PSB Imagine T Speaker System Page 2

What limitations did I hear in the Imagine system with two-channel music? Massed orchestral crescendos at high levels sometimes sounded a bit congested, and some female vocals turned edgy at above-average volume. The recordings (and possibly my room) certainly played a part in both of these issues; I’ve heard them before in my room from other speakers (but not all). However, neither of them intruded at all, on multichannel Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio film soundtracks.

The Imagine Ts by themselves did not provide satisfying deep bass in my room, even with music. This was at least partially due to the out-in-the-room position my screen setup demands. This setup provides little of the bass reinforcement you’ll get with placement closer to a rear wall. In any event, the small, 5.25-inch woofers in the Imagines, even in multiples, really demand a subwoofer for full home theater duties if your taste runs to dynamic action films. In all of my comments in this section and the next, the Imagines were working down to 80 Hz, with the SubSeries 6i taking over below that point.

Imagining Movies
The system’s extended and detailed response was as obvious on films as on music. But before I could fully appreciate it, I had to address one small issue. A subtle midbass emphasis reduced intelligibility and slightly obscured dialogue from the center-channel speaker. This appeared to be the result of the center-channel location I use (beneath a projection screen and about 18 inches off the floor). I reduced this emphasis with a –2-dB setting for the center-channel bass control in the receiver I used in this review (the Integra DTR-9.9, reviewed in the April 2009 issue). This was the only time I used tone control or equalization in this review. Not all receivers have a separate center-channel bass control, but if you can position the speaker higher off the floor and away from other boundaries (as many of you will), you’ll be less likely to experience midbass problems in the first place.

Once I got everything cranking, the PSB Imagines, with the SubSeries 6i subwoofer in tow, delivered. As with all horizontally configured two-way woofer-tweeter-woofer center speakers, you can expect off-axis response dips in the Imagine C center that become more problematic the further off axis you sit. But from the 15-degree or so off-center position I generally use for movie watching, this dip was not significant. It certainly did not keep the system from generating a broad, deep, unified sound space that was far bigger than the system’s modest size suggests.

The Imagines held everything together, even on the most challenging soundtracks played back at high levels in my relatively large (about 3,200 cubic feet) home theater room. The Bourne Supremacy (Blu-ray, DTS-HD Master Audio) is loaded with challenging material. It has pulse-pounding drums and soaring strings in the score, enough car chases and crunching crashes to put you off driving for a week, and dialogue in a wide range of environments. The bass (those drums in particular) rocked the room, the strings in the score sounded sweet and clean, and the car crashes were as explosive and, um, crunchy as anyone could want—or stand.

Transformers (Blu-ray, Dolby TrueHD) carries the action to an even higher level. The final scene never lets up, with enough clanging metal, roaring jets, throbbing helicopters, and firepower for any three action movies. The Imagines kept up with this mayhem every step of the way without straining. They also excelled on less explosive details like Steve Jablonsky’s enveloping, richly recorded score.

The SubSeries 6i subwoofer handled its part in all of this with ease. True, it doesn’t generate the room-shredding fear that pricier designs, with more subterranean bass extension, provide. When I first set up the Imagine speakers, I used them with my resident Revel B15 subwoofer. That unit has more bass weight and a more tightly defined low end than the SubSeries 6i. And its higher price ($3,000) gives it undeniable advantages, including a built-in, three-band parametric equalizer.

What surprised me was just how little seemed to be missing when I switched to the SubSeries 6i. Of the soundtracks I auditioned, only Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (DVD, Dolby Digital and DTS) clearly revealed what the SubSeries 6i lacked on the extreme bottom end. And even then, it only showed in a near-direct comparison. The difference was evident primarily in the sequence where the alien craft smashes up from under the streets of Brooklyn. The Revel sub uncovered some extremely deep bass rumbling in these scenes that just wasn’t there with the PSB sub.

Even without this, the SubSeries 6i still cranked out enough low-frequency grunt on this film to send chills up my spine. It also delivered on my other current favorite bass test tracks as well, including the deep engine rumble of the tramp steamer in Stargate: Continuum (Blu-ray, DTS-HD Master Audio) and the powerful low end in almost any action scene in Transformers. I felt no urgency to finish up the auditions so I could pull out the PSB sub and put the Revel B15 back.

This PSB system is sweet and clean with music, capable of surprisingly forceful impact and wide dynamic range with film, and includes a subwoofer that is far more impressive than its price would suggest. The Imagines satisfied my audiophile itch and provided plenty of home theater thrills. There are a lot of fine surround speaker systems in this price range, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t put this one on your must-audition list.

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