The PDP MUM-6: The best two-way monitor in the world?

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I’ve been lucky enough to try out some new monitors. But these are something a bit special.

When it comes to small studio spaces, mine is about as small as they come. So finding a monitoring system that is top class, but still physically fits in the space is a real challenge.

So when Mark from Present Day Production, the company behind the wildly successful MUM-8 monitors, reached out to me to say that the MUM-8s wouldn’t fit in my room – I was pretty crushed, though not exactly surprised.

As an aside, if you want to read the Sound on Sound review of the three-way MUM-8s from Phil Ward, a proper reviewer, you can read it here. https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/presentdayproduction-mum-8

A lot of the details behind the concept of the MUMs are covered here, and many of the features of the 8s are present in the 6s so I would encourage you to read that, or PDPs own webpage to get detailed specifications as it saves my precious typing fingers.

Luckily, in the next sentence, Mark said they were working on the MUM-8’s little sister, a smaller two-way monitor with the same best-in-the-world hardware, and existing in the same sonic world as the 8s, given that they were designed primarily as an Atmos mixing speaker.

Before I get into the details, a bit about me. I’m a composer, and while I have experience as an engineer, I’m writing this review from the perspective of a working musician who wants to deliver professional mixes in-house. I don’t have golden ears, and I haven’t heard every monitor out there. In fact, these monitors replaced my very affordable Yamaha HS7s and HS8S sub. The MUM-6s represent quite a crazy jump in monitoring quality, so please bear this in mind as you read on!

I was very fortunate to have Mark and James from PDP come and deliver the speakers in person, set them up, and have a chat about everything from acoustics to adopting stray cats. Absolutely top blokes. If you do indeed buy into the MUM ecosystem, you also get support from Mark & James the actual designers and manufacturers into the bargain, which is incredibly and totally invaluable in my opinion.

Now, on with the review!

Mark, James & Shane standing in Shane's studio with a MUM-6 visible in the background.

My MUMs are in a concrete-grey, and feel about as solid. They are a slick clean looking speaker which fits into the aesthetic of my room just perfectly. At 35cm tall, 20cm wide, and 23cm deep they’re super compact, and I don’t think many people would struggle to fit them into a bedroom corner like how I first started out. They weigh 10kg each so they’re also nice and dense. They’re made of a material called Valchromat, which is basically MDF on a plant-based diet – knowingly superior. Give them a little tap, and you’ll quickly find them very unsuitable as percussion instruments.

They come fully loaded with silk dome tweeters designed by Bliesma, and 6 inch woofers from Purifi sporting a wrinkly speaker surround which everyone I’ve demoed the speakers to have notices almost immediately! It’s definitely an unusual look, but it’s all in the name of eliminating speaker distortion. Indeed, these drivers have the lowest distortion by any known measurement.

MUMs glorious MUMs: a little slideshow. Click on each image to zoom in.

When I sat down and listened to the MUMs for the first time, it was as if someone had switched off a load of processing on the mix-bus for the first time. Off goes a compressor, EQ, and reverb and it’s like you’re hearing things for the first time again. The sound is incredibly present, panning is pinpoint accurate, dynamics are wonderfully presented and sound full-range from the quietest to the loudest elements of the mix.

The monitors are an acoustic suspension, or sealed design, so the time domain smearing is just totally gone. If you’re hearing echos and reverb from these – it’s not coming from the MUMs (go treat your room). Making a decision when compressing kick drums is now so much easier, I can hear the tiniest movements in attack values, and can now hit the sweet spot, so it’s nice and attacky but not clicky, without having to constantly switch to headphones. Bass is now so clean I assume it’s also purifying the air in my house. There’s just no ringing at all, and the decay you hear is just what’s there in the mix.

The waterfall chart shows ringing across the audible frequency spectrum. As you can see, the MUM-6s are incredibly tight. The wobblyness at the low end is due to my room. Measured from the listening position.
50hz tone filmed at 240fps, and played at 1/10th speed. Notice how fast the woofer stops!
50hz tone filmed at 240fps, and played at 1/10th speed. Notice how fast the woofer stops!

