PSB Platinum T8 loudspeaker Page 2

Once I had the speakers optimally set up, one of the things that impressed me most about the Platinum T8 was its reproduction of voices. If a constant throughout my years of service to the audiophile gods has been my preference for minimonitors, this has been partly because their reproduction of solo voices has tended to be more consistently satisfying than with full-range speakers that cost the same. I have at various time conjectured that this was due to practical reality—within a given budget, the cost of extending low frequencies drastically reduces the resources the designer can devote to the midrange—or to such theoretical considerations as the fact that a minimonitor's baffle width is pretty much the same as a human head's, and thus will have a similar radiation pattern.

The T8 took a whack at the latter hypothesis by reproducing solo voice about as well as I have experienced. With lesser speakers, midrange colorations tend to add a formant structure to the sound of voices that dilutes the differences between vocal sounds. The PSB speaker seems remarkably free from colorations in the vocal region, with the result that voices sound less like each other and more like themselves. Elvis Costello's distinctive pipes on a pre-release CD-R of his new North album (DG), for example, was as vividly real-sounding but nothing like the late Jeff Buckley's equally vivid reading of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," on Grace (CD, Columbia CK 57528).

"If you don't get the midrange right, nothing else matters," wrote Stereophile's founder, J. Gordon Holt, in the mists of audiophile pre-history. The Platinum T8 got the midrange right, preserving the individualities not just of voices but of musical instruments as well. The widely varied tonal qualities of the wind instruments on October's "Recording of the Month," Private Astronomy: A Vision of the Music of Bix Beiderbecke, from Geoff Muldaur's Futuristic Ensemble (CD, DG Edge 028947458326), sounded superb. The cornet had the correct silver-toned sweetness, so different from the trumpet's more aggressive tone; the bass clarinet had just the right combination of plumminess and hollowness.

The positions I finally arrived at worked very well for classical orchestral music. Perhaps the biggest failing of minimonitors is their inability to reproduce the dynamic sweep, the feeling of restrained power so essential to the reproduction of orchestral sound. This the PSBs also got right, successfully enveloping me in Mendelssohn's swaggering "Italian" symphony (Sir Colin Davis, Boston Symphony; SACD, Pentatone PTC 5186 102). The double basses, in particular, on this 1976 analog recording dug deep, doing a great job of underpinning the panache of the upper instruments.

But even with the T8's well-defined, extended low frequencies, it was hard to identify the exact instrument playing the bass line on Bix Beiderbecke's "There Ain't No Sweet Man (That's Worth the Salt of My Tears)" on the Geoff Muldaur CD. Tuba doubling double bass was my best guess, but again, the PSBs did a fine job in the midrange, reproducing Martha Wainwright (daughter of Loudon III) subbing very effectively for a deceased Bing Crosby—"Man, this cut swings!" I jotted in my listening notes.

So far, it's all been good news. But if the Platinum T8 did depart from neutrality, it was in its tonal balance, which was a little on the cold side. My in-room measurements (see sidebar) suggested a slight excess of high-frequency energy, which was supported by the occasional emphasis of vocal sibilants—the magazine's longtime copy editor, Richard Lehnert, sounded a little more lispy than he should on the spoken introduction to my Fender Bass cuts on Editor's Choice—but most of the time I wasn't aware of there being too much energy in the treble. In fact, I did almost all my auditioning with the rear tweeters jumpered on, to get enough of that top-octave air I crave from front-firing speakers since I reviewed the omnidirectional mbl 111B (August 2002).

There did seem to be some liveliness in the presence region. While dual-mono pink noise (Editor's Choice, track 18) showed little change with listening height, there was some mid-treble splashing of the image to the sides when I moved my head slightly away from the center. Stereo imaging was slightly less stable in the mid-treble than in the midrange and low treble. The image of Ida Levin's violin in the Schulhoff Sonata for Solo Violin on Duet (Stereophile STPH012-2) was wider at the top of its register. But other than that, the T8's HF presentation was grain-free. The presence of Levin's instrument within the reverberant surroundings of Santa Fe's Loretto Chapel, for example, was simply palpable. Even on multimiked recordings where the soundstage had been constructed in post-production, such as Diana Krall's Live in Paris DVD-V (Verve/Eagle Eye Media 01212 90129), the wealth of recorded detail apparent was breathtaking, even with this soundtrack's Dolby encoding. (Am I alone in disliking the effect of AC-3 compression on bass instruments? The double bass on this disc sounds distinctly "puddingy.")

Summing up
All through my auditioning of the Platinum T8, I kept losing sight of the fact that this speaker costs a hair under $7000/pair, making it an appropriate choice for readers who want superb sound quality at a relatively affordable price. (Our most recent survey revealed that the average Stereophile reader has more than $18,000 invested in his system.) My criticisms are minor, my enjoyment of what it does right are major. Its balance will need some care taken with system matching and small rooms, which will emphasize the mid-treble and are probably best avoided. But in an appropriate room with good-quality source and amplification components, a pair of PSB Platinum T8s will rock you, whatever your tastes in music.

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