The $3,000 Speaker Derby PSB

PSB
You can't really have a mid-level speaker derby without PSB, as this is a company that puts about as much research, resources, and effort into their middle lines as anybody. As with the other contenders in this Face Off, it doesn't hurt that PSB has such good high-end lines to draw from. Our contender was the new Command Performance system, comprised of models from the new Image Series.

The fronts were Image T65 towers ($1,099/pair), the top floorstanders in the line. This is a vented design using three 6.5-inch metalized-polypropylene woofers and a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter. Dual binding posts make it biampable/biwireable, and the MDF cabinet is available with a maple or black ash veneer. The magnetically shielded Image C60 center channel ($449) is also a vented design using the same 6.5-inch woofers (only two this time) and 1-inch tweeter in a horizontal array. It's currently only available in black ash.

The Image S50 surround ($749/pair) is a bipole model (the only one in this derby), with 5.25-inch metalized-polypropylene woofers and 1-inch aluminum dome tweeters on each front baffle. It's available in a black or white textured-vinyl veneer. The SubSonic 6i ($699) handled low frequencies with a 12-inch metalized-polypropylene driver and a rated 225-watt internal amplifier. It offers gain and phase control and a crossover bypass, and it's available in a black vinyl finish.

I tried to suppress my natural preference for towers for music playback, but I was either unsuccessful in doing so or I truly did feel that the T65s had the most impact of the group when "Katy Hill" got going. Some of the other front speakers may have been slightly more precise (or more delicate); but, to me, there was plenty of precision and delicacy in these towers to combine with their soundstage development and impact. Maureen and Amy agreed; Amy described how the T65 immediately sucked her in, and Maureen called it lively and involving, with a nice image and a crisp, snappy sound.

Geoffrey felt that the top end was crisp, but more on the brittle side. He speculated that they might benefit from a little less toe-in. John liked the separation of instruments he heard here, and he complimented the T65 on its top-end guts.

Geoffrey also noted a successful separation of sounds with "Cry (If You Want To)" and "Brown Sugar." He felt that the sounds were more open here than with others in the Face Off and complimented the PSB system's neutrality, although he would've liked to hear more deep bass. John wanted a little more midrange warmth with these tracks, and Maureen felt that they were laid-back at some points, but she continued to note the quality separation they delivered. It was the saxophone from "Brown Sugar" that stood out for Amy, and she described how successful it was for her in distinguishing itself and sounding impactful without being harsh or metallic.

The system's top end continued to garner praise from most everyone throughout the movie demos, and this led to various notations of surround-field impact and increased presence behind the listeners. If you can only have one set of side surrounds (which is the case for most of us), bipoles are an interesting compromise. They still provide more diffusion than the standard direct-radiator, but they don't sound as washed out as many dipoles do, in my opinion, with most forms of multichannel music. Maureen called the system, and the surrounds in particular, very real and very dynamic, while Amy again described how the system drew her in, especially with Private Ryan. The PSBs momentarily caused her to forget that she was judging these speakers, and she simply sat back and enjoyed them.

The gentlemen raised a few issues about the other end of the frequency range. Geoffrey felt that, at times, the system simply sounded too polite, and he continued to ask for more deep bass. I agreed that this sub didn't seem to consistently provide some of the bottom-end rumble in our room that the other Face Off participants did, but I liked the articulation that it offered. During a particular sequence in Gods and Generals, a line of cannons fire off in succession, with not more than a second or so between reports—just long enough that the sub can't cheat, but not a lot of time to recover and develop a distinct attack, climax, and decay for each blast. The SubSonic 6i handled this as well as, if not better than, any other sub in this group, in my opinion. It's not the kind of sub that will knock plaster off the walls, but it does deliver impact in other ways, primarily through articulation, separation, and a natural sense of timing.

