PSB Imagine T2 Loudspeaker

Tower of Power

 

A Few Limitations

No speaker is perfect and all have certain limitations. The T2’s list of negatives is short and not very emphatic but here are a few points: First of all, the bass and mid/treble do not entirely coalesce at very close listening positions. The bass drivers are spread out and contoured for a purpose—the arrangement minimizes floor interaction problems as already discussed. But the physical separation and transitional crossover mean that the T2s do not work well as “nearfield monitors”—at extremely close range they sound like a small mid/treble speakers with bass attached separately. At normal listening distances, this ceases to be an issue at all and things become remarkably integrated.

Second, the speakers are very smooth but not totally flat, having a slightly contoured sound in the upper mids. (There is, as noted, the high treble peak, but this is too high to affect timbre in the usual sense, though removing it by EQ smoothes the sound subtlety.) The T2s are in measured and listening terms slightly pulled back around 1–2kHz, relative to the frequencies just below. This does not affect perceived neutrality so much as cause a slight “backing off” of the image, an effect much to the good on a great many recordings. Musically, this is a desirable choice to my mind.

With its near perfection of pattern, an ongoing PSB design criterion especially well done here, the T2 is one speaker that is definitely DSP-correction-ready—not that it needs very much if any correction, you understand. And one could argue in this case that it really did not need any or benefit much from any that was tried, depending on the room. In the bass, only a rare, fortuitous room/speaker combination does not benefit from a bit of DSP touch-up. But in the midrange broadly conceived I did not really want to change anything.

Few speakers get to that point on their own, but here is one. Being as I am, I did experiment with EQ settings, but flattening the speaker out literally across the 1–6kHz region was not clearly an improvement in listening terms: slightly more accurate tonal character, but only slightly, and rather less natural imaging behavior. Overall, I tended to skip the EQ of anything in the midrange. And even the slight bass emphasis from the room seemed musically to the good, though of course the bass would have needed correction to be measurably perfect.

I seldom say this, being inclined to meddle and in most cases finding things I think I can improve, but in this case, letting well enough alone seemed the way to go, except perhaps for getting rid of the high-treble peak if you are so inclined.

In the live room, close to the walls of necessity (the room is fairly narrow), with no corrections, one heard a little midrange coloration, whether from the slight 400–500Hz prominence or the baffle step or something else it would be hard to say for sure. But in the larger and deader room, this went away.

One could really just revel in the realism of the sound on good recordings. My old stand-by, the Dallas Symphony/Mata recording of the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances on ProArte sounded remarkably convincing and rather more spacious than with most speakers—really (dare I say it) like an orchestra.

 

The Big Picture

Like their PSB predecessors, the T2s are exceptionally well- designed and represent extraordinary value at the price. Their performance in terms of their fundamental design criteria— in particular, neutral smooth response on- and off-axis—is so extraordinarily good that there is not that much obvious competition near the price range, if these are the things that count for you (as they are for me!). But, whereas the PSB T6s I reviewed earlier were so inexpensive that there was really essentially nothing I could think of at the price that would be competitive in a full-range speaker, the T2s cost enough that there is actually is some competition in the same price range: the Gradient Evidence and various BBC-related box monitors (e.g., Harbeth M30.1, Stirling Broadcast LS3/6, etc.) come immediately to my mind, but there are quite a few others. Once speakers reach a certain level of neutrality, then one begins to have to listen for one’s self as to which exact choices please the most.

Can the T2s really be all that good? Well, what can I say? In many fundamental ways—ways which often escape other speakers, even those at very high prices—the T2s get things right. Paul Barton has been designing speakers for a long time. But he just keeps getting better. The T2 is a speaker to listen to carefully before you buy anything else—even things that cost a lot more. Or you could wait for Paul Barton to produce a big statement speaker, price-no-object and domestic compatibility ignored (I am waiting for this myself). But what you already have in hand with the T2 is one remarkable transducer. PSB has a lot of dealers. A stop-in at one is definitely recommended, with open ears and open mind and forgetting about the modest price. I think you will be not only impressed in audio terms but also deeply attracted to their sound in musical ones.

All content, design, and layout are Copyright © 1999 - 2011 NextScreen. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction in whole or part in any form or medium without specific written permission is prohibited.