Review: PSB Imagine T2 Speaker

Category: Speakers

I listen to just about everything, with a focus on jazz (50%), folk (20%) and rock (30%. I go through some classical music binges but then I leave it alone for months.

The most important thing about sound reproduction is sound that makes me feel good, want to listen more, and appreciate music more. I love clean sound. I also hate when things sound fatiguing. A system with any bad bass is a turnoff more than a system without bass, just as one with super bright treble. A second worst turnoff is a costly system that promotes apathy. I can get into music played on a transistor radio with all midrange. But if I'm listening to a serious system and I'm just not feeling it, it's aggravating and I won't stand for it. I'd prefer to spend less and be moved by a system than feel I've overspent with diminishing returns or feel I cannot connect with the music.

I bought the pair of PSB Imagine T2s (upgraded gloss white finish) about 10 days ago. They replaced my beloved Totem Arros, which I bought in 2006. I just loved the Arros. I was wanted a bit more bottom end, but they had great resolution and a spooky holographic picture that was ever believable. I adored them. Enough said.

I bought the PSBs without auditioning. That's insane and especially for me--I'm notorious for reading, researching and endlessly auditioning kit. I auditioned over 20 speakers before buying the Totems and my dealer gave me a week with the Totems in home before purchase too.

With 2 days of listening and about 8 hours of play on the PSB Imagine T2s I was convinced: the PSBs were not for me. They were boring, tight, reserved and, worst of all, they didn't paint a picture of the music that I could believe in.

A gentleman came over to buy my Totem Arros. He first listened to the PSBs, running through my Creek Evolution 100A. He bluntly said, "these just aren't doing it for me." I told him that I agreed and had found that out right out of the box. And, I told him, nothing seems to be happening with them. The sound doesn't seem to be changing much. I reluctantly sold him my Totem Arros and planned on sending back the PSBs to run out to try the Totem Forests, Staffs, Hawks.

The PSBs (out of the box) were constrained and lacked almost any holographic picture. They just shot out detailed sound straight at me in a linear fashion. I wondered if my need to position them close to the back/rear wall was the problem. While it helped to move them out (they did sound better), it did not fix the problem. Dianna Krall's voice sounded super clear and right, but the PSBs just laid it on the floor. My Totem's painted it in the air. Trumpets? Same thing. There was no "arc" or bloom in the playback. Artist after artist and song after song, I couldn't change the way I felt and I couldn't connect with the music. I felt like I had bought something similar to what big box stores sell consumers, or used to. I felt like I wasted my money. They had to go.

I continued to run in the PSBs only because I had no other speakers to listen to with the Totems gone. After about 15 more hours of listening some great stuff happened. The change was real in every way. I know it occurred and was not me getting used to the speaker because the speaker was doing things it wasn't before. My Totem's would case a picture. The PSBs would hit line drives with no soundstange. Then, after about 15 hours, moving into 20, they did just that. What's more, they now do just as much as the Totems did (albeit the Totem's still have a special place in my heart for how beautiful and believable they can sound). But they are even more believable than my Totems and they seem to pair so well with the Creek Evolution 100A. [Note: I cannot wait to pop in the Creek Ruby DAC. I can't believe that the sound can be better than what I have without it]

I am utterly enjoying the PSBs and they are not likely going anywhere (if I can convince my wife that 40" floorstanders belong in the living room. They are tall but sleek and well made. The fit and finish rivals B&Ws. My wife is in marketing and design for a luxury furniture maker. She says their fit and finish is impeccable.

If I had my way, I would've bought Totem Forest Signatures ($6800), but I just wasn't going to spend that much. I've listened to many loudspeakers from $2k to that $6,800 mark. I am so happy with the PSBs. I can see why Stereophile gave them a class B award. You really have to spend quite a bit of dough to get better than what the PSB T2s do well.

I'm so glad. I can now stay away from reading endless product reviews and auditioning product. Hopefully for another decade!

I feel so content with my system. It's time to get down to what really matters and listen to some music!

PS I'm going to text the gentleman who bought my Totems. He's local and I'm going to invite him over to get his thoughts. He has not had time to get accustomed to their sound. He'll either "feel it" or not when he re-auditions them.

Associated gear
Totem Arro
Creek Evolution 100A
Tidal high fidelity streaming
Thanks for the fine review !
Thanks Schubert!

Here's a couple things that I have noticed.

1. I have to keep the PSBs close to my back/rear wall on a daily basis. I can pull them out for more critical listening. This placement surely isn't ideal. But if I plug the lowest bass port with the included rubber plug, things are very, very good indeed.

