E-Gear VisionSound Review

March 1, 2007

For a person in the market for new speakers to finish off a home theater or media room, the choices are enormous these days. The two extremes are either very small satellite speakers or traditional large cabinet speakers. In the middle there are a few companies making high quality mid-sized speakers that try to complement the décor achieved with a flat panel TV while not sacrificing the sonic needs of a demanding listener. PSB is one of those companies, and the new VisionSound series are among the best, and best-looking speakers I've listened to combine both stylish design and performance.

The VisionSound series speakers are constructed of extruded aluminum with magnetically-attached cloth grilles. The VS400s are 46-inch high floor-standing towers featuring a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter and four 4.5-inch polypropylene cone woofers. The VS300s are 26-inches high with one tweeter and two of the 4.5-inch woofers. The 300s are designed for either on-wall mounting (with an integrated mount bracket) or custom stand mounts. We used two of the 400s for the main right and left channels and the 300s for the surrounds and center channels.

PSB's VS series have a few unique things going for them. First, they're really slick-looking. There are no straight corners on these things. They’re certainly not boxy. The curves and off-center design also prevent waves from bouncing around back and forth inside making a mess of the sound.

PSB VisionSound VS300 In BlackSecond, as mentioned before, the 300s can be either mounted on a wall or placed on a table top or stand. They ship with a wall bracket already attached, so there's no need to purchase any additional hardware. The speaker pivots on the bracket allowing for exact aiming of the drivers. In addition, the bracket can even be loosened to allow you to move the speaker a small distance closer or further away from the wall in order to better match the depth of the plasma TV you're matching it with. Though the speakers are not symmetrical, acoustically it doesn't matter which side you mount them on.

Finally, another interesting feature of these speakers is the inclusion of a response switch on the rear near the wire posts. Proximity to walls can have an effect on a speaker's sound. The very close proximity of wall-mounted speakers emphasizes this. Sound will bounce off the rear wall behind the speaker and arrive at your ears just after the original sound from the front of the speakers. PSB has come up with a way to correct the hole at the 500Hz range that is created by this delay. The switch on the speaker engages the extra crossover which fixes this common problem. The larger 400s also include a response switch which PSB says affects with Spectral Tilt. Spectral tilt isn't what a ghost experiences when it drinks to much and tries to walk a straight line; it's an upward or downward control of the audio spectrum. The switch controls the response +/- 2dB to brighten or darken the speakers' sound depending on the acoustic characteristics of the room. Because my listening room tends to be a little bright, I opted to switch the control down one notch to darken the response. The inclusion of these switches gives you ultimate control over the output of the speakers so you're not completely damned to settle for what the room you're in deals you.

When using VS300s for the front left and right and hanging them on a wall, PSB recommends that they be placed far enough away from each other to locate them 30 degrees from the center when the listener is the focal point of the angle. Since I was using the floor-standing 400s I was able to achieve the correct angle without trouble. I hooked the speakers up to a B&K series 2 AVR507 receiver. After getting everything set up and balanced, and after I fiddled with the response switches long enough that I was comfortable knowing exactly how it affected the sound, I cued up a few discs for listening. For music I put in the Monster Music release of George Benson and Al Jerreau's Givin' it Up. The speakers were especially impressive on the third track TuTu (with Herbie Hancock) where subtle details in the recording were relayed with extraordinary clarity and strength. The soundstage was also quite wide—I didn’t experience significant sweet spots in my room. For theater, I played Independence Day—the soaring jets, alien ships and frequent detonations provided plenty of opportunity for the system to show off.

For a subwoofer I went with a PSB 5i—a 150 watt, 10-inch woofer model with front controls. For being such a compact unit (only 16-inches high and 14-inches deep), the 5i does an exceptional job of carrying the low end. If you think 150 watts is conservative for a sub these days, don't be fooled. There's a lot of power with the 5i's watts. It created tight, accurate bass effects that were (once I turned down the sub's volume) not overpowering. While booming when it needed to be, the sub was particularly musical, especially when listening to jazz or classical.

Many of PSB's speakers are traditional-looking wood cabinet towers or shelf speakers that perform very well, but just don't fit into a lot of living rooms, particularly when the electronics are contemporary-looking. In-wall speakers, which PSB does make, are another solution, but require more permanent installation. The VisionSound series is a versatile collection of speakers that don't compromise sound performance for style. Highly recommended.

Grant Clauser
E-Gear VisionSound Review

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