Over the last two decades I have owned around three pairs of ProAc speakers, all in the Response range which I loved. I have always admired their work and in particular Stewart Tyler’s ability to create such stunning examples of what speakers should be and that is the ability to create great music. Their speakers are very understated with regard to the design they have stayed more or less the same, well they have always stuck with the traditional box design varying in sizes with all the magic going on inside them. Rather than using exotic materials for cabinets, Stewart and his team have gone with the conventional method and that is to use wood in all their speaker cabinets, this is with exception to the drive units which have seen many different types of polymer, paper pulp, carbon and Kevlar which Stewart has experimented with and mastered over the years to what sounds best for the ProAc name.
ProAc has been in business for many decades now, Stewart Tyler started making speakers in the mid-seventies when he could not find a speaker that was being mass produced to his liking. So, he decided to make his own, this proved very popular within his circle and ProAc was more or less born. I have listened to many of his designs over the years and quite a few have had a lasting effect on me with some of biggest designs, the D80 in particular which I fell in love with the sound. This to me was one of the best sounds that I had heard up to this time. What I heard was amazing imaging and sound staging from the D80, it was like being at a live gig, that was how real the sound sounded to me. This is by far the biggest achievement that a speaker designer can replicate, isn’t that the whole point of this hobby, to be able to listen to your favourite rock band in your very own listening room as if it were live?
So here I am back again with ProAc and this is my fourth pair now, a few decades on and I now have the ProAc K6s which have been in my listening room for the best part of a month and a bit. Although this model has been out for a good few years now there is nothing dated about the sound as that magic that I heard from the ProAc D80s is present in these smaller but extremely potent K6 speakers.
Features and build quality
The ProAc K6 speakers are built to the highest of standards and are produced at their factory in Brackley, Northamptonshire. After speaking with Stewart, he told me that the design of each drive unit starts at ProAc which is the development of the Kevlar and Polymer weave and basket but assembled by a local company Volt who they work very closely with. The midrange drive unit is from Visaton in Germany, and then tweaked in-house and assembled by ProAc. The ribbon tweeter magnet comes from Germany and is assembled at the ProAc factory to their specifications. All of the K6 and K8 models are hand assembled by Stewart and his senior technician John whom lovingly make these incredible speakers. Stewart designs the crossovers which is where all the magic happens and makes all the drive units’ sound like a single transducer such is the quality of each and every crossover that is built into each K6 speaker.
The cabinets are of real wood veneers and hand finished, each one is heavily braced and bitumen is added to the cabinets enclosures to dampen any back waves that happens internally. This is a tried and tested method that ProAc use and it works very well so why change something that is not broken. The enclosure is ported from the bottom of the cabinet with a plinth built on so as to control the speakers output. This makes them much more predictable with placement. An aluminium pillar sits in the middle to hold the speakers mass as well as on the front of the bottom plinth which is embossed with the ProAc logo. This gives them a distinct look and a high-end finish to the speakers. They can come in a range of standard finishes but with two extra premium finishes which is Rosewood and Ebony, the latter is in my room. This is a 3-way speaker design with 1 x ribbon tweeter, 2 x 6.5” bass drivers and a single 2” mid-bass drive unit which look very impressive when the cloth covers are removed. The 2” mid-range is loaded by a shallow horn which is machined from T6061 aluminium, the same aluminium plates the front of the ribbon tweeter.
Setting up and Equipment being Used
For reviewing purposes I am using my McIntosh Labs MA8000 as the main power amplifier which has more than enough juice for the K6s. For the front end, I am using my MYTEK Brooklyn DAC with Linear PSU and feeding into it is the brilliant Aurender N100H Music Server which has just got the Tidal Masters MQA upgrade done in the Conductor App so will be using this as my main source as the quality is very good and perfect for this review. Cables are from Transparent Cables which is the Gen5 Ultra Speaker cables and XLR interconnects to the big McIntosh amplifier.
Setting up the ProAc K6s is an easy task as they are so room friendly even in my relatively small listening space. The port is located at the base of each speaker and with its plinth it gives the K6s flexibility to just be put down and start listening straight away. I have given them a fairly good run in period where they have been playing every day since they arrived so about 6 hours use per day. Being confident that the speakers are well on their way to being run in I can now start the tweaking with some minor adjustments a few inches here and there to get the balance more or less spot on, this allows for the imaging and soundstage to start to present themselves in a manner that I have only heard from a select few speakers. This is an area that they really do excel at and one that ProAc has been a master of for many years. I have settled with a slight toe in for both speakers as this minimises reflections either side and just pulls the stereo image together. This manages to give a nice wide but deep sound stage with such precise separation of instruments and vocals. The results are staggeringly good with such cohesion between the drivers that they sound more like a pair of ESL panels rather than traditional transducers, this is partly down to the excellent ribbon tweeter that really does sound rather special, well when in the hands of Stewart Tyler who has achieved incredible results with these K6s.
