Much like the Definitive Mythos ST system I reviewed in Playback issue 2, the PSB Synchrony system does a fine job with movie soundtracks, but really comes into its element when reproducing music. And, to an even greater degree than was true of the Definitives, the PSBs are dependent upon being used with appropriate, high-quality system components in order to sound their best.
My colleague Neil Gader from The Absolute Sound recently reviewed the Synchrony Two as a stereo speaker and, though finding it to offer many positive attributes, reported it also had “a dark, voluptuous tonal balance,” a “very light subtraction of energy in the presence range,” and a tendency to miss “elusive micro-dynamics.” Frankly, my own findings were substantially different, which I think is an indication that the Synchrony system is a bit of a sonic chameleon that mirrors the sound of the components with which it is used.
Neil tested the PSBs using “purist” stereo electronics that provided no room-correction EQ functions, while I mostly listened to the PSBs through a good A/V receiver equipped with the superb Audyssey MultEQ XT automated speaker set-up/room EQ system. My conclusion is that a good room EQ system can help take the PSB system’s performance to the next level.
In my test system the PSBs conveyed a generally neutral tonal balance, with taut, punchy bass. Treble detailing, though perhaps not “state-of-the-art” in the strict sense of the term, was as good if not better than anything I’ve heard in this price range. In the Playback system the speaker tended, if anything, to show a very slight degree of forwardness in the presence range—a quality that effortlessly exposed even small sonic details and dynamic shifts in emphasis. In fact, if this system was any more detailed than it already is, I suspect it would be painfully finicky about associated source and amplification components. As things stand, however, the Synchrony system has hit a sweet spot of sorts, where it works well when driven by modest A/V receivers, yet still holds enough headroom in reserve to show the benefits of high-performance electronics.
But one point on which Neil and I are in complete agreement is that this system is an emotional charmer extraordinaire. This is not a system you can (or should) listen to in a casual way, because it will continually pull at your ears and heartstrings—almost forcing you to care about musical performances. I put on “Children’s Song” from Chick Corea and Return to Forever’s Light As A Feather [Verve/Polydor], and within seconds found myself savoring the otherworldly, chime-like sound of Corea’s electric piano, the taut, almost astringent commentary provided by Stanley Clarke’s acoustic bass, and the luxurious sound of Airto Moreira and Flora Purim’s delicate percussion highlights floating above the ensemble. In short, the PSBs show you so much about how music is being made (again, letting you hear each note as if from within) that you can’t help but become emotionally involved; indifference is just not an option. And isn’t that the greatest musical gift that any speaker can give?
At $7800 the PSB Synchrony system is undeniably expensive, yet its performance handsomely repays the owner for his investment, and with emotional dividends. I can think of only a small handful of surround systems that can outperform this one, and they all cost thousands more. The Synchrony system marks a satisfying point of diminishing returns—even for demanding listeners whose expectations run high.