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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S
Preamp/Integrated: Onix/Melody SP3; Music First Audio Passive Magnetic; Hyperion Sound BEC-P25T
Amp: 2 x Audiosector Patek SE; Yamamoto A-08S; Canary Audio CA-308s; FirstWatt F3
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Pro version with Rane PEQ-55; Gallo Reference 3.1
Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable, Zu Cable Varial and Ibis, Zu Cable Birth on Definitions; Stealth Audio Cable Indra, MetaCarbon & NanoFiber [on loan]; SilverFi interconnects; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; ZCable Hurricane power cords on both conditioners
Stands: 1 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell wall sockets
Room size: 30' w x 18' d x 10' h [sloping ceiling] in long-wall setup in one half, with open adjoining living room for a total of ca.1000 squ.ft floor plan
Review Component Retail: $1,200/pr; $499 for optional custom stand

With audiophiles, "made in China" was very uncool about 10 years ago. Our kind at that time referred to NAD as Nearly Always Defective. It was a reflection on the QC issues that then still plagued many an apparent Euro product that was really manufactured offshore. Never mind products that were fully designed and made offshore without any US or Euro tie-in of a famous Western designer or company that took responsibility for the engineering. Those all-Chinese, all-Malaysian or otherwise exclusively Pacific Rim products were considered plain uncouth if you wanted cachet, quality and reliability.

That's why AAD, founded by Ronald Kwok in mainland China roughly at that time, stood for American Acoustic Development, not Asian Assault Division. But times have changed. Hence one nearly wishes that Mr. Kwok would disband with the misdirection now and proudly call his company Chinese Immortals Audio - or something to clearly indicate his theater of operation. How 'bout Red Dragon Audio? That's already taken by Ryan Tew who is headquartered in the States to sell ICEpower amps. Need any more proof on how intermeshed things have become?

It no longer matters what nationality you are or where you decide to do business. Not that it ever should have mattered. But prejudism is a stubborn disease. As are most "isms". Remember O Brother Where Art Thou? Cronyism. Nepotism. Rascalism. Misogynism. The stack of isms the challenger's voter campaign accused its "little man" opponent of was all bad. Add anti Chinaism to that black list. Now fast forward to 2006 reality, not ideal-ism. American Acoustic Development is still what AAD stands for. Alas, I'm told a change might be pending to take courageous advantage of the more liberated climate today.

Anyway, enough of global perceptionism. On to the actual loudspeakers. AAD's new model under review is called the PMM1 or Piano Monitor Mini. It is a 1 x 6" bookshelf whose 2 x 6" floorstanding 2.5-way sibling at $2,700/pr rounds out this 2-model-short PMM Series.

Steve Monte at Quest for Sound is very hip to the value equation that the no-longer-sleeping dragon of China represents today. He has imported Opera Audio's tube products to the States for years. With the AAD franchise suddenly available, he decided to sign up. Voila, a pair of PMM1s to Arroyo Seco. Shaped like a truncated boat hull through its cross section, the side walls curve towards the narrow back for non-parallel walls and thereby create an ultra sleek appearance that is only further enhanced by the highly reflective immaculate lacquer finish.

The cabinet's top sports edge bevelling to create the illusion of further curvatures. The barely-as-wide-as-a-hand rear baffle houses a small flared port on the tweeter's axis. Below it sits an inset metal plate with the serial number and a silver pair of shrouded binding posts. The cloth-covered plastic-ribbed grills attach magnetically via four
small magnets that are just strong enough to keep the covers in place. Their removal now leaves no unsightly mars in the baffle surface. (Note to AAD: Apply a dab of glue to the magnets' rears to avoid having them fall out of their plastic retainers.) The mid/woofer sports a very compliant rubber dust cap and a well-damped hybrid textile cone. The titanium/magnesium tweeter is mounted on a very substantial black-anodized metal plate into which a tastefully matte silver AAD logo has been set. An integral fine-mesh metal grill protects the otherwise exposed tweeter from casually probing fingers. Three hex T-nuts in the speaker's bottom allow bolting to the optional AAD stand which I didn't receive.
The woofer sports a beautifully cast rather than stamped frame and its entire chassis is gussied up in a black crinkle paint. Like the in-house designed tweeter coming in at 2.4kHz, the woofer connects to the 4th-order network with push-on connectors. The crossover uses two custom air-core AAD inductors and two Bennic ceramic resistors and caps each. The cabinet walls are solid 1" MDF and a 1/2" brace with a circular opening inserts right between the drivers. A 1" thick sheet of hi-density foam wraps around the inner back and sidewalls. 89dB sensitivity, 8-ohm nominal impedance and 45Hz to 25kHz response park the PMM1 smack in the heart of compact monitor country, possibly the most overcrowded product category in audiodom this side of cables.

This speaker and the company that built it are both mature operators. The packaging sports foamed clamshells that eliminate any chance of shipping damage shy of being skewered by a forklift. The port sports a thin inside cloth cover to prevent insects from getting into the speaker. I already mentioned the three hex openings to securely bolt the PMM1 to its stand. As you can see, the metal terminal plate features professional silk screening and even the serial number isn't some hand-written label but a nicely machine-stamped, perfectly aligned detail.
The obligatory visual inspection check lists ends up with no black marks. Rather, kudos are due for a cosmetically attractive, nicely contoured, unobtrusively sized and compact but substantial loudspeaker. Its neutral piano gloss finish means it should be an easy fit into many decors. Its genre as stand-mounted monitor with extension below 50Hz means it's got so-called WAF. It also makes for a sonically far superior subwoofer mate for home theater applications than minis that cross over their sub at 80Hz or higher.

Even prior to any listening, the AAD PMM1 appears like a solid entry into the market. It's clearly not meant to rewrite the laws of Physics, chase patents or woo prospective buyers with silly claims of world dominion from Wilson Duette killers (you know the drill - claim you beat the perceived class leader to attract immediate attention and start a conversation).

In fact, AAD makes no claims whatsoever. Ronald Kwok and marketing sidekick Dyson Lai seem content to let the PMM1 speak for itself. That's exactly how I shall approach this review then - treat the PMM1 as a middle-of-the-field priced monitor of extremely dialed fit'n'finish and in-house designed custom parts and see what happens...