At Paul’s suggestion, Playback reviewed the tiny Image B4 monitors along with their companion SubSeries 1 sub, partly because there is obvious sonic synergy between the two, and partly because the complete 2.1-channel package is quite affordable (just $698 for the whole works).
What’s the Draw? The appeal of this speaker/subwoofer package (and it should be treated as a package) centers on the sound of the Image B4 monitor. The B4’s greatest strength, in turn, is its smooth, open, and articulate midrange. As reviewer Tom Martin noted, the B4’s tend to make instruments “sound realistic, rather than plasticky.” Overall frequency balance is for the most part neutral and flat, though treble response is perhaps just slightly less extended than what you would hear from more costly (actually, much more costly) high-end speakers. Bass, as far as it goes, is very tight, but not terribly deeply extended—not even by desktop audio standards. However, that’s where the benefits of the SubSeries 1 subwoofer come in.
Many knowledgeable audiophiles tend to comment unfavorably on so-called “sat/sub” systems, and the reason why is easy to understand: most subs don’t blend with their associated small bookshelf speaker worth a darn, so that results can often sound terribly incoherent and muddled. Happily, though, that isn’t what happens at all when you go to merge the Image B4’s with the SubSeries 1. Contrary to typical experiences with sat/sub systems, the Image B4’s and the SubSeries 1 sound as if they were made for one another, right from the outset (which, in a sense, they were).
As reviewer Tom Martin put it, “with the SubSeries 1, I found within minutes that I had meaningful bass extension but without killing the midrange smoothness and clarity of the B4s.” The end result is a package where the whole is arguably greater than the sum of the parts. It’s not perfect, of course, but you get an awful lot of performance (and, in the end, quite satisfying bass output) for your money.
One final note: the Image B4/SubSeries 1 system tends to produce a highly defined sound may or may not please those looking for a slightly warmer, softer, or more "liquid" sound. But for us, the strengths of the PSB system far outweigh its potential drawbacks.