Surround Sound Speaker Systems

"Imagine" (NAD Blu-ray Player and Receiver, PSB Speakers)

ARTICLE INDEX

Specifications : PSB Imagine B Bookshelf Speakers (Front Left, Right), Imagine C (Center), and Imagine S (Surrounds)

  • PSB Imagine B (Main Channels)
  • Design: 2-Way, Ported
  • Drivers: One 1" Titanium Dome Tweeter, One 5.25" Woofer
  • MFR: 52 Hz -23 kHz ± 3 dB
  • Sensitivity: 87 dB
  • Power Handling: 150 watts
  • Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Crossover: 1.8 kHz
  • Dimensions: 13" H x 7.5" W x 12" D
  • Weight: 17.2 Pounds/Each
  • MSRP: $999.99/Pair USA
  • PSB Speakers
  • PSB Imagine C (Center)
  • Design: 2-Way, Ported
  • Drivers: One 1" Titanium Dome Tweeter, Two 5.25" Polypropylene Woofers
  • MFR: 47 Hz -23 kHz ± 3 dB
  • Sensitivity: 87 dB
  • Power Handling: 150 watts
  • Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Crossover: 1.8 kHz
  • Dimensions: 7.5" H x 20.5" W x 13.6" D
  • Weight: 30.5 Pounds
  • MSRP: $799.99 USA
  • PSB Speakers

  • PSB Imagine S (Surrounds)
  • Design: 2-Way, Sealed Enclosure
  • Drivers: Two 1" Titanium Dome Tweeters, Two 5.25" Polypropylene Woofers
  • MFR: 65 Hz -23 kHz ± 3 dB
  • Sensitivity: 87 dB
  • Power Handling: 150 watts
  • Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Crossover: 2 kHz
  • Dimensions: 12.6" H x 10.8" W x 6.9" D
  • Weight: 16.3 Pounds/Each
  • MSRP: $1,199.99/Pair
  • PSB Speakers

Introduction

The Imagine speakers are PSB's newest speaker line. There are four models in this line – The Imagine T towers, the Imagine B bookshelf speakers, the Imagine C center speaker and the Imagine S surround speakers. I opted to review the Imagine B's for the mains versus the much more common towers for two reasons – first, this is the inaugural Secrets system review and the point is to review affordable system and the bookshelf speakers are somewhat less expensive than the towers and secondly, my system works better with bookshelf speakers. I have a Pioneer Kuro display and a front projector with a screen that lowers down in front of the Pioneer display. The main front speakers typically sit below the big screen on a set of custom Sound Anchor stands. I can accommodate tower speakers in my room, but the right channel speaker tends to block a doorway a little bit.

Speakers PSB Imagine B Bookshelf ratings

All the speakers share elegant and curvaceous cabinets that feature 7-layer laminated construction. The samples I received for review were finished in a dark cherry real wood veneer. The look was pure class. The only issue I had was that the grilles are black and the way the speakers were designed, that's the most visible part of the speakers. It's a shame you can't see the finish on these speakers more readily.

All the ported speakers in this series come with plugs that you can use to block the port for tuning or if you wish to install the speakers in a cabinet. The Imagines sport heavy duty gold-plated five-way binding posts. The main speakers are all bi-wire and bi-amp ready. The surround speakers have two sets of binding posts so the user can buy a single pair of speakers, but use them as both the rear and back speakers in a 7.1 set up. You could also fashion some jumpers to run them in dipole mode if you so desire.

Imagine B Speakers

One of the really great aspects of this speaker system was its amazing surround envelopment. I can now understand why PSB named this speaker line the "Imagines". This surround effect was apparent with both movies and music, but was much more compelling when enjoying music. A good example was the SACD of Carole King's masterpiece "Tapestry". When I closed my eyes, I felt she was in the room within arm's reach. This was at once compelling and unsettling.

Getting back to my point, I have a theory why these speakers produced such an uncanny bubble... they have all the same drivers. My reference speakers, like so many other surround systems, have common tweeters, but the bass and mid drivers are different sizes in each speaker. Now I am convinced that the Imagine's awesome surround image envelopment and specificity must be due in large part to the speakers sharing the same tweeters and mids. The cabinets also share a common curvy shape that probably heightens the dispersion effects. The last assumption that I will make in this area involves my understanding of Paul Barton, the man behind PSB speakers: the speakers are most likely meticulously voiced to further this effect.

Imagine C SpeakersImagine S Speakers

The tweeters have titanium domes and have ferrofluid cooling. The mids are polypropylene cones with rubber surrounds and aluminum phase plugs. All drivers are mounted within rubbery "cones" or "lenses". This same material encloses the outlet of the ports and the input cups. It also shows up as a ridge along the base of the Imagine B's since they would not stand up on their own without it. All in all, my impression of these speakers was that they are lovingly designed and very well constructed. This goes for the cabinets, the drivers, the crossovers, the whole package, really.

In Use

Some evidence of this system's surround prowess was as follows: the ambience of the chapel during the opening sermon in Doubt was very well represented although the venue sounded a tad smaller than anticipated. In this same film, the many environmental sounds within the sparse mix were specifically rendered and were appropriately delicate or brash as intended by the filmmaker. The thundering herd in the stampede scene from Australia was also a surround highlight for this speaker system. Just as in Doubt, the environmental sounds were very well represented in space. The same could be said for my impression of the Blu-ray of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

The Imagine speakers were smooth operators. This was a very persistent observation of mine throughout the review period. I did at times feel that the sound was a little saccharin sweet, bordering on brittle as I heard at times on the SACD of Junior Brown's "Down Home Chrome". But that was an isolated observation. My lasting impression of the Imagine speakers was that they are smooth and articulate. Speech intelligibility was also very good, although I felt that the leading edges on voices were more natural when listening to SACD's versus Blu-ray discs.

These speakers tended to sound bigger than their size would suggest. This tendency was most evident during the hyperactive soundtrack in Taken. The sound here was very impactful and articulate. I also relished in the clear and real sound of the cymbals in the yacht sequence. The treble and midrange shone when reproducing the more natural-sounding gunshots in the International.

The International

The Imagine speakers were really in their element with music reproduction and I would like to offer further comment on the Imagines' musical performance on SACD. The strummed strings were very delicate on The Bridge Washed Out (Track 4) of Junior Brown's "Down Home Chrome". Junior's voice was nowhere near as chesty as I get with my reference system. On Hill Country Hot Rod (Track 5), the Imagines preserved the tempo nicely on this foot-tapper. The guitar, snare and cymbals all had a very live vibe to them. On Track 6, Jimmy Jones, the Imagines portrayed excellent dynamic contrasts.

Down Home Chrome

On track 12, Natural Woman, on the SACD of Carole's "Tapestry", the piano was reproduced remarkably well. I enjoyed the full emotional impact of this stellar work. This is one disc that I have had difficulty enjoying on my reference Definitive Technology speakers because the mix is tilted-up and it is typically too bright through the Def Techs for my tastes. The sound was still bright through the Imagines, but the Imagines' smoother treble response made this disc listenable and enjoyable. The sound of the Imagines did start to sound hard at higher output levels, but I was unclear if this was due to limitations with the speakers or with the NAD T747 receiver.

Tapestry