PSB Synchrony One Loudspeakers Review ETM

May 14, 2011

PSB Synchrony One Loudspeakers

A must audition for your next speaker purchase.

Review By Anthony Nicosia

The company name PSB stands for Paul and Sue Barton. Paul is the founder and head designer of this Canadian based company and Sue is his wife. Sue Barton rightly deserves mentioning as during that first year or two when the company was in its initial stages it was her income that paid for food and rent until PSB could support itself. Officially making its start back in 1972 PSB now operates out of Ontario Canada where loudspeakers for both home theater and two channel audio systems are designed. Manufacturing products in China keeps costs down while allowing quality to remain high. When searching through their web site I stumbled upon the following quotation:

"PSB always has and always will design loudspeakers that are true to nature. There is nothing added to what is in the music and there is nothing taken away that was intended in the music. And that's what a speaker should be – it should be a window to what you see or hear – just like a glass is what you see through the window without any tint, or any coloration; which are sometimes spectacular, sometimes bigger than life, but they're not natural. We like to think that our speakers are true to nature. And that is the goal. That is the objective of PSB."

PSB Speakers Synchrony One Tower LoudspeakerYou might wonder, as is often the case with me, just how they set about to accomplish such a noble task and what makes them a little different from others in their respective field. The answer to this can partially be found within the walls of the NRC (National Research Council) whose sixty-five buildings are located in Ottawa, Canada. These state-of-the-art facilities are at the disposal not only of NRC's own personal but any Canadian from the private sector who is willing to work with the NRC staff in an effort to further the development of scientific research. Paul Barton's dedication to the pursuit of knowledge seems evident by his twenty-five years of working alongside the NRC at their modern anechoic chamber, measuring labs and listening rooms.

Technical Information

At the top of the PSB loudspeaker lineup is the PSB Synchrony One. They are a full range five speaker three-way design featuring a one inch tweeter, a four inch midrange driver and three six and a half inch woofers. The One's weight in at a respectable sixty-one pounds apiece and can be used with either a single or bi-wired option via the "wing" style loudspeaker connectors on the back. These connectors were a welcome change and were easy to use for attaching banana, spade or bare-wire loudspeaker cables. Each Synchrony One stands 43 inches tall, 12.75 inches deep and 8.75 inches wide, coming in wood finishes of either Black Ash or Dark Cherry. The review sample had the elegant Dark Cherry finish. The midrange driver and all three woofers are made of natural fiber cones while the tweeter consists of a Titanium Dome with Ferrofluid for cooling. Upon removing the front cloth grill cover, in an effort to gaze upon all those beautiful drivers, something seemed quite different and immediately struck my eye. At first I was not sure what exactly it was and then it hit me; there were no visible screws to be seen for which to attach the drivers to the cabinet. This actually gave the One's an elegant stealth style of appeal which for me was quite attractive as I normally listen with grill off, loudspeaker design permitting. Not being a problem for the One's they were reviewed without the front cover and received a thumb up for appearance and style. A more detailed description of cabinet construction can be found in the following quotation from the company:

"PSB's unique construction details help make the Synchrony family one of the strongest, most inert, resonance-free enclosures in the industry. Extruded aluminum front and back panels unite subtly curving, seven-layered, hand veneered sides into an unbelievably robust structure. Their unbroken, diffraction-free surfaces and near total resistance to coloration-carrying vibrations yield arresting sonic purity — and smooth, beautiful surfaces utterly devoid of visually intrusive hardware. The Synchrony towers use immensely complex computer optimized box tuning and crossover networks. Subdivided into three discrete chambers — one for each woofer — they uniquely harness the "floor-bounce" that plagues other floor standing speakers to extend and smooth response instead of roughening and curtailing it."

Included with the loudspeakers is one pair of port covers for each set of Synchrony One's. The purpose of these covers is to fine tune the bass response in an effort to further tailor the loudspeaker to your own unique room. There are three ports located on the back of each loudspeaker and while one is standard equipment, ordering additional port covers is always an option. I decided to plug the top port; your room, environment and taste may of course require a different placement of plug or plugs or perhaps even none at all. My suggestion is to try it out and have some fun with them.

Let The Music Play On

Writing for fame and fortune was not on my mind when deciding to be a reviewer. Instead it is a lifelong ambition to share with others a way to get closer to the great joy that music can bring to us. It has been my experience that music brings happiness to many and is a common thread tying together civilizations from all around the world both today and in the past. The following was written in an effort to convey the first hand emotional connection that was established between me and the PSB Synchrony One loudspeakers during their all too brief stay in my reference system. It is my hope that this review properly conveys the great joy they brought into my home so that you too might give them a listen.

