PSB Platinum Ovation Theater System Plus 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Thomas Garcia   
Tuesday, 01 February 2005

PSB, established in 1971 by founder and chief designer Paul Barton, has earned a reputation for manufacturing loudspeakers that offer outstanding performance while incorporating effective cost engineering as a design priority. Thorough in execution, slow in change, their Stratus Gold (and subsequent “Gold-i” improved version) stood as PSB’s reference loudspeaker for an unprecedented time, garnishing praise and accolades from both consumers and press alike. But like all technologies, new advancements in the industry inspired Mr. Barton to put his decades of experience to work. The goal was to start from scratch, creating a statement loudspeaker line for the new millennium, designated as the Platinum Series. PSB employed comprehensive computer design and sophisticated measurement techniques during the blueprinting of the Platinum loudspeakers, including laser vibrometry and Finite Element Analysis for driver and cabinet design. With extensive use of the world-renowned Canadian National Research Council facilities, PSB conducted extensive loudspeaker measurements and double-blind listening tests to achieve their uncompromising goals. The new Platinum Series offers an array of two-channel main loudspeaker options, starting with the flagship floor-standing T8 ($6,999 pair), the smaller tower T6 ($4,999 pair), and the stand-mounted M2 monitors ($1,999 pair). Multi-channel systems can be configured by adding one of two center channel options, the three-way C4 ($1,999) or the smaller two-way C2 ($1,499), two or more S2 surround loudspeakers ($2,399 pair/$1,199 each), and the SubSonic 10 powered subwoofer ($2,499). PSB offers a wide array of configuration options by mixing and matching loudspeakers that best suit your room requirements and budget. The system complement for this review was the Platinum Ovation Theater System Plus, which included a pair of T6s for left and right mains, the C2 center channel, a pair of S2 surrounds and the robust SubSonic 10 powered subwoofer.

PSB’s Platinum Ovation Theater System Plus starts with the T6, a three-way bass reflex MTM array tower featuring a one-inch ferrofluid-cooled aluminum dome tweeter positioned between two three-and-a-half-inch woven fiberglass midrange drivers, augmented by three six-and-a-half-inch woven fiberglass bass drivers. PSB closely matched all of the loudspeakers in the Platinum Series, providing universal timbre accuracy. A rectangular port is located at the base of the front face, helping to enhance low-frequency reproduction. Relatively sleek and slender in profile, the T6 is available in real black ash or cherry wood veneer, appointed with a grayish powder-coated die-cast aluminum top cap, speaker base and front edge rails. The addition of the die-cast aluminum feature is an attractive variation to a conventional rectangular box, which is said to help with lower cabinet resonances. With a slight curve, the silver-colored grille cover also helps to soften the loudspeaker’s appearance. Underneath the grille, PSB uses an aluminum-clad front panel, which is reported to be a structural feature, while offering a finished look for those who prefer to listen with the grilles removed. The loudspeaker is equipped with highly functional dual five-way gold-plated binding posts, and a very effective nut driver for tightening down the speaker terminations. Also included are adjustable carpet spikes and levelers to assist in speaker set-up and optimization. The T6 is magnetically shielded, allowing for use in close proximity to CRT video monitors. Overall, the T6 is 45 inches high by nine-and-three-eighths inches wide by 13 inches deep, weighing 64 pounds.

Pulling things together up front is the PSB Platinum C2 center channel. Driver complement includes a one-inch ferrofluid-cooled aluminum dome tweeter, flanked by two six-and-a-half-inch woven fiberglass woofers in a bass reflex enclosure. Similar in cosmetics to the T6, the C2 is available in black ash or cherry wood veneer, and also sports dual five-way gold-plated binding posts. The C2 is magnetically shielded, and shows zero picture distortion when placed directly on top of my CRT monitor. Substantial in size, the C2 measures 24-and-five-eighths inches wide by nine-and-three-eighths inches tall by 13 inches deep, with a weight of 37 pounds. PSB offers a simple yet attractive optional stand for use under a projection screen. Dimensions for the stand are 21and-three-fourths inches wide by 15-and nine-sixteenths inches high by 13 inches deep.