It’s also my first time using monitors with a digital input. I’ve got them hooked up via AES and daisy-chained together. It’s all very clever, and now I can route the cables away for a much cleaner look. The conversion is totally transparent, and sounds pristine. My previous monitors had a very low but audible hiss from the listening position. The MUM-6s are silent from my listening position, and only have a perceptible noise when I put my ear about 2cm from the woofer. The DAC and amp combo is just amazing.

Monitoring at lower levels sounded just as glorious, and there was no loss in the bass end. This is apparently a flaw in ported designs where you need a minimum amount of power to excite the ports, so when you drop below that you lose all the punch.

After crying for a while after listening to my old shonky mixes, I set out to listen to the MUM-6s as much as I could to get my ears used to this new sound. And what a sound… Listening to the 2019 mix of Come Together sounds like the “shoot me” part is an actual Beatle standing between the speakers whispering to me. All the nuance and fret-noise of the bass is super apparent, and the mix extends far beyond the width of the speakers.

Losing my sub for these has affected the low-end extension slightly, but I have found them to be perfect all the way down to 35Hz, and 99.9% of the time I shelve everything away starting about about 40, so I’m not missing anything. They still sound super bassy, don’t get me wrong, but I do enjoy making the room shake on occasion for my own peverse amusement. Luckily, a matching sub is in the works for the MUM-6s so it’s only a matter of time before I can remotely rearrange the lego in the room next door once more.

As another aside, I think this is a good time to explain what the MUM in MUM-6 means. It stands for Modular Upgradable Monitor. The whole idea is you can purchase one system that will grow with you as you progress on your production journey. You can swap out the tweeters to beryllium instead of silk, for instance. And, of course, you can upgrade your two-ways into three-ways, which is incredibly exciting, and totally unique in the monitor manufacturing world as far as I know.

Returning to my mixes after my acclimatisation period was a bit of a challenge. Mark and James have apparently invented new frequencies which just weren’t there before! I suspect the crossover point of my old Yamahas had a big ol’ dip in them, and that had been now dutifully filled by the superior MUMs. I can’t hear any crossover – the sound doesn’t appear to even come from either of the drivers, more like just the dead centre of the speaker. I’m hearing frequency masking that just wasn’t there before; I would have made much better-informed decisions if I only had the MUM-6s back then!

The total absence of any distortion meant that any distortion I was hearing was in the mix itself, and I was hearing it all over the place in my old mixes. Nasty little buzzes and whines that could have been so easily notched out if only I had been able to hear them!

This new midrange meant I had to change the way I’ve been doing things, so I set about remixing some of my old tracks, and revisiting some old abandoned pieces that had been driving me nuts for ages. Rebalancing them on the MUMs was so much quicker though, the smallest 0.5db EQ moves actually made an audible difference – getting bass and kicks to gel were so much easier, and reverbs sounded like entirely new plugins. I realised I’d been missing out on so much audible information for so long.

Here’s an example of a mix that was totally kicking my arse before. It’s got a very distorted vibe, so was hard to mix on my Yamahas. Click the play button, then the before/after button to toggle between my before-MUM and after-MUM mix:

Yes, it was never the best mix beforehand, and to be fair I probably didn’t give it enough time on my first try, but you should be able to tell that the kick in particular is now so much clearer and not being masked by the distorted mess that it was before. The remix also keeps the warbly distorted vibe, but without the nasty resonant bits.

So I tested these new mixes, on airpods, various headphones, the TV, surround system, and car. And every. single. time. they sounded so much better on each system. The MUM-6s are the Babel Fish of monitors, they translate to EVERYTHING. I’m beyond impressed with them, and I feel a new confidence in my mixes going out into the world and just sounding great.

My words don’t really do these enough justice, and they really have to be heard to be believed. I would encourage you to listen to a pair. Present Day Production has a number of reps around the world (other working musicians; not salespeople), so go visit their website to get in contact with Mark & James. Or just buy a pair – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

In short, the MUM-6s have unlocked a new sonic landscape for me, as well as demonstrating that they are a monitor you can trust. The fact that you can actually upgrade them to match your needs and skills is the chef’s kiss on the cake.

Though I’ve not heard but the tip of the iceberg of professional monitors, from an extensive reading of reviews and opinions, time spent in other studios, and just the shocking way these yummy mummys translate, I would definitely bet on these being the very best two-way monitor available today.

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