EGear - Synchrony One B Speaker System

September 19, 2008

If I asked you to visualize a high-performance speaker system, I’m guessing bookshelf speakers wouldn’t immediately come to mind. This 5.1-channel PSB ensemble might just change your perception. The Synchrony One B ($2,000/pair), Synchrony One C center ($2,000), and Synchrony S monopole/bipole/dipole surround ($2,000/pair) are beautifully crafted designs with outstanding build quality. The curved cabinets combine dual-layered extruded-aluminum front and rear panels with seven-layered MDF side panels finished in black ash or dark cherry. The result is a solid, inert structure that prevents unwanted vibrations and standing waves. All three models sport two pairs of gold-plated binding posts.

The Synchrony line doesn’t include a subwoofer, so PSB sent along the SubSeries HD10 ($1,499), which features a 750-watt amplifier and 10-inch woofer with dual passive radiators. This 12-inch cube looks downright puny next to the beefy Synchrony One C. That’s right, the center channel is the largest component in the system, something you don’t see in this new era of thin, plasma-friendly designs. The complete Synchrony line features seven speakers, including two floorstanding models with which the Synchrony One C is a more logical size match. From a sonic standpoint, though, this center is an excellent match with the Synchrony One B and Synchrony S. They all use the same 1-inch titanium dome tweeter and 6.5-inch fiber cone woofer, in varying numbers.

Despite its bookshelf design, the Synchrony One B is rated down to 47 hertz, so I set my Pioneer receiver’s crossover at 50 Hz and began with some stereo music demos, letting the sub handle the low end. PSB has found that perfect level of accuracy and neutrality for music: The One B isn’t so warm that it lacks precision and impact, yet it isn’t so flat as to sound sterile and emotionless. These ported bookshelf speakers have outstanding dynamic ability and sound surprisingly spacious. They offer an impressively full midrange, and high frequencies are crisp and precise without turning harsh or distorted at higher volumes. Those who prefer a bit more immediacy and bite up top can achieve it by removing the cloth-covered metal grilles. The HD10 does exactly what I want a subwoofer to do with music: It renders clean, defined bass notes without ever drawing attention to itself.

The HD10 was so subtle with music, I feared it wouldn’t have the needed gusto when I switched to movie soundtracks. That fear proved unfounded, as this little sub has impressive presence and depth with low-frequency effects. It blends nicely with the Synchrony speakers to present a balanced soundstage. I experimented with both a 50- and 80-Hz crossover point in my receiver and heard no obvious hole in the midrange either way. Interestingly, when I used my Pioneer receiver’s auto-setup function, it set the fronts and center as large speakers; even though this flies in the face of conventional THX wisdom, it reaffirms how impressively full these speakers sound, and I was quite pleased with the results with both music and movies.

"...its performance defies expectation"

The ensemble ably reproduced big, bombastic action sequences without sounding taxed at higher volumes, and it exhibited excellent tonal consistency between speakers. Its neutral nature made it easy to discern the quality difference between compressed and uncompressed soundtracks. The Synchrony One C’s larger footprint, with dual woofers and an added 4-inch midrange driver, paid huge dividends with dense action sequences and deeper male vocals, both of which had a natural, open quality that you just don’t hear in smaller centers. In both dipole and bipole mode, the Synchrony S surrounds did a nice job of spreading out the rear effects to create an immersive experience, without being overly diffuse. The bipole setup, with the speakers placed slightly behind my listening area, more effectively distributed sounds to both the sides and back of my room. PSB also sent me a second pair of Synchrony One Bs to try in the surround role, but I felt they were too directional in this capacity.

Sub 10 compact=I had to drive my midlevel receiver harder than usual to exploit these speakers’ full potential. Don’t let the bookshelf design fool you; you should mate the PSBs with a solidly powerful amplifier. Also, the Synchrony One C was too large to fit in the cabinet under my flat-panel TV. The smaller Synchrony Two C ($1,300) is probably a better match, size-wise, for the bookshelf models – although I was so pleased with the One C’s performance, I might just get a different TV stand.

At $7,499, this PSB Synchrony One B ensemble is still a pricey option, but its performance defies expectation. Whether you start simply with a pair of Synchrony One Bs for music or go all in with the full 5.1-channel setup, you’ll be rewarded with a higher-end performance in a lower-profile package.

Adrienne Maxwell

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