PSB Image B25 loudspeaker Page 2

The B25's high-frequency articulation showed up well on the tutti brass passages of the Basie LP as well. The muted trumpets were searing and biting, but not a bit spitty. I noticed a similar effect on the brass passages of my white-dog pressing of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra (LP, RCA Living Stereo LSC-2643). Moreover, the passages of massed strings in this work were searing yet silky and sweet, as they are in live performances. Finally, the PSBs were capable of a tremendous sense of drama—the high-level passages of this orchestral blockbuster showed no hint of strain or compression throughout the wide, deep soundstage.

The B25's high-frequency resolution was most evident in its rich, natural, liquid rendition of female vocalists. I noticed that all sibilant passages were prominent without being bright, and with levels of articulation and realism and a lack of coagulation reminiscent of the effect of hearing a moving-coil phono cartridge for the first time.

On the opposite end of the frequency spectrum, the B25's bass performance was fairly natural and extended, and capable of high-level dynamic slam and realism. Jerome Harris' bass on "The Mooche," from Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2), sounded woody, natural, and nonresonant, if a touch warm. On electronic recordings, such as Sade's Love Deluxe (CD, Epic EK 5317), the bass synth and drum machine were extended, powerful, and dynamic. This recording's slight midbass warmth adds to its power and drama; at 95dB volume levels, it shook the house and partied hard, without a trace of overhang or resonance.

Further down the frequency spectrum, the organ pedals on John Rutter's Requiem (CD, Reference RR-57CD) didn't shake the room, but were uncolored and, as my notes read, "damn convincing from a bookshelf." I also noted that the soprano soloist on this recording sounded completely integrated into the acoustic of the recording venue, a church.

I was intrigued by how clearly the B25 revealed the extent to which electronic processing had been used in rock recordings. I noticed, on Sade's Love Deluxe, how subtly and ingeniously gating had been applied to the sound of the drum machine. The PSBs also made very clear how, on Aimee Mann's Bachelor No.2 or The Last Remains of the Dodo (CD, Super Ego SE 002), the engineers had overdone the compression on all of the instruments while leaving Mann's vocals unscathed, which puts the sound of this otherwise excellent recording slightly out of joint.

I compared the PSB Image B25 ($449/pair) with the Epos ELS3 ($329/pair), the NHT SB-3 ($600/pair), and the Alón (now Nóla) Li'l Rascal Mk.II ($595/pair).

The Epos ELS3 exhibited less midrange detail, as well as less extended and articulate high frequencies, than the PSB. However, the Epos's slightly less liquid and less holographic midrange was very natural, and the speaker presented a somewhat smaller sound. These differences were noticeable but not dramatic. On the low end of the spectrum, bass extension and high-level dynamic slam were almost as good as the PSB's, despite the Epos's significantly smaller size. Still, the PSB exceeded the Epos in high-level dynamic articulation in the midrange and highs.

The NHT SB-3 was very liquid and involving in the midrange and sounded somewhat more romantic, but resolved a bit less detail. The PSB also had more extended and detailed high frequencies. The NHT's bass extension and high-level dynamic slam were equal to the PSB's, though the NHT's midbass was somewhat warmer. Unlike the PSB, the NHT tended to compress the sound a bit on complex passages.

The Li'l Rascal Mk.II exhibited somewhat more detail and air in its liquid-sounding midrange than the PSB, but the PSB's high frequencies seemed more sophisticated, articulate, and revealing. The Li'l Rascal's bass extension and high-level dynamic contrasts were very similar to the PSB's.

Paul Barton has once again upped the ante on what he can design into an affordable loudspeaker. Although it's been several years since I heard and reviewed his Image 4T, I can't recall a single area where that older, more expensive speaker outperformed the Image B25—it impressed me in many areas and let me down in none. I can't think of a single other speaker for less than $500/pair that outperforms the PSB Image B25. Congratulations, Paul!

633 Granite Court
Pickering, Ontario L1W 3K1
(905) 831-6555