PSB Imagine XB Speaker System Page 2

In Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a story of financial espionage and terror, Chris Pine squares off against director/costar Kenneth Branagh, who endows his Russian mobster with special dignity and depth. Four Imagine XBs produced a soundfield that ranged beyond the physical positions of the speakers. There was a wonderful disconnect between the sight of the little speakers and the huge sound they made. The bathroom gun battle got noisy without getting unduly abrasive, indicating the speakers’ ability to play reasonably (not to say abusively) loud. But the chopper attack could have used a more aggressive low-bass treatment from the sub. The bottom end wasn’t absent, just understated. This was the kind of effect I wanted to feel in my gut. But what bass the sub did provide was even and well controlled.

The Wolf of Wall Street is raucous all the way through: loud voices, loud music, loud everything. The snazzy songs swaggering through the story are best experienced at high levels—not rock-concert levels, but living-room-filling levels—and the PSBs were up to the task. Their combination of large-scale soundstaging and granularity of detail, including the natural quality of voices, was impressive. With the four XBs anchoring the soundfield, the yacht-in-storm scene mustered enveloping surround effects—and oddly foreshadowed the next demo.


All Is Lost might appeal to Life of Pi fans. It’s a one-man movie with Robert Redford as an amateur (but resourceful) sailor whose boat gets gashed by a stray shipping container, leaving him stranded in mid-ocean. There’s virtually no dialogue but plenty of effects. Even at the quietest of times, creaking wood and blowing winds offered the XBs a chance to demonstrate their ability to generate a convincing soundfield at low levels. When the sea turned stormy and thunder struck, the subwoofer pitched the effects and avoided bloat much better than you’d have any right to expect from a $449 sub, though again, more force would have enhanced the drama. I did second-guess my sub volume setting, using the handy front-panel knob, but concluded I’d gotten it right in the first place.

Clockwork Dreamscape
The Power and the Glory by Gentle Giant is the latest progressive-rock milestone to get a fresh surround mix from musician and mixer-to-the-gods Steven Wilson. I bought the CD+Blu-ray edition, though there’s also a CD+DVD-Audio version. Constructed like a piece of especially intricate clockwork, the 1974 album translates well into a surround dreamscape—and soundfield integrity is one of this speaker system’s special strengths. The album is also a monument to the simple pleasure of bass guitar—Ray Shulman’s fiendishly elaborate lines are mixed up front, clear, and deep—and here is where the PSB system dodged the bullet. With such powerful bass content, any bloat would have been obvious, but there was very little—and had it not been for my room’s well-documented standing wave, there would have been none at all. This was a triumph for both the main speakers and the sub. The only thing the system could have provided more of was the grand whacking impact of John Weathers’ powerful drumming. He wasn’t called the John Bonham of prog rock for nothing.

French and Russian Music is an 11-CD compilation with the always distinctive Sergiu Celibidache leading the Munich Philharmonic—at his distinctively slow, stately tempos—through works by Bartók (neither French nor Russian, but never mind), Debussy, Milhaud, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Roussel, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky. These are live recordings with a lean and cool midrange offset by loads of texture and detail. They can sound bright and thin, but the XBs made them rich and lively, delivering all the good stuff and none of the potential side effects. Crowd-pleasers like Debussy’s La Mer and Tchaikovky’s Nutcracker Suite burst out of the XBs with plenty of tone color and effortless layering, while Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra emerged in a more austere but equally approachable manner.

Oscar Peterson’s Unmistakable (CD) is a “Zenph re-performance” that fed historic recordings into software then recorded them on a computer-controlled piano. Via the XBs, Peterson’s breathtakingly mercurial runs sparkled. Here is where all the speakers did their best work. As any good speakers would do, they kept the left and right hands in more or less correct proportion. But just as important, they revealed all the smaller rhythmic subtleties of the left hand, with tight, controlled bass that kept the notes from slurring into one another.

The PSB Imagine X series is a characteristically masterful approach to budget speaker design from a brand with a great pedigree. The Imagine XB and XC would play reasonably loud with a budget receiver, but to get their full flavor, you’d need a higher-end receiver, and it would be worth the $1K-plus investment. The 8-inch SubSeries 125 is an excellent performer for its size and modest price, though the system would benefit from the greater weight of an equally well-designed but more substantial sub. So Imagine X could be the foundation of an excellent starter system—but it could also serve in a step-up system with a more powerful receiver and a brawnier subwoofer. Isn’t it nice to have options?

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mknight72's picture

If you are reading a audiophile level publication( or this website),the name Bose shouldn't even be in your vocabulary. I used to sell the crap ( mainly our store sold it because it has huuuuuuge margins , and also to pawn off on idiots off the street looking for Bose, who didn't have the time or the ears to be upsold to quality equipment), and a 700 dollar accoustimass system, cost the store 138 dollars, and supposedly cost Bose under 40 dollars to make. It is GARBAGE! Their success relies strictly in brand recognition with people who don't know better. No Highs, no lows......MUST BE BOSE!!

Kevin Sawler's picture

Bose.... Ya love them or you hate them. Oddly enough, both comments above are both right and wrong.
Bose happened to be one of the most recognized hp and speaker brands ... Outside of the specialty industry. Most lay-consumers perceive Bose to be the pinnacle of performance and design. Where's as most consumers who venture inside our industry rarely take the brand seriously.
As a result, Bose prefers to sell directly to consumers. Or to position their products ' inside' the industry as to avoid any direct performance comparisons. They have done a brilliant job of product positioning. As for the actual product itself, I'm not sure who would buy the brand based on fit, finish, construction quality, or even sound quality.
Suffice to say that Bose knows where their sandbox is, and are very careful to not venture to far inside the real AV industry.