PSB Imagine Mini Bookshelf Speakers Pair Gloss White Brand New!
Suggested Retail :$829.00 /pair
Buy It Now :$499.00 /pair
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These Imagine minis have might!
Fits in anywhere.
- sensitivity: 87 dB
- 8-ohm impedance
- recommended power: 10-80 watts
- 1" titanium dome tweeter with neodymium magnet
- 4-1/2" injection-molded, clay ceramic-filled polypropylene woofer
- bass reflex (ported) design
- hand-selected real wood veneer finish
- gold-plated binding post connectors
- 5-11/16"W x 9-3/8"H x 8-1/4"D
- weight: 6.5 lbs. (each)
I subsequently met Barton at the 1988 Audio Engineering Society Convention in Los Angeles, and, in the first of many, many conversations we were to have, learned more about loudspeaker design than I had realized there was to learn. (My interview with Barton was published in our October 1997 issue.)
I have reviewed several PSB speakers over the years, but the two that most stick in my memory are the Synchrony One (April 2008 and the Alpha B1 (May 2007). The Synchrony One cost $4500/pair, the Alpha B1 $279/pair, and while I was very impressed with what Barton had achieved with the expensive speaker, I was even more impressed with what he'd managed on what must have been an almost nonexistent build budget. The Alpha B1 had not been out of place hung on the end of very expensive amplification and source components—while it lacked deep bass and loudness capability and ultimate transparency, it communicated the music in an effective manner out of all proportion to its price. Yet when paired with inexpensive components, the B1 was forgiving of any sonic ills committed upstream—as Stephen Mejias can testify, having used the B1s as his "Entry Level" reference ever since we published my review.
Then Came the Mini
PSB's Imagine series represented an attempt to bring the benefits of the Synchrony technology to more affordable speakers. Both Sam Tellig and Kal Rubinson favorably reviewed the Imagine T tower ($2000/pair) in June 2009, while John Marks liked what he heard from the Imagine B bookshelf ($1000/pair) in no fewer than three installments of his column, "The Fifth Element," for that year. Then, at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, PSB previewed the smallest, least expensive model in the Imagine series, the Mini. Costing $760/pair in satin-finish wood veneer, or $830/pair in high-gloss black or white, the Mini was one of the hits of CES 2011. Stephen Mejias commented that "the sound of acoustic guitars was enchanting and commanding, with fine detail, impact, and emotion"; Robert Deutsch felt the launch of the Minis to be one the show's highlights.
Measuring just 9.25" high by 5.75" wide by 8.3" deep and weighing 6.5 lbs, the Mini marries the titanium-dome tweeter used in the other Imagine models to a 4" woofer that has a 3" polypropylene cone filled with clay/ceramic materials and a rubber surround. As well as the main ceramic magnet, this drive-unit's motor uses a second, neodymium magnet resting atop the pole piece to multiply the magnetic force factor. The crossover is set at 2.2kHz, with fourth-order Linkwitz-Riley slopes. The woofer is reflex-loaded with a flared 1" port on the cabinet's rear, and electrical connection is via a recessed pair of binding posts on the speaker's base, which is made of hard rubber. Two circular cutouts at the rear allow slim (4mm) plugs to be inserted from behind to reach the downward-pointing binding posts.
The tiny cabinet features curved sidewalls and top panel, and the baffle is finished in matte black. The matching PFS-27 stands cost $300/pair; an extruded aluminum pillar bolts on to a heavy base, while the aluminum top plate is bolted to the Mini's base and locks to the stand. Cutouts in the top and bottom plates allow the speaker cable to be threaded up through the rear section of the single pillar; an internal partition allows the front section of the pillar to be filled with damping material.
For logistical reasons, I began my auditioning of the Imagine Minis with them sitting on 24" Celestion Si stands, spiked to the wooden floor beneath the carpet and with each stand's central pillar filled with a mixture of dry sand and lead shot. I raised the speakers with upturned Mod Squad Tiptoes so that my ears were level with the tweeter axes, and put Shelby Lynne's Just a Little Lovin' (CD, Lost Highway B0009789-2) in the Ayre CX-5 player's tray.
Well, this was definitely a small speaker. While the upper bass was reproduced in full measure, with tidy control and good definition, the low and midbass were missing in action. Midrange and treble sounded natural and neutral, with good high-frequency extension, though pink noise sounded hollow if I listened with my ears much above the tweeter axes. The soundstage was wide, deep, and stable. However, Lynne's voice in the title track had a slightly "hooty" coloration.
I investigated this by playing the half-step–spaced toneburst track on Editor's Choice (CD, STPH016-2) and listening to the cabinet sidewalls' behavior with a stethoscope. The cabinet was quite lively in the octave above middle C. Getting rid of the cones so that the Minis' hard rubber bases sat directly atop the stands reduced the effect of these resonances. Ultimately, I used small strips of Sorbothane between the speakers and the stands' top plates, which both tamed the cabinet's misbehavior and usefully fattened the upper bass a bit.