PSB Speakers Synchrony One Tower SpeakerThe beautiful choral arrangement of the Nidaros Cathedral Choir from the Nidaros CD [2L,72] within "Lux Illuxit laetabunda" was showcased within a well layered soundscape created by the One's. Here not only the width and depth of this performance shown through but its height as well. On Polyphonic Dialogues (2L,63) "Shchedrin: Basso Ostinato with Joachim Kwetzinsky on piano the listener can experience the intricate details of the sound of numerous wooden hammers covered with felt softly hitting piano strings working in unison to create music. The piano is an instrument quite difficult for a loudspeaker to reproduce yet the One's handled it with apparent ease. Not only was the speed of notes faithfully reproduced with correct PRAT (pace, rhythm acceleration and timing) but the One's gave a full bodied sense to it all. As the song played on one could hear the individual keys being struck as music came from deep within the soundscape creating the illusion of a true three-dimensional piano located in my room.

Switching now to a CD which had previously failed to impress me, I pulled out The Best Of ZZ TOP [Warner Bros. 3273-2] to hear "Blue Jean Blues". Here the notes of individual guitar strings along with the sound of a slow decay from the singer's voice gave a beautiful blues feeling to the song. The One's conveyed a sense of the music with enough passion to make me rethink my opinion of this CD, to change it for the better. The effect of presence, with reference to a live recording, seemed closer than previously noted within my normal reference system and on "La Grange" my foot was tapping along with the strong drum support that was both quick and powerful. Yes, the One's were very impressive indeed.

When re-listening to Eric Clapton's Eric Clapton Unplugged CD [Reprise 9 45024-2] of "Signe" I am reminded of the time this song would be heard in various rooms during the 1997 HI-FI convention in the San Francisco Westin St Francis Hotel. Bass presence was strong indeed, although with careful room placement, not too overpowering, but rather sounded quite well balanced. The One's can give off a solid bass presence but you will need to experiment with them to get it just right. When you do lock in that bass, it will definitely be worth the effort. On "Before You Accuse Me" the sound of applause from the audience and the part where they clapped along to the song showcased once more this loudspeakers ability to provide a superior layering effect. The One's fleshed out the space between people in the audience and the performers on stage giving one a better overall view of the original layout of the performance.

A Taste Of Vinyl

Pulling out some of my vinyl records I decided to start with the Victory At Sea [RCA Victor Red Seal LSC-2335] album. The beginning of this record starts out with the sound of trumpets and trombones, later joined in by the sound of drums, to paint a picture in my mind of both the mystery and vastness of a deep ocean voyage. This beautiful album played back at high volume had the One's creating a believable soundscape as it gave a proper sense of size and depth to the sound of the orchestra. It was easy to see layers of musicians lined up performing their own separate tasks within each different section while being defined within their own individual space. When called upon to be light and airy the One's did so with a true sense of ease, yet when needing to they could explode with dynamic grandeur to the sound of a full orchestra crescendo. Violins tended to sound quick, perhaps even sweet, rather than harsh or etched giving a more natural wood and string sound to their playback. All in all a very noteworthy performance reproduced quite accurately by the One's.

Switching now to Eric Clapton's Backless [Rso Records Inc. TS-1-3039] on another vinyl pressing "Watch Out For Lucy" exhibited a nice three-dimensional soundscape of guitar; drums lead and background vocals that could all be appropriately located within the soundscape. As the album played on the One's ability to convey a true sense of the music's' energy was revealed. Upon switching over to Joni Mitchel's Clouds [Reprise 6341] to listen to "Tin Angel", her magical voice flowed forth from an eerie silent background. Individual fluctuations of vocal content added to the performance as guitar chords were presented neatly layered beneath her voice. Aside from the fact that the piano is difficult to accurately reproduce one may add the human voice to that list. The One's presentation of Joni Mitchell's vocal performance was special as it sounded so right with nothing neither added nor subtracted.

