The Imagines are so well balanced that they sound fine without any EQ system in play. That said, however, I found that, when I tried the Imagines with Audyssey’s excellent MultEQ XT room/speaker EQ system, their sound became smoother still and “opened up” to a significant degree, to more faithfully reproduce subtle textural and transient detail. My point is that you can tap an extra level of performance potential by pairing the Imagines with electronics that incorporate the Audyssey EQ system.
Finally, let me mention that the SubSeries 6i subwoofer is an affordable gem, offering excellent bass extension and weight, a good measure of textural detail, and plenty of output. While PSB’s compact HD-series subs perhaps offer a better visual match for the Imagine-series speakers, the SubSeries 6i gives you terrific bang for buck and time-proven performance.
To appreciate how the Imagine system’s natural sound and rich details can bring movie soundtracks alive, may I invite you to scare the living daylights out of yourselves by playing the terror/horror film The Strangers (reviewed in Playback Issue 17) through the Imagine system. Here’s the deal: by design The Strangers uses only a few actors and contains very little dialog so that the film’s action is often driven forward by an ultra-creepy soundtrack that, in essence, becomes a “character” in its own right (or at least it does through the Imagine system). Both tension and terror are expressed through the juxtaposition of natural household sounds (the chiming of a grandfather clock, the creak of planks as the victim-to-be walks across a hardwood floor, or the crackle of a fire in the fireplace) as compared with unnatural sounds (the loud, hyper-reverberant banging of a 4 a.m. knock on the front door, the sound of something—we’re not quite sure what—rattling ominously against a glass windowpane, or the metallic sound of pipes or chains clanking and creaking in the yard outside. The Imagine system presents the differences between natural and unnatural sound so clearly and effortlessly that they immediately get under your skin. Add to this the film’s off-kilter, minor key musical score and you’ve got the recipe for a sonic stew that will positively make your hair stand on end! As a test, I turned off the soundtrack for a few seconds and discovered that—with the Imagine system temporarily silenced—the onscreen images suddenly seemed much less scary. Behold the power of a top-shelf surround sound system (when coupled with a well-crafted soundtrack, that is).
Part of the reason why people invest in systems like the Imagine rig reviewed here is to hear what favorite older recordings really sound like, and with this thought in mind I decided to test the system by playing the classic progressive/symphonic rock track “Roundabout” from the multichannel DVD-Audio version of Yes’s Fragile [Elektra/Rhino]. To my surprise, what the Imagines revealed was that the core sound quality of this early 1970’s record was—in many though not all respects—equal if not superior to most of the rock releases coming out today! In fact, hearing the track through the Imagines proved to be a trip in a sonic “time machine” of sorts.
The speaker system did a beautiful job of delineating the complex, interwoven elements that make up the track, capturing the opening, chime-like overtones of Steve Howe’s guitar, the vibrant, syncopated melody line carried by Chris Squire’s deep yet articulate-sounding Rickenbacker bass, and the light-speed arpeggios deftly performed by Rick Wakeman on keyboards. While the Imagines let me hear the flaws in the nearly 40-year-old recording (the fact that Bill Bruford’s cymbals sounded a bit compressed and therefore “splashy,” for example), they didn’t browbeat me with the shortcomings. Instead, they let the timbres of instruments (and of Jon Anderson’s voice) shine through with pure, natural warmth that’s all too rare these days. They also showed how expertly the spacious 2002 multichannel mix complemented the original feel and “vibe” of the material.