Hi Fi World-Image B25

July 1, 2005

"At the end of a winter, as cold winds still blow from the North as a reminder that itʼs not all over yet, the screen wallpaper on my Mac slowly switches between Miami beach shots, with aqua blue water and thronging crowds, as a pleasant reminder of better places to be. Somehow I canʼt help thinking thereʼs a parallel here with the situation PSB loudspeakers are getting into: a UK market thronging with loudspeakers, all trying to get seen and appreciated. So welcome to the water, PSB!

There are plenty of strong UK brands trying to get heard too, and making a strong showing. Iʼm reminded of a friend with a fi ne speaker line, made in China, but unable to get reliable UK distribution. For him the sharks in the water took the form of distributors – but Iʼm taking no sides here! Anyway, if the PSB B25ʼs Iʼve been using for some months now in between those of a small throng stretching down the hallway can get heard, then they stand a good enough chance of being bought by anyone wanting a lively sounding Rock speaker that gives a good account of itself. PSB like to point out that they engineer their own loudspeakers it does help – and this in most areas feeds through to a well balanced modern standmounter that comes to you for just £249, one with its own sound that may well appeal.

The Image B25ʼs are well titled. They look the part, with smoothly fi nished silver-grey moulded front baffl es and eye catching silver cones. These are of injection moulded, metallised polypropylene, with a rubber surround. The centre dust cap is a bullet shaped plastic moulding. The cone appears to have radial machine marks, as if it has been turned on a lathe, a nice effect. I suspect this comes from the mould.

Above this bass/midrange unit sits an aluminium dome tweeter with a correctional phase plate over its front. So the PSB B25 is a conventional two-way, weighing in at a liftable 15lbs (6.8kgs) apiece. The cabinets of my samples were fi nished in a light Maple artifi cial veneer, but Black Ash and Sienna are alternatives. In this loudspeaker you get a convincingly modern face, gently contoured and evenly fi nished, with a dappled top plate around the tweeter, to disperse surface waves, that speaks of modern technology.

At the bottom of the cabinet lies a large front facing port. Itʼs usual – and wise – to put this on the rear panel, for reasons I will explain later. Instead, the rear panel carries input terminals alone, a single pair that do not allow bi-wiring The next models up in PSBʼs Image range, the fl oor standing T45ʼs, do have bi-wire terminals though, so the B25ʼs carry a small penalty here. Here are a pair of conventional two-way refl exes then, well built and convincingly fi nished, but normal enough in basic layout and principle. These days, however, two-ways have been honed to give greatresults, so simplicity is no arbiter of quality.

Sound Quality
Measurement speaks volumes about a loudspeaker, and Iʼve been doing it long enough to be able to sense how a model will sound, to a fair degree of accuracy. Sometimes it doesnʼt quite work out how I expected, especially when some major hidden effects, or is that defects, act to alter things, for example over-damping (rare) or strong colouration (not so rare).

The PSBs put in a strong showing in the higher audio ranges and in use they are, sure enough, a loudspeaker with a brightly lit presentation. In the overture of Wagner ʼs Rienzi violins had a distinct and vibrant sheen that brought them forward, bringing a sense of insight and detailing to the delivery, but massed strings played with vigour in music like this, had a metallic sheen that was a bit removed from the sound of gut on rosin that is to be expected. This was where the PSB B25ʼs, not unsurprisingly considering the tweeter, veered most from reality. A metal dome tweeter with phase plate to cancel intrinsic peaking isnʼt going to give a smooth, laid back delivery, specially when it is run fl at up to 20kHz. This is as assured as Germans getting to the deck chairs fi rst. But horns were crisply delivered and rasped convincingly, whilst a kettle drum rumbled solidly in the background, lending weight to proceedings that youʼd both expect and wish for with Wagner.