It was time now to try something a bit more musically complex and for this Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble's Live Alive [Epic Stereo E2 40511] double vinyl album was chosen. Here on "Texas Flood" vocal content rang true to timbre as the raw nature of this performance presented itself quite clearly. The One's handled the background band, lead vocal and incredible guitar chords with a good separation of space between each other so as to highlight individual performances. PRAT was just beautiful on "Voodoo Chile (slight return)" enough to have me sitting in my chair with my body rocking and my head swayed back and forth to the music. As lightening quick as Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar riffs were the One's never even blinked and oh yes my air guitar was in full swing giving credence to the One's ability of connecting me with the emotional content of a song. Once again the depth of the soundscape must be paid homage to as it helped make a live recorded event sound truly believable. Soundscape width alone is not enough and the better loudspeakers excel in their ability to create a good sense of depth behind the front of a stage. Time after time the One's proved marvelous at pulling this off adding great pleasure to each musical event sent its way.

Dropping In A 200-Watt Power Amplifier

Want to rock out with the One's? No problem here as they captured those lower bass notes very well; all you need is an amplifier capable of taking PSB Speakers Synchrony One Tower Loudspeaker - insidesthem along for the ride and watch out. For me the eighty-watt mono block Monarchy Audio SM70-PRO amplifiers were shelved so that my old standby the Threshold 800A 200-Watt Class A powerhouse could take over (this was the first commercially designed product Nelson Pass helped create back when he was with Threshold). While they played well with my lower powered amplifiers the more I could give them the better they were for it. From Queen's, Queen Greatest Hits [Hollywood Records 2061-62465-2] with the song "Another One Bite The Dust" the One's exhibited surprisingly good bass considering the size of their woofers. Bass was fast, tight and clear keeping my immediate attention throughout the song. On "We Will Rock You", a song played at many a sports arena during its time, my medium sized room was a rockin'. Having heard it played at NBA Golden State Warriors basketball games before the One's did an excellent job of reminding me of time spent with my family while hearing this song. Finally on "Tie Your Mother Down" quick guitar riffs, powerful bass and solid clear vocals played back through the One's were good enough to delight rock fans most everywhere. Want to try something on the sultry side, well the One's are up for that too.

Diana Krall sounded marvelous and sexy with "Besame Mucho" from her CD The Look Of Love [Verve 314 549 846-2]. With "Cry Me A River", guitar, bass, drums, orchestra piano and vocals all gave the feeling of watching a live night club act in a good sized room. Inflections within her voice definitely sounded above par while near the end of the song Russell Malone's guitar rang out with great detail and truth of timbre to help top off a wonderful performance. The One's ability to deliver the right amount of sibilance with "S" sounds as they rolled off her lips helped make this an even more memorable performance. Diana Krall is about emotion and the One's delivered a believable performance inside my listening room deserving strong thumbs up rating.

Now it was time to move onto a little Country Western music featuring the great Garth Brooks on his Double Live [2CD Set Capitol 7243-4-97424-2-0] with the song "We Shall Be Free". Towards the beginning he hangs onto notes displaying a proper sense of decay which seemed to go on forever. A small soundscape does not do this CD justice so if you have loudspeakers with limited capabilities you might want to look elsewhere. When recorded live in Dublin Ireland he sang before 40,000 adoring fans in an enormous outdoor stadium, so getting this one right requires loudspeakers that can reach for the sky to recreate the proper magnitude of that magical night. The Synchrony One's did just fine as I turned up the volume listening to a wide and deep soundscape that mimicked this very large live event.

Conclusion

At first listen these loudspeakers did not wow me off my seat. There were no startling exaggerated highs or improperly overemphasized bass to draw immediate attention upon itself. You know the type where you are at first drawn towards but eventually tire of in search of something with more accuracy. The Synchrony One's from PSB are the kind of loudspeaker you buy and quickly decide you want to keep as they are just plain fun to have around. Song after song the One's showed what made them so easy to love as they won my heart and were so difficult to let go of once the review ended. Their ability to play good deep bass, reproduce the midrange magic of vocals, give off a nice presence with higher frequencies, create a superior soundstage depth, exhibit great truth of timbre and do a good job presenting the feeling of a live event were some of the reasons you might opt to own them.

Paul Barton has done an excellent job of bringing us a pair of loudspeakers that by audiophile standards are a steal at only $5000. The Synchrony Ones though are not great because they are bargain priced but rather in spite of the fact they cost so little. Looking to the competition it is hard to imagine them being embarrassed by others costing a good deal more. Still it would be interesting to see what Paul Barton could come up with on a much larger budget, in an effort to further flesh out both the very top and bottom octaves of music. Yet who am I to complain when you can get most everything you need for so very little. Spending time with the Synchrony One loudspeakers though might just make you question the need for spending more. Give them a listen and experience the great joy which good music can bring us. As an added bonus I think you will find that the price of admission is quite reasonable indeed. Definitely a strong recommendation!

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