2. Even if I have tone controls available, I typically rarely use them. My new Creek Evolution 100A has them. I'm not embarrassed to say that at lower listening levels things sound a bit better with +2 on the bass and treble. I'm wondering why. My Totem Arros sounded best with tone at 0/flat, at all listening levels.

3. I think these speakers could be insane with a ton more power pumped through them. I'm fine with what I have though.
Nice review, glad you waited for the full break-in period. I owned the PSB Synchrony Two and I believe your T2's are better.
I checked the specs and possibly the reason the speakers sound better with the bottom port plug is due to the fact that at about 300Hz there is enclosure resonance in the cabinet causing vibration. Closing the port may help relieve this.

Also, you're right that more power would help drive this speaker to its full potential. Your Creek puts out 110W into 8 ohms, but only 170W into 4 ohms.
The T2's impedance curve shows the load is at about 4 ohms or lower from the bass all the way to 1kHz. Meaning that this speaker needs some quality power to get really good dynamics. You're probably just in the ballpark.

The PSBs have a nice warm sound and the more you can pull them out from the wall, the better the imaging. Have fun.
Thanks Lowrider!

My wife thinks they are too big. I'm trying to see if she forgets about them.

I think everything you say is dead on. I think they need even more break in too.
My PSBs were the same size as yours and I would push them back against the the wall during non-listening hours.

I used Herbies Gliders to slide the speakers, I had spikes and used the Decoupling Glider. There's also the Threaded Stud Glider. It solved my problem.
+1 for the Herbies threaded gliders , VERY good tweak for
both my Meadowlark and Gallo speakers .
Wow! Folks, I've never heard of Herbie's Gliders. The site has soooo much information. This could be just what I need. But I have to figure it out to see what suits my speakers best.

I love this recommendation--if you cannot tell. :)
A short update:

Boy, am I glad that I kept these things. The wife is still questioning their presence in the living room. But hey, these are a small footprint floorstander. She's comparing them to the diminutive Totem Arros we had for about a decade.

I've gotten just shy of a month's use on them. I try to get in 2-4 hours of listening per day, and I've run them at lower volumes (with a bump up in tone controls) for 8 hours at night. There has been an audible difference in break in. The treble sounds about the same but seems to project higher off the floor than before. The midrange has gone from too laid back and disguised or veiled to present. The bass has gone from uncomfortably restrained to open and taught.

Last night's listening session pleased me much. I was absolutely engaged and smiling over how the speakers (and system) presented these tracks, which I had used during previous sessions. Before I was left thinking the speakers were good, then getting a bit better but still missing much about my Totem Arros.

My Foolish Heart, Bill Evans
Take the A Train, Ray Brown
Various, Muddy Waters Folksinger
Joe Slam and The Spaceship, Harry Connick
Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp, George Harrison
Fast Car, Tracy Chapman
Lovely Day, Lee Rittenour
Silver Lining, Rilo Kiley
Dark Black, Kristina Train

The resolution, grip, soundstage, imaging, and bass was fantastic. My feelings and thoughts about these loudspeakers is so different now compared to when I first set them up. I wanted to make a move that would put me to a significant upgrade over the Totem Arros. Now, with my new Creek Evolution 100A (and Ruby DAC) plus the PSB Imagine T2s, I'm feeling like I moved into a place that I would have only dreamed about a decade ago.

It stinks in life when you buy toys and they don't make you any happier. It rocks when they do!

If you're auditioning floorstanders in the $2-4k range, you should give these a listen.

Anyone think I'm crazy to be a religious believer in speaker break in, burn in, run in?
How many hours break-in are you up to?
And are you using spikes or footers yet? That's when you'll hear how deep and tight the bass can be. (don't use rubber or sorbothane footers, they won't let the resonances of the bass pass thru).

I'm probably at 50 hours or so on break in.

I'm not using spikes or footers. What do you suggest?
First of all, wait till you hear your speakers after they open up at about 150 hours.

I found that spikes on my PSBs gave me the tightest bass on a wood floor; and I had the same problem as you, I needed to move the spkrs out of the way because it was a living room.

Are you on carpet or a wood floor? Either way, the Threaded Stud Glider is worth trying. It comes with a trial period and Schubert has given me very good advice in the past.

But you'll never get the detail and slam of the bass until you lift those PSBs off the floor. :-)
About 70 days later and at least 150 hours on the PSBs now...

These are truly a great loudspeaker.  The bass is taught, powerful and has slam.  The imaging and soundstage are fantastic.  I'd imagine that one would need to spend $10k to match or best these. 

