TAS Imagine Loudspeaker Review

November 1, 2008

As I pulled into the long circular driveway of the swank Beverly Hilton, the scene of countless awards ceremonies over the years, the atmosphere was uncharacteristically placid. On this particular sunny afternoon there had been no Paris Hilton sightings (I checked), no paparazzi dustups, not even the usual parking attendant s arguing over who was going to valet a Ferrari. In a fifth floor suite however, there was Paul Barton, founder and chief designer of PSB speakers, Imagine Loudspeaker - Familygreeting invited journalists as he prepared to launch what may be the most important new line in PSB’s 35 year history. The PSB Imagine Series, as the lineup will be know, fills the gap between the Image and Synchrony Series. In a departure for PSB, there are only four models in the Imagine family, but this is part of a larger company plan to streamline and simplify the buyer’s decision-making process with single products that fulfill performance expectations that in the past might have stretched over two or even three models.

Barton made it known at the outset that Imagine is no mere “Synchrony Junior.” Still, even an uninformed observer could easily see how Synchrony has at least inspired the form, curvilinear design, and seamless, unbroken surfaces of the Imagine. As noted, the series has four models. The Imagine T is a three-driver two and a half way floorstander, and the Imagine B is a two-way stand/bookshelf mount. Both are intended primarily for front-channels/stereo play back. The Imagine C is a dual-woofer, horizontal, two-way center-channel speaker, while the Imagine S is a dual-two-way, selectable dipole/bipole/dual-channel monopole surround loudspeaker, which may also be connected as two discrete (side/rear)two-way pairs. Heavy, multi-way binding posts on all models enable bi-wiring or bi-amplifying. Imagine will be offered in a choice of black-ash or dark-cherry furniture-grade veneers, “cathedral” matched and hand-finished in a satin finish.

All four Imagine models share a common driver family, with an all-new, very-high-output 5.25” woofer, and an impressively wideband and ultra-accurate, titanium-dome 1” tweeter. Imagine’s woofers feature injection-molded diaphrams of a proprietary, ceramic0filled polypropylene that combines stiffness, inherent internal damping, and low mass. Their bullet-shaped aluminum phase-plugs enhance linearity at higher frequencies and measurably lower distortion. The Imagine’s tweeters, also common to all models, employs an advanced, highly linear and efficient neodymium-magnet design that helps to extend output at both frequency extremes and improve power-handling. AS in nearly every PSB design, the Imagine crossover networks employ a fourth-order acoustic Linkwitz-Riley topology.

Prior to a brief listening session, Barton played video taken of the unique method of seven-layer-laminate cabinet construction that was devised specially for the Imagines. It was impressive not only for the obvious prevision and “repeatability” of the computer-controlled machining, but also for the extensive hand-craftmanship. Like the Synchrony, Imagine enclosure are solid and acoustically inert. The 1.5” thick unbroken baffles are carefully radiused and flush-mounted, fastener-less driver mounts are said to provide ripple-free high-frequency response and carefully calculated horizontal dispersion.

The sound was tight and coherent, the soundstage broad and defined. In a nutshell, very promising

During an abbreviated listening session the sound was what I’ve come to expect from PSB – tonal and dynamic uniformity of the passband with a rich midrange and midbass that lend the sound a firm foundation. Although these are bass-reflex designs, the Imagine T and B models gave little evidence of port noise. The sound was tight and coherent, the soundstage broad and defined. In a nutshell, very promising. Both of these speakers will be the subject of a full review in a forthcoming issue.

To wrap up the festivities PSB launched its new flagship subwoofer, the SubSeries 500. IT is both more compact and more affordable than its PSB predecessors, yet is said to deliver gains in both low bass extension and dynamic clarity. The front-firing design, with downward-firing dual-ports, uses a single massive 12” driver that features a two-inch voice coil and five-pound magnet. Coupled to an oversized surround, it is capable of extreme excursions and an impressive 100dB SPL at 32Hz, comparable to even some leading dual-12” designs. Power is supplied by a dynamic 500-watt hybrid-Class H amplifier that features “smart” circuitry extensively calibrated to suit the SubSeries 500’s electro-acoustic characteristics, permitting full power output – with peak levels of up to 1.5 kilowatts – at the very lowest frequencies, while ensuring that audible overdrive cannot occur. The amplifier incorporates continuously variable phase compensation, as well as continuous level and crossover controls. Both filtered and crossover-bypass (LFE) line-level input sand pass-thru outputs are on board, as are speaker-level inputs via heavy, multiway binding posts. The addition of a 12-volt trigger input permits the newest PSB sub to integrate with system controllers. The SubSeries 500’s enclosure borrows construction techniques from the PSB Synchrony with double-weight, heavily laminated MDF panels joined by extruded aluminum corners that mechanically lock the cabinet into a single strong structural whole nearly impervious to extraneous vibration. But as Barton might add, “Don’t call this sub ‘Junior.’”

Prices: Imagine T Tower, $2000/pair; Imagine B Bookshelf, $1000/pair; Imagine C Center, $800/each; Imagine S Surround, $1200/pair; SubSeries 500, $1999. (coming soon)

Neil Gader
The Absolute Sound

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