Knockout $299 speakers from Canada

Canada's PSB Speakers has done it again; it completely redesigned one of its speaker lines this year. I heard the new Image speakers in New York City last week.

The eight new Image models PSB Speakers
Paul Barton in New York last week Steve Guttenberg

PSB Speakers are on a roll. Sales are up, possibly because the Canadian manufacturer has completely redesigned one of its lines each year for the last three years. The company is adding new dealers, so it's easier than ever to find PSB Speakers in your town.

This year it's the mid-price Image series that was completely redesigned, with models ranging from the $299/pair Image B4 bookshelf speaker to the $1,199 T6 Tower speaker. There are eight models in all, including a bipole surround and two center-channel speakers.

Mr. PSB himself, Paul Barton , was in New York City last week to talk to the press about his latest designs. He told me he visits his factory in China six times a year, and personally supervises preproduction planning and testing to ensure his quality standards are met. A lot of audio companies build speakers in China, but few follow through to the extent PSB does.

Just as he has for decades, Barton continues to design and develop all of his speakers in Canada, at the National Research Council's facilities in Ottawa.

Barton demonstrated the tiny B4, midsize B5 bookshelf models and the large T6 towers with NAD electronics in a hotel room. The sound of all three was lively and clear, and sure, the larger ones produced more bass than the smaller ones. But honestly, my favorite was the smallest Image, the 9-inch-tall B4.

The wee speaker wasn't bass shy, and while there was a PSB subwoofer in the room, it remained unplugged for all of my listening sessions.

We spent some time discussing the way the Image speakers are built, which involves a fair bit of hand labor for cabinet construction. Indeed, the speakers have a fit and finish that belie their modest MSRPs.

The Images' 1-inch titanium dome tweeter and 4-, 5-, and 6-inch clay/ceramic woofer designs share technology derived from PSB's more expensive Synchrony and Imagine drivers. Each Image driver is measured and a technician listens to the drivers mounted in the cabinets with a stethoscope, to make sure there aren't any low-level buzzes or other distortions emanating from completed speakers.

The Image line will be available in black ash and dark cherry vinyl finishes, starting in September 2009.

 

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