PSB PWM-1 On-Wall Surround Speaker System Review Page 2

While the CS 500W lacks amenities found on many subwoofers such as a remote control or customization app, it does let you adjust settings like crossover, phase, level, and equalization via its front panel display. A preset equalization setting is provided to match the CSIR SUB, but there is no auto room correction or other fancy setup features. The amp can drive up to two CSIR SUBs simultaneously, with a back panel switch provided to adjust the amp's impedance accordingly. Powering up the amp can be carried out directly using its front-panel switch, remotely by 12-volt trigger, or using a signal-sensing automatic mode. The wall-hugging slimness of PSB's sub comes at a cost, however: a combined $2,198. That's quite a lot more than even the company's priciest conventional powered model, though the price is in-line with two-piece "architectural" subwoofer solutions from other manufacturers.


To avoid drilling holes in my walls for a temporary installation, I set up the PMW1s using 22-inch-tall speaker stands placed against the walls that positioned the tweeters slightly above ear-level. As mentioned above, I situated the front left and right speakers wide in order to maintain a fully dimensional soundstage—about eight feet apart, which put them at about the same angle from the listening position as my Synchrony towers would be in their regular spot. The PWM1 that I used as the center channel speaker was placed horizontally on the cabinet under my TV, while the surround channel speakers were put on tall stands against the room's side walls and slightly behind my listening position. Meanwhile, the CSIR SUB subwoofer sat on its floor pedestal up against the front wall just to the inside of the front left speaker.


Fine-tuning the crossover between the PWM1s and the subwoofer proved to be critical, as any misalignment resulted in a notable mid-bass bump that dominated the sound. I eventually settled on an 80Hz cross- over, with the subwoofer level tuned by ear. For most of my evaluation I drove the system with Denon's flagship AVR- X8500H receiver, but also used Yamaha's RX-V6A, a much more affordable 7.2-channel model, to see how it would work with more modest electronics. Both receivers proved able to drive the five-channel PWM1 system to realistic cinema-sound levels without strain, although clearly with better authority and grip when I used the beefier, more powerful Denon.

The opening few minutes of the Philip Glass soundtrack for the movie Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters offers a great way to get a quick read of the capabilities of any speaker. It starts with a whisper of wind chimes and quiet glockenspiel, and the transparent clarity of the PWM1's titanium dome tweeters brought out the bell-like tone of those high-pitched percussion instruments. After, you hear deeper-sounding tubular bells and strings, and then kettle drums that swell the volume up to eleven. The PWM1s handled this rapid dynamic sweep without breaking a sweat, delivering plenty of bite from the plucked double basses, and snap from the martial-sounding snare drum rolls. Despite the wall placement, the soundstage had good dimensionality, but it was mostly projected forward into the room rather than extending back behind the speakers like I often experience with in-room models.


Moving on, I played "Little Boy Blue" from Holly Cole's Temptation album. This is the type of music I often complain about hearing at audio shows where it seems like every room is showcasing some variation of a sultry female singer accompanied by an acoustic bass, though it does let you hear what's going on in a system. The CSIR SUB conveyed Dave Piltch's bass lines with plenty of weight and authority, while my careful tuning of the CS 500W amp's crossover settings made the pluck of each note blend smoothly between the PWM1s and the subwoofer. Like many sealed models, the CSIR SUB sounded tuneful without any blurring of notes. And Holly's husky voice came across as smooth and rich through the PWM1s, but with plenty of clean detail as opposed to sounding soft or dull.

For some butt-kicking surround action I fired up a scene from Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol where agent Hunt escapes in a van with the IMF secretary as they are attacked by Sidorov's forces. Bullets soon fly and the van plunges into a canal. The CSIR SUB delivered impressive impact and punch for such a compact subwoofer, although I didn't experience the pants leg-flapping air movement some larger subs are capable of generating. As you would expect when using a system with five identical speakers, the surround blend was superb, with a truly seamless sensation of envelopment. Overall, the PSB system was able to deliver as much output and dynamic range as I would ever want in my room, although in a significantly bigger space you may want to seek out the company's larger PWM models.

The system's center channel speaker is a PWM1 simply rotated to a horizontal orientation. Flipping a speaker sideways like this can some- times create issues with uneven off-axis response, but I found that the PWM1's high-frequency output remained even as I moved to various off-center seating positions. Dedicated center channel speakers often emphasize the upper mid-range and low treble to enhance dialogue clarity, but the PWM1 didn't need this type of assistance: I heard the same smooth but detailed sound as the main left and right speakers, which made dialogue buried in a difficult soundtrack mix easy to follow.

Most of us don't have the luxury of a dedicated listening/viewing room and need systems that can cohabitate with partners and kids and accommodate other activities in a shared, multipurpose space. Even so, there's no reason why we can't expect that setup to be an audiophile-quality one. PSB's PWM-based system strikes a balance between stealth and performance exceptionally well, delivering the goods for both movies and music-listening while remaining conveniently out of the way.

PSB Speakers
(905) 831-6555

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