PSB Image T65
The Image speakers from Paul Barton
and company, aka PSB, fall between their inexpensive Alpha line and their top Platinum
series. The Alpha speakers have served as introductions to good sound for many people, the
Platinums as the end of many peoples search for the ultimate audio experience.
(Check out reviews of the Platinum M2 and T6 in our Audio/Video
Reviews archive.) The Image series falls into a less exalted price class, ranging from
$349/pair USD for the least expensive model, the B15, up to $1099/pair for the T65.
Smart construction principles
All of PSBs Image speakers use a modular construction
that results in a family sound that ensures that all channels in a multichannel system
will sound similar. In the current environment it makes good sense to buy speakers that
could eventually fit seamlessly into a multichannel system. Even if youre a diehard
two-channel fan, the move to more and more multichannel programming on DVD, DVD-Audio,
SACD, and the imminent Blu-ray and HD DVD formats means you wont want to be left out
in the cold. When putting together a multichannel system, its a good idea to have at
least the front three channels (and, preferably, all channels) be the same model,
or at least the same series, of speaker. This ensures that the timbre of instruments is
uniform; otherwise, you might end up being able to pick out the mismatched center-channel,
which would defeat some of the appeal of multichannel music.
The Images modular construction doesnt just
help in building the speakers; it also helps the consumer by reducing the price. Because
PSB uses only a limited number of components throughout the series, theyre able to
reduce production and manufacturing costs. All Image models use the same 5.25" or
6.5" metalized polypropylene-cone woofers with rubber surrounds and the same 1"
aluminum-dome tweeter. The speakers front-firing bass ports allow them to be placed
closer to walls than many rear-ported speakers. Every Image speaker is magnetically
shielded to permit placement on or near a television. Of course, this also means you could
use it near a computer monitor, but all except the Image B15 are probably too big for such
The floorstanding Image T65 is a bass-reflex design with
three 6.5" woofers, three 2" bass ports, and that 1" dome tweeter. It
stands 38.5" tall by 8" wide by 20" deep and weighs 49 pounds. Each T65 has
two sets of five-way, gold-plated binding posts on the rear to allow for biwiring or
biamping. Two vinyl veneers are available: maple and black ash. I was sent the black ash
for review, but if I were buying a set of T65s, Id opt for the maple.
The pair of Image T65s that PSB sent me was part of a whole
home-theater setup I reviewed for our sister site, Home Theater & Sound.
Because they were already in my home theater, for most of the review I ran the T65s
through my home-theater system, which comprises a Harman Kardon AVR-100 receiver, a Denon
DVD-2900 universal audio/video player, Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval interconnects, and
Kimber Kable 4PR speaker cables. The biggest trouble in setting up the large T65s was
getting them out of their boxes and placing them where I wanted them. But once they were
in place, connecting the cables was easy as pie.
The first DVD-Audio I bought was Frank Sinatras Sinatra
at the Sands with the Count Basie Orchestra [Reprise R9 73777]. Id first heard
the DVD-A 5.1-channel remastering of this album at a press demonstration for some
electronics last year. Elliot Mazer and Diana Haig, the discs producer and editor,
respectively, were playing it to try out the equipment being shown, and I liked it very
much. Unfortunately, the album wasnt as impressive through my previous home-theater
speaker system as it had been at the demo. It was still good fun, but the sound
wasnt as good as Id remembered.
The Image T65s, however, made Sinatra at the Sands
sparkle as much as it had during that press demo. I was easily transported back to the
Sands, with a sound that filled the room in a way that made it seem much larger than it
really is. The spatial cues were all actualized: the orchestra was spread out across the
soundstage, the audience was in its place, and we were all enjoying Frank.
Another DVD-A favorite, BjŲrks Vespertine
[Elektra 62653-9], tested the T65s deep-bass and dynamic abilities. I was
consistently impressed with the speakers control of the low end. On such tracks as
"Hidden Place" and "Aurora," the PSB produced the deepest bass
Ive heard in my theater, except from a powered subwoofer. Unlike an inexpensive
subs, however, the T65s bass was very musical and focused.