I then used the Mini's dedicated PFS-27 stands, which had arrived after the speakers. Without any filling, these stands allowed the Minis' cabinet resonances to be more fully developed than with the Sorbothane-damped Celestion stands. Filling the front section of the PSB stand's pillar with something like cat litter (use a plastic bag to minimize mess) would be a good idea. I went back to the Celestion stands.
Listening to the warble tones on Editor's Choice, I could readily hear the tones down to the 80Hz band; the 63Hz band was audible thanks to some support from a room mode. The tones were inaudible at the listening position from 50Hz down, but there was no wind noise from the port at normal listening levels in this region. Whether or not the lack of low bass will be a problem will depend on the music played. With "Just a Little Lovin'," or Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al," from his Graceland (ALAC file ripped from CD, Warner Bros.), the lack of midbass and below was not a problem. However, in the title track of Simon's Hearts and Bones (CD, Warner Bros. 23942-2), the low B string of Anthony Jackson's bass guitar was given short shrift. Similarly, in the chorus of "Here I Am," from Lyle Lovett's Live in Texas (ALAC file ripped from CD, MCA), the sound lost power when Viktor Krauss's double bass drops to the low E (42Hz). There was a good sense of pace, however, in "Get Ready for Christmas Day," from Paul Simon's So Beautiful or So What (24-bit/96kHz ALAC file, HDtracks/Hear Music HRM-32814).
You can't expect small speakers to rock the house. In my ca 3000-cubic-foot listening room, the Imagine Minis were good up to about 95dB(C) at the listening position, above which the sound hardened in the upper midrange. At lower levels, below 90dB or so, the Mini was both more comfortable and its cabinet better behaved. I could then appreciate the uncolored midrange and highs in "Satellites," from Rickie Lee Jones's Flying Cowboys (ALAC file ripped from CD, Geffen), which has the widest dynamic range of any CD in my collection; and the spacious, stable soundstage in the introduction to "North Dakota," from the live Lovett album.
One anomaly stood out. During the review period, I was ripping LPs at 192kHz using Ayre Acoustics' new QA-9 USB A/D converter (review underway). Listening to the rip of Peter Skellern's classic 1979 album Astaire (ALAC file ripped from LP, Mercury 9109 702), some small clicks were more audible than I'd experienced with the speaker I'd used before the PSB, Sony's SS-AR2 (review underway). The Sony has a soft-dome tweeter, which led me to wonder if what I was hearing was due to the PSB's titanium-dome tweeter misbehaving when hit with wideband ultrasonic energy in the click. To investigate, I downsampled the Skellern album to 48kHz, which will eliminate all spectral content in the region of the tweeter's "oil-can" dome resonance, and listened again.
This kind of comparison sounds straightforward—but it isn't. First, what clicks there were were few and far between, making instantaneous comparisons difficult. Second, once I'd heard a passage with a click at hi-rez, that in itself would change my perception of the same passage when I subsequently played the 48kHz file. Third, with the 192kHz file, the clicks and other LP noises were presented in a different plane from the music, and I might just have been reacting to that. But if I had to swear, I still felt that sharp clicks were slightly more audible with the 192kHz file through the PSBs.
Elsewhere in this issue Bob Reina reviews the Emotiva XRT-5.2 X-Ref tower speaker, which listed for $799/pair when we were preparing the review. I thought the Emotiva would make a useful basis for comparison with the PSB: almost identical prices, both made in China, but a utilitarian-finished tower vs a jewel-like miniature bookshelf. (As this issue went to press, the Emotiva's price dropped to $559/pair.)
Switching to the XRT-5.2s, I found it difficult to believe I had changed speakers. In the midrange and treble, the Emotivas sounded extraordinarily similar to the PSBs. Both were neutrally balanced, both were free of obvious colorations. It took a long listening session for me to decide that the Emotivas' soundstaging was less well focused than the PSBs'; that the XRT-5.2's image depth was not as well developed.
The big difference, of course, was in the bass. The XRT-5.2's low frequencies extended a full octave deeper than the PSB's, which made me at first prefer the tower. But that extra extension was accompanied by a flabby, exaggerated quality in the upper bass that did no favors for high-level rock music. The little PSBs' better control in this region let the music flow with more ease. Which speaker someone will prefer will very much depend on personal preference and taste in music.
A brief comparison with my 1978 pair of Rogers LS3/5As, which dwarfed the Minis, revealed the British speakers to sound more nasal than the Canadians, with a brighter treble, and upper bass that was as well defined but slightly heavier.
PSB's Imagine Mini is not going to be a universal recommendation; its diminutive size places inevitable restrictions on low-frequency extension and ultimate loudness. And good stands, such as PSB's PFS-27s, are mandatory to get the best performance, which raises the price to $1060–$1130/pair. Unlike PSB's forgiving Alpha B1, the Imagine Mini will make more demands on its owner to match it with high-quality amplifiers and sources. Its sound will still lack magnificence, but that's why PSB makes the Synchrony One. However, within its limitations, this tiny PSB is a pur-sang design: breeding matched to performance.
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