PSB Imagine B loudspeaker Page 2
All of the listening for this issue's column was done using PSB's Imagine B two-way bookshelf speakers ($1000/pair), which I profiled in my February column. The Imagine B offers exceptional value for money; I continue to be very impressed with it overall, even as I remain somewhat frustrated with its lack of deep bass extensionyou can't have everything, I guess. In that respect, the Imagine B is the "poor relation" to Harbeth's HL-3P-ES2. The comparison is by no means absurdat half the price, the PSB has many of the Harbeth's advantages and the same shortcoming: bass extension.
To give two musical examples: At moderate volumes, the PSBs didn't do justice to the string-bass introduction to "So What," from Miles Davis's Kind of Blue. There was just some vague, woolly thumping going on in the background. Neither did they allow the string-bass beats in Julie London's "I Surrender, Dear" (Time for Love: The Best of Julie London, CD, Rhino R2 70737), to underscore the extent to which the protagonist of the song has reached the end of her rope. A pounding heartbeat it was not. On the positive side of the ledger, the PSBs could "disappear" just as the Harbeths dothough not with as much coherence and tonal richness. Whether the increment of midrange tactility and suppleness the Harbeth offers is worth twice the money is a decision I can't make for you. (At CES 2009, Harbeth announced that the HL-3P-ES2 would soon be revised to ES3 status, with a new woofer-midrange driver.)
I chose Donald Fagen's The Nightfly (CD, Warner Bros. 23696-2) as my test disc, and as a baseline began with the Luxman DU-50 universal player and L-505u integrated amp. The first thing I established was that the PSB Imagine B really could take advantage of superior associated equipment. I'm sufficiently impressed by the Imagine B that I've asked John Atkinson to give it a listen and to publish its measured performance. With any luck, he won't find any reason to dust off the word horrendous (footnote 1). I urge JA not to restrict his listening to budget electronics. However, even higher-priced electronics didn't allow the Imagine B completely to escape its humble origins. The sax solo on "Maxine" (I assume it's the late Michael Brecker) lacked the necessary degree of urgency. It didn't grab me the way it does through more ambitiousand far more expensivespeakers.
On balance, the sound of the PSB Imagine B and Integra DSR-4.8 combination was too forward for my taste, and, because tone controls are just about the only feature the DSR-4.8 lacks, that fix is out. The sound was detailed and dynamic, but lacked a bit in easeful flow. Your mileage may vary.John Marks
Footnote 1: See JA's measurements of Eminent Technology's LFT-16. As far as I'm concerned, the LFT-16 remains a valid choice and excellent value for money; I preferred its sound to that of the more expensive Fried Compact 7, for instance. I expected its measurements to be somewhat funky, given the difficulty of integrating cone and panel drivers and the side-by-side mounting of tweeter and midrange. I just didn't expect the graphs to look that funky.John Marks