3D Imaging You Can Believe In
May 26th, 2009 -- by Chris Martens
- To preserve common voicing throughout the lineup, all Imagine models share a core set of drive units: specifically, a 5.25-inch polypropylene mid-bass driver and a 1-inch ferrofluid-cooled titanium tweeter (whose design, PSB says, is influenced by the tweeter used in the firm’s top-tier Synchrony speakers)
- The Imagine T is a 2 ½-way design featuring a dual-ported bass reflex enclosure, while the Imagine C is a 2-way, three-driver, single-ported reflex design.
- Both the T and C models come with soft rubber port plugs that can, at the owner’s option, be used to block off reflex ports for a tighter though slightly less full bass sound (a welcome option when the speakers are installed in rooms that can add unwanted bass reinforcement).
- The ingenious Imagine S surround speaker incorporates two sets of tweeters and mid-bass drivers, and offers three user-selectable configurations, allowing bipolar, dipolar, or dual-channel modes of operation.
- Imagine speaker enclosures feature a lovely industrial design developed by David Farrage, with sidewalls and (for most models) top surfaces that incorporate subtle, compound curves. To build these exotic-looking enclosures at sensible prices, PSB uses a special manufacturing process said to combine “the precision of computer-controlled machining with the irreplaceable touch of hand craftsmanship.”
- Imagine speaker enclosures are essentially seamless and feature beefy 1.5-inch thick front baffle plates with heavy internal bracing. Front surfaces are gently (and precisely) radiused to minimize diffraction and to control dispersion. Interestingly, there are no visible fasteners for drive units, port vents, or binding post plates.
- The SubSeries 6i provides a 225-watt BASH amplifier driving a 12-inch charcoal/polypropylene woofer, which is housed in a dual-ported bass-reflex enclosure. In a move we applaud, PSB puts the level and crossover frequency controls for the sub on the front of its enclosure.
The Imagine system bears strong sonic resemblance to PSB’s more costly Synchrony system, meaning that it offers well-balanced, natural voicing and robust dynamics, and can retrieve generous amounts of musical and cinematic detail (the Synchronies are better than the Imagines in this department, in part because their treble response is more extended, though the performance gap is not as big as you might think). The Imagines are refreshingly free of upper midrange/treble edginess or glare, so that one overriding impression is that the speakers are unfailingly smooth. In fact, those accustomed to bright speakers that overemphasize low-level details might initially perceive the Imagines to sound subdued or reticent. And indeed the Imagines are somewhat more lightly balanced than the Synchrony-models are. But the longer you listen, the more the easygoing naturalness of the Imagine system will win you over.
The Imagines are particularly good at producing holographic, 3D images and soundstages. More so than many of their direct competitors, the Imagine speakers are able to set sound free from their own enclosures, meaning you’ll enjoy the pleasurable illusion that sounds aren’t emanating from the speakers, but rather from points in space where imaginary musicians or actors would stand. For multichannel music or movie soundtracks, this translates into surround sound imaging that is wonderfully convincing, so that you may at times feel as if you’re seated at the center of a hemispheric “dome” of sound that surrounds you on all sides, and that arches up and over you, too.