Inner Ear T45 HT Review

November 1, 2005

Image Series Loudspeakers- Concert Theater System

The last PSB loudspeakers we auditioned were the Platinum T8s, reviewed in Vol. 16,#1 – part of the top of the line Platinum Series. Other PSB lines include the Image Series which, though around for some time, has been re-designed and consists of eight new models – the Image T45 Tower (under review), T55 and T65 (fronts), the B15 (under review) and B25 (rear or mini monitors), the C40 (under review) and C60 centre channel models and an S50 bipolar surround speaker. The Sonic 6 subwoofer we used has been in the line for a while. The company was founded by Paul Barton, who has been in “the business” since 1972. Barton is a respected designer and one of the first to use modern computer-aided procedures as well as extensive listening tests. All designs are examined at Canada’s National Research Council – an intricate testing facility offering sophisticated measuring instruments and a large anechoic chamber. The Image Series is the lower priced line of loudspeakers, which is difficult to believe when one looks at the loudspeakers’…

"These loudspeakers deliver for both home theatre and audio information of far greater quality than the price may indicate."

All loudspeakers are immaculately finished all-round. Our samples came in a maple finish with gray grilles, but they are also available in black ash with black grilles. The enclosures are contoured, slightly curved with the baffle adjusted accordingly. The T45s measure (W x H X D) 7 x 26 x 14 inches and each weigh 37 pounds; the C40’s measurements are 23 x 7 x 11 inches and it weighs 23 pounds; the B15s check in at 7 x 13 x 9 inches and weigh 12 pounds each. The Sub Sonic 6 subwoofer enclosure measures (W x H x D) 15 x 19 x 15 inches and weighs 40 pounds; a curved grille covers the driver.

All of the Image Series loudspeakers offer an attractive appearance and seem more elaborate than their price might suggest.

Each loudspeaker features new one-inch aluminum dome tweeters which are fitted with a phase jigger that extends high frequencies.PSB Image new optimized 1 Combined with PSB’s proprietary technology, the tweeter is constructed to reproduce the smoothest possible sound throughout the audible range which easily reaches over 23kHz. The T45’s sport two 5.25 inch woofers and are 2-way designs; the C40 also accommodate two 5.25 inch woofers, and is thus an exact sonic math with the T45s; the rear B15s are small, but still accommodate one 5.25 inch woofer.

A 2- way loudspeaker design is one way to achieve a smooth frequency reach. The top woofer is crossed over to the tweeter (at 2.2kHz) with a third-order Butterworth filter. The bottom woofer (crossed at 500Hz with a fourth-order Linkwitz-Riley) handles frequencies below 500Hz. Consequently, the two drivers operate in the lower frequency domain, with the driver closest to the tweeter functioning in the midrange.

All loudspeakers harmonize and offer identical sonic characteristics in a system. The cabinets are relatively free of dangerous resonances, thanks to the design with its curved baffles and grilles. The T45s’ frequency range is from 35Hz to 23kHz with a sensitivity rating of 93dB; the C40 and B15 rears reach from 50Hz to 23kHz (92dB).

The Sub Sonic 6 is a relatively small powered subwoofer enclosure with a 12 inch woofer. The sub is a ported design which operates from 25Hz to 150Hz, powered by a 130 watt (rms) Class AB Mosfet amplifier. It has the usual high-level and line-level inputs and outputs, although for our tests we used only the line level input – a connection to a “subout” on a processor or receiver. Controls include selection of crossover frequency, output level, and a phase switch. Four golf-plated binding posts allow alternative connections.

The woofer is a foam surround, poly-coated fibre cone unit that operates in a 45 litre enclosure with two front mounted tuning ports.

The Sound:
We had these speakers in our studio for over five months and used them for our evaluation of the NADHT system (reviewed in our last issue), the Cary Audio components reviewed in this issue and we plan to use them for our upcoming Pioneer Elite Receiver review. First of all, let us state here that the PSBs were totally compatible with all electronics used for our evaluation, which indicates a high degree of compatibility with good HT electronics. We connected them to the NAD power amplifier and processor – the T973 and T163. The powerful amplifier took to the PSBs as though they had been made for one another. That’s synergy and very important. The PSBs, though quite efficient, handled the NAD’s 160 watts effortlessly and reproduced the amplifier’s remarkable musicality, dynamics and smoothness. The entire surround sound set-up was auditioned with the help of some DVD movies. We noticed that good productions sounded way above average, but the speakers clearly revealed second rate film sound production. That is as it should be, but it is rare to find such fulfilling system combinations at the rather low price of the PSBs.

The subwoofer was then connected and laced about four feet behind the front speakers, which produced an uncanny blend and tonal balance, smoothly integrating all audible frequencies. The powered subwoofer crossed at 80Hz, allowed the front, centre and rear

"We believe that the PSB's price/performance ratio is way out of proportion in favour of the buyer."

speakers to operate within their range, while the lows were expertly handled by the not-so-ordinary sub. We used the sub with a couple of other loudspeakers and found that it is capable of decisive resolution down to about 30Hz. Bass energy extends to the specified 25Hz albeit without the firmness and determination we obtained at the 30Hz point. To those who think that a subwoofer ought to go lower, we’d like to say: good luck. We consider subs reaching to 30Hz excellent designs that provide realistic, tight bass. The Sub Sonic 6 is an excellent design with enough sonic finesse to serve as a foundation of an upscale two-channel audio system with a pair of satellites. In the HT mode(s) this sub performs flawlessly and, provided the adjustments are correct, will reproduce any program material with the proper body, slam, and harmonics.

The entire PSB system seems to have been designed to harmonize each enclosure’s (reproduced) sound with the sub and the listening experience is as refined as the technology used to achieve it. The system always sounded relaxed, never strained, but responded swiftly to dynamics products by movie soundtracks.

In the audio-only mode, this system sounded musical enough to please the music lovers of this world (and our panelists), but its real strength was it capability to provide outstanding detail.

In the HT mode(s) the system performed its multi-channel functions with ease, but still revealed the various tonal textures almost as well as some high-end two channel systems. For further listening tests we connected the T45 to a pair of Bryston 7B SST amplifiers (reviewed in Vol. 15#2) in an audio system with the Wyetech Labs Pearl preamplifier (reviewed in this issue), and a CD player and tuner. This, though an improbable system configuration, verified for us that the PSBs are qualified to deliver sound so very close to high-end standards that the results are astonishing.

Synopsis & Commentary:
Some people have criticized this magazine for publishing test reports of high-end audio gear and ignoring lower priced components (you know who you are). Well, to these folks we say: look at this evaluation and note that the PSBs under review here and an outright bargain. The Image Series of loudspeakers is made for those on a budget but wishing to achieve great sound. We believe that the PSB’s price/performance ratio is way out of proportion in favour of the buyer. These loudspeakers deliver for both home theatre and audio information of far greater quality than the price may indicate. With the Image Series, PSB has narrowed the performance gap between high-end and lower priced designes to the benefit of the aspiring audiophile/music lover.

volune 16
the inner ear

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