The PSB B25ʼs do light up the stage, underlining the sheer vigour of strings as they both dart and dance in Tannhauser. Lower strings and woodwind could at times provoke some box “boof” from the port, showing why itʼs best to put this contraption on the rear panel. Large orchestral works fared well with the PSB B25ʼs, having both order and scale. Prevailing sheen apart these loudspeakers have good insight and well delineate complex arrangements into discernible strands. The 32ft Principle Bass and 16ft Contra

Bass pipes of the organ at the Basilica of Saint-Sernin didnʼt quite make it into the room, as Peter Hurford worked his way through intriguing works of Cesar Franck, but the PSB B25ʼs gave a fairly fi rm and fulsome rendition of the organʼs low frequency output. Moving to the taxing dynamics of Christine Aguileraʼs “Canʼt Hold Us Down” showed the PSB B25ʼs hold together well enough and can deliver material like this. Bass thrummed a little on occasion, but was generally tight enough and well controlled. Pushed hard in the higher frequencies the tweeter at times starts to spit and it was with this CD the effect occasionally made itself known. Time to reach for Steve Earle and get some forceful Pedal Steel guitar through the ʻspeakers. In fact it was the ring of rim shot and the hiss of struck tambourine that showed up the role of the tweeter in reproducing Esmeraldaʼs “Hollywood”; the ballad of Billy Austin, with its lacerating transients showed how fast and vivid these speakers are. Pushed hard they hold the line, bringing fast transients and strong insight to Rock like this.

Moving on to 24/88.2 from the Corrs, and “Breathless” underlined the good basic balance struck with these ʻspeakers. Vocals were clear and smooth, nicely separated and well placed on the stereo stage. Imaging was as clear as you might expect with the tweeterʼs plentiful output, and stage depth plentiful. Back to steel strung guitars, Riding with the King and the PSBs sailed through this hurdle with aplomb. Clapton and King were spot lit, their voices ringing out with a fi ne sense of clarity. Guitar strings twanged satisfyingly and the whole performance moved along apace. By way of contrast other loudspeakers could sound a bit rounded and soft in comparison. But there were a bit rounded and soft in comparison. But there were times that the PSB B25ʻs wore a pair of beach shades that could upset the locals, being unable to spin Kula Shakerʼs “Knight” on the Town – a pair of Mordaunt Short MS12s were smoother operators here.

These ʻspeakers have balance and bandwidth. From a reasonable size cabinet bass goes low, the midband is tidy and insightful, whilst further up the band there is a forwardness that many like; it pushes detail out and makes for an explicit presentation – very hi-fi . The PSB B25ʼs donʼt major on subtlety but they are an engaging Rock speaker that manage Classical too; just donʼt spin Kula Shaker.

Measure Performance
The metallised bass/midrange cone of this loudspeaker displays some small response undulations in the upper midband break-up region that hint at a little colouration, but then most cones exhibit this. I’d not expect a damped or dead sound, that’s for sure. The metal dome tweeter has a phase plug over the front to smooth its response and this worked well enough under measurement, even off axis. However, this is a “modern” design with full output right up to 20kHz and no sag, so treble will be fairly obvious subjectively, especially with bright CDs. There will also be good detailing. Further down the audio band the PSB B25 has a little lift from around 300Hz down to 160Hz, which will add some extra body to vocals. Below 160Hz output remains unusually fl at and even right down to 40Hz – quite a result for a compact loudspeaker. Some are managing this now, but not many. I would expect quite even sounding and nicely controlled bass, accompanied by a good sense of heft at times. With port output at 40Hz the PSB B25 is likely to give quite a good account of itself, managing depth without wallow I suspect. Sensitivity was high at 89dB, helped by a low 5.5ohm overall impedance fi gure. The loudspeaker dips to its DCR of 3.7 ohms at 200Hz and 3kHz so it will demand current at times, but V/1 phase angles are not high, as rate of change of Z is low. As a load this is a 4 ohm speaker, but good sensitivity means volume will not have to be cranked up excessively. This speaker will almost certainly sound quite brightly lit, forward, fast and detailed, and with clean, fi rm bass capable of unusual depth for box size. It’s an impressive set of properties for Rock; violins may choose to reproduce elsewhere. NK

VERDICT • • • • £
Seriously engineered loudspeaker with a satisfyingly engaging sound. Excellent value for money."

Noel Keywood
Hi Fi World

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