- Written by Piero Gabucci
- Published on 01 April 2013
Introduction to the PSB Imagine T2 Tower Speakers
I'd already begun the review for the Imagine Mini when I was offered the Imagine T2 introduced around CES in 2012. If I hadn't given enough admiration for the Mini in my review, let me reiterate as much, because they now sit at home on a shelf, I couldn't part with them.
Paul Barton, the main figurehead and icon of PSB is a soft-spoken but very passionate person. His reputation is admired by many in the industry, and most of them competitors. PSB has been able to deliver hit after hit, and all levels of performance and price, frankly consider them "a" standard.
Perhaps all the accolades Paul Barton received for the Imagine T tower speaker a couple of years ago inspired him to do what else, take it to another level - makes perfect sense to me. For your audio pleasure, PSB developed the Imagine T2 to what else, praise and more praise..
PSB IMAGINE T2 TOWER SPEAKERS SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Five-way, Floor-standing, Ported
- Drivers: One 1" Titanium Dome Tweeter, One 4" Ceramic-filled Polypropylene Midrange, Three 5.25" Woofers
- MFR: 34 Hz - 23 kHz ± 3 dB
- Sensitivity: 90 dB
- Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
- Recommended Power: 20 - 300 Watts
- Dimensions: 40.6" H x 8.4" W x 13.6" D
- Weight: 42.6 Pounds/each
- MSRP: $3,498/pair in Dark Cherry, Walnut or Back Ash Veneers, $3,850/pair in High Gloss Black or White; USD
- SECRETS Tags: PSB, Speakers, Tower Speakers, Audio
Design of the PSB Imagine T2 Tower Speakers
The Imagine series in general follows a new path in design from say, the substantial reference Synchrony Series. Unlike the conventional looking Synchrony speaker of square edges and flat fronts, the T2's enclosure is curved reducing internal standing waves. The front, sides and top are raked front to back making the T2 appear svelte and lean, surely aiding in room aesthetics.
However to say that the shape is functional and inertly solid is to detract from the amazingly slim and elegant styling.
But looks are deceiving, the Imagine T2 just "feels" like a smaller speaker than it really is. It stands just over 40 inches and quite deep at almost 14. The narrow face at about 6 inches widens in the middle to about 7.5 inches before tapering on the rear.
The enclosure is solid and hefty weighing 42 pounds. To achieve the design, the front is shaped from 2" thick mdf while the sides consist of 7 thin layers of mdf glued together and formed into shape. Each driver, save the tweeter, is slightly recessed and has a rubber shroud.
The finish is stunning, so much so it looks fake; a flaw would have been nice to see that it was real veneer. My review pair arrived in dark cherry while black ash, walnut and traditional gloss black and white are also available.
The obvious genesis to the T2 format and design is the predecessor Imagine T. The Imagine T has 3 drivers in a 2 ½-way design using a pair of 5 1/4" woofer drivers along with a 1" titanium dome tweeter found throughout the Imagine line.
The T2 steps it up, significantly with a "transitional" 5-way design which means there is a blending of crossovers. Imagine T2 tower speaker is essentially 4 enclosures plus dome tweeter stacked on themselves as each of the 4 cone drivers is partitioned horizontally.
Three 5 ¼" drivers are also ported individually on the rear but PSB provides port plugs for bass control in certain rooms.
From the cross-sectional image you can see the upper woofer is crossed-over to the 4" mid-range driver. Placed at ear level (if you're seated) is the 1" tweeter. Both the woofer and mid-range drivers are clay/ceramic filled, reinforced polypropylene cones with a rubber surround, while the tweeter has a titanium dome and a Ferrofluid (friction-reducing) Neodymium Magnet.
Besides the 3 flared ports on the rear, conveniently located near the bottom are the gold plated, 5-way bi-wireable/bi-ampable binding posts. The speaker sits on 4 molded feet and is supplied with adjustable carpet spikes.
Although I couldn't find the time to bench test the T2, the manufacturers spec purports an on-axis frequency response between 34-23,000kHz and an in-room sensitivity of about 90 dB. A 30 degree off-axis response drops the upper range to about 10,000 kHz. I did run some test tones ranging from 25 Hz-25kHz and found in my room no dips but a bit of a bump at around 300 Hz and also around 1kHz of about 3dB. Roll-off on the high end seemed to begin around 12.5kHz and sharply at about 15kHz. This was all unscientific with a microphone and a USB interface and an RTA on my laptop.