My only concern is that my amp could use more juice to really make them come alive.  I have a Creek Evolution 100A.  It's got 170w into 4 ohms and this speaker hovers around 6--I think.  I'm a big fan of fewer boxes so I don't know what integrated that I would upgrade to.  McIntosh? 
The Imagine T2’s have a 6 ohm impedance and sensitivity of 90dB, so it would seem that they would be an easy load to drive, However, their impedance curve shows that the bass and mid-bass frequencies hover around 4 ohms and even drop below 3 ohms at 500-600 Hz.

This area of low impedance is why a higher current amp is needed to drive these speakers to full potential. You’ll get better dynamics, tighter bass with more detail, and have reserve power in your amp.

Its also why you  should never buy a amp not rated  stable at 2 ohms .
JBHiller wrote:
"I'd imagine that one would need to spend $10k to match or best these."

Nahhhh, I'm betting that $6800 would do it..." (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).  Enjoy those PSBs, you have a very fine setup right now!!
I looked at the Creek website and learned that the 100A is a Class G amp. So it can produce voltage and power more efficiently than Class AB, it would also operate cooler.
 According to Creek, it can provide a high amount of current. If this is true, your amp is not being stressed by driving the low impedance bass of the PSBs. That's a good thing.
How big or small is  your sweet spot with these speakers? When I heard them in the audio store they sound veiled, do they open up in the midrange over time?

My sweet spot is fair--not overly tight.  If I have the speakers back toward the wall (regular listening and dancing with my daughter) they fill the room with sound and are pleasurable throughout.  For critical listening, I pull them out into the room and toe them in a bit.  When I do that, I have them about 6.5-7' apart, and I sit about 9-10 feet away, maybe less.  The sweet spot is roomy enough for 2 people on the sofa, maybe 3.  

I found them to be super veiled and wanted to return them (also my wife wanted even smaller speakers too--even those these are pretty thin and elegant.   They grew on both of us.  

I would wholeheartidly agree with the review (Stereophile or Absolute Sound) that said the baffles restrict a good bit of sound.  When removed they are more open and a bit brighter.  I found the speakers have broken in a good bit.  

As with all things audio, there are some great things and some that were different from what I had (Totem Arros).  These are not a bright speaker.  If anything I think the aim was to try to be neutral and a touch laid back in the midrange.  The treble and mids gets just a wee tad harsh if I push them hard with poorly recorded music.  Yet, I also run across stuff that seemingly has no volume limit. 

When placed closer to the front wall, they push out an incredible amount of bass, so much so that I occasionally use the port plugs to tune them down a bit.  When pulled into the room, they never overload the room with bass volume. There are some tracks that simply blow me away.  I haven't had such an amount of bass since I had Cerwin Vegas in college! This bass is certainly taught and musical though.  

There are moments when I'm astounded by these speakers.  I auditioned a $5800 pair of Totem Forest Signatures that I loved.  These compete nicely, and I'm super happy.  

I'll probably try out more watts or tube before upgrading or changing.  

I'll tell you thing they do that's fantastic is they wear two hats super nicely:  (1) they give me the imaging and detail sonics I want during critical listening; and (2) they get up and boogie for ambient listening, dancing, entertaining.  

I'm super curious--I must admit--to see what would get me an upgrade in terms of another loudspeaker or amplification, etc.  

I'm happy to try to answer any questions or help.  

Can I ask, what did you listen to these through and what are you comparing them to and looking for?

Are your speakers still on the floor or did you get some footers or gliders yet? Believe me, PSBs bass is much more realistic when not touching the floor.

jbhiller, thank you for your detailed response. I heard them with a NAD 390DD, but it was just in passing. They seemed a little veiled but it could be the amplification. NAD has a nice laid back sound, with a little laid back speaker may be too much. Have compared everything from Dynaudio Excites floor standers, Golden Ear Tritons, Revel, Zu and everything in between.

Your post has me thinking of taking another trip to the dealer for a closer listen. How big is your room? My room is 15 by 12 with the speakers on the long wall. Do you have the plugs installed?

Thank you for answering my questions.

Well the specs on the NAD should have been just fine to drive them.  

My room is a rectangle, 13'x21'. I have them facing out from the 13' wall.  

I install the plugs here and there. As the speakers have opened up I've used them less and less, and I no longer use my tone controls. When I first got the speakers I was adding a slight bit of treble through the tone controls on the Creek integrated.  

Now I haven't listened to the others you auditioned in a while (and I've never heard Zu or Golden Ear).  I'm sure they are all very nice loudspeakers.  

I will say that the PSBs midrange and treble is not what I was used to (recall I had Totem Arros).  I'm glad that I stuck with them.  While I think they are a bit less bright and glossy on the top end, I notice that the full body sound and laid back nature keeps me listening longer.  

I hope your search is going well. If you need, I can you pics or videos or answer any questions.