|PSB Alpha 5.1 System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Friday, 01 March 2002|
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When I found out that PSB speakers were redesigning their most affordable line of speakers, I signed up for a review. It is easy to write glowing reviews of cost-no-object speakers (just see my review of the MartinLogan Ascent and Theater speakers), but more down-to-earth speakers offer greater challenges with greater rewards, considering that most of our readers can realistically afford the less pricey systems.
The system I reviewed consists of one pair of Alpha B’s ($249 per pair) for the left and right positions, an Alpha C ($229) in center, a pair of Alpha S ($399) for surrounds, and a SubSonic 5 ($449) performing in the .1 subwoofer position. The entire system is priced at a reasonable $1,326. The Alpha B’s reviewed were finished in a light cherry wood gran finish over an MDF cabinet. The front panel features a black metal grille and polymer baffle. The rear of the speaker sports five-way gold plated binding posts, a port opening, and both keyhole slots and threaded brass inserts to provide for a multitude of mounting options. The driver complement features a 5.25-inch woofer/midrange and a three-quarter-inch aluminum dome tweeter. This replaces the 6.5-inch woofer/midrange and one-half-inch polycarbonate dome tweeter of previous models. The smallish midrange limits the lower frequency range of this speaker to 65 Hz. The entire speaker measures a compact 11.25 inches tall, 6.5 inches wide and 9.25 inches deep, weighing 8.8 pounds, easily light enough to mount on a wall or ceiling. The overall appearance is fairly simple and modern. The front view of the speaker is about 95 percent black metal grille, with just a bit of black baffle at the bottom. There is a subtle PSB logo at the bottom of the grille on both the Alpha B and C. On the Alpha S, there is a small logo on the bottom of the panel separating the front and rear speaker arrays.
The Alpha C is basically an Alpha B with a second 5.25-inch midrange, in a horizontal, D’Appolito configuration to improve horizontal dispersion. The Alpha C, like the Alpha B, comes in either black or light cherry wood grain finish. The Alpha C measures 17.25 inches wide, 6.5 inches high and 9.25 inches deep, and weighs15.9 pounds. The larger cabinet size and dual woofer/midrange drivers extends the lower frequency response of the Alpha C to 65Hz as in the Alpha B. The Alpha S surrounds utilize a bipolar, non-ported configuration. This compact speaker measures 9.25 inches high, 6.75 inches wide and 4.75 inches deep, and weighing a light 4.9 pounds. The Alpha S comes in either a black or white textured finish and features key slots on the rear for easy wall mounting to the side or slightly behind the listening position.
Lastly, the SubSonic 5 provides the bottom end for this system. The SubSonic 5 is a compact 65 watt, 10-inch powered subwoofer system. The black ash finished cabinet measures 12-3/8 inches wide, 16.5 inches high and 14 inches deep, weighing 31 pounds. Removing the black grille exposes two two-inch ports above a front-firing 10-inch driver. The rear panel features line level inputs, high-level inputs and outputs, a power switch and continuously variable volume and crossover controls and phase switch. The SubSonic 5’s rear panel accoutrements should allow it to be easily integrated into any system.
I placed the PSB system in my home theater, replacing my MartinLogan M&K speakers. All of the PSB speakers, except the SubSonic 5, were placed on factory speaker stands. The Alpha S stands flanked the listening position with the rear-facing driver’s output bouncing off the rear wall for an even more diffuse sound field. I let the PSB’s break in for a few days with a variety of 5.1 material and various levels before I did any serious listening.
I placed the PSBs on stands, even though they are called "bookshelf speakers." I have found that stands allow for more flexibility in placement and control on boundary interactions than is possible with shelf mounting. I used black fixed-height stands provided by PSB ($99 pair). I also keep some Vantage Point stands handy as well. The Vantage Point stands come in a variety of sizes and finishes to meet most needs. The PSBs were powered by the recently reviewed Krell Theater Amplifier Standard, which was connected to a Krell Home Theater Standard 2, via Better Cables balanced Silver Serpent cables.