As you may have figured from reading my reviews in the past year, my home theater room is more of a test lab than a polished, nailed down home theater. I’m always switching things around, leaving it a bit of a mess. (My wife calls it my cave.) Nothing showed this more than last summer when I went on my great speaker hunt. At some points I had as many as seven different pairs of speakers in my modest 14’ by 19’ room.
You may ask, why? There were several reasons. First, our new Charlotte store is in an old Tweeter location and gets a wide variety of clients. They have a lot of customers wanting a good sounding but very low priced home theater speaker solution. Next, B&W had recently done a substantial upgrade on their 800 series. The performance is stellar, as witnessed by awesome reviews. Prices almost doubled on some models, though, leaving a pretty big hole in our range of speaker choices. Finally, I just thought it would be a lot of fun to set out on this quest.
My first challenge was to narrow down the contenders. A brand’s price range needed to cover the entry level up to about $5,000 per pair. It needed to be well established with a good track record. There is also the human factor. I like doing business with companies where I respect the management. I narrowed my choices down from about ten to three: Paradigm, PSB, and Revel. I decided to get: 1) the speaker from each brand that is priced around $5000 to $8000 per pair, 2) the matching center channel, 3) a more modest floor standing speaker at around $1000 to $1500 per pair with the matching center channel, and 4) the entry level bookshelf speaker. Pretty soon, the samples were rolling in. I kept my reference B&W 8.2s in the room for comparison as well.
I’ll cut to the chase: the winner by a large margin was PSB. I now see why they have more speakers in recommended components from Stereophile and The Absolute Sound magazines than any other brand. They are an incredible value! They start at around $200 per pair and go up to $5000 a pair with just about every price point in between. They are all very easy to drive and have a really natural sound. PSB Speakers has four main series: Alpha, Image, Imagine, and Syncrony. Each series offers complete home theater choices, covering nearly any budget under the sun. In my entire history of listening, I’ve never heard a speaker under $25,000 a pair with bass definition like the Sync 1 (only $5000 per pair). In other areas my $16,000 per pair B&Ws surpassed them. But wow-for $5000 they are really, really good! The little Alpha B1 at $279 per pair has to be the best value in small speakers since the B&W 302s ($250 per pair) of about 15 years ago.
PSB has been around for over 30 years. Paul Barton heads up a pretty big design team that makes great use of Canada’s National Research Council. This is a huge organization that has been around since 1916 to help Canadian industry with technical and scientific research. They have over 50 acoustical engineers at the disposal of Canadian companies and some of the best anechoic chambers in the world.
PSB’s design team is able to quickly model prototypes and use both measurements and scientific blind listening tests on real people in their designs. Their results are just spectacular. When you see and hear these speakers, I guarantee you will think they should sell for twice what they do!
We’ve now received most of the entire PSB line up in both our Raleigh and Charlotte showrooms. They represent a great addition to our outstanding line up of performance speakers.
And for me, my “cave” is back to just a single set of speakers. However, I’ve got a big mess outside it now with the new McIntosh MX-150 surround sound processor, a new Western Digital media server, and the new Tivo XL. More fun and reviews coming soon!