Imagine a company that claims its $1295 loudspeakers make “real sound for real people,” and what’s likely to be your gut reaction? At the very least, it’s safe to say you wouldn’t expect such a speaker to sound “great.” And as a rule you’d be right.
Well…meet the exception. PSB has created a transducer of incredible value for an incredibly reasonable price: the aptly named Imagine X2T Tower. (Indeed, it is already an award-winner—a Reviewer’s Choice Award from Soundstage! HiFi—and will likely get a Golden Ear from me and earn well-deserved spots in our next Buyer’s Guide and Editor’s Choice lists.)
In appearance, this four-driver three-way is anything but flashy: a slim, compact, dual-front-ported, quasi-D’Appolito (midrange on top, dual woofers on the bottom, tweeter in between) floorstander about three feet tall, with an MDF enclosure that comes in any finish you want as long as it’s black ash. Perhaps the X2T’s main distinguishing feature is the mustard-yellow hue of its twin woofers, whose cones are made of injection-molded, clay/ceramic-reinforced polypropylene. But what the X2T lacks in eye-catching looks, it more than makes up for in ear-pleasing sound.
Famous for being persnickety when it comes to sonic quality, PSB founders Paul and Sue Barton—the husband-and-wife duo whose initials form the Canadian company’s name—have consistently found ways to bring high performance to lower price points. Their goal for the Imagine X line was simply to offer the most accurate sound for the money. Naturally, various design and build compromises came into play, with careful consideration paid to what could be stripped away from PSB’s more expensive models, and what had to be retained.
Luckily for listeners (particularly those who are just getting started or who might not have the deepest pockets), PSB does its homework. In a pioneering move, in 1974 it became the first loudspeaker company to use the advanced acoustical labs housed at the National Research Council Canada (NRC) for product development. Since that time, the PSB design team has devoted many years to research at the NRC facilities, where the focus has been as much on how we perceive sound, as on what sounds good. PSB’s double-blind testing eliminates listener bias, enabling researchers to gain insight into which sonic characteristics are most important—and which can be more or less left out of the equation.
Beneath its unpromising exterior the X2T is a highly engineered speaker artfully designed to play to the ear. Geared to getting the most out of the midband, this three-way uses a midrange driver that is housed in its own enclosure for ideal dispersion and minimized distortion at high SPLs. Moreover, the driver features an injection-molded, poly-filled carbon-fiber cone designed especially for the X2T. The one-inch tweeter dome is made of pure titanium, with a phase plug that is intended to help extend high-frequency response and control breakup (in addition to protecting the dome).