Handling ambient and surround sound duties are the ingenious S2s. The 90-degree triangulated enclosure is comprised of the same die-cast aluminum material and similar aesthetics used throughout the Platinum line, with two different grille cover options available, black or silver. PSB’s “Tri-mode Surround Speaker Placement” (bipole/dipole/dual channel) design allows the Platinum S2 to be wired in or out of phase to create either a bipole or dipole radiation pattern. Their two-way design uses two one-inch ferrofluid-cooled aluminum dome tweeters, and a pair of six-and-a-half-inch woven fiberglass woofers. In addition, it can be wired for use in 6.1 and 7.1 surround systems, so that the forward-facing drivers supply the side channel sound, while the rear-facing drivers supply the rear-center surround channels. This allows the end user to configure for 6.1 or 7.1
arrangements, while using only five loudspeakers. The S2 surround is provided with dual five-way gold-plated binding posts and a range of mounting and positioning options. This is definitely one heavily built surround, weighing a stout 31 pounds, and measuring 15-and-one-eighth inches wide by 15-and-three-fourths inches high by nine-and-five-eighths inches deep.

Covering the low-frequency reproduction is the SubSonic 10 powered subwoofer. With matching aesthetics to the T6s and C2, the SubSonic 10 is large, yet not cumbersomely so. Available in Black Ash or Cherry, it measures 15-and-three-eighths inches wide by 24-and-one-fourth inches high by 24 13/16 inches deep, with a weight of 110 pounds. It is adorned with two opposing 12-inch high power, long-throw woven fiberglass drivers in a bass reflex enclosure, powered by an internal BASH, Class H MOSFET amplifier. PSB rates this subwoofer’s amplifier output at 500 watts RMS, with a dynamic peak power of 1500 watts. The SubSonic 10 incorporates proprietary “smart bass” circuitry, which is designed to prevent the amplifier from overloading during demanding passages. Back panel functions and controls include a detachable power cord, an on/off power switch, an internal crossover defeat switch, a 0º /180º phase switch, RCA line level inputs and outputs and binding posts for speaker level inputs. Smartly positioned on the front of the SubSonic 10 are two constantly variable controls for output level and a Linkwitz-Riley 24dB per octave crossover operating from 50 to 150Hz. Lastly, the SubSonic 10 is magnetically shielded, a strong plus that is seldom found in subwoofers.

Installation and set-up of the PSB Platinum Ovation Theater System Plus was relatively conventional for a 5.1 multi-channel system. The front two main loudspeakers were placed 10 feet apart, with their front faces approximately three feet from the back wall and four feet from the side walls. Similar to the T6s, the C2 center channel was positioned 10 feet from the listening area and placed on its optional stand. The surround sound loudspeakers were placed equidistant from the main listening location at a 90-degree axis. A combination of both bipole and dipole set-ups were tried; I found I had a consistent preference for the dipole set-up in this particular acoustical environment. After moving the subwoofer around to various positions within the room, optimal location was achieved by placing it three feet clear of the side corner and flush against the front wall. Because of the opposing driver configuration, placement directly in a corner can be problematic and may result in an uneven frequency response due to odd corner loading effects. As always, experimentation should be used whenever integrating a subwoofer into any listening environment. Kudos should be given to PSB for including a crossover bypass switch, which allowed me to use my processor’s crossover without stacking any additional filters from the subwoofer. After extensive experimentation, I finally settled on a 70 hertz, 24 dB per octave crossover point to meld the system together.

Movies and Music
Nominated for two Academy Awards for both best sound and sound effects editing, "Clear and Present Danger" (Paramount Home Entertainment) offers a variety of low-level detail and loud dynamic sequences that put the PSB system through its paces. The front soundstage sounded alive and dynamic with good integration of the T6s and C2, their tonal match helping to create a seamless sonic picture. Dialogue was always clean and intelligible through the C2, which helped anchor the front soundstage to the film. James Horner’s film score sounded lush yet forceful, complimenting the broad range of emotions and drama throughout the movie. The soundtrack actively engages the surround channels, allowing the S2s to convey a compelling sensation of each scene’s environment. The SubSonic 10 subwoofer did a splendid job of rendering all the diverse tactile components and deep rumblings that originate from both the movie’s sound effects and musical score.

The complete system was exceptionally impressive, especially while viewing sequences such as the explosive motorcade assault. It was possible to discern every round of fire while following each vehicle’s movement in a realistic and believable manner. Additionally, the PSBs provided the appropriate weight and size to large-scale segments, most notably the aerial flyovers by fighter jets and attacking helicopters. With great micro and macro dynamics, smooth transitions from front to rear and powerful low-end extension, the Platinum Series pulls the viewer into the film in a way that only a well-balanced, integrated surround system can do.

