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PSB Image 5.1 review

The baby brother to an award winning sound system shows AV performance runs in the family

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Our Verdict

A brilliant entry-level speaker system that's great value, if a little shallow in depth of sound at times

For

  • Design and build
  • Full-bodied sound with crisp high frequencies
  • Value for money

Against

  • Stereo music misses the sub's low-end grunt
  • Grilles feel a bit cheap

PSB, named after founders Paul and Sue Barton, isn't a particularly well-known brand in the UK. Yet this Canadian outfit, distributed in Britain by home cinema specialists Armour Home, makes some pretty tasty surround sound speaker packages that are worth consideration.

PSB's Imagine 5.1 array scooped the Home Cinema Choice magazine annual award in the Best Speaker System, £2,000-£5,000 category. That £3,000 package blew us away with its build quality and full-range sonic performance, and left us wondering what the brand's high-end models sounded like.

Well, we're still wondering, as the next set of PSB speakers we've clapped eyes and ears on, the PSB Image 5.1, is in the more affordable step-down range.

Hinting at its shared heritage with the more potent Imagine line, these Image cabinets deliver "affordable high performance", according to PSB.

The "performance" element will come later, but PSB certainly has the "affordable" part sorted. Our review setup retails for a very appealing £1,500, putting it in the same price bracket as other cash savers such as Acoustic Energy's Neo V2 and KEF's T-Series.

Tastes in speakers vary, but we're happy to say that Images are things of beauty. The black wood finish (also available in dark cherry if that's your thing) aches to be stroked, and there are subtle curves aplenty. Remove the grilles (no magnets here, I'm afraid – but costs have to be cut somewhere) and they look even better, with their yellow driver cones, PSB-branded tweeters and dividing line down the front fascia. If you can trust your family and pets not to damage them, keep the grilles off at all times.

The floorstanders of this speaker array are the T5 models. These tower just under one metre high and use a two-and-a-half-way design with identical 5.25-inch bass drivers (but with different crossovers) and a 1-inch tweeter. The enclosure is front-ported and around the back are twin sets of speaker posts, giving you the option of bi-wiring/bi-amping.

The tweeter is a titanium affair, with Ferrofluid-cooling and a neodymium magnet – the same sort of high-quality driver found in the Imagine lineup, which bodes well for high-frequency delivery.

There are more potent Image floorstanders available, such as the T6, which drop one of the 5.25-inch midrange drivers and bring in a pair of 6.5-inch subwoofers in a three-way design.

The same tweeters and bass drivers of the T5 are used on the B5 bookshelf speakers and the sizable C5 centre.

Taking care of the low-end is PSB's 150W, 10-inch SubSonic 5i subwoofer. This isn't solely part of the Image lineup and it shows somewhat in its design, which, despite the matching finish, seems a tad more in-yer-face than the other cabinets. But that's how we like our woofers, anyway.

After a flick-through of the excellently written and idiot-proof manual, the array was plumbed into our Onkyo TX-NR5008 audio receiver. And good things started to happen.