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PSB Alpha Intro CLR  review: PSB Alpha Intro CLR 

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The Good Articulate midrange.

The Bad If it only had a bit more oomph.

The Bottom Line This is a top-notch ultracompact center speaker.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall

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No doubt about it, compact center-channel speakers have the toughest job in a home theater. Much of the dialogue, effects, and music is channeled through the center speaker, so pipsqueak models such as PSB Speakers' ultracompact Alpha Intro CLR really have their work cut out for them. And that job only gets tougher when they're called upon to reproduce full-tilt music signals from the DVD-Audio and SACD formats. No doubt about it, compact center-channel speakers have the toughest job in a home theater. Much of the dialogue, effects, and music is channeled through the center speaker, so pipsqueak models such as PSB Speakers' ultracompact Alpha Intro CLR really have their work cut out for them. And that job only gets tougher when they're called upon to reproduce full-tilt music signals from the DVD-Audio and SACD formats.

Center speakers with two woofers and tweeter don't get much smaller than this; the CLR measures a scant 4 inches high and 9 inches wide. PSB Speakers designed a fresh new set of drivers for the CLR, a 0.75-inch anodized-aluminum dome tweeter, and a 3.5-inch polypropylene woofer. Medium-density fiberboard is used for the top, bottom, and sides of the cabinet with plastic baffles on the front and rear. A softly curved, perforated aluminum grille adds a bit of class to the design

We hooked up the Intro CLR with four Intro LRs: one pair up front; another pair as surrounds; and the matching sub, the Alpha SubZero, to fill in the bottom octaves. The center speaker's extra woofer fleshed out the midrange a bit more than the Intro LR, which has just one woofer. Voices and other midrange sounds were more natural and realistic coming from the Intro CLR. We next compared the Intro CLR to an Energy Take 1 center speaker. Dialogue and effects on a host of DVDs were far boxier and more sibilant on the Take 1; the Intro CLR is an all-around better speaker.

When compact size and low price are important factors, the $169 Intro CLR will prove itself as a capable performer. But if you can make room for something a bit larger or crave a bit more dynamic impact than this little speaker can muster, check out the Intros' bigger siblings, such as the Alpha Center.

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