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PSB Speakers Introduces the New Imagine Speaker Lineup Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 July 2008
ImageAn all-new family of loudspeakers from Canada’s PSB Speakers, dubbed “Imagine,” is destined to become the standard of value among audio and home-theater fans for whom real-world sonic performance is the salient criterion of excellence. Yet at the same time, PSB expects the Imagine models to reset expectations of just how an “affordable-high-end” loudspeaker can look, and of the quality standards to which they can be crafted.

The Toronto-area firm, for 35 years acknowledged worldwide as one of the leading creators of high-performance speakers, expects the PSB Imagine to find instant favor among discerning buyers who covet the widely admired abilities and arresting forms of its acclaimed Synchrony designs, introduced one year ago, but who have been deterred by those models’ not inconsequential cost.

“The Imagine lineup is the latest example of what PSB does best,” says company founder and chief designer Paul Barton, known the world around for loudspeaker-design acumen and high-value, high-performance standards. “That is, to make top-of-the-heap sonics and quality accessible to the widest possible range of potential owners.” Barton continues: “It would be almost criminally misleading to dismiss the Imagine range as ‘Synchrony Junior,’ but we freely acknowledge that a good deal of what we learned over Synchrony’s three-year development, particularly in cabinet design and manufacture, empowered the Imagine concept and execution, and has thus enabled us to complete its development in far less time.”

Early in the Imagine design process, PSB elected to bring in internationally noted designer David Farrage, to help guide early concepts to final forms. “David’s a brilliant industrial designer,” says Barton. “He and the PSB design team worked together every step of the way, from the earliest napkin-sketches to 3D models, CAD files, and actual prototypes, to get the organic forms and high-end textures we wanted and to make sure they would coexist with the engineering performance parameters.”

The resulting four models that comprise Imagine’s debut may well be the finest visual presentation for proportion, sculptural form, and visual detail in PSB’s long history. The Imagine T, a three-driver, two-and-a-half-way tower full-range floor-standing design, and Imagine B two-way stand/bookshelf-mount are intended primarily for front-channels/stereo playback. The Imagine C is a dual-woofer, horizontal two-way center-channel speaker, while the Imagine S is a dual-two-way, selectable dipole/bipole/dual channel monopole surround loudspeaker which may be connected as two discrete (side/rear) two-way pairs in compatible systems. All four Imagine models share a common driver family, with an all-new, very high-output 5.25-inch woofer, and an impressively wide-band and ultra-accurate, titanium-dome 1-inch tweeter inspired by the unexcelled performance of the Synchrony high-frequency unit.

PSB Imagine begins with a novel method of cabinet construction that exploits in equal measure the superb precision and repeatability of computer-controlled machining, and the irreplaceable touch of hand craftsmanship. The result is a quartet of enclosures that rivals the Synchrony line for acoustical performance and whose smooth, seamless, unbroken surfaces present a simple, beautifully integrated visual form. Compound-curved on every vertical face and heavily braced internally, each Imagine enclosure is impressively solid, acoustically inert (resistant to vibration), while their precisely radiused, unbroken baffles—full 1.5 inches in thickness—and flush, fastener-less driver mounts promote singularly smooth, ripple-free high-frequency response and carefully calculated horizontal dispersion.

PSB’s Imagine woofers incorporate injection-molded diaphragms of a proprietary, ceramic-filled polypropylene that delivers a unique union of stiffness, inherent internal damping, and amazingly low mass. A highly efficient motor system’s unique compound magnet structure in essence “forces” the driver into delivering higher sensitivity at declining frequencies, effectively extending response at no penalty in size or system efficiency. The woofer’s molded-polycarbonate basket contributes ideal stiffness and aerodynamics as well as complete magnetic indifference, while its bullet-shaped aluminum phase-plug (a frank borrowing from the Synchrony design portfolio) enhances linearity at higher frequencies and measurably lowers distortion. The Imagine tweeter, also common to all models, exploits an advanced, highly linear and remarkably efficient neodymium-magnet design (again, Synchrony-derived) that helps to extend output at both frequency extremes for effortless, airy top octaves and smooth, uncolored response through the critical crossover region coupled with high power handling.

Paul Barton has long recognized the critical importance of the crossover to both mechanical and electrical systems in any multi-driver dynamic system. Like nearly every PSB design, the Imagine networks employ fourth-order acoustic Linkwitz-Reilly topology, which Barton finds best able to combine discrete drivers into cohesive acoustic entities with minimal impact in either amplitude domain (frequency-response) or that of time (phase-response). Select components and careful layout maximize signal transfer and keep static and dynamic distortions well below meaningful limits. Heavy, all-metal multiway binding posts on all Imagine models accept bare wire (up to 10-gauge), lugs, banana plugs, open and closed spades, and enable bi-wiring or bi-amplifying. The dual-ported Imagine T tower and Imagine C center channel are each supplied with one port-cover per speaker, enabling a modest degree of system tuning to accommodate individual room acoustics, speaker setup or listener preference.

Of course like all PSBs, Imagine’s design exploited the world-class acoustical resources of Canada’s National Research Council in Ottawa, Canada, where Paul Barton has conducted fundamental study of loudspeakers, room acoustics, and listening evaluations for some three decades. Imagines’ final journey from prototypes to finished loudspeakers relied heavily on studies conducted at the NRC’s anechoic chamber and listening-studio facilities.

While Imagine’s unique enclosure construction was developed primarily for its acoustical properties, its aesthetic benefits are by no means inconsiderable. The subtly curved, elegantly formed cabinets are strikingly attractive, even unfinished. But with their hand-selected and individually matched real-wood veneers applied, the Imagines’ visual appeal stands head and shoulders above their competitors as much as does their sonic performance. All four are offered in a choice of black-ash or dark-cherry furniture-grade veneers, meticulously “cathedral”-matched, hand-finished and detailed to a superb satin finish.

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