PSB has an enviable reputation for offering speakers of extraordinary quality at reasonable prices. They are one of the “go to” brands in any price range below the stratosphere, models that need to be checked out before purchasing in the low-to-moderate price range. And, truth to tell, they really ought to be checked out even if you have a lot of money to spend. You might be pleasantly surprised how well they stack up against things that cost a lot more. The $3500-per- pair Imagine T2 towers definitely fit right in with this picture, offering superb sound for the money. But at the same time, they represent something of a fresh departure for PSB in a few directions and something truly exceptional in sound quality, too, even by usual PSB high standards.
First of all, the T2s seem deliberately designed to get maximum bass performance out of a really small speaker (small as floorstanders go). The T2s are only 41" high and have an undersized footprint. They fade elegantly into domestic décor, but they offer solid bass to well below the effective bottom limits of the orchestra, in my rooms anyway, although not down into subterranean frequencies.
Secondly, the T2 has an unusually narrow front for PSB—the face being 6" wide compared to the Image T6 that I reviewed in Issue 200, which is 73⁄4" wide. Even the mini-speaker Alpha B1 is 7" wide. (The curved sides of the T2s widen out behind the front to a nominal 81⁄2".) These may not seem like large differences, but the narrow front seems to have significant effects sonically, in particular in the direction of more of the soundstaging— expansive stereo presentation—so beloved of most audiophiles, and a higher frequency for the “baffle step.” (More on this later.) The T2 is unusually elegant in appearance, with gracefully curvilinear surfaces. By comparison, the (less expensive) Image T6 looks quite strictly functional.
Third, while the T2s are surely neutral as speakers go and have an overall flat response, they seem somewhat shaded towards warmth and what one might call non-aggressiveness, with a slight dip in response starting around 1–2kHz and some generosity in-room in the 100Hz region. If the Canadian-school speakers influenced by the NRC (Canada’s National Research Council) have as a whole a bit of reputation for the analytic, the T2s, while finely detailed, belie this in balance—and do so all to the musical good. The T2s are accurate, indeed, as speakers go. But they are also quite often, for lack of a more precise phrase, beautiful sounding.
How It Works
The T2 is a five-driver speaker, each speaker having three small (51⁄2") woofers, with individual internal enclosures and ports (on the back), a 41⁄2" midrange driver at the top of the speaker cabinet, and a 1" titanium-dome tweeter just below. The multiple bass drivers are used to generate more bass in a narrow-front/ small-volume cabinet and also to reduce problems of interaction with the floor (like other PSB tower speakers). The crossover is what PSB calls “transitional,” which means that the bass drivers have different response contours, with the top woofer crossing over to the tweeter at 500Hz in the usual sense, while the other two bass drivers have roll-offs at two other frequencies (80Hz, 200Hz). This transitional design gives more control over radiation pattern and floor interaction, and it works very well. The usual dip somewhere between 100Hz and 300Hz is largely missing here and the speaker has surprisingly smooth in-room response in the lower mids and upper bass, where floor and room problems can be severe.
The speaker is designed to have extremely smooth and flat response on-axis, and nearly-on-axis, too. The response hardly changes over a +/-30 degree window up to around 5kHz. Above that frequency, there is a loss of a few dB at 30 degrees in the higher frequencies. The measured overall response is very flat except for a dip in the high treble followed by a peak in the really high treble.
The far-off-axis response is interesting. Because, one supposes, of the really narrow front, what appears to be the baffle step (where the radiation shifts to being primarily frontal) is quite high, around 700Hz it seems. Around that frequency, there is a fairly steep though not terribly large droop in the far-off-axis response and then on up, compared to lower down. This is only a couple of dB, and above that transition the response is again very smooth up to around 5kHz, with minimal “tweeter flare,” presumably part of the reason for the wave-guided tweeter. Paul Barton has done a good job handling the baffle-step issue of narrow-front speakers, as well as controlling the radiation pattern.