the form of a slight bass boost and that was a very welcome change: "
 

YSC

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I did have a pair of PM0.4D in my television setup as a choice of tiny speaker where I can put. it actually sounded quite decent and of coz, with a 4" woofer we have no bass to speak of
 
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pavuol

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I think the model is discontinued and I can't find an accurate price for it. The owner paid US $90 on drop.
If I get it right, seems like there are some time revisions of this model...(?)
I found PM0.3d (sold for 127 Eur in my area/central Europe). Fostex now lists PM0.3H & PM03dH ("d" featuring the standby mode.. 0.4W power consumption after 12 minutes).

EDIT: looks like end letter means color code (B/black, G/grey, W/white).. Still no clue about "H", maybe high resolution, as stated on some site:
"PM0.3H is the latest model of the reputed Fostex PM-series that features Hi-Resolution reproduction up to 40kHz by the improved amplifier circuitry and the soft dome tweeter"
 
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pavuol

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Based on low price from drop, and decent subjective experience, I am going to give a cautious recommendation for Fostex PM.03. I say cautious because we haven't tested much in its class. Over time it may turn out to be better or worse than the competition.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
So as we have for now not much to compare, we can at least for a while comply whith manufacturer claims :):
"The combination of the dedicated 3" LF and 3/4" HF drivers together with the built-in D-class power amplifier delivers unparalleled audio performance in this class. "
 

pavuol

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Yeh, I noticed those variations too. But too lazy to try to figure out what is going on. :)
Some members will surely clarify. Needs to say, user guide is from 2012..
Lately my friend asked about advice for budget computer speakers, I tried to convince him not to buy plastic junk and better wait and spare som dime for at least something in this range. I am looking also for a decent pair for myself, so looking forward to next reviews of "personal monitors".
 
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bigx5murf

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I wished Fostex offered their nicer speakers in the US. I've played around with a few in Japan, but couldn't really tell much other than they felt really well built, and had cool looking wavy woofers.
 

Doodski

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This would be a great speaker for PC use in a bedroom where one doesn't want the bass to disrupt adjacent rooms at night or when somebody is snoozing next door etc etc.
 

pavuol

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And I think sometimes "consumer" monitors can have also advantage against studio monitors. From a "sustainibility" point of view, external adapter can be easily swapped in case of failure :). I like this "feature" also among LCD monitors for example..
 

JohnBooty

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Off-topic:
Roaming on their website, I found a category totally uncovered here :p :
RM-3 Rack Mount Speaker System

Wow. Did not expect to discover an entirely new form factor of speaker today. I'm struggling to imagine the use case for such a thing. I guess it makes sense in certain situations. Not for critical or enjoyable listening obviously. Lot of places with racked components tend to be very space-limited. Wonder if some news vans use these.

The RM-3 is the ideal solution for monitoring needs in various space-challenged environments such as machine rooms, video monitoring, surveillance, mobile and stationary control rooms, theme park applications where audio monitoring is needed in a compact environment.
 
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JohnBooty

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Maybe worth noting that Fostex also makes an adorable mini subwoofer designed to pair with their mini desktop speakers that sells for about $200.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0160TTZYQ

https://www.fostexinternational.com/docs/products/PM-SUBmini2.shtml#content-3-tab-tab

They claim the subwoofer plays down to 40hz. That is plenty for most types of music and in my experience is also enjoyable for movies as long as you don't need gut-rumbling bass. (The lowest note on a bass guitar with standard tuning is E1, at about 41hz)

Obviously you are not getting massive output, but I am going to guess that this would be a very enjoyable little 2.1 system for desktop/bedroom/office use if you are constrained on space.... as monitors get wider and wider it gets harder and harder to find speakers that fit beside them. I wonder if you could get away with the left and right speakers flanking your monitor, and the subwoofer tucked behind the monitor?
:)

There are most cost-effective solutions (JBL 305/306, Parts Express C-Notes, etc) that will get you down to about 40hz but they can be rather large for desktop use.
 

wwenze

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Well, iLoud got 40Hz from a pair of 3.5-inch woofers. Maybe they can make a 5-inch subwoofer that goes to 20.

Since we're on the topic of mini subwoofer, PSB Subseries 100 claims to get 39Hz from 162 x 162 x 199mm
 

JohnBooty

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Well, iLoud got 40Hz from a pair of 3.5-inch woofers. Maybe they can make a 5-inch subwoofer that goes to 20.

The dearly departed Micca Club 3 could do 40hz in-room w/ boundary reinforcement and DSP corrections from a single 3" woofer! http://noaudiophile.com/Micca_Club_3/

That was an all-time budget champ. They were often $60/pr brand now and they sounded really good for desktop use with NoAudiophile's DSP corrections, that could be used with a MiniDSP or the free EqualizerAPO on Windows. Add a small class D chip amp and that was some great value for $100 or so total. When I say "good" I mean roughly on par with something like a JBL 305, but without the incredible image control and with much more limited max output. It was a real eye-opener for me in terms of what can be done with cheap-ass physical drivers and DSP correction.

To be clear, they did sound like total butt without the DSP assist.

Since we're on the topic of mini subwoofer, PSB Subseries 100 claims to get 39Hz from 162 x 162 x 199mm
Wow, that's an enclosure a bit smaller than Fostex's at 200 (W) × 185 (H) × 233 (D) mm. If I didn't have an unfinished DIY Voxel subwoofer kit in my basement I'd be temped to try one of these desktop minisubs just for laughs. I don't know why. They're just hilarious to me.
 
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