PSB Alpha A/V loudspeaker

The original PSB Alpha was reviewed for Stereophile by Jack English in July 1992 (Vol.15 No.7). A modest-looking two-way priced at just $199/pair, it combined a reflex-loaded 6.5" woofer using a plastic-doped paper cone with a 0.5" plastic-dome tweeter. JE summed up the Alpha by saying it "is simply one of the best buys in audio, providing a musically satisfying sound...a sensational audio bargain." It went on to become one of the best-selling audiophile speakers ever, with over 50,000 pairs sold.

In 1998, PSB's Paul Barton revised the Alpha. The drive-units acquired magnetic shielding so that the speaker could be used in home-theater systems, the ferrofluid-cooled tweeter was replaced with a more refined unit, the electrical connection is now via proper five-way binding posts, and the cabinet's covering can now be had in a "dark cherry" vinyl as well as black. The six-element crossover is mounted on a circuit board behind the binding posts, but the black grillecloth is still not removable. The resultant $249/pair Alpha A/V was originally intended to join the Alpha in PSB's lineup, but ended up replacing it.

As I am looking both for beer-budget speakers to recommend to beginning audiophiles and for speakers that can grace my office desktop, I requested a pair of the A/Vs for review.

Sound quality
Although JE decided that the original Alpha gave the most neutral low-frequency balance when it was placed close to a room boundary, I found this made the current sample sound too boomy. I therefore pulled the speaker stands 4' away from the wall behind the speakers; after some fiddling with position, this is how I did all of my listening-room auditioning.

With the open-space placement, the Alpha A/V no longer sounded on the rich side, the upper-bass region being now in better balance with the midrange. While the very low bass was rolled-off, the speaker gave the illusion of being larger than it really is---a useful trick for a small speaker to pull off. If bass that is slightly larger than life is your bag, you can move the Alphas closer to the wall. However, even with the Alphas hung on the end of the mighty Mark Levinson No.33Hs, the low frequencies were a little lacking when it came to clearly defined leading edges.

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