Onward to “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), a visually stunning film mated to an equally incredible soundtrack. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning two Oscars for cinematography and sound editing, this high seas adventure is saturated with heroic tales and ferociously fought battles. Set against the immensity of the open ocean, “Master and Commander” delivered exceptionally wide dynamics, floor-rippling bass and vast assortments of awe-inspiring surround effects, all wrapped in an enveloping soundstage. In the opening battle between two ships, the musket volley and cannon fire was remarkably realistic, with SPL levels quickly rising above the movie’s baseline volume. Low bass reproduction was accurate and deep, at times producing floor-shuddering results. Never falling short, the PSB Platinums handled these percussive scenes without a trace of distress or distortion. High-frequency and midrange performance was well integrated, articulating every creak and groan of the ship, the howl of cold wet winds and the crashing of the sea on the forward stern with uncanny realism. The system’s overall frequency response possessed a smooth balance, particularly evident during the movie’s many musical pieces, including a beautiful Bach Cello Suite segment performed by Yo-Yo Ma. Another noteworthy musical moment included a stellar recording of a violin and cello, played by the captain (Russell Crowe) and doctor (Paul Bettany). The Platinum entourage effectively captured the rich resonance of each instrument, lending a reverberant acoustical aura echoed by the wooden ship’s lower chamber. Overall, the soundtrack of “Master and Commander” complemented the storyline faultlessly, creating a riveting movie experience through the PSBs.

Multi-channel music was equally impressive with the Platinums. Listening to a DVD-Audio copy of Yes’ Fragile (Rhino/ Warner) was an absolute eye-opener. Surprisingly, it had been quite a few years since I had listened to this favorite from the early ‘70s. The multi-channel release vastly improved upon the original recording, which had tendencies to sound etched and somewhat sterile. With the DVD-Audio’s increased dynamic range and improved transient response, overall vocals were cleaner, instruments less distorted and frequency extension was greatly improved. Cueing up a few of the most recognizable Yes tunes, “Roundabout” and “Long Distance Runaround,” quickly reacquainted me with the musical mastery this album possesses. The PSB system effortlessly deciphered the complex and powerful passages of this disc, doing equal justice to Steve Howe’s stratospheric guitar riffs and Rick Wakeman’s room-rattling synthesizer passages. This recording used the rear loudspeakers for both direct sounds and reverberating musical cues. Timbre matching between all the Platinum loudspeakers was again evident, allowing Jon Anderson’s vocals to transition from the front stage loudspeakers into the surrounds without any noticeable tonal shifts. Assisted by the SubSonic 10 subwoofer, Chris Squires’ growling bass lines had a weight and visceral quality that resonated throughout my listening room. The PSB system always had enough headroom to allow playback at reference-plus levels, remaining composed and in control.

The Downside
Shortcomings for the PSBs are few and pertain mostly to optimization and installation rather than overall performance. Though the main loudspeakers occupy a very small footprint, the subwoofer is another story. The sub is moderately large and the opposing drivers make for a challenging exercise in optimizing its location. Locating it too close to a corner, unless it is positioned diagonally, will corner-load one of the drivers and cause some abnormalities in the frequency response.

With the gray color option and light or dark grilles available for the surrounds, some décor conscious individuals will struggle to put these sizable loudspeakers on neutral colored walls.

The PSB Platinums are solid, well-built loudspeakers and their fit and finish is topnotch. Great attention has been given to the system’s overall design engineering and final sound quality. Their ability to handle wide dynamics, together with a neutral, smooth frequency response, made the PSBs equally capable of deciphering both demanding home theater and complex music reproduction. Timbre matching between loudspeakers produced seamless left to right and front to back transitions. The cohesiveness between the T6 mains, C2 center and S2 surrounds imparted an openness and transparency that allowed acoustical nuances to bloom from all quadrants of the soundstage. Coupled with the low-frequency extension and visceral impact of the SubSonic 10 subwoofer, the Platinum system had few limitations. There is no doubt that the high performance standards established by the Platinum Ovation Theater System Plus will continue the long-lasting legacy of PSB.
Manufacturer PSB Speakers
Model Platinum Ovation Theater System Plus
Reviewer Tom Garcia

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