Rocking the house with the PSB Image T6 speakers
During his tenure as a Crutchfield staff writer, Marshall Chase wrote about home theater receivers, sound bars, and in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.
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This spring, I was the lucky winner of a pair of PSB Image T6 speakers. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to enjoy them and have written previously about their sound quality, most recently with an ear towards jazz.
For the final test of the PSB T6 speakers, I decided it was time to rock. What I was looking for is great clarity at most any volume. I didn't have a subwoofer turned on since I wanted to see what these speakers could do all by themselves.
I started off with The Allman Brothers Band, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed from the album At Fillmore East. This is a live recording and you can hear clearly that it's a live recording. The song opens with Dickie Betts in a guitar crescendo joined by Duane Allman. The amazing thing about this song is that it shifts its mood and instrumentation — all before a live crowd.
The challenge for the speakers was to keep the music pronounced and not lose detail as the song shifts from solo pronouncements to full ensemble. Despite all the changes and the shifting interplay between band members, the music came through beautifully. I could hear Berry Oakley's bass perfectly, which told me that the T6s dual 6-1/2" woofers were happy to be there. No buzz, just tight, energetic bass.
Next came Dire Straits. I chose a studio cut this time. I've heard Mark Knopfler's Romeo and Juliet a thousand times, if I've heard it once. I wanted to hear it on the T6's. I was particularly interested in the performance of the 5-1/4" mid speaker as well as the 1" titanium dome tweeter. I'd often had customers tell me that a metal tweeter sounds, well, metallic. That always meant "harsh."
The song opens with Knopfler on a "resonator" guitar (also sometimes known as a Dobro). You've likely seen this on the cover of Brothers in Arms. It has a metal face on its "cone". You would think that if anything would sound metallic, that would. I have heard this instrument live before, so I knew how it’s supposed to sound. It has a rich and complex blend of tone from its wood/metal hybrid body. As the song progresses, it goes beyond the initial solo to full rock band instrumentation with a rhythm that kicks right alongside the tough lyrics.
No sweat. Pure Dire Straits and the speakers came through without coloring this great music with anything that wasn’t there.
Finally, I wanted to hear a female vocalist. I fell in love with Bonnie Raitt with her 1991 album Luck of the Draw. For the test I listened to the album start to finish. There's a LOT of great music here. I was rocking with Something to Talk About and the first-class hit-the-road song Papa Come Quick. Bonnie Raitt has a gravely vocal quality and a blues guitar style all wrapped up in one amazing artist. Neither her guitar licks with notes high in the ether, nor the occasional growl of her voice strain the T6’s. These speakers just showed Bonnie and her band in flattering detail.
Ultimately, I think, the test of a great speaker rests on your enjoyment of the music. I had the pleasure of testing the T6s by listening to music and artists I've thoroughly enjoyed for years. Can a speaker make a difference? Can an old tune take on new life? The answer to both is a resounding "yes."
Can the amplifier make a difference? Again, you bet. The amp I started with was a borrowed NAD C 375BEE. The amp I finished with is a Marantz NR1501 (like the one shown at left). I had to replace my older home theater receiver — after experiencing the T6’s powered by a great amp like the NAD, I couldn't go back.
The PSB Image T6 speakers passed every test I could think of. I am confident that they will continue to please for many years to come.