PSB Imagine T2 5.1-channel Surround System (Hi-Fi+)

The Canadian firm PSB Speakers is known for building loudspeakers that give exceptional value for money, but even within a value-oriented brand certain models set themselves apart from their stable mates. In the PSB range, one such model is designer Paul Barton’s Imagine-series T2 floorstander, which—thus far—has won critical acclaim from most every audio journalist who has ever sampled a pair. Granted, PSB’s Synchrony-series speakers (and especially the impressive Synchrony 1 floorstander) represent the very top of the range, but despite this fact many of us who have listened carefully to the Imagine T2 have marveled at how close it comes to its more costly Synchrony-series siblings. This should come as no surprise given that Barton’s practice is always to strive for continuous improvement in his work, so that learnings gleaned from earlier speaker development projects wind up being folded into new design projects with results that benefit us all.

There is really little that I can add to the reviews that have already been written about Imagine T2s used in 2-channel stereo application, and one review I would commend to your attention in particular is the article written by my colleague Dr. Robert E. Greene in our sister publication, The Absolute Sound (see TAS, issue 226, available through www.theabsolutesound.com). One area where I can contribute, however, is to tackle a somewhat broader question: namely, how would a 5.1-channel surround system based on the Imagine T2 perform? That is the question I’ll do my best to answer in this review. But first, let me supply a bit of background information.

Most of the members of PSB’s Imagine-series speakers (except, that is, for the on-wall models) share certain technologies and design treatments in common. Thus, most models in the range share beautiful, curved-wall speaker enclosures offered in dark cherry, walnut, or black ash veneers, or in gloss white or black (at slightly higher costs). All models (except for the Imagine S surround speaker and, again, the on-walls) feature bass reflex enclosures and feature similar driver technologies. The Imagines, then, sport 1-inch Titanium dome, ferrofluid cooled tweeters with Neodymium motor magnets, plus midrange and/or mid-bass drivers featuring clay/ceramic reinforced polypropylene cones supported by rubber surrounds. The intent, plainly, is to have uniform voicing across the entire speaker range.

Our review system consisted of a pair of PSB Imagine T2s floorstanders ($3499.98/pair) as main speakers, an Imagine C ($849.99 each) centre-channel speaker, a pair of Imagine Minis mini-monitors ($759.99/pair) used as surround speakers, and a SubSeries 300 powered subwoofer ($999.99 each). Thus, the total system price came to $6,109.95. Now it will come as no surprise that there is a substantial gulf between what normal mortals consider “reasonable audio system pricing” vs. what dyed-in-the-wool audiophiles consider “affordable pricing.” For most of the normal mortals I know, this PSB Imagine T2 surround system would register being as “really expensive”, yet still within the realm of consideration if the sound quality warrants the price. For many of the audiophiles I know, however, this self-same system might be regarded as being “value priced” or even a bit of a bargain. And the truth, as you’ll learn in this review, is the Imagine T2 surround system fits both profiles at once; it sounds more expensive than it is and for this reason is readily able to justify it price (whether you consider that price to be “really getting up there” or rather “a great deal” to begin with).

Once I got the Imagine T2 system set up, properly run-in (most PSB models I’ve tried like a good bit of run-in before their sound fully blossoms), and carefully dialed-in, my first reaction were the following two thoughts. First, I thought, “this system is way too good to use purely for movie playback,” and then I thought, “this system sounds so sophisticated and smooth that it makes a great case for listening to multichannel music—even for people who think they don’t like multichannel recordings.” Let me explain both of these reactions in a bit more detail.

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