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PSB's sweet-sounding tower speaker

PSB Imagine X1T tower of power wows the Audiophiliac.

I've been using PSB Image T6 towers ($1,298 a pair) at the CNET office as one of my reference speakers for a little over a year (it was in production long before I reviewed it). Now that it's discontinued I wanted to check out PSB's smaller Imagine X1T towers ($898 a pair).

I looked at the two speakers side by side; the 40.5-inch-tall T6 "towered" over the 34.5-inch-tall X1T, so it didn't look like a fair fight. Turns out the smaller one sounded fuller and sweeter. Yes, the T6's bass plumbs deeper, so the X1T can't compete down there, and when I cranked the volume of the newly remastered Led Zeppelin CDs way up, the T6 handled high output levels with greater ease.

The PSB X1T (left), the PSB T6, right Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Taken down to a saner, but still loud volume 'Zeppelin rocked the X1Ts with gusto. The speakers renewed my appreciation for the band's hard-hitting rhythm section, and the X1Ts made it easy to follow the interplay between the bass and drums. Stereo soundstage depth was right up there with the best box speakers in the X1T's price class. I used a Sony STR DN1050 receiver and an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player for all of my tests in the 14.5-foot-by-22.5-foot CNET listening room.

Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" album sounded "crisper" than the 'Zeppelins, and the X1Ts' clarity revealed more of Punk's overly processed sound. It's hyperdetailed, but the sound lacks tonal body. Norah Jones' latest Puss N Boots' "No Fools, No Fun" CD lit up the X1Ts; the vocalists harmonies were gorgeous, and even the studio tracks had a "live" feel. That is to say, the X1T lets you hear the good and less attractive aspects of your music's recording quality. That's what highly accurate speakers do, and the X1T is definitely in the accuracy camp.

The X1T has a 1-inch titanium dome tweeter and two 5.25-inch woofers; impedance is rated at 8 ohms. The only available finish option is faux black ash, and the speaker weighs 38 pounds.

The X1T was designed by Paul Barton, and here's a direct quote about his working methodology: "By conducting carefully controlled blind speaker tests, then measuring all the speakers to see what sonic characteristics appealed to the listeners in the tests, we were able to figure out what matters and what doesn't." I'd say his approach is working exactly as planned; PSB speakers are really popular with price-conscious audiophiles. Barton employs the same design techniques for all PSB speakers.

The new Imagine X lineup also includes the XB bookshelf speaker ($499/pair), XC center channel speaker ($399 each), and a larger tower, the X2T ($649 each). If your room is huge and/or you like to play movies or music really loud, go for the X2Ts over the X1Ts.