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PSB Imagine Mini Series Speakers - SubSeries 200 Subwoofer - Review

Small Speakers - Big Sound

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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PSB Imagine Series - 5.1 Channel Speaker System - Photo - Front View - Grills On

PSB Imagine Series - 5.1 Channel Speaker System - Photo - Front View - Grills On

Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
It used to be that to get great home theater sound, you needed really large loudspeakers. However, although there is certainly still a place for large floor standing speakers and be subwoofers, great strides have been made is squeezing more sound out of smaller speaker designs. PSB has taken on the challenge with its new Imagine Series mini line, which consists of very stylish and compact bookshelf and center channel speakers.

For this review, PSB provided me with their mini c and mini bookshelf speakers, as well as their 10-inch SubSeries 200 powered subwoofer. For all the details, keep on reading. Afterwards, also be sure to check out my Photo Profile for an additional close-up look at this speaker system.

Overview of PSB Imagine Series mini c Center Channel Speaker

1. 2-Way Bass Reflex design. Two 4-inch Bass/Midrange drivers, One 1-inch Tweeter, rear facing port.

2. Frequency Response: 55Hz - 23kHz (on axis + or - 3db), 65Hz - 10kHz (at 30 degrees off-axis). Low frequency cut-off at 50Hz (-10 db).

3. Crossover: 2.2 kHz

4. Sensitivity: 86db

5. Impedance: 8 ohms.

6. Power Handling: 10 to 80 watts.

7. Dimensions: (WHD) 14 x 6 x 8 1/2 inches.

8. Weight: 9.8 pounds

9. Finish: Black Ash, Dark Cherry Walnut Wood Veneer, Gloss Black or White.

10. Can be table/shelf/stand or wall mounted (optional hardware required).

Overview of PSB Imagine Series mini Bookshelf Speakers

1. 2-Way Bass Reflex Design. Bass/Midrange: One 4-inch Bass/Midrange driver, One 1-inch Tweeter, rear facing port.

2. Frequency Response: 55Hz-23kHz (on axis), 65Hz-10kHz (off axis - 30 degrees at + - 3db). Low frequency cut-off at 50Hz (-10 db).

3. Crossover: 2.2 kHz

4. Sensitivity: 85db

5. Impedance: 8 ohms.

6. Power Handling: 10-80 watts.

7. Dimensions: (WHD) 5 3/4 x 9 1/4 x 8 3/8 inches.

8. Weight: 6.5 pounds

9. Finish: Black Ash, Dark Cherry, Walnut Wood Veneer, Gloss Black or White

10. Can be table/shelf/stand or wall mounted (optional hardware required).

Overview of PSB Subseries 200 Powered Subwoofer

PSB Imagine Series mini c Center Channel Speaker - Front View - Grill Off

PSB Imagine Series mini c Center Channel Speaker - Front View - Grill Off

Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
Here is a list of the feature specifications for the SubSeries 200:

1. Driver: Bass Reflex (one 10-inch front firing driver augmented by bottom facing port).

2. Frequency Response: 28-150Hz, Low Frequency cutoff at -10db: 25Hz.

3. Phase: 0 or 180 degrees.

4. Amplifier Power Output: 200 watts continuous, 560 watts peak.

5. Crossover Frequency: 50 to 150Hz (continuously variable).

6. Power On/Off: Auto, On, Off.

7. Dimensions: (WHD) 13 3/8 x 17 1/2 x 15 1/2 - inches

8. Weight: 34 pounds.

10. Available Finishes: Black Ash or Dark Cherry.

Hardware Used

Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-93

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H.

Home Theater Receivers: Onkyo TX-SR705 and Sony STR-DH1030 (on review loan)

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 1 used for comparison (5.1 channels): EMP Tek E5Ci center channel speaker, four E5Bi compact bookshelf speakers for left and right main and surrounds, and an ES10i 100 watt powered subwoofer.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 2 used for comparison (5.1 channels): 2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center , Klipsch Synergy Sub10.

TV: Westinghouse LVM-37s3 1080p LCD Monitor

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used. High Speed HDMI Cables provided by Atlona for this review.

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs: Battleship, Ben Hur, Cowboys and Aliens, The Hunger Games, Jaws, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - A Beach Full of Shells, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

DVD-Audio discs included: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible, Sheila Nicholls - Wake.

SACD discs used included: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.

Audio Performance - PSB mini and mini c Speakers

Despite their compact size, PSB mini and mini c speakes provided a very good listening experience in the 5-channel configuration I used. The mini c was especially adept at reproducing vocals and dialog with both depth and realiustic detail. On the other hand, the speakers are not overly bright, which does mean that they are slightly subdued with regards to some high frequency transients, such as the finer detail present in percussion instruments or crashing and breaking effects in movies. However, they were by no means overly dull, as too much brightness can lead to harshness, and the midrange was full-bodied and distinctive, even on acoustic instruments and breathy vocals.

