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PSB Imagine X2T review: Huge speakers sound great all-around

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While soundbars and "style" systems are popular in modern living spaces they simply cannot convey the full impact demanded of today's movie soundtracks and music. If you want a big sound for a big room, your best bet is floor-standing speakers.

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PSB Imagine X2T

The Good

The PSB Imagine X2T belts out room-filling, dynamic sound that can also be subtle, natural and finely detailed. This large three-way speaker has a 1-inch titanium dome tweeter, 5.25-inch midrange, and dual 6.5-inch woofers. Its build quality feels super solid, and the dual front bass ports make the speaker easier to place than rear ported models.

The Bad

It's really big and thus not sonically suited to smaller rooms.

The Bottom Line

The PSB Imagine X2T delivers big speaker sound, ideal for full-throttle home-theater thrills, without sacrificing refinement when reproducing music.

The PSB Imagine X2T is the upgrade to the PSB Image T6, which was CNET's high-end benchmark speaker. So it has some big, spiked shoes to fill.

While we were vaguely disappointed with the cheaper PSB X1T speakers, we are happy to report that the X2Ts are every bit as good as their predecessors. These speakers are big in both physical size and in the amount of sonic power they can deal out.

And despite prodigious amounts of bass, they can also coax intimate performances out of the softest music. While the Pioneer Elite SP-EFS73 also offers impressive performance for the same money, the PSB is a better rocker.

The PSB X2T retails for $649 per speaker ($1,298 a pair), while in Australia they retail for AU$2,399 a pair. (We were unable to determine availability and pricing in the UK at this time, but we will update this review once that information is made available.)

Design and features

Sarah Tew/CNET

Standing 3 foot 4 inches, the X2Ts are very large speakers. Having hauled them onto a chest-high table for these photos, we can confirm they are also heavy, at 52 pounds apiece.

The impression of size is magnified by the 9-inch wide fascia brimming with drivers. These sound cannons, finished in black ash, feature four drivers in all.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This three-way speaker uses a 5.25-inch midrange driver constructed of injection-molded poly-filled carbon fiber, alongside a 1-inch titanium dome tweeter. There's also a pair of 6.5-inch bass drivers composed of a ceramic/polypropylene hybrid. The X2T has a higher crossover frequency than the X1T -- 2,200Hz versus 1,800Hz -- and the two X2T drivers come in their own tuned enclosure for better separation.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's one thing to design a great speaker, but PSB went the extra mile and put its version in a carefully conceived shipping box. The inner cardboard braces and Styrofoam inserts should protect the speakers from all but the most abusive handling in transit, but unboxing a pair of 52-pound (23.6kg) Imagine X2Ts and stripping away the packing materials takes some time. It's a big speaker, packed in a much bigger box, so it's definitely a two-person job.

Performance

We still had the smaller the X1T on hand for direct comparison, and using a NAD C 356BEE integrated amplifier the Imagine X2T handily clobbered its little brother in every performance category. The X1T sounds, well, smaller.

There's less deep bass -- that was to be expected -- but the Imagine X2T was also significantly more transparent, clear, and detailed on jazz pianist Diana Krall's excellent "Live in Rio" concert DVD. Her breathy vocals and grand piano were as natural as can be, the acoustic bass' definition was clear cut, and the sound of the drums, especially the cymbals' sizzles, were spot-on. Returning to the X1Ts made everything sound more compressed and leaner. That speaker has a more forward midrange and less full balance, and dynamic agility is reined-in.

That differences between the two PSBs were even more apparent when we rocked out with ZZ Top's "Live From Texas" Blu-ray. These speakers handle high volume without a problem, and the louder we played the tunes, the better they sounded.

Unfortunately we didn't get to compare the Klipsch RF-62 II speakers directly to the X2Ts, but as memory serves, those bad boys were even better rock-and-rollers. There was something about their freewheeling dynamics that made the music come alive in ways the Imagine X2Ts can't match.

Bookshelf speakers, even the best ones, can never approach the X2Ts' power and glory. There's one catch, however. Big speakers like this can produce too much bass for small rooms, and when that happens, bass turns thick and definition suffers.

Playing pianist Joel Fan's "Dances for Piano and Orchestra" CD over the Imagine X2Ts, the sound was exquisite. The piano's percussive attack was preserved, and the sheer weight of the full orchestra was visceral in its impact. The Imagine X2Ts definitely sound like big speakers, but they're also capable of resolving fine detail and shading. The high percussion instruments such as bells and cymbals seemed to float above the orchestra, just as they do when heard in concert.

The Klipsch RF-62 II speakers may outrun the Imagine X2Ts' dynamic range impact and power, but the RF-62 II's aggressively bright tonal balance favors rock and other types of loud music over acoustic tunes, and the more expensive Imagine X2Ts are better all-around performers. Meanwhile the SVS Prime Tower speakers present a clearer sonic picture than either of those two speakers, but some may prefer the X2T's fuller, richer tonal balance than the Prime Towers or RF-62 IIs.

"Gravity" and other movies demonstrated the PSB Imagine X2T's abundant home-theater skills. We heard uninhibited dynamics, solid bass, and wide-open imaging. Those traits should also satisfy audiophiles hankering for big speaker sound without spending a insane amount of money. Thrill-seeking home-theater enthusiasts should consider pairing the X2Ts with PSB's matching Imagine XC center, Imagine XB bookshelf/surround speakers and one of PSB's subwoofers.

Conclusion

The Imagine X2T sounds as big as it looks. Its dynamic range capabilities are impressive, stereo imaging is broad and spacious, treble is clear, and its prodigious deep bass extension provides a solid foundation for music and home-theater systems.

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PSB Imagine X2T

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 8Value 8