Last updated on: 6-1-20
The PB42X is a powered version of Micca’s upgraded MB42X (reviewed here), which introduced a new crossover and improved upon the already solid and popular MB42. A powered speaker simply means the necessary amplification is built in, so you don’t need a separate amplifier or receiver. Unlike the passive MB42X, The PB42X plugs right into the wall and your device and it’s ready to go. The speakers are otherwise essentially look and are the same.
All essential connection cables come included: a 3.5mm jack cable, speaker wire to connect the parent to the child, and the power adapter of course. Also included are some simple rubber pads that stick onto the bottom corners. The “manual” is a pretty minimal two sided page that offers basic set-up instructions but is sufficient.
Micca doesn’t specify the cabinet material but it looks and feels like fairly standard 3/4 inch MDF. Ebony matte finish all around, depth running edges are slightly rounded, singular piece that includes the baffle, which simply has circular cuts to house the driver baskets. Pretty boilerplate budget speaker look here, but it doesn’t try too hard to look fancy only to wind up looking tacky. They look decent all in all.
There aren’t any grill slots on the baffle, as you can see. The cloth covers simply snap on magnetically and are very easy to take on/off. Neat stuff. They’re soft cloth so will pretty much only keep light debris away, won’t stop projectiles or prying fingers of the socially unaware or impertinent.
Tweeter is a spiffy looking 3/4 inch silk dome, shiny enough that you can see yours truly taking the picture of it with his outdated phone if you look closely enough.
Woofer is a 4.5 inch woven carbon fiber cone with a big fat rubber surround and a one or so inch dust cap. Fairly standard budget driver materials all in all.
Each speaker has a small ~1 inch rear-firing port. Input/compatibility is pretty minimal. On the right parent speaker you’ve got a 3.5mm or RCA input to connect to your device and that’s it. Then you’ve got the power adapter input of course, a simple on/off switch, then a volume knob which I wish was in the front, but oh well. The terminals are actually pretty nice 5-way binding posts rather than a simple grip connector. On the left child speaker you simply have the power input and it’s in effect a passive speaker. While some fancier monitors are independently controllable and need to be individually plugged in or designated as left/right for stereo, the PB42X functions as a pair and only needs one wall socket.
For the newly initiated, setting up PB42X is about as easy as it gets. All you have to do is plug them into your device and the wall, and connect the +/- terminals with the included speaker wire, which comes already stripped so you don’t have to worry about prepping speaker wire. Just feed it into the perpendicular holes and tighten the knobs, that’s it.
Spec/Performance Discussion, Initial Listening Impressions, Other Related Observations
I opted for a simple desktop setting and started listening to them at close range. The speakers are pretty light and compact, about a 6 x 7 inch resting surface area, so not hard at all to fit on the small computer desk I put them on. Micca says give the back ports at least 4 inches of breathing room, again not that hard to accommodate.
The speakers are rated at 15 W per channel, though I’ve read rumors that a separately purchased larger 24V adapter will get more power and volume out of the amp, but do so at your own risk. Even so, these are definitely intended to be near/mid-field speakers. I cranked them up and they can get loud enough to fill a non-large room, but the sound became noticeably thin, especially outside of the sweet spot. The included speaker wire is only about six feet long, so if you want to space them farther (I wouldn’t), you’ll have to get a longer wire separately.
The response range of 60-20k Hz is about as good as it gets for a two way bookshelf speaker with a 4.5 inch woofer, though there’s definitely some drop off in the bass before the 60 Hz floor, but that’s honestly to be expected. Some higher end powered speakers have a line-out for a subwoofer, but the PB42X does not, so be aware you really have no room to upgrade upon these. See the links at the end for recommendations for higher end powered speakers that are subwoofer compatible among other additional features – a lot of great options open up for not that much more money.
I’ve only done an initial several hours worth of listening, so my impressions thus far are only general, but all in all these speakers sound really solid. They’re nice and even at mid/low volume and don’t have any glaring flaws – that’s a big plus for budget speakers as cheap as these are. I can see(hear?) right away why these are so widely recommended.
Overdue update, June 2020: After at least 100 hours of use, my initial opinion has merely solidified more. I can say pretty confidently that these are the best sound you can get out of bookshelf speakers at this price point, for now at least.
One issue is that the power adapter lets out an ugly audible squeal when I turn the speakers on. It’s apparently something that cheaper power supplies sometimes do. I’ve seen other users have the same complaint. It might resolve itself with some break in, or clever placement, otherwise I might just ask Micca to replace it and hope mine is just bad. Or I could get that larger power supply anyhow and try to get the true max that these speakers can potentially give. Maybe.
Micca offers a one year warranty on its powered speakers, which is pretty bare minimum, but about what you can realistically expect at this low of a price range.
Overall Take, As Compared To The Competition
I was impressed with their consistency throughout the range, no immediately obvious flaws or shortcomings after initial listening, and that’s saying something for a budget speaker. I can see why these are so widely recommended, and in fact the only true budget speaker endorsed on the /r/audiophile subreddit. The PB42X is, as of the time of this writing/update, likely the best sounding and most performant powered bookshelf speaker for the price. Adding the fact that setting it up is as easy as it gets, I’d say it’s a pretty clear good choice for an entry level budget speaker.
The only real downside is that speakers like these come with a hard ceiling – if you want to upgrade you pretty much have to start over from scratch. But even if you do, speakers like the PB42Xs always seem to find some use somewhere.