Sound quality and performance
As I mentioned earlier I am using the Aurender N100H Music Server with Tidal as my main source for this review as it has now given me access to the Tidal Masters with MQA support. I feel that the quality is so good that the K6s deserve the best possible source that I have currently in my system, with this the upstream music quality is just first class.
I start off with an album I am familiar with and it is by Phil Collins – Face Value, remastered 2015 version with MQA. Track one In the Air Tonight is a firm favourite of mine and was also featured in a film that I liked back in the early eighties, Risky Business. The scene with Rebecca De Mornay on the train. Synthesized pop was all the rage back then and this piece of music is a perfect example of this era and the K6s produce such a beautiful sound. Phil Collins vocals take centre stage while the beat of the track is around him building up to the brilliant percussion which sounds incredible with the drums producing a powerful sound and the K6 bass drivers really do punch out loud but with precision. The speed of the bass and the dynamics produced on this track are captured perfectly with great transients, the Kevlar and Polymer weaved bass drivers are just so fast and produce an enormous amount of energy which is harnessed into a punchy yet refined powerful sound. Track seven I Missed Again is a classic Phil Collins piece of music which the ProAc K6s reproduce with such clarity and the whole sound stage is filled by his band with the brass section and percussion playing while Phil Collins vocals have such a vivid sound, the music is all perfectly balanced with the bass being so taught and sounding so right. There is so much air around the instruments with great separation. I have heard this track on lesser systems and it can err on the brighter side of neutral but with the K6s the music is just balanced so well, that this is not the case instead you have a brilliant sounding pair of speakers which reproduce this music with precision and accuracy and sounding perfectly natural. Track eleven If Leaving Me Is Easy is a great example at how adept the K6s can behave, they can play loud but also with a softer touch as this track presents itself. The K6s have an uncanny way of making sweet music no matter what type of material you throw at them.
My next album again on Tidal Masters is by Rumer – This Girl’s in Love (A Bacharach & David Songbook) with MQA. This is a beautiful album harking back to the 60’s and 70’s style of music. Rumer has such a gorgeous velvety smooth voice that the ProAc K6s reproduce with such class that I seemed to just forget about the speakers and just listened to what wonderful music they are able to recreate. Track one The Look of Love was originally sung by Dusty Springfield and Rumer makes it her own with such a beautiful tonal balance. The K6s present it in all its glory with shifts in tone sounding so natural, and the guitar solo having such a palpable feel with every string that is struck. Track five (The Long to Be) Close to You is another classic song that Karen Carpenter sang so beautifully and Rumer pulls it off so well, sounding so similar to the original but with a fresher sound that again makes it her own. I also have to give a lot of praise to the ProAc K6s as they make this song sound so natural with crisp vocals and a melodic sound that sweeps you away with such ease again just forgetting that you are trying to be critical about a speaker’s performance but instead pulling you into the music. I suppose this could be seen as one of the most flattering points of the K6s in that they make you forget about how good they should be sounding, when they actually do sound so good that Rumer could easily be singing this in my very room when I close my eyes.
For my final album, I have selected Paul Wellers - Saturns Pattern (Deluxe Edition) on Tidal Masters selection with MQA, alternative rock from 2015 and another hit for the never aging singer. This sounds superb through the ProAcs with a massive sound stage and pin point imaging placing Paul Weller centre stage and some great bass from the two Kevlar bass drivers. Track five Pick It Up is one of my favourites on the album with a thumping bass beat and shimmering cymbals, it is a complex arrangement of guitars, piano and backing singers which any lesser speaker would have a hard job of keeping up with the speed of which it progresses but no such trouble for the K6s. Track seven Phoenix again shows the power of the bass with a hard hitting bass line and some great piano work and strings too, each note defined perfectly and with so much air around them that you can place them with extreme accuracy such is the precise imaging from the K6s.
I am completely blown away by the performance that the ProAc K6 speakers manage to give in my room and it is a pleasure listening to them whether it be with streaming music or CD or vinyl but the better the source the better the sound, they are a very revealing speaker but can also be kind to lesser performing equipment but they deserve good up stream material as they will return you with a sound which is completely reference in terms of sound quality.
Conclusions and final Thoughts
The ProAc K6 speakers are performing flawlessly in my system and I am loving the sound that they manage to produce. The bass is incredible which plumbs the depths when required but also taught as can be, a delicious mid-range and an incredible top end is just the icing on this very nice cake. They play all types of music with such ease that you soon forget about them and just sit back and enjoy the music.
The Speaker Shack awards the ProAc K6 speakers with a Reference status award which is well and truly deserved.
Price at time of review, the K6s in standard finish approx £13,000 and in premium finishes approx £14,950.