It wasn't that many years ago when PSB launched
their company with some small, inexpensive bookshelf speakers.
Since that time, they have grown into one of the
most respected speaker manufacturers in North America.
The Alpha series from PSB has been totally
revamped for 2006. According to PSB "Every new model utilizes new cabinetry,
tweeters, woofers, crossovers and port technology."
The Alphas are the entry-level line for PSB. Other
lines include the Image, VisionSound, Stratus, and Platinum. They have come
a long way since those little Alpha bookshelf speakers of way back when.
I had the opportunity to review the Alpha T1 Towers
for the fronts, Alpha C1 Center, Alpha B1 Surrounds, and the Alpha 5i Subwoofer.
They arrived well packaged in the black Ash finish,
but are also available in maple.
The fit and finish of the enclosures was excellent,
and the grilles fit perfectly.
The T1 Towers and C1 Center have the drivers
arranged in a D'Appolito array, meaning that the tweeter is in the middle,
with the mid/woofers on either side.
The MSRP for the system as tested is $1,656 (USA),
although the speakers are available separately.
The system was very easy to set up. I utilized the keyhole slots (threaded
connections are also present) on the surrounds
along with spade connectors,
and an already existing shelf for the Center with banana plugs.
For the 5i, I used the RCA line-level input.
Once everything was connected, I utilized the "The AVIA Guide to Home
Theater" DVD and confirmed the settings with my Sunfire Theater Grand IV SSP
It was very helpful that PSB built the 5i subwoofer
with the volume control in the front. I was able to easily reach over from
my couch whenever necessary and make small adjustments.
The Sound and the Fury
I began my listening experience with the Polar Express DVD.
The Alpha series did a wonderful job at keeping up
with the fast pace of this movie. The "Hot Chocolate" scene is very busy,
with objects flying all over the place along with music playing. It
enveloped my entire family, and my kids were hoping a cup of hot chocolate
was going to come flying their way.
There was a noticeable sweet spot covering a couple
of feet above and below listening level. This sweet spot was pronounced when
I stood up and walked around the sound stage.
The next DVD that received the nod was Daredevil. This movie has a
lot of different things going on similar to Polar Express. I was very
impressed how well the entire system, including the subwoofer, kept up when
Ben Affleck went blind and had sensory overload in his hospital room. The
overall sound was very believable and well balanced. The surrounds kept up
nicely with the towers.
I then moved on to a couple of music CDs.
The first was Brooks and Dunn: Hard Workin' Man.
The "Boot Scootin Boogie (Club Mix)" has a nice blend of bass and melody
that can really test speakers. The Alpha series was able to do very well for
their size, playing loud and accurate. However, these are not very large
speakers, and as I increased the volume, the midrange seemed to compress a
bit, meaning that it did not get louder in relation to the rest of the audio
spectrum as I turned the volume control.
I prefer my music louder than most people though, so
as long as you are comfortable with modest volume levels, they should be
fine. I experienced a similar listening journey with the Sting: Ten
Summoner's Tale DVD. Even though the midrange did compress at very high
volume, I did not notice any harmonic distortion.
PSB has succeeded in providing an excellent 5.1 system at a great price
point. The speakers all blend very well together, and they should provide a
nice upgrade to many home theater systems.
They did have midrange compression at high volume,
but this is not a flaw in the design, but rather just that I prefer speakers
that can play really loud.
I believe these speakers perform exactly as they are
supposed to, sounding great at modest volume levels, without breaking the
bank. For less than $2,000, it is a heck of a deal.
- Mark Smith -