Live: 300+ Best Black Friday Deals Live: Black Friday TV Deals BF Deals Under $25 BF Deals Under $50 5 BF Splurges 8 BF Must-Haves 15 Weird Amazon BF Deals BF Cheat Sheet
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

Adventures in hi-fi: The PSB Imagine XB speakers

The Audiophiliac spends quality time getting to know the PSB Imagine XB speakers.

PSB Imagine XB speakers PSB

It didn't take very long. As soon as I fired up the PSB Imagine XB speakers, I knew they were good. One tune led to the next, and I just kept going -- it was hard to stop listening.

The Imagine XB is a sensibly priced and nicely built midsize bookshelf speaker. The black ash cabinet measures 6.75 x 12 x 10.75 inches (170 x 302 x 271mm), and it weighs 12.3 pounds (5.6 kg). The Imagine XB has a 1-inch (25mm) titanium dome tweeter and a 5.25-inch (133mm) clay/ceramic woofer mounted on a curved front baffle. Impedance is 8 ohms, and the rear panel sports a pair of quality speaker wire connectors and a bass port. I had the speakers sitting atop metal floor stands, with 18 inches of clearance between the speakers and the rear wall.

I listened with a NAD C 356BEE stereo integrated amplifier (review to come), and an Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player. Of course, any well-designed amp would work just fine, and NAD's less expensive C 316BEE might be a more logical match. So you can put together a nice little system around the Imagine XBs for not a crazy amount of money. As I've said many times before, well-designed speakers and amplifiers are built to last, so I would expect this sort of system to provide excellent sound well into the 2030s. What other sort of tech products can you buy right now that will stick around as long as that?

Rocking out to the first White Stripes record set the mood and proved the little speakers aren't afraid to get rowdy. It's not a complicated equation: play a tune and see how it feels. Sometimes not much happens and the music just lies there, but when it's good you feel good. Meg and Jack White's early stuff had that effect on me, certainly a lot more so than Jack's later solo albums. Meg bashing away on her drums and Jack making loud noises on his guitar, played at just the right loud volume over a decent set of speakers should plant a smile on my face. The Imagine XBs passed that first test with flying colors.

Then I used Annie Lennox's new "Nostalgia" album to see how the speakers handled something more sophisticated. Specifically, Lennox fronting an orchestra, the sessions recall an earlier time where singers belted out tunes, and bands stuck to written charts. "Nostalgia" has a big sound with great depth and scale; the Imagine XBs didn't hold anything back.

I finished up with a couple of movies to test the speakers' home-theater chops. The Imagine XBs handle full-throttle dynamic range assaults with aplomb, and the bass goes deep enough that a subwoofer isn't mandatory. Dialogue sounds eminently natural -- I wish sound bars were as accomplished with voices as the Imagine XBs.

All in all, it's a very likeable speaker that delivers true high-end sound for a price that's not out of bounds. The PSB Imagine XB runs $499 per pair in the US, £399 in the UK, and AU$749 in Australia.