- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 31 July 2013
The PSB Alpha PS1 Speakers In Use
As mentioned in the previous section, the spacing of the PS1s was much wider than I would have gone for under normal circumstances, but the dual computer monitors on my desk obviated the possibility of closer spacing. This didn't matter one bit as the horizontal dispersion and imaging proved to be amazing throughout the entire evaluation period. The center fill was likewise excellent. I'm not sure exactly how PSB was able to pull this off. The imaging mastery of the PS1s has to be one of the most uncanny things I have ever heard in all my years. And going beyond the imaging feats, I found that the PS1s had sweet highs, a tangible midrange and a satisfyingly rich sound through the upper bass/lower midrange.
Let's get down to specifics a little bit. While in my office, the "source component" was my humble iPod Nano. All songs evaluated in this set up were ripped from Redbook CD's in a lossless format and then down converted to 256 kbs MP3s when synched to my iPod.
I started with Kasey Chambers' inaugural album "The Captain". This record ignited the still quite successful career for this country singer-songwriter from Down Under. As I mentioned previously, the center fill on the PS1s was very strong. This was proven by the sound of Kasey's voice floating transparently in space between the speakers about a foot above the cabinets.
The opening acoustic guitar on "Don't Talk Back" had the tangible attack I'd become accustomed to with these speakers. This is a quality I equate to high current amplification and it leads me to believe the amps in the PS1s are conservatively rated. "The Hard Way" had tight and clean bass that subjectively extended to about 60 or 70 Hz. Meanwhile, all the instruments on this song had a natural timbre.
The next album I played was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "Funeral for a Friend". This 2004 recording finds the band going back to their New Orleans roots with a series of songs that follow the progression from a dirge-like tempo on the way to the burial site to an upbeat return for the celebration. This is good stuff I recommend to any jazz fan.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is what I would call a medium-sized band. The PS1s demonstrated excellent specificity of instrument placement across a fundamentally diminutive stage due to the near field environment. But this was pinpoint placement with clear separation between instruments while keeping height cues intact. These speakers also passed a lot of information on this album that was presented with lots of air and space between successive notes.
I also loved the raspy brass instruments and grooving beats in the back half of the album. The PS1s had superb transient response on rim shots as well. I got carried away listening to this album!
For my tastes, the PS1s are much better than a headphone experience - I can hear what is going on in the environment around me and the openness of the stage is well beyond the constraints of my skull. A good example of this is the MFSL CD of Symphonic Dances for Large Orchestra, Op. 45 as performed by the USSR TV & Radio Large Symphony Orchestra. This was indeed a large orchestra. Since the PS1s were arranged close by on my desktop, they were not physically able to paint as broad a canvas as you would hear at a live performance. But you would be surprised at the level of ambience retrieval PS1s offered. It was remarkable really.
I then moved the PSB Alpha PS1s into my large listening room. I used the stereo analog outputs from my Oppo BDP 83SE as the source component. Since this is a large room, the big dynamic swings were limited. You can also sense the speakers approaching their output limits when the layering of the sound begins to diminish. But when I kept the gain within the speakers' capabilities, the sound from the PS1s was all around fuller and much louder than I have heard out of the 20 wpc integrated in my son's bedroom.
The first test was Dave Brubeck's great classic "Time Out" on SACD. There was a slight electronic haze on the first track. This very slight haziness disappeared in later tracks, giving way to an addicting air and delicacy. The tweeters in the PS1s can hold their own against a vast majority of tweeters on the market these days.
The reproduction of Brubeck's piano had a certain ease and comfort, the notes unfolding elegantly from these little gems. I was later drawn in by "Take 5" way more than I expected. There was decent weight and exceptional tonality on the upright bass as well. The layering and stage depth here were satisfactory, but the PS1's sounded much more authentic on this point in the nearfield.
I closed out my subjective evaluation with a screening of the Wreck-It Ralph Blu-ray. I listened to the DTS HD Master track down converted to stereo and played over the L/R analog outs on the Oppo. The 8-bit sounds of the old video games in the opening credits were quite authentic. The sound again showed less depth in comparison to my reference speakers. The dynamics remained intact on this action-packed movie as long as I kept the volume within the design limits of the speakers. And the PS1s remained very musical speakers. This was clearly heard during the "Shut Up and Drive" scene. All in all, the PS1s laid down a surprising performance in the big room
Moving the Alpha PS1's into the big room was a very successful experiment. I could see these speakers working well in a medium sized room. My enduring fantasy being that I will one day have a nice beach house. I'll listen to the PS1s in the mornings while preparing elegant breakfasts that we will enjoy by the big picture window.