Highlights
• Potent full-range towers
• Bipole surrounds

At A Glance: PSB Image T65 Speaker System

Subwoofer: SubSonic 6i
Connections: Line- and speaker-level ins and outs
Enclosure Type: Ported
Woofer (size in inches, type): 12, metalized poly cone
Power Rating (watts): 225
Crossover Bypass: Yes
Available Finishes: Black
Dimensions (H x W x D, inches): 19.88 x 15 x 20
Weight (pounds): 46
Price: $699

These listings are based on the manufacturer's stated specs; the HT Labs box below indicates the gear's performance on our test bench.

Speaker: Image T65
Type: two-way, tower two-way, center two-way, bipole
Tweeter (size in inches, type): 1, alum. dome
Woofer (size in inches, type): 6.5, metalized poly (3)
Nominal Impedance (ohms): 6
Recommended Amp Power (watts): 10–200
Available Finishes: Black Ash
Dimensions (H x W x D, inches): 38.5 x 8 x 20
Weight (pounds): 49
Price: $1,099/pair

Speaker: Image C60
Type: two-way, center
Tweeter (size in inches, type): 1, alum. dome 1
Woofer (size in inches, type): 6.5, metalized poly (2)
Nominal Impedance (ohms): 8
Recommended Amp Power (watts): 10–175
Available Finishes: Black Ash
Dimensions (H x W x D, inches): 8.5 x 27.4 x 11.9
Weight (pounds): 25
Price: $449

Speaker: Image S50
Type: two-way, bipole
Tweeter (size in inches, type): 1, alum. dome (2)
Woofer (size in inches, type): 5.25, metalized poly (2)
Nominal Impedance (ohms): 6
Recommended Amp Power (watts): 10–200
Available Finishes: Black, White
Dimensions (H x W x D, inches): 13 x 12.75 x 7.4
Weight (pounds): 18
Price: $749/pair

Ratings: PSB Image T65 Speaker System

Build Quality: 93
Value: 90
Features: 93
Performance: 90
Ergonomics: 90
Overall Rating: 91

General Information
T65 Tower Speaker, $1,099/pair
C60 Center-Channel Speaker, $449
S50 Surround Speaker, $749/pair
SubSonic 6i Subwoofer, $699
PSB Speakers
(888) 772-0000
www.psbspeakers.com
Dealer Locator Code PSB

HT Labs Measures: PSB Image T65 Speaker System

• Image T65 L/R Sensitivity: 89 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz

• Image C60 Center Sensitivity: 87.5 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz

• Image S50 Surround Sensitivity: 87.5 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz

This graph shows the quasi-anechoic (employing close-miking of all woofers) frequency response of the Image T65 L/R (purple trace), SubSonic 6i subwoofer (blue trace), Image C60 center channel (green trace), and Image S50 surround (red trace). All passive loudspeakers were measured at a distance of 1 meter with a 2.83-volt input and scaled for display purposes.

The Image T65's listening-window response (a five-point average of axial and +/–15-degree horizontal and vertical responses) measures +1.31/–3.88 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The –3dB point is at 50 Hz, and the –6dB point is at 39 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 4.45 ohms at 179 Hz and a phase angle of –33.52 degrees at 3.0 kHz.

The Image C60's listening-window response measures +1.08/–4.36 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. An average of axial and +/–15-degree horizontal responses measures +0.75/–4.06 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The –3dB point is at 68 Hz, and the –6dB point is at 55 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 6.15 ohms at 6.6 kHz and a phase angle of –47.33 degrees at 2.5 kHz.

The Image S50's three-face averaged response measures +2.69/–6.78 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The –3dB point is at 99 Hz, and the –6dB point is at 83 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 4.04 ohms at 263 Hz and a phase angle of –39.53 degrees at 146 Hz.

The SubSonic 6i's close-miked response, normalized to the level at 80 Hz, indicates that the lower –3dB point is at 25 Hz and the –6dB point is at 23 Hz. The upper –3dB point is at 126 Hz with the LFE input switch set to active.—MJP

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