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PSB Alpha 5.1 Speaker System
September, 2002

Brian Weatherhead

 

Specifications:

Alpha B (SUR): Cabinet (H/W/D) 6 1/2 x 11 1/4 x 9 1/4"; Drivers: .75" Tweeter, 5.25" Mid-Woofers, Internal Crossover; Freq Response: 65 Hz - 21 kHz   3 dB; 6 Ohm Impedance (4/6/8 Ohm Receiver compatible); Sensitivity: 91 dB.

Alpha C (LCR): Cabinet (H/W/D) 17 1/4 x 6 1/2 x 9 1/4"; Drivers: .75" Tweeter, 2- 5.25" Mid-Woofers, Internal Crossover; Freq Response: 62 Hz  -  21 kHz    3 dB; 8 Ohm Impedance (4/6/8 Ohm Receiver compatible); Sensitivity: 92 dB.

Alpha Sub Zeroi: Cabinet (H/W/D) 19 5/8" x 13 1/4" x 13 7/8"; Drivers: 8" Subwoofer, Internal fully adjustable Crossover; Freq Response: 36 Hz - 150 Hz    3 dB; Class A/B 100 watt RMS amplifier.

MSR: $1,484


PSB Speakers.; 1-888-772-0000; Web http://www.psbspeakers.com

Introduction

Having never listened to a set of PSB speakers before, I wasn't sure what to expect. After all the speaker sets had arrived, I unpacked them. I must say the the PSB got my attention right off the bat.

Aesthetics

The fit and finish of the Alpha series is by far the best in the round-up. The finish is a light wood (maple) that looks top notch. As nice as some Dynaudios. The curved grille, subtle logo, and wood make this my top picks for looks. The wood is a perfect match to my existing hardwood interior, a definite plus. The curved lines separate it from some of the plainer boxes in this round-up.

Listening

WOW! The first time I fired up the Alphas, I was awe-struck. These are the largest speakers of this group, and man did they sound good . . . really good.

Out of all the speakers in this round-up, the PSB have the flattest response  - within a few dB from 200 Hz to 20 kHz - and the lowest extension. Now I know the size has something to do with that, but I was impressed.

The transitions from mid to highs were very fluid and seamless. The mids in the Alpha's have definite punch, not to mention clarity. I can't stress how well these sound. I am a fan of dipoles, and the surrounds provided were monopoles, but I was impressed to say the least (PSB does offer dipoles). In my opinion, these were the best sounding speakers in the round-up, hands down. Keep in mind that you are paying for the sound with size, almost three times the average size of its competitors.

The system had an average THD mark of 0.88% (90 dB - 2"). Maybe a little high for a system this size. In fact, I was surprised and ran the test three times. The system sounds clean with very little coloration. I feel that the Atlantic Technologys were a tad cleaner sounding, but the PSBs were more linear and tighter in delivery. An advantage to a larger enclosure, the PSBs can play very loud. Where most systems in this test folded at around 110 dB, the PSBs still had plenty of head room.

If I had one complaint it would be the sub. It just couldn't keep pace with these wonderful speakers. I placed a larger sub with this set, and oh what a difference. If you buy these I suggest getting a larger sub such as one of the PSB Subsonics. The Sub provided did OK, but to truly stretch the limits of the Alphas, you are going to want some more power. The Subzero got outpaced by the time I really started to enjoy the material. It would probably be sufficient for a smaller room, but to really rock and roll I upgraded to a larger sub. Imaging was spot on, no complaints. I felt that the speakers should be towed in a little, giving them a little more extension into the high frequencies.

Conclusions

Even though they had a slightly higher THD than some of the other speakers here, it wasn't noticeable audibly. The linear sound and aesthetics were top notch. They are among the largest in this round-up, so keep this in mind when comparing. If I had to plop down some cash, this would be the set I would take home from the store. Definitely a winner.


- Brian Weatherhead -

Related to the article above, we recommend the following:

Speaker Primer

Misunderstood 0.1 LFE Channel

Nature of Equipment Reviews

A Big Dig into Bass Reflex

What we Hear

Big Bass in Small Places

High Fidelity

Equalizers

Accuracy, Distortion, and the Audiophile

Copyright 2002 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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