Also, the mini speakers used for the front mains and surrounds projected good spatial and direction placement of sound effects. Examples include the arrow assault scene in Hero and the echo game scene from House of the Flying Daggers. The minis also provided immersive results from surround sound music sources, such as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (SACD version) and of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody (From A Night at the Opera - DVD-Audio version).

In the case of both the center and satellites, I really had the impression that I was listening to larger speakers. In one test, I did not employ a subwoofer and although the mini's obviously didn't reach down into the low frequency bass range, they actually sounded pretty full-bodied in the lower midrange/upper bass for such small speakers.

Also, in the specifications for these speakers, it notes the frequency response for each speaker decreases from a high of 23kHz to 10kHz as you move from the center point of the listening area to 30 degrees off axis in either direction, which could explain some of the subtleness at higher frequencies, but in my 5 channel setup, I did not notice any audible frequency response changes as I changed my seating position. However, I suggest following the speaker placement guidelines provided in the PSB mini and mini c owner's guides for best results.

Audio Performance - PSB SubSeries 200

I found that the PSB SubSeries 200 provided a good transition from the lower mid-range/upper bass capabilities of the mini and mini c to low frequencies produced by the subwoofer. There was no evidence of unwanted hum or clicks over the course of time I listened to the subwoofer.

In terms of how the SubSeries 200 compared to the Klipsch Synergy Sub10 and the EMP Tek ES10i I used for comparison, the SubSeries 200 couldn't quite match the power output of the extreme low frequency extension output of the Klipsch, but was a little deeper, and tighter on the low end than the EMP Tek. The comparison results still place the SubSeries 200 as a good performer in its class.

Soundtracks containing lots of LFE activity, such as Battleship and Jurassic Park Trilogy, were significantly impactful and definitely on par with most 10-inch subs I have heard.

Also, the Subseries 200 does very well with music. There was good detail on the acoustic bass tracks in both Norah Jones CD Come Away with Me and enough tightness on electric bass on other CD tracks, such as the very bass-heavy CD, Sade's Soldier of Love.

Taking the comparisons and my additional listening experience into consideration, the SubSeries 200 is a very deserving subwoofer for its classing, providing tight, deep bass response for both movies and music. Although not quite as deep and intense as the Klipsch Sub 10 used for comparison, The SubSeries 200 is definitely a consideration for an small and medium size rooms (my main listening room is 15x20 feet). For larger rooms, if the SubSeries 200 is up to what you need, you do have the capability of connecting a second sub using the either the low or high-level outputs of the SubSeries 200.

What I Liked About the PSB Imagine Series and SubSeries 200

PSB Imagine Series mini - Bookshelf Speaker - Photo - Front View - Grill Off

PSB Imagine Series mini - Bookshelf Speaker - Photo - Front View - Grill Off

Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
1. The compact size and built-in bottom "footpad" of the center and satellite speakers make placement on a shelf very easy. Overall great stylish and function physical design.

2. The mini and mini c project a much larger sound image that their size would indicate, which is perfect for surround sound listening.

3. The SubSeries 200 provides good low frequency response.

4. Smooth transition and blending between the Subwoofer and rest of system.

5. The subwoofer provides both line-in and high-level speaker connection options, making it possible use it with receivers that do not have a dedicated subwoofer output, as well as a way for connection to a second subwoofer, if needed.

6. Very well-designed speaker connection terminals on the mini and mini c speakers.

What I Didn't Like About the PSB Imagine Series mini, mini c, and SubSeries 200

1. I would have preferred slightly more brightness on the high frequencies from the mini and mini c.

2. Would prefer that the SubSeries 200's adjustment controls be located on the rear of the sub so that you don't need to remove the speaker grill to access them.

3. SubSeries 200 LED power status indicator located behind speaker grill - light shining through the grill looks odd.

4. The mini and more so, the mini c, are somewhat expensive for compact speakers.

Final Take

I get a chance to listen and review lots of speakers and I will definitely say that my time with PSB Imagine Series mini and mini c, as well as the SubSeries 200, was very enjoyable.

The 5.1 setup option provided for this review delivered a very good listening experience for both music and movies, as well as other content. Although the mini and mini c were a little subtle on the highest frequencies, they produced a warm result with realistic detail that would please many consumers looking for a compact speaker system that can produce the audio output, dynamics, and immersiveness needed for home theater listening, to a more directed, or even intimate, experience when listening to music. The PSB Imagine Series mini and mini c speakers are definitely well-engineered.

If you are looking for home theater speaker system that is compact, but provides solid performance, definitely consider the PSB Imagine Series mini ($760 to $830 a pair depending on finish), mini c ($700 to $770 depending on finish), and SubSeries 200 ($650). A 5.1 channel configuration with these speakers can run from $2,870 to $3,080. This does not include any applicable shipping fees or sales taxes.

For a more detailed physical look (including speaker construction materials), and additional perspective, on the PSB Imagine Series mini, mini c, and SubSeries 200 speaker system, also check out my supplementary Photo Profile.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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