PSB Imagine T3 Floor-standing Speakers
- Top end of the Imagine line
- Full range floor standing speaker
- Beautifully crafted and executed
- Woofer adjustability
- Mid-level pricing for speakers at this level
It’s not to say that Paul Barton, Founder and Chief Designer of PSB Speakers had never designed a speaker of flagship status, the superb Synchrony One has held the position since introduced in 2008. However with the development of the new Imagine line several years ago, he was once again able to redefine his notion of flagship in the T3. To Paul, the idea of a project like the T3 speaker is sweetly satisfying, it’s very special and you can hear it in his voice when he talks about it.
Transitional 5-way Triple Port Bass Reflex: 1” Titanium Dome Tweeter with Ferrofluid Neodymium Magnet, 5.25″ Midrange – Compressed Felt/Fibreglass Cone with Mastic Compound, 3″ x 7” Woofer – Compressed Felt/Fibreglass Cone with Mastic Compound Coating, Rubber Surround
On Axis @ 0°, ± 3 dB, 24 Hz – 23 kHz
On Axis @ 0°, ± 1.5 dB, 30 Hz – 20 kHz
Off Axis @ 30°, ± 1.5 dB, 30 Hz – 10 kHz
Anechoic Chamber – 89 dB
Listening Room – 91 dB
Minimum 4 Ohms
Input Amplifier Power:
20 – 300 Watts
450 Hz, 1.8 kHz
1.88 cu ft (53.1 L)
47.6″ H x 11.5″ W x 15.1″ D
Gloss Black or High Gloss Cherry
PSB, PSB Imagine, T3 Floorstanding, Floorstanding Speakers, Speaker Reviews
Paul was kind enough to chat with me prior to beginning the review. Paul went on to explain how he saw the improvements to the Synchrony One. Firstly, he wanted to improve the dynamic range, moving lots of air with low distortion. Secondly, although the drivers have a larger piston area for output, the mass actually went down.
The T3 was also conceived to couple the bass and room size – although the spikes on the “pucks” decouple the speaker from the room, the speaker boasts port plugs for each woofer and even allows one woofer to disengage thereby making it a passive driver.
Paul’s foundation for music began at an early age of 9 playing tenor violin and inherited his interest in custom fabrication from his father who replicated for Paul the tenor violin, Messiah-Salabue by Stradivarius. By the age of 19, Paul was building speaker kits for fellow college students at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
I was fortunate to review the T2 as was mesmerized by its’ transparency and clarity. The T3 has lost none of the qualities of the T2 and in fact added and improved upon with a larger soundstage and deeper, cleaner bass. But I get ahead of myself.
The Imagine T3 hardly varies from the design established in the Imagine line making it the largest. Working closely with the engineers at PSB, give industrial designer David Farrage credit for the current look of the Imagine line.
Paul addressed the size of the speaker mentioning that although the width is kept to a minimum, narrow for visual reasons, the depth is “forgiving” (nobody notices how deep the speaker is) and important for the size of the cavity.
The speaker stands almost 48” high with the tweeter placed 35” from the floor. The chassis is surprisingly hefty creating a large internal cavity. Moving it around isn’t easy with a weight of 70 pounds, plus. The T3 is elegantly proportioned and is surprisingly nonintrusive in stature; in other words, it seems to fit in nicely with the room ergonomics.
The PSB T3 comes in two finishes, both in high gloss black and high gloss cherry. More obvious on the cherry veneer than the all black speaker is the finish that wraps the entire speaker, front, sides, back and top. It almost makes the speaker grille obtrusive.
The T3 is what PSB refers to as a transitional 5-way Triple port Reflex design boasting all new driver technology. Like all the top end speakers from Paul, the drivers are custom designed to his liking, each fabricated with a compressed felt/fiberglass cone with mastic compound coating rubber surround.. Three 7” woofer drivers complement a 5 ¼” midrange driver and 1” titanium dome with ferrofluid neodymium magnet tweeter. In typical “flagship” fashion, each tweeter is hand-picked.
