|• Image T6 tower ($1,199/pair) 1-in titanium-dome tweeter, 5 1∕4-in cone midrange, (2) 61∕2-in cone woofers; 405∕8 x 91∕8 x 15 in; 49 lb
• Image C5 center ($375) 1-in titanium-dome tweeter, (2) 5 1∕4-in cone woofers; 7 1∕8 x 19 1∕2 x 10 1∕2 in; 19 lb
• Image S5 surround ($799/ pair), (2) 1-in titanium-dome tweeters, (2) 51∕4-in cone woofers; 113∕4 x 117∕8 x 67∕8 in; 131∕4 lb
Speaker designer Paul Barton and the folks at PSB have been on quite a roll over the last couple of years. First up was the flagship Synchrony system, which won our 2007 Audio Product of the Year award. (I even bought a Synchrony system to use as my own personal reference!) Next came the affordable, S+V Certified & Recommended Imagine Series. Now we have its new, even lowerpriced Image Series. The question is, can PSB make lightning strike a third time?
The company's decision to shift much of its production to Asia has been a key factor in its recent run of success. Freed from some of the manufacturing limitations - along with higher costs - of building speakers in Canada, Barton has let his design chops flourish, replacing the company's great-sounding but somewhat clunky-looking older models with elegant, beautifully finished speakers that most homeowners would be proud to display.
Like its bigger brothers, the new Image Series (which replaces PSB's old Image Series) consists of a broad range of models that you can mix and match as needed. For this review, I went with the top models in each category, including the T6 floor-standing tower, the C5 center channel, and S5 surrounds. Rounding out the rest of the range are three bookshelf speakers, a smaller center, and a smaller floorstanding model. While PSB doesn't make subwoofers specifically matched to a particular speaker series, it does offer plenty of them, including the SubSeries 5i model with which I paired the system.
Displaying a clear family resemblance to its more costly siblings, the new Image speakers have a similarly curvaceous profile, with attractive rounded front baffles. Scratch a little deeper, however, and some of the cost-saving measures become clear. The speakers are available in both a black ash finish and the attractive dark cherry of my review samples, but these are actually high-quality vinyl wraps rather than something that started life as part of a tree. And the S5 surround speaker, which lacks the dual-channel and dipole connection options featured on both the Synchrony and Imagine surrounds, can only be used as a single-channel bipole.
All Image models have the same titanium-dome tweeter and similar composite cone woofers and midrange drivers. This helps to ensure a good acoustic match among the various speakers - an important factor for achieving cohesive surround performance. The T6 towers come with optional plugs for the bass ports to tune bass output in problem rooms. Carpetgrabbing floor spikes as well as wood-floor-friendly rubber feet are also provided.
The T6 towers' bass extension is pretty solid, so positioning them in my room involved finding a spot that balanced neutral bass reproduction with a focused, correctly proportioned soundstage. Naturally, I started in the position where my Synchrony One towers normally live, but this resulted in somewhat uneven response. By moving the T6 towers closer to the front wall (the back of each speaker was about 12 inches away), I was able to eliminate a lot of lumpiness while adding a healthy measure of midbass punch. Positioning the remaining speakers was somewhat more straightforward. I pressed the custom stand that I built for my Synchrony One C center channel into service for the C5, adjusting the height so that its tweeter lined up with those in the T6 towers.
Positioning the remaining speakers was somewhat more straightforward. I pressed the custom stand that I built for my Synchrony One C center channel into service for the C5, adjusting the height so that its tweeter lined up with those in the T6 towers. The S5s went in my room's usual surroundspeaker spots: up on high stands and against the walls directly to the left and right of the listening chair.
Since the T6 is capable of delivering deep bass, I set the front speakers to "large" in my Integra receiver's bassmanagement menu, allowing them to operate full-range. For the center and surround speakers, I found that an 80-Hz crossover resulted in the most seamless blend with the SubSeries 5i.
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