PSB Imagine T2 Loudspeaker

Tower of Power

 

The Sound

The most immediately surprising feature of the T2s is the power and extension of the bass. One really does not expect such a small, discrete speaker to get the full bass impact of the orchestra. But the T2 does the job.

In my rooms, it rolls off fairly fast below around 35Hz, but it is solid down to 40Hz, which is pretty much the bottom of the orchestra in practice though not in principle (the contrabassoon, for example, sounds a nominal 29Hz but most of the actual energy is in the harmonics, and this is true for most of the super- deep orchestral instruments—only pipe organs really pump out substantial energy in the 20Hz range). The T2 looks small but it sounds full and unconstrained in the bottom end on orchestral music and, for that matter, rock (the bottom of the Fender bass is around 40Hz, too). The bass power is obtained by reflex-loading, and the bass is thus not in principle as “tight” as is possible, but this seemed to me a non-issue in practice—definition was good in musical terms and pitch of bass lines was very well defined. Bass lines could be followed with complete ease, even in complex music. Summary: small speaker, big sound.

The T2 will also play loudly for a small speaker. With a hefty amplifier—I was using a Sanders Magtech—the T2s will offer satisfying levels on loud music with headroom to spare in rooms of ordinary domestic size. Any speaker can be troubled by trying to fill a sufficiently enormous room, but the dynamic capacity of the T2s belies its small size.

I got a certain amount of resistance on-line for asserting in my earlier review (Issue 200) of the PSB Image T6 that it sounded remarkably like an orchestra—assertions to the effect that this was impossible and that I must not know what an orchestra sounds like (odd idea that, since I have been playing in orchestras since I was eight years old and still do). Of course, the subtext here should have been obvious: that implicit in the statement was “compared to other speakers.” No stereo presentation in a small room is literally going to sound like an orchestra in an auditorium. But as speakers go, the T6s did sound a lot like one, and the T2s do as well, and in many respects even more so.

The sense of discontinuity coming back from a rehearsal or concert and listening to the T2s in a good room is minimal in the context of stereo speakers. One really is getting something very like the gestalt of the orchestra. Full frequency range (for all practical purposes), good dynamic range, rather less than the usual sense of sound coming out of speakers, and, most important of all, natural timbre.

I am writing this not long after the Newport Show. This intriguing show included a considerable number of really impressive exhibits. And one has to cut some slack for show conditions. But to my ears, surprisingly many of the exhibits sounded, however fine in other respects, like speakers making sound in rooms. The T2s in a suitable setup in a good room are surprisingly free of this effect. An audiophile friend of mine stopped by after the show and I played him the T2s in my (rather heavily damped) downstairs audio room. He was stunned by the sense of the music materializing in space without any apparent sound from the speakers at all. (This was on the Harnoy/Dussek recording of Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata, RCA).

With the speakers quite far apart, the two instruments and the space of the recording venue were effortlessly there in front of you, and with your eyes closed, it would have been impossible, I think, to point at the speaker positions at all. Soundstage indeed, if you will! Is this related to the narrow front baffle? Past experience suggests that it is, and as such perhaps it is to some extent an artifact of the narrow front itself—or not, who knows? But in any case, the T2s do the “disappearing act” that all audiophiles seem to love to a fare-thee-well.

Similar things happened with larger-scaled music. John Eargle’s recording of the Shchedrin arrangement for percussion and strings of music from Bizet’s Carmen [Delos] presented the percussion in particular as totally detached from the speakers and indeed from the listening room. Of course, all well-set-up stereo speakers do this to some extent. But the T2s do it rather better than almost all others I’ve reviewed.

And on this Delos recording, the dynamic power of the T2s came to the fore. There is a good deal of banging around in this percussion tour de force—along with, in other spots, many delicate subtleties. Everything came through remarkably well, the banging and the subtleties both, with the speaker maintaining a relaxed, clean, apparently distortion-less sound even at the more extreme moments, and an unforced clarity in the quiet spots.

I mentioned above how smooth the speaker was off-axis. Now what all that techno stuff is likely to add up in listening terms is that the speaker will be quite neutral in almost any reasonable room environment. Of course any speaker will change sound in rooms of different liveliness, in a hard room versus a soft room. As it happened, I tried the T2s at length in both my living room—an ordinary domestic room of medium liveliness—and my audio room, which is heavily damped and less lively in the top end than an ordinary room. The T2s did well in both. But it was in the less live room that the T2s really came into their own. The sense of sound-from-no-speaker was intensified, and the tonal truthfulness was extraordinary.

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