Each bass driver is housed in a separate chamber both to brace the tall speaker and also to control unwanted resonance. In addition, each chamber is ported and supplied with a port plug, use one, two all three or none. This allows some room tuning for placement and size. Further, the T3 allows one of the bass woofers to be used passively, or as PSB suggests, as a bass trap. The midrange driver is also enclosed in its’ own, tuned sealed chamber.
Very much like the T2, the drivers are mounted on a 2” thick, shaped MDF baffle and the polished look is completed with trim rings, hiding the speaker screws.
The speaker is fitted with an attractive aluminum plinth for stability and adjustable spikes and/or rubber “pucks” allows for leveling uneven floors. I noticed when I placed the speaker close to the corner of my room that the wall wasn’t exactly plum (what would you expect in a basement anyway) even though the speaker itself was perfectly plum, straight up and down. I actually adjusted the footers throwing the speaker just slightly out of square so from my line of site, the corner of the room was straight up and down.
On the rear besides the three ports discussed above, the base of the speaker includes terminals for bi-amping or tri-amping but are shipped with jumpers in place.
My listening space isn’t that large these days, about 14 ft by 17 ft and barely 7 ft high although open to a larger area twice that size. I mention my space for a reason as the bass is harder to tame. It requires that I bring the speakers off the back wall further out than I’d prefer since it places the speakers closer to my listening position. The T3’s are toed in slightly but just enough to focus the high frequencies down to the voice mid-range level, and wide enough to let the speakers give me a wide soundstage.
As I mentioned, the speaker’s outriggers do allow for adjustment both side to side and front to back. I did slightly slope the top towards my sitting chair to get the tweeter pointed directly at me as I sit with my ears about 32” off the floor. In the end was this necessary? I’m not sure the clean dispersion from the T3 tweeter wasn’t anymore cleaner or focused in doing so. But I like that the T3 allowed me to make that adjustment although miniscule.
I’ve used several amplifiers lately, and since I’ve had the T3 so long, I did move them in and out of my system. They include, a solid state Parasound Halo A21, an integrated Rega Elicit R and Cambridge Audio’s Azur line. Sources were from my SACD player and turntable both from Marantz. All cables from Transparent Audio.
My recent interest in instrumental recordings had me pulling Bruce Cockburn’s Speechless CD off my shelf. The folksy guitarist has an unusual way of playing the low E bass string with his thumb and I thought the psb T3 might reveal this excellent overall recording. Track 3 Water Into Wine, has a beautiful melody that brings out both the high notes and bass undertones.
The T3 engages your sense of the tactile nature of his finger picking. But even more so, the tones are rich and lively. The speed of the drivers, delineating the chords cleanly compliment the generous low, extended bass notes.
Like my first impression when I reviewed the T2, I was smitten immediately, as it didn’t take more than a minute to understand what I was listening to. Clean dynamics, quick transients, superb low and controlled bass. The sweetness of the tweeter revealing and detailed. This is an audio delight!
Anyone familiar with Porcupine Tree will have heard drummer Gavin Harrison’s compilation called Cheating the Polygraph, where Gavin steps away from his rock roots crossing over to his interest in brass and the big band sound. Quick comment, I’m impressed he includes a digital 5.1 and DTS surround version with the package. Considering the T3 review is a pair of speakers, it did make me long for at least another pair and/or perhaps the available PSB Imagine C3 center channel that complements the T3. Nonetheless, the stereo version is excellent.
Gavin’s arrangements clearly place the brassy instruments in the foreground, front and center. I quickly discovered that the T3 can handle the complexities of the pieces in how they handle the range of instruments but also in the placement. The rhythm and pace of the music shifts and the psb Imagine T3 keeps up musically. The opening track What Happens Now? is clearly jazzy in conception, the cohesiveness of the whole is the sum of the parts; each instrument is clearly defined and structured.