The recent SACD release of Charles Munch and the Boston
Symphonys A Hi-Fi Spectacular [BMG Classics 61387-2] gave me a chance to try
out how well the T65 fared with symphonic music. The complexity of sound produced by an
orchestra can cause troubles for some speakers, but the T65 handled it with aplomb. The
contrasts between orchestral instruments and organ-pedal tones in Saint-SaŽns
Symphony 3 were well done and allowed the music to flow smoothly.
The easiest comparison for me to make was with my usual
home-theater main speaker, the Axiom M22ti ($440). I think the Axioms are very good for
their modest price, but the T65 seemed a wonderful bargain for their asking price, almost
$700/pair higher. The Axioms didnt sound as forward as the T65s and, as I mentioned
with the Sinatra disc, were not as good at soundstaging. Unsurprisingly, the Axioms also
fell short on bass. From some highly unscientific experiments, Ive concluded that
bass plays a big role in getting the best soundstaging.
I then wanted to hear the T65s in my two-channel room. This
was no easy task -- my two-channel system is on the floor above my home theater. Getting
the T65s up those stairs wasnt the easiest thing to do by myself, but once I had, I
put them in place of my Quad 21L ($1300) speakers. The rest of
the system was a Rogue Audio Tempest integrated amplifier, a Rotel RCD-1070 CD player, and
the same cabling as in the home theater. The PSBs larger size was not appreciated by
my wife, who thought the Quads looked much better in the room. You may or may not agree.
Comparing the Quads and PSBs proved a tough thing to do.
Both are very good speakers, but their presentations were very different. Choosing between
them was like choosing between two delicious desserts: which you choose will be determined
more by personal preference than by a concern with quality.
The PSBs sounded forward and precise compared with the
Quads smoother, more laid-back sound. On Johnny Cashs last album, American
IV: The Man Comes Around [CD, American 440 077 083-0], the PSBs seemed to put me up
close to the performers, as if I were right next to them -- every little sound was
present. On Cashs cover of Depeche Modes "Personal Jesus," for
example, I felt as if I could reach out and touch the Man in Black. The Quads seemed to
move me back a few feet and give me more of an observers perspective. I was no
longer a member of the band, but an audience member with the best seat in the house.
On symphonic works, such as the recently rereleased discs
of John Williams soundtrack music for Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope [CD,
Columbia S2K 92950], the PSBs gave me a more detailed account of each and every
instrument, and again put me closer to the music. In a direct comparison, the Quads
appeared to smooth over some of the faint details.
The Quads took first place when it came to small-ensemble
jazz, such as John Coltranes A Love Supreme [CD, Impulse! 314 589 945-2].
They had a slightly better timbre on the piano and bass, and the instruments sounded a bit
more as if they were in the room. On the other hand, Elvin Jones cymbals seemed to
decay more realistically through the PSBs. Both speakers handled the chanting of "a
love supreme" very well; both times, I was sucked into listening to this masterpiece.
I wouldnt mind owning both speakers and switching
them out as the mood struck me. Space and practicality prevent this, of course, but if I
did, I might end up using the Image T65s with symphonic and rock music, the Quads for
acoustic jazz, folk, and chamber music. If I were in the market for speakers, Id
have a hard time deciding between them -- my choice would likely depend on my mood.
Luckily, I dont have to face that dilemma.
My only hesitation about the T65 has nothing to do with its
sound. These are big speakers that will not easily blend into a living room or
small city apartment. If youre worried about their size, check out the smaller Image
floorstanders, the T45 and T55 -- or even the bookshelf B15 or B25 -- which should have a
similar sound. Those lucky enough to have dedicated listening rooms or home theaters need
not worry about this. And the larger size means deeper bass.
It should by now be no surprise that I really liked
PSBs Image T65. Every PSB speaker Ive heard has had a good
money-to-performance ratio, and the T65 was no exception -- its a bargain for
$1099/pair. You can purchase them knowing you wont be tempted to upgrade for a long
time, if ever. If youre in the market for speakers, why not buy the right speakers
once and stop upgradeitis before it can begin? There are other good-sounding speakers at
or near this price, but I wouldnt want to purchase any of them without first hearing
My best description for the Image T65: big, bold, and
...Eric D. Hetherington
Price of equipment reviewed