Setup of the PSB Imagine T2 Tower Speakers
Having the T2 in my listening room for awhile now, I was able to mix up the source and amplifiers. My source material is played on a Marantz SACD player, a Parasound preamp/amp combination and a Marantz turntable and Musical Fidelity phono stage. When I wanted to hear tube gear, I replaced the Parasound pair with an integrated 55 wpc from Onix. Additionally playing back high-resolution files from my PC involved my Benchmark Dac1. All speaker cables, power cords and USB cable are from Transparent Audio.
Placement in my room is actually limited with my space no more than 12 feet wide and 16 ft deep. I found the best location about 24 inches from both the rear and side walls thereby placing the speakers about 7-8 ft apart and about 8 ft back to the listening position. Because the T2 boasts such high on-axis frequencies, a slight toe-in insured I was sitting at the right distance.
I admired the pale yellow drivers and the exposed face so much that I removed the fabric-clad metal grills. Frankly it's rare I leave grills on for auditioning anyway.
The PSB Imagine T2 Tower Speakers In Use
I opened this review with the fact that I so admired the Imagine Mini's that I immediately decided to keep them, regardless of not having any specific location in mind. What I heard from the opening note startled me, could these be playing with such power, dynamic range and finesse for such a small enclosure? If anything was lacking from the Mini it would probably be obvious that bass was shy. I don't mean there wasn't bass; it was incredible how much bass came from them. I mean deep bass, the kind you feel in your gut.
The T2 immediately to me solved that issue. In fact during my positioning, I actually played with the plugs in and out, one for each of the three ports. While I ended up with no plugs, the T2 impressed me first with the bass output. Running some test tones in the 25-30 Hz range gave me some indication that the T2 had some excellent bottom end.
Scrambling for material I ended up with an Usher sampler with bassist Gary Karr's rendition of O Holy Night. Powerful and emotional, the Imagine doesn't just offer the music but rather delivers a controlled presentation -palpable in the organic way a deep stringed instrument can sound.
That deep bass presentation is as important listening to both male and female vocals because it renders a voice richer and throatier. Listening to Kelly Joe Phelps, Tap the Red Cane Whirlwind is not only a beautifully played acoustic guitar piece which in itself is magical on the T2 tower, but also intimate and soulful. The PSB does a great job with his voice as it sounds natural and images perfectly. Although I did play this CD for the voice, the guitar sounds amazing and balanced with control and clarity.
I've been partial to choral church music especially played in grand cathedrals. I can't always attend such performances but English ensemble The Sixteen's recordings are gloriously spatial and rich. A Choral Pilgrimage is a collection of mostly 16th century secular music recorded at various English cathedrals over a year-long tour. I'm struck by the sense of space the T2 can extract from the recording; the weight and strength of the stone walls or the highs of the airy space. The voices are focused and delineated.
To hear the delicacy of the mid-range and tweeter, I played a Mozart Divertimento by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The string section is rendered by the T2 sweetly with no harshness or brightness. There is a warmth and softness to the ensemble that makes it easy to listen for hours without fatigue.
If you enjoy piano music, the T2 will delight you! A piano's tonal richness is probably one of the most difficult for speakers to reproduce harmonically. Sa Chen's Rachmaninov: 6 Etudes Tableaux; Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition; A Night on Bald Mountain SACD, is best known for her technical achievement which means the piano playing in itself is excellent for review material. Those short term transient notes are well delineated. Her piano is delicate, forceful and well-extended.
Conclusions about the PSB Imagine T2 Tower Speakers
As I review my notes, I keep underlining the word control. And although the T2 seems to image with clarity, the presentation is smooth rather than edgy. That isn't to say there isn't clean definition but I'd classify the sound as just this side of laid-back. My preference is for the clean and balanced presentation of the Imagine T2 rather than a razor-sharp grainy harshness of a lesser speaker. It's what places the T2 and for that matter, any Paul Barton designed speaker far above anything in this price range. In fact double this price and still you would be hard-pressed to compete. Frankly, PSB offers the T2 at such an incredible value that it must be on any must-listen-to-before-I-buy list.
My only regret about the Imagine T2 is not getting this review done in time to nominate it as a mid-priced speaker of the year in our annual awards program. I can't "imagine" excuse the pun, that anyone wouldn't appreciate the value, design, styling, and sound of this speaker.