Real Sound for Real People

A happy family. The all-new PSB Image Series (from left to right): The B4, B5, and B6 monitors; the T6 and T5 towers; the C4 (top) and C5 center channels; the S5 surround.

In my July 2009 "As We See It," I talked about high end audio's need for more gateway products at gateway prices, components that could potentially attract a new and wide audience to the small but greatly rewarding pastime of listening to music on a hi-fi.

We should be thankful. PSB and designer Paul Barton have done it again; the company's revamped Image Series takes technology from the outstanding Synchrony and Imagine lines and incorporates it into even more affordable products.

At a press demonstration held earlier this week in a lush tower suite at Manhattan's Waldorf-Astoria, Paul Barton explained that this will be the final stage of his company's three-tiered product-offering reorganization. (The Alpha line will also remain in production, thank the good Lord!) Like the Synchrony and the Imagine before it, the Image is built in China under the careful supervision of Paul Barton. But manufacturing his products overseas is only one way that Barton keeps the prices down. More important is the fact that Barton works tirelessly to maximize the performance of his designs, while employing the simplest and fewest number of parts.

"That tweeter may not look like much," he said, "but a lot of work went into it."

PSB prides itself on its adherence to "value-first" principles, sacrificing the exotic for the time-tested, while still offering a product that is as visually attractive as it is sonically compelling. I appreciate this. I feel as though PSB is designing products with me, specifically, in mind. In fact, the Image Series is introduced to us as offering: "Real sound for real people."

Hey, I am real! Are you real?

These are products that I can get excited about, products that I can easily and happily talk about; I can mention these loudspeakers to my non-audiophile friends, without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. O, how refreshing! After all, PSB loudspeakers sound good, look good, and are reasonably priced. These are gateway products at gateway prices.

The PSB Image Series:

Image T5 tower, $899/pair
Image T6 tower, $1199/pair
Image B5 monitor, $399/pair
Image B6 monitor, $499/pair
Image B4 (crazy small and incredibly cute) monitor, $299/pair

PSB completes the line with the C4 and C5 center channels ($275 and $375, respectively) and the S5 surround ($799/pair).

All of the models have in common a 1" titanium-dome tweeter and are available in a choice of black ash or dark cherry vinyl finish. Though not as elegant or gracefully curved as the Synchrony or Imagine towers, the Image T5 and T6 are still attractive floorstanders with relatively small footprints. The 2.5-way T5 uses two 5.25" woofers, while the dual-ported, 3-way T6 opts for two 6.5" woofers and a 5.25" mid. I, however, sort of have my sights set on the scrumptious-looking B5 monitor. It most closely resembles my beloved Alpha B1 and uses a single 5.25" woofer in its 12.5"-high cabinet. Nice.

Also adorable is the teeny-weenie B4. It measures just 5.25" wide by 9" high by 6.6" deep. Girls will go crazy over this cutie-pie. I can see them now, sticking pairs of B4s into their pocketbooks, taking them for rides on the subway or to the grocery store. Some audiophiles might even try to eat them. The size of the B4 makes it practical for use as a surround, but I can also imagine it being used for desktop systems. But don't think that the B4 has to be limited to secondary uses. During his demo, Paul Barton saved the little guy for last for a reason: though it may lack some low-bass control and extension, and can't play with the same sense of ease as the larger models in the Image line, the tiny B4 still offered impressive impact and immediacy, with clean, detailed images within a surprisingly wide soundstage. Cool!

PSB's new Image line seems ready and willing to fulfill its promise of offering real sound for real people, and represents Paul Barton's commitment to quality and value. We should be thankful.

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Scott Atkinson's picture

Stephen -Thanks for this. As someone who intentionally dwells at the cheapest end of good audio, I appreciate what PSB is doing and Stereophile's commitment to reporting on the best bargains.Also, I very much agree with your 'gateway' thoughts, excepting that there are people like me who want to stay at the low end, and see what we can get out of it.Best,Scott AtkinsonWatertown NY

Ajani's picture

Excellent news! I'm always excited to see more high quality, affordable gear coming to market. Especially when it trickles down tech from the more expensive lines...I'm really hoping to see a Stereophile review of the T5 and/or T6 (those speakers should fall clearly into the price range that Rob Reina normally reviews - and it would be interesting to see if either of those models gives his Monitor Audio RS6 a real challenge).

Rob's picture

Paul Barton has been offering superb value loudspeakers for years. He's a great engineer, but not a very good industrial designer.

Between Alpha, Atom and the B4's picture

Which of these three speakers would you recommend if one needs to build a hometheater and listen to stereo music? Based on your earlier review PSB Alpha B1 performs better at the lower end of the frequency while the Paradigm is better with the higher frequency. Where does the B4 fit in compared to the Alphas and the Atoms?

Patrick young's picture

Has any one done a comparison between comparably priced speakers, the PSB Image T6 vs the Monitor Audio Silver RS6? Both have had outstanding reviews and both have superb cummulative spectral decay plots in the critical mid frequencies.

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