Stand-mounted speakers like the B&W 685 S2 are great if you have a small space, but if you want to to fill a large room with sound you need to go for floor-standing towers. Until it was discontinued, the PSB Image T6 was the reference floor-standing speaker in the CNET audio room, forming the backbone of many of the reviews on these pages for the last few years. The T6 has been replaced by the new Imagine X2T ($1,299, AU$2,199), but the Imagine X1T ($898, £749, AU$1,599) reviewed here offers a glimpse at its performance for a much keener price.
The X1T is a little more diminutive than other floor-standing speakers at its price, but still offers a 2.5-way configuration and the deeper bass extension you can only get from a tower. Their sound is likeable and they're attractive with the yellow drivers contrasting against the black cabinets. And yet something's missing.
The PSBs are up against some tough competition. They don't resolve as well as the SVS Prime Towers and they don't rock as hard as the Klipsch RF-62-II . While the PSBs try to approximate the SVS's revealing nature, it can turn to brashness with poorly recorded material.
Shortcomings aside however, if you're a fan of acoustic music or jazz you might find the PSB Imagine X1T fits the bill very well.
Design and features
Standing at only 34.5 inches (0.9m) tall the PSB Imagine X1Ts are on the small side for a floor-stander, and in our audio room they were simply dwarfed by the 5 inches taller Klipsch RF-62-IIs.
The X1T has a 1-inch titanium dome tweeter, which is protected by a plastic guard, paired with two 5.25-inch woofers in a striking yellow finish. While they may look similar to B&W drivers, they are actually constructed of a ceramic/polypropylene hybrid and not B&W's iconic Kevlar. The X1T is available in a single-finish option of faux black ash, and weighs 38 pounds (17kg).
The speakers extend down to 48Hz or 35Hz +/- 3dB, and this is partly due to the porting system. One upside to the X1T's design we like is the front panel bass port, so the speakers can be placed closer to rear walls or corners than the Prime Tower and RF-62 II, which each have two rear panel bass ports. Those speakers would sound thick and boomy if they were jammed up close to a wall or corner, a bit more than the X1Ts would.
The PSB Imagine X1T is sounds pleasant enough on movies and music. Bass is full, midrange natural, treble smooth, and the imaging is broad and spacious. Unfortunately, the sound of the X1T lacks excitement.
The X1T just goes about its business, without calling attention to itself, and winds up sounding a bit drab by comparison. Klipsch's mighty RF-62 II tower is the polar opposite, a bigger-sounding beast with more room-filling bass and dynamic punch. For its part the SVS Prime Tower scores big on clarity and sound-staging.
Once we settled down and listened, the X1T was lovely on classical music. Its rich midrange balance flatters acoustic music of all types, and vocals were natural. The acoustic tunes on Lucinda Williams' new "Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone" album were full-bodied, and soundstage depth was good. Returning to the RF-62 II the stereo soundstage width contracted, depth foreshortened, and treble was more aggressive. A NAD C 356BEE, 80-watt per channel stereo integrated amp supplied the get up and go for all of our listening tests.
Turning up the heat with the new "Rolling Stones From the Vault Hampton Coliseum" Blu-ray, the sound was a tad lackluster on the X1Ts. The band's swagger was turned up to "11" on this 1981 concert over the RF-62 II speakers, but the X1T lost a lot of that, and bass punch and drums impact headed south. We noted the same shortfalls with our stereo home theater trials. The energy of action-packed movies was taken down a notch or two by the X1Ts when compared with the RF-62 II and Prime Towers.
With REM's high-resolution "Document" DVD-Audio disc the SVS Prime towers struck the perfect balance of refinement, transparency, dynamic contrast, bass definition, and broad sound-staging; the X1T had a pleasantly full tonal balance, but forfeited too much detail, bottom-end extension and power.
The Imagine X1Ts are fine speakers, with classic PSB looks and a revealing sound. But the one thing they won't do is rock. While their competence was never in doubt, we only felt their sound was at its best with acoustic music.
For buyers craving more va va voom in their sound, the RF-62 II or Prime Towers might be a more attractive alternative. That's not a slam against the X1T, it's a very nice speaker, we just wanted a little more from it. It's a big speaker that doesn't fully deliver on the promise of big speaker sound.