I started off my PSB Image evaluation with two-channel music, firing up the SACD player to spin Diana Krall's The Look of Love. On "I Remember You," her voice was expressive and well focused, but there was a breathy quality that occasionally left sibilant sounds like "f" and "s" sounding just a little detached from the rest of her voice. Christian McBride's acoustic bass was tight and tuneful and had plenty of weight, while the string orchestra was presented in a large arc behind and around the musicians.
Switching over to Art Pepper's New York Album, I cued up "A Night in Tunisia." This is a fabulous recording on the Contemporary label, and Pepper's alto sax came across with a fantastic sense of vividness and bite. The dynamic thwack of Al Foster's drums was equally impressive, as was the harmonic richness of Hank Jones's piano chords. Legendary bassist Ron Carter is famous for his big sound, but that can spell trouble for some speakers. The Image T6 managed to bring out plenty of the richness and subtlety in his tone, even if the very bottom of the scale lacked some of the weight you can hear on a system with more extended bass. As I had noticed with the Krall disc, high-frequency elements like cymbal crashes, while opensounding, ultimately couldn't quite match the smoothness and transparency I hear with my much more costly Synchrony towers.
Moving next into home theater mode, I watched The Spiderwick Chronicles on Blu-ray Disc. Near the end of the movie, there's a scene where Simon (Freddie Highmore) is caught in a car as a group of ogres charges a house. Even played at high volume, the speakers weathered the aural assault of the car hitting the house without distress.
When watching Eragon (a lame movie with a great DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on Blu-ray Disc), the scene where Eragon (Ed Speleers) flies off on a dragon demonstrated the Image system's ability to create a seamless and immersive sound field. Speaker-to-speaker pans in the soundtrack were handled beautifully, with a cohesiveness that let me forget the hardware and just watch the movie.
Vantage Point is another ear-opening movie on Blu-ray Disc - one that can test both an amplifier's headroom and a speaker's power-handling capability. When the assassination attempt on President Ashton (William Hurt) first happens, the dynamic crack of gunfire as conveyed by the Image speakers caused me to blink. And when all hell then breaks loose as the building is blown up, dialogue from the C5 center remained clear and articulate as it punched through the mayhem coming from the system's other speakers.
PSB's new Image Series represents the blueplate special of the company's speaker lines, serving up a generous helping of the flagship Synchrony system's flavor at less than a quarter of its cost. Sure, there are areas where moving further up the PSB line will result in definite improvements, but when it comes to the basics, this Image system delivers big, bold performance that you don't often see at this price level. Lightning strikes again!
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