Enjoy the Music Imagine B
December 12, 2008
PSB Imagine B Speakers
PSB's new Imagine B speakers sit near the upper third of their product line. Three steps below PSB's top of the line Platinum and five steps up from the Alpha series, the Imagine B proves being in the middle isn't a bad thing. The Imagine B (for bookshelf) combines a curvaceous cabinet design with newly developed drivers to form a high-performance small bookshop speaker with an affordable price of $1000 a pair.
"Micro dynamics through the Imagine B are extremely good,..."
The first thing you'll notice about the Imagine speaker is the cabinet. Made in China where well-finished cabinets have become the norm rather than an exception, the Imagine Bs take advantage of the latest state-of-the-art computer-controlled machining and design. Beneath the curved top, sides, back, base, and front baffle, the Imagine B employs a seven-layer laminated construction technique for maximum rigidity and minimum diffraction. The manufacturing process involves assembling the whole cabinet before any holes for the drivers are drilled. Available in either black ash or dark cherry veneer, I recommend going for the cherry because it looks simply fabulous. Unlike many moderately priced speakers the Imagine B actually looks better without its grill on.
Paul Barton, PSB's chief designer, created a unique midrange/woofer for the Imagine B. It uses a proprietary ceramic-filled polypropylene cone material, an aerodynamically molded basket, and a special distortion-reducing magnet design. The Imagine B's titanium dome tweeter employs Ferro-fluid cooling and sports a special protective dispersion cap and rubberized surround to further reduce diffraction effects. On the back of the speaker you'll find a quartet of heavy-duty gold-plated terminals so you can bi-wire or bi-amp the speakers. PSB also supplies a special bridging hardware for those who prefer to use only a single pair of speaker cables.
The PSB Imagine B uses a bass-reflex design with a fairly large 2.50-inch diameter rear port. The crossover between the tweeter and midrange /woofer is at 1800 Hz. Barton chose this point because it delivered the most similar dispersion between the two drivers. Published specifications indicate the Imagine B's bass response is flat to 52 Hz and its treble extends up to 23 kHz. That's pretty impressive for a speaker whose outer dimensions are only 7.5 by 13 by 12 (inches) with an internal volume of just .27 cu ft.
On my desktop I immediately noticed the Imagine B speakers had more midbass energy than most comparably sized speakers. That king-sized rear port is probably responsible for this midbass bump. I inserted a soft foam port plug to reduce the midbass and I liked the results. In a subsequent conversation with Paul Barton he told me that PSB supplies similar port plugs for the Imagine C center channel. Although the Imagine B speaker doesn't come with port plugs, they can be used with this design as well.
If you prefer to use speakers sans subwoofer the Imagine B's will fill the bill nicely. But if you already have a subwoofer for your desktop system the Imagine B will blend better with a port plug installed. If you use the Imagine sans port plug I suggest you set the subwoofer's high-pass at least 10 Hz below the Imagine's published roll-off specification of 52 Hz for optimum low frequency integration.
The Imagine B speakers have an even linear harmonic balance once you get into the midrange and treble. I especially enjoyed their upper midrange which has just the right blend of immediacy and finesse. The well-designed crossover delivers a smooth transition between midrange/woofer and tweeter, which preserves sonic cohesion in the critical the lower treble region. The titanium dome tweeters sound sweet and extended, exhibiting none of the peakiness of earlier generations of titanium tweeters.
As you might expect from a small bookshelf speaker, the Imagine B images well. Lateral focus ranks up with the best, such as the Paradigm S1 and ATC SCM7. Depth is also quite good, so that even with pop recordings you get some sense of layering and dimensionality. All the effort PSB put into cabinet design to reduce diffraction effects actually makes a difference. While the Imagines don't vanish as completely as the diminutive Role Kayaks or Gallo i-Diva speakers, they do seem to disappear better than comparably sized speakers such as the Paradigm Mini Monitor.
Micro dynamics through the Imagine B are extremely good,...
Hitting The Sweet Spot for a G-Spot
The PSB Imagine B speakers have a lot going for them. They look great, sound fine and are attractively priced. My only reservation about them for desktop use is that their midbass may be a bit over-ripe without a foam port plug. But the upside is that some prospective owners will instantly find their desktop's low end satisfying without adding a subwoofer. If I had a budget of $1000 to spend on desktop speakers I would certainly put the Imagine B speakers on my must-audition list.
Enjoy the Music
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