I couldn’t imagine a lesser speaker able to control the orchestration like the T3. The brass instruments were sharp and steely while the percussions so nicely delineated from the drums to the cymbals and xylophone gentle mallet touches, especially in the opening of track 6 Hatesong/Halo. Although the track opens with the percussion instrument, this entire recording seems to be about brass, which takes over soon enough, once again nicely, rendered and placed spatially across the front. Complimented by the wind instruments, the dialogue is delineated by the T3 cleanly.
Challenging the Imagine T3 in a different direction, I wanted to hear light classical music with subtleties and nuances so I played Mozart’s Serenade No. 7 “Haffner” K.250 from a JVC xdcd 24 bit CD. The Jean-Francois Paillard led Orchestra plays both big and delicate, especially with the strings. The psb Imagine depicted the solo violin with a sense of space and air against the backdrop of the deeper cello and horn section. The T3 for all it’s ability to play details also impressively rendered the work as a full soundstage.
I was fortunate enough to have the T3 pair long enough for the vinyl release of Adele’s 25 works. Firstly, until this album although I appreciated her work, I wasn’t a big fan. I think they could have dialed back the reverb a bit, her voice is superbly represented by the T3. She does have a remarkable range, but there is a character to her voice I may never really have heard.
Make no mistake this album is about her voice. The T3 tightly focuses on the control she has in her vocals. The album musically has some big pieces matching her range with pieces like I Miss You, where the T3 gives us a wall of sound to some sultry tracks. When We Were Young is reflective and I appreciate the dialogue between her voice and the piano which I felt the T3 handled sweetly by washing the piano tones over the entire piece. Someday perhaps she will do a duet exclusively with a piano.
The T3’s ability to present detail in the full range impressed me. Bass was always in complete control, although I played with the port plugs to tune the speakers to my space, the differences with them in and out were subtle. Placement in the room is far more important. Although my listening space is smallish, I also never felt the need to remove the one bass driver as is possible by making it passive. I believe the reason is I never sensed the bass was bloated, fat, or out of control.
A new copy of the Beatles White album from the remastering in 2009 came my way, which again allowed me to enjoy the quintessential aspect of these speakers, the midrange. The PSB Imagine T3 shines in the middle range, voices are superbly shaped, guitars cleanly resolved.
A word about value, the T3 is the most expensive speaker from PSB to date, yet I cannot stress that the pricing just under $7,500 for the pair, represents a realistic price for the T3 – exceptional build quality, fit and finish, the size and heft of the speaker, and complement of drivers.
THE PSB IMAGINE T3 SPEAKERS are a World-Class and Long-Term Investment I’d have no Problem Recommending.
- Beautiful form and design
- Refined sound
- Forgiving room placement with port plug
- Bass driver option to switch from active to passive
- No grille mounting holes, with the beauty of the full veneer, my preference was to see the speaker with no grille.
As an architect, it’s rare for me to be given carte blanche to do what I want, no budget concerns nor restrictions on the concepts I’m most interested in. Compromise may be a good word in politics but it’s not in the creative field, it’s a good recipe for watering down an otherwise excellent idea.
No difference exists in the design and execution of an audio speaker. Often a speaker is designed before anyone puts a pencil to paper; market sector and price point can be the genesis, not the creative process – unless, someone says the word “flagship”. That designation to a designer is the reward after successfully executing a number of models, meeting budgets and timelines. It’s also the culmination of a learning process, what has worked and what hasn’t.
When I sat down to finalize my review, I couldn’t quite convey how enjoyable and delightful I found the PSB T3 in every way; an effortless neutrality, bass in all forms, large and bold, tight and clean, major and micro dynamics and nuances and clean transient speeds.
And my continued admiration for Paul Barton, may he continue his passion and his ever-seeking desire for perfection. Had I not taken so long for this review it would have easily been considered for speaker of the year 2015 in our annual awards. Now how do I avoid parting with them!?